Tuesday, March 31, 2009

According to Their Deeds by Paul Robertson

I bought this book because the back cover blurb said that the protagonist, Charles Beale, owns a rare books shop. Any story about a bookstore owner must be good, right?
According To Their Deeds is beyond good—it is so much fun to read that I hated to see the story conclude.
If you, like me, enjoy playing with words, According To Their Deeds is for you. My compliments to Robertson’s editors at Bethany House for giving him the latitude to fill the story with puns, “swifties” (see page 69), and clever riffs on classic books. I can’t think of a time I simply enjoyed each page of a story for the subtle humor it contained.
And yet, don’t let me deceive you. According To Their Deeds is a complex mystery that that has one of the best opening scenes I’ve read in years. The plot had me guessing until the very end, but what kept me reading page after page was the cleverness of the writing. I came to look forward to the moments when Charles Beale would enter the shop and ask Alice, the clerk, if they’d sold anything. Invariably, she’d name a title and Charles would have an answering pun relating to the book’s content. As I said, I was sorry when the book reached it’s exciting conclusion, because I knew I’d miss the repartee that filled the chapters.
I heartily recommend According To Their Deeds, both as a mystery and just for fun. I plan to locate the rest of Robertson’s books and read them, too.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Shack, Part 3

I promised I'd tell you about Paul Young's amazing journey from warehouse employee to writing a bestseller. Here's the rest of the story: Once he and his associates realized they were getting nowhere with traditional publishers, they created Windblown Media to publish The Shack. Windblown Media is a two-man publishing enterprise, so he wasn't technically self-published (beyond the 15 Kinko's copies).

Young and his three friends pooled all their resources, maxed out credit cards, and in May of 2007 ordered a print run of 10,000 books. The printer sent 11,000 copies, all of which were only available through The Shack website at first. By June 2007 they were sold out, and ordered 20,000 more--and received 22,000! Three months later those were sold, and they ordered 30,000 more. You guessed it, they received 33,000 copies. By June of 2008, Windblown Media had sent out over a million books. To date, over five million copies have been sold worldwide.

At the time he spoke to Oregon Christian Writers in February, The Shack had spent forty weeks at the #1 position on the New York Times bestseller list.

Here are a few of Young's quotes worth remembering:
"Everything about the Father is love, at 100%, all the time."

"When fear shows up it is a gift showing us where we're not trusting God's love."

"A relationship with God is all about trusting Him."

You may think it's easy for him to say, look at the success he's had. But the message I carried away from meeting Paul Young and hearing him speak is that God's love is the message of The Shack. Paul knew that before he wrote the book.

Check out his blog at http://www.windrumors.com/.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Shack, Part 2

At the end of February, I posted a blog of my review of The Shack. Since then it's been my privilege to hear the author, William P. Young, speak at an Oregon Christian Writers meeting. What a charming man, and what a story he has to tell!

For starters, he's never gone by the name "William." He's Paul Young to all who know him personally. He told of friends telephoning him saying, "Paul, you've got to read this book The Shack!" not realizing he's the William P. Young who wrote it.

Young calls himself "A roadie for the Holy Spirit." He says, "Two years ago nobody cared what I had to say about anything. Now I talk to thousands of people--and I'm as dumb as I was then!" He feels the best part of his new found celebrity is the opportunity to talk about Jesus to secular audiences. A week before he spoke to the Oregon Christian Writers, he was on "Good Morning America," and separately, given the keys to a city in Texas.

One of the things I enjoyed most about listening to Paul Young was the incredulity he displayed regarding his success. At one point he said he feels like he's on "The Truman Show," where everyone but him knows his life is really a TV program. He kept interjecting, "How goofy is this?" when he'd tell another story about his changed life.

In 2005, he prayed this prayer: "Papa (those of you who've read The Shack know that's Mackenzie's name for the Father--and Young admits he's Mackenzie), I will never ask you again to bless anything I do. Do you have something you're blessing? I want to be around you and be part of anything you have for me."

He wrote The Shack for his children and friends, and printed off fifteen copies at Kinko's. He senses God told him, "You give this to your kids; I'll give it to mine."

Young went on to tell us how the book grew from its Kinko's beginnings. Initially, he sent it to a friend to get some idea how to handle the email he was receiving from strangers who had read the Kinko copies. His friend called two other writers that he knew, and working together with Young, they organized the story into a clearer format. Once they felt it was ready, they queried 26 publishers--50% faith-based, 50% general market. The faith-based publishers said The Shack was too edgy--there was no market for it. The general market publishers said it had "too much Jesus to be marketable."

More next time--no one wants to read blogs that go on and on.

I'll tell you how these four men got the book into print, and some of the lessons he shared about God's unconditional love for his children.