Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Writer's Block



A question that comes up from time to time is "How do you deal with writer's block" or some variation like "Is writer's block real?"

Writer's block is a very real phenomenon. It is basically writing to the end of your conscious stream for a story, and it can be very daunting and frustrating to overcome. I have set on a particular writing project for months trying to figure out where to go next.

So how do you deal with it? How do you as the Doors would say "Break on through to the other side?"

The best advice I have come upon regarding combating writer's block, is from Ernest Hemingway. His advice to a young apprentice, Arnold Samuelson as quoted in Samuelson's book, With Hemingway: A Year in Key West.

"The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time… Never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day. The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out. When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop. Then leave it alone and don’t think about it; let your subconscious mind do the work.

The next morning, when you’ve had a good sleep and you’re feeling fresh, rewrite what you wrote the day before. When you come to the interesting place and you know what is going to happen next, go on from there and stop at another high point of interest. That way, when you get through, your stuff is full of interesting places and when you write a novel you never get stuck and you make it interesting as you go along. "

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Coffee Giveaway

I'm giving away a $10 Starbucks gift card. Sign up before midnight May 18, 2020.


Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Shaken Awake: The Complete Trilogy - Behind the Story

On Tuesday, January 7, 2014, I walked into my office on the 5th floor of Colony Square (14th and Peachtree ST, Atlanta). I sipped the tall blonde coffee that I had grabbed at the Starbucks at the base of the building and read the headlines on the Atlanta Journal Constitution app on my phone. I was shocked to read that a a 70-year-old homeless man, Charlie Perkins, was been found dead just a few blocks from where I was sitting. He had frozen to death sleeping on the street. The news rattled my soul. I looked out the window of my office at all the high rise apartment and office buildings a strong contrast of wealth and the poverty of the homeless just below them.

I thought about the man in the army coat and thick military issued black framed glasses that I had just spoken to in the Starbucks as I did every morning. A man who I recognized was homeless. I thought about the older homeless woman who sat in the food court just outside the folding gate to Chick-Fil-A waiting for it to open. I thought about the white haired and white bearded man with the huge backpack that usually sat one table over from her quietly waiting for breakfast.

My work day proceeded on, but my thoughts continued to return to the shocking news that someone had frozen to death a few blocks outside my office and the city carried on as normal. It was surreal.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 started as just another cold windy day in the city. When I went downstairs for lunch, I sat in Chick-Fil-A and noticed it had started snowing - not the slow, light snow Atlanta was accustomed to seeing. It was falling fast and quickly accumulating. You can read my entire account of the winter storm written two days after the events here: Atlanta Snowapocolypse


After the storm, I began writing Shaken Awake, the first of three stories which would eventually lead to the trilogy. Once I started writing the story just flowed. I found myself grabbing my phone and jotting notes at lunch or when waiting in line somewhere. In 2013, my wife and I had launched a nonprofit performing food rescue, and we had been working with partner agencies that provided food to struggling individuals and families. That experience coupled with our experience meeting families while volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and my personal interactions with the homeless I encountered in and around Colony Square provided me with a great deal of insight into the struggles of the homeless.


Not long after Shaken Awake had been published, I began receiving feedback that it ended too abruptly, and it didn't show how the church responded to the community after the storm. Honestly, I had intentionally written an abrupt ending as an invitation for the reader to write themselves into the book and write their own ending. This recurring sentiment did not seem to fade away. So kinda like Steve Goodman after receiving David Alan Coe's feedback, I wrote Awakened as a sequel to resolve Shaken Awake for the reader. I had followed the ministry of Alan Graham and Mobile Loaves and Fishes in Austin, Texas which operates food trucks providing meals, socks, and blankets to the homeless in their city. And I had followed their work constructing Community First! I got a copy of Alan's book Welcome Homeless: One Man's Journey of Discovering the Meaning of Home,and fell in love with the story of how community was changing the lives of homeless in Austin. I then read Under The Overpass by Mike Yankoski and Not Just a One Night Stand by John Flowers and Karen Vannoy.


After Awakened was published, my good friend, Bill Barton began a relentless campaign that he wanted to see the how the characters that moved into the community found themselves a role in serving others. After his continual nudging, I volunteered with a service learning organization to take a group of college students to Community First! for a week. I volunteered in the community during that week and listened to the stories of everyone I met. I chatted with Alan Graham and asked questions. I listened to staff members and volunteers detailing how they created a community that provides healing and restoration.


After the trip to Austin, I wrote Woke! as the third and final story in the trilogy. During the editing phase, I developed a strong sense that none of the books really stood on their own individual merit, but needed each other to be complete. I made the decision not to release Woke! as a single book, but to instead release the complete trilogy under one cover.


Thursday, April 23, 2020

Overcoming the Naysayers

When I was working on my undergraduate degree, I wrote someone a thank you note. They asked a college friend if I had ever passed a composition class. That comment has remained with me for more than 25 years - etched in my brain. I struggled thru college and graduated. I have since completed a graduate degree and published a book. I write this not to garner sympathy, but as a word of encouragement. Don't let the naysayers hold you back from pursuing your dreams. Whatever you want to do, do it. Don't listen to the detractors saying you can't. Pursue it with reckless abandon. You CAN do it. Press on for the prize.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Book Launch Invitation!




Hey Y'all,

I’ve got some pretty exciting news: It’s almost time for my next book to be released! It’s called Shaken Awake - The Complete Trilogy, and it releases on April 30, 2020. My publisher, Charm House Publishing, and I want to invite you to join the launch team!

Shaken Awake - The Complete Trilogy is three books in one. Shaken Awake, Awakened, and Woke! Chances are you have read Shaken Awake and Awakened and have been patiently waiting for a conclusion to the series. This is the entire story start to finish!

The Shaken Awake Launch Team will be a fun and personalized group with only so many spots available, so apply now. Details are listed below:

WHAT YOU WILL GET:
      A chance to read the book before anyone else does.  All eligible team members will receive an Advanced Abbreviated Reader digital copy of the book.
      Access to the private Facebook group
      Interact with me personally through Facebook Live chats and other fun things happening inside the Facebook group
      Exclusive chances to win some prizes
      Guidance every step of the way with suggested posts, content, and memes to share


WHAT YOU WILL DO:
      READ & SHARE about the book on your social media channels, with your IRL friends, book club, etc…
      REVIEW the book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and GoodReads
      PARTICIPATE in the private Facebook group – tell me how the book impacts you personally, join in on exclusive Facebook Live Chats, etc.

HOW DO YOU JOIN THE GROUP?
            **the application will close at midnight on March 22, 2020 or whenever the team is full

Thanks so much, my friend. I can’t wait to share this book with you. I hope you’ll join me in spreading the word!

-   Allen



Friday, August 09, 2019

Giveaway!

Invited - The Power of Hospitality in an Age of Loneliness
Many people today feel lonely, isolated, and disconnected from God and others. We crave authentic community, but we have no idea where to start. We'd be glad to cultivate friendships; but honestly, who's got the time?

In Invited, writer Leslie Verner says real hospitality is not having a Pinterest-perfect table or well-appointed living room. True hospitality is not clean, comfortable, or controlled. It is an invitation to enter a sacred space together with friends and strangers. Through vivid accounts from her life and travels in Uganda, China, and Tajikistan, and stories of visiting congregations in the United States, Verner shares stories of life around the table and how hospitality is at the heart of Christian community. What if we in the West learned about hospitality from people around the globe? What if our homes became laboratories of belonging?

Invited will empower you to open your home, get to know your neighbors, and prioritize people over tasks. Holy hospitality requires more of Jesus and less of us. It leads not only to loving the stranger but to becoming the stranger. Welcome to a new kind of hospitality.

I was provided a pre-release copy of Invited and found it very thought provoking. Verner challenges us to step out of our comfort zone and to walk out loving our neighbors as Jesus called us to do. She relates story after story from her own life about how real the struggle is against our own nature and western culture and at the same time rewarding.

Read even MORE about Invited and the ideas behind the book in this post on Leslie's website:
 Four Simple Ways to Practice Hospitality


Leslie has provided me a paperback copy of Invited to giveaway to one lucky reader. Interested? You can enter by simply responding in the comments with "I WANNA COPY!" Contest ends Aug 20th. Winner will be chosen at random. Sorry, only open to U.S. residents.

If you pre-order a copy before August 20th, you are eligible for these pre-order bonuses: http://www.scrapingraisins.com/2019/06/invited/

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Free Water - Part Deux

Our testing found that the main HVAC unit on our house in the middle of June and July was producing 10 gallons of condensation a day. I picked up a 90 gallon tank and with some help from my daughter's boyfriend, have it now catching the condensation from the main system. In theory, this tank should store 9 days of condensation from that system. If we find we need more storage (I usually shoot for 14-21 days worth), I will find a second tank and plumb them in line.


I used the same overflow configuration as on the wine barrel, it has a 6 ft garden hose coming off the top edge of the tank leading down to a female how barb screwed on to the hose containing a screened washer like used on washing machines to keep out the mosquitoes. 


I riveted aluminum window screen wire in the center of the lid to allow filling and keeping out mosquitoes and leaves.


The tank had a 1 1/4" fitting in the bottom, so I installed a ball valve and then reduced to a 1 inch Tee. On one side of the tee, I reduced to 1/2" and installed a hose bib. On the other side, I installed a 3/4" ball valve. Plans are to run 3/4" PVC pipe under the house to provide a hose bib on the other side of the house.



Saturday, June 22, 2019

Free Water?





We've experienced a few drought periods that last anywhere from three weeks to a couple of months. It can be frustrating when you've planted new trees or shrubs or watching your lawn die. The alternative to watching it all die is to water, but that can quickly get expensive if you don't have a well or access to reclaimed water. In the past, we remedied this by diverting a gutter downspout to a rain barrel. But without gutters and during a drought that doesn't even help. Another source to consider is your HVAC. During the hottest days, the HVAC system displaces condensation through a drain line. You might be very surprised at just how much water that produces in a day's time.

Our home, the "Charm House" has a main system with an air handler in the attic and a mini-split in the master bedroom. I elected to determine how much water each system was producing. So, I cut the drain line off on each one just high enough to place a 5 gallon bucket under the drain line, but high enough that when the bucket filled and overflowed it wouldn't back up the drain line. I was pleasantly surprised to find the mini-split produced 1/2 - 3/4 of a 5 gallon bucket of water a day (2.5-3 gallons). The main system produced closer to 10 gallons of water a day. That spells out to me a pretty good source of water that could be collected and used for watering during drought periods.

I just completed the collection system for the mini-split. Here is what it took:

(1) 55 gallon used wine barrel ordered from Walmart.com ($99.99 w free shipping)
(1) 1/2 inch MNPT brass hose bibb
(1) 3/4 inch black steel close nipple fitting
(1) 3/4 inch black steel 90 degree elbow
(1) 3/4 inch threaded male hose adapter to 3/4" pip thread
(1) rubber washer with screen diverter washer garden threads
(1 ) 3/4" barbed barb to garden hose female adapter fitting
(1) 6ft garden hose
(1) screen door repair patch 5 inch x 7 inch

Used 55 gallon wine barrel (as it arrived from Walmart.com)

Drilled and 1/2 inch hose bib installed


drilled and 3/4 inch close nipple installed, 3/4 inch elbow installed, 3/4 inch hose adapter and 6ft hose installed for overflow

The screened hose washer goes in the 3/4" barbed barb to garden hose female adapter fitting and the the adapter screws on the hose (this prevents mosquitos getting in the barrel thru the overflow drain line)


3/4 inch hole drilled in top of barrel, screen wire cut and stapled over the hole to prevent mosquitoes from getting in the barrel. Mini-split HVAC drain line cut and draining over the hole in the top of the barrel.