On The Process of Writing

writing process

In this audio podcast, Mike O’Quin interviews his author friends Eric Bryant and Rob Stennett on how they go about creating content for their articles, screenplays and books. They give a lot of helpful tidbits on how to carve out time to get into a creative flow. The books they mention in this conversation are Eric’s Not Like Me, Rob’s novel, The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher, as well as Mike’s novel Java Wake. You can find out more about them by visiting Eric’s blog and seeing Rob’s Facebook page for his upcoming book, The Perfect Father.

In a follow-up podcast to be posted next week, they discuss the grueling but crucial process of editing. Click below to listen or search for “Faith Activators” on iTunes to subscribe to this podcast.

8 Things Savvy People Do To Get People To Read Their Blogs (You Won’t Believe Number 6!)

savvy people computer1) Get Savvy

2) Have a Blog

3) Post an article to your blog

4) Find an image of a savvy looking people at their computer as the thumbnail for your article

5) Create a teaser headline which includes the phrase “you won’t believe” to get people to visit your blog article, and then share it on social media

6) Ask the Tooth Fairy to help drive traffic

7) I told you that you wouldn’t believe number 6

8) Chuckle to yourself with a sinister laugh that people visited your blog to read your meaningless article

The White Welcome Chicken of Purity

white welcome chicken of purity
Lucky for that chicken, Duane was the one vegan on the team.

We’re sitting cross-legged and tightly-packed on a straw mat inside a tiny house in this remote village of Flores, Indonesia. Our team of 12 has been warmly welcomed by Pak Bomas, the kind-hearted village chief.

Bare bones infrastructure. No running water. But what these people lack in public utilities they make up for in overflowing hospitality. We’ve been offered local snacks, traditional drinks and we got a handshake from a group of elderly, hunched-over village ladies who are all wearing their traditional Flores fabrics. One teammate later said it felt like in that moment we were being received by royalty. Their wide smiles were dripping with the red dye of the beetle nut, a bark mixed with powder that they chew in their mouths as a mild drug. 

royaltyWe’ve exchanged our gifts, they have given theirs, and now we are in the back-and-forth phase of polite chit-chat and learning of each others’ cultures. They tell us the history of their village, and we tell them we have come from a long way because we love Jesus and He loves them. We play a worship song for them and they reciprocate with a traditional one. We offer to pray for them and they readily accept.

Toward the end, we can tell by some sort of commotion in the back of the house that they are getting ready to do something big or ceremonious.

Out comes Pak Bomas from the back, with a live chicken in his hand. He pets its head and explains to us that the white chicken represents purity, showing that their hearts are pure in extending friendship to us.

village floresHe then looks around for someone on our team to give it to, and his eyes settle on Duane who is the oldest member of our team (maybe it’s the grey beard…mine is greying, too, but Duane’s is farther along). As I said before, Duane is the only vegan on the team, and we kidded him later that the chicken seemed relieved to be under his care.

Such a surreal moment, receiving this nervous and quietly clucking chicken. It made me laugh inside, feeling like I was in some sort of wacky Jim Carrey movie, and I joke-translated to the side, “Hey guys, the good news is they are offering us this live chicken as a sign of their pure heart in receiving us. The bad news is one of us has to stay behind in order to reciprocate.”

And you may be thinking now what I was thinking then…what does one do with a live chicken?

After more chatting, taking photos and saying our goodbyes, it was time to climb into our van and head back down the mountain for a one hour-ride toward the city where our hotel was located. They offered to tie up the chicken’s legs and put it upside down into the back of our van, but Duane says no need, he will hold it in the van.

We got back to our hotel and the staff received our live offering with joy. We weren’t sure what they were going to do with it (which form of protein), and we didn’t ask too many questions. They assured us they would take good care of her.

The whole episode, aside from being surreal, struck me with how great Indonesians are at hospitality. These village people dropped everything they were doing to honor us as guests, and gave us a live chicken to boot! That little gift of hospitality cost them something…these people were very poor from what we could see, and that chicken was a real part of their livelihoods. Yet they willingly and cheerfully gave it to us.

chiken at hotelHospitality does cost us something, and I think that’s why our Western culture isn’t as good at it as Eastern ones. “Tamu adalah raja,” they say in Indonesia, “The guest is king.” Living there for a long time, I remember so many times being frustrated when someone came to our front gate, unannounced, and feeling the culture dictate to drop everything I was doing and receive this person into our home, offer refreshments, and chat for a while—the whole while grumbling internally about the other things I was planning on doing in that time slot. It was a slow, painful death for my Type A personality.

But a good death. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). God certainly values hospitality, actually factoring angels into the equation of a math that sometimes doesn’t make sense to us.

When was the last time you offered the white welcome chicken of purity to your guests? (Okay, that is really hard to say with a straight face). Let me rephrase:

When is the last time hospitality cost you something?

I’m not sure the answer for me either, but I imagine that angels take good care of chickens.

— Mike O’Quin, author of Java Wake and Growing Desperate

white chicken

Sample Reading from “Java Wake”

mike-oquinMike O’Quin’s international suspense novel Java Wake was released on Amazon in May of 2015 in both paperback and Kindle editions. Click here to read early reviews.

Here’s a sample reading by the author from the first chapter, recorded at an early public reading, along with a brief description on his motivation behind writing it.

P.S. To those in the Austin, Texas area, click here to get your free tickets to attend the book launch party on Saturday, July 18th.

Book Launch Party: “Java Wake” @ Austin Java

Austin JavaHey all you Faith-Activating friends in the Austin area, I wanted to personally invite you to the book launch party of my new novel, Java Wake.

Where else could we do this event in Austin besides the Austin Java cafe! We’ll enjoy refreshments, a sample reading from yours truly, a Q&A time, a book signing, and you may even go home with a door prize from Indonesia. We hope you can come to this come-and-go, casual evening and feel free to share this invitation with your friends.

It will be on Saturday, July 18th, from 7 to 9PM at Austin Java on 1608 Barton Springs Road. Click here to get your free tickets on EventBrite and to see more details.

Thanks!

Mike O’Quin

mike-oquin

 

“Java Wake” Launches

java-wake-coverI’m very, very happy to announce that my novel Java Wake has just been published and is available starting today in print edition and e-book on Amazon. Here’s a little more from the back cover:

“Stephen Cranton’s mid-life crisis is coming on a decade too early. On a business trip to Indonesia, he evaluates his heartless life after getting challenged by an obnoxious adventure guide on his flight. Soon after landing, Stephen tries to spice up his stale life with a brazen act of spontaneity. Bad move. His impulsiveness sets off a chain of events that leaves in its wake new friends and enemies, along with his wife who is longing for love and desperate enough to fly to Java for a last-ditch marriage intervention. Stephen finds he is desperate enough already, living inside a nightmare that he can’t seem to escape. But will the ordeal be enough to wake up his sleeping heart?”

Those of you who know me well can attest how I have poked around with this novel over the years, streamlining the plot, removing characters based on feedback, even changing some of the setting…it’s a much different book if you have ever read earlier versions (and there are many!).

You also know how much we love Indonesia! I thought the island of Java would make a colorful backdrop for a story about a man finding his heart.

To peek inside and read the first couple of chapters for free, click here. You can also read a free sample on your Kindle device by clicking on the “send sample now” button from the order page.

To order the print edition, click here.

To order the Kindle version, click here.

If you order the print edition from Amazon, you will receive the Kindle version for free, as a part of their “Matchbook” program.

I hope you enjoy it, and if so, let your novel-loving friends know and please give me a review on Amazon or GoodReads!

Thanks so much!

Mike O’Quin

The first review is in!
“Eye-opening.” — Naomi O’Quin

 

The Hope of Glory (Part Two)

being honored Is glory something that God has all there is of, and He doesn’t share it with anyone? By being recognized for our service are we in danger of stealing glory from God?  Is it wrong to want to feel honored even as we serve Him?

In this audio podcast, Mike O’Quin interviews Steve Hawthorne over these core motivational questions. Steve argues that God is so rich in glory, He can bestow honor on us without taking anything away from His own glory. In last week’s podcast, we talked about the essential essence of glory, and in this week’s conversation we focus more on the essential essence of honor.  “Make your life a party by honoring other people, and get good at honoring God and giving him thanks at every excuse you can find,” Steve says, “and you’re going to find a natural humility that forms in you.”

Steve is the director of WayMakers, a mobilization ministry focused on seeing Christ glorified by obedient, worshiping movements in every people group.  He is also the co-founder of the popular Perspectives course, and the writer of an article in that reader, The Story of His Glory, soon to come out in book form.

Click below to listen to this conversation, or search for “Faith Activators” in the iTunes store to subscribe to this podcast.

The Hope of Glory (Part One)

hope of glory“Glory” for most of us is a religious, stained-glass window word that has no real place in our daily lives. But understanding what it is, and what it means for us, can give us a higher purpose for living and a deeper well of joy as we center our lives on Christ.

In this audio podcast, Mike O’Quin interviews Steve Hawthorne into his decades of study into the themes of God’s glory. Steve is the director of WayMakers, a mobilization ministry focused on seeing Christ glorified by obedient, worshiping movements in every people group. He is also the co-founder of the popular Perspectives course, and the author of an article in that reader, The Story of His Glory, soon to come out in book form.

Click below to listen to this conversation, or search for “Faith Activators” in the iTunes store to subscribe to this podcast.

From Atheist To Believer in Seconds Flat

atheist to believerShane Harris recently visited a country in Central Asia and met a man who was sticking his toe in the waters of spiritual belief, then suddenly took a plunge while Shane was there. It’s a powerful story of God in action, drawing people far from Christ to Himself. Mike O’Quin interviews Shane on this dramatic story, and shares one of his own from Southeast Asia.

Click Below to listen to this conversation, or search for “Faith Activators” in the iTunes store to subscribe to this podcast.

 

Mr. Swan

Mr. Swan

My five-year-daughter Naomi and I recently went swan hunting along the banks of the Colorado River which flows through our fair city of Austin.

Before you notify the Humane Fowl Society, I mean “hunt” in the sense of looking for them to admire their majestic beauty. We were strolling along this river during half time at my daughter Ana’s lacrosse game. Her high school is located right next to this body of water which we Austinites call “Town Lake.” The hike and bike trails that run along its banks are an ideal location for strollers, joggers, bikers and swan hunters.

There is one swan we know of who makes his home on Town Lake. Once during another game’s half-time, we saw him floating on the other side of the river from where we stood, and we desired to get a closer look. We called out to him and pretended to throw something in the water, hoping he would think it was bread crumbs. He quickly paddled over, figured out he had been deceived, and left in a hurry. Naomi profusely apologized, calling out loudly after him, but I did get some good pictures. I know what you’re thinking…it’s mean to deceive swans.

During the next game’s half time we tried again, this time bringing actual bread crumbs. From across the river I think Mr. Swan looked up at us (it’s hard to tell for sure because they kind of look at you sideways), and didn’t bother to paddle over. Naomi screamed out her heartfelt apologies, “We’re sorry Mr. Swan!  We have bread this time!” But Mr. Swan wasn’t buying it.

Then this time, on Ana’s final home game, we brought with us more bread and even more determination. We went to our usual spot and didn’t see him. So we took a long trek to the foot bridge that overlooks Town Lake for a better vantage point and we saw him on the other side. We climbed through off-shoot trails to get to the bank on that side, and Naomi was very excited that swan feeding was imminent. But by the time we got there, he had decided to go back to the other side where we were previously. Nice play, Mr. Swan. You have taught us our lesson. The deceivers have now become the deceived.

It was nearing the end of half-time and we needed to be reunited with our family. Plus Naomi really had to go to the bathroom and she was refusing to use the nasty Porta-Potty’s that we had passed along the trails. It was now or never to get those bread crumbs to Mr. Swan.

We made our way back across the river, got as close as we could to Mr. Swan from an overlook point, and called out to him as usual. Mr. Swan looked up at us (again sideways, so hard to tell) and we started furiously throwing bread crumbs in his direction. He didn’t seem that impressed, even knowing that we had clearly changed our ways and were throwing authentic bread crumbs before his royal audience.

There were already other people at the overlook point, all of them enjoying Town Lake at sunset. We interrupted them all with our frantic swan calling and bread crumb throwing. There was s couple on a bench whom I could tell had been arguing.  A hip Austin girl was sitting on the rocks at the water’s edge, strumming her guitar and jotting down lyrics to a song that she was writing in her notebook. There were also some tourists taking pictures.

But then something magical happened, something that made little Naomi start jumping up and down with glee. Mr. Swan gently glided over to where we were, ready to receive our offerings. The couple stopped arguing. The musician stopped strumming. The tourists gasped and started taking even more pictures. And Naomi and I couldn’t have been happier.

I heard an insightful friend once remark that he wasn’t surprised more and more people consider themselves atheists as we live in such a man-man world.  We drive our smartly engineered cars to our steel offices, work in cubicles under florescent lighting, stare at computer screens all day, drive home through dense traffic, click open our automatic garage doors, then sit on our comfortable synthetic sofas and turn on a man-made box which delivers us entertainment.  Barely one whisper of the glory of creation, day in and day out.

The ancients, by comparison, lived their entire lives surrounded by creation. Their days were framed by sunrises and sunsets. The seasons of sowing and harvest tied them to the rhythms of the earth. They felt the sun’s heat on their backs, splashed cool water in their faces from streams, and walked along mountain ridges under pastel skies. They tended their own animals, farmed their soil with their own hands and helped deliver their own babies. At night they would look up in wonder at the starry hosts and feel a tug of worship in their souls.

To them, Paul’s argument to the believers in Rome would make sense: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…” (Romans 1:20, NASB).

There on the banks of Town Lake, a delicate creature which could only have been thought-up by a wondrously creative author, something straight out of a fairy tale, awestruck a group of strangers and made them all stop what they were doing.  The beauty of creation points in one direction, toward a loving Creator.  God didn’t have to create swans, but they brought delight to His heart and He wanted to share them with all His children.

I don’t know about the other people in that moment, but for me I couldn’t help but thank the Master Creator of this gentle creature which brought such delight to my daughter’s heart.  And I said to myself, I need to go out of my way more often to sense these gentle, glorious whispers from His heart.

Thanks Mr. Swan.

— Mike O’Quin, author, Java Wake and Growing Desperate