Saturday, May 30, 2009

Talent is wherever you find it!

I love offbeat things and I have been laughing ever since I found this video of beatboxing champion Julia Dales on YouTube. Many of us tend to spend too much of our time on serious matters and overlook the amusing things of the world. A word of caution in is order. Don’t show this to your children unless their bedrooms are on the opposite end of the house, and no, I wouldn’t want this to be going on in the back seat of my car all the way to Yellowstone.

Link to Julia's Video

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I wish I had thought of this first, but because I didn’t, I am going to give praise and support to the people who had this wonderful idea. The Tennessee Health Care Association has an annual Who’s Who in the Tennessee’s nursing homes to pay homage to the lives and accomplishments of its patients. The reason this idea appeals so much to me is due to the daily visits we made Savannah Health Care during the six months my wife’s mother was a patient in that facility. Every time I strolled down the hall to her room, I passed many of the patients sitting in their wheelchairs. In the dining room, they gathered around the tables, many of them taking a nap before returning to their rooms. As I looked at each of them, I could not help wondering who they were, or more important, who they had been.

In our local facility, they recently honored three men you might have passed in the corridor without a second glance. One was a West Point graduate who served with honor, flying 15 missions over Europe in WWII. Another was a retired FBI agent, who served at the legal attaché to the Chilean Consulate, and later worked as an attorney. Another was a talented artist who was accomplished in several arts and crafts.

All of them have a story, even the ones who have slipped quietly into a childlike state and can no longer remember who they were. I will especially remember one frail lady who would not sit quietly in her chair. She was constantly issuing orders to invisible family members as she instructed them in preparing their Sunday dinner. I wonder when that long ago dinner was that is still so vivid in her memory. I especially wonder about the ones who ate it, and where they are now.

It is up to us to see that they aren’t forgotten and that their legacy lives on as a part of our history, or better still, as a part of our daily lives.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Most writers are bitten by the writing bug at a very early age, but few of them actually make a serious effort until they are well into adulthood, with a surprising number waiting until retirement. The great disadvantage of a late start is the fact that it takes many years to develop as a writer. Many publishing houses today have a turnaround time of as long as eighteen months from proposal to print. It is always good to see someone start early along the path toward publication. One of those writers is Brian D. Sandell, a recently graduated college student. I finally ran Brian down at his college and asked him a few questions about his hopes and aims as a writer. Here are his answers.

Who is Brian D. Sandell?

Brian D. Sandell is a recent college graduate from Grove City College, with a degree in Christian thought. He enjoys many of the finer things of life: a good game of bocce, rooting his Steelers on to many Super Bowl wins, a really good back massage, the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, laying in a hammock on a warm summer afternoon, a great George Clooney movie, and of course writing. Brian loves referring to himself in the third person, and he will be attending Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in the fall. I hope this gives you all just a brush stroke as to who Brian D. Sandell is. D stands for Day, by the way.

How long have you been writing?

I have a huge notebook full of story beginnings about the most random and bizarre ideas, and characters. Creativity is definitely an attribute that I have possessed ever since I was a little kid. So, this has been a wonderful journey for me going from an ambitious, starry eyed writer, to an actual published author. I have enjoyed the continual process between characters, and the skill of keeping the reader on the edge of their seat with a surprise ending, So, I guess to answer your question I have been writing for about fifteen total years, and I first started writing seriously in high school English class. The journey has been bumpy, but the rewards far outweigh the bumps sustained.

You seem to be comfortable writing Christian fiction. Have you tried any other genres?

Let me answer that question by first saying, I do write Christian fiction, but my Christian fiction is not judgmental or preachy. I desire to write great fiction that teaches and drives home a wonderful Christian message. The message can be anything from the happiness found in our relationship with people and not things, how to deal with pain, the need to offer forgiveness when we have been wronged, and we need to honor and obey our parents. In my writing I strive to convey messages like those I have listed above. But, I am currently very much involved in writing both a children's picture book and a middle grade mystery novel. I like to keep busy.

What was it like to see your book finally come to print?

Words can barely describe the feeling to finally hold your book into print. I think it is a huge relief to finally hold the finished project in your hands. So, one adjective I would definitely say I felt was proud. The process was long, but definitely well worth it. One of the biggest mistakes I see in people today, and not just in writing is that people often get so focused on the end result whether that is a job promotion, a published book, graduating school, or a new car, we focus so much on the result we often forget the journey. I wold encourage each person reading this, whatever you do in life value the end result, but don't forget the journey you took to get the end results.

What is your ideal writing setting?

I enjoy writing at night. I cannot explain what or why it is, but I find myself in a much more creative, richer, and fuller mindset at night. So, the time is at night, I would say anytime after 10 is probably the best time. I sit in a very comfortable brown leather chair. I have penned four books, from the comfort of this chair, so something right must come from the chair. I really enjoy watching something else while I am writing either, Seinfeld, The Office, Sports Center, or anything that is on. Those are definitely some very inspiring and culturally enriching shows, so I always inspired every time I get the privilege to write.

What is your greatest joy in penning a new story?

There are many joys in penning a new story. Having characters come to life is something magical, and I just cannot explain how it happens, but when it does it truly is a magical thing. Writing should be done not just to entertain people, but to teach and inspire people to make good decisions, to value their relationships they have with their family, and to pursue the gifts that God has given them to the fullest. I would say one of the biggest joys, and one of the biggest reasons why I write is to see the joy and happiness someone gets shortly after they finish reading one of my carefully crafted tales.

What about frustrations?

One of the biggest frustrations has to be editing. I do not consider myself to be a strong ideas writer, but grammar is something I have been lacking. However, I am definitely improving in this area. I do not mind editing, but it is something I am not very good at, kind of expensive, and one of my biggest frustrations in writing.

Who is your greatest champion?

My greatest champion has to be my father, Mark Sandell. Mark is a great example of someone who is a great leader, visionary, father, and friend. Mark has tirelessly taught all around how to make good decisions, and live life to the fullest. My father has been one of my biggest encouragers and inspirations to develop and pursue my writing talent. One of my biggest dreams and goals in my life is to become half the man my father is. I am constantly inspired and motivated to live life to the highest level I can, due to my father.

Who are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Uncommon by Tony Dungy. In my opinion we need more people like Tony Dungy in our society today. He is a true hero who is not only a wonderful football coach and author, but Tony Dungy is a fantastic human being. I just got the book for my college graduation which was last Saturday, so I have not read that much of it yet. But, what I have read so far is inspiring, compelling, and well written. I am very excited to finish the book soon.

What's next for you?

I am going to be pursuing some different opportunities in children's book publishing. I am working on a children's picture book, and a middle grade mystery book series. I did just graduate college on May 16, so I am enjoying being all done with school, however, I do have lots of loans to pay back. I have a suspense/thriller manuscript being looked at my a literary agency, and I am very optimistic about this opportunity. One thing I am currently doing non-writing is hosting my own radio show called Before Bedtime. It is a show dedicated to hosting the best authors, artists, leaders, and visionaries before you go to bed on Sunday nights. If you want to or know someone who would be a good guest email me at

Where can we find you on the web?

You can find me on my website at:
My email address is
You can tweet me as well at:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Someone asked Marilyn vos Savant to name the most difficult task a person could accomplish. She answered - "to write a book" - which might surprise many people, but not those who have tried their hand at writing. Marilyn, as you already know, has the highest I.Q. ever measured, plus being a magazine columnist, author, lecturer and playwright.

There are endless tasks involved in creating a work of literature, whether it is a short story or a thick volume like War and Peace. First there is the plot to wrestle with, and as the story develops, there are contentious characters we have to deal with in a decisive way. There are sub-plots, conflict, research, as well as bookkeeping, marketing, and balky software. I'm getting tired just thinking about it.

In addition to all of these tasks, there is the problem of getting rid of those annoying mistakes that crop up like crabgrass in a well-tended lawn. Typos are very difficult to find, especially when you become so familiar with your manuscript that you almost have it memorized. That old adage, 'take care of the details and the big problems will take care of themselves,' definitely applies to writing. The little things are always lurking around our unwary feet like a nest of vipers in an overgrown meadow.

Most writers rely on critique groups, first readers, or another writer to check their manuscript for mistakes. While this helps, it is not a cure all. Friends might be hesitant to point out mistakes, and there are others who simply don't know. Recently, I discovered an editing service that does not ask for your first-born in order to look at your manuscript. They found a number of mistakes craftily hiding in my manuscript and squished each and every one.

I don't ask you to take my word for it. Go see for yourself. Here is a link to VIP Editing Service. I think you are going to like their courteous service.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


'Truth and Intimacy: A Couples Journal,' is a book that belongs in every church library, and could serve as a workbook for marriage counseling classes. Common sense illustrations drawn from marriage partners who have faced and overcome difficult problems are at the heart of this book. Disagreements are inevitable in any marriage, but it is good to realize that once the problems identified, the journey toward intimacy becomes easier.

In Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy observed that, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Jared Diamond, in his book 'Guns, Germs and Steel,' called this the Anna Karenina Principal, and attempted to chart the reasons why the domestication of certain animals is impossible. As God's most complex creatures, it should not be so strange to us that certain behavioral deficiencies can doom a marriage to failure.

The last fifty pages of Truth and Intimacy is a workbook that brings the reader face-to-face with the most common problems that might occur in any marriage. I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


In almost every interview, reporters ask authors the same question: "What music do you listen to while you are writing?" On social networks like Twitter and Tagged, this question is often among the first things readers want to know. Perhaps this question shouldn't be so surprising. Music is one of the most common activities known to man. No one knows when music was first invented, and invented probably isn't the right term to use. Rather than invent music, it would be just as easy to say that music invented man, or at least drew individuals together in a way that made community living desirable. Music has always been with us in some form or another.

The oldest songs consisted mostly of rhythm -- a steady beat on some acoustical object like a hollow log with an animal hide stretched across the end. Rhythm is something that doesn't have to be explained. It is as much a part of our being as the rapid beating of heart. Go into some primitive village and play a song with a hard driving beat, and you will immediately get a response in the form of rapidly moving feet stamping out the rhythm. Once the 'beat' is established, the melody in the form of swaying bodies is soon to follow -- which carries me back to the original point I was trying to make.

What do writers listen to while they are writing? The best answer is it depends on the type of story he or she is plotting. You don't need the same tune to write a horror novel as you would to write a childern's story.

When I was writing Abraham's Bones, a suspense novel about the clash of politics, religion, and ethnic diversity in the Middle East, I used a number of songs to inspire me. Now that I am working on the sequel, I have again turned to the kind of music guaranteed to banish writer's block and immediately put me in the mood. The song I listen to the most is one I found on YouTube. It a composite of several Israeli songs that meld together in a surprising and inspiring way. If you like lively music, this video will immeditely grab you by the heart and send your imagination soaring. I hope I can convey some of the same passion on the pages of The Relic as I bring it toward completion.

Here is the link. I hope you enjoy listening to these talented artists. And for my Arab friends, here is another equally enjoyable link.