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Query for Tragedy in Sunset

What follows is the query I have been sending to agents for my novel Tragedy in Sunset. If you have thoughts on how to make it better, please let me know! If you want to start following Tragedy in Sunset’s progress, sign up here for updates.

Here is the query:

“A young girl is raped in a small Kansas town. Now her father must overcome his struggling faith to join forces with a rogue cop and the perpetrator’s father to prevent the rape from destroying Sunset.”

Dear Agent (I used actual names in the official queries),

I am Dan Smith, and my book, Tragedy in Sunset, is the story of Marcy Reynolds and her father, Tom. Marcy is a 13-year-old eighth grader who is violently raped on Christmas Eve. It is the story of her father, Tom, who throws away a decade of sobriety the night of Marcy’s rape. Finally, and most importantly, it is a story of faith from multiple experiences and viewpoints.

Tragedy in Sunset inspires courage and change through hardship. It will entertain, stimulate, and deepen the faith of Christians who know what it is like to struggle with their faith and come out on the other end a little weary, but trusting God a little bit more. It is also obviously for those who have suffered through sexual assault or know someone who has been through an attack. Tragedy in Sunset runs 90,000 words.

My writing has appeared in over a dozen periodicals, including EFCA Today, Christian Courier, and The Lookout. All are either essays or articles. While not fiction credits, I have built relationships with several editors that I can use in the future for reviews and/or excerpts. My Facebook page has over 1,350 likes and climbing (@navychristian) and my Twitter account (@navychristian) has over 5500 followers. I also have a Master of Arts in Religion from Liberty University’s School of Divinity.

The full proposal contains a larger explanation of my marketing plan. However, I want you to know that my Facebook page, Twitter, and blog will all be used to focus attention on Tragedy in Sunset. As mentioned above, I will also leverage relationships with periodical editors for reviews and excerpts. Furthermore, I guarantee that I will use at least half of any advance to increase influence and market Tragedy in Sunset. Finally, due to my career in the Navy, I know pastors in several major cities, giving me a ready list of contacts for speaking engagements.

Bottom line is: Give me a chance and you’ll get one of the hardest working authors in your stable. May I send you a package that includes the first three chapters, a synopsis, and a marketing plan? Simply reply to my email address (dan@navychristian.org) or by phone (858-598-5244)and I’ll have it on the way!

This is a simultaneous submission. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future!

 

Sincerely,

S. Daniel Smith

www.sdanielsmith.com

The Importance of Theology

You’ll find my first real foray into theological writing in the 23 July, 2017 issue of the Lookout (pictured below). While I have many writing credits and a Master in Arts degree from seminary (Liberty University School of Divinity), I haven’t been able to break into theology outside of preaching. Finally, that drought has ended.

The reason I’m most grateful for the opportunity is because I value scripture study far more than I value writing itself. If you have to pick between reading something I wrote (or anyone else for that matter) and something the apostles wrote or Jesus said, then pick the latter every time.

Even so, my heart’s desire is to write about the words the prophets and apostles left us, to dig deep into their lives and words and pull out what they intended for their first readers and what God intends for us now.

If you have access to a copy of the Lookout, then I highly recommend all of the articles in the 23 July issue. For the rest of you, you’ll find my article on Jesus’ rescue plan below. Enjoy and be encouraged!

Tragedy in Sunset

Hey everyone! Some of you know from a post I wrote last fall, that I have been working on a book. Well, it’s finally time to introduce Tragedy in Sunset to the world. I’ve been holding off for a long time because, as many of you know, the writing process is very long. Even after finishing the first draft, I’ve been working very hard on the novel in order to give real life to the story and the best product possible to you, the reader.

And just what is that story? Glad you asked! Here is a short blurb:

“A young, small town Kansas girl is raped. Now her father must joined forces with a rogue detective and the perpetrator’s father to prevent it from destroying a town.”

Interest you? I hope so!

Tragedy in Sunset is in editing right now and will be for the rest of the summer at least. Here’s a rough outline of the future for this story:

  1.  Editing (through the summer and early fall 2017)
  2.  Submission to agents (beginning in fall of 2017)
  3.  Depending on point 2, will begin to submit to publishers (early 2018)
  4.  Publication sometime in 2019 or 2020.

See? The publishing process is really long! However, I want you to meet the people of Sunset, Kansas so badly that I’m preparing a series of short stories to whet your appetite! I expect to release the first one, called, “Friday Night in Sunset,” in September.

Thanks are in order for my beta readers. I’m so grateful for the work they are doing! I’m also extremely grateful for the work of my beta readers. Tragedy in Sunset moves forward every day! You can keep up with the novel’s progress by clicking here.

What’s Right with my Son?

What’s Right with my Son?

A Father deals with Asperger’s and his own Relationship with God

By: S. Daniel Smith

I write this knowing that my son might read it someday. Part of me wants to be very careful with what I write, but the rest of me, and I hope it is the right part, wants him to know the truth. I want him to understand that I struggle as his dad. I don’t know what it’s like to be trapped behind the door of Asperger’s Syndrome. I don’t know what it’s like to not even know that people are picking on me when they laugh at what I do. I don’t know what it’s like to be incredibly brilliant and exceptionally awkward at the same time. Yet I do know what it’s like to learn about my own sonship in Christ despite my own limitations, and I hope that, if my son ever sees this essay, he sees that he has taught me what it is like to be a child of God.

The issue of Asperger’s Syndrome is compounded because of the travel and underway time my career in the navy forces on me. I try to stay as involved as possible, but I’m seemingly always behind the curve when it comes to communicating with my boy. The truth is that I struggle to communicate with all three of our children, but in particular, as my son transitions to being a man, I find it even more difficult to stay connected to him.

On one of my recent at-sea periods, I began to take stock of all of the things that are “wrong” with my son. This was made easier by a recent episode at school where even his friends were not safe from his outbursts. What started out as a playful argument turned into an emotional eruption wherein my 13-year-old son slapped his buddy across the face.

What is wrong with my son?

Then there was the time he was playing a computer game on a school computer. He knew it was wrong. His teacher asked him why he was doing it and he didn’t have a good, or appropriate answer. Instead of accepting her correction, however, he started banging his pencil on the desk loudly (this is the Asperger’s kicking in…the elevated and escalatory response to a stimulus). Some of the students laughed uncomfortably, so he chucked said pencil at a nearby girl.

What’s wrong with my son?

On the surface, I know what’s wrong with him. He has Asperger’s syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. On top of that disadvantage, he has sensory processing disorder (SPD). Things that wouldn’t normally bother you or me turn my otherwise sweet and caring boy into a raging and insensitive person.

Deeper than just the diagnoses of Asperger’s and SPD themselves, my son struggles against his anger. I think part of it is because he holds it in so long that, when it comes out, it comes out with the force of a typhoon.

He also struggles with self-esteem. He’s sure that he’s not worthy…worthy of anything. More than once my wife has found a note that talks about how depraved he is and how undeserving of anything good. When confronted (lovingly), he simply states, matter-of-factly, that it’s true and we shouldn’t make a big deal about it. It’s so disheartening to see him cut himself down.

Another thing wrong is that he doesn’t work very hard. No matter how much we challenge him or take away his privileges, he often will do the minimum or delay as long as possible on school assignments. Sometimes, when he’s procrastinated to the point of exasperation, he gets himself into an anxious fit. Then we end up dealing with more than one of his issues at the same time.

Then there are the sensory-related issues. Too much noise and his emotional responses ramp up. The only way to combat this issue is to help him find a place to hide until he can calm down. Food is a problem too. He doesn’t like foods that other kids like, and by not liking, I mean he throws up when looking at them. It’s not just about being picky either. Deserts and candy find the same disgust in his eyes that broccoli and Brussels sprouts do. Yet he loves yogurt…as long as it’s the right flavor. It’s mind-boggling.

His handshake is weak, as is his core. His posture is painfully lacking, though to be honest, I struggle with that one too. I want him to be a man when he grows up, but the handshake is still the first measure of a person when meeting another, and it is an understatement to say that his needs work. For those of you who think the handshake should go away, you’re wrong. It’s a measure of a man in our culture and he needs to get this right.

It’s exacerbating.

Every time I think about it, my mind wonders, “What’s wrong with him?” And then, “Why can’t we just get through to him?” Then I move on to how I am failing to get him to adjust to life around him.

In the blindness of what’s wrong with my son, I forgot for a moment that I love him unconditionally. I forgot that I’m his dad, not just his father. I forgot that he means more to me than any other male human alive.

I’m reminded that I, too, am a complete paradox to God. He created me to be perfect, but I am my father Adam’s son, and so I am far from it. God created me to be holy, yet I consistently reject that created mission. He saved me from my sin, yet I too-often return to that lifestyle. He showed me grace by giving me a loving wife and wonderful children, but I shut them out or show meanness to them.

Maybe I should ask, “What’s wrong with me?”

Immediately the answer is to the question that wasn’t asked. My question is irrelevant. I want to know what’s wrong, and God wants to make me he son. John 1:12 says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” In reality, everything is wrong with me. I’m a sinner, I am confused, and I am simply overwhelmed by this world.

Yet I am God’s son, one that he loved unconditionally and sent his son to die to save. How much more should I unconditionally love my son in view of God’s ultimate sacrifice?

That changes everything. I had to remind myself just how important he is to me, how much of a blessing he is in my life. Reframing the issue in such a light allows me to stop asking, “What is wrong with my son?” and start asking, “What’s right with my son?”

He’s a bright kid. As with many children on the spectrum, he is great with math and other analytical sciences. When he does focus on what he’s doing, he’s very good. That’s another thing too…he has laser-sharp focus when he’s working on something he’s passionate about.

Most important, he is worthy. All of his struggles with self-worth are the key to my own relationship with God. God answered that by showing just how much he loved me. It shows me how much I can love my son. When I think about him in terms of how much I love him and forget, for a moment, that the world seems to be crashing down around us, I can realize just how much is “right” with him. And what’s right with him is so much more important than anything that’s wrong.

A Job to Do

A Job to Do

By: S. Daniel Smith

Mark 1:15: “and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (ESV)

We read this quote from our savior today and know one crucial fact: We have a job to do. As the old hymn goes, “We’ve a story to tell to the nations!” In telling the nations, we are continuing to herald the same warning that Jesus proclaimed as he began his earthly ministry. Yes, the kingdom is delayed, but it is still at hand!

To put this into contrast, if I refuse to proclaim this message to those around me who need it, then I am telling my savior that I don’t believe his kingdom is at hand and while I’m grateful that I became a believer, I see no pressing need for anyone else to join me. How can this be? How could a Jesus follower possibly, after being redeemed from his own sin, then not want to help rescue others from their sin?

The eternal kingdom is at stake. When Jesus first said these words, he was telling unbelievers that they had to make a choice about what to do with him. They had to either accept that he was the promised one or reject him. Unbelievers today are also faced with that decision.

And what is it that they must do? Repent and believe! Jesus gave us no lists of things to accomplish to earn his forgiveness. We are given no commands to see this priest or take that pilgrimage. We are only ordered to repent and believe. Romans 10:9 tells us, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Believers are also faced with a decision. Will we reject our job? Or will we tell others that the kingdom is at hand? It is a decision we must all make and we are all responsible to Christ Jesus for the answer.

I’m not saying it’ll be easy, only that it’s necessary. I struggle with rejection as much as the next person. And I certainly struggle with having a clean life just as much as the next guy. I regularly feel like I’ve blown my witness, or have no witness at all. We can’t be like Jesus completely, but we must continue to work at it, knowing that we believe the kingdom is at hand and that we can help others learn that fact.

To learn more, take a look at the following books:

Master Plan of Evangelism – Robert Coleman

Tell the Truth – Will Metzger

Share Jesus without Fear – William Fay

Recently, on a 6th and 5th Fleet deployment, I was privileged to see four young Sailors accept Christ on the USS Hue City (CG 66). All four accepted Christ during a modified altar call during my last sermon, where I presented the Romans Road. I built a relationship with all four of these Sailors (taking more than a year in some cases) in order to get to a point where they trusted me with the Gospel message. I’m grateful for the outcome, and so very glad that God gave me the opportunity to see my job of evangelism turn to one of gathering the harvest.

Now…will you do your part?

To follow more of Dan’s writing, “like” the Navy Christian Report on Facebook and sign up for his email updates!

Closing 2016 and Opening 2017

In December of 2015, I decided to officially make an effort to be a writer. Not just a guy who had a couple of publishing credits (I had five credits outside of a volunteer stint at the Sherwood Voice), but a writer with an extensive list of bylines. Also, because I was a freelancer, I wanted to have a wide array of credits in 2016.

I did two things to push me in the right direction for 2016. First, I started journaling. Writing about my writing helped me see my progress. Secondly, I set a goal: 16 in ’16!

Neither of those worked as I planned. I didn’t journal everyday, though I did journal often and it has shown me things like how much time I waste chasing ideas that don’t matter. It also helped me find my writing voice. That voice has started to become a solid part of who I am. For that, I’m grateful.

The goal of 16 credits didn’t happen, not by half.

This doesn’t mean that 2016 was a bust though. I got seven credits last year. I’m so happy with that! By pushing myself, I got more credits in one year than in the entirety of my effort since 2000 when I got my first byline. I’ll take the seven and run with it. I also made more money this year than ever before, though it was really not that much.

So, as the clock turns over on 2016 and my writing starts a new year, I need to decide what 2017 will hold.

First and foremost, it will hold a closer relationship with God. I wrote about this in my main blog post on 2017, but it bears repeating…none of the following goals matter if my faith is not strengthened in the coming year.

Instead of making a 17-in-17 goal, I am making a goal of hitting certain wickets on my path as a writer. For example, in 2016, I got published by EFCA Today and EFCA Now, both periodicals with (you guessed it!) the Evangelical Free Church of America. This year, now that we’re members of a Southern Baptist Church, I want to focus on getting published by an SBC publication. I have already started the process, but more details will have to wait.

Another goal in 2017 is to increase the exposure that my writing receives. Here’s another example: In 2016, I was published in many smaller-circulation e-zines or periodicals. This year, I want to increase my writing exposure by going for magazines like, On Mission, Christianity Today, Outreach Magazine, and the like. These are bigger names in publishing, and I’ll probably get rejected a lot, but I’m used to it (been getting rejection letters since 1999!

The final goal of 2017, and the biggest one as far as I’m concerned in writing, is getting an agent and/or a book deal. Since the book is still in planning and writing, I don’t know yet if I’m going to sell it to the publisher directly or get an agent for it. Of course, it would always be cool to say, “well, my agent is working on…” but I want to do what is right for the book. If the book can be sold directly, then I’ll probably go that route.

Here’s to 2017. While I didn’t reach all of my writing goals in 2016, I made a huge splash with the number of times my writing appeared in periodicals. I believe 2017 holds even more promise!

The Only New Year’s Resolution that Matters

dscn0145The year 2017 is looming large in my sights. While the Christmas lights still twinkle on the tree and the kids haven’t even broken any of the toys yet, I know that I must start thinking seriously about the coming New Year. It isn’t all about football and parties, you know. There’s the goal setting and resolutions to think about too!

Do you have any? Resolutions I mean. Like me, I suppose (assume?) you’d like to finally lose that 20lbs you’ve been staring at in the mirror for the last several months. I know that this is a big one because my e-book “Gluttony” is selling faster now than any other time of the year. But not even this important resolution really matters.

Goals are important too. For example, I have a goal to write for some major publications this year. Christianity Today tops that list. In my opinion, it’s the gold standard for Christian journalism. But not even this major milestone goal matters.

The only thing that matters this year…the only resolution that bears us any benefit, is to get closer to God this year than we were in 2016.

II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Of course, this happens when a person accepts Christ. Maybe that happened for you at the New Year, but chances are, if you are reading this, then you’re already a Christian. Yet there is something we as humans, whether regenerated or not, have in common with every year as it ends. We know what it’s like to have the old pass away and the new arrive. And just like 2017, our lives carry the baggage of the previous life. You’ll deal with decisions you made in 2016 for some time in the New Year just like the New You continues to deal with the issues that came from the old you.

Which is why it’s so important to set the ultimate goal this year. Make your New Year’s resolution count…make a committment to know God better this year.

I’ll give you three realistic ways to accomplish this.

  1.  Get into the Bible. Read it consistently. As for me, I’m a horrible daily reader and my ship’s watch schedule often keeps me from setting aside a very specific time each day for scripture reading and prayers. Doesn’t matter. Just read. I’m more a believer of getting into the Bible than doing it at a specific time each day. We’re all busy. Just get into it. Put a little “x” on the calendar each day you do it. Just get started and over time you’ll develop the habit you need.
  2. Pray more. All the time. Every day. I have ideas on how to do this every day and you can read them here. The important thing, however, is simply to do it. Set a timer and talk to God for five minutes. It’s not that difficult. Five minutes. You can talk about the latest Hollywood gossip or your favorite sports team for hours. You can talk to God for five minutes. What do you talk about? How about the football team or your favorite actor? Do you think he isn’t interested in what you’re interested in? The important thing is to just start somewhere.
  3. Fellowship often. I put this last because the first two deal with God directly, and I’m an introvert. Extended time with other people wears me out. This is especially true if it’s time spent with people I don’t know. However, fellowship isn’t just the exhausting potlucks and parties. Find people who also follow Jesus and spend time with them. Even as an introvert, I find my soul rejuvenated when I do this with people I love and who love Jesus.

I want to encourage you to start 2017 with a strong, sensible, spiritual goal to get to know God better. It’s the only thing that really matters in eternity, and I am convinced that eternity is the only thing that matters for our lives.

May you have a blessed 2017!