My Reader Profile

As a writer, I’ve struggled to identify my target audience. It’s a dilemma that every writer faces. The more specific one can be, the better. But it has been hard for me to specify an audience by age or gender (women 50-65? young males 18 to 25?) because those categories seem at the same time too limiting and too broad, supposing that one of my stories might entertain a reader who does not fit into either of those categories. My hope is that my stories speak not necessarily to someone’s age or gender, but to values in the very heart of who they are. I don’t know if this is accurate or thorough, but I am taking great care in writing it. So who might enjoy my stories?….

First of all, someone looking for hope. Hope is such a tender commodity these days. It seems like people are starting to lose some of it. Violence and crime. Drugs. Disease. Divorce. The premature loss of a loved one. Disappointments. Failures. Broken relationships. Broken dreams. Souls are hurting. Faith is fraying. Our nation is wounded. I’m writing for hope—to go on living, to keep trying, to not quit, to believe that there is good in the world, and in ourselves. Hopefully when someone reads my stories they’ll feel rejuvenated and inspired to see their worth, in themselves and in others, and, above all, to keep hoping—hoping for what lies ahead over the horizon.

Secondly, someone willing to dare. To believe. To have faith. To find their courage. To fight for what is good. My stories are meant to cultivate the courage in a reader so that she is brave enough to face her struggles and fears, even at the risk of her own safety. She will not renege on the promise that is her. I want my stories to inspire her to fight—not for land or money, but for the terrain within her. That savage battleground where glory reigns.

Thirdly, someone passionate about life, or who longs to rediscover their passion, through story. I may not succeed at this, but my passion is to create human characters who bruise and are deepened by them and are shaped by their struggles to become someone they could never have imagined becoming on their own. Someone with worth, with significance.

Fourthly, sailors, prospectors, golfers, Christmas families, artists, basketball and football and baseball players, track and field athletes, gumshoe sleuths, fishermen, soldiers, and more. I sport a wide range of interests, and my stories reflect that. I am not a genre writer; I cannot contain myself to writing only murder mysteries or historical sagas or romance. I have to explore the stories that are within me, to be true to what has been given me to write. I hope there is a little something for a wide array of peoples in my stories. Maybe this will hurt me. But at least I feel honest at the end of the day.

Lastly, someone who is fed up with misery and hurt and harm and disease—in the world around them and in themselves—who longs for life. My stories cannot give life, but I write them to point heavenward—to the Author who can.

Samuel Cronin

amazon.com/author/samuelcronin

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True Warrior

It is easy to get discouraged when faced with an insurmountable task. When those dark times come, impossibilities weight the mind with the fear that they’ll never be surmounted. Questions and confusion lurk like terrible shadows, casting a pall over the soul. Fear, at one time a remote abstraction, becomes tangible, even touched. It is during those times when the darkness is so black that the memory of light is forgotten, and hope is lost.

I’ve been there. Challenged. Chained. Denied. Scattered. The more I’ve tried to excel, the farther away that success seems to be. It is in those moments that I am irrelevant–that the deepest desires in me burst out of my hand, onto the floor, through the drain, and disappear. I suppose any person with a song in his heart knows what I’m speaking of.

It is a hostile enterprise, to live in this world, to go on hoping and believing and moving and changing and doing good for others in the face of violence and hatred, when the country we call home is split, where we can no longer walk the streets in safety.

Does a newborn have any chance at a free life? In this country? In this world? If not, if I resign my hope, then I forfeit who I am and my character. But I get the satisfaction of satisfying my cravings–of quitting. Didn’t Jesus say that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak? If I quit then I experience a pleasure, a very intense one.

But I lose every shred of character given me–traits to bless others, to inspire them to not give in, to not give up, to not quit. Forgive me for speaking truthfully, but the truth is we are not alone. We are not an island. We have each other. God has given each of us a heavenly desire to use our skills and talents to lift and support those around us. I cannot quit because my life is not my own. I belong to others. I belong to God.

So I look around for these true warriors. Men and women of resolve. Who refuse to forsake their self-worth. And who do I see first?

Christie, my wife. She is shamelessly brave. Even as I try to bury my dreams under the haystack, Christie is working tirelessly to validate the pitchfork in my hand–not to bury my good hopes, but to expose them.

She works a tough job. She’s a first grade teacher at an impoverished elementary school. She’s 31 weeks pregnant today. This pregnancy has tested her–morning sickness into the third trimester, heartburn so intense that she can’t sleep at night, chest pains, shoulder pains–all of these that made her bedridden for two straight months. Last Thursday she came down with a virus that kept her up all night, throwing up 10 times, before she was admitted to the hospital at 5:30 a.m. so they could replenish her fluids with an I.V.

She is the most loyal, inspiring woman I’ve ever known. She is my courage. She inspires me to keep hoping. Even when dire, even when lost, even when I’ve lost everything, to keep fighting. To keep hoping. Even at the insurmountable task of believing in faith that people can still hope, still do good, still encourage, still believe that we as a society can do good, elevating each other into His arms, Christie is my encourager. She is the truth behind my dream.

Christie is a true warrior. This blog is just for her.

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Warm Thanks

So in the last two months I have had the fortune of publishing two novels, and the best thing about it has been the encouragement I’ve experienced from friends and family. My hope with the novels is that in some small way, they will encourage readers in the same way that I have been encouraged (no small thing, considering the sizeable support from those all around me). I’ve learned a lot through this process.

Namely, to not give up. For well over a decade I’ve tried to get published through a traditional publisher. And to do that, I’ve sought to secure an agent, because most publishing houses, and all the big ones, require an agented submission. It is very hard to obtain either. I’ve sent out probably close to 200 query letters over the past decade, usually three or five at a time or sometimes only one. I’ve been in contact with various agents and have come close a few times, but most of the time the agents reply in a generalized form letter that never mentions why they’re passing on your work. So as the months progress, it feels like you’re in a fog with no direction or compass to show you how to get through to the other side.

I’m not sure what the recipe for success is through the traditional route (other than refusing to give up and learning all you can about the publishing business and improving your craft and waiting for that perfect moment when opportunity and preparation coalesce), but I imagine it’s the same recipe for self-publishing.

For many, self-publishing means that you’ve given up, that your writing isn’t of a certain quality, that you’ve settled for something that would not stand up under the scrutiny of a discriminating readership. That may be true. I may never discover how to satisfy that readership; I may never arrive at the right mix of plot, character and style. But maybe I’m learning I don’t have to.

There’s something very liberating about telling yourself, You know what? I don’t care if my story is not 100 percent perfect, the best of the best. What I enjoy most is the process of creating story, of entering into new worlds that hold the very gems that I need to discover to bring order to my own chaotic life, and I am thrilled that I get to connect with readers who enjoy sharing those gems together.

Self-publishing has been nothing less than an opened door–not just a slender opening, but one thrust wide, as if the light behind it has suddenly exploded through the darkness and blast a pathway so free, so unimaginably free, that all the darkness I’ve been shrouded in is as if it never existed. It is a thrill, a joy, to step into that freedom.

It is a joy to discover how much control I have over my book. At times this may work against me, but is satisfying to be able to decided on what my book will say and what cover will go on it. And of course, this means that its success or failure lay in my shoulders. But that is true for any business entrepreneur who is carried by a dream.

I see only possibility before me. Not compromise. I see readers. The heart of readers with whom I may have the fortune of connecting.

My dad is an attorney with his own law practice in a small town. He is his own boss. I’ve admired the freedom and control that he has over his practice. Although I never took the bait to go into law with him, I think I’ve followed in his footsteps somehow by living out this self-publishing business as my own boss, just like him. It’s a way to connect with him that I had not anticipated, and it is very satisfying to do so.

So far I’ve had good success with Warm Gold. It’s a historical novel set mostly in Canyon City and Eastern Oregon in the 1890s–the story of a miner who, by braving his fears, discovers the Motherlode. It took me over four years to write it. It is available in paperback through Amazon and as an ebook on Amazon, Nook and Smashwords.

My novel How Well the Sailors Run is the story of the Prodigal Son retold as a sea adventure. It is based loosely on my experience as a deckhand on the Schooner Roseway when I sailed aboard her in the summer of 1999. Like Warm Gold, it is available in paperback through Amazon, and as an ebook through Amazon, Nook and Smashwords.

I am excited to share these stories. But I think what excites me more is the hope that readers will find a great story in them. I believe a book, if it is dripping with words dipped in the soul, merely drizzle and whet the great story in the heart of a reader. The reader herself is living the story that is everlasting, shaped by the beautiful words from pages turned.

I refuse to give up on that. There’s so many stories waiting to be told.

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Running the Race

Our country is hurting. Nine people are dead in South Carolina from a gunman who murdered them in church. Freddie Gray is dead. Michael Brown is dead. Trayvon Martin is dead. And many others. People responding to these deaths have been beaten and injured—citizens of every kind and color, those wearing tennis shoes and those in uniform.

There is a thickening tension felt in various conversations and in neighborhoods that has manifested itself violently, as it has in Ferguson and in Baltimore, as it had in the Rodney King Riots, and those before. People are scared and mistrustful, and we wonder if the fabric of our nation will survive this.

The deep wounds in our nation’s history are deepening. Blood flows, without mend. Our forefathers felt them. It inspired them to rise up from every neighborhood and street corner and in brotherhood hold hands, to heal. And yet the wounds passed on to us, carving our hearts.

The fear of unrest and upheaval have reduced men to whispers and mist. The great spine on which we depended confidently up to this time is giving out as we struggle to keep our balance above a chasm full only of chaos. It is terrifying. Friendships are threatened. Strangers are afraid.

It is as if we were running this race asea, aboard a ship, heading in the same direction, with the same desire to survive, with the same heart for the far away shore. But this journey has gone on for so long that we have lost sight of our purpose as we sail. We no longer care about reaching the shore or what it promises – declaring mutiny, fighting to make ourselves the captain. It is the old story of Man, retold in the classic yarns, and in the Good Book.

As the violence spreads into the holds, our barriers thicken, so that we become so detached from life that we no longer think or hear or smell or feel or taste or touch or see, because we’ve withdrawn to the only spot on the boat still safe: a rotten cask.

But we were never meant to hide there. A ship cannot reach the shore without our handling of the sails and the sheets and the buntlines and so forth. Who else but you and me are equipped to go aloft to change out the sails? We were designed with a purpose, with a specific duty, on this ship bound for new shores.

In America, we have each been given a unique gift. Those born here had no choice in the matter; those who arrived by choice did. But now that we are here, there is a solemn duty given us, to each of us – one not slathered in greed or pride or addictions, nor in a rapaciousness to consume until we sink – but to love.

The only way through this storm is to work together to handle our beloved ship. Our journey does not care what we look like (unless to celebrate it), only that we respond to the heart in our shipmates, that great heart latent in each of us, in that chaotic pit we are so afraid to open.

A healing America is one who sees together, who imagines, who believes in the shore beyond the horizon, who keeps hoping, humbly, taking our bread each day with contentment, giving to others, loving them lovably even though they are unlovable, lifting, extending, encouraging.

Fear dissipates just like that. It’s never been easier to love than right now. Jesus promises that in this life we will have tribulations, and in a moment of pause, I discover the shalom He also promises, even in the midst of those tribulations.

His love empowers me to love at a depth I could not have discovered in my own strength. (I do not have the lungs to reach that treasure.)

The great leaders in our nation’s history inspired us to love in the spirit of brotherhood. Mr. Lincoln. Dr. King. The citizen soldiers. If all their stories were told together, if all our stories were told in the same, we would not need the sun. It could finally take that nap it is craving.

In our youth we were inspired to believe in their words and character – that one day the violence will pass away, leaving only a fading scar, soon forgotten. I believe that is true. But in Man’s fallen nature this is impossible. One nation, however strong, cannot manufacture enough character from itself to eradicate this violence. It is a cruel, pandemic illness remedied only by divine love. He is the only one who fully endured its wrath. From His own Spirit He manufactures His antidote to our pain, giving it freely to anyone sick enough to need it.

And because of Jesus, there is the promise of healing. Ablutions. Forgiveness. Humble words dripping in sorrow. Shoulders given to shoulders, hands to hands, eyes in surrender. Repentance. That is the spirit of the journey He offers us to enjoy as we sail with Him on our journey home.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” ~ 1 Corinthians 9:24

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The Scenic Route

Last year, almost to the day, my wife and I took a three-week vacation down Highway 101, starting from Astoria, Oregon and ending up on Catalina Island. We built a raft and drove our Focus across the ocean to reach the island. Just kidding.

When we reached Northern California, we drove from Jedidiah State Park, in the middle of the Redwoods (which is breathtakingly beautiful) and passed through Eureka and on down the coast, detouring onto Highway 1 to stay at a bed and breakfast in Albion, which is no longer there. Not Albion – the bed and breakfast.

And what we experienced during that drive, and for the whole trip, was a stunning ascent into a pacific paradise: views of manzanita and redwoods and deep blue oceans and friendly people, of cresting waves and warm sand and water, of sunlight so warm and promising that it seemed the summer would go on forever. It was a scenic route. It was so beautiful, and so overwhelming, that it took me a year to put that trip into perspective, and to understand how a trip like that could suggest how God views my life.

So often in my life I find myself rushing to get from Point A to Point B, to reach my destination before Calamity catches up to me (not hard to do in a Ford Focus – I’d say Calamity drives at least a 300 hp V6). I rush. A lot. So determined to get there. To sort of coerce God into following me in the route I’ve chosen for myself, to prove to him that I know how to get there, and that I can drive faster than Him.

But of course, I don’t. I never do. And so they say that a guy makes plans and anticipates and that when those plans don’t pan out, his friends and family say that he’s taken a detour.

But it’s not a detour. It never is. It’s a scenic route, like Highway 101. God’s decisions and actions and plans are always good. They’re not a detour from the main road; they’re the purposed road He wanted me to take in the first place.

And what, then, is my attitude on a scenic route? One of enjoyment. Relaxation. Contentment. Pure beauty. An attitude of “sitting back and soaking it all in.” The giant redwoods. The blue Pacific. The crescent beaches. The salty air. The kindness in the locals who treat us as vacationers.

That, hopefully, is my attitude when I take one of God’s scenic routes in my life. It’s a process of refinement and discipline, of sacrifices and repentance that all lead to those moments of peace and patience and love and joy during those drives.

They are designed to be slow and cumbersome and winding so that I never know what might happen around the next corner. Sometimes there’s an oncoming semi I need to swerve to avoid. Sometimes it opens out to a vista of sand and ocean stretching beyond the southern horizon on a perfect halcyon day, the sun high and the clouds misting over the coast.

So what about this country? Have we taken a detour? Or is God showing us some things we aren’t fully realizing, a sky dark and scary and threatening, until we recognize within them navigable stars? We have a choice of accepting His discipline, of seeking Him, of asking Him to guide us, or not.

But if we do, we learn to sit back and enjoy the ride, as He drives us through territory so unmentionably good that it might inspire us to invite others along.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to you give you a hope and a future.’” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

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Holiday Blues

It’s now, surprisingly, the end of February. A long time ago, sometime in 2014, I remember celebrating Christmas and New Year with my brothers and sisters, mom and dad. We saw a movie in Bend and went out for breakfast at a vintage café the morning after before parting ways. Since then I’ve been swimming in a fog, trying to lift myself out of a lonely malaise.

I miss my family. I’m lucky to share the day with my wife Christie, but sharing the holidays with my family creates such rich experiences that in the subsequent days and weeks I’ve sputtered in a hiccoughing spasm, like the misfiring engine in an old Model T. I’m craving another break.

I don’t mean a day where I get to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy in succession, or hit two large buckets of golf balls on the range in balmy weather. What I’m talking about is a holiday. A vacation. A time with friends and family. One that lasts on and on, into the horizon.

I’m craving heaven. To worship Jesus. To glorify Him. To bend my knee before Him and confess that He is Lord. Just to have that day. Just to be totally free in that moment. To understand, fully, how forgiven I am. I’m craving the time when all of us will be in perfect union, free from pain or fear or doubt, throwing a party to begin all parties.

I’m weak. My eyes burn. I have a headache. I’m tired. When will that day come? How beautiful will heaven be? How beautiful is our life with Him now, this engagement period where the marriage of Jesus to his body is promised, not yet completely fulfilled?

My wife and I went into Fred Meyer earlier today. We walked around. I noticed the strangers. I don’t know anything about them. In our big city where we live, there are too many strangers. It’s very hard, I suppose, to throw a proper party with a stranger.

No, you throw a party and invite the people whom you know, who know you, because they’re friends and you love them, and they love you. Those friends, you think to yourself, are the kinds of people whom you would want to spend a few more days knowing, if you had the chance.

I think that’s what heaven is like. Fresh mornings, hand-in-hand. All of us experiencing just how lucky we are, spending our eternity getting to know each other in a deepening intimacy. I’m craving that holiday.

It is on days like this one where the hope of being in heaven with Jesus comes home even more, hits me right in the heart, spreads through my soul, soaks into my spirit. I’m reminded of how difficult it is to endure in our broken world. But also, on this day, I am strengthened in my hope. I never thought I could go this far.

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”  ~ Romans 5:5

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Improbable Wins

If you happened to catch the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers last Sunday in the NFC Championship, you would have witnessed an historic victory. After trailing 0-16 in the first half, the Seahawks won in overtime 28-22 on a 35-yard TD pass from Wilson to Jermaine Kearse, the largest deficit overcome in a conference title game,. It inspired me to wonder what improbable victories lay before me.

The Packers dominated the first half. Aaron Rodgers led his team down the field to score two field goals and then a touchdown, all in the first quarter. In the second, he led his team to another field goal to make it 16-0. Meanwhile, the Seahawks turned the ball over four times, three of them interceptions thrown by Russell Wilson intended for Jermaine Kearse. The Seahawks went into the locker room at halftime, and there was a feeling that the Super Bowl was slipping away.

Isn’t our day like that sometimes? Or our season? Maybe it’s been a whole year where we feel down. The game has walloped us so cruelly that it feels we can do nothing right. We’re outperformed at work and are inadequate at home. We ache to feel joy. On days like that our passion for life is gone. Our friendships are in jeopardy. Our families don’t understand.

But it is in that time when the very thing that drives us into the ground, is driving us to our foundation. It is on that rock where we stand. We may play games where we lose, fall short, fail, make mistakes, embarrass ourselves or worse, others. But there comes a moment when we realize we’re stronger than the oppression. Simply, stronger.

You and I may feel a bully on our backs nipping critical lies at our lobes. Let them. Those bullies are destined for oblivion. Their lies will go with them. But you and I, true sports, true Coach’s sons and daughters, are gifted with the skills and graces and talents to soar not in our own power, but propelled upward by Him. His rock springs us heavenward.

In the first half of the NFC Championship, nothing went right for the Seahawks. In the second half, everything did. With 4:44 left in the third quarter Jon Ryan, the punter, setting up for a field goal, faked it and threw a touchdown pass to make it 7-16, the first touchdown pass thrown by a punter in NFL playoff history.

With 2:09 remaining in the fourth, the Seahawks scored again to make it 14-19. Their subsequent onside kick bounced off the facemask of a Packer, and they recovered it, leading to another score and a two point conversion thrown by Wilson, which was lofted so high it was a miracle that it wasn’t intercepted. They went ahead 22-19.

In overtime Russell Wilson, after throwing four interceptions in regulation, pitched a perfect 35-yard strike down the middle of the field to Jermaine Kearse for  the game-winning touchdown. Seahawks won 28-22.

After the game, Wilson told a reporter, “The will and the drive of these men is unbelievable. We always find a way to finish.”

Great job, Seahawks! Way to battle, even when it was improbable, even when a win seemed impossible. Way to go!

Life is unbelievable so much of the time. It’s very difficult for me some days to get out of bed and go to work, thinking in the back of my mind about all the horrible atrocities our society encounters on a daily basis. It makes me pause to wonder if good is winning the fight, when it seems so improbable that it is.

But of course it is.

God has never lost. He never will lose. He always wins. Not from our understanding of how a football team might win, but on a field much deeper and much more spiritual. God’s victory is to claim you and me out of this terrible, harsh world. Your spirit and mine are so valuable to Him that He coached His team (Jesus) through the most painful of victories. Jesus lost nothing on the cross, because He gained you and me. And we are His, forever.

Sport is beautiful because it reflects God’s heart. Whether a team wins or loses, it’s the refinement, the testing of the game that matters. Sport drives us to excellence beyond our boundaries, to help us achieve in a dream that is God-sized.

If your team wins, as the Seahawks won, you might celebrate at how improbable that victory was. If your Packers lost, well, it stings, but over time there’s a sweet reward in it. Sometimes that reward is the very best thing you could hope to discover, far better than a gridiron win.

So now that Super Bowl 49 is at hand. It is to be played on February 1 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. I’m hoping, not predicting, for a good game. I hope the Seahawks play well, and the Patriots, too. And maybe in my own little private Super Bowl I’ll discover my Coach is setting me up for an improbable win of my own. We are meant for glory.

“For with God nothing will be impossible.” ~ Luke 1:37

 

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