If you are cursed with having a writer in your circle of friends or family, then you know finding the perfect gift for paranoid neurotic personality types is often difficult. I recognize this, and have offered this blog post as a friendly help.


  1. Buy their books. If you bought a paper copy, buy the Kindle or Nook too. Do not, under any circumstances, let someone else borrow your copy; buy them one of their own. Give them away as Christmas presents. It doesn’t really matter if you read them or not. Just buy.
  2. Write reviews. I can’t emphasize enough how much this is needed. Write a five star review on as many websites as possible (starting at Amazon, then Goodreads and Barnes&Noble). Do not mention that you know the writer personally in the review. It is important that you do not lie, but do emphasize the positive. If you’re going to review with less than four stars, don’t. A corollary of this is to Tweet, Facebook, Blog, Linkedin, Tumblr, and Google+ links and reviews about your favorite authors books.
  3. Host a writer meet and greet. Invite your favorite author friend to your home where she can talk about her books, sell books, and engage with possible buyers. Even if you live a long way from the writer, do it anyway. I wager the writer will travel. This is a win-win, because you get to support your favorite writer friend while showing off your new chocolate cake recipe.
  4. Give the gift of respect. Never belittle the writer, as if he doesn’t do anything all day long. Writing is hard work. Whether you like what the writer writes or not is irrelevant, the act of creating something is extremely difficult. It takes time and commitment.
  5. Coffee. Maybe tea. Whichever your writer prefers, a gift of coffee or tea will be appreciated. This gift signifies that you understand and are offering a comforting hand. Do not give gifts of notebooks, books on writing, pens, computer programs or other miscellany that is often associated with writing (unless the writer has asked for something specific, like a MacBook Pro or a box of pencils). A gift card to buy books is not a bad idea, but a specific book feels like an assignment. Books on writing feel like an insult. Would you give a book on how to teach to a teacher? Only if you thought that person needed help, right?

I hope this is the best Christmas ever for you and your significant writer friend or family member.


61pR5mJmOVLThere are several words that come readily to mind that describe Drew Dyck’s new book, Yawning at Tigers:  You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying. Theological is the first.  Dyck has essentially written a theology book on the nature or attributes of God.  Accessible is the second.  Just because it is theology doesn’t mean it is hard to read.  Dyck has done a very good job by writing the book in a way that just about everyone from age 12 on up could understand.  Corrective is third word that comes to mind.  I think this is one of Dyck’s major goals.  He wants to correct the over-emphasis of “God is our buddy” or “Jesus is my homeboy” theology that has become the norm in many evangelical churches.  One more word comes to mind to describe the book:  Balanced.  Dyck draws from all points on the theological spectrum–Calvinist, Arminian, Catholic, Protestant, ancient, modern, young, and older.  This broad approach indicates that he is firmly in the realm of serious theological thought and is not an ideologue.

The book is laid out in two parts.  The first part, “Tiger Territory” is about the more difficult and distant attributes of God such as his transcendence, holiness, and even absence.  The second part, “Divine Embrace” is the more devotional side of the book, highlighting God’s nearness, the incarnation, and our need to model God’s love in the world.  The main text comes in at a fast paced 172 pages plus a well thought-out discussion guide of 20 more pages.

His beard is almost as good as his book
His beard is almost as good as his book

Without spoiling too much, there were three highlights for me in the book.  The first was his use of an amazing story of a man who infiltrates brothels in order to stop child-sex trafficking.  This has been a very important subject for me of late because that is the backdrop of my new novel.  The second was Dyck’s discussion of Mama Maggie, a Coptic Christian who spoke at a Willow Creek conference.  I don’t want to give anything away, but for my two cents worth (okay, it was more like my $15 worth, plus shipping and handling) that chapter alone (chapter 12) was worth the price of the whole book.  Finally, I loved the way he described his family as nomadic and emphasized their own struggle with finding a faith community that worked for them.  I get that, and something about it connects with me.

At times this book reminded me of a Philip Yancey book, and at times it felt like Calvin Miller’s Into the Depths of God.  At other times I thought I was reading an updated Tozer.  These are all compliments, for Dyck has done a tremendous thing in pulling together the best themes from our literature and putting them together in one really accessible volume.  This book would be wonderful for a small group to work through or for an individual to use as a devotional guide.

There are only two things I didn’t like.  I didn’t like the title.  My guess is that the marketing department over at Nelson Books picked that one.  The metaphor works at the opening of the book, but really doesn’t carry throughout.  The second thing I didn’t like is that he took shots at Anne Lamott.  As a writer, I greatly admire her and I think Bird by Bird should be required reading for every first year college student.  Neither one of these, though are serious flaws.  I suspect we can work through our disagreement about Lamott and book titles.

I highly recommend Yawning at Tigers without reservation.


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Is there an artist, maybe a writer or a musician, that you really dig but you know they don’t have much visibility and a lot of people don’t know about them?  Wonder what you could do to help?  If so, I have good news for you.

A new title has just been released by my friend Anthony Horvath called Superfan.  It is essentially a manual written to those who are  fans of an indie artist.  It is only 10,000 words (very short) and reads even quicker than that.  I highly recommend it to people who either know an indie writer/musician/artist or to someone engaged in that venture and who is trying to break through the noise.  It is cheap on the Kindle and also available in paperback.

Click image to buy for only $2.99 on the Kindle.
Click image to buy for only $2.99 on the Kindle.

Horvath’s book is chock-full-o stuff, but I have included here three easy peasy things you can do to help your favorite writer/author out.

1.  Rate books and stories on Amazon,, and wherever else you can.  These things really really really matter.  Amazon uses these metrics in determining all kinds of stuff–not the least of which is the “you may also like…”  Don’t just rate it though, take the time to write a review–three or four sentences about what you liked in the book or story.  Caution–write it like you don’t now the author, even though you do.  If you write the review like you’ll be having lunch with the author tomorrow, then people will discredit your review.

2.  Share links to the author’s work on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.  If you really like the artist and want good things for him or her, then do a little free and easy promo work.  I mean, after all, you passed along that funny picture of the cockatoo or the kitty cat so it is not like you’ll lose any professional cred by recommending some awesome literature.

3.  Okay, this one requires a little nuance, but it is still super easy peasy.  Mention this person you like in the same breadth that you mention other writers that everyone admires.  So if you’re talking to someone at work, say, about the newest zombie movie, mention something like, “Yeah, I read a story the other day by that cool Indie author Derek Elkins about Zombies.  It’s called The Driving Dead.  I just love zombie satire,” and then let it go.  A better one would be, “I read Jamie Greening’s science fiction story The Deep Cove Lineage the other day and I just kept thinking about how much it reminded me of Dean Koontz.”  Now be careful, because you could come across as pushy.  Don’t be pushy and don’t go on and on and on everyday.  That would do more harm than good.

I know this all sounds like shilling, but the truth is the deck is stacked so much against real writers (TV personalities who have books ghost written for them don’t count) that we need every edge we can get.  The best stuff ever is being published right now and it is out there for anyone to read and find, but no one knows about it.  You are doing the world a favor by making them aware of something they weren’t aware of before, and that is a noble task.