Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New Year – New Book!

Yes, it’s been awhile since I’ve published something—it’s been even longer since I’ve written something! For some reason, I haven’t written very much this past year. Yes, I’ve gone back to graduate school, but to be honest, I didn’t enroll until August and my writing had ground to a halt long before that.

The weird thing is how not bothered by this I was. Writing suddenly and inexplicably went from being one of the most important things in my life to being one of the least—and I still have no idea why. I was totally fine with it though. Well, not totally. I had promised several people that I would write several things and I am still dealing with the guilt of not fulfilling those promises.

So I’ve learned two lessons: #1 – you can’t force writing, and #2 – Don’t ever promise anybody that you’ll write something, because (refer to #1). James 4:13-15 says this: Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.”

One of the projects I’ve NOT been working on for the past year is a novel entitled Taken. The idea for Taken came to me eleven years ago this month. Even though the plot was fully formed in my mind, I struggled with the voice that I wanted to use. As most of you know, I’ve been working with Jenn Faulk on several projects since the spring of 2016, and I asked her if she wanted to help me bring Taken to life. She said she would, and the story quickly came alive. Once we were finished, all that needed to be done was for me to go through it one more time, tweak it here and there, and make sure it was perfect. And so it sat there on my computer, untouched, for months and months. (Have I mentioned that I haven’t written very much this past year?)

I promised myself that I would get it finished over the summer, but I never even looked at it. (Have I also mentioned that I need to quit making promises?) Then school started, and the months continued to roll by.

Last week, however, I finally located the file (it was lost on my computer due to neglect!). I think part of me was worried that it was a horrible story and that I was going to hate it (it had been so long since I’d read it that I honestly had forgotten most of the details!). Fortunately, I loved it! It was exciting to reread it and relive all the fun that Jenn and I had putting it together. And now—11 years after its conception—I am so thankful to God to be able to share our story with you!

This novel is a companion novel to the Chop, Chop series, but it didn’t start out that way. While I was finishing book 7, Alone, I found myself wishing that Taken could be tied in to the Chop, Chop series somehow. The plot for Taken was pretty set and tight, however, and I knew that I couldn’t (or at least shouldn’t) manipulate it just to make it fit in with another series. Suddenly, however, I wondered if I could manipulate Alone instead. The answer was that yes, I could, and so I added a character and several scenes to Alone to tie Taken in with the Chop, Chop series. The funny thing is that I can’t imagine Alone without those changes—even if Taken had never been written.

But I’ve already said too much. I don’t want to give away any spoilers for Taken. Those who have very recently finished the series along with the most rabid fans of Chop, Chop (those of you who are best friends with these characters who live in my mind!) may immediately see the connection between Taken and the Chop, Chop series. The rest of you, however, probably won’t “get” it until the very end. Whichever category you fall in to, I hope that you will love it.

Oh, and one more thing—getting Taken ready for publication this past week has kind of flipped a switch in my brain or something and I’ve been back to writing for the first time in about a year. Hopefully I’ll have some other things to share with you during 2018 . . . but no promises!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Controversial and Very Expensive? Yes! But Here’s Why I've Changed My Mind . . .

I’ll admit that when I first heard about the board’s recent decision to require the installation of power strips in all of its system's school buses, I was appalled.

$3,740,000 diverted from education so that kids who already spend way too much time in front of a screen could charge their devices?

Yeah. I don’t think so.

I was actually so upset last week when I learned about this decision that I started an online petition against it and even went so far as to sign up to speak at next month’s board meeting to publicly protest.

Over the course of the past six days, however—while doing the research necessary to prepare myself for the meeting—I have been forced to truly consider the arguments that have been made in favor of outfitting our system’s nearly 1,600 buses.

To those of you who initially agreed with me and signed the petition (over 12,000 signatures so far—totally blown away you guys!!) I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Like me, I know that you only want what is best for our children and what makes the most sense for our public education system.

It is actually because of that desire to do what is best for our children that I’m asking for a few more moments of your time while I explain why I am officially withdrawing my petition and will now fully support the measure as outlined by the school board at their meeting next month.

Here are the reasons I believe this move will actually result in positive changes that will wind up being well worth the money:

#1 - Even in schools where PED (personal electronic device) usage is prohibited, it is widely recognized by teachers and administrators that students use their phones all day, every day. By the time our children get on the bus to go home, their batteries are nearly dead and many do not have the power they need to make it through the trip home. With the issue of battery drainage no longer a threat, students will now be able to complete a wide variety school assignments during their (often long) bus ride.

#2 - Studies show that introverted students realize the greatest benefit of on-bus PED usage. When devices are not allowed or not otherwise supported by power strips on board, social anxiety reports skyrocket.

#3 - A neighboring school system (which successfully implemented a similar program nearly two years ago), reported a 133% decrease in fights on buses in just the first two weeks. This dramatic reduction in altercations was maintained for over a year, resulting in the dismissal of nearly 400 bus monitors and a savings of over $200,000. Since our system is considerably larger, we can naturally expect our savings to increase proportionally.

#4 - Nearly 30 assistants and 20 teachers will lose their positions due to the budget cuts necessary to cover the expense of outfitting each bus, but if all of these employees come only from underperforming classrooms, the loss could actually be beneficial to each school affected. Getting bad teachers out of the classroom is always a good thing and students will be better off in the long run.

#5 - The on-board outlets—while expensive (nearly $2,300 per bus)—will be provide three AC/DC strips as well as three USB ports per seat (not per row as originally proposed). This means that each student can power up to three devices if they sit two to a seat (or two if they sit three to a seat).

#6 - Students from lower-income households will now be able to charge their iPhones, tablets and laptops without using expensive electricity and draining their familys already tight budgets.

As you can see, the benefits for outfitting each of our systems school buses with power strips will greatly outweigh the few negative aspects that have surfaced in the course of recent discussions.

I hope that each of you will strongly consider joining with me to fully support this measure, and I also hope that you have a wonderful April Fool’s Day.

Many blessings.

L.N. Cronk

Sunday, September 4, 2016

New Book!!

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a new release, but I’m excited to announce that Run is finally available through Amazon!

This book is very special, and I’d like to take a few moments to tell you about it, and the person I wrote it with—Jenn Faulk.

Since becoming an author, I’ve had a very hard time enjoying books anymore. I find myself reading everything through a critic’s lens and not approving of most of what I find. Thank goodness for Kindle Unlimited, because now I can try a book and not lose money if I wind up not liking it!

I tried a book by Jenn Faulk about a year or so ago—it was called Best Day Ever. It surprised me for multiple reasons. First of all, it was advertised as Christian Fiction, but the main character was definitely not walking the walk, if you know what I mean. Jenn had me right there because I am so sick of Christian fiction books in which all the characters are perfect and never do anything wrong.

Another reason I was surprised is because I actually got very caught up in the story. Being a complete and total snob about writing now, I have a very low tolerance for mistakes. I encountered a formatting issue, but I was so into the story that I kept on reading . . . unheard of for me! (Jenn would later tell me, “I had no idea it was doing that!”)

Then I read another story or two of Jenn’s. They were just as good as the first. Christian books, but without squeaky clean characters. Real problems. Great, fantastic writing. Another neat thing about Jenn’s books is that they are all tied together, but each one stands alone. My favorite one so far has been Promises Kept, although I'm still pretty mad about something that happened in that one, but that's a story for another time . . .

Eventually I contacted Jenn and talked to her about working together. She waited a good long time before responding (I know she was checking me out online and making sure I wasn’t a psycho!). I guess she must have missed all the psycho warning signs, because she finally responded, and this past spring, we finally started working on a project together.

Jenn asked me what I had in mind, so I tossed out a couple of ideas and then ended with this: “Okay, this idea is really stupid and probably needs to be put off the table right now, but I’ll throw it out there anyway. Did you ever watch Blair Witch Project? My husband and I went and saw it in the theater when it came out years and years ago b/c we arrived late to the theater for the movie we had intended to see. But I digress! Anyway, the budget was super low. They let the three actors who were pretty much the only characters film the whole thing. They didn't really have a script. Their producers and directors would leave them little individual notes giving them tidbits of information to go on and everything was improv. They'd wake up in the morning and find that things had been done to their campsite and stuff like that. But anyway, the point is that they just kind of made everything up as they were going along. Soooooo, the idea was, what if we both wrote a book together - different parts of the same book. Switching back and forth between two POV's. We could just see where the story went . . . IDK.”

To which Jenn responded, “I kind of like the Blair Witch Project idea!” . . . and we were off!

The premise was that my character, Luke, is on death row—convicted of the brutal rapes and murders of his former girlfriend and her roommate. He sends a letter to Audrey—the sister of the roommate’s boyfriend—hoping she will help him find some evidence to set him free. (Warning: due to the nature of the crimes, you may be uncomfortable with some of the details discussed in this novel. If shows like CSI bother you, you probably will want to pass on this story!) 

I (Luke) sent the letter to Jenn (Audrey) who immediately sent me a letter in reply telling me to never contact her again. I (Leeann) messaged her (Jenn) and told her I didn’t know what to do because she’d told me to never write her again! She told me that Luke was on death row and didn’t have anything to lose by writing again, so I did. I mean HE did!

That wasn’t the first time Audrey didn’t respond the way Luke was certain she would. As a matter of fact, unless Leeann specifically told Jenn what Audrey needed to write, neither Luke nor Leeann ever seemed to know what to do with Audrey’s letters!

When you’re reading this book, keep in mind that Jenn had NO idea where things were going. She didn’t know the plot at all. Yet she kept writing away, bringing in characters and situations that were all new to me. Most of the time I was like, “What is she doing?!”

Jenn was equally baffled. She thought Luke was being a jerk (but it wasn’t Luke that was being a jerk, it was Audrey, really!) Despite being taken aback time and time again by one another, we plowed ahead. I heard an actor once talking about improv and how the most important thing was to go with whatever the other actor threw out there—no matter what—and so we tried to do that. Unless Jenn created a situation that simply wouldn’t work with the plot that was in my head, I worked with whatever she made up.

The result was—in my opinion—a rich and engaging novel, and it was the most fun I’ve had writing since I wrote the first three books in the Chop, Chop series nearly ten years ago. I hope that you will enjoy it as much as Jenn and I enjoyed writing it. I also hope that you’ll check out some of Jenn’s other writings and discover for yourself what a great author she is! (Her novel, Happily Ever After happens to be free right now—just saying!)

We wrote another book together this summer and will get that one out to you ASAP, plus I have two more in my head for us to collaborate on that are just bursting to get out. In the meantime, check out Run, and be sure to let us know what you think!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Don't Believe in Evolution?

I just read an article detailing that evolutionist Bill Nye the Science Guy went to visit the new replica of Noah’s Ark on display in northern Kentucky. Apparently he has called the exhibit a danger to science education. Bill Nye, and most evolutionists, have done a great job making people feel as if they are ignorant and deluded if they chose to ignore scientific evidence by refusing to believe in evolution.

And they’re right.

Evolution – by definition – is simply the change in a species over time. If you have a chance to go to a civil war museum such as Fort Macon, take a look at one of the beds that the soldiers slept in over a century ago. They are much smaller than the beds you’d expect to find in our military today because humans have been consistently getting taller. Evolution in action. Our species is changing . . . over time. It is evolving!

So, yeah. Quite frankly, you sound pretty ignorant if you say you don’t believe in evolution. We see species changing all the time. It’s not even a theory. It’s a fact.

So why is it called the “theory” of evolution instead of the "law" of evolution?

To answer that question, we need to examine the theory a little more carefully. There are several components to the theory of evolution. Exactly how many components and exactly what those components are vary depending on what source you are reading. But, for the sake of this post, let’s go with the five different parts found on Regents Prep, a site that helps high school students in New York prepare for their Regents exams.

According to Regents Prep, component number one is overproduction – the idea that more offspring are produced than can possibly survive. We see this playing out in nature all the time. Can you imagine if every acorn produced an oak tree? If every litter of kittens went on to produce six more litters of kittens – every year for ten years? You get the picture.

Another part to the theory, according to Regents Prep, is competition. Individuals struggle to survive. Plants vie for sunlight. Puppies fight over the meat on a bone. Not difficult to acknowledge that this is nothing but truth.

Component number three: Survival of the Fittest. Ahhh . . . now we’re getting into some good ol’ tenth grade biology, aren’t we? It’s basic, common sense. Individuals with genes that allow them to survive in a particular environment will survive. Individuals with genes that don’t allow them to survive in a particular environment, won’t. Again, we can’t argue with this. It’s what happens and is observed every day.

Regent Prep’s item number four is a pretty obvious follow up to number three: If you’re dead, you aren’t going to pass along your inferior genes to any offspring. Only those individuals who have good genes – genes that allow them to survive in their particular environment – will pass their genes on. The bad genes – the ones that prevent individuals from surviving – don’t get passed on, and the idea is that eventually they will get weeded out of the population. We see this in action all the time. Check out the famous peppered moth if you’ve gotten a little rusty on this well-documented principle.

So what is all the controversy about if all of these components are so well documented and so proven? Why do so many people still insist on saying that they don’t believe in evolution – even though evolution is simply the change in a species over time and we KNOW that changes occur in species over time?

Well, it’s because of component number five: speciation. According to Regents Prep, “As time and generations continue, adaptations are passed on and new species may evolve from a common ancestor.”

In case you don’t remember or know, a species is a group of organisms that can mate and produce fertile offspring. The theory is that if a species changes enough, it can become so different from the original species that it can no longer mate with members of the original offspring and produce fertile offspring.

There it is, right there, folks. Speciation states that new species are created from the process of evolution, not from a creator, and this is where all the controversy lies. This is also why the word “theory” must always be added before the word “evolution”. It’s a theory because of the component of speciation. Because it MAY happen. Because it could. It’s never been documented. It’s never been proven. But, theoretically, it could happen.

(I will go ahead and add that there are those who argue that speciation has been observed, but those examples and arguments for or against them are way outside the scope of this particular blog post. I will simply state that there’s a reason why it’s still called the theory of evolution instead of the law of evolution, although I'm sure evolutionist would really like to get that changed!)

As a teacher, I am always very respectful of all of my students no matter what they believe. Whenever I teach the theory of evolution, I always remind them that it’s a theory, and I always tell them, “If you believe in creationism, don’t say that you don’t believe in evolution because we know that evolution occurs – we know that species change over time. If you believe in creationism, what you need to say is that you don’t believe in speciation.”

If you find yourself saying, "I believe in evolution, but I don't believe in speciation," I encourage you to do further research on your own. Don’t be afraid to learn more – science will never disprove the very God who created it!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Toilet's Always Greener On The Other Side Of The Fence

HB2 was recently passed in my home state of North Carolina. There is little doubt in my mind that you have already heard about it and have an opinion either for or against it, but if for some strange reason you haven’t heard about it, you can click here to read a conservative spin on the new law, or click here to find a liberal one.

From the many arguments I’ve read, a key word to the entire issue seems to be “uncomfortable”. Some folks are “uncomfortable” going potty in a restroom with people who have the same parts they themselves were born with. Some people are “uncomfortable” going potty in a restroom with people who do not have the same parts they themselves were born with. And yes, I know it’s supposed to say, “parts with which they themselves were born,” but I write the way the majority of people actually talk (err . . . speak). Check out my award-winning novel FREE to see for yourself.

(Wow, that was slick, wasn’t it?) Anyway, let’s recap. At stake here is: who has more of a right to be comfortable, and—in doing so—make somebody else uncomfortable? Everyone knows that the squeaky wheel gets the oil, and there’s a whole lotta squeakin’ going on right now. Eventually one side is probably going to get the oil though because they make themselves SO annoying that eventually we will do anything they want if they will please just SHUT UP! But what’s really more important is: who is right? And whose rights are more important?

I definitely have an opinion about this whole issue, although I’ve stayed quiet until now. But this doesn’t seem to be going away like the cake-baking controversy finally did, so I may as well tell you what I think about the whole thing and try to convince you to believe the same way I do (because, ya know, nothing changes minds quite like posting on the Interweb!).

Before I tell you what I believe though, (I know, I know . . . the suspense is killing you!) I would like to mention the fact that I am a HUGE fan of family bathrooms. When my son was younger, it was often upsetting to me to send him into the men’s bathroom all by his lonesome. You could say it made me . . . uncomfortable. But the main reason I’m a huge fan of family restrooms is because I was my father’s primary caretaker during the last few years of his life. Due to mobility issues from Lewy Body Dementia, he couldn’t go to the bathroom without assistance. Our outings and excursions were often dictated by what type of bathroom would be available to us, if his diaper would be sufficient for our trip, and whether or not he was going to have a number two while we were out. So, my devotion to family bathrooms is NOT because I think they are the answer to the whole HB2 issue, but because sometimes two people of two different genders actually need to occupy one bathroom at the same time. (And by the way, if you want to talk about feeling uncomfortable, let’s talk about helping your mom or dad wipe . . .)

Butt I digress, and I'm sorry. I know you're anxious to get to the bottom of things. Okay, those were so bad that my cheeks are flushed. Would you please bare with me for just one more paragraph though? I’d really like to tell you about a few other people who are uncomfortable in the bathroom.
Every year, about 130 million people get dysentery (an inflammation of the intestines causing diarrhea with blood), and about 750,000 die from this disease. More than a million people get colorectal cancer every year and about 750,000 of those people die. Bladder cancer affects over 400,000 people every year and kills over 160,000 people annually. Cholera strikes an estimated 3–5 million people worldwide, killing between 55,000 to 130,000. Across the globe, five million people live with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Up to thirty percent of cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy will develop severe or life-threatening chemotherapy-induced diarrhea.
Care how I feel about HB2? There’s so much other crap to worry about . . .

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Kindle Scout Campaign

Anyone who knows me knows that I submitted my most recent book, The One I Trust, to Amazon’s Kindle Scout program. For the last thirty days, I have been actively soliciting nominations in hopes of attracting the attention of the editors of Kindle Publishing—the ones who will decide whether or not to offer me a contract.

Getting a lot of nominations does not at all guarantee an offer, but I doubt that very many books get contracts without first getting a lot of nominations. Nominations generally come from the author’s friends/fan base, and from scouters who are browsing the Kindle Scout site, looking for good books to nominate. People who nominate a book that receives a contract receive a free, early copy, and are encouraged to leave reviews. Lots of nominations show Kindle Scout that an author has a lot of support—both from an existing fan base, and from Kindle scouters, who vote because they would like to read it.

I was honored and blessed that my book was in the top 20 (Hot and Trending) every single day of its campaign. The few hours it was not Hot and Trending were the first seven hours after it went live at midnight on November 19th. Once I woke up and started asking for nominations, my friends and fans came through for me. The visibility of being on the Hot and Trending list brought it to the attention of Kindle scouters, who also nominated it, hoping that it will be published and that they will receive a free copy. All in all, my book’s Kindle Scout page had over 2,600 views and spent 713 hours on the Hot and Trending list.

This morning—the first day since the campaign ended—I received an email from Amazon, stating that I could expect to hear if I will be offered a contract or not within “the next few business days.”

What if I'm not offered a contract??
Initially I was unsure whether or not I should submit my book to the Kindle Scout program. It is the first in a series, and therefore a very important book. If accepted, I would lose much of the control I have enjoyed as a self-published author. I would no longer be in charge of pricing, nor would I be able to make changes to my content and cover on a whim. I would not be able to make my book available to readers through other retailers.

On the upside, however, Amazon all but guarantees me thousands of new readers if they offer me a contract. Since they would be giving all of my fans who nominated it a free copy, all of the sales they would generate over the next five years of the contract will essentially be NEW readers—readers who will hopefully enjoy my writing style, and then turn to the Chop, Chop series for more.

Since I was unsure whether or not to pursue a contract with Kindle Publishing, I prayed. I asked God to close doors if He did not want this to be the path that I went down. And then I gave it everything I had. I had the book professionally edited by my awesome editor, Barbie Halaby, I had her edit the promotional material required for the campaign, and I asked you all for your nominations and support.
If I’m not offered a contract, it won’t be because I didn’t try. It won't be because The One I Trust isn't an excellent book. It won’t be because my friends and fans let me down. It won’t be because my first series doesn’t have an astounding track record, proving my value as an author.
Quite simply, if I’m not offered a contract, it will be because Amazon is looking for something else at this time, and it will be because God has something else in mind for me.

Many people have asked where they can get a copy ofThe One I Trust. If Kindle Publishing accepts my book, I suspect it will be available by early spring. If they don’t accept my book, I’m going to share it with you as soon as possible—hopefully by the first of the year.

Win-win, either way . . . right?? No matter what, I am blessed to be a writer, blessed to be able to share my work with you, and blessed to have your support. I truly do thank each of you from the bottom of my heart.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Robin Williams

This week, Robin Williams' widow said that his autopsy results  revealed that the talented actor and comedian suffered from a disease known as Lewy body Dementia (LBD), also known as Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), diffuse Lewy body disease, cortical Lewy body disease, and senile dementia of Lewy type

My father also suffered from this disease, but—like Robin Williams—it was not properly diagnosed until after his death. My father was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease twelve years before his death. Much later, he was also diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy as an additional disease on top of his Parkinson's. It turns out that he had neither.
When my mother died, Dad came to live with me and my family. In addition to mobility issues, he suffered from well-formed, visual hallucinations. Often they were relatively harmless. Little people. Cats. Some things troubled him: he was convinced that a man was living in his car, stealing his quarters or that there were people in the backyard who needed our help. Other hallucinations were truly horrifying . . . ones that I won't get into at this time.

There wasn’t a lot of info on the Internet back then, but after doing some research, I at one point asked my father’s neurologist if he could possibly have Lewy body dementia. The doctor didn’t think so and felt that his hallucinations were cause by one of the many meds he was on for Parkinson’s.
Dad went through two brain surgeries for Parkinson’s (which, remember, he didn’t have) and received two implants. Electrodes ran from his brain to his chest where battery packs were located and where adjustments could be made to change the signals being sent to his brain. His neurologist noted that Dad was his only Parkinson's patient who hadn’t see much benefit from the surgeries. Now, of course, we know why.
After his death I donated his brain to CurePSP (the other disease he was diagnosed with that he didn't have). It cost $1,000 to have his brain donated, but in exchange I would receive a comprehensive report of their findings. My father’s doctor (after Dad’s death) found the money to cover that expense for me as he cared about my father a lot and was interested in the results, too.
When he called to give me the results, I could tell that Dad’s doctor was surprised. Likely, he also felt bad that he hadn’t diagnosed Dad properly, but in the long run it didn't really matter since there's nothing that can be done for it.
I would also like to state here that I never faulted Dad's neurologist. He was a caring doctor who always did what he could for my dad and our family. He was intelligent and educated. I just think that Lewy Body wasn't as considered back then as it perhaps is now. I think he also had another reason why he felt Dad didn't have Lewy Body, but it's been almost fifteen years since I had that conversation with him and I can't remember his reasoning. I just wanted to throw in there that his neurologist was great, even though he didn't get the diagnosis right. The article described diagnosing and treating this disease like playing a game of Whack-A-Mole. I always said it's like turning off the lights, throwing a dart, then turning the lights back on and seeing how close you got, then turning them off and trying again. There are no easy answers.
I am thankful that Robin Williams’ widow has gone public with this information. Even though Lewy Body Dementia is the second leading cause of dementia, most people (including many doctors) still have never heard of it.
Although I never say so in any of the books in the Chop,Chop series, this is what Natalie's father suffered from. Readers may remember that—like my father—he was diagnosed with Parkinson's, but suffered from hallucinations. What Natalie went through with her father, I went through with mine. In Alone, Annabeth’s experiences also came from what I encountered with my father.
If you are the caretaker for someone suffering from any kind of dementia, I would recommend the book The 36-Hour Day. Although it’s geared specifically toward the care of Alzheimer’s patients, I found some valuable information in it (and Tanner in Alone utilized some of the same techniques I learned from that book—both when he worked at the nursing home with Annabeth, and then later when he was caring for David).
If you know someone who has dementia or who is caring for someone who does, they need your support and your prayers.