3 Questions Wednesday with Don White

Don-headshot86085b (3)Today we welcome author, artist and longtime church minister, Don White, to 3 Questions Wednesday! Don is also a former Writing Prompts Crew member.

Hello Don! Glad you dropped by for a visit. First tell us which author you would never get tired of and why.

Don: For years I’ve said John Steinbeck was my favorite, and that’s still true. There’s such a realism in his characters, and the problems they are thrown into are such that you cannot help but care and want to know what happens next. If you’re only familiar with his novels, I’d encourage anyone to pick up his short stories. There is so much depth there. And when he wants to be funny (e.g. Cannery Row), he succeeds wonderfully while still giving a dignity to his characters. As much as I love his fiction, his classic Travels with Charlie will always be one of my top picks, giving us a delightfully colorful view of average Americans throughout the continent, anywhere his truck and camper could go, with his faithful poodle (Charlie) by his side.

A classic author indeed with wonderful characters, both good and evil. Speaking of bad guys and gals, who is your favorite fictional villain?

Don: A couple stand out for me. I like Professor Moriarty, not necessarily for who he is, but for Sherlock By Jennifer Hallmarkhow Sherlock Holmes considers him. We really don’t see much of Moriarty in Dr. Doyle’s stories, but we hear the detective talking about him so much, building him up as some kind of evil omnipresence that is somehow connected with nearly all the crime that occurs in London. And Holmes doesn’t hate him so much as he admires him as a cunning adversary. The other villain would most certainly be Professor Weston who appears in the first two volumes of C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy. (Coindidentally, Weston is also the name of a real-life antagonist in William Bradford’s story about the Pilgrims). But in Lewis’ second book in particular (Perelandra), he gives us such an insight into the character of evil that is both fascinating and horrifying in its depiction of the selfishness and pyschopathic nature of the corruption that comes from a heart that is totally devoid of anything good and godly. As the author of The Screwtape Letters, Lewis has thought much about the nature of evil and how it fits in, not only with Christian theology, but with everyday life.

I love reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and C.S. Lewis! There’s some great villains in their stories. Now tell me something about your writing. What project are you currently working on?

Don: Now that my non-fiction book is done, A Plymouth Pilgrim, I’m picking up on a fiction project I started over ten years ago. The Doll-man is a novel set in the fruited valleys of Eastern Washington state in the early 1950’s. The story revolves around Jesse, a silent and mysterious young man who lives in a world of his own, unable to communicate, but with the seeming ability to make dolls comes to life. Children are drawn to him, and adults are leery of him. John Page, a church pastor, takes Jesse into his home, which intensifies the conflicts which already exist between him and key church and community leaders. Having spent some time in the orchard country of Washington state years ago, I admit that I’m reminiscing quite a bit as I write this novel. It is a beautiful area, and a perfect setting for the novel.

It sounds like a fascinating concept for a story, Don. Thanks so much for the visit. If you’d like a chance to win a copy of Don’s book, A Plymouth Pilgrim, please leave a comment.

A Plymouth PilgrimPPfinalcover-front

You’ve heard about the Pilgrims, but have you read the original true story? Here is the dramatic story of the Plymouth Pilgrims as told by an eyewitness to their lives: their persecutions, secret meetings, angry negotiations, religious disputes, savage storms, kidnaping and sabotage, fear and faith, and their desperate struggle to survive. This is William Bradford’s own story—the Plymouth Pilgrim thrust into the leadership of a struggling colony. His 400-year-old story is now carefully paraphrased for twenty-first century readers.




Don White is a writer, artist, and longtime church minister from the Northwest. Born and raised in Washington state, he holds graduate degrees from Pepperdine University and Abilene Christian University. He is a member of Oregan Christian Writers (OCW), and was awarded the OCW Cascade Award for short fiction. When he is not writing, he enjoys fine arts, woodworking, and rummanging through stacks of old musty books at thrift shops and yard sales. His favorite reading includes good short stories like those of Bret Lott, Flannery O’Connor, and John Steinbeck. His wife Cheri is an oncology nurse and they enjoy living in the high desert of Southern Oregon. He has recently published his non-fiction book, A Plymouth Pilgrim: William Bradford’s Eyewitness Account of the Mayflower Passengers, which can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Find out more about Don and his writing on his website: http://www.donaldwaynewhite.com


Jim Olson: An “Extreme” Self-Publisher


By Don White

My friend Jim is a good writer, devoted husband, a proud U.S. Navy veteran and a very likable guy with an easy smile. He’s also an “extreme” self-publisher. When most writers “go independent,” they usually contract the services of an established self-publishing service, or use a print-on-demand (POD) company that takes a big chunk of the price of each book you sell, and there is an important role for those companies (some are better than others).

But when Jim talks about self-publishing, he means that he personally tackles the entire process from beginning to end: writing, editing, formatting, designing, printing and even binding. And the personal relationship he has with his books is matched only by the personal relationship he has with his readers, selling his books face to face at farmers and crafters markets and other community events.

He is passionate about his faith and his writing, and that passion pours over into the creation of his books and his close connection to his readers. I asked Jim to talk to us about his self-publishing adventure.

DON: Jim, could you briefly sum up your work in self-publishing, and point out what you do differently than most self-publishers?

JIM: I think most self-publishing authors use a print on demand company. You send them your book, they print it out for you and sell your books back to you. This is how I started. When I saw how much they were selling them for, I knew I had to do something different. After trying different publishers, I started exploring ways to do it all myself. After many attempts and trial and errors, I found a way to print my own books on a laser printer. I designed a press that I use to bind the pages together. I started designing my own covers and having a print shop print them out. Colored ink is way too expensive to print the covers yourself. After gluing the pages, I then glue them to the covers. With this type of publishing, I can get a book put together for $3.00 to $6.50, depending on how many pages there are.

DON: How long have you been doing this, and what made you decide to choose this route for your books?

JIM: I finished my first book in 2000 and paid a company to publish it. Then I had to buy my books from them. I only did this once. Sometimes we learn the hard way. The buy back price was pretty high. I figured they made 300% and paid me an 8% royalty. I wasn’t too happy about it, and I was sure there was a better way. On my second two books I used Publish America. They published my books for free but the buy back price was outrageous. The only people who buy their books are the authors who write them, however this is one way to get your book out there. It was after this that I started truly self-publishing on my own.

DON: How would you describe your writing (e.g., genres, themes, style, etc.)?

JIM: When I first started writing, it was poetry that I received directly from the Lord. I started adding short stories and finally had enough for a book. I started writing my autobiography, which took ten years to complete. This was one of the most difficult things I had ever done. During those ten years I wrote several other books that were historical fiction, which is what I enjoy most. I have always enjoyed history. I think John Jakes has had the most influence on me and the genre I write. He also writes historical fiction.

The thing that amazes me the most is the way a story develops as I am writing. People continually ask me where I get all these stories and all I can do is point up to the Lord. For this reason the Lord shows up somewhere in each of my books, and I find that most people enjoy this.

DON: How do you get your books into the hands of readers, and how does that affect your connection with them?

704203_4624406221890_946626654_oJIM: At first my readers were friends and family. They encouraged me to get my books out to the public which is easier said than done. I created a web site and advertised my books on it. This is okay but very slow. I have a few on Amazon.com, but they like to raise the prices quite high. I sold most of my books at the local Farmers Market. They sell very well and I get a lot of feedback from the readers. I am continually looking for better marketing ideas, but it is very difficult and you have to be very careful who you are dealing with.

DON: Last question – your publishing endeavor is obviously a lot of work. But would you say you’re also having fun with it?

JIM: You’re right, it is a lot of work, and because I enjoy it so much I continue on. Even if I had no way of getting my work out to the public I would continue to write. I feel it is a gift from God, and if he wants it out there he will help me in some way.

DON: Thanks for your time, Jim. We wish you all the best with your writing and publishing.

Please check out Jim’s website to ask him questions about his publishing work, and to see his current list of books: www.jimolsonsbooks.com

The Legend of the “Bridge of the Gods”

By Don White

A ninety-year-old steel toll bridge, fifty miles east of Portland was the first of several bridges that connect the states of Washington and Oregon, and it is here there that Native Americans say a natural land bridge once stretched across the mighty Columbia River long before white explorers arrived. The legend of the Bridge of the Gods is one of my favorite stories from childhood, and it contains all the important elements of folktales.

The recipe of most classic folktales include these five ingredients:

1. A sense of mystery or wonder.
2. Built around a Theme.
3. Explains something about the world.
4. Attributes human characteristics to animals or objects.
5. A lesson for life (the “moral of the story”).

See if you can find these elements in the Legend of the Bridge of the Gods (as I recall the story told to me):

12_5 bridge of the gods 2

Mural painted by Larry G. Kangas (www.muralz.com)

Once there was a great bridge of earth and rock stretching across the Columbia River in the Northwest. The gods of the earth took pity on an old woman, promising her eternal youth and beauty if she would keep a warming fire at the center of the bridge for the sake of those who traveled across the river.

Two warriors became attracted to the woman and began to argue over who would have her as his wife. The arguments turned to fighting, and the woman could not get the men to stop.

The gods of the earth became angry over the violence and selfishness of two men, so they caused a great earthquake which shook the bridge, causing it to crumble into the river. They turned the warriors into mountains: Mount Hood, south of the river, and Mount Adams to the north. They turned the woman into Mount St. Helens, the most beautiful mountain of all.

And Mount Hood and Mount Adams were condemned to gaze from a distance at the beautiful Mount St. Helens, standing between them, never able to have her or to even touch her.

Do you see within this Native American legend the five elements of a traditional folktale?

(1) The sense of wonder comes from the idea of a natural land bridge stretching across one of the widest rivers in North America.

(2) The theme of desire and romance is clear throughout.

(3) The story explains why there is no longer a natural land bridge, and it also explains the existence of the three of the largest mountains in the Cascade Mountain Range. It may further explain the occurrence of a powerful earthquake that may have really happened long before Lewis and Clark set eyes on the region.

(4) The three mountains are personified as three ancient people.

(5) Finally, the “moral of the story” is clear, warning of the dangers of jealousy and the consequences of violence and rage.

For a different version of the legend, and some educational exercises, see this link:

Take some time to read some folktales this fall, or create some of your own just for the fun of it!

1. Read some folktales from your region.
2. Make a list of the folk tales you recall from childhood.
3. Identify the five main characteristics of folktales in these stories.
4. Rewrite two or three of your favorite stories from the above lists and read or tell them to some children in your family.
5. Write your own folktale, including all the characteristics listed above.

“Dave, Dave, the Strong and Brave” (a short story)

By Don White

Sidney, Greg’s pint-sized college roommate, playfully pokes at the oversized muscles of Dave, Greg’s high school buddy who is visiting the campus. “Are those real?” Sidney asks in his nasally voice.

His pals laugh, but Greg just rolls his eyes.

american-football-336896Dave spent three years at Pennsylvania State on a football scholarship. Now he works at a health club where they expect him to have a physique that raises the hopes of anyone who walks in dreaming of a new body. In other words, he is paid to look good. And Greg resents it.

They stand outside Greg’s dorm room and the small crowd in the hall grows as Dave tells his tired football stories. They ask what his best play was. Has he thought of going pro? How much can he bench-press? Has he ever entered bodybuilding contests?

Grinning ear to ear, Dave answers them all.

They stroll to the cafeteria at lunchtime where more friends, especially female ones, come talk to Greg just long enough to be introduced to Dave. Starry-eyed college girls hang on his every word. Guys try to impress him with their old high school sports feats. They want his opinion on the college playoffs. They ask more about his coworker who played for the Lakers for two years.

Someone asks, “Have you ever measured your biceps?” Greg pushes aside his lukewarm spaghetti and reaches for his cherry cobbler, doing his best to tune it all out.

Ifarm-wrestling-176645 they only knew Dave like Greg has for all those years. His flaws and insecurities, the big ears under the perfectly groomed red hair, the stupid things that came out of his mouth since they met in kindergarten back in 1964. “I’m Dave, Dave, the strong and brave,” he’d say with a silly grin. He was the tall kid sitting behind Greg, making gorilla noises.

Then there were the times Greg helped him with high school assignments so he could just stay on the team. Greg had the brains, Dave had the brawn, and the looks, and that transparent Mr. Nice-Guy aura.

Greg feels stuck in the college cafeteria as all his friends lavish attention upon his overly muscular boyhood buddy. These are friends who should be congratulating Greg on his story in the college journal, his election as class senator, or making it to the dean’s list again.

That evening the two guys get on a bus headed downtown. Greg stares out the window, listening to the rain drumming overhead.

Dave interrupts their silence.

“Greg,” he says, “do you think I’m okay?”

After all the hubbub on campus today, Greg can’t believe his friend is still fishing for compliments.

“Sure,” he says, watching the rain-soaked cars.

“No,” Dave says. “I mean, do you think I’m really an okay guy–on the inside.”

Greg turns toward Dave with a curious frown and catches him wiping tears off his cheeks. His eyes are red and puffy. His head is lowered and turned away from other passengers.

Then it sinks in.

This tall, good-looking, football player-turned-bodybuilder really cares about who he is. In an age that worships appearance, he’s honestly hurt that no one cared about who he was on the inside.

Dave’s humility blasts a gaping hole in Greg’s arrogance. He clears his throat.

“Yeah, Dave,” he says. “You’re a great guy. I mean it.”

His jealousy is nudged out by a swelling shame, and Greg remembers why he’s called Dave his best friend for all these years. He’s one of the good guys. Character matters to him. He’d do anything for anybody. He’s as honorable as the day is long, with a heart twice as big as his biceps.

Greg recalls two young boys sitting at their school desks. He sees a lanky kid with big ears and a silly grin, and in front of him sits a skinny blond kid with an incurable cowlick, trying not to laugh at his friend’s muffled grunts.

Greg’s eyes begin to water. He puts his hand on Dave’s shoulder and smiles.

“You’re one of the best, pal,” he tells him. “And I’m proud to be your friend.”

Then in the deepest. most serious voice he could muster, Greg stares at him and says, “Dave, Dave, the strong and brave.”

Dave stares back–and makes gorilla noises. A man across the aisle turns away, and the boyhood buddies bust out laughing.

Writing prompts for our writer friends:  (1) Pick a random year from your childhood, and write about the first memory that comes to mind. (2) Find a photo of children at play and create a story from it. (3) Write about how a national event or trend affected you or your family.