Dalene Bickel 00:03
Welcome! Thank you, David Mike, for joining us today on the episode, “How to Turn Your Difficult Experience into a Powerful Story.”
I’m going to read his bio for you so you can get to know a little bit about him and then we will jump into the discussion.
“David Mike is a Christ follower, husband, father, author of Dishonor: One Soldier’s Journey from Desertion to Redemption, and a cosmetology instructor in Omaha, Nebraska. David is passionate about sharing the message that we do not have to be defined by our past, and that God can use our kind of mess for good.”
This is just such a raw type of book, I believe. And I’m so glad, David, that you are joining us today to discuss the book and also a bit about your writing journey, what you went through as you were writing it, and what you’re currently doing even today, as far as marketing and promoting your book.
One thing that I always like to kick off the podcast episodes with is asking our guests: What is one book, in addition to the Bible, that significantly impacted you in some way, either when you were a child, or more recently, as an adult?
David Mike 01:19
I appreciate the time on your show. I’m glad that you asked me to talk about my story, because it’s one I think a lot of people need to hear.
But to answer your question, there is a book that I stumbled across – my story’s a little bit about my time in prison, so I kind of outed it a little bit there – but there was a book called Classic Christianity by Bob George.
I needed to hear the message that was in that book at that time of my life because I was really struggling with a lot of guilt and shame of the things I had done to get me where I was at that time.
The most impactful thing that I learned from that book was that anything that I had done in my life was covered by what Jesus did on the cross 2,000 years before I did it.
Growing up in church, I had heard these type of things, but I had never really put that together. And it was kind of crazy because as I started to read through the Bible, all of a sudden it was almost like somebody rewrote it. I could see what Jesus did, and how that affected me and that I no longer had to live with the guilt and shame of my past that I didn’t have to continually keep asking for forgiveness all the time. Again, it was completely forgiven once I accepted that free gift.
Dalene Bickel 02:36
So that was definitely a very powerful book for you.
David Mike 02:39
Yes, very powerful. I’ve given it away so many times. It’s crazy.
Dalene Bickel 02:42
Thank you for sharing that. Let’s give our listeners a better understanding about the book that we’re going to discuss. I’m going to read, if you don’t mind, the back cover of your book:
“David Mike swore allegiance to his country in 1987, only to be dishonorably discharged for desertion. One bad choice after another landed him at Fort Leavenworth and notorious military prison in Kansas, where he starts a new life as an inmate.
“Follow his journey as he claws his way toward Christ in a way from the past that yearns to destroy him.
“Dishonor: One Soldier’s Journey from Desertion to Redemption is a vulnerable and compelling look at a life gone wrong.
“With stark honesty, David gives insights into prison life and the shame that comes with living a dishonorable life.
“Through his raw, gritty personal account, he pleads for you to find the same redemption he found in his life.”
Wow, just reading that back cover is so powerful. And obviously, we want to dig into that a little bit. So what inspired you to write Dishonor?
Finding the Courage to Write Your Story
David Mike 04:02
If you know me now, without knowing that I wrote a book or know my past or history, you would never know that any of that happened.
I teach cosmetology, as was mentioned before. Some of my students and parents of students, we’d start talking about things and all of a sudden, a piece of information would pop up about my past. And they’re like, “Really? What? I had no idea; you don’t seem like the type to ever have gone through that.”
And so the more that that would come up in conversation, the comment was always, “You should write a book.”
I just kind of was thinking to myself, I don’t really know how that works. I’m not sure how to how to write.
I was kind of one of those kids in high school who didn’t really apply themselves so my grades weren’t the best but, you know, I was intelligent enough to get out of high school.
So I just kind of worried that wouldn’t ever happen or I wouldn’t know how to make it work. It became overwhelming.
Even though I was talking about my story from time to time when I was younger, it took a long time for me to be mature enough to handle the gravity of putting my story out there.
But definitely, it was an overwhelming, “You need to write a book.” So I ended up pursuing that.
Dalene Bickel 05:22
So did you struggle with any fears or doubts about sharing your story? Were you still … I know on your back cover, you said about shame. Was that still an issue you had to work through?
David Mike 05:33
Yeah, it was definitely something I was worried about.
I was in the Army. My entire family was in the military. So I had this guilt and shame and just embarrassment about not having completed my military service with honorable conditions.
Then after 9/11, my brother ended up joining … he had just joined the Air Force and he ended up going to Afghanistan four times.
The whole world was, you know, pro-military, pro-soldier or pro-helping others, using the military as a vehicle to do that. And I couldn’t do it if I wanted to, because of what I had done with my military service.
So I was a little bit nervous about putting that type of information out there because I didn’t know what kind of backlash I would get from people seeing me as the opposite of what was going on in culture.
I had to just trust God that if I was being led to put the story out there, and for people to read it, that it would be okay. So I just went for it.
Dalene Bickel 06:33
Yes, and we’re glad that you did.
One thing I think the listeners might be wondering is what exactly led to your dishonorable discharge if you … unless that’s going to give away the story, because I want people to read this story. It’s very impactful; it’s worth reading. But I was looking at the “Look Inside” feature on your Amazon page, and it gives a little bit of a hint as to what happened. But do you want to share just a little bit? Touch on that?
David Mike 07:05
Yeah, sure. I actually blogged the entire book for three years before I wrote it. So the entire book was published online before it was compiled and published.
It’s interesting, because I was also worried a little bit about, if you’ve already read it, who’s gonna read it [a book]? But everybody bought a copy because they wanted to see the finished, obviously edited, and there was a lot of added information.
But my story is that – even though I was raised in the church and brought up by Christian parents and had a strong military connection – because of my family history, that’s something I wanted to do for my entire life.
Growing up, I prepared for that through taking ROTC in high school, which is like a military class. My goal was to be a soldier. And that was it.
So I joined the Army and ended up in kind of a soured high school relationship that led me into a state of depression.
I was out one night with a group of friends and ended up taking a hit of ecstasy, which up to that point, I had never taken any drugs or drank alcohol or anything like that before. So it was just kind of a new experience.
The drug was so strong that it started to overtake my life. I ended up needing to take it more every single weekend. And then even sometimes when I was at work.
I think, basically, it was somewhat the drug but also meaning to numb the pain of real life.
So I was in an artificial reality by being self-medicated. But, you know, being on drugs in the military doesn’t work out so well. So eventually, I ended up being under investigation from the Criminal Investigation Division, which is like the undercover army police.
At that point, not only was I consuming it, but I started to get it so easily that my friends that I was hanging out with would say, hey, let’s just give you the money and you go get it. So, you know, I started basically selling and moving the drugs around, and then I got caught.
Once I got caught, the cop told me, “Hey, if you help us out, we’ll help you out.” I did not take that advice and I ended up going right back to what I was doing.
Got caught again, so I disappeared for six months and ran away from the Army. At that time, Panama was going on.
So my unit moved to Panama when I moved to Houston, Texas, hence the desertion charge.
But the entire six months that I was gone, I basically sold drugs to make a living and just kept going further and further into a downward spiral.
There’s a lot of stuff that happened – I detail all that in the book – but there was a moment when it was time. I was caught again. Ended up in jail. And then the police officer who talked to me before decided he would help me out a little bit and so there’s a lot of stuff that went on with me working with them to get a little bit of a lesser sentence. I ended up getting a five-year sentence to Fort Leavenworth, U.S. Army prison.
I went there, and during that time, God used that time to really get my attention. There’s a few things that happened in there where God really showed up in my life, all along with me still trying to navigate life on my own terms, which worked sometimes and didn’t others.
I got out of prison eventually; came to Omaha, Nebraska; and ended up going to hair school, which is a passion of mine.
I became a teacher and, and then eventually, a family and all that. So things worked out. Like I said, there’s a lot of detail in the book that I’m totally passing by. But that’s the gist of the whole story.
Dalene Bickel 10:33
What a wonderful story of hope and the amazing work that God can do in our lives, right? Even when we’re not necessarily looking for it, that He can pursue us and show up for us in big and little ways. I love that story. Thank you for sharing that.
Since this Ink and Impact podcast is for writers, let’s talk a little bit about the writing journey that you experienced.
Is there a verse of Scripture that maybe helped you shape this book or anything like that?
There Is No Condemnation
David Mike 11:10
Well, there’s quite a few verses in the Classic Christianity book, and I tried to detail those without plagiarizing, obviously, but it’s from the Bible. But the biggest one that stood out to me is Romans 8:1 – there’s no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus – and having to deal with the fact that I was condemned by the government as a criminal, as an inmate, as a dishonorably discharged soldier. You know, and all that goes along with that.
I was released from that with that verse, realizing that Jesus doesn’t look at me that way. God doesn’t look at me that way and that I am a clean person in His eyes.
That was very therapeutic and helped me get through writing the story, even though I had to go kind of back through my past and write all of the bad stuff that I did.
Dalene Bickel 11:56
Yes. So when you’re writing the back cover copy, which is so compelling, and you have a phrase that says,
“Sometimes you have to be locked up to find true freedom.”
That’s a powerful statement. So was there just an aha moment that that’s the phrase that you need to highlight? Or how did that come about?
David Mike 12:18
So literally, I was locked up. But a lot of people are locked up in addiction and things that control them.
I think that had I not been locked up, I would not be alive. It took me being stopped in my tracks, literally in prison – locked up – to keep me from continuing on the path that I was on.
Sometimes we can’t help ourselves and God uses opportunities to to get our attention. Definitely that was the one that I needed. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have made it out alive.
The Power of Your Story
Dalene Bickel 12:50
When you first launched your book, how did you hope to impact your readers?
David Mike 12:59
My biggest goal was to … I had a kind of a side goal. People would say, “Well, what was prison like?”
So I thought that would be a good draw. So I told all of the story based on my childhood and how I ended up in there, and then what happened when I was in there.
If you read the book, even though it’s a Christian story, it doesn’t feel like it until the very end. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t, you know, hit people with the Bible in the face right out of the gate. You know?
It’s okay to shine your light, but you don’t want to burn people with it.
I wanted people to be able to kind of feel what it was like for me to go through that. But at the very end, I really wanted people to know that you can be free; you don’t have to live in the guilt and shame of your past because of the freedom that God provides for you.
I wanted people to be affected by that. Anybody who has been through what I’ve been through, or is going through what I went through, can feel like there’s light at the end of the tunnel and that they are not alone.
Dalene Bickel 13:57
Have you received some feedback from your readers? What are they saying? Have you reached that goal?
David Mike 14:05
Oh, definitely. And I don’t want to take any credit, obviously, because even though it’s my story, it’s His story overall.
But I’ve been able to get books into prisons. I have had people who are family members of children who are in prison reach out and say that they now have a better understanding of what their child is going through.
People whose family members didn’t make it out of addiction would mention that it helped them kind of understand the mind of an addict and what they were going through.
I’ve had lots of opportunities to speak to people about what I went through and how God redeemed me. And so it’s been a real blessing.
It’s kind of cool, too, to see where my book has ended up. When the book first came out, people would take selfies of it in different areas of the world. That was kind of cool.
I didn’t realize the impact and the reach that it would have. But it’s just been an honor to share and have other people affected by that and even in small ways, sometimes.
Dalene Bickel 15:02
That’s fabulous. We never know exactly how our books will touch people. We don’t know who exactly they will reach. But God does and he aligns those perfectly.
That has to be just a wonderful feeling that yes, it was a difficult experience, but God has allowed you to use it for good.
David Mike 15:24
Yes. Thank you.
The Writing Journey
Dalene Bickel 15:25
I know you mentioned that school wasn’t always your favorite thing. But have you always considered yourself to be a writer?
David Mike 15:33
Not at all. I was more of a storyteller.
I was a military kid. When you move from one town to the next, one city to the next – because I moved, you know, quite a few times as a child – you start to compare stories with each other.
They’re like, “Well, where have you lived? What have you done?” You’re constantly trying to reinvent yourself to the next group of people so that they kind of know your history. That’s kind of how it works as a military kid.
But I’ve told stories all of my life, and they seem to have gotten myself into a lot of situations that, you know, were either like the one I wrote about, or some funny stories.
I think I would say more of a storyteller and so it was a struggle for me to actually write.
I joined a Facebook group Jon Acuff started, called The Start Experiment. And I said, “I think I want to write my story.”
There was about 3,000 people in this group originally. They were from all walks of life. All of a sudden, everybody just start reaching in and helping out with advice on how to go forward with that and it’s just been insane since then.
So I’m thankful that I took that plunge and joined that group. Because otherwise, I don’t know if that book would have ever come to fruition.
Dalene Bickel 16:42
So did you choose to traditionally publish or self-publish?
David Mike 16:46
I chose to self-publish so that I can have a little bit more control over the book.
In order to get into a prison, it has to come from the publisher, but I have control over the rights and all that.
I also chose a soft back cover, because coincidentally, you can’t send hardback books to prison. So there’s just a little bit more control over it.
You know, I wouldn’t mind being picked up by a traditional publisher at this point, but I haven’t really pursued it.
Dalene Bickel 17:14
Your book isn’t a brand-new release. How have you continued to grow your readership and reach your audience over the years?
David Mike 17:21
I use social media as the main source of getting the book out there. Now that it’s been about six years, and I’ve exhausted probably all of my social network, I do from time to time post anniversary-type items.
Like it’s been 30 … last year was my 30th year of being sober so things like that I would use as a vehicle to bring the book up again.
But I do kind of have a little bit of a captive audience at the hair school. There are students that come through and they’re like, “You wrote a book?” So then they’re interested; there’s a little bit of that.
And then just anybody who has read it, who has felt compelled to share that story, has done that for me.
I’m super grateful for the community that surround themselves around me and my book and helped me get the word out there.
So, you know, it’s not being purchased as much as it was when it first came out. But I think I have surpassed the life expectancy of a self-published book by several years, and I’m super thankful.
Dalene Bickel 18:18
Yes. That’s great. So how have you seen God at work in your writing journey?
David Mike 18:26
The first way, I would say, is that actually having to rewrite or write my story and go back and re-go through my life, it kind of put where I am into perspective.
It helped me realize the relationship that God has with me and where I am in my life now had I not … basically, God chased me down because I was running from Him big time.
I don’t think I realized the pain and suffering that I was causing everybody around me and the things that I was doing to myself. So it was really eye opening to go through all that over again.
But also, especially when the book first came out, the impact that it had on people who read it, I was just blown away.
I’m thankful that God has used me for a vehicle to share about His grace and redemption.
Tips to Help You Write Your Story
Dalene Bickel 19:18
Absolutely. So what’s one writing tip or encouragement that you can share with our listeners, particularly ones who are thinking about writing about a difficult topic?
David Mike 19:30
Specifically about difficult topics, I think the fear would be I’m outing myself and I’m going to be putting something that’s not comfortable out there.
But one of the things I noticed when I first released the book was that people would come up to me and say, “Hey, I went through the same thing.” And I’m like, “Oh, I had no idea” and then we’d talk about it.
So they would tell me that they were thankful that they weren’t alone. They didn’t realize that I’d gone through something like that.
I would say, you don’t really know who you’re going to help.
If you keep it to yourself and don’t put it out there, you’re missing an opportunity of helping other people.
So I would say – just do it. Put it out there.
I do have another piece of advice. I would say, just reach out for help.
If I hadn’t had the village that came around me and helped me write and edit and just so many different aspects – I mean, there’s a lot that goes into putting out a book and I had no idea. But it just all came together.
So I thank God, number one, that worked through that for me. But just the community of people that when I reached out and said, “Hey, I need help,” they were willing to do it. It was just amazing.
Dalene Bickel 20:34
Yes. Being willing to share your story is step number one. And to turn that difficult experience into a powerful story, if I’m hearing you correctly, is just telling your story, honestly, and allowing God to work through that. Is that correct?
David Mike 20:49
And you can change the name of everybody in the book if you need to, if it’s something like that.
I used my own name and my family’s name, but I changed the names of everybody else in the book to protect the guilty and the innocent.
Dalene Bickel 21:03
Yes, good idea. Where can our listeners learn more about you and Dishonor, the book?
David Mike 21:11
My website is dilemmamike.com and all of my social media handles are dilemmamike.
You can find me on Facebook and Twitter, Instagram … all the socials @dilemmamike.
Dalene Bickel 21:31
And the book is on Amazon. Are there any other preferred sites … selling sites?
David Mike 21:37
That is it – I have it on Amazon.
Dalene Bickel 21:41
Wonderful. Yes. Well, thank you so much for joining us, David. I so appreciate it.
David Mike 21:48
I thank you so much for allowing me to use your platform.
Did you know that June is AUDIO BOOK MONTH?
I just learned this nugget of info, so I thought I’d share some current industry stats about them even though, in full disclosure, I have never yet listened to a single audio book.
According to the Audio Publishers Association, there was a 25% rise in American audio book revenue in 2021 that totaled $1.6 billion. I
n fact, audiobooks have experienced a full decade of double digit growth with nearly 74,000 titles (audiobook titles) being published in 2021 alone.
This next stat was particularly fascinating:
“Listeners continue to prefer professional narration over author read books. Although the information provided to the press doesn’t specify whether this is true for nonfiction, in which the tradition of an author read audiobook is well established.”
I know for a lot of business books and self-help books, the authors do read their own. And it’s a cost savings, too, for those of us who are self-publishing. I found that was interesting that if you’re writing fiction, listeners tend to prefer professional narration.
Since I’ve never listened to an audiobook, I don’t personally have a preference. I’d love to know what you think if you’ve listened to audiobooks; if you like professional narration over the author narration.
This wasn’t an overly lengthy article, where I found all this information, but it was full of little stats that I just thought were so interesting.
Another one was daily audiobook listeners spend more time listening to books than any other form of audio, including radio, podcasts and more. And on average, they spend six hours and 34 minutes listening per day.
I thought that was really a long time. I wasn’t quite sure if that meant they were just listening to the audio books for six hours, or if that included audio books, and podcasts, and radio and everything. I’m not quite sure about that. But either way, they’re consuming a lot of audio. They have their earbuds in a lot during the day.
So while it sounds like audio books are really, really, really taking off – and they are growing – in the grand scheme of book sales, audio books still only comprise a small sliver of the market share.
I wanted to point out to you that they concluded the article with this as well.
According to the Association of American Publishers, only 6-9% of sales are audiobooks, which is roughly the equivalent of 10%, ebook sales. That surprised me. I thought ebooks had a larger market share than only 10%.
The vast majority of book sales continued to be paperback. They’re coming in at about 37% and hardcover, slightly lower at 32%.
If you tally all that up, those percentages don’t equate to a full 100%. There are a few other varieties of books that are sprinkled into the study by the Association of American Publishers, but that gives you a good idea as an author that yes, print is still king. Paperback and hardcover are still going strong.
But that doesn’t mean that we should ignore ebooks or audiobooks, right? I think it would be a good idea for us to incorporate all of the publishing methods so that we can reach the most readers.
Just like here with podcasts, most people listen to them. But some people also like to read the show notes. So I put together the show notes on my website at inkandimpact.com. And some people like to visually watch., so I put guest author interviews over on YouTube as well. I’m recording the interviews in Zoom anyway. I have that footage; why not share it?
As authors, we should think about all these things and consider where our target readers gravitate to most and put that first and foremost as the publishing platform for our particular audience, but then also go wide and reach as many as possible.
For the full report and additional stats, read the article:
Listener Opportunities – Yes, for YOU!
I love to interact with fellow writers, especially you, my listeners. So I’ve created a few additional ways for us to connect and engage with each other. And from time to time, I’ll share some incredible opportunities and resources with you.
Here’s what’s available now:
BOOK GIVEAWAY! Be sure to listen to Episode 3 with my guest, Melanie Redd for all the details on how you can be entered for a chance to win a signed copy of her new book, Just Rest: A 90-Day Devotional.
But you need to hurry because the deadline to enter is June 30 2022 at 11:59pm EST. Available only to U.S. residents living within the United States.
THE INKWELL – my live, virtual co-writing sessions for Christian writers happening every Wednesday. For more details and to secure your FREE seat, click here.
QUESTION OF THE MONTH – Back in Episode 2, I discussed the current trend of books becoming shorter, as in having fewer pages. This led me to wonder: Do you typically write short books (under 400 pages) or long books (more than 400 pages)? And have you ever considered whether your readers prefer longer or shorter books?
Let me know! Send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by June 30, 2022 and I’ll share your responses on a future episode!
Tune In Next Week…
I will be speaking about research and narrowing your niche with my guest Dawn Klinge. Dawn is the author of Sorrento Girl, Biltmore Girl, and Palmer Girl. These romantic historical fiction novels are part of her historic hotel collection, and are written for both adults and teens.
You don’t want to miss it, so be sure to subscribe below to be notified when the next episode drops, view full show notes with links, and listen to past episodes.
If you’re already a subscriber, THANK YOU!
Please do me a favor, if you would, and RECOMMEND THIS PODCAST to your writing friends. Simple word of mouth is all I’m asking for and it would really help me, so I appreciate that.
That’s it for today, fellow pen-pusher.
Remember: Don’t just write a book. Make an impact!