Thursday, June 30, 2016

Channeling My Husband...

This is not a photo of my husband and me but aren't they a cute couple?
For the first time since I met my husband, I think I know what it feels like to be him.
Let me explain...
I fly by the seat of my pants.
Always have.
He makes a reservation well in advance of any pants flying.
I change my mind on a whim.
He weighs the pros and cons of deciding to do something other than what was planned.  If he decides it makes sense to do something else, he makes sure we have the proper reservations to do so.
I make messes.
He doesn't...but, on occasion, he cleans up mine.
I am outwardly disorganized, however, I can find anything I need at any time.
He is very, very, very, very organized.
I usually use word-of-mouth or online reviews to choose to purchase something...this process takes at most, 10 minutes.
He researches and comes to conclusions then re-researches to confirm his conclusions and then second guesses and starts over before making a purchase - often concurring with the same decision I came to hours or days earlier.
I am easily distracted.
That makes him crazy.
Where was I?

How am I channelling my husband, you ask?
I finished my novel and have made the revisions and now I am beginning the query process.
It is imperative that all of my i's are dotted and my t's are crossed. (literally and figuratively)
One mistake and... they don't have time for that!
There are thousands of meticulous writers with fabulous manuscripts that won't skimp on the details.
So I am turning over a new leaf...
sort of.
It's strange and wonderful all at once.
My attention to detail is heightened.
The research I've been doing is so detailed and extensive.
I'm writing different synopses for different agents... (the worst part)
And I'm doing the things I must to ensure my success...even if it means I have to be, what's that word?
Oh yes, meticulous.  Detailed.  (anal)
But I'm still me...
My laundry hasn't been folded...
"Honey, I just put on my last pair of socks!"
I need to get on that...

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Case of the Cat in the Morning Time...

Lola is a creature of habit.  Her morning routine is so predictable, I could set my coffeemaker by her.
I get up at approximately 6am and creak down the stairs (my knees creak, not the stairs).  
Lola hears me and moves from the couch, where she's been slumbering, to the kitchen. 
As I make the coffee, she stands in front of the refrigerator to wait. 
She is waiting for fresh, ice cold water in her "inconvenient bowl". 
There is a little blue glass bowl that sits along the wall in the kitchen by the fridge. 
It is always in the way. 
I can’t count how many times someone has kicked the inconvenient bowl, spilling water all over the floor. 
I blame my daughter for that one; she started the "water by the fridge" thing. 
Lola’s water bowl and food are located in the laundry room, out of the way. 
My daughter made her feel so special, she now requires water in two locations. 
After I begrudgingly fill her water bowl and gush over her cute way of looking up at me, I get my coffee and sit down to check email and read the newspaper. 
When I do this, Lola parks nearby to do some personal cleansing. 
And by personal, I mean private. 
I don't want to see or hear her personal cleansing this early in the morning. 
Honestly, there is no good time for that, so I wave her away. 
Lola proceeds to walk around the house meowing about something.
 I imagine she is upset that I interrupted her bath – again.
When Lola’s done wandering and meowing, she proceeds to the bathroom to tell her friend in the mirror all about it. 
She jumps on the toilet, then onto the pedestal sink and gazes in the mirror to have a loud, mad conversation with that other cat. 
It's like "coffee with friends" but angrier…and crazier.
Either Lola thinks we keep her nemesis in the bathroom or, she has a very compliant friend who doesn't eat her food or drink her precious refrigerator water.
Her friend only shows her face when Lola wants to see her, or when she needs to gripe about her housemates. 
Or perhaps Lola’s bragging or laughing about how well she has “the staff” trained.  During the last heat wave, I found myself dropping ice cubes in her refrigerator water as if she were the queen of England or at the very least, the royal feline.  (don’t judge me)
Yes, she is surely laughing at us to her friend in the mirror.
When Lola’s rant is over, she finds a comfy place to nap...usually on the couch or in a sunbeam. 
She must need rest after such a busy morning, bossing her people around and arguing with the mirror cat. 
It must be exhausting to deal with the utterly predictable humans she's trained to do her bidding.  

When the sun rises, she’ll do it all again…

Friday, June 24, 2016

Fear; It's Not Going To Stop Me!


A few weeks ago, there was not a single semi-colon in my manuscript.
You may think that is an amazing feat.
I thought so.
Honestly, I didn't even think about it.
I ignored the semi-colon.
It scared me.
What am I supposed to do with that thing?
What purpose does it serve when I have full access to the period, the comma, the m-dash and my favorite...the ellipsis?

As I revised my manuscript and polished it to a gleaming shine,
My heart softened to the semi-colon.
I studied it.
I considered it.
Rather,
I studied it; I considered it.
I decided to give it a try in my novel.
Turns out, my manuscript needed a few semi-colons.
Fifty to be exact.
Perhaps it needs more; I'm not sure.

I'm at the point in the process where fear is taunting me, daring me to quit, telling me to give up my dream.
This is where I have to start selling my story.
I have to talk to agents and editors and convince them that it's worthy of their time - that my story is worth a risk.
The semi-colon has been a first step in that process.
That little punctuation mark; the dot and comma combo.
It doesn't seem to pack much of a punch, but...
The comma is common,
The ellipsis is easy...
The m-dash is obvious,
And the period is...well, straightforward.
The semi-colon, however, gave me pause.
And I conquered it.

Fear; it's not going to stop me!
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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What is a Blessing?

A question was posed at our writing group recently.  What is a blessing and what does it mean to bless someone.  I pondered that for several days and I offer you the following incomplete list as a definition and explanation, beginning with this:
  
Joy is the result of Blessing...Blessing the result of Joy.  
They are connected.  
You cannot have one without the other.

What is a blessing?
A blessing can be spoken.  
A kind word, an encouragement, a prayer. 
A literal request of God to bless someone.
 
A blessing can be an action.  
A kindness.  
Assistance. 
Giving aid or doing a task for someone or even giving a gift. 
Giving what you have without need of reciprocation.  
Unmerited favor.
Grace.
Mercy.  

A blessing can be an offering of approval.  
A nod of agreement.  
The “yes” that causes a plan to move forward.

My favorite kinds of blessings are disguised.  
Circumstances that come to an unexpected end.  
The blessings that hide themselves in trouble or work where the result is unexpected joy.
The blessing of helping others…when you expect to be the one doing the blessing but come away feeling completely blown away by the blessing you unwittingly received.   
  
Blessings happen when you have an aha moment while doing a mundane task.  
An understanding is reached or a solution is realized.
 
Blessings appear through suffering, feeling the very presence of God as trials are endured.
The blessing of peace that passes all understanding. 

And finally, the blessing of forgiveness.  Letting go of the need to accuse – or   
Feeling the accuser drop his stones and walk away, regardless of my guilt.

What does it mean to bless someone? 
To bestow any of these things on another.
  
As I considered what blessings are, how we bless and receive blessings, it occurred to me that blessings abound where selflessness lives.  
That joy resides in thinking of others as more important than ourselves. 
Peace of mind is not found in our own minds...but in our heart focussed on others.
You cannot be a blessing to others, nor receive the blessings others would give, while gazing at your navel. 

Philippians 2:3-4 (NASB)
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Aligning Stars...

I'm writing my query letter and synopsis for my novel.
It's daunting.
These two elements are of utmost importance.
They will convince an agent to take a chance on me.

I've read a lot about query letters.
They have to be perfect, and by perfect I mean...PERFECT.
Your query letter will be read once by each agent you query...if you're lucky.
If something is off in the first few sentences, you're outta luck!
They're busy people...they shouldn't have to read anything but perfection.
And then there's the whole idea that the book will have to interest them.
Everyone is so different.
Different preferences.
Different idiosyncrasies.
Different pet-peeves.
My query, my book, has to align with all of those stars...with the right agent...a caffeinated, well-rested, well-fed agent with the door locked and the phone off the hook!
Then maybe, and only maybe, I will find representation to sell my book.

Sounds daunting.
No, sounds impossible.
I was expressing my angst to my writing group yesterday.
And then I heard a whisper.
"But I am in the business of aligning stars, ask me to help."
But of course.
Pray.
Why do I need to be reminded?  Why?
Because I do.
God is patient and merciful and gracious.
So I will pray, earnestly, that all of the stars will align.
I will do the hard work I need to do...
I will sweat over my query and synopsis.
I will re-write and revise.
I will put my best in all of my writing and trust that it will be enough.
And I will do the hard work of seeking representation...
Of querying over and over...
And filling a file folder with rejections...
Until...
it happens...
Lord, may my manuscript be found to be good enough.
Amen.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Enough


            I enjoy doing yard work with my husband.  Spreading beauty bark is one of my favorite tasks.  I love the smell of the bark.   I especially like the way it makes the yard look fresh and well groomed.  I’ve noticed, though, that no matter how often we’ve purchased and spread bark on our flowerbeds, we never think we'll have enough.  The amount never changes, but when we’re in the middle of the project it doesn’t seem like it will stretch to cover the entire area we’re working.  Yesterday was no exception. 
            “We’re not going to have enough,” my husband sighed as he loaded the wheelbarrow. 
            “Maybe it will stretch,” I offered.
            “I doubt it,” he said, and, looking at what was left in the trailer, I agreed.
            But just like every other time, we had just enough, no more, no less than we needed.  We should know by now that we can trust the size of the trailer and the amount of bark, but we always doubt.  Every single time.
            I’m the same way when it comes the goodness and grace of God.  When facing a problem, I cannot fathom how it will work out.  I do not know the path to resolution.  Sometimes I don’t know if it can be resolved, but I give my problem to God anyway.  I wait.  I worry.  I doubt that He will have the ideas or time or power to work it all out.  I forget that He’s the same God who created the universe, came to earth in the form of man, did not sin, took all of our sin on Himself and died anyway and rose again.  I forget that He is all-knowing, all-present and all-powerful.  He may not work things out the way I would like – in the way I would do it, but His way is always the best and the most surprising and perfect. 
            And just like the beauty bark, His grace stretches and covers every corner of my life, my problem, and my situation. Perfectly.  He makes all things beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).        Every single time. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Why I am writing a Novel...

(This is a repost from March 1, 2016 from my personal blog)
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
John 21:25

I stumbled upon this verse this morning.  And by stumbled upon, I mean I was looking something up and mistook a two for a five and read John 21:25 instead of John 21:22. 
This was a blessing to my heart.
Because as I near the end of writing the first rough draft of my novel, I am filling in blanks and finding that some of the threads woven through my story do not answer the question "Why are you writing this?"
Why am I writing a novel titled:  The Grace Writers?
Because I am a recipient of lavish grace.
Because I want others to know the grace that is available to them.
Because I want to illustrate (with words) that nobody can out-sin grace.
Because I love the Lord so much, I can't keep this knowledge to myself.
Because I love people so much, I can't keep this knowledge to myself.
THAT is why I'm writing my (and by my, I mean His) novel.
And then this verse...read by mistake...but exactly what I needed to read.
This is why I'm writing...
I'm writing just one of the books that will tell of some of the things Jesus has done...
One of the books with some of the things, 
Because if they were all written down, the whole world would not have room for them. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

To The Writers Who've Gone Before...


My manuscript is almost ready.
I'm preparing to query agents.
This is the part I've been dreading.
Selling myself.
It seems boastful, showy to "talk up" my story.
How does one remain humble and sell their story?

One of the synonyms for humble is unambitious.
I am not unambitious.
So I must learn to put myself, my story out there.

I'd like to thank the writers who've gone before...
Who have shared what they've learned with other writers via their blog, an interview and in books filled with gems of wisdom.  Who, in spite of their distaste for selling themselves, have shared how to do it with their self-respect in tact.  The query letters you've shared have been invaluable in writing my own.

My query letter is almost done...I think.
My synopsis (oh man) is in process.

I'd like to thank the writers who've gone before...
Who griped and moaned and complained about writing a synopsis.  Their words of angst, anger and utter aggravation have helped me feel normal and validated as I delete lines of writing...why is this so hard?  I wrote the thing, surely I re-tell the story in a nutshell...or within a couple of pages...ugh.

I will get the synopsis done and when I do, I'd like to thank the writers who've gone before and have generously shared the process of querying agents...who have waited...been rejected...and wrote about the upset and their endurance and perseverance.  Who have shared that sometimes it takes a long time to find that perfect combination of story, timing, agent, publisher and audience.  I'm prepared to be patient.

Because of your willingness to share your experience, writers like me feel better prepared for the process and possibilities of publishing our work.  Thank you.