Monthly Archives: July 2021

Speaking for the Dead

For a long time, I was never a fan of cemeteries. Too depressing, all those dead people.

Until I spent an afternoon with my husband’s grandmother as she placed flowers on graves during Memorial Day. I listened to her stories and realized how much history a cemetery contains. Without them, we would soon forget the lives those tombstones represent.

What I also appreciate are the inscriptions, and sometimes the items people leave. In this case a handful of small tomatoes. I don’t know the reason for them, but I don’t necessarily need to. It was personal and therefore beautiful.

Note: this was taken last Sunday at the Veteran’s Cemetery in Mandan, ND.

Living Up to Subtitles

The subtitle of my blog is “A Writer’s Journey.” Yet when I read through my entries over the last few years, other than chronicling the occasional writers conference, I’ve talked of anything but.

I’ve been writing (obviously), but as far as sharing my pursuit of publication, not so much. How can I write about something I’m not doing?

Yep, I’ve been lazy. Procrastination is a real thing—if largely self-inflicted.

I managed to fight off the lazy/procrastination bug this time. Yesterday I sent off the two requests for proposals that I mentioned in a previous entry.

So now I get to wait. Always my strong suit (not). I have to force myself not to check my email 156 times a day.

Although, much to my surprise and delight, one of the editors emailed me back saying my proposal was received and will be delivered to the appropriate team to read through. Normally a publisher/agent won’t send a response unless it’s an acceptance, rejection, or request for more information. This is the first time I received an acknowledgment that it was received.

The best part is I now don’t have to worry about my submission getting lost in email limbo (the other was submitted through an online submission form).

This publisher prefers series over stand-alone novels. The one I sent is currently just one book, but as I do with all my novels, I leave a door or two open for more. That means I should probably start the second… Even if they don’t take it, I should probably write it anyway. Most publishers prefer series over stand alone novels, especially for sci-fi and fantasy.

At the very least doing so will keep me off social media. I’m a bit frustrated with it all at the moment. It seems people can only talk about the one thing-that-shall-not-be-named, and I’m not inclined to participate. It’s not beating a dead horse at this point, it’s pounding the poor horse’s sun-bleached bones into dust.

Realm Makers 2012 – Day 3

Today when compared to the last two days was fairly uneventful. I finished out the session on finding one’s readers (aka: marketing), and another on wounding the human body by Carla Hoch (author of “Fight Write”) which my son also attended. He enjoyed the teen track, but I think he might have enjoyed her sessions even more. She’s an absolute hoot. If you want to know more about writing believable/accurate fight scenes and what a human body can survive/not survive, her book, blog, and videos are a must (you can find everything on fightwrite.net).

Frank Peretti also had a Q & A session and gave the closing keynote. As before, he was exuberant, funny, and also wise.

For the keynote, he recited the scene from the first Jurassic Park movie where Dr Ian Malcom (played by Jeff Goldblum) warned (paraphrased), “You were so determined in finding out if you could do something, you never stopped to ask if you should.”

Frank compared how Hammond and the scientists’ attempt to control nature failed rather spectacularly to how we’ve lost control over technology in much the same way. And how now it’s controlling us. He asked us to step back and figure out at what point we say enough is enough.

As he was speaking I wrote in my notes (with paper and pen, even though I’m using that evil tech to write and post this): “Yes Big Tech knows a lot about me, probably a lot more than I think they do. They can use it to destroy me and my life if they choose, and with very little effort. Jesus, however, still knows more about me, and I can trust him to not misuse that information or try to destroy me with it.” None of us can say the same for Silicon Valley, or even our own government that knows a lot more about us than they will ever admit.

Right after the keynote ended, two fellow “Realmies” happened to read my nametag. They pulled out their copy of Havok’s “Sensational” anthology asking, “Didn’t you write a story in this?” They then asked me to sign it, which always makes me happy. But it’s also humbling. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel worthy of being asked to give an autograph. I’m no different than the two ladies who only want people to read their writing, find joy, and be inspired or strengthened by it.

The day ended with a book expo and author signing that was open to the public. Not as many showed up as in previous years, but I would still call it a success. The line for Frank Peretti was understandably the longest.

Believe it or not, but Tom bought more books than me! Or I should say, I bought Tom more books than I bought myself…

So Realm Makers 2021 is now officially over. I did, however, sign up for the post conference workshop on using social media to sell more books. I’m determined to not let my fear of using it deter me from using it…

Interesting, don’t you think, considering I just wrote about how such technology is controlling us… ?

Realm Makers – Day 2

The problem with writers conferences is so much happens. Boiling it all down into a manageable chunk can be… challenging. After all the classes and workshops, the brain gets full. Mine’s so full, I think it’s leaking out my ears. Or at least should be. Or maybe I just need to clean out the wax…

My favorite part of the day had nothing to do with the classes or on my appointments (more on that in a bit).

The Havok Magazine team met for lunch at a Greek sandwich shop called Dino’s (yummy. I love me some Greek Gyros). I was good today and ordered a Greek salad instead of a gyro, though. I ate myself stupid yesterday and knew I would be eating myself stupid again for supper. They cancel each other out, right?

Anyway, at lunch, one of the Havok volunteers thanked me for publishing one of her short stories, and later one of the authors for whom we accepted just last week also thanked me. I didn’t expect such sincere gratitude, because even though I sent the acceptance letters, the choosing and editing is a team effort. I can take some, but certainly not all the credit.

One of the sessions I’m attending is on finding readers and being irresistible to them. Not so much about marketing, per se, but about looking at marketing in a different way. Because most readers despise the idea. Instead, he said, reframe it into building relationships instead of making a sale. That’s the one thing that always drove me away from the idea. I’m not a salesman (or woman). I see it as trying to take advantage, or seeing my readers, not as people, but as walking wallets. I never want to even appear that way. So what I need to do is soul search a bit to find what about me and my writing will attract readers, and what can I do to build a relationship with them? It’s a tough question that may take a while to answer.

Which segues me into my first appointment. I presented my fantasy which the editor was intrigued enough to ask for a proposal. Not the complete manuscript, but no matter. It’s a step in the right direction (plus it gives me time to tweak it in a few areas I know need tweaking). I also asked for advice on where to find potential readers, which for fantasy and sci-fi is mostly Instagram and TikTok. She also gave me some people to follow to see how they use Instagram that I can emulate.

As for my second appointment, I presented my mainstream sci-fi story, because her publishing house leans more mainstream/secular audiences. I stumbled a bit when she asked what my main character’s arc was. For some reason I drew a blank, because, at least in the first book, it’s a bit multitudinous, and continues on into the trilogy (the second of which is complete). Once she asked if it was more than one, then I was able to tell her the overall arc. Whew! Bullet dodged! She also asked me submit a proposal as well as gave me some great advice on how to fix my first chapter (which had fairly important, but easily fixed issue). The best compliment she gave me was, “Your voice is sci-fi. I can see that right away.” I always question my voice and if it’s a fit for whatever genre I’m writing in. That it fit with this book is a big relief.

But it’s getting late, so I will say good night now.

“Good night now!”

Gotta ‘nother full day of classes tomorrow. No appointments, though, which takes away some of the stress.

Realm Makers – Day 1

Today was officially the first day of the annual Realm Makers writers conference. This is my fourth year attending. It’s taking place in St. Louis Missouri for which me, my son, and a friend drove all day yesterday to get here.

As much as I love to fly in an airplane, I despise what the airlines make passengers go through. So we drove for 17 hours straight, leaving at 3:45 am and arriving at 7:30 pm. It’s a rough trip, but still better than flying. Other than all the requirements and regulations, I’m not limited to how much luggage I can bring, and I’m not beholden to anyone’s schedule. It was also cheaper than plane tickets, especially when my friend paid for half the gas.

Today was a fairly full schedule. I took a pre-conference workshop on indie publishing presented by author and CEO of LMPBN Publishing and founder of 20Booksto50K, Michael Anderle, which was quite informative. Although I’m still looking for a traditional publisher, I’m not adverse to going indie. I can certainly see the advantages, such as the higher percentage of royalties and greater control over editing, content, cover design, etc. Yet there’s also a lot more work involved, such as the editing, cover design and the dreaded marketing. Plus the cost of all of the above.

Granted traditional publishers want their authors to do a lot more marketing themselves, but not knowing the best avenues to take, they can give me direction and advice on how best to accomplish it.

Plus I do better when others hold me to account–such as deadlines. Going indie, I fear I would procrastinate too much. I love to figuratively slit my wrists to write, but pouring that same blood, sweat and tears into what Michael terms “pushing the button” with actually publishing the book and the marketing, I’d rather literally slit my wrists (not literally).

On the lighter side… My son is taking the teen track which starts tomorrow. I was pleased that he wanted to attend, for one, but was even more pleased when I saw him take notes during the keynote address by author Frank Peretti, best known for “This Present Darkness.” He not only gave great advice, but had the entire audience in stitches with laughter. He’s funny, exuberant, and obviously loves life. He was also quite inspirational when talking about his own journey toward successful authorship. In short, we have to trust and be patient, and understand that God has not forsaken us when we find ourselves waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more for our dreams to come to fruition. He knows what he’s doing, and our job is to follow. Faithfully. And gracefully.

Tomorrow I’m meeting with two editors of small presses. As for my expectations, not high. I’m certainly not anticipating they’ll toss a contract at me. That they’ll ask to see my entire manuscript, though, that’s the hope.

I just returned to our hotel room after attending the agent/editor Q & A, which is always helpful in preparing for my 15 minute appointments. I have a better idea of what they’re looking for, and now know which manuscript to present to each.

Anyway, I’m gonna put on my pajamas and relax for a spell before switching of the lights. And say a prayer that God gives me peace of mind and the words I need to make a good impression and not embarrass myself by stumbling over my words.

A Heap of Hot Coals

Many of you know how much I’ve been simmering on the unprofessional and unethical behavior of a few people since March and how much I’ve hated it. Because I’m not supposed to hold grudges (See Ephesians 4:26).

Until I noticed a small mistake one of them made that, if not fixed right away, could cause them some embarrassment.

Yes, I considered saying nothing. A little payback or karma if you will. But then God kept whispering Proverbs 25:21-22 to me:

“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.”

So I resolved to be the better person and informed him of the error. He seemed grateful and fixed the issue in time.

My reward: When I saw him the next day, I felt no twinges of anger or irritation. I was able to give him a genuine smile and treat him with respect without having to force myself.

He seemed a bit startled by it, but no matter. By God freeing me from all that negativity, I no longer care how he receives my words or deeds.

Although, I do hope he felt the heat of the coal I heaped in his head, and that he will be a bit wiser in how he treats others in the future.