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.

An Imperfect God?

I recently saw a short discussion on Twitter and it got me thinking.

It went like this:

“The God of the bible is not the same as the god of the Quran.”

“god [sic] mentioned in the bible [sic] depicts him to be imperfect, while The God depicted in the Quran is absolutely perfect.”

“Imperfect how? And where?”

“For starters, 1 Samuel 15:11.”

1 Samuel 15:11 states (ESV): “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.”

Does this suggest that if God expresses regret over something he did, would that mean he’s admitting to making a mistake and is therefore imperfect? That’s certainly what the Twitterite above is implying.

But is he correct?

We must first go to what “regret” means:

According to Mirriam-Webster, regret (verb) is defined as: 1(a): to mourn the loss or death of; 1(b): to miss very much; 2: to be very sorry for.

So the question is, how is “regret” defined in the above passage? Was God expressing sorrow (first definition) over Saul’s faithlessness, or stating he had made a mistake (2nd definition)?

Let’s turn to the Hebrew term: נָחַם pronounced naw-kham’.

Strong’s and NAS Exhaustive Concordance define it as “to be sorry, console oneself.”

Brown-Driver-Briggs goes even further and defines the word per passage in the Old Testament. For 1 Samuel 15:11, regret is defined as “to be sorry, rue, suffer grief, repent, of one’s own doings.”

If we are to trust the last one, God is indeed sorry for or repentant of appointing Saul king—admitting he’d made a mistake.

Now that we’re back to square one, I ask again: is God expressing regret, admitting that he’s imperfect? Is it truly impossible for a perfect God to have regrets? Or is that assumption incorrect?

I’ve heard people say, “Scripture interprets scripture.” If one finds a contradiction, such as 1 Samuel stating that God is admitting imperfection, whereas other verses show God to be perfect (such as in 2 Samuel 22:31 & Matthew 5:48), one must look deeper.

The first step is to read the entire chapter to discover the circumstances as well as its context and audience.

In this case, the answer over the definition of “regret” is made clearer in verse 29: “And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.”

That says to me that God is expressing sorrow over Saul defying his word, not admitting to a mistake derived from imperfection.

What do you think?

Ill Will

I normally don’t hold grudges. It’s not in my nature. Doing so doesn’t necessarily hurt the person I’m angry at, but it always hurts me. Holding on to anger is akin to living in the past, preventing me from enjoying the present and looking forward to the future.

Yet that’s exactly what I’m doing. I mentioned a few months back about some people I work with acting in an unprofessional manner, made worse by the fact I still have to work with them and still be professional when I want to be anything but.

I can’t wait for the day I no longer have to interact or work with any of them. Ever. Again.

In short, while I may never outwardly show my contempt as much as may want to, I look forward to, at the very least, giving them my indifference.

As of now, though, my attitude is so sour, I find myself wishing—praying even—for them to fail at everything they do. I want others to see what I see and abandon them. I want their reputation to take such a spectacular nose-dive, no one else will ever want to work with them, either.

I know what you’re thinking: That’s not very Christ-like of me. After all, does not God love them as much as he loves me? Does God hold his mercy and grace back simply because this piddly little human is angry? The idea is utter foolishness when seen from that perspective, isn’t it?

While my heart is a rabid animal gnawing at the bars of its cage, growling to be let loose to rip apart and devour those who hurt me, my brain is holding the door closed, whispering calm. Reminding my heart that grace, mercy, and forgiveness are always the best roads to travel.

God never wishes me ill will no matter what I’ve done, so I can do no less.

Nor am I supposed to wait until I no longer have to deal with someone in order to do so. God wants us to forgive when it matters most, because he forgives us when it matters most.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” ~ Ephesians 4:29-32

For the Love of…

I can’t say I truly love language. If I did, I would have spent a lifetime studying more than my native tongue and digging deeper into its intricacies. If anything, when I write, I do so largely by instinct. I can define few of its rules such as “dangling participle” without having to look it up first.

I can, however, say I love the idea of it. I love how it can be used as a weapon as easily as it can heal. It brings people together, encourages creativity. It also causes wars and strife.

God loves language. He created the universe by speaking it into existence (Genesis 1:1-31 & Ps. 33:6). One of Jesus’ names is the Word of God (John 1). Scripture warns us of its power to destroy as well as create (see Proverbs 11:9, 15:4, 16:24 & 18:21).

Yesterday while perusing Netflix, I saw the description of the movie (based on the book by the same name), “The Professor and the Madman” (2019): “Completing the first dictionary will take a bit of smarts and a bit of madness. The words will come eventually,” I was of course intrigued. It’s about how the Oxford Dictionary was first written, the challenges of such a massive endeavor, and how it nearly failed without the help of a criminally insane murderer who alone submitted over 10,000 words.

Mel Gibson plays the professor and Sean Penn plays the madman. Incredibly acted by both, and the dialog alone is fantastic. One quote in particular stuck with me:

“… for every word in action becomes beautiful in the light of its own meaning.”

Words matter; their definitions equally so. Because without their definitions including their etymology (origin), they become flat if not ultimately meaningless—a bunch of letters strung together and nothing else.

Which is why I get particularly grumpy when people (especially our government and other powers that be—including the current Oxford Dictionary publisher, ironically enough) try to erase or ban words, or change their meaning to either make them meaningless or the direct opposite of their origin.

We must protect words and their definition/origins as we would anything else we hold dear, because without language, we can no longer call ourselves human.

I Am Stone

I see people on fire for the Lord. They spread the Good News like flames surging through dry brush during a summer drought.

While I stand on the edge of the field. Watching. Silent.

Envious.

I am not fire. I am stone. Hard and heavy. Immovable.

Yet that is my gift. Because God can use stones to spread the Good News, too.

How, do you ask?

Stones provide strength, a firmer foundation on otherwise shaky ground, such as a beach where sand gives sway to the waves and wind.

Why God chose to make me a rock over a flame, I don’t know. Perhaps I will. Someday. Then again, it’s not a question that deserves an answer. What matters is I remain that rock and depend on God to make me stronger.

All who get fatigued need a place to rest, and be certain that where they rest will be steady. Immovable. And yes, even silent, because sometimes it’s in the silences that we hear God’s voice the clearest.

So while those on fire will find the ones who need to be set aflame themselves, I will watch and wait, not with envy, but with anticipation for those who need a rock to stand on or rest upon. Perhaps, God willing, so they can hear God’s voice in the silence.

“Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant.”

Anyone who’s read my blog and comments will be familiar with one of my most loyal readers, Arnie Fleck.

He didn’t always agree with me, and he was also never afraid to say so. Our discussions were often lively yet always respectful—with some humor thrown in now and then.

Whenever I wrote an entry, especially with regard to Jesus, scripture, or religion in general, I always thought of him and tried to anticipate his reaction. Doing so always helped me make certain I made my stance clear so as not to awaken the dragon who learned how to argue in law school.

I tease, but his love of Jesus, scripture, and law, and to always look deeper has always inspired me.

He passed away on April 1, 2021 at the age of 63.

I will miss him, his words, his encouragement, and, yes, his almost eager willingness to disagree, but I also look forward to the same lively discussions when I, too, reach beyond this mortal veil.

God speed, my friend.

Abandoned?

Last night I watched Episode 2, Season 2 of The Chosen, and it undid me. I bet I blubbered for five minutes after the show ended.

In one scene, the character, Nathanial, cried out to God when a building he designed failed, and how could he fail when everything he did was for God’s glory? At one point he even asked, “Why have you turned your face from me?”

Later he meets Jesus, and one of the first things Jesus said was, “I could not turn my face from you.”

I can’t count how many times I felt as though Jesus has turned away, that all I do—or at least attempt to do—to glorify him is nothing but ash, meaningless, without purpose, a waste of time.

Yet Jesus has not turned away from me, or any of us who seeks him out. We just have to be patient and understand that how we’re using our talents/skills today may take an entirely different turn tomorrow. That our failure may instead be a new opportunity, and Jesus is ever present, ever aware, and will never turn his face away.