An update… Or lack of one…

We all have to wait occasionally dear reader. And let’s be honest, waiting is hard.

Last October I submitted my book Names and Secrets for publication. The time line for response was 12-16 weeks. Well, as I’m writing this, we have officially hit the 16-week mark and… I have heard nothing! But that’s not a bad thing.

Christmas fell into that 12–16-week window it might have put things behind. But there’s a better reason not to worry (actually a reason to be hopeful). I’ve worked with this publisher before; they send you an email when you’ve been rejected. The fact I’m at the end of the window and have heard nothing means I haven’t been rejected yet! It means that they may be seriously considering publishing the book.

The publisher isn’t shy about rejecting stuff that doesn’t fit. Not hearing at this point doesn’t guarantee publication, but it means the book has lasted longer than my last rejected manuscript. Even if it comes back a no, the effort spent on a yes or no answer indicates I’m that much closer to a yes. That means I’ve just got to push it a little more to get to yes. And a yes is what we’re looking for.

No matter what we do, we’re making progress if we can honestly say “we did better than last time”. And, who knows, there may be a success in our (near) future!

That’s it for this one dear reader. I have to get back to editing the sequel (and checking my email every five minutes…). I wish you success in your projects dear reader. And I’ll see you next post!

The danger of acceptance

This week I’m sharing something I shared last week over at Forever Mountain Publishing.  For those who read both blogs please forgive the repeat. I this stuff is important (and I still haven’t heard back on the novel…)

I’m waiting to hear about a novel I submitted. I’m also working on the sequel and a couple of non-fiction projects. Getting the book accepted will be exciting. I’ve been wanting to work with this publisher for a while and good things will come out of them accepting the series. But there is danger in the book being accepted.

The book being accepted is going to be a big step for me. This is true. But I can’t stop growing as a writer just because the publisher likes the book. It would be easy. Acceptance means they think my work is “good enough” to publish. But is “good enough” really good enough?

Most people I’ve met know ‘that guy’, the one who achieved a goal (won a championship, served a mission for his/her church, got married, graduated college, etc.), and then just sort of gave up. We can’t do that. Not as people or as writers. As people, the moment we stop growing is the moment we start dying. As writers, if we don’t keep learning and improving, our audience will tire of reading the same old stuff and move on to someone or something else.

I’m really looking forward to hearing my book is accepted, but I can’t let acceptance stop me from making the next one better. Everything we try, whether we succeed or fail, provides us with lessons we can learn (if we pay attention to them).

No one on this earth is truly perfect. That means we all always have the potential to be and do better. Sometimes we have to struggle to find that potential, but it’s there.

The moment we stop growing, we start dying. If we think we’ve done the best we can (especially if we think our work is perfect) we need to search for what we can do to improve (or we need to set it down and come back when we’re smarter…).

It’s a choice we have to make dear reader: keep growing and learning, or be the person sitting around talking about what used to be. I intend to be the guy talking about what I’m doing next!

I wish you success dear reader. I don’t want you to stop at “good enough”. As usual, I’ll see you next post.

Mountains, motors, and challenges along the way

I didn’t post last week. Instead, I found myself on a trip to my in-laws’ house on the other side of the Blue Mountains. My productivity took a hit. My top projects got essentially no writing and precious little research that week. But, on the bright side, the in-laws are doing fine (mostly), I made progress on a couple of (previously stalled) secondary projects, and I found an Asian market with goodies I’ve wanted but can’t find in my local store. I also found a real-life example of stuff I’ve been writing about lately….

I try to take good care of our vehicle. I do. I even took it in for an oil change early, realizing that we’d hit the mile mark for changing the oil somewhere in the middle of the trip. Unfortunately, oil changes don’t catch everything. I got the tires rotated. I got the fuel injectors cleaned. They checked the air filters. None of those things had any effect on the fact that the starter on our vehicle decided it didn’t really appreciate the trip over the mountains, or the weather up in Washington state.

The starter started acting up. Which made my wife nervous. Which lead to hesitation and flinching when she started the vehicle (It was acting up for me too but I cuss instead of flinching). ‘Operator characteristics’ seemed to make the problem worse. We started worrying about getting home.

We realized that a solid fix was not immediately available and would delay the trip home; which we were unwilling to do because of costs (we were staying in a hotel) and responsibilities back home. We had a choice between two poor options, either of which could make the situation worse. The thing we couldn’t do was let the problem stop us. The thing we could do is weigh our options and make the best choice possible. We decided to go home and have our local mechanic fix the problem.

It was risky. What if the car stopped running on the way? What if things were worse than we thought and the engine blew up? We took what we knew and what we could reasonably predict and made a plan. We limited the number of starts along the way. We planned where we would stop, mostly places we knew and knew help was available if we needed it. It was risky, but we had to get home. So, we made a plan and followed it.

The funny thing is, when you put your faith in the right place; make a plan and follow it; and genuinely do what God and the universe want you to do, eventually things break your way. We figured out what to do to help the starter do its job. We didn’t stop the engine when we didn’t have to. We discovered a delivery option that brought dinner to our hotel room free of charge when we stopped over in the middle of the trip.

We got home. I took the car to our mechanic. A rebuilt starter was ordered and an appointment to install it was set. And, so far, the car has given us minimal problems between getting home and getting the new part installed (it figures… Problems seldom seem as bad when you’re prepared to deal with them…).

That’s the take-home message on today’s post dear reader. Problems rarely seem as bad when you’re prepared to deal with them. And, the first step in being prepared to deal with them is to assess the situation and figure out what might happen, what resources you have, and what steps you should take (you might reassess your plan later but you have to start somewhere!).

Fear is often a product of our own minds. The best way to counter fear is with faith, knowledge, and preparation (like having a plan…). Scary stuff happens sometimes. But we can make the situation better. We can do that.

Good luck with the challenges you face dear reader. And I’ll see you next post.

Doing what we can’t do?

This week my thoughts come back to something Vincent van Gogh said, “I am always doing what I can’t do yet in order to learn how to do it.” I for one believe Van Gogh practiced what he preached. And I’ve tried something new myself from time to time. It can be scary business, but it’s how we learn.

Sure, we can read about how to do things. We can watch videos about how to do things. But if we actually want to do things, we have to try it for ourselves, eventually. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, what we’re reading or watching videos about is something we can’t fully understand until we’ve tried it. Usually we have to develop skills in order to do it right.

And that’s where it can get really scary. We have to face the fact we’re not good at everything. Often, we have to fail before we succeed. And, even if we succeed on the first try, chances are we could have done better.

Fear can keep us from trying new things, if we let it. We may be afraid of looking foolish. We may be afraid of breaking something, offending someone, getting caught doing something we shouldn’t, or many other things. Some of which are actually quite valid. But if we want to learn, if we want to do the things we don’t know how to do, we have to move past our fears and actually do.

Some of our fears are rational and helpful. If we’re afraid of getting caught, there’s probably a reason and we need to think about that reason and weigh it in our decision of whether to do. We have to consider the relative value of our learning and its consequences.

But our fears can be good at getting us to over or under estimate consequences. I may know the chances of there being a homicidal maniac hiding in my closet are close to zero. I am fairly sure my third-grade teacher won’t post a critique of my new novel. But in the dark of the night, after too much pizza, caffeine, and writing about a serial killer, my fears are busy trying to convince me both things are true. And I’m in trouble if I let those fears stop me from getting to sleep… Or publishing the book…

We have to give ourselves permission to learn new things. We have to give ourselves permission to be bad at something so we can learn to be good at it. It’s a learning process, not an “I’m already good at this” process.

We can learn and do great things, dear reader. But we have to be willing to try.

Good luck in your learning dear reader. And I’ll see you next post.

Life and edits…

This month I’m editing the first draft I wrote as a NANOWRIMO project last November. There are also a lot of other things going on in the world. People are pretty stirred up over elections, wearing masks, and many other topics. As I wrote my post for my publishing blog (link) one thought came to mind that applies to all the “life stuff” just as much as it applies to my first draft:  we need to figure out what’s actually important and identify the things that support what’s really important. Once we know those things, then we can start making other decisions and “doing stuff”.  And even if you’ve thought about these things before, it’s a great time to do a spot check and make sure you’re still on course.

In my draft, there’s stuff that needs to stay and stuff that needs to go. There are ideas that need to extend earlier and later in the book and things that can be edited out. In life there are things that we can do that will help us achieve our goals and things that really won’t.

A scene in the book might be really well written, but if it doesn’t benefit the story, it doesn’t need to be there. In real life getting antsy over whether someone’s wearing a mask might matter (if they’re in line next to me), but it might not (If I’m alone in my car and she/he is alone in a different car 50 feet away).

In the long run, we benefit from focusing on the things that serve our lasting values and goals. Allowing ourselves to be blown here and there on the winds of fear doesn’t get us where we want to go. It never will.

Remember to think, dear reader, and remember what matters most.

We’re back and good is still to come!

No, this post is not some partisan politics wank. We’re back because I haven’t been posting for a couple of months (First there was NANOWRIMO, then family in the hospital, then the holidays, and of course political clowns of every stripe (Sorry gang every party has them…)). But I’ve been working, learning, and writing through it all, and now it’s time for me to come back to the blog.

In the midst of everything else we’re about three weeks past December 21st 2020. Why is that date important? It was the winter solstice. That means that we’re in a time where every day is just a little bit longer, a little more light comes to us every day. It’s been said that it is always darkest before the dawn. The truth is no matter what the rest of the world does we can choose to bring light and good into the world through our actions. We can choose the good and the right no matter what the world around us wants us to do, it is our right as sentient beings with the power to act as agents unto ourselves.

I for one choose to create good in the world around me and to push back against hate, fear, and all the other forces that would drag us down into the pit of despair. And, that’s what we’re going to be talking about here in the year to come dear reader.

There’s much to do right now, but I’m back and good is possible. Seek the good in your world dear reader. And, I’ll see you next post.

Nano and beyond

One of the most important things I’ve learned is “don’t forget the regular stuff, but don’t let it impede what you need to do.” It’s a hard balance to strike, but it’s important.

With NANOWRIMO coming up and a couple other major projects needing attention, I’m stepping back from the blog for a little while. I may or may not post again before December, but I’ll be back after the new first draft is done.

In the meantime, good luck with your own adventures, dear reader. And. I’ll see you next post.

It can be done!

This week I submitted my book Names and Secrets for publication. The first draft was written as a NANOWRIMO project last November, meaning the total time from first word to last gasp was 11 ½ months. So dear reader, you really can create a book in less than a year.

Now, the time from publisher submission to copies on Amazon is still in front of us (and will probably be another year if the book is accepted…). But that’s a new adventure (the minute publishing a new book isn’t a new adventure I quit…).

To get from wanting to write a book to having a published book is a long road. There are many steps and terraces along the way. Sometimes we get stuck. Sometimes we have setbacks. But the key thing is to learn from every step, every sticky spot, and every setback; and then keep going. Nobody knows it all right away. Not even Steven King hit a home run with his first submission. It is a learning process.

As you may know (I’m sure I’ve mentioned it at least once…) NANOWRIMO is coming quickly. I know there’s a lot going on in the world. But the writing and discovery process teaches us about ourselves and helps dreamers fulfil dreams. I’ll be working on a sequel to Names and Secrets this year, and I can use the company. So please, if you want to write a novel, give it a shot and join us for NANO this year. It can be done.

Good luck with your dreams dear reader. And I’ll see you next post.

Words greater than my own…

Last weekend an event happened that many people may have missed. Believers in Jesus Christ from around the world met in conference to learn of him and ways to make our world a better place. Today I’m sharing a talk given during that conference, one that touches on things on my mind and relevant to the things we talk about here.

Please read or watch this message (the link gets you to video and print versions). Enjoy and take head of the things taught. And I’ll see you next post.

Doubling down on NANOWRIMO

Well, dear reader, November is nearly upon us again. This year I’ll be working on the sequel to last year’s project, which had been called Ruby’s story. I say had been because the final title will depend on editor approval. Yes. That’s right… As I mention over at Forever Mountain Publishing this week, the NANOWRIMO project I’m starting next month is the sequel to a book that’s going to the publisher this month!

So, in celebration of getting the book ready, to fulfil my promise of sharing my writing here in the blog, and as a shameless plug… Let’s meet a few of the characters from both the book I’m sending to the publisher and the one I’m writing starting next month. As usual, the writing presented is my work and protected by my copyright.

Wilfur and Momma

Ruby lay in bed with her eyes open. Momma and Wilfur were up talking again. I want to know. But if they catch me again…

She lay on her straw mattress under the quilt she’d made and looked up at the wooden beams and wooden roof above. The room was small, but at least she and Hattie had a room. In some ways, Wilfur’s place was better than Poppa’s. Sorry, Poppa. But it’s true. I know you were trying to make the house better. And you would have. If you were still alive. The room was warm and dry, and gave her more privacy than she’d had in the old house. It was an improvement. Almost.

“Momma.” Hattie muttered the word in her sleep.

Ruby felt her teeth grinding together. If she was mumbling about her own mother, that wouldn’t be so bad. But she’s not. She’s mumbling about mine.

Eight-year-old Hattie had her own straw mattress. Her father made sure all the kids had a mattress of their own. Having her own mattress is kind of good. I guess. Too bad Wilfur isn’t always that kind. He’d insisted that Hattie got the quilt she liked. Even though I made that one for myself. But I am the step daughter I guess.

Hattie snuggled deeper into Rubie’s quilt and mumbled, “Momma.”

Relax. It’s not her fault that her mother died any more than it’s my fault Poppa died. Ruby pressed her head back into her pillow and tried to sleep.

It’s no good. Ruby climbed out of bed. The wood floor squeaked just a little. At least it’s worn enough I don’t have to worry about splinters. But it would be nice to have a rug.

Faint starlight came in through the window, but not even enough to match Momma and Wilfur’s single candle flame out on the table in the main room.

Ruby pawed the floor with her toes and tried to see Hattie in the darkness. Please stay asleep, little girl. Was I that skinny when I was eight? Ruby felt her 12-year-old body starting to fill out. At least a little…

I wish I could tell what they’re saying. Momma and Wilfur kept their voices low. I guess I have to get to the doorway.

Ok feet, don’t hit any squeaks now. Slowly, carefully, she made her way to the door, then peeked out into the main room. Please don’t look this way…

Momma and Wilfur looked at each other across the table in the candle light. Momma’s long blond hair was braided as usual and hung down the back of her gray homespun dress. Wilfur stroked his short brown beard. He’s thinking. The wrinkles around his eyes always moved just a little when he was thinking.

What? A shadow moved in the corner of Ruby’s eye. Bo… Her ten-year-old step brother hung out his doorway just a little too far, and only inches from her own doorway. He craned his head out a little more, shaking his floppy brown hair in the process.

Bo, if you get us caught again… Got to do something before they look this way. Ruby rocked back and forth for just a moment before diving from one door way to the other, pushing Bo back out of their parents’ sight.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Bo whispered a little too loudly.

You’re just mad you’re not the oldest anymore. And that I got you. Hattie or little Dickon would never have been able to move him. I might not have if I didn’t surprise him. Even though he was only ten Bo worked hard on his father’s farm, and that made him strong.

“I was trying to listen to momma and Wilfur,” Ruby whispered, “Be quiet. You’d better not wake up Dickon.”

“You better not wake up Dickon,” Bo growled, “And don’t get us caught.”

“I wasn’t the one sticking my head all the way out.”

“Your mother kept dropping her voice,” Bo said, “I think they were talking about Beto again. And the new hetman that’s coming.” Bo backed up. He knew Ruby got touchy when someone mentioned Beto.

Beto ruined everything. Beto had been hetman, for a little while at least. The big family from the city had sent him to run things after the old hetman died. And then married Emara. He didn’t even ask Momma’s permission. And then he died. And Emara disappeared.

“They said a new one is coming,” Bo said, “They sound worried.”

Ruby nodded. They both crept to the doorway to listen.

“They have to send a new one,” Wilfur said, “and after what happened to Beto I wouldn’t be surprised if they sent soldiers with this one.”

Momma nodded.

The hetman before Beto died the same day we lost poppa.

“I can’t say I’m sorry about them sending troops,” Wilfur said.

“You know what happens when the Pollonas, or any of the families, send out troops,” Momma said.

“That’s why I’m glad we live out of town,” Wilfur said, “But the soldiers should help keep the Ravens out of the area.

Momma’s eyes flicked toward the kids’ rooms. Ruby and Bo ducked farther back into the darkness.

“The Ravens are up to something,” Wilfur said, “The last time Geron was in town he said there’s a new leader, Lord something or other, in the village up toward the mountain. You know, the one up on the valley bench.”

Momma turned back to Wilfur. “Shouldn’t a new leader calm things down?”

Wilfur shook his head. “Geron’s got his doubts. And others say there are shamans about. A traveling merchant said he saw the gray-haired one and the one with the feathered cloak. Together.”

“Two of them?” Momma turned to look at the kids’ doorways. She’s remembering again. Back when I was a baby. Momma forced herself to look at Wilfur, but kept her thoughts to herself. She’s never even told me what happened, really.

Bo pushed Ruby’s shoulder. “You better get back. Poppa will invent chores for both of us if we get caught listening again.”

Ruby ducked out of Bo’s doorway and into her own, just before Momma’s head swung back toward their rooms.

“The shamans are up to something,” Wilfur said, “Ask Geron, he’ll be in town for market day.”

Geron…

A shiver ran down Ruby’s back. The way he looks at me, like he used to look at Emara. Like Beto looked at her before he took her away. And Wilfur will expect me to help sell at the market.

“He’s our best source of information,” Wilfur said.

Momma nodded and got up. “I think I better check on the children.”