What I’m Writing these Days

If you follow me on Facebook, you get a monthly update of my writing projects. If you don’t, you’re going to get one now.
I’m an author so I write. I wish I could say that I only write things I LOVE and am jazzed to sit behind my laptop day-in and day-out pounding away on my wireless keyboard (which is missing seven letters and throws me off when I look at it to type).
I write blurbs and other marketing copy. When I’m selling or pitching a book to agents and editors, I pen query letters, outlines and synopsis (*cringes typing the word*).
What I write most often: blog posts.
You know, like this one.
Sometimes I even have interesting content or “high concept” ideas. Most of the time I feel like I’m shooting a post into the dark abyss of virtual space…hitting nothing, reaching no one.
So if there’s something you wish I would blog about, please complete the contact form here on the site…or leave a comment on this post.
My love is fiction and especially fantasy. Unfortunately, the market for that is rather soft and in order to “sell” a manuscript now and again, I write romance.

But I’m usually working on multiple projects at one time.

Fiction Projects

Unfortunately, there is no fantasy writing on my horizon. Even though I have an amazing dragon-covered Write Mind planner waiting for the magic of a new world with quests and magicians, I don’t know when I’ll get to write fantasy again.

I need to focus on writing things that sell.

At the moment, I have two projects that I’m guaranteed to sell.
The first is a short story (really more of a novelette) for the ONE SULTRY AFTERNOON anthology my publisher is planning for the summer of 2018.
Here’s a quick summation:

Ivory is in Leavenworth to earn money for her college education by guiding rafts on the river. Her boyfriend graduated and headed to the East coast without a backward glance, so Ivory isn’t looking for romance. Not even a sumer fling.
Prescott survived leukemia as a child only to become touch sensitive as a teenager. When he dropped out of college to pursue his painting, his photographer uncle opened his home in Leavenworth, in exchange for help manning the gallery and gift shop. The rugged beauty of the Alpine village of Washington inspires his creativity.
When they run into each other on a hiking trail, all their plans derail. But love is always a choice, and unless Prescott can overcome his fear of living he’ll never convince Ivory to choose him.

The second project is a novella for a 2018 release in the First Street Church Kindle World of Sweet Grove, Texas. While writing my debut in this world (coming November 15), I stumbled upon a minor character who’s about to run headlong into LOVE’S LITTLE SECRET.
Read on for the brief overview:

Norma Wells works at Sweet Grove High to nurture students, always aware of her own barrenness. She doesn’t understand why God didn’t grant the desires of her heart. At her Silver Anniversary party, she learns the reason her husband had no desire to pursue fertility specialists.
Herman Wells doesn’t deny that the Hispanic boy who crashes the Silver Anniversary party is his son. When he’d been the District Manager, he’d spent half of every month in New Mexico where he’d rescued Osaria and fallen in love with her. Or at least the idea that she needed him while his wife seemed content to build a life without him.
When Herman’s secret rocks their world, Norma has to decide if she can forgive her husband and welcome his now-motherless son. Herman wishes dealing with this fallout was the worst of his problems because when the pink slip comes, everything he build his life around tumbles around his ears.
An unlikely matchmaker seeks to reignite the love that life’s hardships snuffed out. Will Norma’s wish for motherhood come too late? Can Herman discover the most important truth before he loses everything?

Both of these are rough sketches, but hopefully they give you an idea.
I’m also working on edits for:

  • Love’s Late Arrival (due to release on November 15, 2017)
  • Reality Ever After (due to release on January 22, 2018)

My plan is to draft another two novellas in Sweet Grove for National Novel Writing Month OR to write the sequel novel to the women’s fiction novel I need to flesh out before trying to market it again.
What to write? What to write?

Nonfiction Projects

In my original business plan, my goal was to write two Bible study books each year. Unfortunately, that has never happened.
At the moment, I have four or five scattered ideas for studies but nothing concrete enough to begin working on. So it looks like there won’t be a new study in 2017.
The other nonfiction project I’m working on is the Christian living book about struggling through the aftermath of grief. I’ve been writing vignettes and Bible expository segments since 2015.


After meeting with a memoirist and getting feedback from two agents, I’ve got fresh ideas for how to approach this book. Now to be in the right state of mind to work on it.
What do I mean?
This project is an emotional vampire. I can never write more than one section on a given day. And it might drain me so I can’t touch the project again for a week.
But it’s the project I know God wants me to write, so I will do it. But it isn’t a project I can force myself to work on, so I have to pray and trust that He will guide me through it.
Eventually, I’ll market this book to Christian agents and publishers, but I’ll give myself a deadline for acceptance. If I don’t get it, then I’ll indie publish it.
But that is a LONG way off. Probably somewhere in my three-year plan.

A Three-Year Plan

In the coaching session of the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference, Susan May Warren challenged her students to do the math and figure out how many novels, novellas, short stories, whatever they could write in a year.
When I’m on a roll, writing 1,000 words an hour is pretty common. Which means I can crank out 5,000 words in my five-hour writing day.
When we’re talking about the short fiction I’m writing for my publisher’s summer anthology, that means I can draft the story in a week. Those novellas I’m writing for the Kindle World? It will take five or six days to pen those first drafts.
You do the math. How many novellas could I write in a year at this rate?
Except for drafting them is the easy part.
According to Warren, I need to plan an equal amount of time for rewriting, revising, editing and polishing. (So the 25,000 word novella will take 10 to 12 days to be ready for beta readers.)
Still, if I focused on writing only short fiction, I could realistically churn a novella out each month (as long as my editor and cover designer could match my pace).
Whew!
If people purchased these, and I was an indie author earning 70 percent of the sale price, I could make some money. Maybe even support myself solely by writing.
Of course, that’s a big IF.

And rather than dream about this possible paycheck, I’d better get back to writing.

What would you like me to blog about? What genre would you like me to write in? What advice or encouragement do you have for this bumbling author?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

When Bad Things Happen

It doesn’t take more than a minute of watching the news to be convinced that bad things happen every day. And most of the time, we’re accepting of this fact. Until the storm hits us.
In the case of my home state, fires are ravaging the scenic Columbia River Gorge. People I know have been displaced and might lose everything they own if the hungry flames aren’t stopped.


In the case of Texas, it was a hurricane named Harvey. That cruel man dumped a year’s worth of rain in a hour. Needless to say, things were swept away.


In the case of America, there have been shootings and attacks against innocents. This used to be the signature move of terrorists, but these days it seems anyone can get involved.


In every event, people affected by the fallout want to point a finger of blame.
Why is that? Will it make the bad things go away? If the guilty parties cough up whatever restitution deemed appropriate by the victims, will it change anything that has happened?
I’m a proponent of justice. Hello? Wonder Woman is an icon on this blog for a reason.


But sometimes unjust things happen and no one is to blame.
Can we truly blame the hurricane on someone?
Maybe those who ascribe to global warming will say these increasingly severe storms are in direct correlation with that.
I believe God is the Creator and Master of the universe. Does that mean he’s to blame for the severe weather and its damaging outcome?
But I try not to play the blame game.
Why?
Because it solves nothing.
It won’t reset the game table (our country, the planet) to pre-disaster condition. Nor will it put food, water and other necessities in the hands of the destitute.
Instead of pointing fingers, I go introspective.
I ask myself:

  1. What could I have done differently to change this outcome?
  2. What part did I play in this bad thing?
  3. If my bad decisions led to it, what did I learn from it?
  4. Who can I help overcome a similar bad thing?
  5. What is God trying to teach me during this difficult time?

Most of the time, this keeps me from wallowing too long in the slop called self pity.

But it doesn’t free me from making amends when the answers to the first two questions indicate I played a role in what happened.
And question four empowers me to use what I’ve learned to help other people.
When bad things happen, they hurt more when we face them alone.
When bad things happen, people probably can’t stop them or change them, but they can buoy up the ones suffering.
There’s been an ongoing “bad thing” happening in my personal world for many months. I’ve prayed about it. Ranted about it. Tried to stand up to it.

And it’s still happening.

Because I can’t change the minds of other people. I can’t force them to act according to my code of conduct or adhere to my moral standards and beliefs.
I’m not sure I’ve discovered what God is trying to teach me yet. But here are some things I’ve learned:

  • God is in control even when I don’t see it. Even when things are happening contrary to His perfect will
  • God’s love for me (and the people instigating the problems) is strong and secure
  • I have a spouse who will bolster me when I’m ready to quit and who needs me to do the same for him
  • Anything can become an idol, something worshiped above God, even a church

Life is filled with good and bad. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to people bent on evil and destruction.

The sun rises on the evil and on the good, and rain falls on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45 paraphrased).

And, Lord, we could really use some rain in Oregon. Although even that wonderful blessing won’t undo all the damage some illegal fireworks caused for so many in this state (and Washington since the fire jumped the mighty Columbia).
What bad things are happening in your world? How do you deal with bad things?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

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Why Tarzan is Still my Hero

Tarzan has been around since before black and white television had Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller portrayed the character whose legend has been recapped many times in movies and comics. Tarzan of the Apes was an all-human superhero (in the jungle at least).
Recently, my husband and I watched the 2016 remake called THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, and I was reminded of my childhood crush on this hero of the jungle.


Edgar Rice Burroughs breathed life into Tarzan in 1912 with a story in The All Story Magazine. In 1918, Hollywood produced the first of nearly three dozen movies (not including TV series) featuring this vine-swinging man who could talk to animals.
Weismuller stared in twelve of these films between 1932 and 1948, so it’s no wonder his name was the first to come to mind.
Even Walt Disney took a shot and animated a couple films featuring this well-loved hero (if the frequency of remakes and story lines is any clue). Millennials remember the music of Phil Collins more than anything else about those movies.
Regardless of the worldwide love affair with the loincloth clad man, I watched this latest movie and recalled several reasons why Tarzan is still a hero to me.

Overcoming Obstacles

Tarzan’s parents died when he was a baby. A female gorilla found and adopted him, but imagine being a human in the troop of gorillas led by a 500-pound alpha…who didn’t want you around.
His humanity would have made him weak among the powerful apes. He wouldn’t have the protection of fur against the elements and predators, nor would he have the strength and bone structure to travel with speed among the trees.
But humans are adaptable. In this newest movie, there was great care given to the changes in his hands and arms because he’d learned to be an ape before being human.
He would have been bullied, an outcast among the troop.
Talk about an underdog.
But his humanity made him curious about the other animals, and he befriended them. Yes, even learning to communicate with them. We all know about the Tarzan yell.

Standing for the Weak

Likely because he had been the weak one for much of his life, Tarzan champions the cause of those being targeted by stronger species. Whether it is his gorilla family or elephants being poached, he doesn’t accept senseless brutality.
As you know in my posts about Captain America and Wonder Woman, this, in my opinion, is the mark of a true hero. He has power but he uses it to help others.
In this movie, it’s the tribesmen who are being enslaved and the animals being poached that earn his protection. Of course, he intends to rescue Jane, but she’s as adamant about protecting their “families” as he is.

Adapting without Losing Character

One of the lines that stuck with me from this film happens near the dark moment. Tarzan has been “sold” to a tribe of natives. The chief of this tribe wants revenge because Tarzan killed his son many years ago (the son had killed Tarzan’s ape “mother”).
Tarzan defeats the chief and much of the armed tribe in hand-to-hand combat and hold a knife to the chief’s throat. They discuss this impasse.

The chief claims his son was just a boy and asks, “Where was your honor?”
Tarzan honestly replies, “I had none.”

He was raised by animals to be an animal. The argument of nature versus nurture comes into play. Was he little more than an ape when he carried out the retribution against the native? Or should he have had more scruples, as a man would (although a goodly number of the men in this film did NOT have any)?
He admitted his lack. He acted on instinct and out of pain and anger. Wasn’t the chief now doing the same thing? Where did this talk of honor come from then?
But as Tarzan learned to be human, he rejected those traits that didn’t mesh with his ingrained love for family. Gorillas are fiercely protective of both territory and troop members, and Tarzan learned this well.
When he met humans, they saved him. Then they tried to capture him and ruin his home. He learned not to trust them. That they would lie and steal and cheat. Were they really more “advanced” than the apes who raised him to survive in the jungle?


THE LEGEND OF TARZAN sends Tarzan and Jane back to the Congo at the request (so they believe) of the Dutch king, since Congo became a colony of the Dutch when all the Europeans finished warring over it in the late 1890s. Really it’s part of a plot to mine diamonds to pay the Dutch debt.
Samuel L. Jackson played an American fighting against slavery and offered plenty of comedic relief in the tense plot.
What do you love about Tarzan? Or who is a figure you saw a heroic in your childhood that doesn’t get much recognition these days?

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A Tale of Two Conferences: Comparison Ahead

Willamette Writer’s Conference and Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference are two local writer’s conferences. I attended Willamette Writers in 2014 and 2015. In 2015, I considered attending the OCW Conference instead, but I didn’t have much Christian nonfiction at the time, and that is what the majority of agents and editors were looking to buy.
In 2016, I didn’t attend the conference. I invested the money in an online Scrivener class, several online workshops and to hire a professional to help me find and streamline my brand.
This year, I had the God-given project weighing on me. I knew I wouldn’t get any peace until I consented to write the personal narrative heavy book on dealing with grief.
My brain reminded me about OCW Conference with one simple formula:

Nonfiction + Christian = What You’re Writing

Both conferences had value. Both helped me improve my craft and gain more confidence about my writing.

What’s The Same (Similar)

These two conferences are both for writers and publishing professionals. However, the sponsoring groups represent different segments of the author/publishing world.
Because OCW is an organization of and for Christian writers, the markets they speak to are limited to those publishers with the Christian Book Association. WW is a broader organization that would include Christian writers but not cater to them.
Many aspects were the same:

  • Pre-conference workshop with a publishing professional for an extra charge
  • Numerous sessions addressing various publishing topics
  • Agents and editors available to hear pitches
  • Advance manuscript critiquing services
  • Bookstore
  • Author book signings
  • An Awards program and ceremony

Let me mention that the pitches and critiques at WW Conference cost an additional fee. When I attended, it was $15 per pitching appointment and $40 for a manuscript critique.
The manuscript critique at WW Conference was more thorough and included a 15-minute appointment with the cirtiquer. The manuscript submission program at OCW Conference was presented more as a query and the responses didn’t include markup on every page, just an overview of what was good and what needed work. It might include a 15-minute appointment, at the critiquer’s discretion.

What’s Different

The biggest difference I noticed was the cost. The overall cost of these conferences is about the same. However, with OCW two lunches and two dinners are included in the price. All pitching appointments are also included. There is a $5 per submission handling fee for the manuscript submissions.
At WW, you pay additional for meals, or you plan to eat elsewhere.
Both of these include late night sessions, but I don’t recall feeling tempted to stay over at WW to attend the classes. Those sessions were exactly why I forked out $225 extra for a hotel room at OCW.
However, I sat with the OCW president during the awards dinner and found out a shocking truth. OCW doesn’t pass along the “sticker price” of the conference to conferees. If it did, it would be more expensive than WW.

Instead, they use the entrance fees from the writing contest to offset the difference.

Why would they do this? They don’t want to price the conference out of range for new or struggling writers.
I hope they appreciate it as much as I do. But still, it’s not good business sense. They could pull out the meals (make them extra) and that would make them break even.
The other big differences:

  • The friendliness of the attendees
  • The availability of presenters to answer questions and continue discussions after sessions
  • The 30-minute mentor appointment

Meeting with memoirist Bo Stern for thirty minutes was the second part of the conference that made all the emotional turmoil of rejections and introvert post-conference burnout endurable. She looked at my proposal. She answered every question I presented to her.
Most of all, she was compassionate when I broke down discussing the painful subject matter of my book.
I decided against pitching it to other agents because I knew I would break down again. I didn’t want any “pity requests.” Those would have raised my hopes further so they could be dashed more violently when the rejections came.
What other questions do you have about these two conferences? What else would you like to know about attending writer’s conferences?

My Overall Recommendation

I have to stay with my original assessment. Each conference is aimed at different audiences.
If you’re writing Christian nonfiction, OCW Conference is the place for you. There are workshops, mentors, editors and writers there to help you find your path to publication. If you have a book proposal, there are agents there who want you to pitch to them.
If you’re transitioning between genres, it’s best to look at the individual workshops being offered. Which ones will meet your current needs? Which ones offer information that crosses the boundaries between genres?

  • If you want to talk to professional writers without paying an exorbitant fee: OCW
  • You’re looking for a manuscript critique: OCW (unless your content is totally without Christian worldview)
  • You have general market fiction or nonfiction ready to shop to agents and editors: WW
  • You’d rather have short sessions on a variety of topics than a block of time devoted to a single thing: WW

Do you have specific questions about either conference? Have you attended either conference? If so, would you share your perspective on it?

 

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

In Memoriam: The Day When Everything Changed

As I prepared my blogs ahead of time, I came to 9/11. Monday is my regular posting day, and I had a post about writing ready to go. Then I typed the date.

And stopped.

Memories swamped me. Where I was. How I felt. How I needed to connect with my traveling husband, and the phone circuits didn’t work.
Even though it’s not a “special” anniversary this year, I recalled it all. I’ve never understood what makes one anniversary better than another. Twenty-five years is silver, and fifty years is golden.

Every year should be a celebration of the fact there is another year to celebrate.

Anniversaries of hard times aren’t celebrated at all. But they are marked on the calendars of our heart. Four years since Mom died. Eight years since Gram died. Five years since my friend moved away.

Today is that day.

A day loaded with melancholy and horror, grief and terror. On the flip side, it’s brightened by national pride and patriotism.

New York City skyline

In memoriam of This Day, I’m sharing an informal bit of poetry.

It Only Takes a Moment

One moment
Life is business as usual
Alarm clock and workout wear
Planning sack lunches
Checking the to-do list
Heading to the gym
Kickboxing and sweat
Another day in the life
Of a blessed American citizen

One moment later
Everything tilts sideways
Planes used as cannon balls
Sirens, smoking towers
People gaping, weeping
Unquenchable fires
No way to evacuate
This has to be special effects
But no, this moment is all too real

Only minutes later
Another plane crashes
The other tower flames
Too much horror
Not enough time
Rescuers become victims
Newscasters are speechless
Video gives awful detail
Life becomes a horror show

One hour later
Jumpers and screamers
A tower implodes
Thousands of innocents
Who woke up to normal
Sleep forever
No one escapes
Tragic terror
Every foundation rattles

Heroes step forth in this darkest of hours
Defined in their moment of sacrifice

One day later
Prayer vigils with candlelight
Fluttering flags at half-mast
Churches overflow
A nation of mourners
Stunned to silence
Awakened to need
God Bless America
News time sign-off

One week in slow motion
Weeping abates, anger stirs
Patriots stand, orders obeyed
Racial profiling
Fingers pointing
Vengeance and blame
Can justice prevail
To rebuild the ruins
Or repay the death toll

One new tomorrow
Greeted in gratitude
Forged in unity
Gained in freedom
Faded with time
Gone so soon
Forgotten in life
Until that one moment
When everything changes

Again


On September 11, 2001, I walked out of the gym after my kickboxing class at the fitness club. I glanced at the screen (they have TV monitors everywhere in those places) and wondered what movie trailer was playing.
Seriously. It was so horrifying, it had to be from a film.
In my car, the radio announcers explained the situation on the East Coast. Shock numbed me. Many hours later it sank in, devastated me.
The experience is beyond words, but maybe those I shared above touch a little bit of the significance of That Day When Everything Changed.
Where were you when you learned about the 9/11 terrorist attack?

Summer, Summer, Where Have You Gone?

Summer is my favorite season. Shortly after Christmas is past, I start wishing for warmer temperatures. Or at least sunny skies.
I have a cousin who would happily leave his Christmas tree up year-round. If there was a symbol for summer, I’d set that baby up and move it to more prominent positions as temperatures dropped.
Seriously. The only good thing about winter is Christmas. I learned that fact in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Narnia was cursed by the White Witch. How?

It was always winter, but never Christmas.

Ugh.
This entire year has sped by already but summer seemed in constant fast-forward. Can you believe this is the last day of the eighth month of 2017? Tomorrow is the ninth month.

Worst of all, the ninth month will bring the end of summer.

The weather man is predicting warm, sunny days for a few weeks still. But when the sun goes down, the heat goes away.
No more sitting out on the patio in the evening to chill. Unless you want to pull on warm socks, long pants and a sweatshirt. No more s’mores roasting.
Of course, it also means no more air-conditioned house 24/7. Once the temperature drops, you can switch the AC off and throw open the windows.
My husband has already started doing this.

Here’s a recap of my summer:

Writing like a whirlwind in Vancouver, BC


Querying agents at a brand new conference


Choosing a title for the nonfiction I was querying


Getting selected to write Christian romance in a new Kindle World


Installing a water feature in the back yard
Releasing the second book in my Virtual Match Romance series


Barbecuing with the family on the patio
Writing the Christian romance story


Meeting new writers to beta read this new genre
Attending Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference


Making writer friends at the conference


Enjoying a total eclipse of the sun with family

Must see what others posted on Social Media

Spending eclipse day with the birthday boy


A quick retreat at my sister’s beach house

Can you hear the shush? Smell the salinity?

Lots of reading in the evenings (but boy did my crocheting suffer)
It doesn’t seem like much when written in a list like this. But it filled three sunny months and made them whip by.
My favorite memory from this summer is that it didn’t rain. Only a couple of days were cloudy. After nine months of endless downpours, I needed this three-month reprieve.

Am I ready for the rainy season? Never.

What’s your favorite memory from this summer? Include a picture if my comment section allows it (or jet over to my FB page where you can surely post one in the comments on the post announcing this blog).

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

How Conferences Make you more Professional

Professionals attend conferences. One thing all conferences have in common is the availability of workshops so attendees can customize their experience.
Writing workshops will help you improve your craft , making your writing more publishable. Conference workshops can also enlighten you on the use and availability of helpful tools of the trade.
One of the things about the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference that appealed to me were the number and quality of the writing workshops (which were included in the tuition). For several years, I’ve wanted to attend these smaller, interactive classes, but the additional fee for them at other conferences (or the stand-alone tuition) made it an either/or proposition.
I can either attend the workshop for a day (or a few hours) OR I can attend several days of sessions at the conference.

The variety of the conference sessions always won.

But at OCW Conference, I didn’t have to choose. An eight-hour workshop came with the regular tuition for the event. The only thing I had to choose was WHICH one of the workshops would benefit me most at this time in my career.

The Choices

OCW Conference organizers called these “coaching classes.” The instructor becomes a coach. Check out the popularity of coaches in every area—life coach, fitness coach, writing coach, nutrition coach—and you’ll understand the high appeal of this concept.
These were the nine coaching classes available at this year’s conference:

  • Weaving Spiritual Themes into Fiction
  • Children’s/Young Adult Critique (yes, you brought pages which were shared with the class and coach and picked apart)
  • Writing Historical Fiction for Contemporary Readers
  • Destined for Glory: Crafting Your Protagonist and His/Her Inner Journey
  • Get Published Fast: The Art to Writing Great Articles
  • Imaginative Fiction Critique Class (yes, more sharing your manuscript and getting feedback)
  • Telling Your Story with Authenticity and Empathy
  • A Novel Career: for both indie and traditional authors at every stage in the writing journey

With such an incredible selection, you can imagine my struggle in choosing only ONE.

I considered the critique classes but decided I have enough published authors reading my manuscripts in the beta stage that my time would be better spent on something else.


Since I chose to pursue the nonfiction path with all the one hour sessions, I decided against taking the coaching class. Although, after meeting with that coach in my mentor session, I know it would have been profitable for me.

My Workshop

In the end, I asked myself: “Why am I going to this conference this year?”

The answer was three-fold:

  • To pitch my Christian projects
  • To learn more about writing and selling nonfiction
  • To further my writing career through networking and accrued knowledge

Susan May Warren is the author of more than 50 fiction novels. She was the coach for the “A Novel Career” workshop, and because I respected her writing and knew she had a career writing novels, I decided to let her impart some of that knowledge on to me.

It was the right choice.

It will take me months to work through all the information she covered attempted to cover during our eight hours together. Thankfully, she emailed all her slides to class members, so I’ll be able to look back at her presentation rather than trying to make sense of my notes.
Along with talking us through finding our brand and forming a writing plan, she stopped to answer any questions we had. On the first day, she filled a white board with all the things we told her we wanted to learn about in the class.
She covered all those subjects, too. If not thoroughly, she included the information in the mailer to us.
It would have been worth $550 just to take her class. Although I’m a frugal-minded author since my writing paychecks have yet to cover my writing expenses, so I doubt I would have understood that in advance. So I would have passed.
This single coaching class made the time and money invested in the conference an epic win for me.
I pray my writing career bears witness to that claim in this next year.
Do you think networking or knowledge is more essential in business? What’s the best class you’ve ever taken?

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Two Minutes of Darkness

 

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Did I drop gray-lenses glasses over my eyes? That’s what it looked like at ten this morning when the moon cast the sun in its shadow.

Yes, my home was near the path of “totality” in Oregon. Since today is my son’s birthday, we headed south to his house into the path of totality.

Two minutes of darkness on a bright sunny day must have sent people in the Middle Ages into a frenzy. (Maybe that’s why they called it the Dark Ages? Okay, I’m being sarcastic. I understand what made those “dark” times.)

The Setup

After I made a delicious birthday breakfast of French toast and bacon, we headed out into the sunlight. A golden ball shone from the crystalline aquamarine sky.

My husband had two camera rigged up. The rest of us were making bad puns, occasionally glimpsing through our “approved for eclipse” glasses.

The warning on the flimsy frames said I shouldn’t look at the sun for more than three minutes at a time.

Someone suggested an eclipse playlist. Of course, Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” made the top of the chart. I quoted “You’re so Vain” because a local station played it yesterday, so it was fresh in my mind.

We made plenty of suppositions about how many human sacrifices the Aztecs fed to their volcanoes during the two-minutes of darkness during their hey day.

The shadows reflect the crescent shape of the sun behind the moon

And of course, I wondered what might happen if your shift to “werewolf” was tied to the solar eclipse rather than a full moon. In fact, we decided an Ocelot-shifter might be a better choice. Something that loved the sun but went into hunter mode when the sun set.

Look for that story in the near future.

The Reaction

After the Chiquita banana stage, I glimpsed through my special spectacles more frequently. Soon a bare cuticle of a thumbnail of sun could be seen.

The glasses came off and the midnight sky turned granite as the sun-powered corona transformed the mid-day-night-like sky.

Whoops rose in the air. Neighbors ignited fireworks (apparently, in Woodburn, OR, any time is a great time for fireworks). Crickets sang their songs.

It was a glorious view. Amazing. Awe-inspiring.

And story-inspiring for my author brain.

Faces were ringed with joyous smiles. Eyes sparked, lit with an inner fiery star.

Afterward

 

My daughter hightailed it to her job. Sadly, everyone had the same idea.

Traffic slowed. Suddenly, freeway travel between the Oregon state capital to the largest city in the state looks strangely like a day in Los Angeles.

Ugh.

Thankfully, my husband was telecommuting. And there’s internet at my son’s house (or the home of his second parents where we enjoyed the total eclipse of the sun outside by their gazebo) for me to do a little writing.

These pictures don’t do it justice. Once I can get to my computer and my husband can download his GoPro footage and his speedy-lens still photos, I’ll share the cream of the crop with you.

If you were in the path of totality, what was your experience? When have you been awed by two minutes (or less)? Continue reading “Two Minutes of Darkness”

A Different Way of Pitching

One of the biggest reasons to attend a writing conference is to pitch your writing projects to prospective agents, editors or publishers. Pitching face-to-face makes even the most experienced author feel queasy.
Check out my posts on crafting a winning pitch and my actual pitching experiences.
One thing that I liked about OCW Conference was the opportunity to pitch three projects (or one project to three different people) in advance. Three pitches were included in the price of the conference (rather than being an add-on as at every other conference I attended).


This advance pitching was nothing more than querying these agents or editors.

And what writer doesn’t need more practice creating a query that sells?

As soon as I registered for the conference, I scoped out the conference website for details on agents, editors and publishers who would be accepting pitches. Most of the time, this included clicking through to individual websites to discover all the necessary information.
This conference had a page for agents and one for editors that were accepting advance queriers. Which one sounded like a fit for my memoir project? Did any of them seem right for the women’s fiction novel I also wanted to shop at the conference?
In the end, I chose two agents to query about the memoir and an editor who might be interested in my fiction project.
The process looked the same for all of them:

  • Craft a query letter (specific requirements listed on the conference page)
  • Write a compelling single-page synopsis (so simple to boil a 75,000-word novel into one page)
  • Include ten pages of the manuscript.
  • Put each query in a manila envelope addressed to the chosen individual
  • Mail all of them in a larger envelope with a check for a $5 per submission handling fee

And then the waiting began. I sent the pages off nine weeks prior to the conference. Within a week, I had a confirmation email from the manuscript coordinator. A few days later, I received another email informing me that TWO of the people I’d queried wanted electronic submissions.

Image from www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

So I had to convert my files to PDFs and send them along.

And the waiting continued.

On the first full conference day, I will be able to pick these queries up. I can expect some notes from the agent/editor on the letters or manuscript pages.

If they’re interested, there will be an appointment card included with my manuscripts. (Really praying for THREE appointments.) At those meetings, we’ll discuss the project during the pitching sessions.

If they aren’t interested, I shouldn’t try to sell them the same project during the conference. But I can approach other buyers about the projects, if I want.

In the world of querying, nine weeks is an average waiting period for a response to a query. Many agencies won’t even respond if they aren’t interested (which feels rude to me), but most ask for 90 days to decide.
Generally, the more quickly a response is received, the more likely it is a “no thank you,” or “not for us” and “good luck with this.” In short: generic form rejections.

So with less than a week until I find out the fate of my queries, I’m perfecting my in-person pitches for these projects. I’m printing out copies of the sales sheet on Through the Valley of Shadows.

And I’m trying not to think about what these three individuals have to say about my project. Also, I’m imagining a scenario that would include one of these publishing professionals to show up at a meeting with a contract in hand.

After all, I’m a writer. I imagine outlandish things on a daily basis. Why not dream big for my writing career?

Why I’m Glad I’m Not a Kid: Part Four

Media and conversations continue to remind me how relieved I am NOT to be a kid these days. It’s like kids are expected to come from the womb knowing exactly who they are and what they want from life.

If you read my other posts in this series, you might recall that I wanted to be a secret agent at one point. Oh, and if I didn’t wish to be a horse, I pretended to be a boy. All of this to say school isn’t about learning the basics anymore.

Recently, I realized that I had another advantage over kids these days. Of course, movies and journalists will claim it means I was brainwashed, but I was expected to adhere to a specific set of rules. And my mother took me to the church she believed taught the right things.

So Many Beliefs

Our world is diverse in so many ways. There are different races and religions. People choose political affiliation.

Cultures stress family units or individual achievement. Books are written about things as vague as basketweaving to the ridiculous notion of a zombie apocalypse.

Who’s to say what’s right or wrong?

Well, in the world of what I want to believe, I get to decide what is right for me. And, as a parent, I’m responsible for teaching my child the difference between right behavior and wrong behavior.
How did any of us survive with our mothers feeding us cow’s mile in our bottles? Everyone knows babies can process all those harsh proteins. They need their mother’s milk or expensive formula.
But we did survive. Our parents fed us what they ate.
Medical research has since declared cow’s milk “unhealthy” for infants. But did babies die from drinking it back in the day when people didn’t know better?
Maybe. Most likely they developed some form of allergic reaction. Even I was allergic to the fat in milk. It made my skin bubble up and itch.
All this to say that no person can teach their child every different belief system. In fact, they should give due diligence to being consistent living their own beliefs and explaining them to their children.
This whole “We don’t take our kid to church because we want them to choose their own beliefs” mentality confuses me. Introducing your children to what you believe is choosing to believe it for them?
I think not. You’ll put the Crest toothpaste on the counter in the bathroom and watch them brush their teeth twice per day. Why Crest? Is it really better than Colgate or Aquafresh or the store brand?
How can you force your toothpaste choice on your child?
Even more to the point, why do you make them brush their teeth anyway? What if they believe bad breath is better?

Pressure to Conform

Children will face pressure to conform.
If the parents don’t give them a baseline of acceptable responses (based on their own worldviews and societal standards), they’re setting their child up to fall in with the loudest voice.
For a few years, parents can be the only voice a child hears. And believe me, they will choose to ignore that voice plenty of times. Hopefully there will be consequences when they do.
Fair and consistent outcomes won’t happen very often in the larger world, but parents can make sure they happen in their child’s pre-school world. Why wouldn’t you take the opportunity to do it?
Because you’re brainwashing your child to be a Christian or a person who bathes or someone who eats three balanced meals per day?
As soon as they begin interacting with other kids, the pressure is on. Eventually, they’ll want different toys, different clothes, and different opportunities.
Do they really need these things to become a well-rounded individual?
Or if they conform to these expectations, are they being brainwashed by larger society to believe and act a certain way?

Freedom to Choose

God created humans to have free will.
Every person should have freedom to choose for themselves. God said so. He set the universe in place on that truth.

But if there is a choice, there is a right one and a wrong one.

Just because being a doctor is right for some people, it’s wrong for me. I don’t like to listen to a sick person’s list of complaints. I don’t want to go to school for a decade and be exposed to every bodily fluid.

But that doesn’t mean being a doctor is wrong. We need conscientious doctors who care about the physical and emotional well-being of people.

I wouldn’t be that doctor.

This is a case where the freedom to choose will give individuals unique outcomes. What’s right for one isn’t right for all.

However, children need to eat protein and vitamins. If they don’t, their brains and bodies won’t grow to optimum potential.

And fortified cereal isn’t the same as fresh fruit and organic eggs. Even if all the nutrients are the same, we know the foods aren’t equal. One choice is healthier for the developing human than the other.

In this case, freedom to choose can have a negative outcome if you choose poorly. And there is a better, more healthy choice.

All choices aren’t created equal even if the right to make them is consistent across the board.

I’m glad my mother didn’t give me a choice. Even though it meant eating liver and butternut squash, I didn’t get to choose to have a bologna and cheese sandwich instead. It meant I had to pick up rocks, pull weeds and clean toilets, but I’m not afraid to work hard and I know how to take care of my yard, garden (ugh, or how to NOT have one) and home.

I wouldn’t have been able to make good choices about many things in my life when I was a kid. If I’m honest, I still make poor choices as a middle-aged adult woman.

Let’s face it the $5 lunch from Dairy Queen sound delicious. And so much easier to make than fresh fruit, plain yogurt and sliced red peppers. But which one is a healthier choice?