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Remember that sappy romance novel? Yeah, okay, so, two relevant points first:

  1. Apparently Hallmark makes books.
  2. Apparently for approximately one month only (until September 30) they are accepting unsolicited manuscripts.

You all know where this is going, don’t you? Yup. I found out about it around the end of August, and with the encouragement of my husband and best friend, am pursuing this opportunity. I technically officially finished editing the book on Sunday, and sent it to them for review, however, Hallmark has a minimum word count requirement of 75,000 and mine was at like 71,000. I got inspired last night and at like 5:30 AM this morning and wrote a couple more sections, so now I am at like 73,500, and am hoping my two faithful reviewers can tell me what parts seem to have gaps.

The GOAL is to get their edits next week, take the week to implement them, and then submit! In between this, of course, I have to come up with a synopsis, a query letter, write a paper for school, and keep up with readings and forum posts for school. But it’s possible, right? I’m a bit overwhelmed, but also kind of excited for reaching this new level of being a writer, even if it isn’t accepted.

Of course, in an attempt to write my first ever synopsis, I am following this article from Writer’s Digest that walks you through it, and according to them, the first thing you have to do is come up with one sentence that grabs attention and summarizes your book. I’ve written 23 so far, and have yet to find one I like. This does not bode well for the synopsis.

Also, I seem to be experiencing a level of bipolar. Times like yesterday and this morning, when I’m internally like, “I love this book! This is the best sappy romance ever! Look at this sappy sentence!” and then this afternoon when my heart sinks into my stomach and I’m like, “This is the worst book ever. No one would ever read this. I can’t even write a synopsis for it. Why I am trying.”

What a delightful cycle, and one, I suppose, I must get used to if I am to ever get published? Or really, just being a writer.

cycleofwoe

I thought it might be time for a tiny little excerpt from my book. You know, just to change things up. This is while Josie is working from home Christmas week so she can working on a drawing commissioned by you-know-who.

It was a lovely, quiet existence that almost allowed Josie to forget she now lived in the city until a knock at the door that afternoon. Josie wiped her dough-sodden hands on her equally flour-covered apron as she hurried to answer it, casting a doleful look at the lump that was supposed to be cinnamon rolls. Her sorrows over the baking disaster were forgotten instantly as she pulled open the door and stared into the handsome face of Keith Richardson. Her mouth dropped open and she half wondered for a moment if she was hallucinating.

He smiled at her, politely not noticing the dough stuck on her nose. “Hello, Miss Grant.”

Nope, definitely not a mirage. That smile, smooth voice, and the responding thumping in her chest could not be faked. “Mr. – Mr. Richardson.” She stammered, trying in vain to push stray hairs back into her braid. “What are you doing here?”

“I was out this way for a client, passed a sign for Linhollow, and thought I might as well swing by and see how things were going.”

“It’s not ready yet.” Josie blurted, anxiety creasing her face. “But I’m working on it! I only took a break to make something for my mom, and – you know – to work – but I promise –“

“Whoa!” Keith held up a hand, almost laughing, but catching himself as he realized how in earnest her panic was. “I didn’t mean I was checking to see if you were working, Miss Grant. I seriously just wanted to see how it was going.” He dropped his hand to adjust the checkered scarf that the wind had already broken lose from its hold. “And, I confess, I was curious to see the farm the drawing will be based on.” He added as he looked around at the softly falling snow. “Though, now, that I think about it, I’m guessing winter isn’t the best time to see what a farm looks like?”

Josie actually managed a smile. “That depends on your point of view. Personally, I love it in the winter- but for a picture of summertime? No, probably not. You can still see some of the landscape, though.” She added quickly, as if afraid he would de-commission the painting based on her comment, motioning across the yard with just enough of a flourish that a stubborn piece of dough flew from her hand onto his Dolce and Gabbana coat. Her hand flew to her mouth and Keith looked down, ostensibly to wipe the dough off, but truthfully to school his features before he gave away the fact that her mouth was now also covered in flour.

 

Book Giveaway Sources!

Okay, so, things that have happened since last I wrote:

  1. My computer broke
  2. Finished my final paper for my class
  3. Spent the weekend in Lancaster with my friend Ashley
  4. Bought a new computer!

In essence the last couple weeks of the month consisted of being stressed, trying to get my paper done, and getting a new computer. But, as partly a stress reliever, I have also discovered book giveaways!

First things first – Daniel and I decided with how much I use my computer, we couldn’t afford to skimp so we bought a nice one – I got the Microsoft Surface Pro, complete with a smart pen that lets me hand-write on it if I want, and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT! It is tiny and portable and has a detachable keyboard, and can be a tablet, and has a long battery life, and is super fast, and the keyboard is SO easy to type on and, well, I am sorry, old computer – but you have definitely been replaced. I thought it would be hard to get over my old computer, because I loved it so, but new computer (who has yet to be named – maybe Jeeves because it makes my life so easy?) is making the break-up a breeze.

And now that I’ve basically told you all to go buy new computers, let me tell you about these giveaways. So, it all started with my friend Rissa, and was enhanced by that writer’s conference I went to. Rissa told us all about how she enters goodreads giveaways as part of her morning routine (best routine EVER), and so of course we all had to start entering them too. I had entered goodreads giveaways off and on in the past but never kept up with it because, really, how likely is it that you, out of all the thousands entering, are going to be the one to win? Turns out, if you enter a lot, you have a fair chance, since Riss said she had won more than once and, since entering regularly, I even won one! So, start with that, and then add in the writer’s conference.

One of the speakers at the writer’s conference said that, as writers, we had to be on twitter and we had to follow publishers and authors so we could be in the loop with all-things-writing-and-publishing. So, I obeyed. It honestly had not occurred to me before – I thought of twitter as a political/friend thing, not a potential networking opp – but BEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE (other than buy this computer). I see all the new books coming out, all the tips, all the contests and, what has turned out to be most helpful, SO MANY BOOK GIVEAWAYS! Now, in full disclosure, I am mostly following just Christian publishers and authors since that is my genre. But did you know there are blogs that host giveaways like, almost daily? Because I love you all, I am going to let you become competition, and post the sites/people below. For the record, I’ve won two books in the last month from these giveaways.

  1. https://justreadtours.com/
    • these people are pretty cool. They post stuff all the time on instagram, twitter, and their website, and their giveaways often come with other stuff along with a free book.
  2. https://www.prismbooktours.com/
    • Great interviews, and, like the previous one, often gives things away in addition to the free book (like gift cards).
  3. https://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com/
    • This blogger/author hosts contests on her blog a lot! and because it requires a comment on the blog to entire most of the time, the competition isn’t as stiff as some other places. Plus she always has great descriptions of the book and author to go along with it! Both nonfiction and fiction books!
  4. https://www.instagram.com/suziewaltner/
    • This instagrammer lets you know about all the recent giveaways!

Beyond the giveaways though, seriously, make sure you are following publishers and editors and authors on twitter and instagram – it’s amazing to see how inspirational it is to see constant contact from the community you want to call your own!

Publisher to book writer holding up 'Get on Oprah' sign: 'So that's the extent of your marketing plan?'

Overall, I’ve had a rather stressful week and a half (for a taste of last week, see my latest post on The Writers of Ingleside). But last weekend was delightful. Daniel and I celebrated our anniversary late, and went to Winchester for the weekend, which included apple, peach, and blackberry picking, as well as a nice dinner at one of those places where they cook it in front of you, a night at a hotel, and a trip to a very unique winery (focus was on elderberry!). We didn’t even THINK about school. But, come Monday, along with all the normal work stresses, and I was just hit with an overwhelming tide of a sense of failure all over – every single thing I was stressed about and needed to do or hadn’t done just kept pummeling my brain over and over again. And, on top of that, my laptop stopped working on Friday (Saturday?).

So this week I have not been particularly happy, and this morning was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I opened my pantry door, and a broken shelf allowed a bottle of liquid Chlorophyll to drop out and splattered all over the dining room, partially into the living room, partially into the kitchen, and on top of me for good measure. Add to that a very limited amount of sleep, and the thoughts that had been bombarding me all week so far, and – let’s just say it was a very rough morning, and I had a very bad attitude all the way up until about . . .like half an hour ago, when God sent a devotional my way (designed as though it is a letter from God), that literally said, “When My people wear sour faces and walk through their lives with resigned rigidity, I am displeased. . . The more you focus on My Presence with you, the more fully you can enjoy life.”

So, I sat down, and I said, Okay, fine. but I don’t know what to do. The turmoil inside of me is too  great. What should I do? So, long story short(ish), He told me to make a list of literally everything that was stressing and worrying me. Once I had completed that, He told me to write next to it what the lie was behind that stress. That in itself was enlightening. Then He told me to write the truth next to the lie. It was actually a pretty incredible exercise, and by the time I finished, all the turmoil inside of me was gone, and I feel – almost peaceful. So, I am sharing my (extremely long) list below for anyone who cares to see. Don’t feel like you need to read it. It’s just an example of how many lies I was allowing to affect my attitude and my days, and I wasn’t even aware of it. (You may notice a theme. Hint: Failure. I guess that’s an Enneagram 1 for you.)

Stress List Lies I am telling myself Truth
My knee still hurts/creaking God cannot/will not heal me He can heal me, and even if He chooses not to in this lifetime, it will not negatively impact my life unless I let it. In addition, I can do more to assist the healing process by doing the exercises I am supposed to.
Elbow still hurts/fingers going numb God cannot/will not heal me He can heal me, and even if He chooses not to in this lifetime, it will not negatively impact my life unless I let it. In addition, I can do more to assist the healing process by doing the exercises I am supposed to.
Ongoing cold sore/canker sore They will never go away They will be gone within a week, and are just a temporary sign of too much stress and not enough sleep
Writing my final paper for class I cannot do it It will be hard work, but I can and will do it, and I know I can write on time. It just takes discipline.
Visiting friends They will not like me We will not cease being friends even if I am boring
Three briefings at end of month I will do a bad job I know metrics no one else does, which is why they ask for briefings. I will provide value, even if I stumble over my words.
My house is a wreck I am a failure as a housekeeper/wife The house was clean on Monday, and other priorities prevented me from cleaning it yesterday, but it will only take about a half hour to clean again when I am able to make it a priority.
Haven’t lost weight in a long time I am a failure at discipline I have worked out on a regular basis for over a month and even if I could decrease my calories, being healthy is better. In addition, saving time to dedicate to school has to take priority right now, which may mean less healthy foods for a time. I have chosen to be disciplined in working out right now instead of food.
Haven’t been writing lately I am a failure as a writer Taking a week off of writing does not mean I am not a writer. It means I had other priorities. And also it means my laptop has been broken.
Haven’t written or submitted short story to contest I’ve known about for months I cannot write a short story worthy of submission If my short story is not accepted, that does not mean I am a bad writer; trying is better than assuming failure.
Haven’t made a chiropractor appointment I am a failure at scheduling Other things have been a priority, like spending the weekend with my husband, a night with friends, and catching up on work after being on a business trip. It has only been a week since I cancelled my last appointment. Waiting a week or so to reschedule is perfectly normal.
Don’t have enough PTO for all my days off There are too many expectations placed on me I have chosen to take that much PTO and it is my responsibility to make sure I am able to meet both work and personal commitments. In addition, my work is usually willing to work with me, and will allow me to go negative if necessary. I should allow myself to look forward to the PTO instead of stressing over it.
Work phone is not working properly I must have my work phone to work properly I am using it as an excuse not to work more efficiently. My mobile work phone is just as usable.
Doing this week’s forum post I can’t do that and the paper too The forum post takes one night of concentrated effort. If that screws up my ability to write a paper, then I have bigger issues.
Didn’t get to go to county fair I never have time for fun stuff because of school I just had an amazing weekend away, have great weekends planned ahead, and giving up ONE SINGLE THING I wanted to do in order to work on my Master’s degree is probably worth the sacrifice.
Need to bake with fruit before it goes bad I don’t have time to do everything I need to do. I need to establish my priorities. Baking will take one night or part of a day on a weekend. Not worth stressing about. On the contrary, it will likely be a nice break from school
Responding to friends, esp. friends’ requests I am a bad friend I need to establish priorities. Friends understand when I am on travel and doing school, and if I cannot meet requests, all I need to do is let them know I haven’t forgotten and choose which day it should be a priority.
Never enough time for devotions/prayer time I am a failure as Christian I just need to establish my priorities. I have not made it a priority because I think God will understand if I push Him off in favor of things like school. I need to reassess my attitude.
Never enough time to read writing books and/or do writing exercises I am a failure as a writer Right now may not be the best time in my life to do writing books and writing exercises. I have chosen to do a master’s course, therefore it is a higher priority. It is likely more important to do actual writing than to read about it at this point. I can still be a writer without reading books about it.
Spending money wisely I am not being disciplined enough because I am spending a lot of money this fall on fun things As long as I am not overspending my income, God does not mind if I use some of the money He’s given me to do fun things with my friends or my husband.
Disorganized desk I am a failure on an individual level I do not use my desk on a regular basis and therefore it does not need to be organized at all times.
Disorganized in general in all of life I am a failure as a person I have competing priorities right now, and need to take time to pray over them to determine which should be higher priority. Having to work through that is perfectly normal and does not mean I have failed.

 

Character Issues

Over the last week, I’ve been far more faithful than I have in awhile to work on my book. As anyone who has been reading this for longer than a few months knows, I’ve been [painfully] trying to edit my sappy romance novel (it’s technically named God’s Masterpiece – but I don’t think I like it. It doesn’t work. I’ve rarely had so much trouble with a title before).

I really do think this revision will make it better – and by re-writing that one scene by hand and then transcribing it BACK to the word document, I’ve rewritten it like three times – but even now as I am typing it back in (and consequently editing it again), I keep thinking it isn’t right. But then, isn’t that what all writers think? It will never be ready?

You know, I am probably the person that is actually true for, unlike others. 😛

But, as I mentioned very, very briefly in a recent tweet – here’s my current issue: So, Josie is supposed to be quiet and shy and pretty awkward until someone gets to know her (yes, basically exactly like me). But at the same time, she is more confident when she is on her own turf (a.k.a., her home) – and i know this is accurate, because it is exactly how I am. But when trying to translate that to a book, I feel like it comes out, 1. like she is inconsistent character-wise and 2. Like she is annoyingly awkward and can’t stop blushing, which no one likes to read about.

So, that is what I’m trying to work through right now. How to make a heroine that is awkward, without being annoying and still at least a little endearing, shy and uncomfortable, but able to hold her own especially on her own turf, caring, but still gets impatient with her very sick mother (who, by the way is a conundrum herself, since she has cancer, is weak and sick, yet never stops talking and nags part of the time and is loving the other part of the time).

Characters. They drive me up a wall sometimes. Kind of like real people. In which case, maybe it’s okay?

And – that’s my ramble for today.

Writing_Problems_from_Writers_Write

I know it’s been awhile. But a lot has been happening. Allow me to update you (because I know you are all completely fascinated by my life).

  1. I got to spend a WHOLE FIVE DAYS with my Gibson Girl friends! We weren’t all always there at the same time, but for the most part we got to catch up on a lot, and it was so much fun. We watched movies, and read books, and went for walks, and talked or didn’t talk as we pleased, and did nails, and in general just got girl time in, which was sooo overdue. Speaking of which, we also all decided it was time to run a joint blog with random life updates, so feel free to head over to inglesidewriters.home.blog – come on, you know you want to listen to a bunch of girls ramble about their lives!! For you Anne of Green Gable lovers, yes we stole Ingleside from Anne.
  2. I FINALLY signed up for another course for my master’s degree. After the one last August, Daniel and I basically had PTSD, and it took us this long (and the holidays) to determine we were ready to give it another go. Okay, AND I switched jobs, so we were also waiting for my benefits to fully kick in so they would pay for it. Which is reasonable. While still keeping us fairly tied up, we are enjoying this one a lot more – it is on Strategic Intelligence, was which our major in college, so needless to say, it is far more interesting than the research one last time.
  3. I went to MY FIRST REAL WRITER’S CONFERENCE! And when I say my first real one, I mean I did go to the sort-of one a couple years ago, but this one was actually focused completely and absolutely on improving your writing and submitting to a publisher. Since my lunch break is about up, I’ll leave you with the quote that most impressed me from Chuck Sambuchino about writing every day: “You need to stop doing something you like, so that you can do something you love.”

Copy-of-Write-every-day-promo-thumbnail-940x705

(http://www.hannahbraime.com/create-daily-writing-habit/)

As already stated, I think the main culprits for lack of time/busyness/overwhelm is mostly phone addiction and trying to live up to certain expectations. So why don’t I just – you know – put my phone down more, and do less stuff?

Well, I’m going to go back to something that more than one person has put forward as a theory, and is a little controversial – I think because it hurts feelings – but I think goes down to the heart of the issue, at least for me. The proposed theory is that, ultimately, we are all too busy because we need to look important. And I rolled my eyes at that at first. But the more times I heard it, the more it niggled at me (YES, that’s a real word!). So many things I do – hobbies, keeping up with people, trying to know what’s on the news 24/7 – there is no doubt a lot of that does have to do with actual desire to know and enjoyment – but – I began to realize a lot of it actually is based on the desire to shape others’ perception of me – kind of like my perfection issue I posted about a while back.

I had a moment just the other night where the statements I just made in the previous paragraph came to life. I was out shopping with a friend – she had been in a wedding the weekend before, and I had been invited to the wedding, but declined. Now, I feel my decline was legitimate – I’d been to two different states in just the previous week and a half and this would have involved a third, and it was one of the first weekends yet this year where I wasn’t preparing for visitors or something – but I still felt kind of bad for declining because, technically, I could have done it. I would just have had to postpone my dentist appointment and be willing to pay for a hotel – it was a drivable distance, so no flight.

So, as I explained again, probably needlessly, to my friend why I hadn’t gone, I found myself struggling to come up with verbiage to sound busy. I had an appointment, plus a church thing the night before – it was just all so busy. Yup, literally the words I used. And as I spoke them, I realized exactly what I was doing. I was using the word busy to make it seem like I just had so much going on I couldn’t handle another thing, when in actuality, I just needed a break. And yes, I did end up having a lot going on that day – I went to my appointment, then we met a couple for lunch, and went shopping for my wardrobe refresh, plus church on Sunday, and more shopping – I got home pretty late both nights – so it isn’t like I was sitting at home. But you know what? All those things I did? They were my choice. I had chosen to do those things instead of 1. Go to the wedding and 2. Stay home and rest. It wasn’t that I was “too busy” to go – it was that I had chosen to do other things instead.

And, it further occurred to me that it was both dishonest and self-focusing to boil it down to “It is just so busy.” Yes, I had all those epiphanies in a matter of a few awkward seconds of quiet. So, I corrected myself. “I take it back – it wasn’t busy. It was just pure laziness – I didn’t feel like going.” And you know what? She didn’t yell at me, and I don’t think she even judged me. And I felt like I was actually being honest not just with her, but with myself. It felt like a major breakthrough to be able to verbally say I wasn’t busy – I had just chosen to do something else. I also immediately started judging myself for being too lazy and thinking of all the different things I should have, could have, would have. But you know – I think that was actually really important – for me to realize in my journey toward not feeling so “busy” that what I chose that weekend was actually a choice and I was out doing things of my choice that, yes, involved me being out all day – but wasn’t just busy for the sake of busy. I don’t know – I feel like I’m not explaining this super well.

I guess what I think I’m trying to get at is – due to social media, work, and perfectionism, I expect a lot from myself, I want to prove myself to both myself and others, and I fear others’ opinions. I get overwhelmed and busy because I am always trying to live up to those expectations and because I feel like there is a modern expectation to be busy – have you spoken to anyone in the last decade who didn’t respond with “busy” when asked how they were? – which I think is fueled both by the desire to hold up to unrealistic standards and so I don’t feel less important than someone else who is talking about everything they are doing. I add to my own business by constantly trying to get the best deals and therefore heaping “shadow work” on myself, and try to combat all the constant pressure and decision fatigue by mindlessly scrolling through my phone so I don’t have to think about it too deeply – which, ironically, also adds to my own perception of being too busy.

If I want to redeem my own time I think I need to reshape the way I think and act. So, here are my goals (because you all know I am a list person):

  1. Be willing to be second best at work – do my best as a Christian without having to be the person people always come to for help (because, yes, I do struggle with that desire)
  2. Be willing to accept “good enough” decisions on things like travel, and online shopping, and things like that so I don’t spend hours researching those things and become exhausted making all those decisions.
  3. Be willing to miss out on some things – don’t constantly check my phone, e-mail, or social media for missed calls, texts, posts, updated news, and other things that eat away at my time, energy, and self-confidence.
  4. Purposefully take time away from my phone and other electronics to pursue my old loves (reading, writing, etc.). Set the phone down when with friends and family – including when watching movies with them.
  5. Stop myself from saying the word “busy” and instead recount what I am actually doing with my life when asked to acknowledge that the things I am doing are my choices and not the choice of some mythical “busy” being.

I have high hopes for the future, guys! Thanks for listening while I talk through all my issues, and please pray for me as I work to redeem my time.

redeem-the-time-post