End of the semester reflections

To quote Albus Dumbledore, “Another year…gone.” Only in this case it’s a semester. I took my usual three classes and managed to swing “A”s in all. (Thank God.)

Intermediate Fiction was by far the most challenging because the teacher had us writing a new short story every month. It tested my creativity, forced me to think outside the box. But I’m thankful for this because it yielded some surprisingly good results, with “Entering the Deep” and “To Kill a Vampire” especially. My teacher also had us students giving each other detailed feedback on our stories. There was a form with questions we had to fill out, which made us stop to think about what we just read. I’m not the greatest when it comes to critiquing. I read books for enjoyment, not with the intent to break them down or analyze them. And short stories have never been my cup of tea, mostly because they lack that character development and fluff of a full blown novel (which I love so much). So giving good feedback was also a challenge for me. But, once again, I’m thankful for this. It helped me develop good critiquing skills.

Planning and Structuring the Novel was great. As the title might suggest, we students were given the opportunity to submit excerpts from our current works in progress to receive constructive criticism from classmates and our instructor. This kind of feedback wasn’t as specific as the feedback I received for my short stories, but I was made aware of some important plot issues with “The Andromeda’s Ghost.” (This is a science-fiction novel I’ve been working on. I’ve posted an excerpt or two on the blog in the past.) This novel is my first attempt at science-fiction so it was great to hear that I was doing a good job so far. My instructor’s thoughts especially were helpful. There’s just something about working alongside an impartial adult, who has studied writing and literature, and genuinely likes your work…I’m going to miss discussing my story with that man.

My Portfolio class was filled with more feedback. I basically submitted all of the short stories I was thinking about putting in my portfolio and the teacher, the Director of the Creative Writing Program, gave me his thoughts. In order to get my Certificate of Completion for the Creative Writing Program at Phoenix College, I have to submit a portfolio with 12-15 pages of original work from two different genres, a letter of intent stating my writing goals, and a letter of recommendation from a teacher. I was asked to provide three copies of this, so I can only assume that the director of the program and two mystery people will be reading my work and making the final decision.

Naturally, I agonized over which stories to submit. The three stories I wrote this semester are my favorites out of my little stack of shorts, but they’re all at least 12 pages long, maybe more. I’d only be able to include one. I’ve written a few poems but I didn’t feel confident turning in any of those. (Although, now that I think about it, I could’ve totally turned in my prose poem about public speaking! Dang it! Oh, well…) In the end, I went with a horror story I wrote last semester and the mermaid story I wrote more recently. Combined, they fell within the page limit so it worked out. For better or worse, I’ve mailed it in. Now all I can do is wait.

I’m not technically done with the program yet. I have one more reading class I have to take, but it’s not available until the summer of 2018. I emailed the director of the program, thinking I’d have to wait to turn in my portfolio. He said I didn’t have to wait. He seemed to think I had a shot at that certificate, which was encouraging to hear.

So my schooling is pretty much over. I’ll be going back for that one class in the summer, but then I’ll be done! [insert girlish shriek of excitement here]

I still don’t know if I want to get a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing. A part of me thinks I won’t need it. Another part of me is terrified that I’ll totally flop as an author and I’ll need a backup plan. I do okay in school but it’s not something I want to do for the next four to eight years of my life. I want to be focusing on kids and my writing during that time. But life is…well…to quote Forrest Gump, “Life [is] like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get.” I could do really good as an author, really bad, or just mediocre. I want to be prepared for all of those outcomes. I want to have a plan. That’s who I am; a planner. So what will I do if, by this time next year, I can’t make a living off my writing? Do I keep at it? Do I get my Bachelor’s and try to get a job at a publishing company? Do I pick another major?

The thing is, I can’t think of anything else I’d want to study. Sure, for a while I thought it would be cool to be an interpreter. I enjoyed learning American Sign Language and all about the deaf community. But when my job conflicted with the scheduling of the interpreter’s program at Phoenix College, I wasn’t devastated that I had to give it up. I would be devastated if I had to give up writing. But I love reading and writing. I feel like getting my Bachelor’s in Creative Writing will make me start to hate these things I love so much…

Uuuuuggggghhhhhh.

It takes effort to trust that everything is going to be fine so long as I do my best. It’s hard for me to be okay with the fact that I don’t have all the answers. It helps that I have a great, merciful God who doesn’t mind repeating that He has everything under control. It also helps that it’s Christmas time and I have family to distract me. Tonight, my husband and I will be flying to Wisconsin to spend the holiday with his mother and brothers. I’m so looking forward to seeing them and having my first white Christmas. Another semester is over. It’s time to celebrate. That’s what I need to be focusing on right now. After the holidays, I’ll be working on book promotion and finishing that science-fiction novel. What comes after that can be decided later.

If I don’t post anything else before the new year, let me just say Merry Christmas to you all. See you in 2018!

Concerning dirty dishes and interruptions

Quite unexpectedly, my husband and I found ourselves attending a marriage conference last Friday. My husband’s cousin and his wife just so happened to have extra tickets to the conference and invited us to go with them. We hadn’t seen them in a while, plus we’d never been to a marriage conference before, so we went. The four of us drove over to a church I’d heard about but had never actually attended. The large auditorium was full with several hundred people. After some announcements from the hosts and a short introduction, the speaker, a Dr. Randy Carlson, came on the stage.

His points and insights, although familiar, were good reminders of things married people can do to create a happier marriage. Saying ‘I love you’ every day, listening without interrupting, abandoning criticism, forgiving one another, using words of affirmation, and etc. He called them Love Habits. By the end of the hour and a half, he challenged us to pick one thing we could do for our spouses for thirty consecutive days. Stopping bad habits and creating entirely new ones can be daunting, but doing one thing is all it takes to start the process. Or at least, that’s what he said.

I sank in my seat when Dr. Carlson mentioned listening without interrupting, sure he was talking to me. It was just too coincidental that he would mention it days after my husband himself pointed out this bad habit of mine. I don’t interrupt to be malicious or to hog the spot light. Sometimes, as he speaks, ideas or opinions pop into my head and I verbalize them so that I don’t forget. Half the time, I don’t even realize I’m doing it. During one conversation, it got to the point where my husband just stopped talking. Once I was through with the point I wanted to add to the conversation, I turned to him expectantly, waiting for him to finish whatever he had been saying before. When he didn’t, I asked if there was anything wrong. He admitted he was frustrated with me and was trying to collect himself. Surprised, I asked him what I’d done to upset him.

“You kept interrupting me and I kept having to repeat myself,” he said. “I don’t like repeating myself so I’m just not going to.”

Feeling like a jerk, I apologized and promised to work on it.

After the marriage conference, I used my added guilt to make that committment. I was going to be a better listener. I was going to be more considerate of my husband and that was that.

Well, it’s been more of a challenge than I thought. I’ve found myself literally biting my lips to keep myself from interjecting. Worst of all is trying to really listen to what he’s saying while I’m trying to remember what it was I wanted to add. Who knew something so simple would be so difficult? I’ve messed up a couple times and spoken when I should’ve been listening, but my gracious husband has forgiven me every time. I’m happy to report that it is getting easier! I just have to keep focused.

My husband had been having some trouble thinking of one thing he could do for me. Not to brag or anything, but he’s pretty awesome and he does a lot of the things Dr. Carlson mentioned in the marriage conference. I cook every evening (with the exception of those rare mornings when I get up early and make dinner then or when we’re having lasagna and I can just leave a note for my husband to throw it in the oven an hour before I get home from work). But I also wash the dishes 99% of the time. I hate having a dirty kitchen. It immediately sucks the energy out of me when I come home from work to see a pile of dirty dishes on the counter. I finally expressed my frustrations to my husband, who gets home three hours before I do.

“I’m sorry, babe. I just don’t notice when the house is dirty,” he admitted. (Which is hilarious because he can spot a finger smudge on my car window from a mile away while I can go weeks, even months, at a time without washing my car.)

Men and women are different; I’ve seen evidence of this all my life. I never realized just how different they were until I got married. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I believe it’s perfect. We complete each other this way. But it’s so easy to allow those differences to drive us insane! I expect certain things from my husband because, to me, they’re obvious. I mean, why wouldn’t he notice the dishes? It’s the first thing I see!

It takes a lot of selfless love to be able to set our expectations aside and see someone for who they truly are, how they operate, how they think and feel. I’ve decided to let my expectations go, face reality, and try to see my husband for who he is, not necessarily who I want him to be.

My husband decided to make his one thing washing the dishes every day, even if there’s only a handful of plates in the sink. He doesn’t care about the state of the kitchen so long as there’s food in the fridge. But I’ve told him it bothers me, so he’ll do it for me. A whole week has gone by. My counters are clean. The sink is empty. The dish drainer is full. And I’m considerably less stressed. It’s amazing how something so small can make such a difference. I’m so thankful! I hope my one thing is making a difference in his life as well.

So, married folk, what’s your one thing going to be?

Public Speaking

She sits in a circle with her coworkers

An informal meeting has been called

It’s a time of sharing positive experiences

Encouraging one another

Reminding each other why they do the work that they do

She feels like a child among them

Awkward and shy

They are wiser, stronger, more courageous

More adult-like than she

She’s afraid to speak and betray her immaturity

So she listens and smiles and nods

She’s touched that they thought to include her

Touched that they thought her worthy

Even as she doubts it herself

Always she’s felt like an outsider looking in

Now she sits among them

Does she truly belong?

The voice of a childhood bully still whispers at the back of her mind

It joins the voice of Insecurity, chants the same lies

“You’ll never fit in. You don’t matter. Nothing you say is important.”

She has been told the truth

She is loved

She is appreciated

She is important

Still, she wrestles with these deprecating voices in her head

There is a lull in the conversation

An idea forms in her mind

Presses against the back of her throat

Turns into words

They cry out to her, begging for release

Heat rises around her neck

Spreads across either side of her face

 

Her mouth is very dry

Her heart pounds painfully against her chest

She swallows and opens her mouth

The words spill out, tumbling over each other

In their haste to escape

She can hardly hear them

There is only the powerful rush of blood in her ears

Coworkers nod and hmm in support or agreement

At last the deed is done

Her words, once captives, drift across the room and dissipate

She closes her mouth, forces herself to breathe evenly

Waits for the criticism

It doesn’t come from them but from within herself

“You should’ve spoken more slowly.”

“You should’ve raised your voice.”

“You shouldn’t have spoken at all.”

Despite the thoughts that cut deep

She is relieved, elated, overjoyed

Because they didn’t laugh

Her coworkers smile at her

As if what she said mattered

As if they’re glad she spoke

She smiles back because they can’t know what they’ve done

They can’t know how much this means to her

That they would listen

That they would care

She is so thankful

She wants to remember this feeling

Maybe, next time, she’ll speak again

My first book is live

I Dare You to Love Me is officially on Amazon, available in ebook and paperback formats.

I’ve already held a copy of my own book in my hands. I’ve gotten texts from supportive friends and family who have purchased the book. People who signed up for ARCs through Inkitt’s website are already leaving reviews. I’ve even seen a promotional video about my book, made by the awesome people from Inkitt. (Thanks, Emma!) It still doesn’t feel quite real to me. This manuscript has been sitting in my USB drive for years. And now it’s finally come to life! I hope I never stop being amazed at this incredible answer to prayer, this amazing journey I’ve been on.

I can’t say thanks enough! My readers, supporters, publishing team, friends, and family: you’re all awesome!

One book down, many more to go!

A lesson on pride

“Adventure is out there,” my husband said Saturday morning, holding his fist out so that I could bump it with my own.

Despite his knee injury, my husband is going hunting next weekend. I’ve tried talking him out of it but to no avail. He’s been planning this trip with his cousin for months and nothing is going to keep him from going. (Unless, by some miracle, his surgery is scheduled before Friday). So Saturday was his prep day. He hobbled around the house, gathering all the supplies he would need on his trip. (“Babe, could you look for my brown and blue boots? I can’t find them anywhere.” “Have you checked the box labeled shoes in the guest room’s closet, love?” “What box?” “Never mind. I’ll go look…You mean these?” “Yeah! Where’d you find them?” “In the box labeled shoes in the guest room’s closet.” Lol.)

Next order of business was getting his rifle sighted in. Instead of paying to go to the shooting range, my husband figured we’d be able to find a secluded spot in the mountains somewhere to shoot for free. So we loaded the truck with his rifle, some targets, shooting earmuffs, and ammunition. After a pit stop at Sonic for Limeades, we turned up Pandora and then hit the road.

“It’s been a while since we’ve been on an adventure,” he said with a grin full of child-like excitement.

Three hours, three “No Target Shooting” signs, and a half a tank of gas later and the  excitement was replaced by annoyance.

“Sloppy shooters ruin it for everyone,” my husband grumbled as we pulled into the shooting range. “They take their old TVs and refrigerators and shoot them up in the wilderness, and then leave the pieces out there for rangers and boarder patrolmen to find. Maybe if they cleaned up after themselves, we wouldn’t have “No Shooting” signs all over the place.”

By happy coincidence, the shooting range was offering to sight in rifles for the upcoming hunting season. My husband had the opportunity to sit with two old timers who knew a heck of a lot more about guns than he did. They had a great conversation about hunting, gun cleaning and assembly.

“I thought they were going to be jerks at first,” he told me as we drove home about an hour later. “The guy told me I had the wrong set up for hunting, talked to me like I didn’t know anything. Turns out, I don’t know anything.” He chuckled. “It didn’t feel to good but I’m thankful we ended up at the shooting range. It was totally a God-thing. He knew I needed to talk to those old guys and get a pride check.”

“Well, hey,” I said, “at least you learned something new.”

“Yeah, but still…my ego’s bruised.”

I laughed. “Oh, I understand. Take it from someone who lives with you, a guy with much knowledge about things I can’t even begin to understand; it’s not easy to just smile and say, ‘Thank you. I didn’t know that.’ But it beats staying upset about it. Be humble, babe. Have a teachable spirit. You learned something new today and are better for it. Now you can pass on that new knowledge to someone else.”

It’s true that when we first got married, I’d get upset whenever he proved to be better at something or know more about something or have a better way of doing something than I did. He’d beat me at cards, prove one of my facts wrong, show me a quicker way to get to work in the morning so that I could avoid traffic, all with a good attitude and good intentions. I’d sit there simmering silently, feeling like a dumb loser, until I could let it go. It took time and God gently tapping on my heart, reminding me that I once admired this man for his skills and his knowledge. If I let my jealousy and inadequate feelings get the better of me, it would poison our marriage. So I worked on praising my husband instead of looking down on myself whenever he proved to be more knowledgeable than me.

I feel I’ve become a better person and a better wife for taking on this new attitude. On Saturday I was able to pass that little lesson on to my husband. It’s amazing how that works. We might not have had that conversation at all if it weren’t for those “No Target Shooting” signs, so I’m thankful for them.

A true account

Sunday, 7:45PM:

“All right, babe,” I say as we get ready for bed.

“Tomorrow we get back into our workout routine?” my husband assumes.

“You got it. We’ve slacked off for too long.”

Monday, 11:40AM:

‘So I hurt my knee at work today…’ he texts me.

Doesn’t sound too serious, I think. Maybe it’ll be all better by the time I get home.

Monday, 5:50PM:

“It hurts to walk,” he says as he plays Destiny 2. “I can’t put pressure on it.”

“What?” I gasp. “It’s that bad?”

“Yeah. My boss said to go to urgent care if it doesn’t feel better by tomorrow morning.”

“So how does this work? You’ll get up tomorrow at the same time you always do, get out of bed, and if you can’t stand, I take you to urgent care?”

“Sounds about right.”

I try to remain calm despite the ringing in my ears. “Okay.” As soon as my back is turned, I text everyone I know and ask them to pray.

Tuesday, 3:45AM:

The alarm goes off. I crack an eye open to watch him crawl out of bed. He tries to put weight on his injured knee and collapses back into the mattress with a groan.

Looks like we’re going to urgent care…

I throw the blanket off and hurry around the bed to help him.

Tuesday, 4:00AM:

“Can you grab my shoes?”

“Yes, love.”

“Oh, and a hat too, please?” His hair is so long and unruly; he’d rather cover it up than try to fix it.

You’re so cute. “All right. I’ll be back.”

“Don’t forget my wallet.”

“Yes, dear.”

“Oh, babe? Can you get some socks too?”

“Here you go.”

“Um…” He holds out the right sock. “Can you give me a hand?”

I suppress a smile as I bend down before his injured knee and carefully slide the sock over his foot. I can see myself doing this in the future, when he’s old and has arthritis or something. In sickness and in health…

“I’m sorry I’m such an invalid,” he says with a sheepish smile.

“Don’t worry about.” I’m supposed to take care of you, silly. I’m your wife.

“Your car is too low to the ground. I don’t think I could get in or out of it,” he says. “Are you going to be okay, driving my truck?”

The thought makes me nervous, but I say, “It should be fine.”

I sit in the driver’s seat, scooted all the way back to accommodate my six foot two hunk. I scoot it forward and adjust the mirrors. I’m tiny when compared to him. The key slides timidly into the ignition. With a roar, the truck comes alive and rolls out of the garage. It’s still dark outside.

“If you were the one injured, I could just carry you,” he murmurs, using me as a crutch to get to the idling car. “I’m sorry you have to do this.”

“Stop saying sorry. You’re fine.” At least, I hope you’re fine…Please, be fine.

Tuesday, 6:30AM:

“We couldn’t find anything on the x-ray,” the doctor tells us.

My husband sits in a wheelchair.

I swallow hard. My rock, my bear, my safe place…in a wheelchair. It’s almost painful.

“We’re going to schedule an MRI but it could take up to two weeks.”

My husband exhales. He hates getting MRIs.

“If your knee heals on its own, we’ll cancel the MRI,” the doctor continues. “I’m going to give you a prescription for naproxen and a muscle relaxant in the mean time. The muscle relaxant you’ll take before you go to bed. It’ll help you sleep.”

“Thank you,” my husband and I both say.

Tuesday, 7:00AM:

My husband leans on his crutches as he talks to the nurse at the front desk. I watch him from the other side of the waiting room. He nods, accepting the papers she hands him, and then starts ambling carefully toward me. I jump up and hurry over to take the papers from him.

“Thanks. I have physical therapy tomorrow,” he says.

“What time?”

“After work.”

I blink in surprise. “But you’re not going to work.”

“I might.”

“You should be resting,” I protest.

“I need to work,” he says seriously.

I bite my tongue and hold the door open for him.

Tuesday, 7:45AM:

A headache is building behind my eyes and across my forehead.

“Are you going to work?” my husband asks as we wait in the drive-thru for our breakfast.

“I don’t know. There’s technically nothing wrong with me. Now that you’re on crutches, you don’t need me as much anymore…But I am tired.”

“Do you have any vacation days left?”

“No, but I have sick days.”

“It’s up to you, hon.”

I glance at the clock in the radio. “Well, even if we got home right now and I rushed to get ready, I’d still be late. And I don’t feel like rushing.”

“So stay home with me.”

“All right. I’ll stay home.”

Tuesday, 9:00AM:

“I’ve got your drugs,” I say, setting them down over the counter. “Do you want to take anything right now?”

“I’ll take some naproxen,” he says, his eyes on the TV screen.

I wait until he’s done battling robots before I hand him the pill. He swallows it dry and smiles.

“Thanks.”

I love you.

Tuesday, 12:15PM:

I reach across from him to place a soda on the chair he’s using as an end table. “Need anything else?”

“Not right now.”

“All right. Let me know when you’re hungry.”

Tuesday, 1:30PM:

“What did you say was for lunch?”

“I have chicken thawing in the fridge,” I say. “I can fry it for you and make mashed potatoes or I can make you a salad.”

His mouth works for a moment as he processes his options. “Neither sound really appealing right now…”

I chuckle, reading his code. “Would you like to order in, love?”

He grins. “Pizza sounds amazing.”

I whip out my phone and start the order.

Tuesday, 7:00PM:

I lower the book and poke him in the side. “Hey, are you falling asleep on me?”

“No,” he says drowsily.

“I’m almost done with the chapter.”

“I’m listening,” he insists, eyes closed.

I smile and continue reading out loud from The Order of the Phoenix.

Wednesday, 4:00AM:

“I’m taking my phone off of do-not-disturb mode,” I tell him, handing over his lunch box. “If you need anything, call me, okay?”

He puts his lunch in the passenger’s seat and gives me a kiss. “All right, babe. I love you.”

“I love you too.” I close the door and step back.

Please, keep him safe, I pray as I crawl back into bed.

Wednesday, 11:00AM:

My phone buzzes on my desk and I flip it over to check the text. Finally, he answered my text from this morning.

‘Yes, babe. I did get to work okay.’ Smiley face.

I breathe out a long sigh of relief and text back. ‘Was it hard to drive?’

‘Not really.’

‘That’s good! What did you do at work?’

He tells me and I smile. I was worried they wouldn’t find anything he could do while sitting down. I can’t wait to see him.

Wednesday, 5:35PM:

“How was physical therapy?” I ask, falling into the couch beside him.

“It was all right I guess. Painful. Oh, and there are little pieces of bone floating around in my knee.”

“What? I thought the doctors couldn’t find anything on the x-ray.”

“Well, the physical therapist took another look at the x-ray and said he saw what looked like pieces of bone floating around my knee.”

I shake me head. “How…?”

“No idea. The therapist thought the bone pieces could’ve been there since I tore my ACL and had surgery to fix it.”

“Wow. Okay. So how are we going to get those out?”

“I don’t know,” he says with a shrug. “But they’re not going to do anything until I get an MRI and they can confirm that’s the only problem.”

I lean back into the couch. Lord, have mercy on my baby.

Wednesday, 7:10PM:

“What if you have to have surgery on your knee again?”

“Then we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. You just have to trust God in these situations.”

He says it so easily! I roll over to press my cheek against his chest. “What if it takes you months to recover?”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

“What if–?”

He gives my hand a squeeze. “We’ll be fine, babe.”

I shut my eyes. I want to believe, God, but I’m so afraid. Help me not to be.

Thursday, 3:55AM:

The truck’s lights disappear around the corner as I pull the trash cans out to the curb. I want to go back to sleep, but the dishes are piling up. I plan on making fried chicken and potatoes for dinner. If I put it off until I get home at 5, it won’t leave me much time to hang out with my husband before we have to go to bed again. I could make it all now, put it in the fridge, and just reheat it when I get home from work. I amble into the bedroom for my glasses. The world sharpens into focus and so does my mind. Squaring my shoulders, I march into the kitchen and start the day.

Suddenly I’m…busy?

A quick update on my once boring life:

My classes Planning the Novel and Intermediate Fiction have me writing and reading more than all my past Creative Writing classes combined. The Planning the Novel class includes student workshops so I’ll be submitting some chapters for my classmates to critique in the near future. I’m excited to get feed-back on my novel-in-progress, The Andromeda’s Ghost. I still can’t get over the fact that I get to create fiction (you know, something that I love to do) and turn it in for a grade! I wish I could’ve skipped all the other boring subjects and jumped right into this after I graduated from high school. (No offense to people who actually enjoy History, college Algebra, Biology, and/or Public Speaking classes.) This is what I was meant to do. Despite the overwhelming work load, I’m glad that I’m taking these classes. It’s like how I image most people feel after a good work out: tired but proud of themselves.

Things at work have picked up as we begin Fall Bible studies. More calls, more appointments, more little projects that need help being completed. The quiet summer is officially over.

I just approved a book cover and finished doing a round of copy edits for I Dare You to Love Me. According to my content editor, the manuscript still needs to go through two more rounds of editing before it can be ready to print. It’s always exciting to see my stories taking shape when I’m working on them, but this is a different kind of excitement. I know this book is actually going to be seen and purchased by others. This one is going to make it to the other side, or so to speak. I can’t wait to share it with everyone. In the mean time, I’m getting tons of good advice from my book marketing specialist concerning my social media accounts. After staring at the computer screen with a puzzled/nauseated look on my face for a half hour and clicking on random things to see how this “Professional Facebook account” differs from a personal one, I finally finished my author’s page. I still have to figure out how to make a professional Instagram account and a Goodreads account, so I feel behind.

I saw a sample book cover for In the Dark yesterday and it’s looking great! It just needs a few more tweaks and I think it’ll be ready. Edited to Add: I just heard back from my editor. She’s going to start doing edits on In the Dark this week. Hopefully, I’ll be getting the manuscript back soon!

Bragging about my books and myself is really hard! I’m still struggling to be okay in the spotlight. But I’m taking this one step at a time. Maybe, someday, it’ll come naturally to me. Thanks to all of you faithful readers, retweeters, commentators, followers, friends, and family. You are SO appreciated!

Publishing Updates

Last week, I signed a contract with Inkitt to publish my young adult fiction novel, I Dare You to Love Me. It was a challenging decision for me to make because I had been given the opportunity to Revise and Resubmit this manuscript to an acquisitions editor from Filles Vertes Publishing. I wanted to remain loyal to that editor; she’d given me a second chance along with some invaluable constructive feedback. But after seven weeks of silence from her, it was time to move forward. I never thought I’d have to send a rejection letter. I’ve received enough to know how to write a cordial one, but it still wasn’t fun. All I can do is hope she’ll understand why I decided to accept Inkitt’s offer.

Just before this, I received word from Tirgearr Publishing that they decided to publish Asta and the Barbarians after they publish In the Dark! So now all of my completed manuscripts are going to be published. (Insert girlish shriek of excitement here).

The publishing schedule for my novels is as follows:

I Dare You to Love Me — October 2017

In the Dark — January 2018

Asta and the Barbarians — April 2018

Inkitt is giving readers the opportunity to receive a free ebook copy of I Dare You to Love Me on launch day. If interested, click here.

It’s still hard for me to believe. Everything’s been happening so fast. I’m exhilarated and proud and humbled and thankful and terrified all at once. Have I mentioned that already? Well, it’s worth mentioning twice! I don’t know what these next few months are going to be like. I’m taking three writing classes this semester, working full-time, and trying to finish another manuscript. There doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to get these novels ready for their publication dates, but I’m sure I’ll come up with a new routine as things develop. It’s just like the beginning of a school semester. Looking at the syllabus and the assignments that are going to be due, it overwhelms me. But, so long as I take it one week at a time, it’s manageable. At the end of each semester, I’ve been able to look back and think, “Well, that wasn’t so bad.”

Everything I’ve done for my manuscripts has led up to this point. It’s real now. It’s go time. I can’t wait to get started!

Faith, love, and hope remain

“All attempts have failed
All my heads are tails
She’s got teary eyes
I’ve got reasons why

I’m losing ground and gaining speed
I’ve lost myself or most of me
I’m headed for the final precipice

But you haven’t lost me yet
No, you haven’t lost me yet
I’ll sing until my heart caves in
No, you haven’t lost me yet

These days pass me by
I dream with open eyes
Nightmares haunt my days
Visions blur my nights

I’m so confused
What’s true or false?
What’s fact or fiction after all?
I feel like I’m an apparition’s pet

But you haven’t lost me yet
No, you haven’t lost me yet
I’ll run until my heart caves in
No, you haven’t lost me yet

If it doesn’t break
If it doesn’t break
If it doesn’t break
If it doesn’t break your heart
It isn’t love
No, if it doesn’t break your heart
It’s not enough
It’s when you’re breaking down
With your insides coming out
That’s when you find out what your heart is made of

And you haven’t lost me yet
No, you haven’t lost me yet
I’ll sing until my heart caves in
No, you haven’t lost me yet
Cause you haven’t lost me yet.”

-Yet by Switchfoot

(Thank you, AZLyrics.com)

I heard this song numerous times growing up, but I never truly understood what it meant. I assumed the writer was talking about a relationship of his, maybe a difficult time he and his girlfriend were having. Despite the sad tune, the words are hopeful. He sounds as if he’s reassuring his girl that no matter what happens, she’s not going to lose him. It should make me feel happy, right? Somehow, that’s not what I felt when I heard this song, and it’s still not what I feel when I hear it today. Because the words I tend to focus on are, “If it doesn’t break your heart, it isn’t love.”

Boys have broken my heart in the past and I’ve come to realize what I had with them wasn’t real love. My husband, my true love, has made mistakes and has hurt me before. But I can honestly say he’s never broken my heart. So maybe this isn’t the kind of love the song is talking about. Now that I’m older, going through a difficult time with my sister, I’m thinking I might understand what kind of love this song is talking about. (I might be totally wrong. I don’t know the artist so, obviously, I can’t confirm it with him. But the more I think about this song, the more it applies to my situation.)

No matter how much we talk, neither seems to truly understand the other. No matter how desperately we might want to fix our situation, we do more harm to each other than good. What one perceives as help or enlightenment, the other perceives as an attack on one’s character. But because we’re friends and, more importantly, family…we still love each other. We still want a relationship. And I think that’s why I can finally understand the song writer’s struggle. I can see him searching for ways to fix his situation. I can see him being so burdened by what he’s going through, so depressed because there seems to be no solution. But he knows he can’t give up hope.

I looked up the meaning of this song, and found a quote by the writer, Jon Foreman:

“The song is about hope. Hope is always reaching towards the future, reaching for what has not yet come to pass…Hope is a “holding on” of sorts, an expectant belief, a desire as of yet unfulfilled. I wrote this song from a really dark place, looking for some form of hope. And maybe searching for hope is a form of hope in itself. There’s a moment of honesty when your mask drops, when you can no longer pretend to have it all together. When this pretense is gone, you breathe in your first real breath. When you’re no longer pretending to be something you’re not, you’re left with a truly honest assessment of the situation. Very little is left, [but] “Faith, hope, and love remain. But the greatest of these is love.””

(See full quote here.)

I love that Mr. Foreman tacked on that quote at the end. It’s from one of the most famous passages in the Bible, I Corinthians 13, titled the Love Chapter. It’s funny; this passage is often read at weddings and quoted to people who are in a relationship. Originally, this chapter was written by Paul to the Corinthian church, which had several different issues, the chief of them being selfishness. Paul was reminding the church that without love, none of their great works was worth anything. Because talent, skill, words, and actions can fade away in time but things like faith, hope, and love never will.

This conflict between me and my sister has gone on for a little over two years. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe it will ever come to a peaceful resolution. I feel as if I’ve tried everything. People keep saying our story isn’t over, God’s work isn’t finished, and so long as the two of us keep trying to understand one another, eventually we’ll find peace. I’m sure they’re right. It’s times like these, after failing to bridge the gap yet again, that I can’t help but wonder, “Is this what it’s going to be like for the rest of our days?”

I’m tired, I’m breaking down, I feel like my insides are coming out…again. But my faith, my love, my hope, will remain.

Promotion

It turns out there’s a lot more to book promotion than spamming social media with pictures of a book and the first few lines of a nice review.

While I’m waiting to hear back from my editor, I’ve been reading up on different ways to utilize social media. There’s a lot I didn’t know about! For example, there’s such a thing as book trailers? That blew my mind when I first heard about it. I’ve been dabbling in photo editing and making mock book covers. Surely, I thought, I can figure out how to make a short promotional trailer or GIF. 

Oh, I figured it out. It just took me five hours. (If interested, you can see the finished product here.) Finding the right royalty free pictures, editing them, applying filters and the right text took time. Finding an easy to use website that was also free took some time too. (I tried to make an actual movie clip but couldn’t find the right images for free, so I went with the GIF creator.) My incompetence frustrates me sometimes, but now that I know how to do it, I can do it again and much quicker! That’s the encouraging part.

While reading about all these different methods of book promotion, I started to feel overwhelmed. There’s so much information out there, so many different things to try. How am I supposed to keep track of it all? Plus, the concept that readers want to get to know me before they decide to give my book a try keeps popping up. It makes me want to run and hide. I’ve heard that before but I’ve somehow been able to convince myself that, if my book is amazing, it’ll sell itself. (That’s why we write, right? So that we don’t have to talk to people? The John Green quote on my home page says it so beautifully.) Starting a blog was hard enough. The idea of being interviewed is downright terrifying.

But things are changing, especially the way advertising works. I have to study up if I want to keep up. All of these different tactics might make my head spin now, but I have to believe that I’ll conquer it. I’ll learn, slowly but surely, what works for me and the book and what doesn’t. I’ll pick up a skill or two (might even get better at public speaking!) in the process and become a better person in the end. I have to see it that way, I have to be hopeful, otherwise I’ll spiral into an anxiety attack. This is what I wanted. This is what I’ve been dreaming about and praying about and working toward for all these years. Maybe I didn’t know what it was going to require of me then, but I do now. So let’s get started! (Before I lose my nerve…)