Writing is a journey, not a destination.

Search This Blog

Monday, November 30, 2009

To Ask or Not To Ask?

I'm experiencing contest fatigue. Maybe it's just fatigue. I ate a cornbread muffin for lunch, and wheat makes me sleepy. Tasty muffin, though. Copper Oven.

I was on The Anomaly for a while, but it's just not as interesting tonight. Perhaps it's the impending losing that's taken the shine off. Don't worry, I'll be fine. I've already accepted this as fact.

My concern now is whether to post a thread asking for critiques. I'm pretty sure I know the reasons Star of Justice wasn't picked:
1) the title is boring
2) the hook is boring
3) the blurb is boring
4) pretty much the whole thing so far is just plain boring

Yeah, that sums it up.

On a more realistic note, I'm concerned only 5 people will comment, and it will be the same 5 people who are commenting and it will be basically the same comments they've given to everybody else; namely, if you weren't quite so boring, we would have picked you.

I suppose there are worse fates than being boring. I've often aspired to boring in my life. It may surprise some people to learn most of the time I prefer not to be noticed. It was difficult for me to make that first comment on the boards, or to contact MLS in the first place, or to start this blog.

You know my real fear? No one will comment. My book is so boring, no one even noticed it sitting there patiently at the top of poll two.

Or worse, someone will comment who's been annoying me the whole contest. Not in a gloating fashion, mind you, just a polite "Oh, yes, this was just too boring for me. Been there -yawn- done that, you know? I mean, dragons in fantasy. How cliche."

I'm not thinking of anyone in particular, although I kind of just quoted somebody who's actually been pretty informative.

Of course, if I don't ask for critiques, who will think I'm just a coward? Which I am, by the way.
Would it make a difference with Jeff the Publisher? Do I care? I've pretty much decided Star of Justice isn't Marcher Lord Press material. Not because of quality, mind you, but because MLP audiences would find it boring and not buy it. As confirmed by this contest.

That's OK. I'll find an audience somewhere.

I have high hopes Past Ties will be better suited to MLP. It's sci-fi, deals with psychic nuns, cyborgs and time travel.

Of course, I'm sure someone somewhere has read something -yawn- like that. :)

See you at Sonic.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What to Say?

I'm ready for November to be done. I have some posts I want to write but not this month.

Voting continues on MLS. This is day two. Apparently, front runners have become apparent to Jeff (not us, because we can't see the polls). Star of Justice's thread has dropped to page two. Only Kristen and I have commented on it. I will not say "welcome to the story of my life" lest I provoke another comment from elder brother.

Reminder: you must vote for at least 3 entries in either contest or your vote will not count.

Purely out of curiosity, I counted words on Past Ties (the words I wrote 15 years ago, that is). Turns out it's only 33,000 words. No wonder mom couldn't remember any of it. I may have to combine it with Present Tense just to make one reasonable book. That would certainly speed up the process. If I try real hard, I can jam Future Perfect in there, too, and turn my trilogy into a book in three acts.

I've looked over some of it, and a lot will probably get cut. Working on Elementals taught me it is far better to let go of past writing than cling to it hoping to make it work now. If I'd written the book then, it would be done. Since I didn't, I pretty much need to start over.

I did decide to get rid of Mars and the lunar colony. This allows me to move the timeline much closer to now (I kept ending up in the 25th century otherwise and how cliche is that?) and removes a lot of that pesky research that keeps getting in the way of my muse.

Now, I need to pull out Peter Gabriel, Celene Dion and soundtracks for Blown Away and The Bodyguard cds so I can get writing.

Yes, I am afraid those are the main artists in the Past Ties soundtrack. I have some Roger Whittaker in there, too, but he tends to show up somewhere in all my books.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Phase 2 Voting Starts

I voted early this morning. Thought I'd get it done and move on with my life.

The boards were quiet. An eerie sense of anticipation lurks...

Not really. I suspect most people don't have cats to wake them up freakishly early on any day ending in "y."

Voting in the main contest is now very simple. All 18 entries fit in one poll.

The Premise Contest remains split in two polls. Star of Justice is listed in the second poll and once again, the first poll has more hits.

Of course, the first time I voted, I missed some on the first page and had to go back. Maybe that's what's happening to other folks, causing an artificial inflation of the counts. Whatever.

I'm tired today. I have no reason to be other than winter makes me tired. Like the turtle, I am a sun-worshipper. When the sun is up, so am I. When the sun is down, down I go. I would normally be sleeping later, except for the cats. This is my first winter with six cats. When I only had four, they knew to leave me alone. The two newest can't seem to grasp the concept.

I hope to take a nap tomorrow. I may go to bed early tonight.

Well, I have a book to write. See you in the morning.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanks for...New Friends?

OK, so my bubbling ecstatic mood just got squashed by the fact that I somehow managed to delete an entire post I had just finished writing. I don't know how. I blame Satan. Mica may have helped.

Since my bubbling ecstatic mood is in serious jeopardy, I may have trouble recapturing the spirit of that post. I will try.

Last night, while on the phone with My Dear Friend who does not have Internet, I made a wonderful discovery! I was reading her some of my blog posts (yes, I am that self-centered) and realized I had new people commenting! Woo-hoo!

And not just any people. Marcher Lord Select people! WOO-HOO!

My diabolical plan to make weird, Christian fantasy writer friends is working (insert evil laugh here)!

Everyone, meet Kristen. Kristen is one of those amazing people whose manuscript Jeff thought worthy of publication. Alas, the votes did not favor her (I voted for her, which may have been the kiss of death), and she is now seeking God's will for her manuscript. Please pray for Kristen.

Our other mystery commenter is Ginny Jacques, who has a blogspot of her own and lists MLS and Zinovy's Journey, which is one of the stories I'm following in the main contest. I will review Ginny's blog more thoroughly this weekend. A link may appear later ;)

Welcome to Ranunculus Turtle, ladies!

You may wonder how they found me. Well, in keeping with the spirit of no campaigning on the MLS forum, I did not list my contact info on my public "forum face" but put it on my private face. These ladies must have seen something they liked (or didn't maybe) in one of my comments and clicked on my name to find my blog. Again, diabolical plan working! HA HA HA!

At least, I assume that's how they found me. I suppose they could have hired a private detective. Or be affiliated with the FBI. Hmm.

Seriously, ladies, thank you for stopping by. I am honored.

Reminder: voting for the next phase of MLS starts tomorrow. Some of you will be getting an email about that.

Oh, and Jeff is running some Marcher Lord Press special sales today in honor of Black Friday, so if you want to pick up a speculative Christian fiction book for Christmas, this is a good time for it.

PS: I just went to Ginny's site and, yeah, she's my kind of weird. You'll find her on my "Blogs I Follow" list now.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Like most of you, I have plans for the day. I thought I would get the blogging done early. I hope very much to write on Past Ties this evening, provided I'm not passed out from too much turkey.

If you have a chance, tune in to Bott Radio, Topeka FM 92.5 or American Family Radio (my favorite station), Topeka FM 90.4 at 7 PM to hear David Barton of Wall Builders on Focus on the Family speaking about our Thanksgiving heritage. I love and admire David Barton very much. He is worth a listen. I heard him at 7 AM, but I can't help being up early, even on holidays, thanks to the critters. A special thank you to Mica, who woke me up at 5 crying in my ear.

Hi, Cornelia, love you, sweetie!

Now that the aberration of mom in bed after 7 is over, my entire family is curled up in little balls on various pieces of furniture throughout the house. I keep it cool here because they all have built-in fur coats. I'm the only one who actually suffers.

I am fighting the desire to check out MLS forum. I suspect I will lose.

I think I've figured out the difference between New Member, Junior Member, Senior Member, and Full Member. It may have something to do with number of posts on the forum. There is a "members" button where you can sort members by frequency of posts. The titles are listed with the posts.
I'm still New but once I hit 50 posts, I should become Junior. Now it's like a contest, which is bad. I get a little competitive.

Anyhoo...day's a'wastin' so I'll move on.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I am thankful for each and every one of you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

More Thanks

I intended to devote the entire week to Thanksgiving. Then Aunt Flo showed up and rained on that parade. Good one, eh, my lamb?

I am thankful no homicide was committed yesterday. Mocha java chillers seem to have healing powers beyond the normal caffeinated beverage.

I am thankful for my family. I spent the evening celebrating The Flash's birthday (that's your new nickname, Molasses). I love that the nieces like each other now. I remember when being in the same room meant someone got grounded. I hope it lasts.

We talked of movies, driving (another learner's permit -eeek!), boyfriends and breaking up with boyfriends (ruined me. I never could get it right after that first one), and a host of other things while eating way too much food for way too much money (thanks for dinner, Elder Brother).

I am thankful for food, and movies, and boyfriends and the lack thereof. I am thankful for being debt free except for the house, and having a job, and having outside interests.

I am not thankful for coffee, but I am thankful other people enjoy it (that's all you're getting, Bessie. I can't capture the true spirit of the moment: "Oh, yeah, coffee! I should slow down."

I am thankful I have a house to come home to, and little people who are, for the moment, giving me enough space to finish this post. That won't last, but I'm thankful for that, too.

One of my favorite STNG episodes has Data creating a child. I fear I cannot remember the name of the episode. Loll enrolls in school, serves drinks in Ten Forward and generally captures our hearts. When a scientist from Starfleet command comes to take her away and study her, she develops emotions - fear, for starters - and consequently self-destructs.

My favorite scene from that episode is her last moment with Data, her father. It is very calm, as a farewell between androids would be. She tells him she loves him and says "thank you for my life." I cry every time.

How often I have said those words to my Father. Even when the sky is dark, the cold rain falls, and moon days overwhelm my reason, I am grateful for my life. I am even grateful for those hard times, because they remind me of how good the good is.

"Thank you for my life." So simple. So appropriate.

Gratitude is the greatest gift we can offer. Offer it whenever you can.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why Jesus Was a Man

Forget for a moment the Bible refers to Him as masculine (unless you have a femi-Nazi-approved Bible). I try not to argue gender about a spirit.

The reason Jesus was a man is obvious. You can't have PMS and remain without sin.

Yes, PMS, that reproduction-involved miracle of biochemistry that turns the kindest, gentlest creature into a sneering, snapping harpy willing to eviscerate anything that dares to enter her breathing space on those most unfortunate days.

"Moon days," the Indians call them. I can only assume it relates to the wackiness so associated with that celestial body that our word lunatic is derived from its name.

In season three of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when Oz confesses to Willow he's a werewolf, she replies with "Well, three days out of the month, I'm not so fun to be around, either." Understatement of the century, Joss Whedon.

Leviticus says a woman is unclean during her monthly discharge and must go to the priests to offer sacrifices afterwards. You can bet money Moses was writing that little bit of wisdom in the back of the tent while Zipporah was on a rampage. Even God knows women are going to need extra grace afterwards.

The woman with an ounce of decency in her otherwise regular life will warn her fellows once she is aware of the chemical wash about to shut down her cerebellum and leave her reptile brain in control. Because the one thing you must never, ever do is ask "Are you PMS?"

How many tragedies could have been avoided by not asking that question? The world, alas, will never know.

God, in His infinite wisdom, side-stepped the entire issue by making Jesus a man and keeping Him single.

Because a man with a wife cannot be without sin, either.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Week of Thanks

For those who scroll down, I finally got the Neno Award on my blog. It's not where I want it, yet, but I'll get there. Thank you, again, Susie! (I'm supposed to pass it on to other bloggers who love blogging, but I only know two and one of them gave me the award. I need to make more friends)

(HA HA! I learned how to add picture! Thank you, Susie!)

Thank you to my nieces for growing up. School plays and musicals only become more enjoyable as that happens. I'm thanking God for that, too. Two hours is a long time to sit in a bad play. Topeka High School's production of Grease was not a bad play. The play isn't that great from a Christian worldview standard, but the kids did great. Some of them have some very impressive pipes.

Thank you to all my readers. Without you, I would be a sad schlub endlessly reading my own writing wondering "Why doesn't anybody like me?" I wouldn't care, but I would wonder.

Thank you to those dedicated souls taking part in the writing contest. A 35 year old woman from Texas mentioned Star of Justice in a mostly good way on one of the threads yesterday. Since I don't think I know any 35 year old women in Texas, I took it as a positive. Not positive enough to get me to the next phase (most likely), but a positive.

Anyway, those are a few things I'm thankful for this season. I'll probably give you more tomorrow.

Take a few minutes and thank God for your life, even if it sucks at the moment.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What I Should Be Doing

I should be researching Antarctica.

I should be working on my new website.

I should be writing about the Fair Tax on my other blog.

I should be reading Starfire by Stuart Vaughn Stockton.

What am I doing?

Reading and rereading the MLS forum boards.

I believe I have now made my selections for both premise and main contest. I will not go over them again until vote results are posted in December. Probably late-morning, mid-afternoon December 1.
I have picked my final six in the main contest. They are, in order of current interest:

The Last Apostle
The Sword of the Patron
Primary Source
Neil Before God
The Mysterious Calling of Mike Malone, and
Zinovy's Journey.

Having the first 500 words has made all the difference for me. I can now judge where I am comfortable, in the art of story-telling.

The most telling story is the comments of the participants. What a varied audience this contest has collected. Jeff the Publisher does not have an easy job. Some choice will undoubtedly offend someone. It must happen. But, I am sure we will all still respect him in the morning.

Now I must go resort my choices into an Excel file for later. Yes, that's just the kind of nerd I am.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Neno Award?

Let's see if this works.

OK, it didn't. I'm supposed to put a picture of this award on my blog, but I don't know how. Susie's done it, so she'll have to walk me through it.

Susie of Susan's Sampler, one of the blogs I follow, gave me a Neno Award.

First, this is an honor, and I recognize it as such.

Second, it apparently requires a skill set I do not yet have. :) Kinda of makes me wonder whether I deserve such an award!

There are Rules I'm supposed to post. One of them is to explain why I love blogging.

I'm not sure that I do. Yeah, I probably do.

I like putting my thoughts on the proverbial paper. I never would have thought this could be true when I was in high school being forced to write essays about my thoughts. (Thank you again, Mr. Freidline). Now that I'm doing it, and have some (very few) people reading them, I like it.

I'm also supposed to nominate someone else, but since I can't figure out what to do with it yet, I'll wait for further instructions.

But first, I'll say, "Thank you, Susie! I am honored!"

PS: HA HA! It worked this time!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Missing the Target

You may have noticed, yesterday's post stirred some reaction in at least one reader. I was aiming for amused epiphany. Apparently I hit whiny butt.

I've said before, I wrote Star of Justice without a specific audience in mind. It honestly never occurred to me it might not be interesting to actual Christian fantasy nerds. This is where that research I mentioned in my rejection post comes into play.

I submitted to Marcher Lord because of what I saw after one month of reading about Jeff the Publisher. I believe Jeff would have no problem with my writing skill level or story content. Often, the editor is the first hurdle to pass. I submitted with a clear understanding that I was worthy of publication by his company (we're not worthy! we're not worthy!)

I did not get onto the boards and learn about the readers until the contest. One month into it, I am realizing these people are looking for something startlingly new and ground-breaking (the ones who are talking on the boards, anyway). Apparently, that's what speculative Christian fiction is about.

That's not Star of Justice. Those who've heard me talk about it for any length of time, and you know who you are, know that I have no fantastic new ideas there. Certainly not Harry Potter new. I have old ideas rearranged with interesting characters and unexpected twists.

So, even though Jeff the Publisher might have no problem with my book, he has to consider what will sell to his audience. If none of his fans will buy it, it makes no sense to publish it, no matter how well I write.

I am not automatically rejected if I lose. I will not throw Star of Justice back into the proverbial drawer. I will see the book published, one way or another. If not by Marcher Lord Press, then somewhere else. Maybe my own company, Ranunculus Turtle Publishing.

But the first tale of Caissa Ocren is not my only book. Elementals is finished. Past Ties is begun, as is The First Man, Dangling Participles, Justice for All, and The Royal Pain. Provided the world doesn't end tomorrow, I have plenty to keep me busy. For now, I will continue with the contest and with seeking a venue for Elementals, and researching Past Ties. That is more than enough to keep one turtle busy.

Which reminds me, the premise contest vote this time is minimum 3 - maximum 12. I have 13 on my list, and I don't know what to cut.

I know which one I won't! :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Don't Read Fantasy

My mom said this to me yesterday as we discussed the MLS contest.

It had never occurred to me before, but she's right. Mom's bookshelf nowadays is stacked with political thrillers by authors whose names I can't even think of to write. When we were younger, she liked historical romances and westerns like Louis L'Amour and that guy that writes about Indian reservations. Hillcamp? Huxtable? Something like that. Perfectly good books I would never read.

Another friend who only read biographies and non-fiction historical commentaries also read my book and liked it. We were talking about cover art once. I told her I knew what picture I wanted for the cover (Caissa sitting at the feet of a dragon as they talk) and what picture a publisher would want (Caissa with sword drawn rushing a dragon breathing fire). I was told in no uncertain terms that my friend would never pick up a book with a picture on the front of it. She suggested a star of justice symbol instead. Maybe I suggested that and she concurred.

My sister-in-law read my book. While her taste runs to gangsters and vampire/horror, and she cannot stand English romances (or authors, for that matter, who are my main inspiration), she liked it. She even suggested I add a few more fight scenes. The dismembered monks in Manarot are for you, Triny.

Even my postman read it, and gave me the greatest compliment I have yet heard: "It's like a real book."

Either all these people are flat-out lying to me, or my book has appeal. Which floors me, considering I can't get a mention in the MLS contest. Yes, it's early, but once again, Star of Justice is noticeable by its absence. (I am not telling you to mention it, mom.)

So now I'm wondering, is my book too normal for real nerds? Is my lack of fantastical and uniquely startling creatures a drawback with the hard-core fantasy crowd? Is the very thing that makes the book accessible to people with other interests making it boring to those I would normally market to?

Egads! What a disaster! People who like the book would never pick it up to read, and those who would pick it up won't because it's too normal.

Welcome to the story of my life.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Premise Contest Phase 2

That's the title you're looking for when you log on to MLS's site. You can go back and look at the Premise 1 stuff, if you like. Some discussion threads are continuing. I will now look forward. Except for when I go back to post on the discussion threads, that is :)

The premises have been rearranged and the 100 word back cover blurb has been added to them. This has caused Jeff to break the entries into two threads. I'm listed at the top of the second thread. Yea! It means nothing, but it feels good.

The addition of blurbs did not make much difference to me at first read-through, but appears to have changed some minds. One poster pointed out that if a writer can't take a few hours to write a good blurb, why should you trust they took the time to write a good book? Given my own two-week struggle to write a good blurb, I'm not sure I agree with him, but I will go back tomorrow and look with a slightly more critical eye.

I am heartened by my blurb. I had forgotten what I wrote, and while reading it at MLS, I still think I did a pretty good job of giving the highlights of the story, a glimpse of the interesting characters, and the problem my heroine faces. The only question now is "will anyone care more knowing these things?"

I will know the answer in ten days. The next vote will take place Nov 28-30. End of the month, possibly end of the line for Star of Justice and the Marcher Lord Select Premise Contest.

We will see.

My, that sounds grim!

I am not depressed. I have not purchased that mocha java chiller yet, nor have I felt the overwhelming need to do so. As long as the weather cooperates with some sunshine in the next 10 days, I will do well.

I will no doubt do well long after that, too. My hopes for this contest are more than just publication. Those hopes show every indication of being fulfilled.

Game on!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Results Are In

I lost.

I can't actually lose this round because Jeff made it a freebie, but I would have lost if it counted.

I'm not surprised. A little disappointed, but not surprised. My premise doesn't catch the eye. Nobody cares about dragons destroying the world or Caissa Ocren.

I wonder how I might have written it differently. I was going for accuracy, but maybe snappy would have been a better approach.

These dragons don't need magic: they have lasers! They don't, actually (not in this book, anyway), but you have to admit, it's snappier.

I do wonder what the vote count was. I'm guessing nine. That would be me, the three people who mentioned it on the forum threads, the two people who emailed me with "break a finger's" and the three people who answered yes when I asked if they'd voted. Some others might have gotten around to it, but I don't count my dragons before they're hatched.

The next round of voting seems to happen in two weeks. That's the one that will knock me off for good. That's a slightly more depressing thought.

I'm waffling between eating my mozzarella sticks and java chiller then or having one now and one then, too. I am a little, tiny bit depressed. Not surprised, mind you, but a little depressed.

On the plus side, my Swedish squeegee mop really cleaned the slush off my back steps, so, Yea!

"It's the simple things in life you treasure." -Fred Kwan, Galaxy Quest.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Last Day to Vote

I haven't checked the boards today, so I have no idea how things are going. Tomorrow is soon enough to find out how my choices did.

I suspect some people (authors, namely) may stay up and wait for the turnover at 12 midnight Eastern. I think Jeff is on Colorado time so would that be 10 PM for him? I don't know when he finds time to sleep.

I have started working on my new website. This will take a while, I think. At the moment, I have no idea what to put on there or how to put it on if I knew what I wanted. I'll learn. Slow and steady.

Today, I decided to work on Past Ties again, the book that started it all. Technically, it is mostly written, but based on my experience with Elementals, I'm probably going to throw most of it out. Maybe. I don't know.

I stopped working on it because of the research needed to answer all the sticky questions that came up while I was writing it in the first place.

The story involves future governments (how far in the future? what kind of governments would have survived? would the US exist? if so, who are her enemies?), nanotechnology (what are we doing today in that field and what do we project for the future?), lunar and Mars colonization (which would come first, if we did either? what would drive such a push? would this be a government-run colonization or a private-industry venture, or both? what would it entail?) and artificial intelligence and robotics (I don't even want to think about how long that research could go on).

Getting an idea of why I stopped working on the book? This turtle don't care for research, and these are all things I would have to answer before I could comfortably publish Past Ties.

The problem with writing science fiction is you have to emphasize the science. In TV and movies, you can emphasize the fiction and use great CGI and explosions to keep the audience's mind off the obvious "that would never happen" plot weaknesses. Don't have that option in books.

However, now that I have the Internet and the will to use it, I'll begin my slow and steady course of answering these questions. Since Past Ties sets up events that impact at least eight other books I want to write, I guess it's time to get it done.

On the bright side, once I've answered these questions, I don't have to answer them again.
And speaking of bright sides, morning comes sooner and sooner for me, so I'll sign off and pick up in the AM.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Voting Continues

I've heard from some of you. Thank you for taking part in the Grand Experiment.

I cast my votes today. It seems I can change them through tomorrow 11 PM Central, if I wish.

I had 12 on one page, so I voted for ten and sent Jeff a personal message listing the other two.

I did this by clicking on his name (he's the first person who's written something after putting up the poll, so his name is there on the left hand side above his "picture.")

The click took me to his personal information, which includes the option to "send a personal message" at the top of the info box. That leads to an email, where I typed in my choices and my name and clicked "send personal message" one more time.

Once it was sent, it took me to a screen I didn't know how to get out of, so I clicked on "home" just above his info and that returned me to the MLS main board. You could probably also log out from that page, if you don't want to go read some of the discussion boards.

Tomorrow is the last day to vote in this round. Pray for the folks who are on pins and needles awaiting the outcome. They've worked hard for this, but, as The Highlander would tell us, "there can be only one."

PS: I just went to MLS to see how things are going, and totally unbeknownst (yes, it's a word) to me, Jeff has a post called There Can Be Only One.

I am so perfect to be one of these people! If only they could figure it out.

Oh, and I saw Star of Justice listed three times now. Yea!

Some of my more discreet friends...feel free to talk it up, if you'd like. Not you, mom. You're not discreet. Love you anyway.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Voting Starts Today

When I got onto the MLS site this morning, there were a few minor system glitches, which seem to be worked out now.

One problem: since the polls are split into two per contest, Jeff had to limit the number of choices per poll. I discovered for the main contest, I have more than 10 choices in the first poll and fewer than 10 in the second.

This problem will be solved by emailing Jeff any entries I couldn't enter due to the restriction. (Does that sentence make sense? I can't tell).

I will let you know how to do that once I do it. I think I can click on his name and it will take me to his bio where I have an option to "send a personal message." Like on Facebook. We'll see.

Anyway, while the voting is going on, I will continue to peruse the comments. I'm wondering if non-author campaigning will begin in earnest now.

We can't see the tallies, so no one will know 'til Monday whether they advance or go home.

"The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last." - Willy Wonka

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Voting Starts Tomorrow

The title says it all.

Now, the premise contest people (i.e., me) won't be eliminated this round. This is more of a test vote for us. For the main contest people though... Come Monday morning, 16 will be done and 20 will remain.

Due to a technology hiccup, the voting threads will be split into two threads per contest. It seems Jeff the Publisher can't list all the entries into a single poll.

So, when you vote, you will need to vote in two polls per contest. You may split your 3-minimum/20 maximum votes between two polls. These polls should be fairly obvious and most likely titled something like "Premise Contest Poll One" and "Premise Contest Poll Two." I'm guessing here. I'll let you all know in the morning.

Meaning: if you don't find Star of Justice in the first poll, go to the second and look for it. If you want to vote for Star of Justice, that is :)

Reminder: you must vote for at least three entries in each contest or your vote will be discarded. OK.

So, since I don't actually get eliminated this round, I'm not nervous. The votes will not be visible, so I won't know how I did, either. I can email him and ask, but I don't think it would be helpful this time around. According to the discussion threads, most of us have realized you can't tell much from 20 words and we'd rather see more than less.

The part I find most interesting is as I read comments from people who not only seem very serious about writing, but many of whom are actively pursuing publication, I keep thinking of Seth Godin's Tribes book, where he says a real leader has the vision and everyone else follows it. Jeff the Publisher is the leader, and we're all clamoring to be part of his tribe.

Question is, what makes Jeff the leader? His experience in the field? His ability to create a website? His willingness to wade through mountains of excrement looking for that one great monument of fiction?

Yeah, pretty much.

Since I'm not willing to do all that yet, I'll clamour with the rest of them. For now.

Print On Demand has changed a lot of things. If I think Jesus is coming back that soon, I will self-publish, just to say I did.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Bit of A Ramble About...Time

I was thinking last night about my childhood. Eighth grade, specifically, the year of Trapper Keepers, sneakers with velcro instead of shoestrings, and the erasable Bic pen. Good times.

I wrote back then, too, little snippets of scenes and stories that took my fancy and petered off as I lost interest. Nothing finished. Nothing terribly noteworthy.

My teacher Mr. Freidline gave us a writing assignment: what will you be doing when you're 30?
I told him I couldn't complete such an assignment because I didn't expect to be alive at 30. I think I annoyed him with that response (otherwise, except for one incident with a bug collection, we got along famously). I don't remember what I wrote for the assignment. A complete fabrication, no doubt.
I honestly didn't expect the world to be around by the time I was 30. Yet, here it is, eight years after the fact, and shows every indication of continuing for a while.

I wonder what my life would be like if I'd actually finished stories back then. If I'd sought publication when I was 15 and attending conferences, or 19 and writing continually in college, or even 21, when I "officially" finished my first book (that was Past Ties, but it wouldn't qualify as finished to me today because I left too many loose ends that I planned to address in the sequel Present Tense).

In The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle (one of my favorite books ever), the author tells us unicorns don't feel regret. A useful lack for an immortal creature. Eternity wishing you had chosen differently would be hell.

I've tried to live my life that way. Not by trying to experience everything, but by deciding not to regret the choices I make along the way. No point in regretting what cannot be changed.

I don't consider the intervening 20+ years between me then and me now wasted. I am a different person than that fourteen year old. I hope my writing has improved and my stories have gained depth and wisdom.

God is teaching me the journey is as important as the destination. Each step builds on the one before and prepares the way for the next. Taking the steps, even in my plodding, turtle way, is what matters. Persistence provides payoff.

It is not a regret, necessarily, but I do hope I have time to write more books. Now that I have a taste of the joy of completion as well as the agony of creation, I find I like it. I'd like to do more of it.
In the hopes that the world continues, I will continue, as well, without regret and with my eyes focused on the goal of completion, one story at a time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Yesterday, I spent my morning blog time in daily devotions, my afternoon blog time checking emails about the writing contest, and my evening blog time getting my picture taken for my church directory.

Result: no post. My apologies to my faithful follower. ;)

I've been reluctant over the past few weeks to get on my computer. As I wrote elsewhere, it seems the amount of conflict produced in my life is in direct proportion to the risks I am taking as a part of my new Gene Getz-inspired life. I don't like conflict. Conflict makes stories interesting to read, but it makes life a real pain to live. It's making me want very much to pull back into my shell and stop talking to people altogether.

I won't, but I want to. This is why I never took chances before. My calm is being seriously disturbed by life. I don't have an ulcer yet, so I'm counting that a plus.

Contest voting starts this Friday. If you have registered, you received an email from Jeff the Publisher restating the rules. If you know me personally, you probably received an email from me doing the same.

All premise contest entries will advance in the first round, no matter who gets what votes. I think MLS is realizing a blurb alone does not a good premise make :) If they do this again, I wonder if the premise contest will be allowed the hook and the cover blurb to start.

Anyway, have a happy Tuesday, everyone. Love God and serve others today, no matter what conflict it generates. Choose the hard right instead of the easy wrong.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Polishing Is Finally Done

I took my own sweet time about it, too, but when I realized the contest was going to take so long, I decided not to rush it. I won't revise it again without a publisher telling me to do so.

Mostly, I've added more chapter breaks, which means coming up with more chapter headings.
I think it's been a full year since I've looked at this story. I'm pleased to say I'm still pleased with it, beginning to end. That doesn't always happen with stories.

Now I'm starting to think about the four books that go with it. I've two prequels, a side-quel, and a sequel all started. See, I wrote Star of Justice as a stand-alone, but I seem incapable of writing about a world without connecting it to other worlds in my universe.

Star of Justice is a spin-off from an as-yet unwritten story series based in our near future called Past Ties. That series is a time-travel, sci-fi mystery. And, no, I can't seem to stick with one genre. Anne McCaffrey never did and she's probably my biggest secular influence.

Actually, I should look over Elementals again and start researching possible publishers for it. I consider it a Young Adult book (mostly because the heroes are fourteen and fifteen), so Marcher Lord Press won't do for this one.

On the other hand, I wrote it with the intention of self-publishing through Print on Demand. Now that I have a website, I might go ahead and do that.

What I really need to do is finish reading Stuart Vaughn Stockton's Starfire. It's the book that got me into this whole contest with MLS, and makes me want to write for them. He's an amazing author. Anyone who can get me reading about dinosaurs would have to be. I'll be writing a review on it shortly.

Looking at the clock, I guess what I'm doing next is going to bed. God willing, the cats will let me sleep 'til the alarm goes off.

A girl can dream.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Reading Posts at The MLS Forum

Seems Jeff the publisher may want to have discussions after each round of voting about why you voted the way you did, and why you rejected certain titles/premises.

Sound a little risky, but he's hoping (with good reason) that people will be nice when they critique and the info might be useful for everyone.

I'm strangely for this concept.

Thanks for the prayers. I seem to need them more every day.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Rule 3

My posts have been a little long lately. The price of trying to instruct and comment at the same time. I'll keep this short.

I spent my morning computer time reviewing the last 16 entries for the MLS main contest.

I've picked my preliminary 20 to vote for. I figure why not give as many as possible a chance for as long as possible? I have time left, so I'm sure I'll go back over them and reconsider.

I must admit, some of these stories seem a little silly to me. I won't name names since theoretically someone from the contest can now find my blog and possibly read this. Plus, my silliness may be someone else's Grand Vision. I don't have the market cornered on great fiction.

A few of these entries make my worldview lens cloudy wondering if these are areas open for fictional interpretation. "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial" kind of stuff. I personally would hesitate to tackle a few of them just in case I tread in heresy territory. For example, I wouldn't want to be the author of The Shack (not a book in the contest, by the way, I mean the real The Shack). I don't think he set out to cause the stir he did, but woo-doggies, did he ever.

On the other hand, this is speculative Christian fiction. What's the fun in speculating only on "safe" topics?

I am enjoying reading the discussion boards. I've even made a few comments, checked and double-checked for accuracy, I assure you.

Anyhoo, feel free to join us in the grand experiment. Countdown continues. Seven days to go.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

TUTAW: Rejection

The Ugly Truth About Writing is...rejection happens.

We all know this. When you put yourself out there, odds are you will be rejected. Even more true about writing.

You write a story. Or not. Some people have an idea first and wait to write until they have a backer. This is a good use of time, but I'd rather just write the book and worry about publishing later.

So here's this story. You think it's good. You think other people will think it's good. You do some research (hopefully. otherwise you will waste a lot of money) and pick a publisher you think will like your story. Actually, you pick a publisher who publishes stories like your story. The difference between those two sentences is the emotional meaning you will attach to their response.

You submit your story, following all the guidelines the publisher requests. You wait. You do whatever it is you do while you wait (don't bother the publisher!). I try to keep my mind on something else.

Your response arrives. It has probably changed, but back when I regularly attended conferences, it was your manuscript returned in a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelop) and a pink rejection slip. The slip is very polite, and states something like "We have reviewed your manuscript, and it does not fit our current needs. Thank you for contacting us." A polite brush-off.

You can be crushed. It's OK. It's not helpful, but it is natural. Even I would be a little dented.

Here's the problem. That slip doesn't tell you anything. It may be saying they are too busy to actually read your story. Or, they have so many submissions already they can't produce one more right now. Or, your story really doesn't fit their needs (meaning you didn't research your market well enough). Or, the editor (likely junior) who read it just didn't like it that day.

See? All kinds of reasons. None of them are personal.

It is possible the editor hates you. If you went to conference, met her and annoyed her, it's possible. If you call her twice a day for a month and ask if she's read your manuscript, it's likely. Don't do that, by the way. The editors I work for won't talk to anyone who "bothers" them about a press release (with certain exceptions, except none of those will apply to you and your publisher, believe me).

So, the rejection isn't personal. It doesn't stop it from hurting.

The Marcher Lord Select contest is an editorial review by other authors and potential readers instead of one editor. However, this doesn't mean that losing the contest assures none of these people would like my book if they read it.

The contest is set up with a lot of hoops to make conditions as fair as possible. I support this whole-heartedly. It is not fair for one person with a lot of friends to win just because they can rouse more support from people they know.

On the other hand, the audience itself is people who know about the contest; i.e., potential authors and readers who are Internet users. MLP books are sold on the Internet, not stores. These people are nerds and geeks (my own kind) but they are not the only nerds and geeks in the world.

Plus, the length of the contest itself and the commitment involved in following it through to the end may create conditions where the final voting is done by only a handful of people. As I read the comments, I'm seeing about 10-20 people currently active in the process. Will more vote? I hope so, but I don't know.

I want to win. I'm in it to win. I may not. Some of these books sound pretty good, and they seem to be touching nerves with this audience. I think that's great. I'm astounded to learn there are people in the world as weird as I am, and that we have a place to gather. That knowledge alone makes all this worthwhile. Even if I lose the contest, I am not barred from resubmitting my story to MLP. It will just take longer to get published (see? Optimism!).

Rejection happens. It is a fact. I try very hard not to connect it to my sense of self-worth. For the most part, I succeed.

It seems I may have sounded a little depressed and possibly suicidal in yesterday's post. Please believe, I am fine. Fear gives way to resignation for me. Whatever happens now is God's will. I'm just looking for the teachable moments. And I'm looking forward to seeing who wins.

It may be a book I wouldn't want to read. ;)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Premise Contest So Far

Another way-too-early morning for me. This time, I woke myself up at 4:11. The cats had nothing to do with it.

For the record, nothing good seems to come of waking up at that time for me. I try to pray for folks until I fall back asleep (if I can), 'cause most folks need it, but at that time, in the dark, when sunrise is still hours away, my mind naturally goes to bad places. All the worries of my waking life find me. Even though I'm talking to God and trying to listen to Him, He seems far away at 4 AM.

Result: today I get up with a knot in my stomach as well as a stuffy nose. I have no reason for the knot. It's just there, annoying me, trying its best to make me grumpy.

Last night, I spent an hour or so at the MLS website looking at the premise contest and the first 20 main contest entries, and reading what other people are saying about both.

(Reminder: check out my How to Register with Marcher Lord Select post to get signed up to be a judge in this contest)

Star of Justice is listed on only one person's I'm going to vote for list, and it was only picked after a second read-through of all the premises. Hey, I'm glad for any press at this point. There are other entries that aren't listed by anyone. Yet.

We're three days into the contest, ten days before actual voting can happen. Now is the time to read and choose what you will vote for on Nov 13, 14 or 15. Now is the time to make public comments at The Anomaly forum about which premises interest you and why. This information is helpful for new writers.
(Reminder: you must vote for 3; you may vote for up to 25)

I might believe that my book being listed toward the end is making a difference, except a premise that seems to interest everyone is after it. Sigh.

When I wrote Star of Justice, I had no particular audience or theme in mind. I just wanted to write a great book. That lack of intentionality may hurt me in this contest, but I find I don't care so much. I like my book. People who've read it like it. And some of those people aren't related to me in any way (like my mailman).

Hey, at some point, I owe everyone an Ugly Truth About Rejection post. It's coming, never fear. I like that the people who are posting comments at this time seem to be taking the whole thing seriously. I suspect that makes MLS happy with their grand experiment.

The entire premise contest is based on 620 words: the 20 word premise, 100 word blurb, and first 500 words. That's a lot of pressure for about two pages out of 300. Every participant should be commended for even trying. Right this moment, I wonder how many (like pre-Gene Getz me) didn't try because they were afraid they couldn't do it.

Well, I'm starting my day an hour ahead. I suspect I'll end it an hour behind.

May God bless your day anyway.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Second Month Evaluation

I'm two months into this blog. Let's pause and reflect, shall we?

I haven't gained any more public followers, although I think, based on outside conversations, I have more readers than I suspect.

I have learned how to post a poll and links and move things around layout-wise.

The thrill of writing daily has faded into duty. I knew it would, as life caught up with me. I suppose as my writing goals become more serious, it is logical my writing about those goals would follow suite (it is suite, right? like suite of cards?). I'm fighting it, though. I want to keep on the sunny side of writing. The weather hasn't helped my mood, but as The Wise Woman would say, "You cannot be princess of others until you are princess of your moods."

Now that the contest has begun, I feel very calm. I suppose that's because it is officially out of my hands.

I want to make it very clear, as I write about the contest, I am fully aware I am over-functioning. In the real world, I would tell you about it and leave it up to you to do as you will. In the real world, that's how I work. Personal responsibility applies to everything, even contests.

However, since this is important to me, and if you're reading this blog it may be important to you, I will help you as much as I can without violating my conscience.

If you notice the time stamp on this post, you may wonder what I'm doing up at this sacred hour.
Cats are no respecters of daylight savings time. Cats won't give you an extra hour of sleep. In fact, cats will wake you up an extra hour early just to make sure you don't forget to wake up at the usual time. We're doing some retraining, but I'm going to be a little fuzzy for the next week or so. My apologies to those of you who must deal with me in the real world.

As far as the contest goes, I read through the prospective premises last night. Turns out I'm very picky about my reading subject matter. A few premises I dismissed out of hand, not because they didn't sound interesting, but because I would never read that kind of book. I tended to be interested in the fantasy ones. Shocking!

Anyway, I've chosen 11 to vote for, so far. I will probably go back and add some. If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know I don't form snap judgments. I have to gather information and mull things over.

I'm following dizzyjam's advice about how to choose. I credited it to Jeff the Publisher, but it's one of his senior members who actually wrote the post.

Keep in mind, some writers don't know how to write a good hook. This doesn't mean their book is bad. In the next round, we'll get the back cover blurb and that might make all the difference in your interest level. If you're remotely interested, there is no harm in voting for it.

I must also admit, I'm looking at the word count. At 166,000 words, Star of Justice is a little over 300 pages single-spaced. I think 100,000 words is the average for a Christian romance novel, and that would be about 250 pages. Some of these premises have 78-80,000 words. I don't know if that means they are amazing writers who know how to make every word count, or beginning writers who have a good idea that's a little thin in execution. Of course, I've read some fantastic books that were small and to the point: The Myth Adventures series by Robert Aspirin springs to mind, or anything by George MacDonald. A book doesn't have to be long to be great. Also, if the story is a great idea but a little thin, I'm sure the publishers/editors would be willing to offer some help in bulking it up.

My dilemma is whether or not to assume these writers are like me. Are they experienced but unpublished? Is this their first foray into the publishing world? Do they have good ideas but lack ambition? (this is me.) Or, are these real newbies, eager to jump into the writing life and get it going but maybe still lacking some skills? Wow, that sounds arrogant even for me.

I'm not saying I've got it all figured out. I don't. But I have read manuscripts that are more eager than coherent. A good story is a balance of many elements. It's hard to do. I've also heard good pitches that were poorly executed. Just because the hook is a zinger doesn't mean the book will deliver.

Hmm. That stream of thought wasn't helpful, was it?

It will be hard to figure out from the tiny slice of writing we're allowed in the premise contest who is capable of presenting a good story. I suppose that is why the prize is a review, not a publishing contract. Marcher Lord Select has already figured this out. It's one of the reasons I like them.

Monday, November 2, 2009

How to Register with Marcher Lord Select

Marcher Lord Select is up and running. The contest entries are listed. It is time to review and select your favorites.

I know some wonderful folks who are not tech-savvy. This post is for you.

If you click on the link at the left corner of my blog, you will go to the login page for the Marcher Lord Select contest forum. From this page, you may "Create New Account."

Choose your user name (mine is robynnt), a password (I'm not telling you my password, but you choose what you can remember) and enter your email address.

You will receive an activation code in your email inbox to make sure you're real. The code will come from correspondence@proboards. Copy that code (ctrl C) and use the link in the email to complete the registration process by pasting the code (ctrl V) into the form and submitting.

Then you can use the link on my blog to log in directly to the forum with contest information, and you should be good to go.

Most of my readers have my email address and phone number. If you get too stuck, contact me.
Once you're registered and logged in, you will see Phase 1 for the Main Contest and the Premise Contest.

I encourage you to check out both. The main contest winner will actually get published. The premise contest winner will get her manuscript reviewed by the publisher for possible publishing next year. Both ideas are really cool.

Actual voting will be Nov 13-15.

Now is the time to look over the contestants and pick the ones that interest you. Jeff the publisher recommends opening a Notebook file (I don't know how to do this) and saving the names into that. I'm going to type the names into a Word file and save it as Favorite Contest People. Or maybe something shorter. As names get eliminated and moved around, you'll have a list of what you liked in the beginning.

In the premise contest, you'll have to vote for three. This is to dilute the chance of one person dragging a lot of folks in just to vote for one entry. You can vote for up to 25.

Tonight, I'll give you a chance to try the logging in process. You can stay logged in or you can logout using the logout option on the tool bar under and a little to the right of the Y in The Anomaly. I always log out of stuff. I'm a safety girl.

Tomorrow, I'll walk you through the articles Jeff has written about the contest. I encourage you to read them yourself as primary source material, but I'll do my best to summarize accurately for those barely interested.

Now, I'm almost done with my polishing of Star of Justice, so I'll get on with that.

God be with you.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Nothing to Say

My "contest break" continued today as I focused on the rest of my life. I'll pick back up with Marcher Lord Select in the morning.

I spent time outside raking leaves and inside watching season 1 of The Mentalist. I met a cousin who talks now and seems to like me (I kept winning prizes at imaginary bingo and imaginary pumpkin carving) and spent time with my grandmother on her birthday (97, I think). I started the morning talking with my Savior and finished the evening talking with the same Guy.

The sun was shining and I think I saw a bank sign with a temp of 77 degrees. I would call it a good day. I should call all days good days, but I'm still biased toward the shining sun.

Since I have so little to write about, please feel free to share your day in the comments section. I'd love to know how my readers are doing.