Category Archives: Blogging

Another Step

On a long journey.

In three days I’m leaving for a writers conference called “Realm Makers.” I plan on meeting with several agents to pitch one of my novels.

As usual, I’m anxious. I can write well enough, but pitching my novels well enough to pique interest, it’s intimidating to say the least. How does one boil a book down to a sentence or two, and well enough someone will say, “Tell me more?” Especially one who has little confidence in speaking to people I don’t know about my stories.

The last week I have spent trying to prepare my documents as well as my mind.

I’ve attended many conferences, talked to many an editor and agent. You’d think I’d be more comfortable by now. Considering I’ve yet to secure an agent, and have too few stories published, I’m not confident this conference will end up any different.

So why go, then?

Because conferences aren’t only about eventual publication through a traditional publisher (versus vanity or self-publishing). They also offer classes to improve our writing, and learn more about marketing. Even better, I get to meet, connect and reconnect with other writers. Others who understand the joys, sorrows, frustrations, failures and triumphs of what writing means.

I also often meet God there, and I learn something about him, about myself, or a combination of both. I never know what, and that’s part of the fun.

I will also write at least one entry a day while I’m there so you can share the journey with me. Perhaps a photo or two.

Not Everything Needs to be Profound

Some of my best thoughts seem to come right after I go to bed, and far too often, I decide not to write it down, convinced I will remember it the next morning.

Yeah, right. Like that’s ever happened.

This time, however, I had a thought and decided that I must write it down. I am currently breaking one of my house rules — no electronics in the bedroom. I break it now only because I don’t want to get out of bed, turn on the light, and write it in a paper journal. I’ll have to rewrite it in my computer anyway, so waste the time (since I do enough of that already)?

I’ve been having trouble coming up with ideas for my blog.

I keep another blog on a different site. While lately I’ve been copying from this blog to that one, it was meant for more personal, daily life entries.

Tonight I decided to write “a day in the life” entry, and it felt good to do so. Nothing deep or profound, just some interesting things that happened.

I realized then that not all of my entries need to be profound. Lighter entries are okay, too. After all, people who read my blog do so, not only because I have opinions on certain issues, but to get to know personal things about me (not too personal, though, because, eww).

While I may not lead the most interesting life compared to some, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth sharing sometimes.

Especially the silly stuff, and I have plenty of those. Such as when I came down with a cold last year. I was so out of it, I went to work wearing two different shoes, and didn’t notice it until two hours later. Or when I warmed a breakfast sandwich at work. I accidentally set the microwave for ten minutes instead of one. It left a horrid smell in the entire building that lasted nearly two days, and no amount of Febreeze could cut through it.

I don’t mind sharing stories like that. I enjoy making people laugh, even at my own expense, because it keeps me humble.

Spiritual Fatigue

With 2018 less than two weeks away, one can’t help but take stock of the previous year, what we accomplished, and didn’t accomplish, our pains and our joys. We also look toward our goals and hopes for the next year.

One of my goals is to avoid politics (it’s an off-year election in the States, so I expect things to get almost as heated and divisive as both 2016 and 2017, if not worse), and spend little if any time on social media.

A few times this last summer, we camped at a local lake called Lake Tschida. With the heat and drought, however, the lake bloomed with blue-green and slimy algae that few dared to swim in. I was not one of them.

That’s what social media feels like to me lately. Just perusing it with all the vitriolic politics and constant hate and nasty insults to those who simply disagree on a particular subject feels like swimming in a bathtub-warm, and algae-choked lake. I leave feeling slimed, emotionally and sometimes spiritually drained.

In 2016, I took a full year off social media except my author page on Facebook and other writing sites. Not only did the spiritual ick leave me, but I wrote many blog entries and finished three languishing novels. All told, I wrote over 200,000 words in those twelve months.

I hope to meet or exceed that number this year.

First I need to write my 2018 Lenten devotionals which are due by the end of January. I’m not stressing about those, though. Yet.

My other writing goals are to write more entries here on multiple subjects, rewrite my fantasy, and perhaps submit it to ACFW’s Genesis contest. As with the First Impressions contest, while winning is great, the real benefit is the judges’ critiques. Having outside opinions of my work can only help me improve my skill.

My other writing goals are to continue to submit queries to literary agents (four down, fourteen to go of my current list). I’d also like to write and submit more short stories, but we’ll see. I’ve started two so far, but am having trouble finishing. I think it’s due to my spiritual fatigue. I lose both motivation and confidence when I’m so drained.

But I am also an eternal optimist. Having endured spiritual angst multiple times already, I know it’s a seasonal thing, and like every time before, I’ll get through it and hopefully a little wiser in the end.

Oh. And read. A lot.

If this be my last entry for 2017, I pray you have a stress-less holiday season, and 2018 ends up the best year ever for all of us.

The Boring Life And Other Miscellaneous Thoughts

I’ve read multiple articles about how the best way to alleviate writer’s block and keep readers coming back for more is to journal every day. It doesn’t even matter what I write about, just write something, and post at least once a week.

All fine and dandy as far as ideas go, but most of what happens in my life is boring: Oh, look. It didn’t rain again today. And I went to work. I sat at my desk for most of it, except when nature called. Then I went home, and enjoyed snuggling with my son (he’s still young enough that he likes to sit in my lap. I don’t turn him down, because those days are numbered). After that, I struggled with deciding whether or not to go to bed at 10pm or 11pm. I know, such a big decision there. How did I manage? It was difficult, I tell ya.

I can always appreciate (and feel twinges of jealousy), when other writers can make the mundane seem interesting and even humorous, whereas me, it’s a rarity, and I have to work at it when I do give it a try.

One of our nieces is arriving tomorrow to stay with us for about three weeks. I’m looking forward to it, but at the same time, do I really want to subject her to three weeks of my ultra-boring life? The poor girl. Thankfully I’m still going to work while she’s here, and my husband and son are far more entertaining than I am. That’ll save her brain from turning into mush. I hope. If not, I’ll blame it on hubby and son. Think that’ll fly?

Originally I set the dates for her arrival so she’d be here during the 4th of July, since our town goes all-out with fireworks. We’ve never been to the city’s fireworks show, because our neighbors do such a good job. With a severe drought this year, however, all fireworks have been banned. The last time that happened was in 2006. That was still kind of a neat year, because we heard and saw zero fireworks. Everyone abided by the ban, which in some places wouldn’t happen; they’d take the chance that they wouldn’t get caught. I expect the same silence this year, too.

I’ve narrowed my list of potential literary agents to fourteen. I wrote all their statistics (such as if they take simultaneous submissions, what to send along with a query letter, when to expect a response [if any], who they represent, and what types of books they’ve sold recently). The next step is to place them in order of which to solicit first. After that, structure my query and other items to submit to that particular agent. I’m hoping to start sending letters out the first week of July.

Assuming I don’t find some way to procrastinate some more . . . Such as writing silly blog entries like this one.

It’s Personal

The message in church today was about how to keep love in a marriage. The scripture my pastor used was Ephesians 4:28-32:

If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

I focused mostly on verses 29 and 31-32 (in bold), because we need more of that – and not only within the context of marriage.

This also occurred to me during the sermon:

In the realm of politics, we can’t help but take things personal. This is especially true when someone personally attacks the candidate or leader we supported and voted for. We see it as an attack upon ourselves.

This is something we all need to be aware of when we criticize our leaders. Are we criticizing their policies (good), or their dress, looks, heritage, or mannerisms (bad)? I always hated the personal attacks on Obama and his family (some of it downright horrific) even though I disagreed with his policies. It was unproductive, cruel, and never gained a single convert. The same holds true for the nasty rhetoric against Trump and his family.

A friend of mine, Jessica, wrote this on Facebook a few days ago:

I’ve been trying to be better about checking my motives before posting stuff on Facebook. Often I decide my motives are wrong so I don’t post. So, I’m starting to wonder about the purpose of Facebook beyond being able to see pictures of people’s babies. If, after thinking about it some more, cute baby pictures turn out to be Facebook’s only redeeming purpose, I will stay on here because I totally love seeing pictures of people’s babies. People with babies: keep posting pictures of your babies. They are not only adorable, they also remind me how good our God is. And I need to be reminded of that. Especially after scanning past all the political posts.

I, too, need to keep in mind my ultimate and ulterior motives, not only in my Facebook posts, but in my blog. I’ve written plenty that I decided against posting (and others I probably shouldn’t have posted), because they sounded condescending and pretentious. I realized that I wrote them in an attempt to make myself look good, to appear “better than everyone else.”

Ugh. Humility isn’t one of my strengths, and it needs to be. If not for my sake, certainly for those around me.

Also highlighted in today’s sermon: Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. – James 1:19

I Stole This Entry

While it may sound odd, I really do hate when I finish a book or story. Sure, there’s always a sense of accomplishment, but after that, I feel a bit sad that it’s over. After spending so much quality time writing, when it’s done, I have to ask myself, “Now what?”

On my other blog on writing.com, I participated in a blogging contest where I competed with others based on a specific prompt every two to three days. Now that the contest has ended, I still want to write entries, but write about what, exactly?

I’m a thief, but writing — especially blogs — requires a bit of thievery. A thievery of ideas.

For instance, I noticed a few bloggers writing entries using the following prompt:

Write about a scent you remember from your childhood. What aroma brings back pleasant memories when you smell it?

When I think about memories tied to smells, only one comes to mind.

First I’ll start off with an excerpt from http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/human-nature/perception/smell3.htm… written by Sarah Dowdey:

A smell can bring on a flood of memories, influence people’s moods and even affect their work performance. Because the olfactory bulb is part of the brain’s limbic system, an area so closely associated with memory and feeling it’s sometimes called the “emotional brain,” smell can call up memories and powerful responses almost instantaneously.

The olfactory bulb has intimate access to the amygdala, which processes emotion, and the hippocampus, which is responsible for associative learning. Despite the tight wiring, however, smells would not trigger memories if it weren’t for conditioned responses. When you first smell a new scent, you link it to an event, a person, a thing or even a moment. Your brain forges a link between the smell and a memory — associating the smell of chlorine with summers at the pool or lilies with a funeral. When you encounter the smell again, the link is already there, ready to elicit a memory or a mood. Chlorine might call up a specific pool-related memory or simply make you feel content. Lilies might agitate you without your knowing why. This is part of the reason why not everyone likes the same smells.

Makes sense, because my husband doesn’t mind the smell of skunks, whereas me, I’ll plug my nose and move away as fast as I can, thank you very much.

Now for my own pleasant memory.

There is only one smell that brings back strong memories of my mom. It’s not what you would think, either. It’s not a particular food that she made all the time, nor is it a perfume or soap.

It’s Hoppe’s No.9.

For those of you who don’t know, it’s a cleaning solvent made to clean firearms.

I didn’t realize how strongly it brought back memories of Mom until I smelled it while my husband was cleaning one of his firearms. I couldn’t help but laugh at the realization, because other than my sister, I doubt anyone remembers their mother based on the aroma of gun-cleaning solution.

Now for the why.

My mom liked her firearms, and she had a fair selection of mostly revolvers. She kept all her cleaning gear inside an old suitcase made out of 7-Up cans. My sister has it now.

Every six months or so, whether my mom had used her firearms or not, she would bring them and the suitcase out, and clean them in the living room. I remember watching her, asking what each part of the firearm was, and why she cleaned each part the way she did. She even let me help a few times, and for a long time afterward, my hands would smell of a combination of Hoppe’s No.9 and gunpowder. Good times. Great memories.

My question for you is, what smell brings back memories of your mother?

Heart vs Brain

I’m participating in a blogging contest on another website, and I liked this particular prompt and my response enough to share here:

Prompt:

Write about your greatest struggle so far writing or otherwise. You can choose whichever form you want: short story, poem, creative nonfiction, etc.

When I first saw the question, my brain went into overload. Like every other human, my list of struggles is so long, to pick one is near impossible. It seems we are born, live, and die with struggle.

There’s a quote from the movie “The Matrix.” I don’t have it exact but to paraphrase one of the “agents” as he talked to Neo: “We tried creating the perfect world for you. No struggles, death or disease, but you kept waking up, because you could never believe in a perfect world. We lost entire crops.”

I also think that since we live almost daily with struggles, we can’t imagine what Heaven will be like.

The one that I choose for this particular entry isn’t my greatest struggle, but it’s certainly one of my more recent ones.

Call it a slight case of mid-life crisis.

My hair is graying, certain parts aren’t — shall we say — as perky as they once were. I have arthritic knees and now elbows. Last year I graduated to bifocals. I’m finding myself saying “What?” more often than I used to, and I can’t remember anything unless I write it down or tell my phone to beep me a reminder of an appointment or meeting.

Every day I gain a greater sense of my inevitable mortality.

I see younger folks with better health, figure and energy than I do, and I can’t help but mourn the loss of my youth. I look in the mirror and think, “Yuck. I’m old, fat and saggy. How ugly and worthless am I?”

Like it or not, I determine some of my self worth based on how I look. I would love to lose a few (or 40) pounds, but it gets more difficult the older I get. My brain tells me that looks don’t matter. My son still adores me and smiles whenever he sees me. My husband still thinks, and calls me beautiful. They don’t care that I’m all squishy. Why do I refuse to see me through their eyes?

During church today, my pastor mentioned a recent scientific journal where scientists have discovered that so-called negativity such as anger, frustration cling to our neurons like Velcro. Positive emotions and thoughts, on the other hand, slide off our neurons like Teflon. If true, my brain is no different from anyone else’s. I often see the positive in most every circumstance, but it also takes a lot of mental rigor to get me to that point. Afterward, I need a nap.

In other words, we have to work on optimism, and we have to work on embracing the fact that we are flawed creatures, but nonetheless loveable and beautiful in spite of — or even sometimes because of — those flaws.

So I’m getting old. So no young stud is going to turn his head and think, “Whoa. She’s hot.” That same young stud, however, may still smile and take down a grocery item from a shelf because I can’t reach it. He will treat me kindly and with respect because I am his elder (they still do that, believe it or not. I’ve seen and experienced it).

My brain is convinced that even though there may be fewer days behind me than before, I still have today, and I must not squander it. I am still worthy of being loved no matter what my age or how much loose skin waddles underneath my arms.

Convincing my heart, that’s the real struggle.