Archive for the 'Publishing and Marketing' Category

All Things Have Become New

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My new profile picture.

(For the time being anyway — Windows 8 helpfully swapped out the one that I had on the WordPress site for the default that came with the Windows 8 program when I changed my WP administrator email address)

🙄

Yes, I am once again in the throes of learning a new operating system, getting a new email address and client, trying to figure out where I need to go to replace the old ones… and soon I will be setting up a new website.

The web hosting service of my old site, addr.com, has gone MIA. No chat, no phone, and so far no response to my email about why I can no longer log in and why I am not getting any emails through the old kmhancock email address. That account, as I mentioned in the last post, was set up over ten years ago as part of my website which had been hosted by addr.com. I never had one problem with them in all that time, but lately I’ve not been very active when it comes to my website. Thus it never occurred to me the credit card they had on file had gone out of date. At least that’s what I’m thinking the problem is. Or at least part of the problem.

Since it never occurred to me the card they had, had expired, it never occurred to me to contact them about it. You’d think they would contact me, but they did not.

Day before yesterday I spent a good deal of time researching web hosting sites and reading reviews. I mentioned previously reading lots of scary posts on addr.com, but they were all on one site that seemed to be promoting another hosting service so I went looking for reviews that might be a bit more impartial and recent.

Well, those were not good, either, though this time a number of them were written by folks like me who had been with the service for ten years or more and had mostly been very happy with it. But within the last five years, everything seemed to go downhill. Problems with disappearing emails were mentioned, also the chat ALWAYS being down, and the phones ALWAYS being too busy to answer so send an email, and the email almost never being answered. On the rare occasions someone did manage to get through on the phones they were routed to a person in India who barely spoke English and didn’t even know the system.

I wonder if they might be out of business. Wouldn’t my website have gone down entirely, though, if that were the case?  As of now it’s still up, though you can’t use the email any more… (even before I changed it)

Anyway, I’ve signed up with a new service and will soon be working on a new website (the old one was getting stale anyway) that will be integrated with this blog — something I’ve wanted to do for some time.

At the moment though, learning my way around Windows 8 is quite enough for this old and shrinking brain of mine to handle. 🙂

Take a Day Off and Other Articles

stu sleeping

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been MIA for the last week or so. I gave up on trying to control myself and gave it over to the Lord to handle. He seems to be giving me a vacation of sorts…

So today, I thought I’d put up a list of some items of interest I’ve come across recently…er, well, mostly today, actually.

First up, appropriately enough is Writers Should Take a Year Off and Give Us All a Break – an essay in The Guardian on the observation that, to borrow from Ecclesiastes, “the writing of many books is endless…”  At the time of Solomon, however, it was nothing compared to today, when the rate of publication has exploded as never before. How ironic that this is occurring at the same time that more and more people lack the attention span or time, to read anything longer than a tweet.

Still, I like the idea of taking a year off from writing… oh, wait… I’ve already sort of been doing that …

Next, I draw your attention to a Muslim Brotherhood Fact Sheet from Stand With Us, an international, nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Israel.  It includes quotes from the Brotherhood’s own charters, writings and guides. Members are not interested in dialog. Nor are they interested in peace (unless you count the peace that results from the entire world being converted to Islam). They are most definitely not interested in democracy, unless — again — it’s the Islamist kind… that is, Sharia Law.

Third is an essay on the misguided Western policy of appeasement during World War 1 that resulted in World War 2 and may well be on its way to setting up World War 3. This one’s written by my favorite blogger and former high level Foreign Service Officer The Diplomad 2.0: Obama and an Edouard Daladier Moment

And finally, the new  “funnel tunnel” in Houston, an unintended metaphor for where our tax dollars/charity donations are going…

Thanks, to…

SONY DSC

One more post on the Christy Awards…

Since I did all that talking about my bungled acceptance “remarks” in my previous post, and because I rather liked having the opportunity to express my thanks publicly to some people whose support has been very significant over the years, I want to share it here.  And not only because of them, but because you all — my readers — are also among the “thankee’s.” It was supposed to be 1 – 2 minutes, during which we were encouraged to talk about what it was like in the beginning, a bit about our journey and what motivates us then and now to write:

“Well, I am deeply honored to be among the first inductees into the Christy Awards Hall of Fame, and a bit overwhelmed. No matter how many times I’ve been privileged to stand up here, it always seems unreal.

First I’d like to thank the Christy Awards organization for holding this annual recognition of excellence in Christian fiction. [Insert spate of blither about inspiring and encouraging authors here]

Thanks, too, to the Christy Awards judges for being so kind to my work over the years.

Second I want to express my deepest gratitude to Steve Laube, my agent and formerly my editor at Bethany House, and the one who opened the door for me. Despite hearing my nervous and rather lame pitch of Arena at Mt. Hermon many years ago, he still asked me to send him the manuscript!

I’m grateful as well to the Bethany House editorial board he presented it to, and who bought both Arena and, not long after, my fantasy series Legends of the Guardian-King. They were taking a big gamble back then. Science fiction and allegory were still very questionable venues for Christian fiction. Fantasy was even worse — “a death word” in the industry, Steve told me.

So I took to calling it “Speculative Historical fiction.”

Nevertheless, Bethany House took on all five books. So to Carol and Gary Johnson and the others on that board — thank you for your vision and courage in taking the risk that you did and then in continuing to believe in my work as the years have passed.

I also want to give a huge shout out to my editor, Karen Schurrer, who has worked on every one of my books. — What a joy and blessing you have been to me! — In the beginning it was unnerving to think of someone else making changes to my work. But Karen was so patient with me, so good at what she does that now I can’t imagine not having her there to find all the clunks and logic gaps and wrong turns and to gently suggest I take another look.

Finally, I am thankful for and to my readers whose enthusiasm and support have shown me that I actually am accomplishing what God has called me to do: provide spiritual encouragement and edification through story to my fellow members of the Body of Christ. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to serve them in this capacity.”

Thanks to all of you!

Close-up of the engraved words: 2013 Hall of Fame, The Christy Award, Karen Hancock

Close-up of the engraved words: 2013 Hall of Fame, The Christy Award, Karen Hancock

The Christy Award Hall of Fame

My Christy Hall of Fame Award at home

My Christy Hall of Fame Award at home

Okay, so the entire reason for my going to St. Louis was, as I mentioned, for me to be inducted into the inaugural Christy Award Hall of Fame, along with Historical novelist Lynn Austin. And so far, I’ve said nary a word about it.

Well, the dinner/awards ceremony was held in a ballroom … or at least, I think it was a ballroom — we weren’t exactly sure for what purpose the room had been built but it had a high ceiling and floor to ceiling windows, as well as tall, squared- off columns. And yet… it was very long and narrow, almost as if it had once been part of a larger room, and was walled off to increase the number of spaces the hotel could offer for events.  In any case, it was an elegant if echo-y room, with a very lofty ceiling.

This might be the room -- the windows and columns look right...

This might be the room — the windows and columns look right…

The reason I can’t recall the exact location is that I didn’t know it beforehand, and when my husband and I arrived, we were late. We were supposed to have been early, because I was to be participating in the presentation of the awards to this year’s winners and needed to receive my instructions…

We would’ve been on time, I think, except for the GPS.  I knew where the hotel was, but my hubby had brought our GPS, so we were planning on relying on that. But when we left the garage, the GPS became terminally confused. It was determined that we should “turn right on 7th street” even though we were past 7th street. As it repeated its command to turn right, the screen declared that the Garmin was in fact, “off.” Even as it was on.

Okay. So we tried to make our way through the maze of one way streets, and I thought I had a clear idea of which way to go, except then the street I wanted to turn down had suddenly been blocked off and … by the time we arrived, I’d keyed myself up in that Introvert state of Overwhelm. As I said, I was supposed to have arrived a half hour early to meet the banquet organizer “by the podium” for my instructions. But when I got there, late, there were tons of people already there, and I had no idea where I was going. I spotted a familiar face and asked if he knew where the podium was… and only gradually did I realize I’d asked the former president of BHP, now retired, Gary Johnson. He was very gracious — and helpful — nonetheless.

Eventually I made it to the correct room — all my angst had been utterly without justification (as is so often the case!) — but that is why I don’t know what room we were in!

Anyway, it was a fun evening — despite the fact I had to give an acceptance speech. I had one written out when I left Tucson, but every time I went through it for practice in St. Louis, I kept changing it – via hand-written insertions since I had no computer. For some reason I thought it would be bad if I just read it, so I was trying to memorize it… and there was one particular spot at the beginning where I kept going off script because it felt like there was more to say, even if I couldn’t think what.

Anyway, instead of freaking out about it all, I gave it over to the Lord to handle (Casting all your cares on Him, for He cares for you) and asked Him to give me the words He wanted to me to speak and not let there be any huge bungles in my delivery.

So I got to sit with my editor, Karen Schurrer, my agent, Steve Laube, the Editorial Director of Fiction, Dave Horton, and BHP’s Executive Vice President and Director, Jim Parrish, all of whom are really awesome people to work with. Lynn Austin with her hubby, Rachel McCrae, a book buyer with Lifeway, and the director of the awards, Donna Kehoe rounded out the rest of the folks at our table, though Donna spent almost the entire dinner hour away from her seat, working out various details.

Steve Laube, (yes, my agent) was the Master of Ceremonies and did an excellent job, as usual. He always seems to do an excellent job no matter what he does…

After the presentation of the 2013  Christy Award nominees, agent Chip McGregor gave an emotional tribute to his friend and colleague Lee Hough, and presented him with a Lifetime Achievement award in the field of agenting.

Then it was time for dinner, where I talked far too much and ended up hardly eating much of my food at all… but I can always eat and I can’t always talk to the people who were with me. At least not face to face.

After dinner, the Induction into the Christy Hall of Fame began.  I went first, made it to the podium without tripping, notes in hand, and started in with my spiel. Then I looked up from the notes and was suddenly ad libbing in that area at the beginning where it kept seeming like I should say something more. The next thing you know I heard myself LITERALLY babbling, making no sense whatsoever! Here’s a pic my hubby took of me, so rattled, the camera couldn’t focus:

Me rattled during my unplanned spate of blithering

Me rattled during my unplanned spate of blithering

LOL!

Fortunately I had the sense to cut it off immediately, but not without observing out loud to everyone listening that “I’m babbling. I’ll stop now” and went on to my prepared remarks. Which I think went well, in spite of everything. I should have known before I tried it. Yes, it’s true, I’ve ad-libbed in the past and had no problem. But now that I’m older, the words are no longer coming as swiftly as in my youth. And the words that do come initially are often the WRONG words. Which is what happened on the podium.

If I ever have to do something like this again, I have learned that I MUST stick to the script. Anyway, no one threw anything, and I didn’t collapse from the horror of it so… I guess it’s okay…  Here’s a picture of me right after, receiving my award (courtesy of Becky Miller — Thanks, Becky!)

Me receiving my Hall of Fame Award from Donna Kehoe

Me receiving my Hall of Fame Award from Donna Kehoe

I’ll share a bit more tomorrow…

Arriving in St. Louis

The Arch in St. Louis My hotel is just behind that capital building

The Arch in St. Louis
My hotel is just behind that capital building on the right.

I mentioned some time ago that I was going to St. Louis last weekend for this year’s International Christian Retailers Show, where I was to be inducted into the inaugural Christy Awards Hall of Fame. They have decided to limit the number of awards an author can win to four, which is how many my books have won.  Lynn Austin, a writer of historical novels who has won eight Christy’s, was also inducted.

When I was first invited, I was hesitant to go. We’d have to board Quigley if both Stu and I went, which we’ve never done before with any of our dogs,.  And I didn’t much take to the notion of going alone…  I don’t care for fancy, dress up parties, and I really don’t care for being in any kind of limelight. Plus I feared I would fret about it for weeks and by that take away time otherwise devoted to Sky.

I was almost ready to decline, but my agent Steve Laube talked me down off that ledge. It wasn’t that hard. All he had to do was point out what an opportunity it was to publicly thank Bethany House for all they’ve done for me and my books, and that turned it all around. Plus I got to publicly thank him for opening the door in the first place, and my editor Karen Schurrer who has had a significant hand in all my books.

I am so glad I went. I had a great time, even if I did have to fly alone. (Primarily because long ago after a sudden glitch in our air travel plans I decided I would never again fly on the same day as the event I was attending.)  So I left Sunday morning very early (the Christy dinner was Monday evening) while my husband stayed behind to bring Quigley to the Pet Resort Sunday afternoon. That way we could minimize the time Q spent there (we feared the worst). Stu left for St. Louis early Monday morning.

Not that flying alone was bad: I finally had the time to finish the biography of J.R.R. Tolkien I’ve been “reading” for far too long.  I’ll write more on that in another post, but it was extremely edifying. In many ways, he was a kindred spirit as far as writing goes (and in many other ways he wasn’t)

Anyway, my hotel was practically at the foot of the Arch, and the dinner put on by Baker Publishing for all its authors, editors, publishing contacts and friends (Bethany House was acquired by Baker a number of years ago) was at the hotel next door. I’d also been invited to that, so at about five-thirty that evening, I left my room to walk over. On the way down some people in the elevator asked me if I was going outside. I said I was and they expressed head shakes of sympathy for my misfortune.

I thought they were talking about the problem of the muggy heat and agreed with them that it was unpleasant. I told them I was from Arizona, as if that explained everything (we have that “dry” heat, you know, so the mugginess is always a shock). They seemed to agree, and got off on the second floor where the garage is. I went on down to the first floor, walked out toward the street and for the first time realized there was a thunder-and-lightning, pouring rainstorm outside that would rival many of the best monsoons of southern AZ.

So that’s what the elevator people were talking about! I started laughing. Yeah, the humidity was about as bad as it could get!

Well, when the rain didn’t let up, I went back up to get my umbrella and emergency poncho, which the Lord had fortuitously supplied me a couple of weeks ago. Then when there was a break in the ferocity of the downpour, I walked over, shielded by umbrella and a poncho that felt more like a garbage bag, though I arrived none the worse for wear. My shoes and the bottom of my skirt were a bit damp, but nothing anyone would notice, and both would dry soon.

The dinner was held on the top of the building, where glass panels formed part of the roof and we enjoyed a spectacular show throughout the evening. I love rain storms, especially when there’s lightning and thunder. Always makes me think of the power of God.

In fact, everything about this trip just drew my attention to God over and over again. All the weeks leading up to it, whenever I’d start fretting, I got to practice turning it all over to Him, utterly and completely. For example, there was the problem of where to find an umbrella in the midst of June, when there is rarely a cloud in the sky, let alone rain. In fact we’d hardly had any measurable rain since February. Nor did I have a lot of time to go driving around from place to place. So I took it to the Lord. You handle it, Father.

Not long after that, I had to go to CVS to get my eye-drop prescription refilled and while I waited I wandered about the store. Well, I’d barely begun when I “happened” upon the umbrella and the poncho both. Right there together, and costing a lot less than everything I’d looked at online at Target and Wal-Mart. The woman who checked me out looked at the umbrella and poncho and commented that I must be going to a rainy place. Well, certainly a place with more potential for rain than we have here right now.

Anyway, the last thing I expected was to have to walk to the Baker Dinner in a thunderstorm. But I did, and it worked out fine. (In the picture above, the hotel I had to walk to was just to the left of the Arch, out of sight behind the immediate buildings. There is a small park between the two hotels, from which to view the arch situated on a hill some ways beyond the downtown area, though it looks much closer than that.)

The Stern and Shocking Way God Told Me to Discontinue the Comments

Yesterday I said the reason that I turned off the comments when I was back on Blogger, was because God had told me to do so in a “stern and shocking way.” In fact, He did more than tell me to turn off the comments, He pretty much told me to stop with all the accepted and prevalent ways Christians today are seeking to “market” their work: joining all the groups to cross promote, the blog writing, the cultivation of friendships for the purpose (if we’re honest) of selling our work as we help to sell theirs — all of it human systems, human effort, human personality and human strength.

This was, as I said, back in 2007, and the main event actually predated the moment I chose to stop the comments by several months. Even before then I’d been wrestling with it all, and He kept telling me what I was to do, but I kept ignoring Him. But finally He got a little more dramatic and that got my attention.

No, I didn’t “hear” His voice speaking to me in my office. Nor did a stranger email or show up on my doorstep with “a word from the Lord” for me. Rather it was one of those times when the Bible falls open and your eyes are drawn to a relevant passage.

Until then, I thought that sort of thing was only one step above asking God for help, then opening the Bible with closed eyes and pointing to something on the page, then looking to see what He has “told” you.

No, He wants us in Bible Class learning His word from a man with the gift of pastor-teacher, day in and day out so we can build a reservoir of doctrinal principles, concepts and verses in our souls. It is from this reservoir that the Holy Spirit draws His counsel. He can’t counsel us with doctrine or concepts we haven’t learned. (Unless we happen to be in Bible class learning the material and He very forcefully says, “PAY ATTENTION! THIS IS FOR YOU!!!”)

But this just goes to show you can’t put God in a box, though for the record, I was not using the Open-and-Point method. Instead as I said, I’d been wrestling with the problems that come from trying to join groups of Christians with diverse views on what exactly is the Gospel, or the Christian life, or the Christian’s purpose, or the manner in which that purpose is to be carried out. You’re supposed to be encouraging them, helping to sell their books and yet, you might just think some — even much — of what they have to say is heresy. Then what?

And as much as you take exception to their books, they are just as unimpressed with yours. So… what is this all about? Much is made of tolerating all views, but that doesn’t really line up with the Word of God, which often warns us to avoid people with views that do not line up with Scripture. (David’s example as stated in Psalm 101:3 is perhaps the most forceful on this matter — “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes. I HATE the work of those who fall away” — though the Apostles John and Paul both warn about men coming with false teaching.   2Jn 1:10, 2 Ti 3 and 6)

But even as I was conflicted in this area, I guess I just kept thinking… no, wanting to do it myself — even though He’d been trying to tell me otherwise for a long time. After all, wasn’t that the lesson from the purchase and subsequent publication of the Legends of the Guardian King?

But, as I said, the world is relentless, and so is my sin nature and everyone was doing it, so I continued to suffer and struggle and ask for guidance. Even as He continued to give me all sorts of verses and principles showing me what I was to do.

So one day in March I was sitting on the couch, fretting about all this, my Bible on the coffee table. It’s old, falling apart and has a tendency to slide around. Seeking  the passage in Isaiah about not going down to Egypt for help, I picked it up and started to open it, but somehow it slid out of my hands onto the table, opening itself to Joshua 8 — which is the section on the conquest of Ai.

That was just after the Israelites were entering the Promised land. Having already taken Jericho, they had moved on to Ai, which seemed a far easier conquest than their first city. Yet they failed on their first attempt, all because, it turned out, one man in the camp of about 2 million had disobeyed God’s command not to take anything from that which He had banned in Jericho.

I know that the OT stories are also illustrations of New Testament truths, and that all those Amalekite cities represented the world and its ways, so when I saw where I was, a chill ran up my spine.

The story starts in Joshua 2:24, 25: “Now Jericho was tightly shut because of the sons of Israel; no one went out and no one came in. And the LORD said to Joshua, “see, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its kings and the valiant warriors.”

It goes on to detail the Israelites marching around the city once a day for six days. Then, on the seventh day…

(vs 15) …they rose early at the dawning of the day and marched around the city in the same manner seven times; only on that day they marched around the city seven times.

And it came about that at the seventh time, when the priests blew the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city.

And the city shall be under the ban (cherem – not redeemable, deserving of utter destruction: all must die); and all that is in it belongs to the LORD; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent.

But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, lest you covet them and take some of the things under the ban, so you would make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it.”

… (vs 21) And they utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.

As I said, like Egypt, Jericho represents the World — its treasures, its ways its power… God’s people were not to take anything from the world to enhance their lives or build their fortunes.

They followed His commands to the letter in the conquest of Jericho  — except for one man, Achan, who secretly stole a Babylonian robe, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold from the city and hid them in his tent. This is brought out in chapter 7 as they set out to take the next city, Ai.

Since Ai was sparsely defended, the men who spied it out recommended Joshua send only a couple thousand Israelites to take it. To everyone’s dismay, this group was soundly driven back, routed even, 36 of their number slain. When Joshua went to the Lord about it, he was told what had happened (Josh 7:10 – 15):

So the LORD said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face?

“Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things.

“Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst.

“Rise up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus the LORD, the God of Israel, has said, “There are things under the ban in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban from your midst.”

‘In the morning then you shall come near by your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the LORD takes by lot shall come near by families, and the family which the LORD takes shall come near by households, and the household which the LORD takes shall come near man by man.

‘It shall be that the one who is taken with the things under the ban shall be burned with fire, he and all that belongs to him, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has committed a disgraceful thing in Israel.'”

So Joshua did as he commanded and Achan was found out. He confessed his sin, and revealed where he had hidden the stolen goods as recorded in Josh 7:24,25

Then Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the mantle, the bar of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him; and they brought them up to the valley of Achor.

Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day.” And all Israel stoned them with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.

This is pretty severe, even offensive to today’s sensibilities… But it illustrates the displeasure God has with His people when they disobey His specific instructions, and especially when they seek to use the ‘things of the world,’ to gain what He has promised to give them.

The Impossible is Possible

Since this will be the last week that the e-book version of The Light of Eidon is being offered for free through various vendors, I thought I’d do a few posts relating to it.

This one is another from my newsletter of almost ten years ago, telling the story of how  Eidon got into print, not the specific moments of that day my editor called me to ask what I had lying around, but the long years before that time. The back story, if you will, of my relatively long journey into the world of the published novelist.

The Light of Eidon — The Impossible is Possible

The Light of Eidon

 I’ve been promising to tell the story of how The Light of Eidon got into print for a couple of newsletters now, so here it is. The book began with the advent of the first Star Wars movie which happened to coincide with my reading of a Bible study book called The Christian Warrior by Col R. B. Thieme, Jr.

The two came together in my mind in a welter of metaphorical possibilities and I began writing a science fiction allegorical adventure. Within a year that had turned into the fantasy series that The Light of Eidon begins.

I worked on that for some years, during which time I met Kathy Tyers through a snail mail critique group. She’d just written Firebird and we became critique partners.

Not long after that, she sold Firebird to Bantam Books, and I got an agent for Eidon (then called The Shadow of Ghel). My [first] agent sent it all around to general market houses and NAL (New American Library) almost bought it, holding it a year before changing their minds. I’d written Book Two in the series by then, but my agent didn’t know what to do anymore, having sent Ghel to all the houses, so we decided to go our separate ways.

I rewrote Ghel from start to finish, renamed it The Star of Life and got another agent, who was far more enthusiastic about it than the first agent. Or at least more expressive. She got a very positive response on the book from Tor (another general market publisher), and though they thought it was too long and the loose ends not tied up, they said they’d be happy to look at it again if I reworked it. My agent advised against that, but shortly thereafter decided not to be an agent any more.

I then queried a third agent who was very positive about the work, but suggested I write something entirely unrelated since by then the market had become saturated with that type of fantasy. So I wrote Arena.

During that time I was homeschooling so it took quite a few years to finish it. Then I had lots of trouble getting it critiqued. Two critiquers’ responses were lost in the mail. Others suddenly had no time to get to it. Even more disconcerting, when I finally did get all my reader responses, every critique was different from the other.

“I love the Epilogue” vs “I hate the Epilogue.”

“You write wonderfully vivid descriptions” vs “Your descriptions are weak and need to be more vivid.”

“I don’t like Callie–she’s selfish and whiny” vs “I love Callie and can really relate to her.”

Eventually, though, the book was the best I could make it and I started submitting. It bounced off desks in the general market. By then Kathy had entered the Christian market with her rewritten Firebird. I was still trying to figure out which market I was supposed to be in. Though I’d come to realize that my primary interest was in edifying the Body of Christ rather than evangelizing the lost, my stuff had long been too edgy for the CBA.

Uncertain, I sent a proposal to Kathy’s new publisher, Bethany House in Oct 1998. It was returned within a month with a form letter. So I thought, “Okay, forget that,” and went back to bouncing the manuscript off desks in New York.

Two months later, Jan 1999, I read Penelope Stokes’ book on writing Christian fiction and began to think my work belonged in CBA after all. I decided to try to attend the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in California that March. I had no money, there was an airlines strike and I was a late registrant in danger of being excluded for lack of room, but I knew if the Lord wanted me to go, He’d take care of the details. He did, and I went.

At Mt. Hermon Kathy introduced me to Steve Laube, her new editor at Bethany House. Because of the rejection from BHP the previous October, I had not submitted a proposal of Arena to him, assuming he’d already seen it. He hadn’t. I ended up having a long meeting with him the very first day of the conference and he told me to try to cut 20,000 words from the manuscript and send it to him, which I did.

Because SF was a genre still in the process of gaining acceptance in the industry (a phenomenon I experienced first hand in my trips to Mt. Hermon), Steve waited a year and a half before he judged the timing right to present it to his editorial board, and they bought it in Feb 2001.

During that time I’d attended another Mt. Hermon conference, where I’d talked to him about my fantasy but, though he loves the genre himself, he wasn’t interested. If SF was difficult to sell in the Christian market, fantasy was all but impossible. He told me the very word “fantasy” was death in the industry “because you are automatically compared with Tolkien or Eddings and no one can survive that.”

Even so in winter of 2002, several months before Arena was to release, and despite all advice to the contrary, I decided to go ahead with trying to sell my fantasy, which had been rewritten for a third time and was now entitled The Light of Eidon. Nothing else I was working on was even close to being finished and Eidon was really the book of my heart.

Plus, I knew the Lord was the one who promoted and He was not limited by industry trends. I prepared a synopsis and chapters to submit at my third Mt. Hermon conference—only to decide I should give Steve the chance to see it first. Since the book still needed some polishing before I showed it in entirety to anyone I changed my mind about submitting anything for Mt. Hermon.

The conference that year was about marketing, all aspects of which are challenging for me and something I was dreading. But I decided to give it my best shot, hoping that if Arena did really well, maybe Bethany House would be interested in looking at Eidon the next year. I went home and started working, setting up the website, getting bookmarks made, going into bookstores to introduce myself, making all sorts of plans…

Well I’d barely begun and Arena hadn’t even come out when I received that fateful call from Steve asking if I had any more novels lying about the house.

As I said in my previous post, within two weeks I had a four book contract for the series. Arena hadn’t even released yet, I hadn’t done any marketing to speak of, and there I was with Eidon finally sold, and a go ahead to write the next three books!

Talk about a whoosh. Talk about making it Very Clear WHO was doing the promoting and whose work mattered!

Just in case I missed the point, when the Bethany House catalog arrived the next fall with The Light of Eidon’s entry, I found it positioned on the left page opposite a non fiction book called The Impossible is Possible by John Mason. Across the bottom of the two-page spread were the titles of both books, laid out to read

“The Light of Eidon ~ The Impossible IS Possible!”

Ah Lord God! Behold, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth by Thy great power and by Thine outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for Thee. With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” ~ Jeremiah 32:17; Matthew 19:26

If you’d like to take advantage of the free e-book offer from Bethany House, please click here.

A Compelling Product AND a Platform?

So says Michael Hyatt, author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, a recent book I’ve acquired, and part of the cause for my recent toe-dipping into the sea of marketing gurus.

Early in the book, he quotes from “an aspiring author trying to make a name for herself amidst her literally millions of competitors,” who asks,

“Doesn’t a good book stand on its own anymore? Are writers now doomed to spend the bulk of our workdays trawling for blog subscribers?”

His answer is no, it’s not enough to simply write a good book, and yes, “you will need to be proactive about creating the who part of the equation.” By equation, he refers to the time-honored saying, “success isn’t so much about what you know as who.” And that “who” is your platform.

He’s not alone in this assessment. I’m coming to the end of my reading of Merchants of Culture, a book describing the recent history and resultant status of the publishing world, and it also paints a discouraging picture of just how much writers need to stop focusing on writing and start focusing on courting readers.

I’ve said before that I am not comfortable with that, nor suited for it (it seems vaguely hypocritical to be trying to make friends with people just so they’ll buy your book… but maybe that’s not what everyone means). I also don’t t have the mental and emotional space for it. Nor do I have the time, not if I’m actually going to write this next book.

I wrote all that almost three weeks ago, and got derailed in part because I didn’t know what I wanted to say after the fragment above. Or, if we get right down to it, what I really thought about it.

I think I’ve mentioned that I attended a webinar on all this, presented in fact, by the same Michael Hyatt mentioned above. In fact,that’s when I bought his book. (And I have to admit it was pretty clear that he was probably doing the webinar in part to have that exact effect.)

In any case, that was back in June, and was what started the chain of events that led to last Monday’s crazy-makers post. According to Hyatt, blogging, done right, is the means by which you build your platform of “who’s.” He advised us to start blogging if we didn’t and if we already had a blog, to commit to a certain number of blogs a week, then rigorously stick to that commitment.

At the same time, we were getting messages from the pulpit of Lighthouse Bible Church encouraging us to step out in expanding the ministry associated with our spiritual gifts. The confluence of the two events caused me to pay a bit more attention to Hyatt’s advice than I might otherwise, and thus I allowed myself to at least consider the notion of doing things that might expand my readership.

After all, as many Christian writers have said, if it’s the word of God you are proclaiming and promoting, why wouldn’t you want to find ways to expand the reach of your ministry?  Paul didn’t just hang out in Antioch waiting for people to come to Him. Jesus didn’t operate that way either.

So… I decided to see what would happen if I took a few tiny steps in that direction, if in fact, I would even be able to do so. I already had a blog, and had been doing about 4 posts a week, so why not see if I could add one more and commit to being consistent about it?

Yes, yes, I know: here we are with some more Rules again!  Am I just putting myself into some other kind of bondage?

That’s a strong possibility. It certainly was what happened at the start of this.

But still, I know our God is not against routine, because He’s set up the world that way… day and night,  full moon and new, season and season, sowing and harvesting, year and year.

I guess, what I’m seeing more clearly is that it’s not the having of goals or routines or guidelines for your work that’s the problem, it’s making everything hinge upon them. You can develop them, but the fulfillment of them isn’t to be the source of your happiness or misery. My flesh just has a very strong tendency to abuse them. Maybe it’s the organizational version of drug addiction.

Having rules and order and systems have always spurred me to me think I’m finally  going to be in control, able to do whatever I am wanting to do, and having done it, feeling good about myself and thus happy. Not one word of which is true!

If I can remember that, then as I go forward with the guidelines as tools instead of Master and keep my eyes on my true Master, perhaps they could do what they were designed to do.

Besides, it seems you must have at least some sort of guidelines by which to operate or there’ll just be chaos and confusion, and you’ll never get the thing done you’ve been called to do.

So. Guidelines, then.  Being always ready to dump them should the Spirit lead otherwise, or God just reach in and change things. But not afraid to use them should the situation warrant.

Thus I implemented the objective of trying to get in 5 posts a week.

It was bumpy at first, and though I haven’t succeeded 100% of the time,  there’ve been a number of weeks that I have succeeded and that’s cool.  And more and more I’m getting accustomed to the routine…

The questions that remain unanswered thus far are… can I keep it up long-term? And can I actually write the book while doing it?

If I can’t… well, then I guess the posts will have to be pared back.  I have to say, though, that for the moment, Sky seems to be coming back alive where for so long it’s just been dead, and so far, so good…

How To Drive Yourself Crazy

You start out having a contracted book that you are supposed to be writing and having so many different difficulties, intrusions, interruptions, distractions and delusions that you are proceeding at a snail’s pace, seemingly no matter what you do.

Combine with a previous book repackaged and on the market again, and generating  feelings of responsibility in the author for doing something to let the world know.

Add an invitation to join a website that will provide much information and help on how to market your books in a world that is rapidly becoming a continuous, never-ending, deluge of advertising.

Accept the invitation because… um… well, it sounds good, and maybe I’ll learn something.

Attend the first seminar. Take ten pages of notes and end up with TONS of things to do to have a profitable web presence.

[Yes, yes, I know — I’ve said in the past that I’m relying on God to promote my books and what in the world am I doing falling for this? Well… what can I say? I’m weak. Frail. Easily led astray. Rethinking that stand. Maybe it was good for then, but this is now and perhaps I could do some of that now. Not a lot. But some… Maybe this would be a form of stepping out in new ways of using my gift of encouragement.]

Here are some of those things you can do to build your “platform”:

Integrate your website with your blog. Redo both blog and website so that it’s more professional looking, maybe hire someone to do that, which means shop around for various web designers. Or figure out how to do it all yourself.

Write more blog posts. Write better blog posts. Answer every comment.

Go to other blogs and read them. Comment there. Answer any responses to the comment you left. Maybe quote from someone else’s blog and then write about how you disagree. Maybe they’ll link to you and rebut. Then you can rebut the rebuttal and get into an argument. That’s great for getting links to your blog and the attention of the world, which likes controversy and argument.

Learn what Google Analytics is.  Get on Google+.

Learn to write better titles/headlines. Study other headlines. Keep a headline file. Spend as much time writing your headline/title as you do writing your post.

Take a bunch of photographs to use on the blog, because They say that you must have images on your blog. Guest blog as much as possible. Get in as many discussions as possible.

Learn how to start a Facebook Author page and then do that. Find out what a Landing Page is. Maybe set one up.

Interact daily with those who come to your Facebook Author Page.

Make an author page for Amazon.

Learn how to optimize your website/blog and do that .

Get on Twitter. Learn how to write good tweets…  And don’t forget to come up with your own daily blog posts…

Oh yeah. And get that contracted book written. The sooner the better. (That would be The Other Side of the Sky…)

And thus we get to crazy. Too much to do even aside from all that. And with that I am over the top. Which of all those things should I do? For how long? When? How can I balance that with working on the book and the work I have to do around the house?  Where’s the peace in all this? Not there. Maybe I’m just weak… Well, yes. I am weak. But His power is manifest in my weakness, so that’s a good thing.

He’ll do what needs doing. I just have to turn it over to Him and let Him.

And so I’ve taken a little trip without even leaving home these last few weeks. I’ve learned a few things.

Like “A Tomato, A Coin and A Die” is a really bad title. (I should have called it “Two Techniques That Helped Me Get Past Writer’s Block”. Actually I might go back and retitle it just to see what will happen.)

I’ve learned that there are a lot of blogs out there that are highly “successful” (in that they have hundreds of thousands of visitors) in telling other people how they can be successful on their own blogs. Which seems mildly ironic, even a bit disingenuous.

I’ve been praying for direction in all this from the start. And I am pretty sure that I have come full circle on this crazy ride yet again, and am getting off at the platform now, ready to go back home and just focus on writing Sky.

Because the thing it’s all shown me — once again —  is that, yes, indeed,  all that other stuff takes up not only time but mental space.  At least for me. I tend to want to focus deeply on things when they engage me, and when I try to do all that stuff, well, the focus gets fragmented and I get farther away from the world of Sky than ever.

I won’t say I won’t do any of that, but for now I do know that the focus has to be on my WIP.

Self-Disicipline is a Boxing Match

A couple of weeks ago, on the advice of my agent, I attended an online Webinar by Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, and its present chairman. He’s a “professional blogger, author and speaker whose blog is consistently ranked in the top three for Productivity, Leadership, Publishing and Social Media Marketing.”  This last from the jacket copy of his latest book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.

The webinar was very informative, and I took a lot of notes, though I have yet to go back through them. I ordered his book, as well, though I have yet to officially read it. I have sampled here and there, and it looks good.

My lack of reading notes or book, however, is due to one of the first pieces of advice Mr. Hyatt offered during his webinar, which was that if you’re going to blog, commit to doing it regularly. He has himself committed to posting five days a week for some years now (though he invites guest bloggers to present material on Fridays). 

Since I’ve been anything but consistent with my own blogging  for the last few months … years?… I thought maybe I’d make a change. I know I had a schedule of four posts a week for some time, so I’m pretty sure that’s doable. For the last  couple of weeks though, I thought I’d try out five days a week and see if that might work, reserving Fridays for something fun and easy, like pics of Quigley.

And so I have done that. 

In addition to that, using a technique I discovered through Hyatt’s website, I’ve been working steadily on Sky. Well, until last Thursday when I sort of wandered off the track. Sometimes things come into my life that get my flesh going… it can be anything from worry, frustration, self-pity, guilt… and it’s hard to turn that off and get to work.

I also got caught up in the blog posts and the comments and… just never seemed to get around to Sky again. I don’t really know why.

Sometimes at the end of the day I can’t recall how I ended up doing the things that I did. I wonder… am I getting dementia?

Or might it be…

lack of self-discipline?

Oooooh nooooo!  Not THAT again! I thought I’d put all that to bed. I thought I was done wrestling with all that. Self-discipline is a fruit of the Spirit. I’ve learned well and truly that I can’t do much with it apart from Him.

But… have I consistently asked Him to help me in this area? Have I confessed my sin of self-indulgence when I wandered off? Or maybe not self-indulgence, because often  it’s more… mindless distraction. Sometimes I feel like the dog in one of Koontz’s books (I think it was Dragon Tears) who had been given an assignment but on the way kept getting distracted:

“Ooh! An old shoe! What a lovely smell. must stop and investigate this … and what’s this? a puddle of water… and a bee… ooh, chase the bee…. now the smell of cat… there it is!  Off!  After it! “

That was all a paraphrase. I no longer have the book to quote from, but it was something like that. I particularly remember the bee. And the whole portrayal was so spot on….

But I digress. The fact is, this bugaboo of self-discipline has returned for another round. And why not? The last time I wrestled with it, I ended defeated, not really understanding how it was to be implemented.

If it’s a fruit of the Spirit, are we to TRY to have it? But then might we not run the risk of doing it in the flesh? It’s clearly something those who aren’t saved can exercise, like the very athletes that Paul references in 1 Corinthians 9:25 – 27

Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

Strong’s definition of hupopiazo, which is the Greek word for “discipline,” means “to hit under the eye (buffet or disable an antagonist as a pugilist), that is, (figuratively) to tease or annoy (into compliance), subdue (one’s passions), to keep under, to weary.

That is not at all the notion I had of “disciplining the body”. My notion was of one who ALWAYS ate the right amount of food, got up at dawn to exercise, went down the gym on schedule every day to train… whether you felt like it or not. The above definition gives quite a different image.  One of a battle.

A boxing match where you’re hitting your opponent again and again with a lot of effort while he keeps hitting you back. Paul’s seeking to make his body a slave, and slaves don’t want to be enslaved. They rebel. They fight. They run away. Especially arrogant and willful slaves like our flesh, determined as it is to set itself against the Spirit.

This metaphor implies a lot of effort and tenacity. A lot of sweat and blood and bruising. The opponent is not going to go down easily.  And in fact, the only way it’s going to go down is if you are boxing under the power of the Spirit.

So that would mean confession of sins, so as to be under His control,  and bringing the word of God to bear upon the situation. Not necessarily in recalling this verse where Paul talks about what he’s doing, so much as the part about why he’s doing it. So that he won’t be disqualified for reward — that imperishable crown he mentions first. 

Wow. I never thought of it like this. It definitely warrants further consideration…


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