Archive for the 'writing life' Category

Lost in Techland

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temporary profile picture

Why do I always think this stuff is going to be easy?

Oh yes, it’s marketed as easy, but somehow there are always these little glitches. And these little glitches somehow manage to consume hours of time to rectify.  And as soon as you resolve one issue, another pops up.

Over the last week I’ve spent a day trying to install the printer, researching on the web, downloading new drivers, trying to get the system to recognize them only to discover… ahem… the printer was not plugged into the computer. An oversight due to my fogged brain and swiss cheese memory, which gets worse under stress.

Last post I mentioned the problem with addr.com. Well, it turns out they are not as out-of-order as it appeared. The problem was not that addr.com was down or shutting me out, but that… Internet Explorer 11 in the Tile side of Windows 8 will not let me sign in to something as apparently ancient and backward as addr.com. But if I switch to the desktop and open that IE 11, then it works and I can get in. So all is not as bad as I thought it was. But it took days to figure that out.

Even so, I’ve already switched to a new hosting service for my website (GoDaddy), but when I couldn’t decipher my notes to figure out what I was supposed to do with all the login names and passwords I’d hastily scribbled on a sheet of paper during my conversation with the guy who set me up, I had to call in again. I did that today, and spent at least an hour and a half on the phone getting all that resolved. I guess the URL I’d been given was pointed back at addr. com for some reason, which was why I kept getting error messages. At least I managed to get all the various user names/passwords identified and fully documented.

Then there was the email, which is once again… well… I don’t know. I have the Win8 Tiles (I guess that’s called Metro) for two of my …services? inboxes? — And then the IE11 in desktop for a third. Now I have a fourth connected to my website which supposedly will receive all karenhancock.com mail, but not the other two…. So, though I’d already ticked “get the email working right” off my list of things to do, apparently I was premature because here it is, back on the list again.

I also couldn’t sign into my online banking account. I spent several days trying innumerable things,  including calling my bank. At first I got someone whose knowledge was too basic so she had someone from the tech department call me back. Turns out their system is as yet incompatible with Windows 8 and they have no idea how to get it to work. So I’m out of luck there until a later date. He suggested I use my hubby’s computer since it has a different operating system.

I just have to laugh. This is supposed to make our lives EASIER, right?!

😆

All Things Have Become New

928AF2F2192B8F278191FF854A8910D6AE406583 (2)

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. 🙂

Staycation

Resting: my sketch of our former Redbone, Bear,  asleep

Resting: my sketch of our former Redbone, Bear, asleep

My last post was titled in part,  “Take a Day Off…”

When I wrote it I didn’t realize I was actually going to continue to do it, but that’s what’s happened. Even though I mentioned that I thought the Lord was giving me a vacation — seeing as I’d turned the whole matter of me trying to write and failing, failing, failing, over to Him, and it seemed He was doing nothing, thus it must be a vacation — I guess I didn’t think it would continue to go on. After all, the usual times for a vacation are a week, maybe two. Not a month…

Surely, I thought even as I wrote that last post, I’d been “vacating” long enough  and it was time to get back to work.

Apparently not.  Because I still haven’t been able to get myself to work. I’ve continued to avoid the office and have spent a lot of time reading news and comment stuff on the internet, watching videos on making cards, actually making cards… and just doing the general things around the house and yard that are always there, and could easily take up all my time if I let them.

Internally, however, I continued to fight the whole vacation concept. Or at least to feel guilty about it, as I repeatedly questioned whether I was correctly applying what I’d been learning in Bible class. Maybe I was actually just deluding myself, thinking I could just throw everything out the window like this and and let God do it all. Wasn’t that a bit flakey? After all, as every “Professional writer” knows, if you want to write you must go into the office and force yourself to write. It takes self-discipline, and you must train yourself to do that.  It’s absurd to just “trust the Lord.”

I now think that is the voice of my flesh, which I’ve recently become more and more able to identify. More on this later, but for now though, the fact is, I had already done the “just use self-discipline” thing and it led nowhere.  The only thing left was that I trust the Lord to return the motivation to write, as well as the ideas and the direction the story is to take. Even though He’s taking MUCH longer than I think He should be taking.

Which, of course, means I have to trust Him even more to move me and, as I outlined above, it is very difficult for me to do that. I don’t want to rely on Him. I want to take control and get it done myself.  I have a plan, a timetable that I think is reasonable, and He’s not following it!

Well, yesterday I was doing a search on the Internet for “effects of too many things to do.”  (a subject some friends and I were discussing on Sunday). I didn’t find much on that, but in the course of the search, I did stumble upon an article called, “Recovering from Writer’s Burnout: Steps to Happier Writing.”

Here’s the first paragraph:

Many writers (and other creative people) hit that point eventually: they burn out. They feel tired. They can’t feel any interest in their work, and doing that work becomes harder and harder. “

That was and still is me. Feeling very tired. No interest in the work. I’ve mentioned it before. I kind of like what I’ve done so far, but I can’t think of the right place to go from here, and for some time now it’s all seemed dead. I don’t want to think about it.  When I try, I just confuse myself. Should it be this or that? I can’t decide. If I force the decision I can’t write… Or flip back to the alternative the next day when everything after the bit I’ve written goes blank.

I thought I’d already gone through the whole burnout thing. I thought I’d given myself a break. After all, it’s been six years since I finished The Enclave. Of course, that led right into the caregiving for my mother. And then dealing with her estate and all kinds of family changes — my son leaving home, settling in another state, and getting married, the arrival of our granddaughter… in addition to my own health issues …

All of those things, even the happy events, still intruded into the flow of my writing, sometimes for weeks at a time.  Does that sort of thing contribute to burnout as well? I”m not sure, but I can say from experience that after a while it gets frustrating… I couldn’t remember what I’d decided the last time I’d worked with the material, stuff that had seemed good before the interruption no longer seemed so good… I lost a sense of where I was going exactly…

The article continued in a second paragraph:

“I started to hit the burnout point last year with my freelance writing. Unfortunately, I missed some of the signs and so I continued taking contracts. Eventually I became almost completely burned out — unable to take interest in all but the lightest, most relaxing writing. That’s a terrible place to go if writing is what you’ve wanted to do all of your life.”

Not just wanted to do, but what you’ve actually done. I’ve been writing fiction for over forty years and the drive was always there. Now suddenly, it wasn’t. And since throughout most of that time I believed it was the Lord who was supplying the drive, the desire, the ideas, the guidance… then it must be that for some reason He was withholding it now, and not just something about me. In other words, I don’t think it’s actual “burn out” so much as me stressing out because God hasn’t come through in my time, and so I keep trying to get back in the game when it’s pretty clear He’s been telling me I need to wait.

The biggest reason I can think of for Him to remove the drive, desire and ideas, is to remind me that it really is Him doing it, and not me. Secondary reasons include forcing me to trust Him for all of it and teaching me to put aside the internal shrieking of my control freak sin nature in the process. He’s also making me take a deeper look at ways I’ve always looked at life and self and my work and finding they are not really in line with His ways… Plus, there’s been a huge upheaval and change of direction in how I’m coming to understand the spiritual life overall. And how can one write Christian allegory/analogies if one’s whole perspective on the Christian life is changing?

One of my friends reminded me of the blessedness of winter concept, when the trees are stripped of their leaves and stand bare and gray, seemingly dead. But inside God is doing a work and before long the new life of spring appears…  That He does the same with us.

I know she’s right, and  I think that is what’s happening to me. And part of that includes the fact that God really does want me to have a longer vacation than I think is appropriate.

Because in the above mentioned article, the very first suggestion of what to do for the “burned out” state is “Take a Vacation.”  🙂

Here’s what she has to say:

“There’s one thing that, above all, you should try to do for yourself when you start to burn out. If you can afford to, take a vacation. If you’re still finishing off a contract then take a vacation as soon as it’s over. Be lazy. Sit around the house and read thrillers, mysteries, or something equally pointless and fun. Watch movies. Take lots of walks in the sunshine. Relax. You need to be able to approach the rest of all this [ie, her other suggestions] feeling rested if at all possible.”

So, that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing, even if by default. I haven’t, however, yet allowed myself to read novels, thinking that would be too great a “time consumer”. But having read this, I decided that maybe I really should treat my vacation as a real vacation, so yesterday, I picked up one of the recent Brad Thor novels sitting on my shelf, Full Black, and am now halfway through it! 😀

Update:  I wrote this post in the afternoon, and barely got it done before time for live Bible Class from Lighthouse Bible Church in Florida where Pastor John got up and started talking this very thing!  That we keep thinking there’s something good about us that’s going to get the job done (be more loving, be more self-disciplined) when that’s part of the old self that was crucified on the Cross!  The words and phrases he used were almost direct answers to things I’d thought and wondered about in the course of not just writing the above post, but over many days. It was one of those times when I knew that God was talking directly to me, and reinforcing my conclusion.

Yes, the writing is to come from Him. No, I do not need to try to be “more self-disciplined.” Yes, it is right to wait for Him to lead, and I do know what that feels like. This very post, for example, I believe was the result of His leading and guiding and moving,  because until I started writing it, I wasn’t planning on writing anything at all. I don’t even really know why I accessed my blog in the first place, and initially all I did was check out some of the other blogs I follow. Then suddenly I found myself opening the new post window and the words were flowing.

Here’s a link to the message in case you’re interested. I thought it was pretty phenomenal even aside from the immediate personal connections:

The Activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Church Age believers, part 51

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…

Never Easy

Leaf portrait small

It’s been awhile since I’ve said anything about my progress or lack thereof on Sky.

That’s because, in part, writing all those posts about rebound took up a lot of words and mental energy.

It’s also because after a couple weeks of unrelenting distractions and interruptions, when I finally got back to it, the magic had once again left and I had no idea what I was doing.

I had brought things to a point at the end of Chapter 7, but couldn’t quite finish it off. Too many questions… too many options. Too many, “whys”. As in, if A does that, what will B do in response? If I don’t want A to be figured out by B now, how can I have events progress as I have them? B would have to be a nincompoop not to figure everything out, and he’s not supposed to be a nincompoop.

[Where in the world did that word come from? Nincompoop??]

Somehow those questions led to a re-evaluation of the surface of the world I am trying to build, which led to a re-evaluation of the government, this after an earlier re evaluation wherein I decided to change my world set up from a single empire situation to multiple nations…

Then an interruption would come in and several days would pass before I could get back to it, during which time I would have forgotten what I had been thinking about… Returning to the work was almost like returning to square one and the whole project would seem so vast and overwhelming I’d spend at least the first day back doing my best to run away from it.

But today I got back to it and in the course of writing one of those nonstops I’m so wont to write, I remembered this:

From my ruminations over today’s work:

“It occurs to me that I haven’t really thought all this out and this kind of thing, the ideas, the modification, the sudden realization of inconsistencies, the  major readjustments, the refinement – or the dumping as unworkable and starting over…  it’s all part of the hard work of building a world for a novel. So… nothing’s wrong here. It’s part of the process and the process is long, hard, confusing, frustrating, exciting, gratifying, rewarding, never easy. Nor simple. Nor fast.”

It’s been like this before. Many times. I’d forgotten that. Forgotten that I just have to keep plugging along, and be patient, It will come, in time.

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…


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