Friday, June 27, 2008

A Warning for the Published

I just came across an interesting tidbit in the June 2008 issue of College & Research Libraries News. They mention that a Rhode Island book dealer just donated three rare and valuable books to Brown University Library. One of them is a first edition of The Great Gatsby autographed by Fitzgerald to the poet T.S. Eliot. Judging by the enthusiastic wording of the autograph, Fitzgerald was a huge fan of Eliot. He calls him "Greatest of Living Poets" and says that he (Fitzgerald) is his enthusiastic worshipper. (p. 359)

Unfortunately, he not only misspells enthusiastic, but he also flubs the spelling of the Greatest of Living Poets' name. (He spelled it "Elliot.")

Now, I often lament the fact that I'm not published. But at least, I'm not in danger of embarrassing myself in this particular way. Lots of other ways, yes, but not this one.

If I ever do get published, I can just see something like this happening to me. I'd be so excited to present some of my own work to my literary idol, so thrilled to show that I, too, am now a part of the literary world. And then it would happen. Maybe an hour later, maybe a day, maybe a year. But eventually, I would see my literary idol's name someplace, and I would realize that I misspelled her name. Down in the depths of my soul, I would know that no matter how great my writing, how brilliant my metaphors and dialogue, how stirring my characters, the literary idol would always remember me as that idiot that didn't even know how to spell her name.

Perhaps I'm just looking for solace. Maybe I'm just downright mean. But somehow this story really cheered me up.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Killer Cargo: A Fun and Exciting Read

I must confess I don't usually read a lot of the category romance novels. I'm not sure why that is, precisely. Maybe I've just assumed they would all be too much alike.

Well, last week I picked up Killer Cargo, a Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense novel by Dana Mentink. And I knew I had been wrong. Within about ten pages, I knew this book was going to be different--and in a very good way.

Maria, the pilot of her own private plane, knows she's in trouble when she discovers a package of drugs among the piles of pet supplies she's supposed to be delivering in the wilds of Oregon. The bad guys pull up and know she's discovered their secret, so she has to take off--and not in her airplane. There's no time or fuel for flying. She has to run on foot, then in a borrowed car. Okay, so far, I'd seen it all before.

However, her plane's cargo also contained a three-legged bunny named Hank, who was apparently destined to be snake food. Even in her hurry, Maria decides to rescue him, too. She rents an electric blue 1972 Dodge Demon from a kid working at the airstrip (actually he's keeping it for his cousin, who is currently incarcerated) and tears out of there, with the bad guys in hot pursuit and Hank sliding around on the back seat.

She seems to be doing pretty well at evading the bad guys, until she crashes the car into a creek. She and Hank are rescued and hidden by the handsome Cy Sheridan--the creek is a part of his animal sanctuary. This seems like a pretty good deal, until Maria actually enters his cabin and finds frogs in tanks all over the place. Until she finds mysterious hand-written notes about cyanide. Until she realizes that the animal sanctuary has its own crime problems.

This was a fast-paced, fun read. If you're going to be relaxing by the beach or lake any time soon, grab a copy and take it with you.

Friday, June 20, 2008

"Go Slowly So You Do It Right"

In his sermon a couple of weeks ago, my pastor mentioned that this month marks the 60th anniversary of the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota. Actually, that's not phrased exactly right. It's been sixty years since sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski started on the project, a mountain carving that will dwarf the one at Mt. Rushmore.

But the carving is nowhere near finished. In fact, a site called says, "Ziolkowski died in 1982; with luck, his great-great-grandchildren will live long enough to dedicate the finished sculpture." And yet, when Ziolkowski was dying, he told his wife, "You must work on the mountain -- but go slowly so you do it right."

What an amazing attitude, especially today, in our generation--because the dedication to this cause didn't end with Ziolkowski himself. It continues with his family. Seven of his ten children have remained in the area, working for the project and the Foundation. At eighty-two, his wife soldiers on. The vision is huge. Not only will the carving, if and when it is finished, be the largest in the world, but the site will include the American Indian University and Medical Training Center.

My pastor pointed out that God's attitude toward us is like Ziolkowski's with his carving. We humans usually get impatient. We get discouraged and abandon our projects. We want to complete things quickly and move on. We want to rush to the victory and get our accolades.

But God works with us for a lifetime. Paul tells us he's confident that "he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion." (Phil. 1:6, NIV)

I'm grateful for these two reminders that it's okay if my dreams take awhile. That it's all right if I "go slowly so I do it right." That sometimes a dream is worth at least a lifetime.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Culprit Confesses!

She couldn't take the pressure anymore. She finally broke and confessed. Kathleen--regular visitor to the Queen and self-confessed prankster--sent me the anonymous Pirates clock.

In the comments to the original post, Kathleen said (in response to my guess that the clock was obtained with cereal box tops), "Well, you were partly right. It was from little cardboard tokens off a snack bar (peanut bar with chocolate on the bottom mmm!) box. It was just too tempting. 'Glad you enjoyed it!"

I knew it was her! Mystery solved. Hmmm...maybe I should try my hand at writing mysteries.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Tax on Hoop Skirts?

Sometimes in my librarian job I get to look at some really fun things. A few weeks ago we received a trial subscription to a database called American Periodicals Series Online. A company called ProQuest has scanned and digitized magazines and journals from about 1740 to the early 1900s. The publications cover all kinds of subjects--medicine, politics, you name it. They also include popular magazines and ladies' journals.

So I did a search on fashion and limited it to a date range of the late 1700s to early 1800s. I came up with lots of interesting stuff, including a hilarious letter to the editor in The Lady's Magazine and Repository of Entertaining Knowledge, November, 1792, "On the Universal Fashion of Wearing Hoops." The poor writer laments the fact that every woman from low-born to high has been coerced into wearing "useless" and "greatly inconvenient" hoops.

Why is this man so concerned about a woman's fashion? Because he has four daughters--and they're about to bankrupt him. Not to buy the dresses and hoops, but because of how it's affecting the rest of their lives. "At first their hoops were small," he says, "and consequently less inconvenient, but they are now grown to such an enormous size that I must be obliged (if they do not retrench them) to leave my house on the account, as the rooms, where we could formerly move very conveniently, are now too small to admit of our stirring, without incommoding each other. The stair-case, which is rather narrow, is become (if not wholly useless) extremely dangerous to the female part of my family, as they can neither ascend, nor descend in any other direction than sideways."

To help alleviate the strain on society, the writer proposes a tax on hoop skirts, which I don't think ever happened.

Next I read an article from the July 11, 1807 Lady's Weekly Miscellany, in which a writer also lamented the unbecoming fashions of the time, especially hats. "Ought not the figure of the head to be oval? Should not every thing which alters this figure, be considered as detracting from nature? What then are we to think of those bonnets that project both before and behind, and give the head of a woman, seen in profile, the form of a hammer!"

Oh, how I would love to sit and read articles from these fun magazines. And if you're a writer of historicals, what a fabulous resource this would be! Just think of the details, the atmosphere you could add to your story after reading such cozy articles from the time period of your novel.

Alas, we weren't able to purchase this database. Too expensive. But it's a great reminder of what's out there in college libraries that you won't be able to find on the free Internet. If you have a large university near you, in particular, check it out sometime. Often you can go in and pull up gems like these on their computers.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Stalked By Pirates

If you've been reading this blog long, you know I'm fond of pirates. (Not real ones. Pretend ones. Particularly the ones with the really cool outfits.) You also know I seem to run across them wherever I go. But now I've started getting anonymous pirate paraphernalia in the mail!

A few days ago I received a mysterious package with a return address of the Kellogg Company. Little knowing what was in store, I tore it open, and this is what I found:

Someone with a weaker constitution might have fainted dead away. But I took it pretty well.

It's a Pirates of the Caribbean alarm clock. I figure it was one of those prizes you can get by saving up your cereal box tops and sending away for it. The question is, who used their box tops on me?

I have my ideas. First I accused my husband, but I've cleared him.

I think I know who the culprit is. I think she's even a regular reader of this blog.

Any confessions?

Friday, June 6, 2008

A Long and Winding Road

Yesterday I reran a blog from last spring, when I was starting a new manuscript and dealing not only with fear of failure but also fear of success. I mentioned that the thoughts were pertinent to me again now, because I'm once again about to start a new project.

Actually I'm just sort of switching gears this time. I've been struggling, trying to turn out a draft of a novel I've attacked over and over throughout the years. It's my creepy gothic novel I've mentioned before, and it's not exactly my agent's cup of tea. I told her I would work on it until June, get it out of my system, and then work on the project she's excited about.

I have the usual trepidation when starting a new project, including that fear of both failure and success that I talked about yesterday. As I get older, though, I'm starting to have a new worry--fear of wasted time.

I have not exactly made a straight run toward my goals in life. Hence the theme of this blog. I started thinking about one of my favorite Bible passages (Proverbs 3:5-6), and the difference in two of its translations. Here's the way I learned it first, in the King James: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

Later, I read the verses in the New International Version, which I usually love. But I didn't care much for this translation: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."

Do you see the difference? In the King James, God promises that he'll direct us. To me, that means he'll show us which path to take. In the NIV, he promises to make our paths straight. When I was younger, that didn't seem as encouraging--as though I'd have to figure out the path myself, but he'd straighten it out somehow.

Then I spent a few more years on the long, winding road that is my life. (Sorry if that Beatles song is going to be stuck in your head now.) I made so many false starts. I seemed to wander around without direction. I took an expensive class to become a legal secretary, and all it accomplished was showing me that I don't want to work in the legal profession. I started a graduate degree at USC in Los Angeles so I could become a screenwriter and work in film. I quit after one semester, because I discovered that I didn't want to live in Los Angeles and I had absolutely no talent for writing screenplays.

My writing journey has been just as circuitous. I've tried different genres. I wrote a manuscript for the secular market, only to be told it was too religious. So I reworked it for the Christian market and was told it's too literary. I've actually found myself thinking--should I rewrite it as a literary novel? I'd like to tell you I only went through this kind of confusion with one manuscript, but unfortunately, that's not the case.

You know how Psalm 23 starts off, "The Lord is my Shepherd?" Boy, do I understand that word picture! I often picture myself as a little lost lamb, wandering about, and God has to gently guide me back onto the path. The straight path. The one that leads me toward those achievements, those good works that he planned for me before the beginning of the world.

I'm trying a completely new genre on this current project for my agent. So I can't help but wonder--is this more wasted time? Another false start down the wrong turn in the maze? But I also have to remind myself that God used every one of those experiences to bring me where I am today, and that's a very good place.

So now I love that NIV translation that tells me God will make my paths straight. I may not know what I'm doing, I may take the scenic route, get lost and refuse to ask for directions, but God knows exactly where I need to go! I know from experience he'll get me there yet.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Fear of Blessing--Again!

I'm reading through the Chronological Bible this year. (I use the term "this year" loosely. At the rate I'm going, I figure this one-year Bible is going to take me about 17 months.) I've been reporting to you when I come across things that strike me as particularly relevant to our favorite topics: waiting, persevering, achieving your dream. Last week I read through a passage that I blogged about last spring. I was amazed that it was relevant when I came across it last May--and just as relevant right now. So, just in case some of you need to hear it again, I'm repeating this blog about David and the Ark of the Covenant.

A couple of weeks ago, my daily Bible reading brought me to some passages in 2 Samuel. In chapter 5, David is having a great time. Here are the NIV headings for the passages: "David Becomes King over Israel," "David Conquers Jerusalem," and "David Defeats the Philistines." He's on a roll, so he decides to take the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.

During the trip, the oxen carrying the Ark stumble. One of David's men, Uzzah, takes hold of the Ark to steady it, which seems a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Unfortunately, God had given strict instructions as to who could touch the Ark, and how it should be treated. Uzzah was struck dead for his irreverence--and David was struck with fear. "How can the Ark of the Lord ever come to me?" (2 Sam. 6:9 NIV).

So David left the Ark right there where it was, with someone named Obed-Edom. Then he had to watch as God poured out his blessings on Obed-Edom and his entire household and know that, because of his fear, he was missing all that.

I'm in the process of starting yet another new novel, and I'm finding it really difficult. Some of that excitement I usually have at starting a new project just isn't there. Sometimes I ask myself, Have I done this once too often? Where's my passion? What am I afraid of?

I know I'm afraid of the rejection, of hitting the usual dead end. But sometimes I read blog posts and emails from published writers and think--what if I did succeed? Would I want to have a contract that required me to produce three books over the next year or two, instead of being able to take my time? And if I write books for the Christian market, what if I say the wrong thing? What if I misrepresent God, if my intentions are just as good as poor old Uzzah's--but I turn out to be just as irreverent and mistaken? Sure I'm afraid people will never read my work, but sometimes I'm even more afraid they will.

Even starting this blog was very scary for me. (See previous paragraph. Same principle.) It's very scary to reach out to people and make yourself vulnerable like that. But I finally decided, I don't want someone else to get my blessing! I'm just praying God will give me courage, and show me how to handle his Ark the right way.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Contest Winner!

The winner of the drawing for the $25 gift certificate is Bunny B. Congratulations, Bunny! Contact me and make sure I have a good email address for you, and I'll send you your prize.

Thanks to everyone else who played. I'm sure I'll start up a new contest soon, so stay tuned for the announcement.