Launching A Book–Part 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edits. Track Changes. Copy Edits. Proofreading copy. More edits. Deadlines. Deadlines. Deadlines.

Launching a book is not the process I thought it would be when I first signed my contract. These past few weeks I put the finishing touches on the final proofread of book one before I send the manuscript back to my editor. Every comment from her or the proofreaders had to be addressed. Each word choice checked. Meticulous, tiring work, but satisfying as well.

One proofreader sent me a note through my publisher saying, “I hope to finish in the next few days. I had to stop for the evening because I’m having trouble reading through my tears. This is good stuff!”

Be still, my heart. My story made a proofreader— a man—cry? I had to stop and catch my breath. I didn’t see that coming.

Three proofreaders read the manuscript and made suggestions. In some places they disagreed about the need for changes. In others they concurred. The constantly shifting copy made my head swim, but the book moves forward, now barreling down the publishing timeline to its release date, September 1.

Once I submit the final read, I also have to send the copy for the second novel which will launch next year. I received the content edit back this week. The woman who read it made some great suggestions and found some (oops!) inconsistencies. All part of the process.

Often I feel as if I climbed aboard a treadmill from which I can’t step off. But rather than feeling tired, or overwhelmed, I’m buoyed by the fact that I will soon be a published novelist. A title I’ve worked hard to achieve. God, in His wisdom, knew when my turn could come.

I think of Esther (Esther 4:14) who was afraid when she was called to defend her people and Mordecai said to her, “who knows whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Like her, my time is here. Both exciting and frightening.

I’m sure there will be more tripping hazards ahead—like reviews, sale numbers, blog interviews, and book signings—but I’ve earned the right to participate and I am ready to take it on. For better or for worse.

More to come soon.

Launching a Book–Part 2

This week I met the graphic artist hired to design my cover. When I say “met”, she appeared in a chat line thread on my Facebook page, along with my editor. Her picture was the size of a cheerio on the screen. I have no idea where she lived. Via computer and online messaging we discussed how the book should look.

When I earned my journalism degree, I studied graphic design. I knew some of the elemental properties a good page should have. But in my time, “cut and paste” meant using scissors, x-acto knives, and glue stick. (If you don’t know what those things are, consult Wikipedia).  Computers and their ability to manipulate graphic images had not yet appeared. We literally cut our pictures and text apart and pasted them on a ruled background printed in camera blue. The color guaranteed that the design lines would not be copied by the camera lens.

The process I experienced this week was far more sophisticated. I’d completed a template beforehand that listed the elements I thought the cover should have. I’d been asked to suggest other covers I’d seen that I liked and to search online photo banks for pictures I thought represented my story. I chose models in various poses who resembled my title character.

The graphic artist took my suggestions and created five different covers for me to consider. I was overwhelmed. They were all good possibilities, but one stood out from the rest. The tone of the page—the combination of colors, photos, and lettering—matched what I felt as I wrote the story. My editor had the artist flip the pictures to see if they worked better from that angle. In the end, the final composite pleased all of us. A new cover had been born.

An editor friend reported this week that his most recent box of books had arrived. He said he never tires of the feeling a new work stirs within.  I can truly say the process made me ecstatic. I looked at the cover and thought, “I’d like to read this book.”  Then I realized I’d written it. Reading the story would pass to you, my friends who have shared this journey with me.

A “cover reveal” will happen later, as the novel, An Anchor on Her Heart, nears its release date. I’ll keep you posted. Until then, you can dream.

Rascal Refuge

My husband and I have always owned cats. Or, as most cat lovers know, they’ve owned us. Someone once said that dogs have masters and cats have staff. That’s the way things are at our house.

One thing, though, on which I stand firm, is the absence of a litter box in the house. I relegated the nasty thing to the garage when my children were toddlers and it has never returned. The cats seem to appreciate the convenience when they are outside or it’s snowing. I’m grateful I need not deal with lingering odor.

That being said, the cats still need a place to sleep where the litter box is available. Garages tend to be cold, drafty places with cement floors and walls that are often not insulated. Not an amiable place to snooze. My husband, though, is a soft-hearted individual who would probably give up his bed for a suffering animal. He devised a cathouse where comfort reigns supreme.

When our dishwasher died, he removed all the outer adornments, including the motor, and kept the inner plastic shell. He then inverted the boxlike structure, turning the hole where the motor had been, outward. He added a light socket to the top of the old appliance, wired it for electricity, and screwed a bulb into the opening. To keep the cat off the cement floor, he lined the bottom with an old foam pad and discarded towels. The light keeps the interior just warm enough to be cozy. The cat disappears inside, the only evidence he’s there is a pair of ears that poke out when we open the garage door.

This morning, it seems, we opened the garage a little early for a Saturday. The cat’s ears poked out of his nest, then retreated. The furry feline didn’t emerge for another hour, this being his morning to sleep in. As his butler and maid, we honored his wishes and kept the noise down.

To quote a once popular movie, “Cats rule.”

 

Survivor’s Instinct

snow-2016-010 deletable-001With all the recent wintry weather we’ve experienced, I found the return of the wildlife to our neighborhood encouraging. Hungry birds hovered near the apple tree where forgotten, fallen fruit waited for consumption, often triggering feathered wars.

Squirrels chattered their dismay, having been forced from the yard by the layer of snow, followed by an overcoat of thick ice. Broken tree limbs brought down decades-old nests, further adding to their misery.

One feisty squirrel, though, caught my attention. It bounced along the top of our patio wall, round and fully furred. The animal obviously had not missed too many meals and had found shelter from the storm somewhere.

Watching it busy itself atop our cement barrier, I wondered if this was the culprit who had chewed a hole in one of our plastic garbage cans. My husband had complained of an intruder invading the hidden stash. Whatever had gnawed through had helped itself to a plentiful supply of chicken feed. This plump pest looked big enough to be the guilty party.

The little guy appeared fearless. It would move an inch or two, then stop and survey the yard. Then again. When it came to the place in the wall where a prickly bush had grown all summer, it stopped. The bush had provided a route for the squirrels to follow down to the patio floor. Often I would see the bush shaking as a sneaky rodent crept along the branches, under the cover of the dark, green foliage, emerging at the base in search of seeds and other treats provided by the potted plants.

Unfortunately, the snow and ice had claimed more than half of the bush, leaving nothing but a pipe-sized bare branch where once deep foliage resided. The squirrel peered over the wall and looked down. Then peered again. The confusion on its face made me laugh. No longer could it access the patio unless it wanted to leap four feet to the narrow limb. As it sat there pondering its dilemma, it twisted back to where a segment of the bush still remained. Not as full as before and not nearly as convenient, the remaining branch did connect to the main trunk and end at the ground. The blur of fur disappeared into the green and emerged at the base. He gave the terrain a once over, filled his mouth, then hurried back to the wall’s top.

Mission accomplished.

Savor the Moment

 

clok-2Isn’t it amazing how we rise in the morning facing a complete new day, follow our planned routine, and before we know it, nighttime has arrived and we take our fatigue to bed? Minutes have passed into hours, hours into days, and within the blink of an eye, whole weeks have vanished.  Where did time go?

I found myself pondering that question when I realized my daughter, my youngest child,  will celebrate her thirtieth birthday this week. Vivid images of the day she was born still fill my mind— her father humming as he carried her in the hall while the doctor tended to me, her brother’s wide-eyed stare over the side of the crib, her grandmother standing above her, camera in hand. How could thirty years have passed since those first moments of her life?

When we are young, time seems to stand still. We can’t wait for summer vacation. As summer drags on, we anticipate returning to school. As we age, time speeds up. Didn’t we just celebrate Christmas? When did this year slip away?

All of us want to feel useful, to be valued for the work we do, to be remembered for the contribution we make during our time on earth. God, though, wants us to walk with Him. He wants to direct our days and guide our paths. The Bible teaches us in Micah 6:8:, “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of  you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Yet we fret. In Matthew 6:28-30 (NIV) we are told: “Consider how the lilies grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!”

As you get caught up in the busyness of this season, remember to pause, thank God for his gift of eternal life to us at Christmastime through his son Jesus, and make the most of the minutes you have been given. Tomorrow is not promised, so be thankful today.

 

Method, Not Madness

halloween-003Along about dusk, they creep from the sidewalk. Witches, ghosts, and goblins travel noisily to our door and knock, all toting a sack or plastic bucket. 

“Trick or treat!”  

We drop this year’s offering into their containers and with muffled thanks, they trek off to the next home. Behind them come more—Minions, Star Wars characters and the fairy tale crowd—drawn like moths to a flame.

 At least I hope the candle in our pumpkin still burns.

 People ask me why we still carve a pumpkin. My children are grown, they don’t trick or treat, and the labor of transforming the large, orange orb is no small feat.

 But I have an ulterior motive.

 I plan to stuff the pumpkin into jars when the day is through. Keeping the carving tradition alive saves me hours of work.

 My adult children bring me the annual harvest gourd about two days before Halloween. They enjoy each other’s company, so they sit out on the patio, sharpened knives and old spoons in hand. They transform the plump round sphere into something scary with a face. When finished, they plop it on my front step, stick in a candle, and wait to light it for the children who will come.

Most of the hard work is done. No pulp to pull, seeds to scrape, or goo to clean.

The following day I slice up the remaining flesh, steam it until it is soft, and ram the wedges into jars for the canner. Forty minutes later I have homemade pumpkin ready for pies, bread, muffins or whatever. I feel like a queen and my willing laborers don’t suspect a thing.

Nor will I tell them. And neither will you.

 

 

 

 

 

Poolside Prowlers

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Discouraged by raccoons and other varmints damaging the self-rising pools we provided our children when they were young, we needed a solution. The cycle was endless. Within days of erecting the water attraction, we’d discover claw pokes in the air ring which deflated the pool like a slow-leaking balloon. Duct tape patched most holes, if you could find them, but soon the holes were too great to seal and the air escaped faster than the tire pump could fill the ring.

We visited a local farm store and discovered an eight-foot, hard-plastic stock watering tank. My husband said he could drill drain holes at the bottom and fit the openings with plumbing pipes and faucets. Perfect for our needs, we just had to bring our trailer and haul the giant circle home. A slight oversight on our part.

The ring would fit inside the trailer if stood on its side. But that left a giant blue orb to keep upright as it traveled. Not a problem, my husband said. With bungee cords and tie-downs, he could secure the pool for the short journey down side streets.

Like a parade we headed down the road. Bystanders stopped and stared at the strange procession. I followed at a safe distance, keeping a wary eye on the wobbling cargo ahead of me. At every corner the pool tipped precariously and I held my breath, waiting for all of it to hit the street. Miraculously, it didn’t. We arrived at our driveway intact.

Now another set of problems beset us. The tank, carried flat, wouldn’t go through any doors. On its side, it was too tall to roll through the gated entrance and wouldn’t clear the garage door. I didn’t want it to be a permanent fixture in our driveway. The verse in Luke 14:28 about the man planning to build a house without first considering the cost came to me. What were we thinking?

Frustrated, my husband pruned some bushes on the far side of the house and squeezed the pool through. We rolled it to the backyard and after fitting it with hardware, filled the enormous tub full. My husband gritted his teeth. “Hope you like it. It’s here to stay.”

Today we put the pool away for the winter. Our children are grown, but the oversized problem in the backyard still gets regular use. My husband was right. The pool is here to stay.

 

An Anniversary Remembrance

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This week I congratulated a young woman who told me she and her husband celebrated their fifth anniversary on the fourth of July. The milestone day stretched into the night while she tended to a toddler with a sick tummy. I assured her that future anniversaries would not all be sidetracked by young children and that celebrations would become more couple-centered. I ought to know—my husband and I will mark our forty-first year of marriage next week. 

I well remember how anniversaries in our earlier years often were determined by the health of our children, the wealth of our checkbook, and the demands of others on our time. We spent several years tending to aging family members who were facing life-threatening ailments and needed our care. We weren’t always free to celebrate our marriage as we wished, but we always took time to remember the day of our wedding. Sometimes a home-cooked meal with a fresh baked cake proved to be the extent of our festivities.

God ordained marriage. He saw that man should not be alone and he made woman to be his helpmate. In Genesis 2:18 the Lord says, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a helper suitable for him.”

He wanted men and women to be faithful to each other. In Hebrews 13:4 he tells us: “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled.”

In Proverbs 19:14 we are told: “House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.”

I would tell my friend who just completed her fifth year of marriage that she is on the right track. Two people striving together to live the life they were given will bring rewards as well as trials, but be assured God is growing you together for Him. He has a plan for your life as a couple. 

When my husband and I take time to remember our anniversary this week, I will thank God for his wisdom in creating the wonderful relationship possible between a man and a woman in the institution of marriage.

I might even bake a cake.

 

 

Fowl State of Affairs

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A year has passed since my husband and I decided we’d join the urban chicken trend. Our Golden Girls, as we refer to them, have feathered our lives with laughs and tabled our dinner conversation with antics. None of us is certain why we decided to embark on this path, but the cackle within the coop is the resolution proved its worth.

Both of us grew up with chickens. My earliest impressions were of flighty, senseless birds who gave up brains for grains somewhere in the progression of all things fowl. Not these girls. They are masterminds, capable of rivaling a military unit preparing basic maneuvers.

Our mornings begin promptly at dawn. City poultry owners are not allowed a rooster, presumably to keep the noise down, but four hens announcing they’ve laid an egg is enough clamor to wake the dead. If one hen isn’t up to the task of producing that day, she joins her sister lauding her efforts. My husband fears we’ll have to move.

Our days never lack for variety. Dorothy, our alpha hen, continually seeks bigger and better holes through which she can lead the others astray. Her Houdini-like abilities have created more than one scenario of heart-stopping peril.

Working in a back bedroom earlier this week, I thought I heard a sound—that low, drawn out rumble in the throat only a chicken can make. Sure enough, outside my open window, one of our two-legged four studied me as she roamed across the lawn from which she was forbidden. “What are you doing?” I asked. She turned, trumpeted her terror, and ran a lopsided, crisscrossed gait back to her coop. Didn’t fool me. She knew the consequences of her trespass.

My son laments that the hens are not paying for their keep. I’m not sure that’s true. When one considers the amount of giggles, sarcastic asides, and guffaws those four ladies have generated in their brief time with us, the value of their entertainment more than equals whatever deficit might exist in breakfast offerings. At two and three eggs a day, what would I do with more?

 

View From Where I Sat

haircut-834280__180The first shriek came from the barber chair beside me. “Daylight Savings Time is this weekend?”

A groan sounded from the corner. “It takes me longer each spring to adjust.”

“Why can’t we skip it?” said a third.

As the stylist cut my hair, I pondered the comments, and found myself in agreement. Losing an hour of sleep every March to gain an hour of daylight makes less and less sense as I age.

I’m not alone.

Somewhere in the wisdom of those who make decisions for everyone else, having an extra hour at the end of the day seemed a great idea, once upon a time. But the fairy tale has ended. Setting our alarms to ring earlier would achieve the same result, and not upset the order of things for everyone else.

My son delivered newspapers at the crack of dawn all through his middle and high school years. Not wanting him to be out there in the dark alone, I walked with him until he grew tall enough to be a formidable foe.

Together we learned that the sun rises as early as four o’clock in the spring. Who knew?

Urban deer love those early hours, often appearing out of nowhere as they seek an unsuspecting garden to plunder.

My son and I enjoyed the quiet. The raccoons strummed sprinklers like harps while the hint of daylight crept over the mountain. Just enough light existed to see where you were headed and yet you could still enjoy the last twinkle of the stars as they withdrew until evening. We didn’t need Daylight Savings Time for that.

God set the sun, moon, and stars in place—the sun to rule by day and the moon and stars to guard the night. He knew how much light we’d need to do what we plan to do. If we need more, or less, we can adjust our awake times. Someone to legislate it is unnecessary.

Psalm 8:3-4 says, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained; What is man that you take thought of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

I wonder if God laughs at our attempts to control things. He should.