Monday, January 30, 2012

The Next Step: The Journey Begins

At the end of last year, God began speaking to me about the next step for my writing career. I had been praying for months for God to give me some direction. Last year, I found my writing at a standstill. I’d gone to the ACFW conference last year and got some interest in my manuscript.  Unfortunately, I got rejections from most of the proposals I sent out. Nice rejections. The “You’re a great, funny, creative (add your own positive adjective) writer but this is not the direction we want to go with our fiction.”

It seemed like all doors were closed and I was feeling like they would ever be opened. I know all writers come to this stage, but it seems like I’d been camped out there a few years. Actually, I have been stuck for a few years. I decided to seriously peruse publishing in 2005, so that makes seven years.

I’ve completed two manuscripts and a third that is within 10,000 words of being finished. I’ve had multiple non-fiction pieces published and earned a spot as a regular columnist on an online magazine. I’d been to four writers conferences and was even a finalist in Genesis in 2010. Despite all that, I felt like I’d come to the end of my rope and running out of options of seeing my writings in print.

And then God started talking. (Isn’t it interesting that He started talking when I came to the end of myself?) He started taking about…wait for it…self-publishing.  And what a conversation it was! Please forgive this non-linear thinkers attempt at chronicling how that conversation went, but I’ll do my best.

First, it started with knitting. I’m a graphic designer and wondered if that skill could translate into knitting patterns. For months, I’ve been dreaming about designing my own patterns. Once it is perfected, I will sell it on a website for knitters called Raverly, basically self-publishing it.

That was the first hint and there were many more to follow. That’s how God talks to me about me. He speaks in repeating circumstances. The next repeating circumstance was a deluge of articles on self-publishing. As an author who wants someday to be published, I try to keep abreast of all that’s going on in the industry. I read several agent blogs, Publisher’s Weekly, and Writer’s Digest (online and in print) and the Yahoo! entertainment page for books. And for a span of two weeks, seems like all of them were discussing self-publishing, some of it positive and some of it negative.

And then there were successful self-published artists. Notice I said artists. They weren’t just writers.  A friend of mine released her first indie CD and a well-known Christian rock group left their label and solicited donations to fund their new project.  And who can forget Amanda Hocking. Everywhere I looked, there she was.

After all of this kept swirling in my mind, it finally dawned on me that God might be trying to talk to me. That He might be telling me to self-publish. Of course, the revelation brought me distress. Even with all the successes, self-publishing still hasn’t lost its negative stigmatism. Some people feel that self-published books aren’t as good as traditionally published books, other feel that it’s a cop-out, a way to avoid going through the rigors of traditional publishing. I actually thought some of the same thoughts before now. Needless to say, God had to work on me.

And that He did through the next set of recurring circumstances. My pastor began a series during our New Year’s Eve service. It was entitled, A Year of Expectation. He preached about Moses. He preached about God spoke to Moses, told him to do something totally uncomfortable and how Moses argued with God about his perceived shortcoming. In short, the point of the sermon was to do what God told me to do and stop worrying about whether or not it’s going to succeed. Ouch.

So after all this, I am going to self-publish some of my writings. Some is the operative word in that statement. I have so many partial manuscripts on my hard drive and several notebooks full of story ideas. Most of them, sadly, don’t fit into CBA. I do have some manuscripts that will fit, but my self-publishing will focus on the ones I don’t think will.

And that’s another thing about God’s instructions. I have no plans to abandon getting published by a traditional publisher. For me, it isn’t either/or. It’s both. I have put as much prayer and consideration into my traditional career as I have my self-publishing career.

One more thing about God’s instructions. He told me to chronicle my entire journey on my blog. This will become a new feature on my blog called The Next Step (I’ll explain the name in subsequent posts).

So this is the first step of my big adventure. And most adventures are better when shared. Won’t you join in my journey with me? You can start by praying for me as I set out. Also, you can follow my journey by following my blog (in the right sidebar). I thank you in advance for your support and may God bless you on your journey this year.

Friday, January 20, 2012

My Life in Stitches: My Life in Stitches 2011 Review

I had an interesting fiber year in 2011. When my husband left to serve his one-year deployment, I thought sure I would read a ton of books, but that wasn’t the case. It seems that most of my leisure time went to into knitting. At the beginning of 2011, I only had four completed projects on my Ravelry page. I started and completed 29 projects in 2011.  Yay, me.

Here is my official My Year in Stitches review, the good, the bad and the ugly style.

The Good
Most Helpful Technique Learned: LIFELINES!!!!!
Hindsight is twenty-twenty. One of my knitting friends, Jill, told me about lifelines at the beginning of the year.  The technique is when you run dental floss through a row of your stitches as you knit it. It’s helpful because if you make a mistake, you can rip the work back to the lifeline and all the stiches are on the floss and easier to pick up. Jill told me, but I must admit I was a little slow in putting it into practice. Like several projects slow. But when the above-mentioned Milky Way started kicking my butt, I did a lifeline…and kicked myself for not trying it earlier. Would have saved me a lot of heartache.
Favorite Project: [Three-way tie] Milky Way (Sheryl Thies, Nature's Wrapture), Daybreak (Stephen West) and Fetching (Cheryl Niamath, Knitty, Summer 2006)

Milky Way
This is my favorite project to wear. The color makes it versatile to wear with multiple outfits. And the fiber, (cotton, rayon and silk) is the perfect balance of dressy and casual. And it’s uber warm!

I love Daybreak for two reasons, the colors and that it’s a simple pattern with dramatic results. I made two Daybreaks this year and loved them both.
Daybreak #2

Fetching makes my favorites list because it was instant gratification. I started one day while I was sick in bed. It barely took me 12 hours to finish it. And again, it’s one of those projects that’s really easy but produces dramatic results.

The Bad
Most Frustrating Project: Milky Way Scarf (Sheryl Thies, Nature's Wrapture)
I thought I was going to lose my mind on this one. This is not a social knitting project! I had a complete meltdown at a knitting group meeting because the twisted stitches in this pattern. It wasn’t a hard stitch, it was just one I had to pay attention to…which often I wasn’t and had to go back a rip out huge chunks at a time. The pattern is so defined that it wasn’t one you could fudge you way through your mistakes. This project drove me to the brink of sanity.
Project with the Biggest Design Feature (aka mistake): Ginkgo Shoulderette Shawl (Southern Selkie)
It’s a good sign that something has gone wrong with a project when you have an entire skein of yarn left over when you’re done… and you weren’t supposed to have it. I bought the yarn for this shawl while in Indianapolis during the ACFW annual writers conference.  I loved the color and it was on clearance. Win-win, right? I’d added the Ginkgo pattern to my favorites before I left, so it was a match made in heaven…
Until I finished the shawl and couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t used the amount of yarn the pattern called for. It was a big problem with a simple solution: READ! I was supposed to go up two needle sizes when I got to the lace section of the shawl! Of course, the shawl turned out way smaller than it was supposed to and I hardly ever wear it because it’s so small. I kept threatening to rip it out and redo the lace on the correct size needles. Maybe that will be on my 2012 knitting year in review.

The Ugly

Project with the Worse Fit: (Two-way Tie): Swirl (Andrea Weinrick) and Ellen's Knit Hat (Ellen Harpin).

Swirl was my first pair of socks ever. I made them for myself so my feet wouldn’t get cold while I was praying. I was very proud of myself for conquering my fear of socks. I started before my husband came home before for R&R in July. I was so excited to show it to him, but I didn’t bank on his reaction. He didn’t say anything at first, but his face (my husband has very telling facial expressions) told me that he didn’t like the sock. After a few minutes of examining the sock, he asked, “Is this for a reindeer?”

The sock on the right is for the reindeer.
Needless to say, my feelings were hurt, but I pressed on and finished the second sock. But in finishing the second one correctly, I realized how bad the first one was. All I could do was laugh. The only way to save it is to rip it out and do it over. Maybe I’ll only rip out the first reindeer sock.

As for the Ellen’s Knit Hat, my husband was the victim of the bad fit. I was knitting hats for my church’s clothes closet and my husband told me he wanted a black hat with a green stripe. Of course, I decided that I would give him the hat for Christmas.
I put a very generous green stripe on it. Unfortunately, the top of the hat was about four inches longer than the top of his head. Thankfully, it will be easier to repair than the socks. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tea & Read: Wolfsbane

Title: Wolfsbane
Author: Ronie Kendig
Rating: Spend the Day Sleepy

What a way to start off a new year of book reviews! Wolfsbane is definitely a book worth spending the day sleepy but it will not put you to sleep. Wolfsbane is the third book in the Discarded Heroes series. 

Demolitions expert Danielle Roark has been left behind in hostile territory during a mission with Nightshade. Former Green Beret and medic Canyon Metcalfe, beset with memories of another mission gone bad, vows to rescue her, sacrificing everything. As secrets unravel, will Canyon and Dani find healing, closure, and each other?

Kendig pulls no punches in this one. As a matter of fact, the story began so intense that I didn’t think I could finish it. But since Kendig’s stories end with hope and redemption, I pressed on knowing the plot would get better… and it did. The intensity didn’t die down. It kept me clicking the next page button on my Kindle to the end.

The characters, one of Kendig’s strong points, were very engaging. Even though they had extraordinary jobs and heartbreaking experiences, I found myself relating to Dani and Canyon. Kendig makes them realistic enough that when they face a challenge, one not often faced in Christian fiction, it is an interesting, almost pleasant surprise, but not unbelievable. Yes, this is a little cryptic, but I don’t want to spoil the plot.

As with her other books, Wolfsbane sails through the plot. No skimming at all. I found myself wishing I could read faster! Kendig’s military research is spot on and she creates a world that a girl can get lost in.

This is a great book and I expect great things from Kendig in the furture.