"Write, write, write," he said. Ignore the wind and the waves and write.

Houston's books available from: Your local bookstore, all on-line bookstores or click here at: (Just Dust Publishers)

Monday, October 17, 2011

On to Independent Publishing!

Hey, readers.

Thanks for following my struggles in writing, and more exactly, in my pursuit of publishing this year.

Your insights and comments have been encouraging and instrumental in the birth of my first novel, and perhaps more important--my own publishing company.

If you have not done so already, I would invite you to visit the web page of the same. I will be blogging there now and talking about the new books coming out soon. It's all very exciting to me and very humbling.

Come join us at:

Saturday, May 21, 2011

On the other hand...POD, "Self Publishing", and more

OK,I'm a long way from exhausting all aspects of a traditional publisher--especially a Christian publisher, which has its own peculiarities. But many of you already understand about tradition publishers simply because they HAVE been around a long time. So,if you have any more questions about them ask me in the comment section and I'll tell you what I know.

I feel like I need to move on to alternatives in how to get your book to the reader. I'm guessing traditional publishing houses are thinking about making changes too. The truth is the market (people who buy books)is changing quicker than anyone ever imagined it could.

February of 2011 was the first month that electronic books outsold regular hardhand (I am using this to mean any books you hold in your hand that have print on pages. As far as I know its an original use of the word.) I also heard one woman published one of her books electronically for 99cents. She sold a million copies. Even if she received only 50 cents of the 99, that's half a million. I also heard another woman put five of her our of print books up electronically and made $10,000 in two months. There is no arguing with the idea that electronic books have "arrived."

Now, I will sneak in one more little bit of info about a traditional publisher--they want your e-rights--can you see why? That means they own the electronic rights so they can offer your book electronically to 25,000 sights and you receive only a fraction of the profits--not the sale. So, that's sometimes 10% after costs.

What is their cost to posting your book electronically??? Good question.

When does that contract expire. It is, of course, negotiable, but one publisher was incredulous that I would ask to have the rights EVER. So, what about the old alternative called the vanity press--paying some company to publish your book?

(Also called "Self publishing." I will cover this industry more fully in its own column)

So,let's say you do contract with a publishing company to "publish" your book. What rights do you retain? Well, this varies from company to company, and because of the changing demands and numbers of the readers, this industry has tons of small publishers sprouting all over the world. If you can contract with one to print your book and post your book electronically, that may be a good deal for you but my main concern I have for authors is that we be sure that you retain the electronic rights, because that's where I think the future of publications are going. More on this later.

I'm going to bottom line you right now because many of you want to know what's up with me and how what I'm learning applies to your experience. Her's what I am trying to do just now (and why I have so little time to write on the blog!) I'm reading a book about establishing my OWN PUBLISHING COMPANY! (probably means just what you think it does!)

Yep! I am reading on how to interface with Lightening Source, one of the two Print on Demand (POD) presses in the USA. The other one is owned by Amazon--and yes, they will also work with individual authors to print their books, but their take is higher than Lighten source. The "problem" with LS is that they don't want ot deal with authors, but don't mind if authors become their own publishers--as long as they are professional.

So, long story short, that's what I'm looking into--although, I am not closed to other forms of publishing and am also thinking I could also publish other people's books.

I hope this is exciting news for you. It is for me and I will be filling you in on as much as I can as I go through the ropes. I will also explain the whys, especially if asked. So, hang in there and write me back if you are wondering about some aspect. So many wonderful developments in publishing---and reading!!!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How Much Does a Traditional Publisher Pay?

I am doing research on this and so far am finding that the most accurate answer to this is: "Depends--It's negotiable."

However, that answer is not limited to traditional publishers at all! In fact, my experiences with the POD (print on demand) and "Self-publishing" services, seem even more likely and well known to vary of their costs and your cut.

However, there are general practices that I can outline about traditional Christian publishers that will give you an idea of what you can expect.

Typically, if a publisher approaches you with a contract, they will offer you an advance (money up front)and this amount can widely vary. I've heard a new author quote me $2000 and one who was on her sixth book quote me $5000 for an advance. The publisher is hoping that the book will sell enough copies to cover those costs, obviously. And, in fact, an "advance" means just that in that each book that sells the author contracts to receive a portion of the sale. Again, that varies, but I've heard often that amount could be 50 to 80 cents a book. Let's say the author is hot stuff and so they are able to contract for $1.00 a book, for easy figuring. So, if the publishing house has advanced $5000 to the author, the author must wait until the publishing house has sold 5000 copies of the book (to reimburse the publisher for the advance at $1 a book) before the author receives another dime for their book. From then on the author would receive $1 a book--this is for a book that sells in the stores for $12-$14, for example.

Before you run the publishing industry out of town on a rail, consider that the publisher is likely to spend $25,000 to promote that first book of yours. And by the way, they expect you to be out there signing books and speaking at every retreat you can to sell books as well. This is why, as one publisher took the time to tell me, publishers are no longer buying books, they are buying authors--authors who can turn out three to six books a year.

Since the American public is likely, after finding a book they like, to look for another book by the same author, there is much less of a risk, in the publishing house mindset, to publish someone with a following than a new author. Regardless of how good that new author's first book, the publisher just doesn't want the expense of introducing her to the public. Frustrating?

Wait. There's more. (And I promise in future bogs to cover viable alternatives to traditional publishing.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Traditional Christian Publishers

What I learned about publishers at Mount Hermon writer's Conference
I don't really have any experience with book publishers that are secular and precious little with the Christian houses. But I did learn some at the conference. Let's see what YOU know!

Question 1: How many Christian publishers are there in the U.S.A.?

According to four agents (more on these later)who I heard in a workshop, there are only about twenty. Many of them print only Bibles or resource material or non-fiction. So, one needs to know what genre each house publishes and can do that by checking their web-page.

Question 2: So, if a publishing house does publish fiction, what's the chance they will publish my novel?

I don't have statistics or percentages here but I feel confident in saying, your chances are SLIM TO NONE! Here's some solid reasons as to why I say that:

A)Your book may stink!

Yep. Lots of people think they can write and many of them do a lot of work and absorb huge expenses to bring a manuscript to editors that is just not print worthy. Even if that is NOT true of your work (and, of course, I consider my novel to be pretty darn good!) editors are posed to expect sub-standard work since they see so much of it. And may I repeat SO MUCH OF IT! Especially at these Christian conferences where 500 people have a book (or two or three) to pitch to five editors. So, even if your book is in the top ten percent...

B)You might present your book poorly.

If you check the conference website before you come you will find an opportunity to meet with editors comes with warnings and disclaimers that no author, especially a new author, should for a moment think that submitting a book proposal to an editor at the conference will necessarily reap a published book--in fact, they almost promise it won't. Several chances to talk face to face with an editor are provided for attendees, but if your written proposal or pitch doesn't convince them this is the next "Purpose Driven Life" in the first 5 seconds, you're pretty much outta luck. Here is where a good agent might help because...

C) Some Publishers won't deal with an author without an agent.

I have to say that I am not a very good source when considering an agent. I have had interaction with two agents, both of which were not very encouraging. But I have heard lots of success stories from other authors--who are published, I might add--unlike myself! And I have heard that agents not only have insider knowledge of what is happening within publishing houses, and friendships with the publishers that give them a natural "in", the agents at the conference were saying something about the salary they earn from pitching your books is paid for by the publisher, not by the author. But I am suspicious as the price of the book does not go up when an agent is employed. But they would know things that would help you approach different publishers that you don't know like...

D) The publisher has stopped accepting books in your genre.

Even Publishers which publish the exact genre (type) of book you write have sometimes taken all the projects on that their house can afford to promote. When I met at one of those lunch-type meetings with one editor and told her I had a novel she immediately told me her publishing company was not accepting any new fiction for two years. BTW, this could be a sign that publishers are pulling back to wait out the huge changes in the publishing world right now. Now, talking about being out of touch...

E) Some publishers won't accept manuscripts written by someone outside of their denomination or with values outside of their cultural norms.

When I first started publishing I sent an query (a request to send a manuscript for review to publish) to a denominational magazine. A very thoughtful, well written magazine. I was surprised to receive a rejection e-mail fifteen minutes later. They explained that they never accepted an article written by someone outside their denomination. My feathers were a bit ruffled, especially because my husband and I were paying tons of money to send out daughter to one of the colleges established by the denomination.

At the Mt. Hermon conference, I sat at a table with an editor of a well known publishing company. She asked me to tell her about my book. At one point I explained a character's past was hidden since she had had an affair years before with a married man. The editor interrupted me to end the conversation, saying, "We would never publish a book with that in the plot." She continued to explain that the publishing house was owned by a conservative denomination and most of the board was comprised of pastors. Then she said something almost comical, "If we published that we would immediately receive calls from all of those pastor's wives!" I calmly responded that perhaps this was a regional issue for in the Northwest we have many Christians who engage in this sin.

That was a true story, but it is only an example of the culture standards one publishing house may employ to decide whether or not your book is something they want to publish. Now, foul language or explicit sex scenes and maybe some other sexual sins would probably put up stops for most Christian publishers. Actually, I'm personally happy when I read a book that filters out some of the harshness of the real world long enough to unfold a story without the "f-bomb" inserted in every other sentence (language one can hear on most high school campuses in our city.)

Still, I've got to admit when writing fiction it is difficult to write an entire book, set in contemporary times, without having expletives exploding in crisis-- especially by the villain. I mean the expression, "I curse you, Bad Bart!", or "He swore at the man who had stabbed his daughter to death" are both pretty lame expressions of anger.

Still, if you want to publish with a certain house, you gotta go by the rules. They're not going to change the rules for your baby. How do you know what those rules are? These "rules" are often cultural norms so they are not on their web page. Try asking your writer friends, confernce leaders, or, if desperate, the phone receptionist at the company--from your non-writer friend's cell phone, of course!

F) Do you have to pay a traditional publisher to publish your book?

Nope. That's the beauty of the old publishing houses--they pay you! But how much? Let's talk about that tomorrow. Gotta go to bed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Publishing--which way do I turn?

It seems I have been mysteriously silent about my conference experiences and publishing. So many options and avenues have been tried since then that I was in a quandary what to share with serious readers on this page. I've decided to update my followers with info I am finding most helpful, but my final conclusions are not yet drawn. (I am defining some of the terms that are new to me in this process of publishing to be clear as to what I mean.)

First, the Mt Hermon Conference.
With all the wondrous beauty of the grounds and new friends found, I can say the time there was well spent. I also made a connection with a missionary who has established a press (actual facility that prints books and ships them out) in Bulgaria. Amazing! She thought the quality of the production has grown to be comparable with presses world wide and that she could have my book printed and delivered for about $3 a book. Amazing. This might be the best deal I have found and I will be staying in touch with her on this and looking into her presses services.

I also met with an editor who was interested in seeing a proposal I pitched (verbally presented to her over lunch as a possibility for her publishing house to produce and carry as one of their books.) I felt comfortable right away with her, even told her one of my true confession type stories about a slip I had made in the church parking lot one day. I think making a connection with an editor can be pivotal as to whether I will feel comfortable long-term in dealing with the publishing house (companies in the industry of publishing.) Of course, the same might be true as to whether or not the editor is interested in dealing with you. We'll see.

The pitch I made detailed a devotional book I have been thinking about compiling for some time. Since I have written many devotionals, I hope to have the skills to compile a book for a niche market, mothers of special needs children. I expanded on the idea and she liked it. She said I could send her a proposal (a 30 page document defining the book and the market, my qualifications and history and several more relevant items of information.) This formal request is what she will take to the publishing company's team that decides if the book is the kind of thing they want to publish and if it will be profitable for the company.

This last consideration, whether it will be profitable, sounds cut throat, but get the stars out of your eyes. How many of us would be writing much if we were not compensated in some way? The truth is, we all have mouths to feed, even if they are our own. I fully understand, being a business major in school, the necessity of making a book pay (although, I would hazard a guess that sometimes a publisher chooses to publish a book because it is too good not to, and plans to eat the cost--they just can't do that often.)

I was very happy to get the invitation to send the proposal, even knowing I had lots of work ahead of me. A month later, I still am working on the proposal. Perhaps I have waited too long for her to be interested! Well, many things have happened since talking to that editor and I could not spare the time before now. I will explain more as I continue this train of thought on publishing in future posts. Tomorrow I will finish up Mt Hermon and why traditional publishing may not be the best choice in every situation.

Next, Orange County Christian Writer's Conference. Soon POD and self publishing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I'm a winner! Sorta...

Hey, all!

Still in San Diego after last Friday/Saturday writer's conference in Orange County. Had a great time; met four new friends who I'm sure we will stay in touch, met John Ware and began the new path to screen writing, heard Vivian Wright speak brilliantly about creativity, AND had "Julia" take a third place (out of 38 books submitted) in the WestBow self-publishing package! Whoo-hoot!

I'm very excited about this. I had been thinking fairly seriously about pursuing WestBow or some other self-publishing house anyway. I really like the idea of preserving all the electronic rights of my manuscript, something I would have to give up with a regular publisher. WestBow Press is a subsidiary of Nelson and so has an interest in supporting the self-publishers in house--perhaps moving the book to the catalogue, etc, if it does well in sales.

WestBow will be calling me soon to make arrangements, if I am interested. Since I did not win 1st place there is a question as to whether I will publish with them or not--seeing if I can afford to pick up the rest of the package. In my dreams, I will be in print by July--we shall see!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday Afternoons...

If you think my next words are “I’m just beginning to see…”, as in the song of the same title, you could be right!

Yes, after attending the “conference to end all conferences” for getting your book published by a Christian publishing house, I have re-set that goal. Not because there was anything wrong with the event or the publishers, although I will admit I don’t think I am a conference person, I do think that it is timely to think about self and electronic publishing as the future of reading.

I know, I know, I too am a smell-the-print person, as I was a feel-the-pen-in-your-hand person when I began writing. Quickly, I realized the superior convenience of the cut and paste, delete and replace, and so many other happily convenient values of the computer over the pen and paper. So, adjust, I tell myself, once again.
I also have some ideas about how to make that all work. Maybe even a business around the self/e-book. I do love business!

So, this next weekend I am off to yet another conference, Orange County Christan Writer's Conference, but this one has a strong self-publishing thrust. I am excited to talk to some of the people in the industry face to face. I’ll report a bit more about that when I return.

In the meantime, write-on and don’t worry about the publishing aspect—I’m believing that may all be up in the air right now, in more ways than one.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Time for a major re-right

I left the conference a day early.

There are lots of stories as to why...but not for this page. Still, I don't want to be obscure since I promised an honest report.

My current assessment is conferences are not for me. Maybe all conferences, but especially Christian Writer's Conferences. This, is in spite of many wonderful contacts I made with people and even a very fun publisher who I like personally.

I've talked a bit before about the ACC, American Christian Culture, and this beast is alive and strong at the conferences. Not that we don't all have our hypocritical selves, but the ACC has an unspoken norm that I, unfortunately don't fit. Or maybe it's for the best.

I can honestly say I am sure that no one missed me the last day I wasn't there, which is a wonderful thing about not knowing anyone when you go somewhere--it's easy to leave unnoticed.

I will write a little more on the subject when I have regained my strength and balance. Especially would like to list some good writing tips I learned.

Till then!


Monday, April 18, 2011

Overwhelmed, Talking to the intelligencia, part 2

I was going to post last night and could not get on line. We're nestled in a redwood forest on a hillside, so I'm glad to have coverage--ever.

The latest, career-wise, is that I talked to another editor who is interested in seeing a book proposal from me. Can you believe it? She likes an idea I have for a devotional book. So, I'll need to go put that together. It will take a while and be about thirty pages long.

My mentoring class with Brandilyn Collins is fabulous. Yesterday the group critiqued Julia and were complementary and encouraging. As I was going into the class I was wondering why I had signed up for this because I was so sick of reworking Julia that I didn't think I could stomach rewriting it one more time. But Brandilyn gave me some insights about it that have excited me to return to tweaking the book.

One of the most important things I have learned in her class is to know what is the protagonist's desire. To be able to state this as specifically as possible. She pointed out that this is the foundation of the book.

If you're thinking of writing a book, I hardly recommend first reading her book, Getting into Character. This will help you write in a way that keeps the book consistently moving in the same direction and to avoid a wall in the middle of the project.

I sat at dinner last night with Bill Meyers. He wrote screen plays, McGee and Me, and many novels. I told him I wanted to write screen plays and he told me he would like to discourage me as there are much fewer opportunities to write for those than books and articles. I told him I didn't care. So, we talked. What an amazingly kind man. He's also doing the keynote speaker talks and if you can get your hands on the CD's of these, you should.

In the midst of this, I have to say I am exhausted. Last night after dinner I went to my room to recoup and was in bed by 9. I'm thinking of driving to Santa Cruiz today to walk in the autorium there or the boardwalk. I'll be leaving here on Tuesday to Sacramento and headed home on Wednesday.

OK. I have to go. Class in an hour and I have homework.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

How to talk with an editor...part 1 Make a Good Impression

Some conference attendees make a big deal out of talking with the right editors. One woman told me she sold her first born son to land an appointment, but I know better than that—I have sons.

I, myself, am very cool about these things. I took leisure time this morning over coffee in my room, the proverbial babbling brook tittering outside my window, and meditated deeply on several scriptures. Then I saw the time.

Holy smoke! I dressed, make-uped, and scooted out the door so quickly that I forgot one of the critiques I had prepared for class this morning. This oversight caused me to use my entire ten minute break to hike downhill to my cabin and back. I don’t think anyone noticed I was panting through my nose when I returned to the classroom. Very cool.

I felt like my lunch with the editor of one of the major publishing houses went very well—they will not be printing any new fiction for 2 years. Hmmm. But she recommended another editor. OK.

After lunch I scampered (as fast as one can with a cane) to pick up the pre-conference manuscripts I had submitted to editors. Nope. Neither of their houses can use my books either. More recommendations.

I attended another two workshops on different elements of publishing and let the words roll over me. “Don’t be disappointed.” “Don’t give up.” “Do the next thing.”

I didn’t cry or anything. OK. I did eat some M&M’s that I had previously in the day wondered how anyone can stomach. Then trundled to my room to update the blog. Here I found under the chair of my desk a 2” long earring on the floor that matches the one in my ear.

Very Cool.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Day One--Beautiful Site

Taking my first step out of the car upon arrival, a wash of emotion fell over me. Was it the sun shining through the towering redwoods or had the long desired arrival (over three years) solidified passionately into reality? I don't know. I suspect there is a spiritual element here that is palpable. More on this later.

I came a day early and was glad I did since settling in took more time and energy than I imagined (it didn't help that I locked myself our of the cabin first thing and had to hoof it back to the main office for a spare key.)

I can see I will have no trouble getting in some much needed exercise since I also arrived at breakfast this morning without my name tag and had to return to my cabin for that. The camp is carved into a hillside and so every trip is a hike.

Many people have been extremely friendly. The greeting question is not, "How are you?" but "What do you write?" or "Where are you from?" I've already learned to shorten my answer to "A little bit of everything..." and "No, not from Texas, that's my name."

Most participants are women. I was worried that the average age of the "campers" would be younger than my housecoat, but there are MANY women here whose children have left home. It seems most men who are here are editors, agents, or writers who are part of the staff. What does that mean? I'm forming my theories.

People think they know me, either from my name or my face. This has been my blessing (or bane) for years and in this setting these traits might work toward my advantage. I don't know yet. So far, erroneous interest remains polite, but distanced when they realize they don't know me--rather as if I had played an adolescent joke on them.

I attended a session on how to make the most of the conference last night and left more overwhelmed than before. Seems the main thrust of the woman speaking was, "Don't be rude--desperate or cloying." LOL! I admit after one pays a month's mortgage payment to attend a conference like this the idea of tackling the first real editor one meets may have flashed through my mind. But I think I can restrain myself to more appropriate responses.

I did have a vision of Jesus walking through the crushing crowd and turning to the woman who had 'touched Him' to say, "Don't be so needy." I don't think so. So, the editors are just people too. And sinners like me. How does God stand us?

I woke this morning realizing two things fully. 1) I need to grab another 3" mattress from an empty bunkbed to place under my own measily mattress. 2) I have no idea why I am here. I talked to Lauraine Snelling this morning at breakfast who helped me think a bit clearer. I wondered out loud about writing even though I felt called by God. She asked me if I needed a "come to Jesus" talk because she was ready to give me one! A delightful woman.

So, we'll see.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wednesday Travel

Well, what would we single travelers do without audio CD's?

It was rain, then sun, then rain/sun/rain/sun/SNOW!/rain/sun/ But I didn't mind, even though the snow came when I was half way through one of my fifteen minute walks.

Mark, my husband showed me that I have a cable which transfers pictures from my phone to the computer. Who knew!

So, maybe I will figure it out whule there and post some pics--or not.

Rolling into camp tomorrow afernoon. See you then.


The Writer

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ready to roll?

I have six book samples to read and critique today—each 20 pages. This is for the Brandilyn Collins mentor group at the conference. For all of those whose books I am reading, there are authors who are also reading and critiquing twenty pages of Julia. I’ve actually begun, but I want to do a good job on each so, I’ve a full day’s work ahead of me. That’s besides packing and taking my mom to lunch for her birthday!

I plan to leave by seven tomorrow morning. Yes, I am driving to the Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. Anyone want to ride with me? (Do you note a quake in my voice and knees?) I hate to go alone, but my time with God alone on the drive will be blessed, too. Seriously. Driving is healing to me.

I will visit my family in Sacramento on Wednesday and arrive on Thursday. More super interesting stuff will be posted then, I’m sure. Thanks for reading along.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What is Behind Door # Two?


This might be premature of me, however, I am submitting the first page of my second novel to a "First Page" contest at the Orane County Christian Writer's Conference at the end of the month. I am looking for critiques, my friends!

FREE CONTEST~There is a prize involved for the most helpful comment! A Steve Green CD--brand new--titled "For God and God Alone" or maybe a million dollars...it depends on which I can lay my hands on first.

So, here's the rules.
1) Read page one of my new book (below)
2) Write a comment that would be helpful to me as the author in the comment section of this post. In one week, I will decide which comments are helpful and have a drawing for the CD. I will post the winning comment and send the CD on that day. Easy!

Book 2
Chapter One

Willow left her restaurant five minutes before seven, erroneously thinking that ample time to arrive. She slid onto the driver’s seat of her VW van which she then rolled down the snow-packed main street of Sage Meadows, Oregon. Five minutes should have been plenty of time to drive five blocks to the town center, but tonight, revelers slowed traffic to a stroller’s pace.

Having moved to the area less than a year before, Willow had no idea that tourists came in droves for the western town’s quaint tree lighting ceremony. Who would have guessed?

As her van crawled by the gathering, she strained to find an empty spot. Nothing. She did see plenty of scarves, hats, and mittens—all red—in theme of the season. How original, she thought. A Suburban behind her honked with impatience. Willow jumped, cursed, and sped on.

She finally found a space at the curb, two blocks away. She still radiated internal heat from the fast pace she kept in the restaurant kitchen, so her wool pea coat hung open and her alpaca muffler and cap bulged from her pockets as she trotted toward the festivities. Her thick wool socks slipped in her Birkenstocks with each slap-slap on the street. The gravel truck had been through that day spewing fresh volcanic ash gathered from the surrounding Cascade mountains. The tiny stones peppered the snow, providing better traction for vehicles and walkers.

As she neared the crowd, she could hear high-pitched laughter and mellow murmurs ripple through the chilled air. Children’s voices steamed from their chapped lips as they argued for the best spot on the hay bales that formed a circle around a towering evergreen.

How am I going to find Mum in all of these people? Willow’s mouth curved up from either side of the lip ring in the middle of her lower lip. Her heart still soared when she thought of her good luck at finally finding her birth mother. Had it really been only three months since they met?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mt Hermon Christian Writer's Conference

I haven't written much about the conference I am attending at Mt Hermon in April because I have been working on writing for the conference. And now there are only two weeks before I hit the road for the Santa Cruz Mountains. Wow! I'm so excited!

I have probably spent more time writing and rewriting than I ever have in a thirty day period of time. It feels good to know I can do it. I've sent off two proposals for editors at the conference to consider for publication. Although, I have been warned repeatedly not to expect to sell anything at the conference (I am assured conference contacts and networking are as valuable)I am poised to publish Julia, one way or the other.

It's nice to believe in a work enough to make that statement. There are few other things in life of which I am as sure that Julia's time has come. Isn't that bold (and maybe foolish of me?)

I'm sure that one reason I feel this way is that I am ready to move on. Besides the sequel to Julia, which I am well into, I have a hankering to write screen plays. So, Julia needs to move over to the "finished" category.

Mt. Hermon is doing an excellent job of matching up buddies to help first time attenders (me) and assigning mentors. I am thrilled to say that Brandilyn Collins (mystery writer) is my and 7 other people's mentor. We will meet as a small group to critique each other's book in progress. What a great help this will be!

I'll update the blog from there with details of the conference in mid April. For now, I better return to my rewriting!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

First Page of Julia

I'm submitting the first 250 words of my book, Julia, to this contest(cut from Brenda Drake's blog, http://brenleedrake.blogspot.com/)

I've really enjoyed this proces. Thanks, Brenda!

Name: Shelley L. Houston
Title: Julia
Genre: Suspense/Relational Drama

Looking up from her cell phone, she saw racing toward her the highway guard rail and cavernous cliff beyond. Dropping the phone, Julia clinched the steering wheel with both hands and simultaneously stomped the brake as she wrenched the wheel to the left. The boxy Scion careened around the curve of the mountain pass and then righted in the lane, rocking slightly from side to side.

“Schnikies!” Julia's veins coursed with adrenalin. I wanted to get there before dark, but arriving in one piece is good, too. She laughed at herself and rotated the tension from her shoulders.

Glancing in the rear view mirror she checked to see if anyone had seen her. No one. Good. But she did see the sun hanging low over a sawtooth ridge of evergreens silhouetted against a blood orange sky. Wow. Literally awesome. She inserted Beethoven’s Fifth in the CD player to match the mood.

After Julia drove another five minutes, she caught a great view of Mt. Washington on her right. The mountain’s single tower jutted from massive rock shoulders. Only a few dirty patches remained of last year's snow. Summer had demanded its due.

Summers can do that. Her mind flashed to last year's tragic June when her mother’s obituary listed Julia as “sole survivor.” The phrase still echoed in her brain like a call from the bottom of a well. Would her own obituary report she had no survivors?

“That was then. This is now.” She chanted this as if reciting a mantra.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

First Tuesday Post

Time to update my blogging friends. I am committing to once a week blogging—on Tuesdays.

In the last month I have been spending large periods of time writing or related activities. In the last few weeks, at least eight hours a day. The motivation is conferences. Two in April, Mt. Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference and Orange County Christian Writer’s conference. All kinds of doubts and hopes fill my thoughts about these events. I will be as honest as I can about those and try to document the outcomes for the benefit of readers. I am realizing I really should have done research with other authors before committing to go. So, here are my “wonders.”

I am wondering:
1) Will the $1200+ for one and the $900+ for the other really be worth the contacts, networking, and counsel I will receive by participation? That is without an actual book contract. I am not counting on that, although, of course, that would be the highest outcome—or would it?

2) This is a hard one…I don’t know how to state it. Somehow there seems to be what I’m going to call a “Christian Publishing Culture.” I’m not well acquainted with it, but it seems a club of people prefer each other, I’ll say. Is it inbred or can new comers break in? More on this later.

3) Are there “on years” and “off years” for conferences that I should have known about before committing?

4) Most importantly to me, is this really what God has in mind for my writing? To pursue this Christian Publishing industry as my venue?

5) What to wear!? Shallow as it seems, I asked this question of a group of writer friends I have on Facebook. The answers were helpful—casual can mean jeans and nice shirt, but remember, you are meeting your potential boss/clients. One woman, who is a long time professional says she always wears a blazer.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Egan Warming Center--Join Me?

It was a bad night. I frequently have trouble sleeping, but when my alarm went off at 5:00 A.M., I viewed my couple hours sleep with contempt. I forced a smile at my husband who scurried past me to dress for our morning task—the Egan Warming Center. We were due at 5:30 to relieve the night crew.

Why did I agree to this? I brushed my teeth, washed my face, swiped a comb through my hair, and blinked at my reflection. Perhaps no one would recognize me…

As I lumbered out the door, the cold slapped me fully conscious. I then thought, some of the one thousand homeless people in our county probably slept outside last night. Maybe they shivered, even now, under some bridge. I decided not to think about that.

The church windows glowed as I pulled into the parking lot. There, some of our “customers” stood with their cigarette smoke evaporating into the darkness. I nodded to them as I walked by, which a few returned. One man glanced my way but looked too weary to nod.

As I entered the church, the smell of hopelessness offended my senses. I greeted fellow workers but, internally, I staggered under the feeling of desolation that so many homeless experience. Then, inexplicably, a fire to survive surged through me. I wanted to overflow with love—God’s love, which I so often take for granted.

My task was actually easy. I handed out plastic bags in which people stored their bedding. Then the bags were marked so they received the same bedding the next night. Easy.

“Good morning! How’d you sleep? Would you like a bus pass? Yes, there’s dry socks for you. Now, get a good breakfast.” I managed smiles of comfort and words of encouragement.

I had difficulty maintaining that character as all ninety people filed by, some with frostbitten faces, rashes, or scrapes. One man burned with fever.
I greeted the next young man in line, “Good morning, James.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome! Could you use a bus pass?”

His eyes searched mine as he took the pass. He had something to say. I waited. His hands fussed with his jacket. His mouth opened, but his voice broke. I smiled, encouragingly. “Would you like some socks?”

He shook his head. “Just—thank you.” He fidgeted a little more and started to turn away but then, he found the words and turned back. “It means so much for you to do this. Thank you.” Tears welled in his eyes.

Shame flooded through me as I recalled my grumbling that morning and my distaste as I arrived.

I shook my head. “No,” I said. “Thank you. It’s a blessing to be here.”

“For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited Me in; naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”

“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You…’”

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”