Sunday, August 22, 2010

Crisis time....

No, no, fortunately, not of the health variety!
Or of the relationship variety--also good. :-)
This crisis is of the dollar variety.
Or more accurately, the dollar-versus-what-feels-like-a-necessity variety.

I have a quandary.

I am registered for the ACFW conference this September in Indianapolis. It's an important thing for me to do, to participate in writers' conferences. They're part of my job, the overarching writing career that I love. Yes, it's about two and a half hours away, so I don't have to fly (saving $$). And yes, I got a partial scholarship from my home ACFW chapter (saving even more $$). So I managed to scrape together the registration fee from that scholarship, some freelance money from a new client (!), and a little from the household budget.

Problem is...there's also the hotel bill. Also, because we only have two cars, I am strapped for transportation to GET there...which means I'll have to rent a car, borrow a car, or the like...without visible means of support to do so. Carpooling is an iffy option at best for a trip of this distance, so I'm reluctant to get involved in it.

You may be saying, "But, Janny, didn't you plan on all this?" Well, yes and no. I anticipated a certain figure for a hotel bill and/or car. But, despite the fact that Indianapolis isn't exactly New York City, the hotels are VERY pricey. (I'm wondering how they get away with it, frankly, but that's another subject for another rant. :-)) In plain English, the hotel bill's going to run me almost twice what I anticipated it would run. So much for the budget to rent a car, or even to chip in for someone's gas. And that's not even talking about the hotels' charging you to PARK.

Yes, I could camp in someone else's room and get away for a fraction of the cost. But there are two factors involved in that scenario that make even that option problematic.

First...when I go to a writers' conference, I spend the entire day in the company of other people. Networking. Comparing notes. Workshops. Communal meals. In ACFW's case, all this plus "worship" time in the mornings as well as spontaneous "divine appointments." I'm looking forward to it all...but I'm an introvert by nature, and all this stuff EXHAUSTS me. I don't feed off the energy of other people. I need to be alone, in quiet, to recharge my batteries and give my mind and spirit a rest. So even sharing a room with one other person, in these situations, is stressful. I know. I've done it. I don't want to do it again.

Second...even sharing a room would tap into resources I do not presently have, and don't know how I'm going to get, AND be stressful on top of it. Like I need that? (Note: this is not a trick question.) Even if the hotel bill had been within what I expected--the plain fact is, I didn't have THAT figure on hand, either.

How did I do these kinds of things on a shoestring before? I would say to myself, "This is something I truly need to do. I will just have to find the resources somewhere, even if it means putting off paying another bill to do it." In other words, I did a lot of "pretending" over the years, then scrambling to play catchup. But the trouble with that approach is, you never really catch up from that kind of outlay. Or, if you do happen to catch up, any emergency puts you in the hole big-time.

And, let's be honest about this: in our present living situation, we are doing just-the-basics, ma'am, so it's not like we're paying off our fabulous Vacation to Tahiti with tons of spare discretionary cash around. If I'm slighting a bill to do this, it's a living necessity--a utility, a mortgage payment, a car payment--that I really can't afford (literally) to let slide. That way lies sleepless nights, which I also don't need.

The other way I've recently dealt with these shortfalls is to go onto my freelance sites and apply like crazy for writing jobs to earn the money to pay the bills AND do the "extra." And, yes, that's an option I've used in the past. Unfortunately, it's not reliable income. And also unfortunately, the jobs I'm seeing come down the pike now don't pay nearly in proportion to the work that they entail. It's not uncommon to see people put out ads for "fixed price" jobs asking for an author to write a 40-page-plus e-book for $40--or, as one I actually saw today indicated, asking for an editor of a 250-page book for $20. If you have no idea how "off kilter" those pay rates are for what they're asking, I'm not going to inform's too depressing. As a musician friend we knew years ago used to say, "That doesn't even pay me to unpack the (instrument) case."

When you factor in the additional point that doing projects like that also cuts into the few hours I actually have to pursue my OWN writing (yeah, the career as a novelist--remember that one?)'s a doubly bad deal. I've done that deal, when I was trying desperately to scramble for every penny. It didn't work, and it wore me out in the process. So, no, thanks. Fool me twice, shame on me.

I do have freelance money that is actually owed to me. If I had a way to actually collect it, that would definitely help. Unfortunately, the site through which I procured this work has little or no enforceability on certain kinds of contracts...which, of course, this one was. That $300, for a project I started a year ago and has been stalled in the water since November, will probably never materialize. If it does, it'll be gravy.

But I can't pay a hotel bill, or an electric bill, or a car payment, or a dentist, on gravy.

I don't want to throw in the towel yet. But I don't want to do things the old "risk-taking" way, either. I'm plumb out of energy to want to live on that edge anymore. Who knows what damage I did to my body, my mind, and my spirit living that way for all the years I did?

So the "old way" is not an option.

The "adventure" of sleeping in half of someone's bed, or in a rollaway in someone's hotel room, is also not an option. I will be too miserably stressed to get anything out of the writers' conference, and there's nothing worse than going home after an event like that wondering why you just did that thing to yourself. :-)

The very real question is, I stop now?
Do I say to God, "Okay, You provide the wherewithal" and continue "as if" until the last minute, hoping and praying it materializes?
Or do I do what may be the prudent--even if it feels like the defeated--thing and write to the ACFW people with my cancellation?

I do have a "donation" button on this blog, for just this kind of purpose. But if enough people read this thing and actually throw money into that donation button--to the tune of the $1000 or so I will need to do this conference comfortably--I will consider that God HAS, indeed, provided the wherewithal...and I'll rejoice in the miracle.

Other than that, I have a decision to make. I'm just hoping I can make the right one.

In thought,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, YES!

Of COURSE you want to be Catholic...if you're truly seeking Christ. This wonderful article above just gives you an eloquent, honest, and loving explanation for that "tug" you feel in your soul.

Don't fight it. Come to Mother. :-) We'll welcome you with open arms.

(Holy Hat Tip to the Ignatius Insight blog.)


Thursday, August 05, 2010

Yet another star on the horizon...

 This time around, we talk to Deborah Kinnard (otherwise known as my fearless critique partner) about the writing life, about her SEASONS of imminent fame and fortune (!), and...well...stuff.  

1. What was the first thing you ever wrote? Not seriously, for publication...I mean the thing you started on maybe when you were a kid, a story you thought up "just because."  Do you see any influence of that kind of writing in your publishing life now?
I’d better not “see any influence” – the first thing I remember writing, other than my infamous fake “Bonanza” episodes, was a poem about how snowflakes dance when they fall to the ground. I think I was 7 or so at that time. Eww. Mom liked it, though.

2. Other than some obvious moral considerations, how has your faith impacted what and how you write? Do you choose subjects about which you're intrigued, or do you sometimes feel that subjects "choose you"?
The latter, disconcertingly often. I mean, how many authors yearn to write stuff the major publishers avoid like a virulent case of measles?
As far as the faith element, I’m an evangelical Pentecostal with an inborn impatience for doctrinalism in most of its guises. For me, the relationship with Jesus Christ is primary, not what you do on Sunday and what music you enjoy when you sing. So I’m comfortable out of my own personal comfort zone – which of us can tell what kind of believer we’d be in an era with fewer choices?
When I wrote SEASONS IN THE MIST, the story had just come to me, right after I got home from England…a great trip, in which I spent a week wandering Cornwall, just me, a bag of crisps, and a hired (rental) car. In one spot there was an old well with a ruined stone building—little more than the foundations—and my mind instantly insisted the building had once been a chapel, and the well had been holy. The lovers getting acquainted by that well, back in the middle ages, just “popped” into my head and they stuck there until they came out as Bethany and Michael. I can’t help it!
As far as its faith story, SEASONS didn’t have an overt one at first. That came to me slowly—how a noncommitted Christian could take the atmosphere of faith that pervaded the medieval centuries, and use it to bolster her own walk. Bethany starts the book as a lapsed Christian, and ends…well, different. Quite different.

3. You've never been known to be at a loss for a new story idea. Where do you get them all? Is there one "book of your heart" story you still want to tell...someday? 
I wish I could say I have a specific storehouse with 4,367 more ideas in it. I don’t. They just come to me, or I mentally bludgeon an idea until it blossoms a bit more. I do have one story I’m itching to tell—that of the great 14th century English mystic, Julian of Norwich. I’ve got notes for the book but nothing solid enough to start writing, as yet. Since virtually nothing is known of her, aside from her writings, it should end up as a “fictionalized biography.” I hope to do this great woman justice.

4.  What authors would you most like to emulate? Are their styles similar to yours, or so radically different that that's what intrigues you? Do readers tell you your style reminds them of any particular authors?  
 I’ve been told my voice sounds a little like Linda Windsor’s, but that’s both flattering and hard to believe. As far as whom I’d like to emulate, I can’t think of a specific author. How about a blend? The intellectual honesty of Lois McMaster Bujold. The lyrical style of Blythe Gifford. The storytelling ability of Jean Auel (minus the long paragraphs of description!). Given my choice, I think I’d like to be able to write so that readers would say, “Aha! That’s Kinnard!”

5. What do you dream about for your writing career? What advice do you wish you'd listened to more closely earlier on, and what advice have you learned to disregard because it doesn't work for you?
I doubt this makes me unique—I dream about a “Very Nice Deal”! I wish I’d listened to those folks who told me to keep going, since I haven’t always been productive as I’d like. Yet I have no regrets, for the most part. Yes, I went to e-publishing quite early, but it’s been an invaluable education. Particularly now that e-books are gaining sales traction and therefore legitimacy in the market. There are downsides to small press and e-publishing, of course, but I’d never categorically tell an author not to pursue publication unless s/he can get a Big Horking Publisher interested. And I’ve learned not to listen when people tell me there’s no market for medieval!

Thanks, Deb, for the insights!
Order Deb's books through, through Sheaf House,  or the ubiquitous Amazon!