Saturday, January 27, 2018

Leap #2: Proposal Submission

Very late Tuesday night (or early Wednesday morning, technically), I finally submitted my proposal to my editor at Harlequin. Sometimes I wonder why it takes so much courage just to click "Send" on an e-mail. 

As soon as I sent the e-mail, however, I just felt relieved. Whatever may come, I took another flying leap. I completed a project I set out to complete, and for that I choose to be happy. The proposal was somewhere around 60 pages, including a detailed synopsis of the first book with three chapters, plus a brief synopsis on each of two additional book ideas. 

While I wait to hear back on the proposal, I will write. I'm working on a couple of projects. I'm spending the most time on the LIS book, which is written but needs to be revised quite a bit. On the side, I've been doing some interesting research for a mainstream fiction book I've had in the works for years. I came to a point where it was mostly complete, but missing authenticity. Parts of the novel take place in the past, and I couldn't decide if I wanted to set those chapters in the 20s, 30s, or 40s. After watching a couple documentaries on the times (America in Color is a series on Netflix that covers several decades of American history, and even my sons found the episodes we watched to be interesting) and checking out a few books at the library, I'm pretty sure I've settled on the 1920s. In fact, today I came across a piece of history that aligns so well with my story, I could hardly believe it. I'd been trying to figure out some missing details for an important scene - some whys and hows that I just didn't have enough knowledge for - and it all came together for me today when watching the 1920s episode of America in Color

In addition to the LIS and the research, I am slowly working on one short freelance piece at a time. I miss working with magazines, and I'd love to start getting back into some journalistic writing again.  The freelancing component of my work is definitely taking a backseat to the other two projects, but on days where I want to tackle something smaller, it's nice to have a little side project to work on.

In case you were wondering where I'm finding all the time to do this writing, I have to admit that I'm not finding a lot of it lately! I'm in a three-week crunch period of piano practicing right now because I have a couple of accompaniment gigs coming up that require me to learn a bunch of music and attend a bunch of practices. So, I'm being kind to myself for the next couple of weeks before I get back to what has been a pretty regimented writing routine. My writing goal through February 10 is to revise a chapter a night of the LIS book, and do research for the mainstream whenever I have spare time.

My progress for the next couple of weeks will be slow, but two leaps in one month seems to be a good start to the new year. :)

Saturday, January 20, 2018

January's Leaps

Well, I committed to the word Leap, and I made one leap today: I submitted my application  for the Adjunct Certification Program at the college where I teach English. A couple of years ago, I took a huge leap when I applied for an adjunct faculty job after having been out of the workforce for over a decade. 

I'll be completely honest - I had actually applied to teach at the same college several years prior, but when I was called to schedule the interview and I learned that I would need to present a teaching demonstration to a panel of professors, I chickened out and canceled. I had zero experience teaching in a classroom environment, and I didn't know the first thing about creating a lesson plan. I was terrified of humiliating myself. I've had that problem all my life, and I still struggle with it. 

But a couple of years ago, for various reasons, I decided it was time to face my fears and try for the job again. I'm so glad I did. Teaching is the only job outside of my home that I have truly loved, and as I start my third semester I have decided to commit to a few workshops and seminars to help develop my teaching skills and strategies, and also to network and become more involved at the school. New endeavors generally scare me, so this program is pretty intimidating, but the application is in, so BOOM - I leapt!

My second leap is coming very soon, also! My proposal for another book (or more?) is in my sister Shirlee McCoy's hands right now, and as soon as I incorporate her feedback, I'll be submitting it to my editor. It's taken me longer than I wanted it to take, but what else is new? Shirlee actually took a first look at the proposal about a month ago, and she noticed some pretty serious issues I hadn't really spent enough time mulling over - especially involving character development. I really value her input, seeing as 1) she's written over 40 of these books, 2) she's my sister, and 3) she shuffles a lot of stuff to find time to look at my writing and actually provide meaningful feedback.

I actually have so many ideas for my next leaps that I'm not sure what I want to do next! Maybe focus on my mainstream women's fiction that has been sitting around unfinished for at least five years now. Maybe spend a little time submitting some magazine pitches or personal essays. Whatever I choose, I will be consistently working on my next LIS manuscript as I wait to hear back from my editor.

I did decide that every time I made a new leap, I would treat myself to some kind of reward. I think applying to the Adjunct Program was a pretty small leap, so I think I'll just order myself a new book on Amazon tonight, and schedule a reading-in-pajamas day for myself sometime soon. I can't remember the last time I read all day long, and I think it will be good for my soul. :)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018


It is 4:30 a.m. on the third day of a brand new year, and I've been up for an hour already.

In my fantasy world, I am the kind of person who rises each day before dawn and writes soul-grabbing prose before the rest of the house wakes up. I read somewhere that when you write first thing in the morning, you harness your most creative thoughts. Truth is, I woke up to use the bathroom and couldn't go back to sleep.

I tossed and turned for a while, prayed for a few people who came to mind, and finally gave up on sleeping. In a little while, the rest of my family will rise and we will make our way to the airport to head for home.

We arrived at my parents' house in Maryland, the home I grew up in, at around noon on Christmas Day, said goodbye to 2017 together on New Year's Eve, and ushered in a new year together over the past couple of days. Our kids got to enjoy everything we'd hoped for them: a Christmas with tons of family around, a week of arctic weather, a day of snow tubing, and even a few hours of actual snow that coated the streets and sidewalks and yards for a couple of days. It goes without saying that we also enjoyed multiple feasts and unending treats. My mom is an amazing cook and we are very talented food consumers. 

Even after more than 11 years away, every time I get on a plane to fly back to Texas, I feel more like I'm leaving my home instead of heading back to it. My Maryland roots are strong. Plus, I will never stop missing my family.  Also, if I'm honest, I've boarded many Texas-bound airplanes overwhelmed with sorrow and even dread...not because I have anything in particular against the "Friendship" state, but because I was often going back to some really hard stuff.

This morning, something different is in the air  -- and it's not just the remnant wafts of the fantastic spaghetti-and-from-scratch-meatball dinner or the loaves of pumpkin bread my mom concocted yesterday. This morning, it's hope. 

If hope had a scent, I imagine it would smell something like a cool spring breeze and the half dozen or so whoopie pies I stuffed my face with this week. It is exhilarating and tantalizingly sweet.

It's also terrifying.

When you stared death in the face with your daughter just months ago and now her cancer's gone, but the three-month scans are coming up, you hope. And you fear.

When you trudged through a decade of your spouse's unrelenting pain and illness and have been witnessing for months now what seems like it could be his recovery, you hope. And you fear.

When you grasp hold of a dream that's been blossoming in your mind and decide it's time to go for it, come what may, you hope. And you fear.

Thankfully, hope trumps fear every time. (For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13)

I've never chosen or even considered a defining word for an upcoming year, but if I could go back and choose one for 2017, it would have been Hope. I was challenged to choose a word for 2018 and I'd like to say that I spent time in prayer and scoured the Bible and meditated on what my word should be. But my word literally jumped into my mind and stuck: Leap!

I'm not a risk taker. I'm more of a dip-my-toes-in-the-water kind of girl. I like baby steps. I've always got a fall-back plan and an escape route. I almost never leap. 

Leaping, after all, involves a high risk of falling. But so does baby stepping across a chasm or dipping toes in a raging river. Leaping is standing on a wide, flat, solid rock, peering beyond a great chasm of risk and a raging river of fear, and deciding that the tiny patch of grass you can barely see will offer more growth and joy than the safe, flat rock ever could...and then mustering every ounce of courage and gathering every bit of strength and whispering every desperate prayer, and jumping...knowing all the while that you may very well fall short of that patch of grass. 

No safety net. No escape route.

Falling hurts, which is why I hate risk. But I hate fear more.

So, in 2018, I will hang onto hope. 

And I will leap.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. --Isaiah 43:19