Writing Process Blog Hop. Sort of Like The Bunny Hop. But with Blogs.

My Facebook writing friend, Ina Roy Faderman, invited me on this tour. She’s one of several great women I’ve met in the past few years in a virtual writing group. It’s wonderful when a friendship progresses from the group page to a personal page. I’ve learned a lot from her and my world is larger with her in it. She’s on my list of CA people to visit personally on my West Coast Book Signing Tour. It will happen!

Ina writes poetry and short stories and has been published in journals several times. Poetry is something I don’t aspire too. I find it too difficult to condense my thoughts. But then I find it difficult to keep my novels below 120,000 words!

Here’s Ina’s official bio: Ina Roy-Faderman was born in Lincoln, Nebraska to Bengali parents. She studied creative writing and began publishing her work while completing her MD at Stanford University and starting a PhD at UC Berkeley. Her poems and short stories about our bodily selves have appeared or will appear in Pif Magazine, Right Hand Pointing, CladeSong, and Danny Shot’s Long Shot Magazine. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she writes, teaches medical ethics and philosophy of biology for Oregon State University, tries to herd her unruly family, and drinks a lot of coffee.

Ina’s FB posts often feature her pets and their tendency to impede her writing progress.

So, this blog tour is about our writing processes. Each author has her or his own way of getting their story onto paper. Here’s mine–well, at question number 4.

1) What am I working on? First of all, I write women’s fiction novels. Currently, I’m working on three projects. I can never just work on one! The first is book 2 of my Lilyland Trilogy, Places Bright and Dark. (Book 1 is Another Place on the Planet. (See side panel.) I’m in the (hopefully) final revision stage. Which means I’m going through from beginning to end looking for words to cut/change, sentences that could stand to be rewritten or deleted, typos, things like that, in preparation to self-publish. Publication target is my mid-September, if not sooner.

I’m also rewriting book 3, as yet untitled. Which means taming the first draft. And, for the 3rd project, I’m critiquing the first novel by an author I met on Goodreads who was looking for a beta reader. It’s an interesting challenge.

Oh, and I’m currently searching for photos for the cover of Places Bright and Dark, because I design my own covers. And I’m promoting Another Place on the Planet. An indie author is always promoting.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? Hmm…I guess the biggest is the faith element, because my faith is important to me. So far, I’ve been compelled to have my main characters be Christians who, besides all the other issues I invent for them, also suffer from a crisis in faith. Which is pretty common, at least for me, when going through a major life upheavals. Some Christians I know never seem to question God or the foundational core of their belief system. My characters do, and like me, they don’t get simple answers. In fact, they often get bigger challenges, bigger questions. It’s an interesting way for me to explore my faith walk.

My Christian characters are far from perfect–they swear and fornicate, give in to their addictions and weaknesses, they grow, fall away, come back and try again, each time experiencing a little more of God’s love and grace than the last.

I have a feeling this difference might keep me off the bestseller list. I can’t imagine a regular of Christian publisher will ever pick up Lilyland. So be it. But i”m open…

3) Why do I write what I do? I write the stories I want to read. Always write the story you want to read, because you will read it so very many times until it goes on its next journey.

4) How does my writing process work? Ha ha. Sometimes I wonder what process? I’m a panster, meaning, I never prepare an outline or plot before I begin. My very first (unpublished) novel, I sat down without a clue to the character, or anything. I had a vague idea about commitment and marriage. In fact, having been told a writer needs an outline before she begins kept me from beginning for many years.

For Lilyland, my process has been knowing my beginning and ending. For book one, I jumped in with the main character from my very first novel. I messed around for a few years, going with different points of view, even with both Lily and Charlie as narrators at one point. Then I finally settled on the main plot points. I let the characters tell me their story, let them tell me who they are. I absolutely love that part of the process. Sometimes I have to adjust them to keep things from rambling too much, but I’m getting better at recognizing plot bunnies that will steer me off track.

Pantsing for me can lead to many extra piles of material, especially at the beginning, so it can make revisions a bear. There were many extraneous characters and scenes I had to cut. The novels I’ve started since then–four others, I think–are more concise. I still pants, but I understand the process better. But, I’m trying to complete this trilogy so I haven’t finished anything else to see if that is actually true.

Lilyland, being about film directors, involved much research about how movies are made. So while doing the messing around I did (which developed the characters in my mind) I read everything I could get my hands on about filmmaking. And as a result, I have a deeper appreciation and knowledge of film.

My routine changes itself around, depending in what I’m working on. Sometimes it’s best for me to edit in the morning when my mind is fresh, although currently, I’m using that time for creating the new material for book 3. Sometimes for a while, that process happens best late in the day. Since I don’t have a day job right now, I don’t have to force it and can do what feels best at a given time of day. I’ve never been one who feels the need for a schedule. But I do write everyday.

A writer, as any artist, has to be true to what drives her and how that wants to flow out of her in her chosen medium. How we do things may differ, but we share the same goal: engage our audience, to move their hearts and minds.

Next on the tour are:

Kelly Krisbacher-details to follow

Previous writers include:

Enthusiastic Soul

Claudette J Young

Laurie Kolp

 

My First Free Promo

If you read my previous post, you got the part where I continuously checked for sales of my ebook Another Place on the Planet once I put it up for sale on Amazon. Two weeks ago, I had a great day doing that.

I made my book free for the weekend. If you publish on Kindle and use KDP select, you get 5 free days every 90 days, or the ability to do a countdown sale. I chose free since I’m new and need exposure about as bad as seedlings needs the sun.

So that was all well and good, but how to let the world know?

First, I made a Facebook ad that looked like this:

Capture

 

I budgeted $35 a day for three days and paid by the click. So every time someone on Facebook saw it and clicked on it, which took them to the Amazon buy page, I was charged. When you reach your daily budget, the ad comes down for the rest of the day. It averaged roughly .50 a click. Over three days, the ad was clicked 194 times. When I set up the ad I was able to define my target audience. I chose authors and TV shows with themes similar to the book. There are several other parameters FB lets you select, It was pretty easy. I have no idea if any of those clicks led to downloads. FB told me of a possible audience of 78,000,000 in the US, UK and Australia, the ad reached over 43,000.

I also paid a couple places that advertise free books. One was $10 for one day, the other $15 for 3 days. I found several other places that will advertise your free book for free, if they have the room. There are also tons of Facebook pages that connect free books with seekers and others that will post your book, free or not. They each work differently. That’s pretty time consuming, too.

Overall, I guess I did okay. Friday, there were just over 600 downloads, Saturday, 230, and Sunday, 90 something, for a total of 918. So, now there are that many people with my book on their device. Hopefully some will read it and a few of those will leave a good review. Maybe some will come looking for Book 2 in about 6 weeks. It didn’t lead to any sales afterwards. I guess you need downloads in the tens of thousands for that.

Anwwhoo–What I Learned:

1. I’m only going to do another FB ad when I will be selling books for a price. It was interesting and not discouraging, but I don’t want to keep spending money on free when there are free ways to advertise.

2. There are plenty of places to post your book. I need to become diligent it seek them out, getting used to the variables and using them on a somewhat daily basis.

3. Just do one free day at a time.

4. Try a .99 sale.

So, I’m a bit more savvy about the process. We’ll see what happens next. Now, to go work on the next one…

Thanks for reading!

 

How Publishing Your First Book as an Indie Changes Your Life, Part 1

Based on a true story.

As the reality of finishing your final draft dawns, you set up your author’s platform: Facebook author page and Twitter account, maybe a blog. Long hours in front of your computer, eyes straining, brain boiling, trying to figure out how to go from a wannabe to a real writer. You create your author page on Amazon and wherever else you’re selling.

Maybe accounts on Pinterest, Google+ and Linked in. You figure out how a few of those work. Just like the experts said you should. It takes you weeks/months/years. But you now have an online presence–in a dark corner in the back of the ballroom, where everyone else is dancing with their agents and publishers and millions of readers.

So not me.

So not me.

All the while, you’re working on your masterpiece, gestating your brilliant literary baby. You write, revise, edit and repeat. And format and proofread and proofread again, or pay or barter services with someone better at something than you are. You set up your Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashbook and iTunes and Kobo and Barnes and Noble accounts. With shallow anticipatory breaths, you upload your beautiful jump-off-the-page book cover and your perfectly (you hope and pray) formatted book document. You paste a painstakingly-crafted book description in the correct box, decide on a price, select markets  (India, Japan and Denmark, too? Yes, please.)

Finally, you click on publish. And rejoice and think about a manicure as a reward. That or a hunk of that chocolate sauerkraut cake at the German restaurant.

Haus Murphy's (Glendale AZ) chocolate sauerkraut cake. OMG! Photo credit http://girlmeetsfork.com/featured/arw-fall-2012-preview-haus-murphys/

Haus Murphy’s (Glendale AZ) chocolate sauerkraut cake. OMG! Photo credit http://girlmeetsfork.com/featured/arw-fall-2012-preview-haus-murphys/

Then you prop your feet on your desk as you sit back in your rickety task chair with a self-satisfied smirk on your drawn face with the dark circles around your bloodshot eyes. As you wait for the sales to pile up by clicking the refresh button on the KDP reports page every ninety seconds, you wonder how to spend your first royalties payment. Renovate your office into a perfect writing cave with wet bar, big screen TV (for watching the best shows and movies for research, of course), maybe a treadmill desk and a cushy padded chair? Or maybe take the family on a grand vacation to show them your profound appreciation of the countless subpar meals, distracted conversations and forgotten sporting events; sacrifices they made while you were industriously securing the family’s future by spilling your lifeblood on the computer screen in the form of the next NYT bestseller. Hopefully, there will be enough on a regular basis to hire a personal chef.

If only the sales would pile up.

You leave the desk to cook dinner, something not box mac and cheese, but keep thinking about your book, wondering if someone is clicking “Buy now with 1-click” on your book’s page on Amazon. Between steps in the cooking process, you check your reports page on every sales site where your book is listed . It takes you two hours to make franks and beans.

Nothing. Still nothing.

Something in your chest tightens and you try to discern if it’s frustration at all the solitary hours you spent wrestling with your characters and words, and the world doesn’t notice.

You got that right!

You got that right!

 

Or maybe it’s anger because you know of, even bought and tried to read cringingly horrible sagas with plot holes the size of your writer’s butt underwear, lifeless dialogue that makes talking to your husband about the budget seem like an evening in paradise, and characters so flat you could iron sheets on them (not that you ever in your life ironed a sheet). Yet, those dog droppings called bestsellers received tons of attention from critics, bloggers and interviewers. Not to mention movie deals promising the newest franchise of blockbusters.

And you realize that you are obscure. It’s not a new realization, but you seem more unknown than ever because you have done what millions of people say they want to do, but never do. You have written a book. And even more, you pushed it out in the world contraction by excruciating contraction: first a friend or spouse, then your critique group. You posted a few chapters on your blog or Facebook, sent agent queries and received rejections that beat your tender artist’s soul to dust. You burned with shame at your poor use of the language (despite your BA and 18 graduate credits) and agonized that your mother would think the adulterous but to-die-for-sex in the story was inspired by your own experience (alas, it was not). Your skin grew thicker.

Dutifully, you reset your nose to the grindstone that creating world-class literature is, and you made it better, shinier, wiser and grammatically more correct. Despite rejection from all sides except a few understanding writer and artist friends, you gave birth to your baby on your own. While the millions still talk about the book they’re going to write.

You experience all that again in your weary heart and click refresh on KDP. Zilch. The once hot blue euphoria of triumph cools to disdain for the entirety of humanity.

So you pout and go on Facebook, seeking cheer from funny cat videos and socially aware

We all wish we were John Green.

We all wish we were John Green.

but ironic comics. Or maybe finding a friend having a worse day than you. But all you see are the writers you follow humble-bragging about their five star reviews and contracts with agents they can’t reveal the details of, and meeting with TV producers and show runners. You know they worked hard, and you should be happy because someone else’s success won’t diminish you own elusive success. But damn them anyway!

Next, you see your so-called friends posting vacation pictures from Hawaii or their round-the-world honeymoon. Even an Instagram of a plate of food from a restaurant that’s not in the same town as the friend lives in is enough to make you hate your miserable underachieving life.

All that emotional anguish reminds your tooth hurts, so you schedule that root canal you’ve been avoiding because anyone who has the audacity to put the undercooked schlock you did on the WWW deserves to suffer. You remind yourself to shower before you go.

root canalThe entire time you endure the white hot pain of inflamed nerves being yanked from your skull, you offer yourself as a sacrifice to the capricious gods of commerce, praying they smile upon your little bit of drivel and prod a few souls to buy it, perhaps as penance for some small sins.

Later, when you wake up at home after the fog of painkillers has replaced the numbness of local anesthesia, you check your sales. One book’s worth of binary code, html and pixels have found a new home on someone’s e-reader.

Joy has overcome sorrow! Your heart sings, no, verily it screams! with a new kind of pleasure, an orgasm of accomplishment and glee! Your feet, so long stuck to the floor under your desk (much like they stick to the floor of your neglected kitchen) dance like they haven’t since the days of disco!

You have sold a book!one

You wonder if it’s too early to look for a review.

The Hardest Part

publish button

It’s a lot of work to get your novel to this point, but for indie author’s, you’re only half done.

Hard: I wrote a novel, Another Place on the Planet. I won’t go into all the ways life tried to get in the way of that. I amazed some people, including myself. It has all the elements of a story, including great characters, a page turning (at times, anyway) plot, and some themes that resonate with readers. I learned a great deal about the craft of writing and myself. It was a great joy and a great trial. And I’m doing it again. Harder: Publishing my novel. I submitted to a few agents, mostly for the experience because I know a story of Christians behaving at times very unlike Christians are supposed to behave is not going to fly in regular publishing and certainly not traditional Christian publishing. So, indie publishing was a great option. A whole bunch more learning there. Amazon, Smashwords, CreateSpace, editing, formatting, Word v. Scrivener. Learning what I don’t know so I can learn it just to know I need to learn something else. Good thing I like learning. And I did it! And, I hope to do it again. Hopefully, it’ll be easier this time. Hardest: Promotion. Marketing. Discovery. I published a book! Who cares? It got some good reviews from mostly people I know somehow. They want book 2! Awesome! How do I get other readers to read number 1? That’s the hardest part, I think. I’m getting a little better at putting myself out there, grabbing opportunities that come my way online. I responded to someone looking to interview author’s on their quest to market their book. I booked myself on a blog in the UK for next week, and set my book to go free for  few days. I’m looking for ways to advertise with the small budget I have. It’s a long term kind of thing. Most indie authors build readership book by book over time. All this marketing stuff takes away from my writing time to get those books out there. As does the editing and publishing process. I love writing. I’ve been making up stories in my head for most of my life, so it’s only natural I put them on paper or little screens. I love, to one degree or the other, the entire revising-editing-formatting-publishing process. I enjoy making new connections in the world of indie publishing. I love each time I sell a book and read a new review and know I entertained someone. I’ll love when I get some royalties in my Pay Pal account! The really hard part will be staying the course, not giving up when there are no sales, no new reviews. That’s the thing for anyone pursuing their passion. Believing in your work enough to see it through the dry spells. Sometimes, that’s the hardest part.

Meet My Main Character Blog Hop

APP sunset cover                                                                                      From the past into the present. I was tagged by Bridgett Trejo at The Tudor Cafe to talk about my main character. I’m currently working on my women’s fiction trilogy, Lilyland. The first book. Another Place on the Planet is available at Amazon. In creating Lily and discovering her character, I’ve learned a lot about myself. Go figure.

1. What is the name of your main character? Is she fictional or an historical person?
My character is Lily Mayfield. Before I began writing, I had a student named Lily (back before every other baby was named Lily) and decided it would be a good name for a character. Even before that, sometimes I drove by a street named Mayfield Drive and decided I liked the sound of that. So, Lily Mayfield. Writers don’t always have profound reasons for choosing names. It does have a little significance at the beginning of the book, something that I didn’t plan ahead. Lily is completely fictional. As the trilogy starts, she’s in her early forties.

2. When and where is the story set? The setting is contemporary. Although I’ve had to do a lot of research, history had never been my thing. It’s mostly set in Los Angeles, but starts off in Scottsdale, AZ. We take little jaunts to Philadelphia and Maine, too.

3. What should we know about her? As her story starts, Lily is trying to get her life back together. She was the victim of extreme domestic violence. As a result, she left her job, had to sell her house and moved across the country to start over. After a stroke of good luck, her college-age daughter walks away from her, so she is essentially alone. Her self-esteem, which has never been great, is beaten up and she’s having hard time stepping out to do something other than watching movies at home alone. Her therapist threatening to drop her forces her to take action.

4. What is the main conflict? In this book, the main conflict is within Lily herself. Throughout the book, she’s challenged at different personal levels. She’s a Christian (although this is NOT your usual Christian fiction) and she struggles with why God didn’t answer prayers for her husband and marriage and with why she can’t seem to let go of her faith in spite of that. Her confidence is lower than ever, and she’s presented with extreme situations where nothing but confidence can get her through. The presence in her life of Charlie, a Hollywood director with bad-boy tendencies whom she met at a fundraising gala, has her deciding if she’s lovable at all. Every part of Lily’s story challenges what she once believed about herself and prompts her to decide to thrive and not merely survive.

5. What is the personal goal of the character? At first,she wants back what she believed life robbed her of when her marriage destroyed itself–a quiet life with her husband, supporting their daughter as she goes to college, marries, starts a family. Over time, she accepts that’s impossible, and maybe even as a young woman, she settled for that life when she had other visions for herself. As she opens herself to new people, places, and experiences, she changes goals to maybe find love again, and hopefully have some kind of career in music or film, which were her passions before she got married. She hopes it includes Charlie. But there may be other options in the romance area.

6. What is the significance of the title of your book? “It’s just another place on the planet, Sweetheart,” is something Charlie says to Lily when he invites her to Los Angeles with him for the first time to attend an elite party and to be at his side during a lawsuit trial. What to him is everyday life, to Lily is an extreme environment she’s not sure she’s ready for.

7. When can we expect the book to be published? The book is now up on Amazon. I hope to have the second book available early this fall. The title is Places Bright and Dark. If parts of Lily’s life seemed like a fairy tale after she meets Charlie, happily ever after isn’t so much.

Next up is JC Cassels. Be sure to check her out. Also, click back, too, to see what characters came before. Thanks for reading!

 

Get Ready!

Drum Roll, please! (Keep it going until my book is live on Kindle.) Thanks!

Good grief. The trials of a truly indie author. By truly indie, I mean too poor to be able to afford editors, formatters, etc. Not that I’m complaining. Being able to do all this is a joy and privilege I never expected to have.APP sunset cover

Last year, I decided to republish my fist book, Another Place on the Planet. I hadn’t sold one in a while and was never really satisfied with the cover and knew of some issues that needed to be fixed. In the meantime, my mother passed away and my husband was diagnosed and then successfully treated for cancer. My brain just wasn’t in the place to do the technical side of things.

I worked on other projects, finishing up book 2 of LIlyland, then doing the rough draft of book 3. Then I spent weeks and months on Word and Scrivener perfecting formatting to the best of my ability only to have it look less than wonderful when Kindle got a hold of it. I designed a new cover.

There are people who do these kinds of things for indie writers and I hope in the future to be able to afford them so I can spend more time writing. I also hope that next time I make a cover or format a manuscript I can remember what I learned during the previous bouts of learning. I like learning and don’t mind the kind of work that needs to be done, but…

So, as I write this, Kindle is in the process of publishing my book. I hope the margins and paragraph indentations are as pretty as I made them in the writing program. They weren’t last time…sigh.

In the meantime, I can update Pinterest, post some tweets, figure out how to use Google+ and network with other writers. Oh. And write the other books.

I’ll post a link in the sidebar to Kindle when I have it all prettified. While you wait, you can read the first chapter here under the My Books tab.

Writing and publishing independent of traditional publishing is perfect for me. Lilyland probably wouldn’t have a home otherwise. It’s the story of Lily, and secondly Charlie who are believers in God and Jesus, aka Christians, but struggle a lot with their faith and their behavior. It’s probably too Christian for regular publishers and not Christian enough for Christian publishers, what with the sex and swearing that even they themselves do. But it’s the story that came out. I like it. I hope you do, too.

 

Say Hello to CoCo La’Tay

My husband and I are quiet people. Which is a nice way of saying we’re boring. I write all day. He sleeps (he works nights) or watches ball games or movies.We don’t go out much.Our kids don’t call often. We’re the kind of people who could die in our home and no one would know until the letter carrier noticed a foul odor seeping from the door by the mailbox.

I can spend hours in the same place writing or reading or doing some kind of handcraft. Keith falls asleep in his recliner.

So I decided we needed a dog to liven things up. We’re too young to get old. We have a couple of cats, but you know. Cats. They do the same thing we do. Nothing. Except for the occasional swatting drama. Our cats are not best friends.

I looked at shelter and rescue sights. I was thinking a grown dog and not a puppy since we don’t have young kids to entertain it. But nothing really appealed to me. We test drove two full grown boxers–very sweet dogs, but there was 140 pounds of them–more than I wanted. Fortunately, someone else wanted them, so they went to a good home.

1st coco

CoCo’s fisrt puppy picture, when I thought I might call her Poppy. How much cuter can a puppy be?

The dog we adopted came to us through a Facebook/church friend. Dom is the mother of two boys under the age of two and lives in a second story apartment. Her husband found a puppy at his job site–a school–and brought her home. Dom said, “Sorry, honey. You’re not home all week. No way I can deal with the kids and a puppy.” Wise woman.

DSCN1313

Her ears flopped down when she was younger. Homemade toys–water bottle, old tee shirt.

I fell in love with the wiggly brindle bundle right away. She was very friendly. Her paws weren’t huge, indicating she wasn’t a horse in the making and she seemed smart. I brought her home and except for the needle teeth, and the puddles, she’s been a delight. Her dark brown/sable/tan coloring looks like a cup of coffee. Hence the name CoCo La’Tay.

DSCN1279

Sleeping on a makeshift bed.

We started crate training right away. That’s her bed and she knows it and will go there when I tel her to. I just have to nudge her in. She loves playing fetch with old soda bottles–always brings it back so I can throw it again. Times 50. I love when she tears around the yard like her pants are on fire. She loves meeting new people, licking toes and chasing the cats she only wants to play with. She chews everything in sight. Although my floors no longer had crumbs on them, the do have muddy puppy prints. I have to remember I’m the alpha and make sure she listens to me.

As much as I wanted them to stay down and floppy, her ears decided to stand up.

As much as I wanted them to stay down and floppy, her ears decided to stand up. About 12 weeks old.

I can understand why writers have cats. Dogs need attention and in and out. At least puppies do. Having this pup has kept my mind distracted from concentrated periods of focused writing. But I did want something to get me off my butt. In a few weeks she’ll have all her shots and we can go on walks to the dog park and around the neighborhood. A dog is a great way to meet your neighbors.

At 15 weeks, she weighs 21 pounds and has more than doubled her weight. She's a healthy dog. I wish I could know her story and how she came to that place to be found by my friend's husband.

At 15 weeks, she weighs 21 pounds and has more than doubled her weight. She’s a healthy dog. I wish I could know her story and how she came to that place to be found by my friend’s husband.

DSCN1388

Today, eating ice cubes.

As puppy parents, Keith and I refer to each other and Mommy and Daddy again when we talk to the dog. Guess it’s better than the old man and the old woman.

 

Welcome 2014!

Oh my God! 2013 is finally over. I’m not the only one who had a tough year. But it’s water under the proverbial bridge. And good riddance.

But here are a few highlights:

Walked with my mother through her last days.

Walked with hubby through prostate cancer.

Totally beaded the bodice of, and completely created my daughter’s wedding dress.

Watched her walk down the aisle with my husband/her father to marry the love of her life.

Had two trips to Pennsylvania. Saw snow in one and went to Maine in the other.

Saw all my siblings at least once. Most more than once.

2013 still was a sucky year and being bogged down in grief for 6 months didn’t help. But it was life, and I survived and it’s over. Thank God.

2014 alfa romeo 4c launch edition 320_320x240 (1)

2014 is shiny and new like this Alpha Romeo.

And 2014 is bright and shiny new.

I have three novels to self publish and more to write.

I’m going to volunteer somewhere to get out of the house and have updated references for my resume. Already started by pre-screening and reviewing short films for the Phoenix Film Festival.

I’m going to finish my screenplay just to say I wrote a screenplay and revise it some and start another.

I’m going to learn how to produce quality copy for websites through online clearinghouses for some income.

I’m going to get health insurance or be fined.

We’re not going to worry about cancer this year.

I’m going to exercise more and eat much less wheat and sugar.

We’re going to trust God more.

I’m going to be grateful more.

I’m going to look for good things, wonderful things, amazing things more.

I’m going to blog more. Maybe.

May 2014 be your best year yet!

Today I Woke Up In Vermont

I don’t want this blog to be a rambling memoir (although it definitely rambles!) of a midlife writer, but here’s a thing from my past.

main st. vermont

We lived in half the 3rd floor of this large house. I liked the bay window. This is a recent photo from Google. Don’t you just love being able to find pictures of places?

I woke up thinking about a church we went to in 1985 when we lived in Vermont. St. Johnsbury, VT was our home from August until a few days before Thanksgiving that year. We were house parents at a group home for developmentally delayed (although the term was still ‘retarded’ back then) teens. My husband was the house manager, and I was his sidekick and helped out. We had just our daughter then, but our son was conceived there.* After our car loan, my student loan and our share of the electricity was paid, we had $10 left from our pay. Out treat was donuts and coffee at a little shop, once a month. Keith was on duty almost all the time. The resident kids went off to a day program so after we helped dress and feed them, we had the morning off until he was put in charge of a guy who was too old for the day program but had no place else to go but stay home. We lived in the third floor, and Keith was on call 3 or 4 nights a week. And there was always a call.

The group home had the name Dayspring in it somewhere and was a branch of a ministry that included a Christian school and a farm in Linden and a director who was a borderline megalomaniac. At least that’s how I saw him. We’d only been married just over 18 months when we ventured away from our beginnings in Maine. Keith talked to this guy about cutting back some hours so he had some decent family time, because that is after all, a Christian value. The guy accused Keith of not loving Jesus enough. We were like, “Whoa.” If anybody loved Jesus, it was Keith.

Even looking on the map now, St. Johnsbury seems like a pretty churchy town. We lived across the street from the First Congregational Church. Every town in New England worth it’s clapboard has a congregational church. And there were a bunch of other mainline churches but as evangelicals, we didn’t give them any thought. We checked out a few others and the one we landed at was a few scenic miles out of town, Passumpic Community Baptist Church, I believe. The pastor had worked part-time where we were, and another young couple, Bruce and his wife and kids, who worked there went to that church. So it was our home church for about 4 weeks.

vt pastor

I believe this is Steve Jewett and his wife, whose name I forget. Funny. I never expected to find his name and even a picture. The church’s historical document said he was called to another church in Vermont in the spring of 1986.

I looked up the church, and it has a history document. I’m pretty sure the pastor was Steve Jewett, or at least that’s what I’ll call him here. He and his wife were in their mid-thirties maybe, older than us, but not too old to have young children. I think their Sarah Elizabeth was six. Ours was eighteen months. They lived in the parsonage right next door. The church nursery was in the parsonage as were several Sunday School classes.  It seems to me there was some kind of work being done on the parsonage at that time, too. Before service, Steve ran through his sermon for those working in classes. Despite our short time there, we did nursery one week.

One Sunday after service, we stayed for lunch with the Jewetts. Many Christians are kind of in awe of their pastors, but this couple was real. And I think Steve had some kind of ax to grind with the ministry we were working with. We told him what was said to Keith about not loving Jesus enough because he wanted time to be a husband and father. Steve said, “Run. The place will eat you up.” He seemed to think the ministry had been a saving grace for the director at one point in his life, and he expected it to be that for everyone.

We talked to Bruce who was living in a small apartment with his family because that’s all they could afford. Bruce felt trapped. There were not other jobs around. We already felt trapped after a few months. We took Steve’s advice, resigned and moved to Pennsylvania.

Honestly, the ministry gave me a bit of the spiritual heebee-jeebees. Maybe it was the control issue and the creepy church that met in a barn that it had that we went to once and never went back to. I didn’t give it much thought over the years because we were busy and got sucked into another church before we were in Pennsylvania even a month.

So, what’s the take away? Well, if you call yourself a ministry you can pay your employees squat. I mean, I think we made $250 a month, the both of us plus room and board. And this fits into my spiritual journey somehow. Maybe unlike Steve Jewett and his wife who lived their ministry 24/7 house and all, Keith and I learned we weren’t willing to do that, at least not in that context. Steve confirmed what we believed we should do.

I have a few great memories from those 4 months. I’ll have to share them next time. (Pheww! One blog topic I don’t have to think up.)

*This summer, while driving around and talking with our son, I finally put together both our kids were conceived in residents for developmentally delayed folks. I found that extremely funny, for some reason.

There and Back Again

I’ve been gone. Probably nobody noticed. That’s okay, They don’t notice when I’m here. Waah, waah.

It’s been a rough year. I was just beginning to recover from my mom’s decline and death when my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer. That’s how we roll. Then there was a bunch of other stuff, that when they happen one at a time, they’re a pain in the butt, but when one after another, it’s like being nibbled to death by a duck with shark teeth.

God’s Thumb by Akineko Chan @ deviantart

But hubs is fine. We found a great surgeon through a cancer support group. He had a good prognosis which has lived out. He had surgery last month and is now cancer free, no further treatment needed. I still miss my mom and always will. She’s the person I would have talked to about that.

But the happy thing is our daughter was married in September. I had the privilege of making her dress. We had a great trip back east. It seemed all the bad stuff, especially being sure we could safely time the surgery and still take two weeks away, wanted to steal the joy of getting ready for the wedding. But the wedding was the one bright thing in many dark and uncertain days.

They say bad times are good learning times. And some people say they’re thankful for bad times because of all they learned. Yeah, well, maybe. The rebel in me says I don’t really want to know that garbage anyway so let up on the bad times, huh. And if they don’t let up, let me wallow in my misery for awhile. Let me experience all my emotions.

Earlier this month, I seemed to pass out of that dark fog and back into regular thinking again. As regular as I get, anyway. And while I learned “lessons” I also have more questions. Mostly about God and faith and Christianity. So I might blog about that for awhile.

In the meantime, I’m working on revisions for my second book, trying to figure out book covers and thinking about how to launch it and book one together. I’m still looking for a job.

But I’m still here, so that’s good. God hasn’t pressed his thumb so hard on me as to totally crush me, so that’s good. And I haven’t totally given up on him.