Monday, August 18, 2008

ACFW conference and other stuff

I can't believe the ACFW conference is in a month! So little time to prepare.

I've hardly written at all this summer. It just hasn't been a good summer for writing. I had to cancel my editor appointments because my WIP won't be ready to pitch. But there are always the informal meetings at meals and such where I can talk about my WIP.

So I should prepare a pitch of some kind. Be ready to talk about my project.

Business casual isn't my style. I have jeans and T-shirts, and then I have skirts and dresses for church. And since I don't want to wear skirts every day of the conference, I should buy a few items of clothing. I wouldn't be buying for the conference only. For one thing, I get called to do some office work once in a while. Second, I can wear them to church.

This is my first conference, so I'm not sure what else I should do to get ready. I have business cards. I have a roommate. I could ask the first-time attendee email loop, but do those of you who've been to a writer's conference have any gems for me?

In other news...

I've sold a good number of my brother's books. 225 out of 742. I sold one series of 87 books on eBay (it did pretty well--1.25 per book), held a yard sale (sold 67), and put out an email to ACFW on Friday. Okay, I still have a lot to sell, but 225 and counting isn't too shabby.

Tomorrow morning Brian and I leave for family camp. We'll be gone the rest of the week. I'm starting to relax just thinking about it. I really need this vacation.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dealing with the dying

Growing up, illness was something that was hush-hush in my family. If a relative was seriously ill, my parents kept it from us kids. We overheard--or sensed--just enough to let our imaginations paint a much more dire picture than the reality. This probably reinforced my fear of illness and dying.

To give my otherwise wonderful parents credit, when something was known for a fact--like when my aunt was terminally ill with breast cancer, they let us know. But still all the other incidences of Something's Wrong and I Don't Know What shrouded sickness in mystery and fear.

Even without that, I think the fear of being around someone who's dying is a common one. What do you do? What do you say? How will they look? When my grandma's two sisters were in the hospital dying, I didn't go visit them. My excuse was that I wanted to remember them as they were, not see them wasting away.

My father-in-law Perry and my brother Keith were diagnosed with cancer within 3 months of each other. Perry had well over a year of remission. Keith was in treatment the entire time.

When Perry went to the hospital with his second-to-last bowel obstruction and required surgery, his two daughters from out East made plans to come. I asked my husband, "Why are they coming?" He thought I was criticizing, and answered accordingly. But really it was a plea I couldn't voice. "Please tell me he's not dying."

When another bowel blockage came too soon and there was nothing that could be done for him, the shock of knowing he was dying rocked me to the core. Lack of such a simple thing--functioning intestines--was going to kill him.

I was nervous on my first visit after he was sent home with hospice care. The old fear and all the questions about how to face someone who's dying surfaced. But Perry was so at peace with it-- and after the initial shock, the entire family was at peace with it--that he eased the fear of everyone around him. At least he eased my fear. He kept his sense of humor until very near the end and had us all laughing every time we saw him. Then he'd let his family know exactly how much we meant to him, and had us all crying.

But I came to realize being around a dying person isn't so bad. What do you say? Anything or nothing. Just being there to let them know you care is enough. Don't be afraid of tears--it's no bad thing to let the dying person know you'll miss them.

The day after Perry's funeral, my dad called to tell me that Keith's cancer had spread wildly. All his tumors had grown, and new tumors had formed on his spine. Believe me, I asked God why He couldn't give me a break after what I'd just been through.

After the chemo worked its way out of his system, Keith did okay for a while. I got the time to breathe that I so badly needed, even though it was in the back of my mind that Keith only had a matter of months. In early July we could see his decline. And finally we knew he only had a matter of days.

If I hadn't gone through Perry's dying, I might have stayed away. But I knew exactly what to expect and that I could handle it. The question of what to talk about was kind of moot. I couldn't get more than a sentence out before Keith would fall asleep.

The day before he died, I went to his room with my sister because we could hear that he was awake. I was all out of words, but I was genuinely happy to see him awake and alert. So I simply smiled at him. He was very weak at that point, but he managed to smile back. An achingly sweet smile that was just as genuine as mine. It let me know he was happy I was there.

Later that night, thinking of that smile was what caused me to break down in sobs--the night I told you about, when Brian simply held me. I'm glad I had that good cry. That was the worst of my grief right there. Because I knew I would never see Keith's smile again.

I was privileged to be there for Keith's last few breaths. Just my mom, my dad, and me. (My sister was on her way, but didn't make it in time. My brother was working out of town.)

I'm so glad I was there at the end.

It's not an easy thing to go through. And two funerals in four months is quite enough, thank you. But I'm not afraid anymore. I know that when I have to go through this again some day, I can. God's blessings and comfort have held me secure.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Book Review: The Other Side of Darkness

The Other Side of Darkness by Melody Carlson; Multnomah, September, 2008

Genre: General fiction

In her author’s note, Melody Carlson explains that in writing The Other Side of Darkness she wanted to explore the question of how a Christian can get lured into a pseudo-Christian cult.

Who didn’t watch, with interest, the news coverage in recent months of the raid on a certain compound? Although the events in this book don’t go as far as isolation in a compound, it’s a brilliant exploration of how a cult can start. How certain personality types—such as those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder—are more vulnerable to the influence of cult leaders.


Ruth is a mother of three whose husband’s apathy has forced her into the role of her family’s spiritual leader. She takes her position very seriously—a prayer warrior who spends hours on her knees doing battle against the demons for the souls of her young daughters. She can’t understand why quite a few people at New Life Church don’t like Pastor Glen. They seem to be plotting against him and spreading nasty rumors. To Ruth, he is a wonderful shepherd and the only one who knows the direction the church should be headed.

This story is told in first-person present tense, which gives immediacy to the events taking place. From the first paragraph, it’s clear that Ruth’s focus is wrong. And from there she only becomes more misguided.

Carlson did a wonderful job of putting her readers inside the head of someone with OCD. In fact, at times it was a hard place to be. The repetitive actions, the questioning of every decision—except for the decision she should be questioning. It’s plain to see why this personality type falls prey to manipulative authority figures more easily.

This book isn’t exactly for entertainment. The character is in constant struggle—with herself and with those she thinks are against her. It isn’t easy to watch her downward spiral. To see her making one bad decision after another and taking her daughters with her.

But it’s an important book. It shows how easily Christianity can slip off its tracks when the focus is taken off the Bible. When the words of people become more important than the Word of God. And when experience is given precedence over Scripture.

It’s a book I think everyone should read.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Book Review: Searching for Spice

Searching for Spice by Megan DiMaria; published by Tyndale, April 2008

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Linda has come to the unwelcome realization that her marriage is boring. With the demands of job and teenage children, the relationship has become stale and routine. Even in the early days of dating and newly wedded-ness, her husband barely had a notion of what romance was. He’s a practical man and seems content with the way things are.

Instead of resigning herself to this fact, Linda comes up with a plan of action to infuse romance into her marriage. Her first attempts win her nothing more than a puzzled husband, but after a while, her plan starts to succeed. And that’s when life conspires to test the strength of their bond.

The story is told in first-person present tense, chick-lit style. Actually, those who like their genres fine-tuned call this type of book Mom-lit. Which means humor is liberally—and in this case, skillfully—applied. Even though I always have a harder time adapting to books told in first-person present, the story pulled me in. I laughed and I cried.

The events in this book are so delightfully everyday—until suddenly they’re not. Linda’s goal is simple, but life, work and kids interfere with that goal. This could be any woman’s story. Linda’s desire for romance in her marriage is universal. Every woman married for any length of time should have no trouble relating to this book.

I’m going to make a broad generalization here, but I think a lot of men have trouble with the concept of romance. When they hear the word, it sounds like a chore. A secret formula that they have to get just right in order to make their wives happy. Can’t blame men—sometimes we women don’t know what we want when we think of romance. This book does a good job of showing that romance is simply thoughtfulness—and it’s not only the man’s responsibility.

Linda makes plenty of mistakes along the way, and so does Jerry. A refreshing dose of realism wrapped up in a well-crafted story. Entertaining, plus it made me ask myself, what can I do for my husband today?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Books, books, books

Turns out my brother had 730-some books. I'd estimate that just over half are pictured above. So this project took longer to finish than I thought.

But now all the books are alphabetized, separated into genre, cataloged, and and in shallow little boxes ready for display at a book sale. I had to cut most of the boxes down to size myself for easy browsing.

My first try at selling these books will be a yard-sale type thing. I thought about going straight to selling them online somehow, but the question of how to go about it was a bit daunting. Plus I imagined myself living at the post office for several weeks. And how much more will people be willing to pay for paperbacks on top of shipping?

So selling locally first makes sense. I'll deal with the other problems after that. And yes, I know I can limit shipping to one day a week to save myself lots of trips. Still there's a lot to sort out.

I ended up with four general categories of books:

1. Sci-fi/fantasy (the majority by far)
2. Action/adventure (including the Destroyer Series, which is almost complete from #2-#99)
3. Mystery/suspense/thriller
4. Horror

The funeral expenses weren't quite covered, so I'm hoping my efforts will pay off and help cover the last of those costs. Anyone have any tips for selling books? Either at a yard sale or online? I welcome any suggestions.