Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

I am so far behind in blog posting I don't know where to begin. One of my New Year's "plans" (not resolutions, which tend to produce more guilt with me than profit) is to post more regularly. And there's lots to post about.

The big thing is that Zinovy's Journey is published, printed and "out there," finally! Such a good feeling! So far, I've sold or given away over 200 copies and I'm getting some good reader reviews. I'm also collecting a list of typos and other errors that will need to be corrected before I order the next batch of books--relatively easy to do since the book is print-on-demand.

But the good "finally published" feeling lasted only about three weeks. Now it's back to plodding along, one day at a time, after a very short and somewhat uneasy transition from the writing mode to the marketing one. It's about a long obedience in the same direction.

I'm uneasy with the marketing mode because I know even less about marketing than I did about writing when I began this project 35 years ago, but I'm moving forward one step at a time. I'm expanding my social network: wrestling with the problem of how to merge my new writer/reader "friends" with my personal ones on Facebook; still unclear about the value of Twitter, but trying to figure out how to Tweet effectively; looking toward e-publishing later in the month.

Meanwhile, I've received a good review by Tracy Krauss, a great new author/blogger friend. And Janet Sketcheley, another author/blogger, and a faithful promoter of Canadian writers, has done a blog interview. I've also been a guest author at a friend's Bible study group, and am looking forward to doing more of that kind of face-to-face interacting with readers.

Since it's only been two months since the book was released, I'm off to a fairly good start in the marketing department. I never expected a great burst of excitement.

Because my book is self-published, its journey from "virtually unknown" to "world-famous ;-)" will be gradual. It will grow in notoriety from the baseline of my friends and relatives to the broader reader population at a snail's pace. That's okay with me. I have no editor or publisher pushing me to make sales happen. (One of the many advantages of self-publishing!)

Because the story deals with universal themes, I don't think the book will become outdated, so I'm not worried about how soon it reaches readers. But I do feel a responsibility to faithfully inch along on the marketing and distribution road. If the book was worth spending years writing, it's got to be worth some effort at promoting.

So that's a catch-up on my doings. For something a little more interesting, I'll leave you with one of Passive Guy's latest posts. Referencing Mary W. Walters, he says: Creative Writers Can Be Difficult to Detect During Job Interviews. If you're wondering if you're a writer, read this article. It gives a clear description of this odd kind of person.

If you haven't yet discovered The Passive Voice, check it out. Passive Guy, as he calls himself, is a veritable concordance of information about self-publishing, and he's got a great sense of humor so is fun to read. The website is chock full of helpful, interesting content, that will come to your e-mail inbox several times a week if you sign up to receive it. Highly recommended!

A year ago, my New Year's musings were focused on the publishing journey ahead. The coming year will carry me down the marketing road. I'm excited to see where the tandem bicycle ride will take me this coming year. I love being seated behind the greatest cyclist the world has ever known.

May your writing journey in 2012 be eventful, and satisfying beyond your wildest expectations.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Letting Go of the Baby

Kathryn M. Weiland shared a quote that resonates with me at this stage of my writing journey.

When a book leaves your hands, it belongs to God. He may use it to save a few souls or to try a few others, but I think that for the writer to worry is to take over God’s business.
-Flannery O'Connor

Like every precious baby, Zinovy's Journey belonged to God from the beginning. But it’s hard not to hover over the cradle, watching to make sure the baby’s still breathing. About 175 ZJ books are now out there in the public somewhere. Many are with people I’ve been praying for off and on for years. It’s mind boggling, even when I sit down to pray for them. But I know I need to keep a forward-thinking attitude. I need to keep pressing on into where the Lord leads from here, without looking back or around to see what’s happening. It’s totally in His hands, His business.

So I need to quit fretting about distribution and marketing.

I haven’t been obsessive about it, but I have been trying a little too hard, conniving a little too much, to place the book into the market. All that effort has added up to a number of little contacts, often with people I don’t even know. I have no idea (nor control over) what will come of these small contacts. I don't know which tweet or post will take off or connect with a broader audience. But I do know that God can take the tiniest candle and light up the whole world. He can take a helpless, vulnerable, shivering little baby, born in a stable on a chilly night, and bring eternal salvation to a broken world.

So I'm making a decision. A commitment. Please hold me to it. I will leave the book that has left my hand, in God’s hands. I will keep doing the little things, under His wise direction, and just expect that He will use it to save, or to try, the souls He has intended all along to reach.

His network is huge. He has access to every social media source. He will bring this book to its target market audience, and He just might do it through some little contact that seems insignificant to me at the time.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dirty Little Self-Publishing Secrets

Last week I found a great interview on Michael Hyatt's site. It’s chock full of "dirty little secrets" on the hot topic of self-publishing. It sums up a lot of what I've been hearing.

The SiWC in October was abuzz with gossip--both nervous and excited--on this topic. Writers were excited. Editors, and even some agents, were nervous.

They were nervous because traditional publishing is beginning to look like an outmoded, bunglesome dinosaur of a system, and the editors and agents who are a part of that system are scrambling to find ways to keep from becoming obsolete, or at least being considered obsolete by writers.

Many of those writers, who used to sit on the doorsteps of traditional publishing houses waiting anxiously for an invitation to come in, have gotten up off their bruised rear ends and gone down the street to the local Starbucks. There they sip lattes as they put the final touches on their manuscripts, and then they navigate the internet, looking for other, more realistic options for getting their work into the market.

Industry people say it's the wild, wild west in the publishing world right now. Apparently, the writers are the outlaws. They rustle cattle, shoot from the hip, stake claims in uncharted territory. Then they go into town, get drunk on their winnings, and make a general nuisance of themselves in the bars.

Yes, that’s a slightly exaggerated, more colorful account of the reality. But the reality is that, for the first time in a long while, or maybe forever, it's a writer's market.

Technology has made the difference. It's now easy (that's also a slight distortion of reality) to publish books yourself. And more and more writers are choosing to go that route.

Thanks to new technology, self-publishing has grown from its infant stages, when it babbled and drooled all over the place and left messy piles of you-know-what all over the book industry, through its childhood and into pubescence.

Self-publishing is now a teenager, brash and a little undisciplined, but becoming better at communicating, and almost ready to say something worthwhile to the world.

No, actually, in the last year or so, it almost seems like self-published authors have graduated from high school. They now call themselves “indie” publishers, declaring their independence from the “parents” who used to be their only means of support. Even the self-publishing companies, who offer services such as editing, printing, and distribution, are being sidestepped by writers who have decided to become their own builders. They are choosing to do much of the work themselves, and contract out to sub-trades for things they can't, or don't want to do. They are cutting out the middlemen, making more money, and enjoying the control they have over how the edifice turns out.

I know that’s happening because I’m in the middle of it. It’s a long, slow slog up the mountain, and the learning curve is steep. But the challenge is invigorating, and the view from the top is going to be fantastic.

So, in case you missed my point, I'm an eager supporter of the self-publishing movement. I've slung on my six-shooter, hitched it up, and I'm heading into town. Ride'em cowgirl!

My blog post on September 30, 2010 mentioned Dean Wesley Smith’s article, “The New World of Publishing: The World is Not Ending.” I’m posting the link here again, because it’ a great review of all the reasons writers might want to self-publish.

And two favorite new websites with a wealth of information on self-publishing are:

The Passive Voice
Terry Whalin

I couldn’t have made it "out west" without a lot of help and encouragement from my friends. Jeff Gerke, my consultant, editor, typesetter and cover designer, was invaluable. When I first embarked on this journey, he said, "It's going to be fun, Ginny."

He was right. It has been fun. That’s one dirty little secret Michael Hyatt and Kevin Weiss didn’t share.

Monday, October 24, 2011

US Presidents and SWAT Teams at the SiWC

I’ve been away from this blog for a long time, for a number of good reasons. But I’m back and planning on doing more regular posts from now on, because I’ve got lots to say.

Sheesh! I don’t know where to start.


This past weekend I volunteered at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference in Surrey, B.C. The weekend began with pre-conference workshops on Thursday, and the day was spiced with a bit of unexpected excitement.

That day we were sharing the Sheraton Hotel with a local municipal economic summit that featured guest appearances by presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton.

Protesters picketed outside, calling for the immediate arrest of George Bush for the crime of “torture.” It was all very legal. Someone had filed a suit in a local Surrey court, laying criminal charges, and the protesters expected the RCMP to bring the culprit to jail, where justice would finally be served.

Presumably, the ex-president of the United States was to be tried in a Surrey courthouse and convicted. He would then languish in a Canadian prison, paying for his crime but never, of course, having to suffer the intolerable experience of waterboarding.

But the RCMP were busy with other preoccupations, the biggest of which was their assignment to protect the presidents while they were in town.

I arrived at the hotel at 6:45, early for my duties because there would be security checks. I only had to go through a couple on my way to the underground parking lot. The final one was a polite RCMP officer who asked for my picture ID (they had a list of conference volunteers, who had probably been looked up on Facebook by the secret service beforehand ;-), and then asked me a question I couldn’t answer:

“What is the theme of the conference this weekend?” Shucks, I didn’t know. So she prompted me: “It starts with an 'F'."

When it became obvious that I was having a hard time selecting the right "f-word" from my quite extensive writer's vocabulary, she gave me another hint: "It’s “Fantasy.” I must not have looked like much of a security threat because she let me in.

We never saw the famous duo, and their handlers politely refused my request that they give each of the presidents a copy of my newly released novel, which I was sure they would enjoy reading on their flight back to the US of A. My husband pointed out that the books might have been laced with anthrax, an idea that had never crossed my innocent mind. But the whole day was a “novel” experience, all the same.

Hotel personnel said we were being watched through the curtains, in the inner conference room where our registration was temporarily set up, by surveillance technology that could pick out the moles on our faces. Images were being sent to a satellite and bounced back to a room somewhere deep in the bowels of the hotel where everyone’s movements could be monitored. SWAT teams surrounded the hotel, and there was a lock-down during the few hours the presidents were in the building.

The SiWC planners, who were swamped with extra work informing everyone and working around the unusual situation, were not amused, but the rest of us rather enjoyed ourselves. With our important looking conference badges, we traipsed downstairs and sailed around the lobby area, looking as official as possible, weaving in and out amongst the hired hands in suits with wires in their ears and probably some who didn’t look like they were on duty as well.

But, in the end, when the presidents arrived (at an undisclosed time), they were sneaked in and out of the room they’d be speaking in through the kitchen, and we never caught a glimpse. The next time I saw president Bush was on TV at the world series game last night. He looked a bit stressed, but I assume he was only worried about how the game would go. I can’t imagine he was still thinking about how close he came to spending the rest of his life in a Canadian jail.

It would have been a very civilized jail. Maybe that’s why he wasn’t too worried. Everyone knows Canada’s reputation as a peaceful, and peace-loving country.

Unless their hockey team loses, in which case they riot and break things.


Yes, in case you didn’t notice, my book is now published. I’m waiting for my web designer, the amazing Kramer, to get the website ready for the public eye before I officially announce the release of the book. Then you’ll be hearing more about that.

You’ll also hear more about what I learned at the conference while I was busy monitoring workshops, sitting at the Book Fair waiting for people to buy my book, and checking name tags at the banquet room door.

Expect some exciting news about the current publishing industry buzz—a very loud and frantic buzz specifically around the topics of self-publishing and e-book publication.

The natives are restless, and the establishment is nervous.

Friday, September 16, 2011

An Exhilarating Ride!

Today I sent my book off to the printer. It’s print-on-demand, so in a few days I’ll have hard copies in my hand!

It's been a long journey. The idea for the book came over 35 years ago, and I've been working it on in a focused way for the last fifteen. At times, I was exhausted, and discouraged, but I kept going because the story wouldn't let me stop.

I was reminded, last night, of “The Bicycle Poem.” This morning I read it again and realized it’s the perfect poem for writers. If I’ve shared it before forgive me, but here it is again.

The Road of Life

At first I saw God as my observer, my judge,
Keeping track of the things I did wrong,
So as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die.
He was out there sort of like a president.
I recognised His picture when I saw it, but I really didn’t know Him.

But later on when I met Christ,
It seemed as though life were rather like a bike ride,
But it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Christ was in the back,
Helping me pedal.

I don’t know when it was that He suggested we change places,
But life has not been the same since.

When I had control, I knew the way.
It was rather boring, but predictable. . .
It was the shortest distance between two points.

But when He took the lead,
He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains,
and through rocky places at breakneck speeds.
It was all I could do to hang on!
Even though it looked like madness,
He said, “Pedal!”

I worried and was anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?”
He laughed and didn’t answer, and I started to learn to trust.
I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure.
And when I’d say, “I’m scared,” He’d lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts I needed,
Gifts of healing, acceptance, and joy.
They gave me gifts to take on my journey,
My Lord’s and mine.

And we were off again.
He said, “Give the gifts away; they’re extra baggage.
Too much weight.”
So I did, to people we met, and I found that in giving
I received, and still our burden was light.

I did not trust Him at first, in control of my life.
I thought He’d wreck it.
But He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners,
Knows how to jump to clear high rocks,
Knows how to fly to shorten scary passages.

And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places,
And I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze in my face
With my delightful, constant companion, Jesus Christ.

And when I’m sure I just can’t do any more
He just smiles and says. . . “Pedal!”

Author unknown


So, dear author/writer friend, look on Jesus’ face today. See His triumphant, delighted smile.

And just pedal.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Photoshoot Do's

So Kristen, bless her, has asked for a post on the Do’s and Don’t’s of Photoshooting. I’m happy to oblige. There’s lots of fun stuff to say, so I’ll do this topic in two posts.

In this one I’ll give you a list of my Photoshoot Do’s. Next post I’ll give you the Don’ts.

I wanted a photoshoot to get pictures I could use for my book cover, in my book video trailer and on my website. Since I’m marketing and selling the book only online, both my trailer and my website are extremely important. I wanted to find models to represent my characters and film them doing things from scenes in the book. I was very blessed to find models for six of my characters among my friends and family. Many of them not only looked like the characters in my head, they also had personalities to match. It was serendipitously/miraculously fun to find them, and they were delightful to work with. So here’s how it went.

First, a warning: In these posts I might talk like I’m a Photoshoot expert. I’m not. I’m a rank amateur who’s too unpublished and too poor to merit the services of a professional. I’m just having fun here, spouting off about my own experience as an amateur.

Remember that.

If you’re an author with a backer, this post will do you no good. In fact, it might even do you some harm. It might harm everyone, for that matter, but if you’re an amateur, you won’t figure that out so it won’t hurt too much.

Having now been warned, you are welcome to read about my photoshooting experience if you like.

If you are going to do your own photoshoot,


1. Plan, plan, plan. Every idea you have for a picture should be listed on an excel sheet, with side columns entitled, Photo #, Shoot Time, Models, Setting, Description of Scene, and Props. All the boxes in those columns should be filled in with details, details, details. Then the whole sheet should be re-organized and re-worked until you have the most efficient plan. You will run off a copy of this excel sheet for every person involved in the shoot, so everyone will know what’s happening, when and how.

2. Be considerate of your models. The shooting should be timed for their convenience, and/or for ease of movement from one setting to another. I scheduled all shots of my main character alone at the beginning. Next came shots of him with one other character. Then came shots I needed of those two with a third, etc. I estimated how long each shot would take, and set specific times when each of my models needed to be present. That way they didn’t have to hang around long before their shoot time. Most came for the whole day, just for fun, but I wanted to give them that option.

3. Pay attention to transportation demands. If your shots require several different settings, plan to do all shots in one place at the same time if your model schedule allows. We were able to do all the shots within walking distance of my main character’s house, so this was not a huge problem. We had some shots on his front lawn, some in the city park behind his house, and the ones that needed to be taken against a plain backdrop, so the backgrounds could be easily removed for photoshopping, we took against the concrete wall of the tennis court next door.

4. Make the event fun for everyone. Your mindset and attitude is key for this one. We all agreed beforehand to approach the whole project as an experimental adventure. If a photo worked, that was great. But “the world as we know it” was not going to end if the whole project bombed, so we were able to relax and enjoy the process. The creative juices flowed freely, and so did the laughter. The only downside was that I couldn’t get pictures of my characters scolding each other, because they liked each other and were having too much fun to glare. I kept saying, “This is not funny. He is going to kill you. You have to look at least a little bit upset.” After the shoot was over, Zinovy took us all to lunch at a local restaurant. A good time was had by all.

5. Make provision for contingencies. Especially if the shoot is outdoors. It poured rain the week before our photoshoot, in a month that was supposed to be full of summer sun, and the forecast was for solid rain the day of the shoot. I prayed off and on all night. It poured until 4:00am, when the rain suddenly stopped. By 6:30 it had not started again, and, though the sky was full of threatening clouds, we decided to go for it. We had a beautiful morning. The overcast skies pleased the photographer, who didn’t want to deal with sun glare, and it only began raining again toward the end of the shoot, which we finished with an umbrella over the camera and a total disregard of the wet by everyone else involved. Our camp followers—a motley crew of friends and family members—carried jackets and kept the dog from running in front of the camera as much as possible. Everything worked out just fine.

6. Take a series of action shots for action scenes. This was one of the most important specific decisions we made. Because the director (moi) was an amateur, and we were not working with trained actors, we knew it would be hard to get natural or realistic poses. So I asked the cameraman (also an amateur, though a very talented one), to take a series of shots of the models in each of the action scenes. Then we could pick the best photo from each series. We ended up with so many frames of some of the shots that we could have made a video out of them, and I had lots of choices when I selected the stills. Most of the shots looked very natural, unless the characters were supposed to be mad at each other.

So that’s all I can think of at the moment. I’m sure there are other ideas I could share, but it’s 3:00 am, I’m brain dead, and I have an appointment with my web designer eight hours from now. In any case, I’m pretty sure if you follow these suggestions, you’ll have a great time and everything will work out well.

Not@hng caaan g#o rong.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Too Much to Say

I've been so busy working on "the book" I haven't had time to blog about it, and now I have so many things to say I don't know where to begin!

I wonder if anything I say here is even helpful to anyone. If it isn't I might as well stop wasting cyber space! Or ethernet?? (I need to get out my handy-dandy Usborne Computer Dictionary and look up some vocab words. Will it matter that the dictionary was published six years ago in England??)

So I'm going to ask you to suggest where I should start with the blog topics. Are there any of these you'd like to read about?

To Swear or Not to Swear
Googling your Story World
10 Ways the Find Tool can Streamline your Revision Process
The Photoshoot, Do's and Don't's
The Value of Critiquing for Friends
Finding an Editing Soul Mate
Getting Endorsements For Your Book--Who, How, What and Why
My Love/Hate Relationship With My New Apple Computer

Are any of these topics of interest to you? Please comment. I need a kick in the pants. If no one says anything, I'll take that as an excuse to ignore the blog for a while.

The picture is one from the photoshoot, photoshopped, of course. The sky was not really that color ;-), though it is in my storyworld. It's a picture of my two bad guys plotting the kidnapping of the little boy.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


I woke up this morning with an idea about changing the dialogue in one of my scenes. In this scene, Eric asks Zinovy if he’d like to be the commander. Zinovy says, “No. Too much responsibility.”

I think I can make the scene more powerful if I have Zinovy go on to explain that, while not wanting to command other people, he feels it is very important to be in command of his own life.

Zinovy’s near obsession to be in control of his own destiny is his driving motivation throughout the book, and from the first scene that control begins to be wrested away from him . The central conflict, then, becomes his struggle against the forces at work to take that control from him.

At 8:00 a.m. I got a late call to go to teach at one of the local high schools. The teacher needing a sub had entered his request wrong in the call-out system, so the TOC supervisor was calling for me at the last minute. I rushed off to school, still thinking about my new dialogue scene.

I wanted Zinovy to use an idiomatic expression in the conversation but I didn’t know how a Russian would say it. I thought, “I need to talk to a Russian about this.”

I got to school just before the end of the first class. The office had pulled another teacher-on-call from the music room into the class to keep a lid on things until I got there. The TOC reached out to shake my hand as I came in and introduced himself. “Hi, I’m Alexei.”

This pleasant young Russian man has given me his contact information and is pleased to hear more about my book. I plan on asking him to be my Russian consultant. If he’s willing, I’ll pay him to read the book and give me feedback on it’s accuracy in language and customs, and I’ll also ask him for his opinion on how the story would come across to Russian readers.

My secret desire has always been to one day publish the story in Russia. (Well, I guess it’s not secret any more!)

This encounter was another little step on my writing journey. I see the footprints in the Russian winter snow Zinovy is plodding through—the footprints left by the One Who is going down the road ahead of us both.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Killing Three Vultures With One Smooth Stone

I’ve been busy. I’ve got editorial suggestions coming out my ears (never use cliches) and I’m wading through them (don’t mix metaphors), trying to decide what to change and how.

Jeff Gerke has given me great suggestions. Some of the problems he’s pointed out are minor and some are major. I’ve fixed most of the minor ones. One or two major ones I don’t know how to fix. But what I’m most satisfied with is the way (I think) I’ve fixed three pretty major problems with one solution.


Jeff said my three problems are that:

1) I’ve started the main story too early in the book. I need to set things up—show Zinovy in his normal life—before I “drop the bomb.” If I don’t, the reader has no reference point for normal, so (s)he won’t be super impressed with how greatly things change. Even more importantly, the reader hasn’t had a chance to develop a connection with Zinovy, so (s)he doesn’t care when the bomb drops.

2) My characters aren’t well developed enough. Jeff says I’m a “plot first” writer. Plot comes easily for me but creating real, differentiated (from each other and from me!), complex characters is not so easy. Zinovy needs to be rounded out more.

3) I have way too much information dumping at the beginning of the book, and much of this is in backstory, and so it’s telling instead of showing. That’s a triple no-no, especially in the first few chapters.

To sum up, Jeff says: So in two senses you’ve given something too early—the main story trigger and all this backstory and explanation. For the former, we can’t comprehend it yet because we don’t know what it’s a change from; and for the latter, we just don’t care enough yet about your story or your character to tolerate any telling without getting bored.

So I decided to start the story earlier, when Zinovy is in Russia before he goes up to the Space Station. I added a long first chapter at the beginning of the book, full of action and dialogue.

When I did this, I was able to give the information I’d previously “told” in backstory by showing it in action, as it happened, in real time. The readers got to know Zinovy better by seeing him in action. The reader also now knows “normal” so the change, when it comes, will be more powerful.


Another amazing thing happened as I wrote the new beginning. Zinovy’s personality changed. It was as if I got to know him better by putting him in Russia on his home turf.

The “aha” moment—when I discovered Zinovy was much rounder, and more interesting than I’d realized—came as I was reading K.M. Weiland’s book, Crafting Unforgettable Characters. (Highly recommended!) She quoted James Scott Bell, who said that an unforgettable character needs to have “at least one of the following characteristics—grit, wit, and “it.”

Zinovy already had grit. I thought he had “it” (star power), but maybe that’s because I’m his mother and mothers always think their children are stars. But what I suddenly realized was that he could also have wit. Instantly he became more interesting. Still independent, secure inside his fortress walls, but outwardly he now became more personable and a little more approachable. More human. I like this Zinovy much better.

I’ve reader-tested my new beginning and am getting positive responses from my critics. It was fun to write. I felt I finally got into my stride, so to speak. Writing is so much more satisfying when it happens this way.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

God Works, In and Around Us

This morning I’m pondering the great mystery of how God’s sovereignty works in and around our personal choices to fulfil His gracious plan in our lives and in the world.

This thought comes to me as I open my Bible and flip past the page that lists all the books that tell of Israel’s history.

Joshua, Judges, Ruth.
Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther.

Stories rich with evidence of God’s compassionate determination to work salvation for us “in and around” our circumstances, our mistakes, our evil inclinations.

My heart swells with praise.

It occurs to me, as I prepare to write today, that more of those kinds of stories need to be told, so that others can come to know this wonderful Creator. I turn to the Psalms, with a sense that God will lead me to a passage that relates to the thoughts I suspect He has just placed in my mind.

My eyes fall on Psalm 77. It begins with lament. “I cried out to God for help, I cried out to God to hear me.”

The Psalmist then asks himself some really hard questions. You can hear the moan behind them.

Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?

Through the moaning pain of Asaph, God leads us to the truth:

The Lord will never reject us.
He shows his favor, over and over and over again.
His love is unfailing. It cannot vanish. Ever.
His promises will be fulfilled—all of them, gloriously.
He will never forget to be merciful.
He will pour out his compassion on us forever.

I’m surprised this Psalm doesn’t talk about proclaiming His goodness to others. I’d half expected it to, considering the thoughts I’d had before reading it. I reach for the page, to turn back to the beginning, to read again, and Psalm 78 catches my eye.

I will open my mouth with a parable; I will teach you lessons from the past—things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.

So I begin my writing today, telling more of the Zinovy parable, trusting that Zinovy’s God will take my ideas and weave them into another story of His mercy and compassion. A story future generations will read. A story of the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power and the wonders he has done.

Yes, Zinovy's story is fiction, and it's set in the future, not the past, but it's full of truth about God's unfailing love. Zinovy's story demonstrates how God, in his sovereignty, works in and around our circumstances and our choices, to fulfil His loving purposes.

Sigh. Now I have to get to work. I really don't like writing. It's so much work. Will someone give me a swift kick in the rear?

I found a good article in Writer's Digest today called "Three Secrets to Great Storytelling." If you're looking for a good resource, I recommend this one. You can either subscribe to the magazine, hard copy, or subscribe to their e-mail format online.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Miracle Has Happened!

Tonight I received the following message from the woman who performs the song on You Tube, "I Won't be Alone."

Dear Ginny Jaques,

I am glad that you chose to use my song "I Won't Be Alone" for your book video trailer. If you are still interested in using it, can you please provide some information on the book?

Sincerely, Marina Baranova


Two days ago, taking a step of faith, believing the permission would come, I went with Stuart and William to the beach to film the intro to the video trailer. It was perfect weather--cold and cloudy with no wind. William managed to look suitably mournful as he trudged up and down the beach, calling for his mother. He looked so much like my protagonist, Zinovy, when he was a little boy. So cute dressed in his bomber jacket and black woolly Russian hat! Stuart got some good shots. I am so encouraged. Another minor miracle along the way. Thank you, God.

I've also heard back from my editor, Jeff Gerke. He has given me really good feedback, but it involves a lot of re-writing. The revising will be worth it, but it will be very HARD WORK!!!! Some significant changes, to the story and the characters, are in the offing.

Meanwhile,I continue the journey with a joyful heart tonight. This little miracle was really important to me.

Next post I'll give you some of the revision suggestions Jeff has made. They're good ones.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Many Minor Miracles

Albert Einstein once said “There are two ways to live your life; one is as though nothing is a miracle, and the other is as though everything is a miracle.” I honestly believe those are the only two options. And I’m convinced the second one is the truth.

Maybe all authors have the sense that the road they’re on is dappled with little miracles. I sure do. It’s easiest to notice them when you look back. How did I ever get here? I ask. It happens one small step at a time, but those steps are laid out before me by a kind and gracious hand. I’m sure of it.

And now I’m in need of another small miracle.

I’m having so much fun designing a book trailer!

The Beginning of the Book Trailer Production Process

First I wrote some words that might work, to explain, in the text of a book trailer, what the story is about.

Then I began looking for a piece of music I could use in the background. There’s a river in the story, so I went to you tube to find songs about rivers, but nothing really fit. Then one night when I couldn’t sleep (a common malady for writers, isn’t it?), it dawned on me that Russian music might be nice. So I got up and googled “Russian Christian music,” and immediately found the most hauntingly beautiful song, sung by a lovely Russian woman, in Russian.

With just a bit of tweaking, the words I had written fit the cadence of the song perfectly, and the nuances of the music fit the mood as well.


An unexpected bonus was that the video performance of the song begins with a prelude that fits Zinovy’s story as well. Before the music begins, the video has several seconds of the sound of ocean waves hitting the beach, and twice in that prelude, a young child mournfully cries, “mama.”

Zinovy’s story begins when he’s a grown man, but the loneliness that haunts him as a man—the agony that has led him to build the fortress walls around his heart—begins when he’s five years old and his widowed mother is murdered by the FSB. The prelude to this beautiful song will allow us to portray that part of Zinovy’s backstory, as an introduction to his journey toward the discovery that all his life he has been walking with God.

My son-in-law will produce the book video trailer. His six-year-old son, William, will be the model for Zinovy as a child. One dreary morning this winter (of which there will be many), Stuart will take William to the beach at Ambleside and film him walking along the shore, crying out for his mother.

One little miracle involved the finding of the right kind of costume for William. He needs a hat with a Russian look. No hat designed for a Russian winter exists in balmy Vancouver. But this past weekend, on a business/pleasure trip to Alberta, I found no less than six possible Russian hats in the four thrift stores I visited.

But the miracle I’m really praying for now involves the use of the music. I need to contact the singer of the song to ask permission to use the music for the video. After an extensive search on the internet, including some follow up phone calls, I found myself at the end of a dead end road. I can’t find her anywhere. She may even be in Russia. She may not even speak English.

It will be a miracle if I can track her down. But life is full of miracles. I’m excited to see how this one will come to pass.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More Milestones

My self-publishing journey has now taken me through a forest of “things to do” that weren't visible on the map when I made my first list. That simple one, remember? (October 1st post: “Self-Publishing To-Do List”)

I mean, how complicated could this self-publishing business be, anyway?

This new set of accomplishments fits under the “Marketing” task on the first list. They are tasks related to the business end of things.

Today I opened a business checking account under the name of my new publishing company. I have 12 checks with the name, “Millennium Journeys Press” at the top! Exciting. My daughter signs on the account, and she’s already helping me think through the business details. This is very much going to be a family affair.

Then I “bought” the company name from the provincial government, and registered the company as a sole proprietorship. Seventy-two dollars later, I am officially in business for myself in British Columbia.

Next step in the marketing set up will be to sign up for PayPal so people can buy the books from my website.

So, if you’re making your own self-publishing “to do” list, you can add:

1. Registering your publishing company with your state or provincial government.
2. Opening a bank account for your company.
3. Setting up with PayPal, if that’s the way you’re going to go. (You can make other arrangements for payment, but PayPal is the one my website designer suggested. It’s easiest for most people who might want to buy from your site.)

If you’re self-publishing through a boutique press, you won’t need your own publishing company. You can use theirs. I wanted to go the route of my own company because I want to keep the cost of the book down for the buyer, and boutique presses take a sizeable percentage of the book price.

Even if you use a boutique press, your own website will be essential, for marketing purposes, and the PayPal option is a good idea if you want to sell your own books on the side. And you certainly will want your own business account to collect all the money you’re going to make!

I’ve already designed a rough draft of a logo for my publishing company name. Some time down the road I’ll have to make it presentable enough to go on the spine of my book.

Still waiting to hear back from the editor, but while I wait I’m doing lots of other fun things. Next post I’ll talk about making book video trailers. Much fun!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It's Official

This morning I bought the domain name I’ll be using for the website I’m creating. It took me about 60 seconds—half a dozen mouse clicks—but I feel like the ribbon has been cut.

No, wait. That has to come later. The ship hasn’t been built yet. I’m still waiting to hear back from my editor. (hint: Choose a good editor, but recognize that good editors are usually busy ones, so be prepared to wait for his comments.) But it still feels like a milestone—something tangible is created that is not going to be subject to editorial changes.

So the website I’ll use to promote and sell the novel will be Don’t go to the address yet. There’s nothing there. I bought it now just to reserve the name. But I do have a web designer and we’re making plans to get together to talk about the site, as soon as I get the photos I need to give him for the visuals—the graphics, I think they’re called.

How I Found a Web Person I Like:

Months ago I began thinking about the website, but I had no idea where to look for someone to set it up. I wanted someone I could talk to, who would listen, and be creative and skilled enough to take what I have in my head and put it into a proper visual format.

I had a couple of friends who did web design, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to hire a friend. For some business matters you need a little distance from people you love, for obvious reasons. But one of those was a good friend of my son’s—a young man who would be savvy to the audience I want for my book. Weeks ago I sent him a message on his business website, asking him if his company would be interested in my project.

Then I waited.

One thing I’ve learned about doing work for, and with, God is that His timing is usually different from mine. My idea of timing is, “Get the idea, then just get ‘er done.” His is more like, “I’ll give you the idea, then you put it on the back burner to simmer, and when I decide it’s hot enough, then we’ll get ‘er done.”

Have you noticed that Jesus was never in a hurry? In fact, He often seemed to drag his feet. On the way to heal the little girl who was dying, he stopped for a leisurely chat with another woman who needed healing. By the time he got to Jairus’ house, the little girl had died. So he touched her and she came alive again.

He heard Lazarus was sick, so he stayed four days where he was, until Lazarus was good and dead, then he went and called him out of the tomb.

So finally, three days ago, I saw a Facebook status my web designer friend had posted about his daughter. I commented on it, adding a note about my message to him on his work website. He commented back, gave me his phone number at work, and told me to call him the next day. Yesterday I called him and we talked. He referred me to a friend who does my kind of project freelance, who had just e-mailed him saying he could use some new clients. I e-mailed his friend last night and he got back to me. We exchanged several messages, and this morning I got my domain name.

I somehow knew, when Greg gave me Kramer’s name, that this was the person I would work with. Instinctively. And it was the right time. Well, it will be, when the photos are ready. That’s the next step.

Next post I’ll talk about the photo business, and the book trailer we’re producing.

It’s going to be fun!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My New Years' Resolution

My writing New Year’s resolution is to charge boldly into the new year, embracing the Gulp and Whee mentality I first discovered in the last part of 2010.

My spiritual New Year’s resolution is related to this one, so I’ll post this idea to my Joy blog as well. (Yes, I do compartmentalize and categorize my life. I know I’m not supposed to.)

The G and W mentality is perfectly exemplified in this anonymously written poem that inspires me again every time I read it. I hope it challenges and encourages you, both in your spiritual journey and your writing one.

The Road of Life

At first I saw God as my observer, my judge,
Keeping track of the things I did wrong,
So as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die.
He was out there sort of like a president.
I recognised His picture when I saw it, but I really didn’t know Him.

But later on when I met Christ,
It seemed as though life were rather like a bike ride,
But it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Christ was in the back,
Helping me pedal.

I don’t know when it was that He suggested we change places,
But life has not been the same since.

When I had control, I knew the way.
It was rather boring, but predictable. . .
It was the shortest distance between two points.

But when He took the lead,
He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains,
and through rocky places at breakneck speeds.
It was all I could do to hang on!
Even though it looked like madness,
He said, “Pedal!”

I worried and was anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?”
He laughed and didn’t answer, and I started to learn to trust.

I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure.
And when I’d say, “I’m scared,” He’d lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts I needed,
Gifts of healing, acceptance, and joy.
They gave me gifts to take on my journey,
My Lord’s and mine.

And we were off again.
He said, “Give the gifts away; they’re extra baggage.
Too much weight.”
So I did, to people we met, and I found that in giving
I received, and still our burden was light.

I did not trust Him at first, in control of my life.
I thought He’d wreck it.
But He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners,
Knows how to jump to clear high rocks,
Knows how to fly to shorten scary passages.

And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places,
And I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze in my face
With my delightful, constant companion, Jesus Christ.

And when I’m sure I just can’t do any more
He just smiles and says. . . “Pedal!”

Author unknown

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Road I've Taken

It’s a new year. I made my first resolution, and then reversed the decision.

I am NOT going to make weekly, regular posts to my blogs after all. And I will no longer feel guilty about these sporadic and undisciplined bursts of inspiration at the keyboard either.

My reasoning is that if I have to perform to a timetable, I will be tempted to write drivel just to meet my deadlines. There’s enough drivel on the e-waves. So my new resolution is to write ONLY when I feel I have something that at least one person will benefit from, or enjoy reading.

That’s why I suggest, if you haven’t already, you sign up with FeedBlitz to receive notices about current activity in this space. They’ll send you an e-mail when I’ve posted something new. In the meantime, you can forget about the blog and get on with your own exciting writing journey.

So here, for what it’s worth, is an example of what the process of choosing a title looked like in my case:

The struggle for me was to choose between a title that would capture the attention of potential readers and one that would be true to the story I had written. I couldn’t seem to come up with a compromise that would give me both.

This worried me a little. The idea that the story I had written might not capture the attention of any readers niggled at the back of my mind, but doing something to fix the story felt like trying to put toothpaste back into the tube, or a baby back into the womb. So I decided I’d have to work on the title instead.

I began by checking out the titles of fiction books that are selling right now. Many of them were only one or two words long. Short and sweet. I decided that works, as long as those one or two words are the right ones.

Zinovy’s Journey fits the short and sweet criteria, but many people complained that it wasn’t gripping enough. So I needed to jolt my pre-conditioned thinking out of the deeply entrenched rut my mind had dug over the last thirty years of plodding down the muddy road of writing this story and try to come up with a more exciting alternative.

(It’s amazing to me how many metaphors have to do with roads or journeys. Or is it just that I notice them more, like you notice how many white cars there are on the road when you’ve just bought a white one yourself?)

It’s also amazing how hard it is to climb out of the rut. I needed a big jolt. Since I find brainstorming a great way to overcome writing ruts, I made a brainstorm list of all key words in the story, as I suggested in the last post. My list included the following mix of themes, symbols, and significant objects:


Now, how to narrow the list down? The most riveting words were the more concrete ones—blood; river; water; orphan; knife; lion, cross. Things a reader could see or touch. Those things could also easily be portrayed on a book cover. I’d heard that the color, red, is especially arresting on book covers, so I took the concrete, red object and began working with it.

Blood. Can’t get much more gripping than that.

It was a reasonable choice, since the theme of blood runs throughout the story. Zinovy is a professional assassin who has an aversion to the sight of blood. He doesn’t know why he’s got this problem, because he’s repressed the memory of watching KGB agents murder his mother when he was five. The aversion is reinforced by his cousins’ deliberate slaughter of the baby chicks he loved and cared for when he was a child living in their home. Several bloody murders occur in the story, and the slaughter of a lion pride, to harvest the male lion’s heart for ritual purposes, is also bloody. Then there is Zinovy’s vision of the cross, with blood dripping down into the dirt at his feet.

So I took the word, “blood,” and tried to think of another word I could pair it with. Some possible choices were other words in my brainstorm list. I tried Blood Redemption; Blood River; Life-Blood. But none of them sounded just right.

Then I realized that every instance of bloody death in the book was of innocents—people or animals. This realization actually clarified for me a major theme in the book that I’d not noticed before—another benefit of brainstorming key words.

And so I came up with the title, Innocent Blood. Then I tried the new title out on my friends.

I watched the faces of people when I suggested it. They were gripped, for sure. Some thought it was a good attention-getter. Others said it sounded too much like a vampire novel.

Note to writers: You will rarely be able to let your critics make a firm decision for you about anything. You can’t even go with the majority vote, because in most cases there won’t be one. But market testing the title did help me see what issues I would have to contend with.

Here’s where I began to worry about the places my title would take readers if they googled it. I googled, and didn’t like the neighborhood. It wasn’t a place my story could settle down and feel at home in. Yes, the words worked. Innocent Blood was an accurate picture of one of the major themes in the book. But it just didn’t feel right.

So the process came down to a decision between a gripping title that I couldn’t really get comfortable with, even though it fit the story in some ways, and a title that portrayed the real essence of what the book was about.

My chosen title is what the story is really all about--Zinovy's journey toward the discovery of the meaning of his name. I’ve found I can’t make it anything else. It might not be the most marketable title, but another conclusion I’m coming to is that I can’t let market concerns drive my artistic decisions. They can ride in the back seat, but other factors will stay behind the steering wheel.

The process was useful, even if it led me back to square one. At least I can say I’ve explored other options. I resolve, now, to forget about the road not taken and focus on the road ahead, hoping it will lead to the specific readers my story is intended to touch.