I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, because every morning is like starting afresh and I strive to do the best I can each day. But I’ll often receive a scriptural theme that blankets the coming year. For 2020, it’s Psalm 63:3-4: “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift my hands."
Too often, it seems the urge during prayer or reflection is self-centered. That is: focus on self, do something good for self, be my better self, etc. But the more challenging life gets—and it can get pretty stinky—the more I’m certain Self can’t help with squat. 2020 will be like all the other years before it in that our days will have its difficulties. We might experience great or little change, promotions or loss—whatever it is—the only thing steadfast and better than life is the Lord’s love. So, I figure, no matter what, if we focus on that, his love, and do the best we can with what he has given us, praising him through the beautiful weather and the storms, we’ll be more than all right. And at the end of the year, if we’ve scaled a few mountains it’s because he got us there and we can look back and enjoy the view knowing he’s got this, ordaining the steps of the journey. He’s got us and we’ve got him. Breathe. Happy New Year.
Some people know what’s behind reissuing of books and recovering of novels. But because I’ve been asked more than a few times, especially recently, I’ll briefly share with those who don’t know and are curious why an online search might churn up more than one version of a particular work by an author.
If an author is contracted with a publishing company for a particular title, the author sells their rights to that title. What this means in industry standard is that the author enters a partnership. The author still has a say, but ultimately must come to an agreement with editor(s) (new boss) and graphic artists before the work is released.
When the term of contract is up, which can be anywhere between two and seven years, give or take, the full rights of the work revert back to the author and then he/she is free to seek publication elsewhere or even recontract with same company for another term. The full rights meaning the initial written work at the time of submission—before it gets an overhaul by the boss and staff. They retain what they still own, which almost always includes their artists’ work (covers) as well as formatting.
That’s why when an author republishes with a different company or version, you’ll see a new or different cover pop up for the same book. That’s the latest edition, and it’s the one that’s readily available—or should be.
I appreciate the various publishing companies I’ve worked with in the past, their devotion to the art of books and to creators, work ethic, and great rapport with their writers. I’m grateful that I’ve had pleasant partnerships. Thus, the ending of a contractual term is often bittersweet. Happens that my six-year term for Ice Dancer’s Hold has recently ended and the novella is being rereleased this week and made available in bookstores once again. Same novella, just hosting a different cover—and the new formatting I have to say is da bomb. Check it out:
A woman solo hiked the PCT. This is her engaging rite-of-passage memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. I could hardly put the book down, strong was my desire to gobble up every trail and survival detail. I love hiking, along with exploring the backcountry on horses, and primitive camping. While my own two feet have traversed sections of both the PCT and the AT (Appalachian Trail), I can only, thus far, live vicariously through those who have actually “thru-hiked.” Cheryl Strayed didn’t exactly hike through, having started in the Mojave Desert in California and finished at the Bridge of the Gods connecting Oregon to Washington, but she covered 1,100 miles on her weary, blistered, nail-less toes, having started out ill-prepared and untrained. That’s nothing to scoff at, by any stretch. That’s gutsy.
**potential spoilers below**
The writing is sharp and the storytelling vivid. I trekked into the pages assuming I could relate to the author as I, too, lost both my parents. I know what it’s like when your family unit sort of disintegrates due to grief; when the strong root is dug up, or the anchor is hoisted leaving you feeling adrift. Yet, I couldn’t grasp the author’s perspective on a number of levels. From her form of recklessness and promiscuity, to feeling a life force—though the size of a grain of rice—recognizing she was pregnant, and then using “I got an abortion” and “learned how to make dehydrated tuna flakes” in the same sentence. I couldn’t comprehend why her editors kept in the dalliance with “rad” man, as it had nothing to do with the story and certainly didn’t move it along. I didn’t understand why she unreasonably obliterated a solid marriage to a great guy, or how she expressed pain. And the incident with her mom’s horse, Lady: horrid. Choices, choices!
Still, her descriptions of nature when compared to her state of being proved starkly eloquent. When she hadn’t seen another human for weeks. When silence was tremendous. When she expressed that she was nothing to pebbles, leaves, and branches, yet they were everything to her. “Everything but me seems utterly certain of itself. The sky didn’t wonder where it was.”
When she did have encounters with other characters, they were interesting. Clyde’s words moved me while he said he didn’t believe in reincarnation when Cheryl had asked him. He said, “I believe we’re here once and what we do matters.”
And Cheryl’s mom having cancer that consumed her before she reached 50. I understood the tragedy of it. And the painful truths that came also from the mom’s mouth, about how she never got to conduct her own life—to be in the driver’s seat. She always did what someone else wanted her to do. The most uncomfortable sentiment, “I’ve always been someone’s daughter or mother or wife. I’ve never just been me.” Sorrowful authenticity is a killer.
So, you see, Wild was a weighty, ugly-beautiful book. Hard to rate. It’s like life, you take the good with the bad—which I suppose is the theme of this chronicle. Although I’m a different-thinking person from that of the author, with a contrasting belief system and grief display, and I didn’t quite see in my mind a “healing” take place, I admire Strayed who “strayed” and wrote for us a compelling memoir to digest.
Instead of coziness and festivity, my holiday season brought cold, hard challenges. A sudden death, (a tribute to my precious mother can be viewed at the following link: http://laconnerweeklynews.com/main.asp?SectionID=7&SubSectionID=33&ArticleID=1559&TM=41702.54), unforeseen travel and expenses, illnesses in the family leading to hospital stays, a long term writing/work project I’d invested in unexpectedly terminated… Long story short, in the span of a month it felt like undergoing a series of swift firm stomach punches. Stress finally knocked me off my feet with vertigo, and I was reeling adrift, like a storm-tossed vessel desperately in need of recovery.
Strangely enough, vertigo, although an awful sensation, was a blessing. It forced me to keep still, and through it I heard God’s voice through the currents of commotion. He addressed a particular scripture. “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’" (Revelation 21:5).
Realization smacked me that I’m in a time of transformation. So, too, those nearest me with altering decisions yet to be made. The words of Vladimir Nabokov have come to mind. “Transformation… Transformation is a marvelous thing. I am thinking especially of the transformation of butterflies. Though wonderful to watch, transformation…is not a particularly pleasant process for the subject involved.”
For me, the New Year came in not with a jubilant bang but a hushed dawning. The following writer expressed a sentiment better than could I:
So, as 2018 wraps around you, may you embrace each day. Find something to be grateful for each morning as you rise to face the trials life brings. Troubles are a part of our existence. They will always come and go. But with intention, sometimes just by donning in a moment a humble spirit of thanksgiving, we can endure and expand hope to greater proportions.
Here it is, the last day of January, and ever since the beginning of the New Year, I’ve witnessed many people talk about wrapping 2017 around a single word. What one word will be your emblematic motto?
I’ve always had a Biblical verse as the theme for an oncoming twelve months, never a single word. After pondering, I finally deliberated that my word is Onward. I don’t have new plans for this year, per se, but I have pre-set plans that, unless the Good Lord deems otherwise, I intend to accomplish. So…onward I go. My word just happens to coincide with my verse for this year: “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3
To help inspire me, I’ve posted near my desk a recent drawing my son did. It’s a ten-second sketch, but speaks volumes of how he sees me. How I interpret, anyway. In the rough outline, I see most of all, diligence. Diligence is a part of my name…literally, my birth name means diligent harvester. And back in the day, a few I’d toured with didn’t call me “Tenacious Tessa” for nothing. All of this is a part of me still, and accompanies my present word for a 2017 focus, Onward.
Another word has snuck up, however; more like hammering me in the head everywhere I turn. That is, Meekness. It’s a word definition I seem drawn to, yet hear very little about in this day of narcissistic society. The world tends to interpret meekness as weakness or wimpy. Truth is it takes more strength to hold your tongue when you want to give a what-for, to exhibit kindness regardless of circumstance, and to portray leadership partnered with humility, a humble leader, putting others first. When I recently heard a sermon by Mark Hoffman/2RC on the topic of meekness, I learned a perfect definition for the word. Meekness is “Strength under control.” That is definitely something for which I wish to wrap not only my year but also my entire life around.
Okay, so maybe I have two words this year. To sum it up, I strongly desire to have a year of pressing onward with meekness. How about you? What might be your word?
Ahead of me in a store’s checkout line, a conversational clerk asked two young women, sisters perhaps, “What do you do?”
One bubbly answered, “I’m an interior decorator.” While the other in contrast sardonically responded, “I’m a writer, it’s complicated.”
I chuckled under my breath. Because I am a writer, I know “it’s complicated” could mean a variety of things maybe even all of the following. 1) It’s difficult to make a living as a writer though it’s your number one passion, 2) carving out a niche sometimes seems impossible, 3) the world doesn’t take you seriously until you have enough titles or experience for proof (especially true if you work from home), 4) you relate to people better with written words rather than spoken and so keep outward responses uninviting and compact, and 5) you don’t just “do” writing you eat, sleep, and breathe it.
“What do you do?” is a loaded question for a writer, especially a novelist. The answer is equally loaded. Everything you experience in life is fodder to process for potential stories. There is no vacation from writing; it is not a 9 to 5 job. Even on vacation, you are thinking about the next stage of your plot. Not to mention, the oddity of the profession can creep in, threatening to expose the fact that you’re not always aware of speaking aloud dialogue in public places by make-believe characters from whom you never want to part. That’s messed up. And perfectly acceptable. The rest of the world may never understand.
Writers don’t just do. They are. So be.
The deeper the darkness, the deeper the awareness of grace.
From where has God brought you?
A writer, I often prefer stepping away from safely bubbled literature into something rawer, more tragic and real. Drawn to the psychological divergence of the night season, it's not quite the night season of temporary circumstances - but the powerful light near the end that beckons. Light appears brighter as you step from the shadows. Grasp that light tightly with newfound gratitude...I do every time.
There is a sacred purpose for everything, even literature bordering a darker side. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. What then? Within this framework, one can hear HIS voice distinctly calling, “Child, come home,” whispering, “child, be healed,” shouting, “Child, I forgive you.” This is the way, walk ye in it…
From where has God brought you?
The deeper the darkness, the deeper the awareness of Grace.
There is a natural order in the societal ring of life, even when it comes to purpose. When a person can rid themselves of a prideful heart and venture forward with a humble spirit, the journey becomes a little less arduous and a little more joyful. In my craft, I am better than a few others. Many more are better than me. Yet I shouldn’t fret about this pecking order, for my Creator said, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart….." (Jeremiah 1:5). In essence, he chose me for a particular task and to fulfill a specific role while on this earth. The Almighty knows what he’s doing. Yet at times, it’s also my human nature to be touched in varying degrees with inferiority or the idea that I’m not measuring up. If we put forth all our effort then leave the rest to Providence, he will fill us up the rest of the way thus enabling us to do exactly what we’re supposed to do. For me, while reaching out from a purpose-driven existence, I find in this thought process the ability to let go, relax about what everybody else is doing and be free to just be.
Several times, recently, I’ve been asked: “Why not share some pictures of your son on Facebook?” While I had in the past and still might do so on an infrequent occasion, I simply don’t wish to share my daily life with the entire world. To be a “friend” on social media means that we could have some things in common, might follow each other due to career paths, special interest groups, etc. But truth be told, a small percentage are people I truly know, are related to, or trust with my most precious treasure, my family.
I love this life, the diverse concepts, and the interesting people in it. It’s fun to connect! We can learn a thing or two about and from each other. But I’m not going to splatter much news on the internet about my family, or when I or my son sneezes.
Here’s something that humorously puts it into perspective. A friend shared the following with me, so I’m sharing it with you in the rare case you haven’t already seen it. Things posted on social media have a way of circulating in ways of which you might not even be aware – so, be wary! I’ve discovered some of my own author profile pictures having been unknowingly copied and used for certain non-writing advertising sites in other countries. (Regarding our children, we should be especially vigilant). So here I am sharing this popular short passage for which I don’t even know whom to give proper credit. I thank the “nameless” author for proving my point.
MAKING FRIENDS OUTSIDE of FACEBOOK
I am trying to make friends outside of Facebook while applying the same principles. So every day, I go along the street and tell passersby what I have eaten, how I feel, what I have done the night before, and what I will do after; I give them pictures of my family, my dog and me gardening and spending time in my pool. I also listen to their conversations and I tell them I love them. AND IT WORKS! I already have 3 people following me: 2 police officers and a psychiatrist!
As someone who has traveled a lot in previous years, it’s hard not to compare to the experience it is today. Flying isn't what it used to be. In years past, I found it to be fun, even relaxing, before upped expenses (fees for a carry-on, come on!), hyper security where you don’t know until the last second (or when someone shouts at you) whether you've been shuffled into the line to remove your shoes and reveal your electronics (as if you’re not juggling enough) or the section where you can keep everything in place. Such confusion where things can change overnight (thanks again, terrorists), and now we have the newly added Ebola pre-screening (oh, joy). Someone just has to sniffle and my growing eyes zoom in to deeply scrutinize the condition of my co-traveler.
When I had toured with a music and dance ensemble, our road manager – a regular den mother – prepared for us individual treat bags created with care, special treats reminiscent of childhood. I've come a long way since then. From spoiled to cutthroat. No longer able to take snack bags, food, or bottled water through security (not to mention more than a button of toothpaste), one is forced to purchase those items on the other side of security (if you get there). This is something akin to a movie theater experience, the privilege of highly inflated food service once “you’re in.”
Oh, I remember some my first class experiences fondly. Freedom to spread out or curl up in a big seat, a much-too-hot moist towelette I never knew what to do with. Meals! Remember when we got those? I now fly on a coach-only airline with festival seating because my former preferred airlines, one-by-one, have dropped from my expectations list. And because my now favorite airline seems to prove the most consistent keeper of schedule, doesn't charge exorbitant rates, the cabin crew is ALWAYS chipper, helpful, and downright entertaining (I bet this is how a few stand-up comedians got their start). This isn't a plug for a particular airline with a name consisting of two cardinal directions put together, one of them being “South,” but a fact that causes all the mounted tension before boarding the plane seem to melt. So if you have to fly…
When I’m safely back home in the comfort of an oversized living room chair where I sink into the cushions like an exhale, I decide, strangely, that I’d like to travel again. This time, visit another country. Select a book, open the cover. Mental travel… Ah, flying is better than it used to be.