Thursday, January 01, 2015

Happy New Year 2015! (and a look back at the blessings of 2014)

                One line of an almost too-familiar favorite worship song struck me recently ... “every blessing You pour out, I’ll turn back to praise.”
I love my flowers! Pansies and lobelia.
                The first day of a new year is a good time for recapping the blessings of the previous one, especially when said year was so packed with real life that I didn’t take the time to adequately document it.
                I offer, then, this probably not-so-short list of things this year has held that deserve much more public praise than I’ve given them:
·         January: Our move to North Dakota. How are we doing, almost a year later? Well, overall, I can honestly say I love it here. There are things I don’t love, of course, and maybe it’s just that I’m learning as never before to honestly choose gratitude and contentment, but for the most part Troy and I both feel we’ve flourished. Even on his out-of-town trips, my husband is no longer on the other side of the planet. He’s loving being able to work a “regular” job, no longer stressed to the point of needing medication.
And my clematis ...
·         All year: The incredible peace of knowing that, despite the awful separation from our four older children, that God has them right where He wants them.
·         April, May, September, December: Seeing how God has sustained us through several medical crises with my mother this year ... a bad hip fracture and resulting surgery, multiple severe heart blockages that necessitated emergency quadruple bypass surgery, and a nasty infection that led to the amputation of all the toes on one foot. Hard things, all, yet ... she’s still with us. Still able to talk with us and be our family’s rear-guard in prayer, as she has been since forced retirement a few years ago.
Even the view from my backyard is therapeutic
·         March: Defending Truth was a finalist in the RITA, a major national contest sponsored by Romance Writers of America. As a result of that, I made the decision to attend RWA’s annual conference in San Antonio, Texas. Both of these were extremely unexpected!
·         July: In the meantime, I was offered a second novella contract, on a story idea that I’d pronounced my silliest ever. :-) Of course my editor liked that one the best, but I couldn’t help but be excited!
RITA finalists get to have their book at the store table...wow!
·         July, again: The conference in San Antonio wound up being an absolutely amazing experience. No, I didn’t win my category, but to have my humble little inspirational story (that’s the industry’s code word for Christian) up there in a category ruled by some pretty spicy romance novellas seemed absolutely incredible to me, and was a huge honor. I felt absolutely lost sometimes, knowing about a dozen people in a crowd of over two thousand, but God blessed me with an amazing “blind date” roomie and a handful of new friendships ... with the sense of His presence overshadowing me in the midst of a decidedly not-Christian conference (and I don’t mean that as a slam to RWA, just a statement of their intent to cover every shade and nuance of romance fiction) ... and with my first choice of appointments with one editor and one agent. My editor appointment, with a young man from Kensington, proved an unexpected delight as we discussed everything from colonial history to Charleston in the allotted ten minutes ... and he asked for the full on Loyalty’s Cadence. The agent appointment was with Sue Brower, a former editor at Zondervan, who I’d had the honor of meeting informally at last year’s ACFW. Surprise, she remembered me, and seemed honestly delighted on my behalf at my being a RITA finalist. In preparing for that appointment, I’d cheated a bit and cross-referenced the information she had available for the upcoming ACFW conference, and so came prepared with pitch sheets on my various stories. She took them all and promised to be in touch in regards to what she wanted to see, specifically.
A new phone means a few selfies! With a bestie, of course :-)
·         July (yes, still!): In the meantime :-) one of my closest writing friends and critique partners, Beth, was able to attend the RWA awards gala as my guest, spend the night, and tour the Alamo with me and another friend the next day. I fell in love with that little piece of Texas and its history ...
·         August/September: a crushing pair of months in which some of our older children drive cross-country to visit, we plan our trip back to South Carolina for our eldest son’s wedding, I start and finish the first draft of my upcoming novella in less than three weeks, and ... God up and changed my plans once again, and handed me the next incredible blessing of attending not just RWA, but ACFW as well. Less than a week after the wedding, to boot. I got to meet veteran author Lauraine Snelling, the conference keynote and one of my Pioneer Christmas co-authors. Was challenged to tears by her messages. Attended my first author/publisher party. Got to see my first book in the conference bookstore for the first time. Had not just one, but two editors—one my longtime dream publisher, one my newest dream publisher—request to see more of Loyalty. And, with half an hour to spare before I had to leave the conference, brought my hoped-for agent to my table at the gala, for a quick but intensely profitable conversation ... which led to ...
a historic church and the marvel of the St. Louis Arch
·         October: ... a dizzying series of events beginning with one of the editors at ACFW asking for the full manuscript on Loyalty, which brought the total of moderately to seriously interested publishers to an astounding three, and ending with me signing on as a client with one Susan Brower of the Natasha Kern Agency. :-)
(Yes!!! Take note! After more than thirty years of writing novel-length fiction ... seven completed manuscripts ... one little published novella and another to come ... God gave me an agent!!)
My newest cover! Coming May 2015
                So, there you have it ... in my family life, a cross-country move, new church, new friends and neighbors, heartbreaking medical crises, and the joy of a wedding. In my writing life, an amazing bit of recognition on my debut novella, another contract, an agent, and some seriously not-insignificant interest from editors on a project very dear to my heart. Blessings in the joy ... blessings even in the tears and hardships. The Lord has been in all of it.
I’ve finished up the year praying about what direction to take now ... in my various stories in progress, the other blogs I write for, and for this one. I made the decision to do some fine-tuning on this blog and give it a more professional focus. I’ll be continuing with the devotionals at The Borrowed Book, and as a contributor on Colonial Quills, as well. After a long dry spell writing-wise, and a highly emotional year family-wise, I’m back in the saddle and ready to meet whatever this next year might hold. God is my strength ... and He’s proven Himself so amazingly faithful ... I cannot wait to see what He has next!

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