Thursday, February 16, 2012

This is officially one of my newest and most favorite sayings ever!  I found this on a superbly optimistic, and wonderfully charitable blog called The Shine Project, written by a cool young lady who has a heart for helping those in need, and who is pursuing her dream of being a published writer.  I can relate to her and her dreams, and I can relate to this quote! 
I am never "wildly self-confident" about my creative skills as a writer or blogger.  I almost always have this vicious voice in the back of my mind who scoffs at me saying nasty things like, "You've got nothing important to say, and you don't even have that great of a way with words.  You'll never be published.  You'll never impact people for Christ with your ramblings."  Ouch.  Major ouch.  And I try not to listen to that voice, but it can be annoying loud at times. 
This "war" that rages inside me, and probably many other creatives, reminds me of spiritual warfare, when us Believers are attacked or oppressed by the forces of the Deceiver, the Evil One.  He wants nothing more than to rob us of our joy, hope, security in Christ, and our dreams.  If he kills our dreams before we are able to make them known in the world, he kills whatever positive, life-changing impact the fruition of those dreams would impart on a lost world.
I would strongly argue that there's nothing more fearsome and terrifying for Satan, than to witness God's children passionately pursuing their dreams, never deviating from the course, never giving up, and never losing sight of their goal.  They would be unstoppable and unconquerable by the forces of darkness. 
And they could single-handedly make this world a better place by touching people's hearts and lives in a positive way.  Way to go, Ashley, from The Shine Project!  I want to be more like you.  Heck, I wish we could all be more like you.  Never stop.  And never give up! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Tiny House Movement: Downsizing At It's Finest!

Let me take a moment and tell y'all about the "Tiny House" phenomenon that has quietly been sweeping the West Coast for almost a decade.  A certain number of incredibly frugal and concerned-about-the-environment folks like Dee Williams (in the above picture) and Jay Shafer (in the picture below) of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company are pioneers and visionaries who willingly choose to inhabit teeny-tiny dwellings.  And you know what?  They could not be happier!

So what's the deal with these folks?  Are they loonies?  Or perhaps tree-hugging hippies?  Or crazy, extremist religious folk?  A resounding "NO" to all of the above.  They are simply people who desired to get out from under an expensive house mortgage payment that was keeping them financially strapped.  They also realized that they only typically used a small fraction of the available space in their big houses, so why pay good money for a house you never fully inhabit?  They did, of course, have some environmental concerns as well.  They wanted affordable housing that was easy on the environment, easily transportable, and easy to take care of.  They found it in these tiny homes.
Jay Shafer is the owner of his company, Tumbleweed House Co., and sells plans to numerous tiny house designs on the site.  Dee Williams has been featured on many social media sites, helps build custom tiny homes, and has spoken at the hugely popular, nerd-friendly TED talks. 

These people love sustainable living, less energy consumption, biking to work, living simply & frugally, only using the resources you need and no more, and thoroughly enjoying nature. 
I love these folks.  I love this tiny house movement.  I'm now mildly obsessed with tiny houses. 
And, because this blog is all about living a small but important life, and living a simple life, I wanted to share this movement with y'all.  I want a tiny house on several acres of farmland.  In the mountains.  With a stunning view of the mountains from my tiny front porch.  I want to have a mortgage-free abode that is just the right size and has energy bills of around $20 a month. 
Here is another great site about tiny houses, aptly named Tiny House Blog.  It's a blog about, you guessed it:  Tiny Houses!  But seriously, folks, isn't this amazing stuff?
Now, I realize that a Tiny House lifestyle is not for everyone.   It's probably best to attempt if you're single or a couple without children.  If you're married with 3 kids, then a tiny house probably is not for you.  But for my husband and I, who do not have kids, who are kind of "starting over" here in Seattle and trying to get back on our feet financially, this idea sounds SO appealing!
So tell me, my dear readers, what do you think of the idea of living in a tiny house?  Could you do it?  Do you think it would be worth it?   

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Publishing my NaNoWriMo Novel!

I have always been and will always be a writer.  This past November, my determination and skills were put to the test when I participated and completed NaNoWriMo, writing a little over 50,000 words (a short novel) in 30 days.  Since then, I have been researching how to go about self-publishing my novel.  I feel that trying to get my novel published in the "traditional" manner, by sending copies of the manuscript out to publishing houses would be an endeavor in futility, because most publishing houses will not even glance at a manuscript unless it is submitted by a literary agent.  I have been on several publishing houses' websites, like Zondervan and Thomas Nelson (to list a couple), and they state right on their "submission" section that they DO NOT accept most manuscripts and WILL NOT read them if you send them.  So....What's a girl like me to do in times such as these?
The answer is:  self-publish
Self-publishing literally seems to be the only option I have at this time, and even so, I'm not sure I will be able to afford the cost!  Now, in a "fair" world (one where I'm already a world-famous author and publishing houses are pursuing me, begging me to sign contracts with them), publishers would pay me to allow my wondrous words to be published by them.  But the harsh reality of the publishing world  means that I will have to pay someone (a small-time printer or publisher) to compile, edit, package, print, and market my novel, and if I sell enough copies, then maybe, just maybe, a "real" publisher may pick it up and sign me to a contract. 
But there's a lot of "maybes" in that sentence.  And there are TONS of small-time self-publishing houses that exist only to take an aspiring young writers' naively handed-over money, in exchange for a shoddy, haphazardly-printed novel that looks like a 4-year-old compiled it than a legitimate publisher.  I've even heard horror stories of spelling errors being purposefully added to manuscripts by "editors," so that the client will have to pay more money for it to be re-edited. 
These are scary times, and I've heard rumors that things are going getting worse.  Some companies like Amazon (a huge online retailer of self-published books), and Barnes & Noble Booksellers, who previously had agreements to stock each others' shelves with self-published books, are now canceling such agreements, meaning that self-published books are going to have to find other, lesser-known shelves to fill. 
This site called Writer Beware has been a good eye-opener for me, as it contains a "black-list" of self-publishing houses who have treated customers so badly it's a wonder they're still in business.  Some folks have had great experiences, however, with a couple of the blacklisted publishing houses, so that makes me wonder what factors were involved that caused some people to have horrible experiences with these places, and others to have incredible experiences. 
I have determined that, as with most important things, it is invaluable to take the time and do lots of research before jumping into the mire, but there will always be a certain amount of risk involved.  Both self-publishers and myself have no way of knowing if my novel will sell or not, so there is some risk involved for each party. 
I found Westbow publishing, a small division of Thomas Nelson (a well-known Christian publisher of Bibles and books), and have been in contact with a representative there.  I have seen Westbow titles on Barnes & Noble shelves in the past, so that comforts me a lot!  At least Westbow seems to be a legitimate self-publishing house.  And another bonus is that they have a "parent" company, which is Thomas Nelson.  Most other self-publishers (at least that I know of) are stand-alone companies, with no parent company to contact if they rip you off or produce shoddy work. 
So, while there were a couple red flags raised in my mind with Westbow, there are a few things about them that make me feel more at ease.  But regardless, I haven't chosen a self-publisher yet, so I'm open to any suggestions or advice!  Thanks so much for reading, and let me know what you have to say!