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Rated: 13+ · Book · Opinion · #1254599
Exploring the future through the present. One day at a time.

I hope I stay within budget

My website: http://www.almarquardt.com
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June 26, 2018 at 5:18pm
June 26, 2018 at 5:18pm
I received the following email yesterday (in part):


I enjoyed speaking with you recently. I would like to offer you the volunteer position of Associate Editor of Spark, if you are still interested. Please let me know at your earliest convenience.”

Although it’s not a paid position, the insights I will gain into the magazine industry (and publishing in general) will be invaluable. Plus I get to read all the stories before anyone else!

For more on the magazine:
June 8, 2018 at 7:56pm
June 8, 2018 at 7:56pm
It isn’t the anxiety beforehand.

Nor is it during the interview itself.

It’s the aftermath.

I just ended an interview for a magazine associate editor’s position. This was especially nerve-wracking because I haven’t done an interview in twenty years.

It took place over Google Hangouts which was interesting and kinda cool (I’ll describe why in a second) with two ladies involved with the magazine. They asked me about my writing, my editing strengths and weaknesses, and my expectations with the position. They will be interviewing several others, and will let me know either way within a few weeks whether or not I obtain the position.

Now for why the aftermath is the worst part of the interview.

For the next two hours I will mentally scrutinize every word I spoke, and every action of my face and rest of my body.

Did I stutter too much? Did I blink too much? Did I pick my nose? Did I yawn? Did I talk with my hands too much? Too little?

I could have answered that question better!

I should have said something else!

Why, oh why did I say that?!

The upside of it taking place over Hangouts was they couldn’t smell my bad breath due to nervous dry-mouth, or that my deodorant gave out three hours ago.
June 3, 2018 at 12:02pm
June 3, 2018 at 12:02pm
A few weeks ago I posted a question about how one gets through harsh criticism.

Afterward, I decided to back away for a few days before I studied the comments with a more objective eye. Once I did, I decided to apply their critiques (the consistent ones, anyway), mostly to see how they would affect my novel.

I ended up with an entirely new prologue and changed the point of view character in the first chapter.

I think it’s much better.

I’m glad I let go of my pride and decided to look at my story through the critiquers’ eyes instead of my own. It was hard, but hopefully worth it in the end. Time will tell.

And if you're interested, you can read the prologue and first three chapters here: "Born of Fire
May 9, 2018 at 12:13am
May 9, 2018 at 12:13am
But first, here’s something I wrote earlier today:

I just received the score sheets from my contest entry, and boy were they critical. Out of a score of 100, it received an average of 50.

What’s interesting is the average scoring for the previous contest was 84 for the first round and 88 for the final round.

For the same book.

What’s even more interesting about the results is how consistent the judges comments are in each contest.

Perhaps the difference lies in that the first contest (where my novel received the highest scores) the judges judged the first five pages, and for the second contest, the judges judged the first fifteen pages.

A few consistent comments:

1. A Christian worldview not evident (which I was aware of; I wondered if it may be more appropriate for a more mainstream audience. Now I know).

2. Who’s the main character? This I thought might be iffy, because there isn’t one main character. There’s three.

3. It starts out slow with too much narration, not enough action, while at the same time not enough world-building details. Sigh. As one who has little confidence in writing intriguing, and story-moving detail as it is, I feel like someone just told me to climb Mount Everest with my stubby legs and arthritic knees.

4. First line (hook) needs work. Ugh.

I just had a thought. While I like entering these kinds of contests, I wonder if the questions asked of the judges are a bit misleading.

For instance, the questions emphasize the importance of the first line. A lot of readers (at least the one’s I’ve asked about it) don’t seem to care as long as the first few pages are intriguing. Then there are the questions about whether or not the main character (singular) is obvious at the start. At least in my novel, I have three, and I’ll state with some confidence that most books have at least two, especially those with romantic plots and subplots. Add to the mix the questions about an obvious “Christian worldview”. Some novels will always be more subtle in that area than others.

Those questions almost guarantee a lower score for books that don’t necessarily fit into that mold — such as lacking an attention-grabbing first line (but the subsequent writing is), has more than one main character, and the “message” is subtle (or becomes more evident later in the book).

I can’t help but wonder if my novel wasn’t the best fit for this particular contest. Something to think about anyway. I don’t regret it though, because the remaining comments and suggestions are worth considering, and may result in a better book in the end.

Nor do I fault the contest, or the judges. I fact, they have earned from me a greater respect for having to muddle through my entry. I will forever appreciate them taking the time to read it, and give me their honest assessments.

In the final analysis, it’s my fault for not studying my own novel more such as its genre, sub-genre and target audience, and comparing it to the overall purpose of the contest.

I just saw this quote, and think it’s rather appropriate:

“Let your thoughts lift you into creativity that is not hampered by opinion.” – Red Haircrow

In spite of my somewhat reasoned thoughts above, my pride and confidence took a significant hit. Those nasty voices wanting me to quit have been emboldened, and part of me wants to give into them.

But I didn’t. In fact, someone posted on Facebook looking for editors for their magazines. I went ahead and expressed interest. They want me to submit a resume where I describe my writing and editing experiences.

What. The. Hell.

Have I gone nuts, or even in spite of my bruised pride and gouged out confidence, I still believe in myself and abilities enough to continue to move forward?

Next up: Writing a resume of my experience. God help me, because I need it. Not today, though. My brain is too frazzled to attempt it.
May 5, 2018 at 9:28am
May 5, 2018 at 9:28am
Well, I’m a little bummed. I submitted my latest novel to a contest, and just discovered it didn’t even make the semi-finals.

Part of me is thinking, “Wow. It must have sucked. Maybe I should give up on editing the darn thing, because it has no chance of even getting published.” (Don’t worry, I’ll get over it, because it did win a different contest last year. All this means is the competition was especially good, not that mine sucked).

Sure I was hoping to at least make the finals if not win, both for bragging rights, and because after each round, the judges submit a score sheet with comments for improvement. Win or lose, those comments alone are worth the price of submission.

The good news is I no longer have to think about going to the conference this year when they announce the winners.

Call it coincidence, or call it irony (or ironic coincidence), but less than 15 minutes before discovering I had lost, I commented on a Facebook post about one of my favorite verses in the Bible:

“Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what he has made crooked.” Ecclesiastes 7:13
May 3, 2018 at 11:41am
May 3, 2018 at 11:41am
It’s an old adage, but still relevant.

I discovered this first-hand a few years ago when we were forced to cut down a large tree because the neighbor across the street kept complaining about small branches and leaves ending up in her yard.

The city’s reasoning was, “It’s dying.” Which it wasn’t, but no amount of arguing helped. So we had to spend $1,400 to remove it. It was a large, beautiful weeping willow. Watching it being cut down made me sick to my stomach. Even now I get a bit queasy thinking about it.

Our only consolation was the city later removed the stump without us asking, and no charge to us. How kind of them.

I’m having to deal with yet another immovable bureaucrat today, but first a little background information.

According to city code, no one can build on a piece of property until said property is platted, and goes before the planning and zoning and city commissions for approval.

There is another type of plat called an Auditor’s or Irregular Plat which is used for the purposes of taxation and the transfer of property only. According to city code, it cannot be used to obtain any kind of building permit.

Last week we were hired to create an Irregular Plat of 20 acres so the owner can sell it to a developer. Once the developer buys the property, then it will be subdivided accordingly.

Yet the the city engineer is refusing to sign the Irregular Plat (when all he’s approving is that said plat follows all state and city codes).

His reasoning is that he can’t sign it in good conscience knowing the new owner plans to develop it. As if the developer can somehow “pull a fast one” and build on it without anyone knowing.

My question is this: why have any city codes at all if those charged with enforcing the code refuse to do so, and hold their signature hostage based on their personal whims?

To say I’m frustrated is an understatement. At times like these I want to quit and get a less stressful job, even if it pays significantly less than what I make now (does such a job exist?).

To use another adage, I’m getting too old for this s***.
April 3, 2018 at 10:59pm
April 3, 2018 at 10:59pm
Of me:

Went to the dentist today for a cleaning. Both my hygienist and the dentist gave me high praise, because I am still a member of the no-cavity club (even at the ripe old age of 48), I’ve never had a cavity. Yay me!). They also complimented me on my brushing, because my hygienist didn’t have to do a lot of scraping this time. Yay me times two!

Facebook created an app called “Messenger Kids.” You can add it for your child(ren) without creating them a Facebook page, and you get to decide who the child(ren) can send messages to. Tom wanted to be able to text me and his dad, but we also think he’s too young for any kind of social media, and having his own phone. I thought this was a perfect compromise. So far it’s perfect, except for one thing.

Tom loves emojis. In the two days since I loaded the app on his iPod, he’s sent me hundreds of emojis, giggling the entire time. Yes, I created an emoji monster. He sends me funny, well-written texts, too, so I think I’m enjoying the app as much as he is.

I just perused my list of prospective agents, and the list is growing smaller, and not a whisper of interest. The list isn’t as short as one would expect, because I don’t send a query but once a month or two.

Part of it is lack of motivation, fear of rejection — and success — and a bit disillusionment. Too many agents I follow have become activists, looking more for minority, “margiinalized” writers above all others, and looking for stories with LGBTetc characters. Of which I am not nor write about. They have every right to do so, but where does that leave me and my stories?

But that’s pessimism talking. I also follow other writers and many readers, and they aren’t actively looking for minority and/or “marginalized” authors, or stories specifically written with LGBTetc characters. Those who are, well they’re not my target audience. I simply have to find an agent who will give me and my stories a chance, and who’s equally interested in my target audience.

Some of my characters are minority (I’d say easily 40% are), but only because that’s how they introduced themselves to me. I don’t write social-justice (so-called) agenda driven stories. Do some have a message? Absolutely, but I like to think the messages are more universal and timeless, and less about today’s, and thereby fleeting, issues. I also like to think those messages are so subtle that if a reader doesn’t “get” them, that’s fine, as long as they enjoy the story, the world they live in, and the characters. If they do “get the message” I still hope they enjoy the story, the world and the characters, perhaps even more than the message, because then they might read any sequels that come along. People more often than not read subsequent books because they like the story and the characters, not only because the author weaved in a message they liked.

Well, here I started out with a light entry, and then I go all serious and philosophical on you.

I realized something else today. Once in a while I lament about not having anything to write about. I wait for inspiration to strike, and nothing happens. Why wait for inspiration? Why not look for it? If nothing interesting pops into my brain, I should look for something to write about, even if it’s about a book I’m reading, a movie or television show I saw, or how my dog tore off one of her toenails and bled all over the house. Yeah, that happened. We wrapped the paw in paper towels and held it in place with one of my son’s old socks. It seemed to work.
March 31, 2018 at 8:15pm
March 31, 2018 at 8:15pm
If so, then I need a lot more practice.

I just pulled myself out of an (intentional!) Twitter debate, and I admit I’m a bit exhausted. Overall I enjoyed this one, because my opponent didn’t stoop to personal attacks. He was actually quite adept at presenting his arguments, and a few times I almost got caught by my own words.

The best (worst?) part is I could see where he was going with it, and could see his point of view quite clearly, a few times almost too late.

It started with a statement someone made, “If something is immoral, it is immoral regardless of need.”

The immorality in question pertained to government theft via taxation as far as the re-distribution of weath from the rich to the poor. The premise being that theft — the forceful taking of property without consent — is always immoral. One person (my opponent in this case), used the analogy of how murder isn’t always immoral, especially when it comes to self defense. Therefore the statement, “If something is immoral, it is immoral regardless of need” is an incorrect statement.

I maintained that murder is also always immoral, because it’s the purposeful and unlawful taking of one’s life.

If he had used a different word or act such as “killing” which is not always immoral (because killing can be justified if it’s in self-defense, if it’s an animal attacking livestock, or a weed in a garden, then it’s not always immoral. Killing can be immoral if someone killed a dog or destroyed a garden for the fun of it). Then his analogy would have worked.

So in that sense, my opponent’s point of view was spot on. The phrase, “If something is immoral, it is immoral regardless of need,” can be argued away depending on the act.

I consider myself lucky that he used “murder” as his argument and not “killing,” alcohol consumption, or a slew of others.

The discussion went back-and-forth for easily an hour with neither one of us giving ground. I finally had to bow out.

My last tweet said, “Off topic, but mostly because I have to go (my hubby is cooking pork chops!), I want to thank you for the discussion. It was informative, enlightening and challenging [boy was it challenging! Hence my exhaustion]. You kept it civil, attacking my words and not me personally which is refreshing. Thank you again.”

He responded with, “The feeling is mutual. One of the better exchanges I’ve had on here.”

High praise indeed.

All-in-all, I did okay. I could have done better by really studying the original comment as well as my opponent’s rebuttal, and looking at every possible argument for and against both before adding my first comment. I know that comes with practice, so I guess I’ll have to keep practicing.

Still, I think I will reward myself with a glass of wine.

I pray you all have a happy, stress-less and safe Easter!
March 28, 2018 at 9:45pm
March 28, 2018 at 9:45pm
Tom and I just got back from our church’s annual “Easter Experience.” It’s similar to the 12 stations of the cross Catholics are most familiar with, except there are ten stations with activities such as making a crown of thorns out of brown construction paper. It’s geared mostly for children, but many adults enjoy participating as well.

I helped welcome the participants, give them instructions and show them where to start. I felt like a broken record after ten minutes repeating the same thing several dozen times, but I still enjoyed it.

Last year we had about 100 people show up, and this year we counted about 170. Almost double, which is amazing.

Right now, I’m lazing away on my chair writing this entry while Tom is building the “paradise” part of his mansion in Minecraft. No TV, no music or radio.

No sound other than the birds chirping outside. With the thousands of geese flying overhead every day for the last two weeks, and seeing my first mourning dove and robin of the year yesterday, I’d say Spring has finally arrived. Even the sun doesn’t set until 7:45pm.

That doesn’t mean it’s short-sleeve weather, though. Today we had a high of 35(F), and projected 1-3 inches of snow on Friday, so Winter isn’t ready to give up, yet. I’m bummed, because I am really tired of wearing my winter coat.
March 22, 2018 at 8:30am
March 22, 2018 at 8:30am
I’ve hesitated giving my honest thoughts on this whole “gun control” hullabaloo for several reasons.

I don’t like confrontation. Nor do I like to label myself, and with all the hatred and vitriol against gun owners in general and NRA members in particular, the coward in me prefers to stay silent in the hopes it’ll all go away.

But even this quiet coward has her limits.

This is not a rant so much, but a recitation of facts, both the purpose of the NRA and why I’m both a member and why banning firearms and repealing the 2nd Amendment is a bad idea (now before you say, “No one is suggesting banning all firearms or the 2nd Amendment,” I can share plenty of statements all over social media advocating for exactly that).

The NRA was founded in 1871 by Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate, because they were “dismayed by the lack of marksmanship shown by their troops.” The NRA then and now “promote[s] and encourage[s] rifle shooting on a scientific basis.”

In 1904, the NRA began “promoting the shooting sports among America’s youth by establishing rifle clubs at all major colleges, universities and military academies.”

In 1934, due to concerted and repeated attacks Second Amendment rights (see the National Firearms Act), the NRA formed the Legislative Affairs Division (now known as NRA-ILA [Institute of Legislative Action] which is the lobbying arm and formed in 1975).

Still today, the NRA focuses on promoting shooting sports, hunting, and education (to name a few) while NRA-ILA focuses on state, local and federal legislation pertaining to Second Amendment rights.

The Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program (established in 1988) is geared toward firearm safety for children. They are taught “that if they see a firearm in an unsupervised situation, they should ‘STOP. DON’T TOUCH. RUN AWAY. TELL A GROWNUP.’”

The Founders saw first hand what an oppressive despotic government looked like, so they wanted to take as many steps as humanly possible to prevent the fledgling USA ending up the same way.

They wanted the People (and the individual States) to have more power than the federal government. They didn’t want future Americans endure similar or worse oppression. so they took steps to protect their power.

Not only are those steps outlined in the Constitution with the separation of powers between the three branches of government, but also the Bill of Rights.

Aside: Many states refused to ratify the Constitution, because they didn’t think the Constitution as written protected their individual rights. Hence the addition of the first ten Amendments, which are designed to protect both individual and State rights that the Founders (and many of us still today) consider both God-given and inalienable.

The Founders understood that one way to make sure the new government wouldn’t grow too powerful was to guarantee both the States and the People retained certain rights. Those rights included the right to be a part of any religion they chose. They didn’t want anyone forced to be a member of a government-approved religion before they could participate in said government.

As the old saying goes, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” The Founders understood this as well, that speech, especially unpopular or critical speech against the government needed protection.

The rest of the Bill of Rights includes more protections, but my focus is on the Second which states: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

First, here are a few quotes from the Founders with regard to rights:

“[The] Supreme Being gave existence to man, together with the means of preserving and beautifying that existence. He . . . Invested him [man] with an inviolable right to personal liberty and personal safety.” ~ Alexander Hamilton.

“There can be no freedom where there is no safety to property or personal rights. Whenever legislation . . . breaks in upon personal liberty or compels surrender of personal privileges, upon any pretext, plausible or otherwise, it matters little whether it be the act of the many or the few, of the solitary despot or the assembled multitude; it is still in its essence tyranny. It matters still less what are the causes of the change; rather urged on by the spirit of innovation, or popular delusion, or State necessity (as it is falsely caused), it is still power, irresponsible power, against right.” ~ Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story

The right to bear arms:

“The . . . Right of the [citizens] that I shall at present mention, is that of having arms for their defense. . . [This is] the natural right of resistance and self-preservation when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression. . . . [To] vindicate these rights when actually violated or attacked, the [citizens] are entitled, in the first place, to the regular administration and free course of justice in the courts of law; next, to the right of petitioning the [government] for redress of grievances; and lastly, to the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defense.” ~ Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws.

“[S]elf-defense, or self-preservation, is one of the first laws of nature, which no man ever resigned upon entering into society.” ~ Zephaniah Swift.

“[T]he said Constitution [should] be never construed . . . to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.” ~ Samuel Adams.

With regard to who the militia is:

“A militia . . . are in fact the people themselves . . . [and] are for the most part employed at home in their private concerns.” ~ Richard Henry Lee

“Who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people.” George Mason.

I could go on, but I doubt I need to, and my fingers are getting fatigued.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what’s behind him.”

While I can’t speak for every NRA member or firearm owner, I am willing to bet many would agree if I changed the above quote slightly to read, “We don’t own and train in the proper use of firearms because we hate those in front of us, but because we love what’s behind us, and because we love our country and the freedoms she represents.”

For more information on the NRA’s purpose and history, see https://home.nra.org/about-the-nra/

For the history of and principles behind the Second Amendment, and where I found many of the quotes above (and where they originally came from), I encourage you to buy this book: https://www.amazon.com/Second-Amendment-David-Barton/dp/0925279773/

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