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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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December 24, 2018 at 2:38pm
December 24, 2018 at 2:38pm
How do you like my alliteration, there?

Yesterday someone posted this on Twitter which states: “To the "Christians" who gave money for a GoFundMe to build Trump's Wall, there are children & veterans without shoes, sick people without healthcare, a city without drinking water, and immigrants fleeing from certain death. Please reevaluate your Christian values and try again!”

I responded thusly: “Do you have proof that Christians who donated for the wall don’t also help children, veterans, the sick, etc.? If not, then your assumption is false. Christians can do more than one thing and donate to more than one cause, you know.”

This isn’t about the wall, or politics, but how some perceive Christians in general. They seem to think we’re all monochromatic in our beliefs and actions. Truth is, I know many Christians who:

Believe homosexuality is a sin;

Believe homosexuality is not a sin, and some even go so far as to say Jesus and the disciples were all gay;

Believe God condemns abortion;

Believe God approves of abortion;

Believe God condones the abuse of women and children;

Believe God both condemns and expects punishment of all abusers;

Believe Jesus was a pacifist;

Believe Jesus was a warrior;

Believe God would be for gun control and that all guns should be banned;

Believe God would not expect people to give up their ability to protect themselves with firearms or other weaponry;

Give to liberal causes;

Give to conservative causes;

Vote Democrat;

Vote Republican;

Want a border wall;

Don’t want a border wall;

Want bigger government;

Want smaller government;

Want lower taxes;

Want higher taxes;

And the list goes on.

People insulting Christians, or non-Christians telling Christians how they should act is a pet peeve of mine. I can't judge how a Jew, Buddhist or Muslim how to act or worship, because I don’t know enough about their religion to make that call. Now, if they do something illegal or harmful to others (Christian and non-Christian alike), then yes, I will shamelessly point fingers. Not as far as how someone decides to spend their time or money, however, because it’s none of my business. In the end it’s between them and God.

Still, although it bugs me, I don’t get as upset as I used to, because someone reminded me of a verse where Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18).

Therefore, I should be more surprised when people (non-Christians especially) express love and admiration for Christians.

A sidetrack here: You might wonder how people within a single religion could have so many opposing beliefs. There are many reasons, I think. One is we’re all individuals with different backgrounds, experiences, and therefore points of view. Because the Bible is so big written by many authors, and with many messages and stories, it’s easy to approach it with our own colored view, to see what we want to see, and be blind to the rest, especially when those parts seem to contradict each other.

I’m reading “The Rational Bible: Exodus” by Dennis Prager. He said (paraphrased), that God always leaves us room for doubt, including doubt in him and whether or not he even exists. Now why would he do that? He’s God, after all. Couldn’t he reveal himself to everyone in a single moment to where no one could deny his existence? Sure, but he also wants to be chosen, just like we like being chosen and having choices--whatever those choices may be.

No one doubts the Sun gives heat, or that winter is cold and summer is warm. Why? Because they’re obvious based on mere observation. They’re undeniable. Therefore, there’s no need for faith in whether or not the sun will continue to give off heat, or that I will need to wear a jacket in the winter and put on sunscreen in the summer.

God wants to be sought after, and yes, to be doubted. Part of it is because he loves it when we ask him questions, to seek truth and understanding. Doubt spurs us to ask those questions. No questions can be asked if we already know all the answers. Mystery is a fabulous thing, because of the joy in making the discovery.

Someone once asked Dennis Prager why he’s a Jew and not Muslim. He said (again, paraphrased), “Because Israel means to struggle or wrestle with God whereas Islam means to submit. I prefer to wrestle with God than submit.”

So do I. Sure, God always wins in the end (even if he does cheat sometimes. Just ask Jacob [Genesis 32:22-32]). I have grown more in my faith wrestling with God than simply submitting to him. Why? Because I gain more understanding of who God is and why he does what he does after that struggle.

And don’t we all want people to ask us questions, to be noticed, believed and understood?

August 13, 2018 at 3:09pm
August 13, 2018 at 3:09pm
“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” ~ Luke 2:19

I tried writing down everything that happened at the writers conference last month. The good, the bad, the exciting and the boring. I wrote about the first two days, but stopped half-way through the third.

I couldn’t go any further. Like Mary, I needed to treasure it as well as ponder.

During the conference, I signed up for a fifteen minute appointment with a literary agent. I practiced my pitch in one of my elective courses just prior to my appointment, and I continued to mentally recite it as I walked through the hotel.

The moment I sat down with the agent, I started my pitch. I didn’t get but a few words in when he said, “Show me what you have.”

Okay. Fine by me, because I was stumbling over it, anyway. I gave him my “one sheet” which contains a back-cover blurb, the genre, word count, and my bio which includes my writing credits.

He read the first page of my fantasy (and latest novel), stopped less than a page in and said, “I have a question for you. Why aren’t you published, yet? This is really good.”

“Honestly,” I said, “I haven’t tried that hard. I’ve been concentrating on writing and improving my craft.”

He nodded and continued to read. He spent over half of appointment reading it. I spent that time staring at his two massive football rings, and ached to ask him who he played for, and if they were Super Bowl or division championship rings.

He finally had to force himself to put it down, and asked if I had anything else.

“I do.”

“Did you bring them?”

I did, and took them out of my folder. His expression indicated that he was pleased that I did. I pulled out the first chapter of one and said, “This one is a lot shorter, so it won’t take you as long.”

He skimmed through that one and asked more about the books’ genres, what genre I preferred to write and if the books were YA or adult.

In the end, he not only asked me to send him the full manuscript and synopsis of my fantasy, but the other two as well. He even bragged me up a bit to an editor for Tor sitting next to him, and recommended I sign up to meet with her as well. She was full up, however, and I never got a chance to accost her during meals or elsewhere.

I sent him everything about two weeks ago. I expect to get a response in the next six weeks or so. Hopefully.

I don’t expect him to take me as a client, though (or at least tell myself not to). My books have received interest like this before, and ended up being passed over.

Even so, that the agent literally couldn’t put my story down says -- and means -- a lot. It also shows that all my hard work has yielded good results after all.
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!

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