Just in Time

I’ll admit it: I am a Christmas freak.

When I was a kid, it was (of course) primarily about presents. I enjoyed carols and hymns at church, and was one of few angels in the choir loft not sleeping through our big entrance at pageant’s end. As a twenty-something, Christmas was a break in a hectic professional life, a time to enjoy family and assess faith.

As a mother of young children, the holiday was again, to my regret, about presents. I vividly remember the last time I exited Toys ‘R Us, confident I’d never return. I cherish this victory lap as one of the happiest moments in a really extraordinary life. No lie.

When the kids became teenagers, Christmas was calmer. We’d head to our ranch perched on the Rockies’ snowy top. Drink cider and hot cocoa, build fires, ski and snowshoe, watch elk, play Cranium on Christmas Eve, and just generally chill. We reconnected in near-holy solitude cherished by my hermit personhood. These are my fondest Christmas memories. Our holiday time there wove unbreakable threads that connect us wherever life takes us.

But this year, I’ve worried myself. I am not Scrooge, but have struggled to build momentum toward this most amazing time. It’s not depression or fiscal, but a disconnect. Maybe it’s vitriol left from the election. Or persistent bad news — from economic to war in the Middle East. Maybe I’m distracted by fabulous activity on my manuscripts, moving at an unprecedented pace with publishers you’d recognize.

Today, I watched the season’s first snowstorm. Did more holiday baking. Addressed Christmas cards. Played carols. Prepared packages to ship to family. Focused on the Christ child. Was thankful for God’s grace.

Bit by bit, I’m inching my way to Christmas cheer. The snow came just in time.


The Agent Contract

A top-tier Literary Agency contract is as difficult to secure as a publishing contract with a Big Six Imprint. They’re elusive.

For five-plus years, I’ve read about the one-percent chance an unpublished author will sign with an agency of repute. Split that number for a publishing contract. It’s grim.

Since most well-respected agents receive more than 10,000 queries every month, and many won’t review an unpublished author’s letter, I understand odds are not in the favor of an individual spinning a yarn. There’s the added problem that literary agents are traditional publishing’s gatekeepers now: no agent = no publisher. This is business in today’s manuscript environment, and has propelled the growth of self and hybrid publishing, even though traditional remains the platinum ring everyone wants to grab.

But after twenty-five years writing professionally in marketing, two years developing concepts and manuscripts, a year of blood-letting via professional edit, and the excellent Christian Writers Guild Craftsman course (highly recommended!), I present the signing of my contract with an amazing literary agency.

I feel as if I’m finally at the “adult table” for Thanksgiving. Miracles never cease.

The Blog-Host Boogie

After much gnashing of teeth, a dash of profanity — on the designer’s part, not mine, dozens of phone calls, and a modicum of stress, The Cuneiform has migrated to this beautiful new host. Now I can post photos of Isabelle, mountains as they wear the seasons colorfully, and landmarks in my publishing adventure. (Expect a big one this week.)

Even the critters are excited, like this fellow on the rock bench Thursday. (He looks excited, doesn’t he?)

So give me a couple of days to input old blogs, and prepare for the ride. Thanks for your patience during the transition. And greater thanks to my dear old friend whose talent, tenacious spirit, and general curmudgeonly attitude makes all graphic things possible.

Mini-Blog: Snizzle!

As I drove down the mountain to my Death-By-TRX workout this morning, I rejoiced.

The sun was casting rays in an early-morning, almost-sideways slant, from the east (of course), sliding down from the pass. I looked toward it in a light snow, and saw one of my very favorite sights: horizontal sunlight illuminating each tiny flake so they look as if God is dropping sequins from heaven.

Oh, yea. This is a GOOD day. Enjoy yours.

God’s Cathedrals

I’m working today with scenes at Paris’s American Church, Madaba’s St. George’s Chapel (Jordan), Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica, and Venice’s St. Mark’s (where the aqua alta rages at this very minute—bring your Wellies!). As I wrestle with the copy, embedding nuance about architectural styles (France’s limestone versus the Venetian tendency to loot everything, then combine it into a hometown pastiche), I gaze up-valley at a landscape braced for winter, perched at an elevation that takes winter seriously.

Which best represents God’s glory? Richly veined marble, and gilt applied with a heavy parishioner’s hand? Or graying sagebrush, and aspens anchored in fallen puddles of still-orange leaves?

I think about the church where I most feel holiness—St. Chapelle in Paris—and believe I’m shallow because I’m influenced by stained glass and gothic arches. I ponder why a fragment of the Crown Of Thorns (Louis IX’s reason for building the edifice) merited such extravagant architecture, and if he wouldn’t have been greeted by his Maker as warmly if he’d given the money to the poor. I doubt I’ll have the answer in my lifetime.

I watched a pair of red-tailed hawks dip and soar this morning, and wondered if angels fly as gracefully. I heard the wind, which literally howled across this mountaintop two nights ago ushering in an early winter blast, and thought of the passage in Job (38:7) when the “…morning stars sang.” I smelled earth’s stubborn freshness after two inches of snow Saturday, and remembered the lingering scent of incense in St. George’s Greek Orthodox environment.

I seek holiness in structures, icons, ritual. Doubtlessly, there’s good theology behind these manifestations of faith. But today, as I look at a landscape that will sleep beneath a blanket of snowy white six weeks from now, I see God in His greatness. I am thankful for his general revelation (seminary term!) of Himself.