Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Currently: February

Currently living/working in: Still property caretaking Fenton Ranch in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico … the environmental education program starts up here at the end of March.

Current mood: Enjoying one more month of peace and quiet before our life gets crazy and busy teaching kids nonstop again! 

Currently excited about: Announcing our grand summer plans! Stay tuned this week!!!

Currently not excited about: Ugh doing taxes. 

Currently worried about: Health insurance. Period. 

Currently thankful for: It’s been 4 months since Justin’s surgery and I think he can honestly say he is feeling better. His spine infection is still present, but has diminished so much that his infectious disease doctor took him off all his antibiotics to let his body do the work now. He still has many other random issues (i.e., sleeping) and his Crohn’s/ileostomy is still part of his life, but overall, there is improvement. He is doing WAY more activity and eating better although he won’t put on much more weight than what he is now.
It is alarming when your husband weighs less than you do! 

Currently proud of: 23 submissions to publishers for my Te Araroa book! I wrote in detail about the publisher-seeking process here, but overall, I’m proud of all my efforts thus far and still hopeful I will score a book deal! It is a discouraging and slow process, but I’m not giving up!!!!!!

Currently regretting: Still no wildlife!! But they are taunting us! Every new snow, we see prints and scat. Come out, come out wherever you are!

Currently amazed by: Puppy sitting. Oh my. Almost as exhausting as babysitting. 

Meet Umbra (Heart of a Shadow), an 8-week-old Australian Shephard, owned by one of the rangers at Fenton Lake State Park (which is less than 2 miles from us).
The cat was less than happy about this situation. 

Current confession:  I love the winter, I do, but I am glad our days of constant shoveling snow are mostly behind us. Not to say we aren’t getting more snow (and I probably jinxed us for a big one), but I am glad we aren’t getting the back-to-back masses of snow we had in January. Nowadays, we chop ice and push snow from the roof of the big house. Not much better, but it still doesn’t feel as hard as everyday shoveling!  

Current guilty pleasure: A new camera! I’ve been talking about it for years, and I finally upgraded to a DSL camera. I bought a used Canon Rebel T3 EOS. I’m slowly reading, practicing outside of Auto mode and trying to understand the impact of shutter speed, exposure, aperture and ISO. It’s going to take some time to master, but so far, I’m happy with my choice! 
Currently reading: Still on a reading roll, although the book I am reading is 350+ pages, so it will probably take me the whole month. 
Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer: I am not a fiction person, but this historical fiction book is based on George Mallory’s life. There is great mystery surrounding Mallory because he died while climbing Everest in 1924. No one knows if he died on his way to the summit, or the way down. The latter would make him the first person to successfully climb the highest point. However, without ever knowing the truth, the credit goes to Sir Edmund Hillary. 
I thought I’d list J’s books too. He’s reading two simultaneously: 
Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen 
Energy Leadership by Bruce Schneider 

Currently watching on Netflix: We have gotten ourselves hooked on “The Wire” TV series. Of course we are still on the DVD program, so we are moving ever so slowly through the first season. We also have a great DVD lending program in the small community of 3-4 neighbors up here in our neck of the woods, so we decided to borrow “Breaking Bad” to watch again. Because when in New Mexico …  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Te Araroa Book Progress Volume 4: Rejections

Boy do I miss the days when my fingertips flitted across the keyboard, barely keeping the pace with the electric currents of ideas sparking through my brain. That's the real magic of writing.
You know what's not magical?

Sending out queries to publishers.

I've sent 20 queries in the past 2.5 months.

That number doesn't feel like a lot. But, I assure you, it's a freakin lot of work.

Researching publishers is step one. Besides a list of potential publishing houses shared by one of my writer friends, I am using Writers Market 2017 to come up with a list of publishers that allow unagented queries for nonfiction directly from writers. Then I go and research each publisher individually. Sometimes this results in crossing them off the list. Because maybe they are listed as interested in nonfiction, but right now they only want books about Asian philosophy, vampire folklore, Catholic heritage, espionage or UFOs (I cannot make this up). Timing is everything. I've also cut ones that ask for snail mail only. By the time I get to a post office, it will be 2018.

Further, each publisher has a certain format and specific requests (one publisher asked what I envision for the cover). Yes I developed a skeleton book proposal upfront, one in which I could copy and paste parts for each individual query. But I personalize each cover letter (which includes tracking down a name of the acquisitions editor) and rename certain parts of the proposal. For example, one publisher may call it "marketing platform," another "marketing plan" and another "promotional ideas." You may think that sounds neurotic, but I've heard of publishers making their requirements so peculiar in order to make cuts easier.

Every time I click send or submit for a query, I'm as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

You know what's also the opposite of magical?

Getting rejections.
FYI, if any fellow writers out there need an organized tracker, I downloaded this one from Writer's Digest.

I'm up to 3 rejections. Certainly not enough to wallpaper my cabin, and quite honestly, all the rejections have been extremely polite. They've also come within a day of my submission, so that says something.

One editor wrote: "This sounds like quite the experience, but we're primarily looking for how-to guides at this time. If we get to the point where we're able to expand into travel narratives, we'll be sure to follow up."

I'd like to remind you that publishers pursue less than 1% of submitted work and it took bestseller Chicken Soup for the Soul 140 queries before finding a publisher. I'm submitting to small publishing houses and these stats ring true. They typically publish between 10 and 250 titles a year, but receive between 1,000 to 5,000 queries. Response time is typically between 2 and 6 months.

Tough odds and a painstakingly slow waiting game.

In the meantime, I am still self-editing my book. Boy did it need polishing from the very first draft.
I still have a long list of publishers to research and probably at some point, I should go through and check how many times I've overused certain words (like very or so). I am also going to triple protect myself by asking permission of those who I've included in the book. (I drop more than 60 names!!!)

But for now, that's all I have for you folks! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Visitors in New Mexico

Besides Justin's mom, who visited in December, we've had 3 other brave souls venture into the boonies this past week to spend time with us.

First were our kindred spirits: Paul and Kristen. We call them our kindred spirits for many reasons, but mainly because they are just as keen about sleeping in the dirt and reusing foil as we are. J met Paul back in 2009 at a Parks & Rec event, and shortly thereafter, we had a successful "couples" date introducing myself and Paul's wife, Kristen. My first post about hanging with Kristen one-on-one is hilarious (I wondered if we would be lifelong friends ... LOL). Paul & Kristen have been our go-to active friends. They are the friends who helped us cross train for the AT in 2011, hiked the first 60 miles on the AT with us, introduced us to the Insanity workout in 2013 to help whip us into Rainier shape, the list goes on.
More than lifelong friends ... kindred spirits!

Our other bold soul was Jason. Jason is Justin's college buddy. We see Jason and his wife, Adrienne, pretty regularly even though they live in Ohio. This is because we are often driving across the country and Columbus, Ohio, is a convenient stopover. Like this time, and this time, this time and this time (you get the picture). We actually claim Jason and Adrienne's home as one of our many addresses. But I digress. When we ARE settled, these two usually make their way to visit us. Adrienne couldn't make it this time around, but she did send Jason with some clothes for me (most of my wardrobe comes from A or my SIL!).
These 2 and the stories they can tell ... 

Now, just in case you think you've missed out on visiting us in yet another one of our random locations, fear not and brace yourselves. We will actually be returning to Fenton Ranch for the fall 2017 through winter 2018. I know, simply amazing that we will keep an address for more than one year!! (More on our future plans in another post)

To wet your palette, here are the top 5 reasons to unplug and visit Fenton Ranch.

1) We will put you to work. Either moving snow, breaking up ice or chopping wood.
You would never know Jason had never chopped wood in his life -- a born natural!

2) We will enjoy outdoor recreation. We have trails out our back door and are surrounded by national forest, so there is no shortage of opportunities to play. We took both Paul/Kristen and Jason to Valles Caldera National Preserve for some snowshoeing. I actually think I like visiting that area better in the wintertime than when we did in the spring. The National Park System took over management of the Valles Caldera in October 2015 and it is growing in popularity. The park is a massive crater left by a super volcano eruption from a million years ago. Oddly enough, it has been the filming site of dozens of popular movies and TV shows, like The Missing and Longmire. Cool sites to see and vast land to explore!
The 1.2 mile La Jara trail makes for a very beginner-friendly snowshoe or ski loop. 


Yes that is a coyote! 
This was Jason's first time snowshoeing! Lots of firsts for him on this trip!

Backyard shenanigans in our DEEP snow are just as fun, but are straight uphill!

Of course Paul & Kristen were smoking me on the uphill ... I thought I would have the edge living at 8,000 feet, but the altitude didn't even phase them. 


3) We will enjoy indoor recreation. Anyone who knows us well knows we love to play games. The Bean Game is our go-to, but we may have discovered a new addiction thanks to Jason: Sushi Go! This card game is similar to the Bean Game, feeding Justin's competitive edge. Besides games, we discovered a special indoor activity thanks to Paul and Kristen ... wooden spoon making! I would say we have a lot to learn in the craft, but it is fun to try. I also read a few chapters of my book to Paul & Kristen, which reminded me I really need to get back to editing it (reading out loud is a humbling way to edit!).
The Bean Game!!!



Justin and I worked our first spoon together!
New game obsession: SushiGo!

4) We will take our cat for walks. Mrs. Gibbles—the once stray mama cat who chose Fenton Ranch as her home and us as her owners—follows us everywhere!

5) You will spend very little money. Aside from your flight and rental car (under $100 for multiple days!), we live in the middle of nowhere, making it hard to spend money. We did venture down to the sole bar 35 miles away from us with Jason, but a meal out there is not going to break the bank. 
Have no fear, civilization is only 30ish miles away ... 

I know I am always trying to convince you that Fenton Ranch is a magical place, but we are excited to keep it as one of our many homes!