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Letting Go Is Not The Same As Giving Up

Seeing as how we are officially halfway through the year, I thought I’d bring you up to date on my New Year’s resolution, which was to send out query letters to dozens of agents and/or publishers.

To be honest, I’m discouraged at how few agents and publishers I have been able to find that are willing to represent inspirational romance. I will be lucky if I can send out enough queries to warrant an impressive rejection pile on future projects. As of right now, however, I have stopped my efforts to find an agent for Her Knight in Rusted Armor after only six queries. Sounds kinda pathetic at first, doesn’t it? But I didn’t stop because my ego couldn’t take the rejections (I had psyched myself up for a couple dozen at least!). And I didn’t stop because I had already run out of options. I didn’t even stop because of the amount of time required to research each agent and tweak each query letter accordingly. I stopped because I realized I was wasting not only the agents’ time in reading my queries, but mine, as well, in working on them.

Writing can be such a conundrum!

Writing can be such a conundrum!

For how can I convince someone to invest in my work when I am no longer passionate about it, myself?

Oh, I’m still passionate about writing, but not about this particular story. I had hoped that in shelving Her Knight in Rusted Armor for a while (it sat untouched for over a year) I would be able to return to it with renewed fervor and a drive to see it published. Such was not the case.

And I’m okay with that.

Last year, I would not have been okay with that. This story represents hundreds of hours of work and tears and agony and joy. To just let it sit in my laptop and in my memory key seems like such a waste, for I will now have nothing to show for my years plugging away at this plot line and breathing life into these characters.

But over the past few months, God has slowly shown me not to look at the time as a waste, but rather to appreciate how much I have grown from this process. Grown as a writer, grown as a Christian, grown as a wife and mother, expanded my knowledge and experiences. I learned the nuts and bolts of fiction writing while plowing through the first version of Her Knight… fifteen years ago; I continued to gain knowledge and understanding about the writing craft through the several revisions of this story over the ensuing years; and I advanced in my writing abilities as I tried to apply that knowledge to the individual chapters, paragraphs, sentences, words.

Today, Her Knight in Rusted Armor and I have taken each other as far as we can go. For the story, this means it will not see the light of day on a bookstore shelf. For me, this means I get to draw on what I’ve learned from crafting Her Knight… and apply it (in the first draft rather than the tenth) to something new, fresh, and completely unrelated.

In some ways, when I focus on my writing career (or lack thereof) from the perspective of a driven American living in a society where success is defined by tangible results, setting aside a manuscript can be frustrating. There are writers out there younger than me–with kids!–publishing their second, third, tenth, twentieth book! Sometimes I find myself asking what’s wrong with me, that I’m turning away from the only story I have that is 100% complete. This means I’m now putting off my quest for publication for who-knows-how-much-longer!

But then the Holy Spirit steps in and gently turns my focus back to the Lord. He has me on my own path and I need to look to Him to guide my footsteps, not try to emulate other people’s paths to their successes. Oddly enough, I find that I’m not even sure what I hope my “success” will look like anymore. All the more reason, I suppose, to seek the Lord one day at a time, rather than chase after desires that have been known to change depending on the time of month or the pressures of outside circumstances. 😉

Anne Graham Lotz has said, “Let go and let God,” and I try to apply that to my writing endeavors. It’s not always easy. And I’m not always happy. But in the end, so long as I’ve pursued God in the midst of it all, I will find fulfillment in ways I never could have imagined.

Trust in God II

 

 

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Never a dull moment…

Hallo! Ich bin’s, Ellowyne! (I thought I’d try out some German since it was Laurie’s college major, but I’m not feeling it. She claims it sounds beautiful. If you ask me (which nobody does since I’m a doll), I think French sounds far more elegant…eloquent…Ellowyne-esque!)

But enough about languages. Who wants to talk language (other than Laurie) when we have a doll to introduce?! Yes, we have a new member of the family, who arrived when the Germaines returned from the fishing trip in early May. Here’s what this InMotion Girl by Ruby Red Galleria looked like originally, when Laurie’s mom received her…

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Original Lia

With a brown wig...

With a brown wig…

…with her original name of Lia. By the time she came to us in MT, she wore a nondescript brown wig, which didn’t quite gel with those intelligent eyesbut Laurie had plans.

A change of clothes paired with a sassy new wig brought out Lia’s true personality…and we all agreed this required a new name.

 

 

So everyone, meet Piper.

...and improved

Piper: New and improved

As you can imagine, she and Mistletoe hit it off right away.

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Kindred spirits

We have four younger dolls now in this expanding motley crew: Tori, Mistletoe, Ping Lei, and Piper. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s one that captures the essence of these girls’ personalities when it comes to mischief or adventure:

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Left to right: Ping Lei, Piper, Mistletoe, and Tori

Though Mistletoe and Piper switch roles at times, Mistletoe is typically the “driving” force behind their escapades, Piper supplies the fuel (the encouragement and follow-through), Tori goes along for the thrill of the ride…and Ping Lei tries to curb their enthusiasm so they don’t do anything too foolish.

And then, of course, there are those days when Mistletoe takes an idea and runs with it all on her own.

Toodles!

Toodles!

Sigh. Drive safe, dear.

Tschuss!

Tschuss! Au revoir!

Be sure to turn around at the property line!

(I suspect our lives will no longer be as quiet and uneventful as they once were.)

When words fail…use your hands!

I’ve been doing a lot of research and menial rewriting over the last couple of months. Researching agents, tweaking the first 10-50 pages of my manuscript, writing query letters, tweaking query letters, more researching… I hadn’t had much time left over for actual writing—you know, the kind that gets a writer’s butt into the chair and keeps it there—so two weeks ago, I decided to take a break from the research and querying and work on “downsizing” one of my almost-completed manuscripts. It’s 150,000 words, with some scenes that still need to be fleshed out. Ideally, the word count should be around 90,000. That’s a lot of chopping.

I started my attack by hacking off the first few chapters and jumping right into the sixth. Great. Except I cut out pertinent information and character development I now need to squeeze into my new beginning chapters without them sounding like “info dump.” Not so great. Or rather, not so easy. Suffice it to say, by the end of the week I was drowning under old mindsets and negative thinking and had to yank my head out of the water so I could take a breather. And give myself permission not to write for a few days.

Perfect time, then, to make curtains for the living room and finish an American Girl backdrop.

Before

Before

After

After

 

I knew changing the curtains from those drab brown ones could only be a good thing, but I wasn’t prepared for how much a simple piece of hemmed fabric could breathe fresh air into a stale room! Needless to say, I bought more of the same fabric so I can attack the bedroom curtains during my next writing funk.

As for the backdrop…

American Girl backdrop

American Girl backdrop

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…I’ve been wanting to work on it for a while, but writing has won out week after week until now. Good thing, too, since my kids get out of school in a week and a half and I wanted this finished by then so they could spend summer days playing with the backdrops as well as their doll furniture!

Some of you might remember my first attempt at an AG-scaled backdrop: IMG_1278

Ever since then, I’ve been playing with ways to make the backdrops easier to maneuver and have come up with this for now:

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A simple 2”x4” piece of wood with grooves cut into it via Hubby’s table saw, into which slide two 2’x2’ halves of a MDF board. Having smaller boards to work with made the decorating go much easier and faster.

To make the wood paneling, I cut strips of balsa wood, glued them in place, then primed and painted the area.

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I then primed the area behind the “wall paper” (because fabric on white backing is brighter than on a brown MDF board) and used Mod Podge to glue the fabric to the board. Mod Podge worked much better than the adhesive spray I used last time. After letting the glue dry, I painted two coats of Mod Podge over the fabric, sanding after each coat had dried. Lastly, for my lip edge, I glued pieces of trim (found at Lowe’s) that I had first primed and painted.IMG_3132

All in all, the steps themselves are easy; the time it takes to cut, prime, paint two to three coats, Mod Podge, and glue, on the other hand, can sometimes be hard to find.

My next big project? Moving my soon-to-be middle schooler out of the bedroom she shares with her younger sister into her own room. A room currently dubbed the office/guest room; a room of clutter and one long, shallow, ill-functioning closet. I aim to have this accomplished before the new school year begins in late August.

Gulp. Wish me luck!

(Up for a laugh? Keep scrolling…)

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A Taste of Spring

Bonjour, mes amis! C’est moi, Ellowyne Wilde, back for another post now that spring break is over–for Laurie’s daughters are once again at school and quiet reigns here at the house. While February and March teased Montanans with unusually mild temperatures, April seems to have decided at least one month must come in like a lion and it might as well be her. Yet while out-of-doors still reflects the winter—sans the snow because New England confiscated it all—we dolls on the Front Porch enjoy spring-like views.

Yes, Laurie finally managed to get to a larger craft store in Missoula a few weeks ago and brought us back…well, just this:

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This is all we get? Sigh.

 

In times past, she’s spoiled us with lots more goodies to enjoy, but apparently the store was running low on dolly-sized items. Nonetheless, this sprig of flowers is all we really needed to complete our spring project: a topiary tree!

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Wink Wink

Laurie spruced up our pot, using Mod Podge to affix scrapbook paper to the pot’s exterior and then brushing another two coats of Mod Podge over the paper to harden it and give it a glossier look. We dolls don’t go anywhere near glue for obvious reasons (plus, one never knows what ideas it might put in Mistletoe’s head), which is why Laurie also had to attach the flowers to our tree.

 

 

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Topiary pulled apart

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About to use Mod Podge…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But once the glue dried, it was our turn to do some work…and that ended up being relatively easy (especially since we can divide and conquer jobs between sixteen dolls).

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Within minutes, we had the tree planted and set “just so” on our porch.

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I say the topiary looks fab. Prudence says it looks lonely. Laurie says she’ll keep her eye out for more foliage.

I won’t hold my breath.

What do you think of our tree? Are any other dolls out there decorating for spring? I’d love to see some pics!

Crafty Cushion

Bonjour, tout le monde! Ellowyne Wilde here with another dolly update. It almost didn’t happen this week, I’ll have you know. Laurie has been hogging the laptop in an attempt to finish the first draft of her Christmas novel (apparently the rest of the Christmas décor around here isn’t coming down until she’s accomplished that!)—but she’s no match against 16 dolls. We’ve got 256 inches to her 66; that’s a decent amount of leverage to wrestle away one little laptop.

And while Laurie’s family might have to suffer through the first half of February with green garland and reindeer figurines, we dolls in our corner of the house begin to welcome spring. I know, I know—seems odd here in Montana, but temperatures have been unusually warm these past few weeks. We just can’t help ourselves. So to pay tribute to Spring’s inevitable arrival, here is our latest accomplishment: a seat cushion boasting the lush, cheery colors of the lush, cheery season (at least, it’s lush in other parts of the country).

Now, in certain social circles, Laurie may try to take credit for making the cushion, but the following pictures show the truth of the matter, wouldn’t you agree?

Here, Ping Lei wraps batting around the foam.

Here, Ping Lei wraps batting around the foam.

And here, Prudence and Lizette work at cutting the fabric to the specific measurements.

And here, Prudence and Lizette work at cutting the fabric to the specific measurements.

Mistletoe and Tori had the job of pinning the fabric around the inner cushion, but we have since learned that leaving these two alone together produces a slew of mischief:

Girls, put those "swords" away before you poke out a glass eye!

Girls, put those “swords” away before you poke out a glass eye!

Step away from the thread, Mistletoe, and nobody gets hurt… 

 

 

Following this tutorial, Ping Lei, Mistletoe and I tried sewing the pieces together, along with the piping–something I had not attempted before this project–but the rubber feed dog fell apart halfway through. I suppose it was just a matter of time, since the machine dates back to the 1970’s (how good will I look in forty years?!). To tell you the truth, I really didn’t mind waiting the week for the metal replacement to come in the mail because of what you can’t see in the picture above the sewing machine: a deer head presides over the living room. An animal hanging on the wall, no matter how dead, can be rather intimidating for a doll. I couldn’t sew fast enough, despite Mistletoe’s attempt to slow me down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After sewing a Velcro closure along the back, we at last have our new cushion. Makes the bench look all the more inviting, n’est pas?

Before...

Before…

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And after.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re welcome to sit for a spell, but don’t be offended if we can’t join you right away. It seems one of our party has gone missing (or hiding, depending on who you ask) and the rest of us must go in search of her.

I can’t imagine where Mistletoe has disappeared to…can you?

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It’s Christmastime in Ello-land…

Merry Christmas! Ellowyne Wilde here. So excited about the upcoming holidays! We’ve been busy decorating, wrapping presents, coiffing for parties, and anticipating the arrival of a new friend: Urban Legend Lizette!

Meet Lizette!

Meet Lizette!

Last week, we enfolded her into our family with as much enthusiasm as a pack of moody dolls can muster and Lizette wasted no time jumping into the mix of activities (her skills with a tube of icing are quite remarkable).

Decorating the gingerbread house.

Decorating the gingerbread house.

And while some of us affix candy to gingerbread houses, others of us affix ornaments to Christmas trees.

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How am I supposed to get this star all the way up there?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tori, bless her little heart, has been wrapping presents for days…

Keep up the good work!

Keep up the good work!

…and some of us could stand a little less primping and a little more productivity (oh, get to the party already, ladies!).

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Here are a few different snapshots of our lovely new front porch decked out for Christmas:

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Our loft railing…IMG_2227

And a pair enjoying a chilly rendezvous under a sparkling tree.IMG_2231

Yes, it’s quite festive around here right now, although I’m hoping Laurie will toss a disco ball our way for New Year’s Eve…

All we’re missing is a cozy fireplace hung with stockings, but I’m told that’s on Laurie’s To Do list for 2015. (And blurting out something like that on her blog is kind of like a binding contract, right? Now she’s obligated to make me—er, all of us—a fireplace. Aaah, I can feel the warmth already.)

We dolls hope everyone has a safe and joyous holiday season. Don’t forget to schedule in time amidst the busyness to rest and soak up the more delightful aspects of Christmas…such as driving through neighborhoods to look at lights, listening to favorite carols, watching favorite holiday movies, quality hours spent with family and friends, couch time with a mug of hot cocoa and a good book—

Oooo, now that last one sounds inviting. Say, girls, do any of you know where I put my reading glasses?

Finally…A Front Porch!

Before I hand things over to Ellowyne, I just want to thank the Lord for helping me complete this project that’s been two years in the making. I’ve prayed over this porch every step of the way—from prayers that I wouldn’t fudge on the detailed painting to prayers that I would make the correct cuts to prayers that I could drill straight holes, etc.—and I just have to point out the obvious: God answered every prayer.

He gave me steady hands when I used the drill—especially during the more stressful moments when I had to attach the brace for the swing, when I attached the railings to the posts, and when I fastened the roof to the back wall. He gave me strength and judgment several times when I had to wrestle with the roof and a free-standing wall (not yet attached to the base and propped up only by a child’s chair) to insure they would mount properly with the porch posts before I could begin securing things together. And considering I had never attempted such a project before, it was only through God downloading His creativity into me via insights, epiphanies, and good advice from my hubby and my dad that allowed all the different pieces of this porch to actually fit together in the end! So, THANK YOU, LORD, for being present in the details.

(And thanks to Mike Harrison for letting me use his drill press, without which I couldn’t have created my railings!)

Ellowyne? Do you have anything to add?

Well, of course I do! Let’s not forget all the help we dolls gave you at the end, there! I’ve got pictures documenting it all. See for yourself:

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Here we are at the beginning, having a little pow-wow before getting down to the nitty-gritty.

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Here we are, anchoring the back wall to the porch floor and reattaching the lanterns.

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Prudence and Spring fit the porch posts and railings into the floor.

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Here we are enjoying a job well done and celebrating the fact we now have more square footage in which to stretch—and play and chat and vent and…you get the picture.

Some interesting tidbits you might like to know about this porch’s development:

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The swing cushions inhabit what otherwise would hold birdseed.

Laurie’s oldest daughter initially came up with the idea for a porch when Laurie was pondering future diorama possibilities (this was before my shelves in the dining room were even in the lineup). Laurie then told her mother in MA about the idea, her mother later shared the idea with Laurie’s aunt in TN during a visit, and you know what Aunt Fran said? “Every porch needs a swing.” So she bought a cedar swing originally intended to hold birdseed, fashioned cushions for the swing, and sent it on to Laurie in MT. More than a year later, that swing finally has a home. 🙂

Laurie knew she eventually wanted lanterns to flank the front door, but they had to be the correct scale, so naturally the prevalent three-inch lanterns she could find just about anywhere wouldn’t do. At last she scored after this past Christmas season when she found on clearance a set of twelve plastic lanterns fitted with a string of Christmas lights. The easy part was in popping off the lanterns from the mini light bulbs. The hard part was figuring out how she wanted to attach the lanterns to the back wall and how she could make them light up—because we dolls need functioning lanterns, after all! In the end, she used cup hooks screwed into the wall, black chain links, some black wire, and mini, battery-operated party lights that she can change out when the batteries die (or change the batteries—whichever one is a cheaper fix!).

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Lantern with mini party light

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Working lanterns!

The railings are made from trim bought at the hardware store and lots of spindles ordered online from a craft supply store. Using Mike’s drill press, Laurie drilled holes into the flat side of the trim and, after painting all required pieces, she glued the spindles into the holes. The railings were later attached to the posts (originally stair balusters) via small nails used as pegs for precision fit and strength. Strength, you ask? Well, you see how Mistletoe and Tori treat the railings!

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Two things Laurie had to keep in mind when creating this porch:

  1. It had to involve affordable materials so her hubby’s eyes wouldn’t bulge when he read the credit card statements.
  2. Even once she put it together, the porch had to be able to come apart—just in case. So the big pieces like the roof, back wall, and floor are only attached to each other by screws, and the railing system fits into holes in the floor and holes in the roof braces. No glue.
To show you the scale, here's Laurie standing beside the porch.

To show you the scale, here’s Laurie standing beside the porch, which measures 2 ft tall, 4 ft wide, and 16 inches deep.

All in all, we dolls are as pleased as inanimate objects can be over the completion of our front porch! As you can see, we didn’t waste time decorating for autumn…

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…since in a few days we’ll be bringing out the Christmas decorations (yeah, we do that early in this household!). I’m thinking strings of Christmas lights around the railings…a wreath on the door…and maybe we can wedge a Christmas tree over there in the corner! What do you say, Laurie? Think you can find us a twenty-two-inch Christmas tree?

Oh, and I wanted to discuss with you some plans for a possible back porch, now that you know how to go about making these structures. A balcony might be nice down the road, too—

Laurie?

Laurie?

Um, girls…I need some smelling salts over here!