A Writer’s Desire…

 “The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish.”

~ Robert Louis Stevenson

With great effort I labor, putting my words to paper, hoping to create an emotional response in my readers. How lovely to be drawn away from our own world and enter into a world wholly foreign and new. To be swept away into a climatic vision that brings forth a new feeling, or a fresh idea. But putting together a story is not an easy task. It is often with sweat and tears that the ideas form and the words take shape.

It is of great interest to me how writing a simple description can take so much thought and effort. How can one small paragraph take so many days, even weeks of preparation, yet when it finally comes together, is takes but a few moments?  The act of writing can be likened to pulling a molar firmly planted within the jaw. With great effort it is tugged and yanked before finally it is suddenly extracted.

Samuel Johnson stated that “what is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.” So then it is the responsibility of the writer to draw out of himself the very being of his soul in order to delight the reader as the author directs the journey placed before his audience. So hold on and come away with me as we journey together through the pages of my books.

~ Happy reading…..

Susan

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From Here to Nine-Buck-Two

So much has happened over the last few months that I am left with my head spinning. My career as a writer has been placed on hold as we wade through (literally) the changes in our lives.

Last year we became grandparents (welcome baby Finn, you fill our hearts with warm snugglies), we paid off our large luxury home (yay for debt free living!), then sat back and said, “Is this all there is?”

That’s when the adventure began—

maybe we are crazy, maybe we are ignorant fools—

We had a cushy, lovely, comfortable life in our overcrowded, fast-paced suburban town, and we were miserable. Discontent with the traffic and noise, of sirens blaring through the night (we hold our first responders in high honor, but do not enjoy the sounds of city life in the night), of crowded supermarkets, and 15 minute waits before risking life and limb to exit our neighborhood (one son already totaled his car making that dreaded left turn against traffic). It was time to get out.

So we did.

We began the hunt for the perfect location. I searched for land (at least 15 acres or more) anywhere in Texas (we have the luxury of working from home, so we are no longer bound to an area). It wasn’t long before I found a beautiful farm in East Texas, tall pine trees (trees are a must for this native Marylander), 15 acres of rolling terrain, an in-ground pool with outdoor kitchen, pasture land, a barn, green house, orchard, gardens…Need I go on. The place was immaculate, completely move-in-able.

One problem existed…we needed to sell our home before we could put in an offer. We had already remodeled the house in the prospect of selling, so we tidied up and put the house on the market. I said a prayer: “If the farm is for us, help it be available until we can put in an offer.”

The farm stayed on the market−I began to move in mentally. It was all going so well.from here

The first person who walked in the door put an offer on our house.

Wow! That was fast! We accepted, then told our realtor to put an offer on the farm.

Devastating! That is all I can say. The farm sold the day before we received our offer.

Now what? We had sold our home and had no place to go.

So the search resumed.

Was it by chance, or an act of Providence? We may never know. We stumbled upon a lavender farm bed and breakfast on more than 18 densely wooded acres. But this B&B was unique. It features two livable treehouses where guests can sleep and dine up in the trees. It was a lovely idea, but were we interested in running a Treehouse B&B? This adventure was not something we went out seeking. Yet the idea grew within us.

We made an appointment to see the farm on a cold February morning in the pouring rain. It was the worst possible time to walk the property. We donned mud boots, grabbed our umbrellas, and took a tour of the grounds.

And we fell in love. We put in an offer that very day.

And so, the adventure began, an adventure into country living, away from the dense populace, yet not quite so far that we are isolated from our fellow man. Hence the phrase, we have moved, not to ten-buck-two, but only to nine-buck-two.

There’s more to come…

~Susan

 

 

 

 

The Stone of Ebenezer Official Book Trailer

Grand Prize Winner of the New Look Writing Contest

The Stone of Ebenezer
by Susan Van Volkenburgh

Coming Summer 2015

NAGAD’s life was perfect until it was torn apart by the ravages of war. Now, haunted by his past, this young conscript must meet the enemy in battle. With shaking rage the nations collide in a fierce conflict for dominance. Yet more is at stake than the survival of a people. The dispute contests the claim of immortal supremacy, the outcome to prove whose god reigns omnipotent.

And so, Nagad of Benjamin pushes on through the raging tide of battle. But to no avail. Soon crushed by the mighty war machine of Philistia, thousands of Hebrew soldiers lay slaughtered upon the carrion infested field. Hope has abandoned them. Then it is remembered, that in the days of their fathers, any army that bore the Ark of the Covenant could not be defeated. They need the Ark, for only then can the Chosen of God prevail against the enemy.

But they are wrong.

Self-Publish: Doing It My Way

I don’t know when it began. It just started—the need to have control over every aspect of my life. Call me a control freak, but I desire to be the master of my own fate.

I first became aware of this side of my personality when I started homeschooling my daughter. I bought the popular kindergarten curriculum, you know, the one all the experienced homeschool mom’s recommended. It was subtle at first, that growing resentment of someone telling me what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.

“Who are they to tell me what is right for my child?”

“Do these experts know her unique learning needs?”

“Does every child need the same skills at the same time?”

“For what purpose are these exercises prescribed? Is there a specific skill being developed or is this just busy work?”

The questions kept coming.

I have never had trouble with authority figures before. So what was happening? Why was I questioning the status quo?

I was becoming a rebel, but a rebel with a cause. The welfare of my right-brained daughter was at stake. I would sacrifice anything, learn everything in order to provide the best for my child.

But what does that have to do with self-publishing?

Everything.

It was through the experience of creating my own curriculum designed specifically to meet the needs of my children that grew in me the confidence needed to plunge head deep into publishing my first book.

book cover 1My story was my creation, born through the events of my life. I discovered a deep-seated desire to present the book in an unadulterated format—one truly of my own making. Yet the process was new to me, so some guidance was necessary. That is why I chose a publisher like WestBow Press. They offered me the freedom to control the process without abandoning me to the process.

I saw it as the best of both worlds.

Yet, that was my non-fiction. I finished work on a fiction novel. I wanted to do right by my creation, my child, so I began investigating the traditional publishing route. I even sent out some writing proposals to prospective agents.

What I learned is that there is a code to writing a query letter, yet the proper way to approach the query is very specific and mysterious. There are many willing to give instruction concerning the qualities of a good proposal. Unfortunately, each has different advice. It is all very confusing. As an analytical thinker, this left me baffled. But I kept at it, and my skill grew. Yet, the joy of writing began to fade. I spent so much time learning the query process, it left little time to actually do what I love—write.

One needs an agent before you can approach a traditional publisher (the agent will require about 15% of you royalties). Then the process begins again; this time it is the agent that takes your query before the publisher (the publisher will require up to 80% of your royalties). All this takes a long time. And just because you have an agent, it does not mean a publisher will pick you up. Let’s face it, there are many people trying to get books published.

Wait—15% + 80% = 95%

That leaves only 5% for the author…

WestBow Press has a 50-50 relationship with their authors and no agent required.

With traditional publishing, you are counting on numbers—more exposure means more money. It is true, a traditional publisher does have more contacts in the industry than you. Their name speaks volumes. If a traditional publisher choses your book to publish, that means you must have written a good book, right? So the populace will buy your book in droves!

Well, not really—I know I have read some not-so-well-written books published by some well-known traditional publishers. There are no guarantees.

The traditional publisher is taking a risk on your book, so they are picky on which works they gamble. It is their money upfront. They have everything to lose. And you, the author, will not see another dime until you have sold enough books to pay back the publisher’s initial investment.

ID-100305240

by pannawat @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Some publishers only allow you three months to prove your worth. That is not enough time for most unknown authors to establish a following. If you do not reach expectations in a timely manner, the traditional publisher, who, by-the-way, has the rights to your manuscript, can shelve your book. What this means is they pull your title from the shelves and recycle all printed copies of your work. You cannot do anything with your story until the contract runs out with the publisher and the rights to your work revert back to you.

It is true that most bookstores will not place self-published books on their shelves, but this is not as important as it once was. Shelf-space on the internet is unlimited, so online bookstores, such as Amazon, will gladly carry your title, and for as long as your title is active. This allows the new and upcoming author time to build a solid author platform.

It does take much effort to draw a following for your work, but marketing is not just for self-published works. Yes, the weight of it does fall on the author’s shoulders. But traditional publishers are looking for authors who are willing to self-market their own books as well. Do not think that with traditional publishing, you do not have to worry about marketing. Whichever way you decide to go, marketing your book is your responsibility.

Do not fear, there is help out there for the self-publishing author. There are many agencies you can hire to market your work. These can be costly. If you do not have a budget for this type of marketing, there are other avenues to follow: blogging, social media, Google-ads. It is all doable.

Do not get me wrong. I am not against traditional publishing. As an author, one must weigh the cost-vs-benefits of all forms of publishing.

You, as the creator of your work, must decide what best fits your needs.

A traditional publisher is all about selling, after all, they have invested large sums of money on your product. With sales in mind, editing your book will be about what the publisher believes will be popular with the public. The names of your characters, what they wear, how the story plays out: all aspects of your work will be edited and rewritten to meet the goal of a profit margin. And you, the author may have some say, but the editor has the final word. I heard from one author who said that only 20% of her original manuscript made it through the editing process. It is possible she needed the editing, yet this prospect frightens me.

If making a living at writing is your goal, the traditional publisher may be right for you. After all, they do have experience in the field and have been successful with other books.

For me, I decided to self-publish. After careful consideration, I believe that my goals are contrary to that of a traditional publisher (at least at this point in my life). I write for the pure art of writing. My literary style, the cadence I use, the words and phrases I choose, are done so for the lyrical value of my work. While I appreciate the advice of a good editor (I do strongly suggest using an editor), I want the final say. With self-publishing, I am the chief contractor for my enterprise. Everything passes before me and gets my approval.

With that said, my future rests in my own hands. My decisions will be the success or failure of this crazy, wonderful expedition on which I have ventured.

Will I ever publish traditionally? I cannot say. Circumstances and goals change. But for now, I enjoy the prospect of being the master of my own fate.

Happy writing.

~ Susan

SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GO WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story) is available through WestBow Press and online bookstores: Amazon, Barnes and Nobles.

Look for Susan Van Volkenburgh’s award winning novel, THE STONE OF EBENEZER, Book 1: Trilogy of Kings Saga, coming the summer of 2015.

THE STONE OF EBENEZER, or the story I did not intend to write

 

triology of kings logo in black03Grand Prize Winner of the New Look Writing Contest

A novel that almost did not happen:

In the stillness of the early morning, I come to my desk and write. Darkness is brushed away by the gentle glow of my lamp. All slumber, save me, for it is the appointed hour, the time set aside in my hectic life to bring forth words upon the page. So I sit at my desk, and begin to relay a tale, of a king, anointed by God, asked for by His people, but against the will of the prophet, Samuel. Images of great battles and events of fealty and lordship take shape. Through the vivid drama played out before my mind’s eye, a solitary figure emerges. Just a glimpse at first, then a gentle nudge, until at last, he erupts upon the scene in full grandeur, filling the pages. He has a story to share, a tale to tell, and he has chosen me as his vessel. I listen to what he has to say, but I only allow him an opening place in my story, a lead into the main action of what I have chosen to recount. But he is relentless, pressing into my mind, usurping the process; until, at last, I stop and take notice.

Before I begin my scheduled writing time, I have a moment of prayer. I ask of God direction in my work. Each word, each phrase, is to be the voice of God revealed within my manuscript. It is, and has always been, my chief desire to express the message of the Lord upon the pages of my books. And I have been amazed at the words He has given me. So there I was, trying with great effort to write a novel about King Saul. The story came, but this nagging image of another character kept taking my attention. I added scenes to the beginning of my book in an attempt to quell the voice of this one leaning heavily against my mind. Then it came to me, as so often thoughts do, in the dark as I lay in my bed.

“Make it its own story.”

But that is not the story I want to write, I thought to myself in the stillness.

Again the thought came to me, “Set it down as its own tale. It is a story unto itself. A prelude.”

A prelude, I repeated. But it is not long enough to stand alone.

“Rewrite it and make it so.”

God, is that you? I questioned. If this is what you want of me, then I ask two things to prove it so. Firstly, I have to have a title. A good book needs a name. Secondly, it must be at least 300 pages or 90,000 words, or it will not match my plans for the rest of the series. If, through me, You accomplish this, then I will write it as its own story.

By the end of the day, I had my title: THE STONE OF EBENEZER. It was perfect. I would never have thought of that myself.

Ok, Lord, I have the picture.

So I began writing. I had worked six years on this novel. Now, after so much effort, I split off the front and began to flush out this new venture. Within four months, the story transformed, into a tale of faith and revenge, of loss and hope. I could hardly believe my eyes.

What was happening?

It was as if I had lost control, given up to the character. It was he, telling the tale of his crisis of faith, of his struggle with his past. Could he let go of the hurt? Move on to a future bright and hopeful? He had so much to overcome, and all the while, his nation faced annihilation. War festered in the land, and with sword in hand, this character strove to fight his way to resolution.

As I wrote the words, I was amazed at how they grew.

When the word count reached 87,000, I told God, alright, I am convinced, it is done. It mattered not that the manuscript had not yet reached 90,000 words; I would do as He asked.

But the Lord is faithful, and we had a deal. And as it often is with God, He exceeded His promise. The novel grew to 380 pages; 98,000 words.

Oh, and the character, who so ardently pushed his way upon my consciousness, his name is Nagad, (naw-gad’ ), which means messenger in Hebrew.

Message received.

~ Susan

Release date – Spring 2015

THE STONE OF EBENEZER, or the story I did not intend to write

triology of kings logo in blackIn the stillness of the early morning, I come to my desk and write. Darkness is brushed away by the gentle glow of my lamp. All slumber, save me, for it is the appointed hour, the time set aside in my hectic life to bring forth words upon the page. So I sit at my desk, and begin to relay a tale, of a king, anointed by God, asked for by His people, but against the will of the prophet, Samuel. Images of great battles and events of fealty and lordship  take shape. Through the vivid drama played out before my mind’s eye, a solitary figure emerges. Just a glimpse at first, then a gentle nudge, until at last, he erupts upon the scene in full grandeur, filling the pages. He has a story to share, a tale to tell, and he has chosen me as his vessel. I listen to what he has to say, but I only allow him an opening place in my story, a lead into the main action of what I have chosen to recount. But he is relentless, pressing into my mind, usurping the process; until, at last, I stop and take notice.

Before I begin my scheduled writing time, I have a moment of prayer. I ask of God direction in my work. Each word, each phrase, is to be the voice of God revealed within my manuscript. It is, and has always been, my chief desire to express the message of the Lord upon the pages of my books. And I have been amazed at the words He has given me. So there I was, trying with great effort to write a novel about King Saul. The story came, but this nagging image of another character kept taking my attention. I added scenes to the beginning of my book in an attempt to quell the voice of this one leaning heavily against my mind. Then it came to me, as so often thoughts do, in the dark as I lay in my bed.

“Make it its own story.”

But that is not the story I want to write, I thought to myself in the stillness.

Again the thought came to me, “Set it down as its own tale. It is a story unto itself. A prequel.”

A prequel, I repeated. But it is not long enough to stand alone.

“Rewrite it and make it so.”

God, is that you? I questioned. If this is what you want of me, then I ask two things to prove it so. Firstly, I have to have a title. A good book needs a name. Secondly, it must be at least 300 pages or 90,000 words, or it will not match my plans for the rest of the series. If, through me, You accomplish this, then I will write it as its own story.

By the end of the day, I had my title: THE STONE OF EBENEZER. It was perfect. I would never have thought of that myself.

Ok, Lord, I have the picture.

So I began writing. I had worked six years on this novel. Now, after so much effort, I split off the front and began to flush out this new venture. Within four months, the story transformed, into a tale of faith and revenge, of loss and hope. I could hardly believe my eyes.

What was happening?

It was as if I had lost control, given up to the character. It was he, telling the tale of his crisis of faith, of his struggle with his past. Could he let go of the hurt? Move on to a future bright and hopeful? He had so much to overcome, and all the while, his nation faced annihilation. War festered in the land, and with sword in hand, this character strove to fight his way to resolution.

As I wrote the words, I was amazed at how they grew.

When the word count reached 87,000, I told God, alright, I am convinced, it is done. It mattered not that the manuscript had not yet reached 90,000 words; I would do as He asked.

But the Lord is faithful, and we had a deal. And as it often is with God, He exceeded His promise. The novel grew to 315 pages; 92,000 words.

Oh, and the character, who so ardently pushed his way upon my consciousness, his name is Nagad, (naw-gad’ ), which means messenger in Hebrew.

Message received.

~ Susan

 

THE STONE OF EBENEZER:

finalist in the Women of Faith 2012 Writing Contest

finalist in the WestBow Press and the Parable Group 2014 Aspiring Authors Writing Contest  

Release date – Spring 2015

It’s In the Works…

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have been asked by several readers when they can expect my novel to be available. With this in mind, I thought I would take a moment to update everyone on the progress I have been making.

At present, THE STONE OF EBENEZER (book one in the TRILOGY OF KINGS series) is in the hands of my editor. She has informed me that she is approximately half way through her edits. She knows you are waiting, but really, give her a break, it is a long novel.

Trilogy of Kings: the Anointed One

The book cover design has been chosen. My illustrator is tweaking the drawing to meet my demanding criteria. Once she receives my approval, then off she goes to fully detail and digitalize the image. I think you will like what she is creating.

20140607_074234

After my manuscript is returned to me, I will have to go through each edit and make corrections. This will take some time. This will be the final rewrite of the novel and the hope is to present the reader a well-written, clean copy (no typos, grammatical errors, etc.).

Then the manuscript is handed over to the publisher. The publisher takes the manuscript and formats it for eBook or print. The final cover design will be applied. And voila, you have a novel ready for reading!

SKU-000524494_COVER

So as far as predicting when THE STONE OF EBENEZER will be available, well, that is hard to say. But it is in the works and I feel good about saying sometime this year.

If you need something to do while you wait, read my non-fiction book, SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story).

~ Susan

Just to let you in on a little secret – this week I finished the first draft of THE ANOINTED ONE, the second in the TRIOLOGY OF KINGS series.