If you've been on my website or read this blog before, then you know two things: our daughter is the most awesome five-year-old in the world AND we are hockey people. Our daughter has been to two hockey games in her whole life; her third was tonight. Her favorite part is not the game itself but dancing in front of her seat to all of the music that they play during the game. Well, that and yelling "Let's go Snakes!" randomly during the game. This is not to say that she doesn't understand hockey; when our team scores, she strikes a Rocky-Balboa-fists-in-the-air pose and holds it like a statue for a good minute. Cutest thing ever.

Well, tonight she learned the art of yelling at the hockey players. And listening to her version of "trash talk" laid me out in the floor laughing. See, if our local team scores six goals in one game then Burger King gives all of the ticket-holders a free Whopper. Well, we scored five goals by the third period tonight, and the fans in the arena took up the chant, "We want a Whopper!" Our daughter was fine with that for awhile, but the third period started and continued and was nearly over and there was still no sixth goal. So what does our daughter yell? "Do you even know what a Whopper is, boys?" (That just doesn't translate in writing as awesome as it sounded in real life.) For some reason, that struck me right in the funny bone. (Especially since she'd been shouting at the other team, who only scored once all night, "Somebody's having a bad night!")

Alas, there was no sixth goal for our team tonight, so no free Whopper. That's okay, because for the rest of my life I'll never see another BK commercial without hearing that sweet little voice "encouraging" our local hockey players.

So, uhm, yeah. That whole thing in my last post about "all I have to do is write a new beginning and add some scenes to the second half"? Yeah. That was a stupid comment if I've ever written one.

As it turns out, there was a natural ending about 77,000 words into my manuscript. Yay! Book one is done and all I had to do was cut and paste. (I get the feeling God knew this was coming all along.)

It's the 31,000 other words that are making me want to bang my head and my keyboard against the wall. Simultaneously. It is really super hard to go back and craft the beginning of a story that actually starts in the middle. (Don't worry. It's not you. That sentence didn't make much sense to me either and I wrote it.) Because someone out there might pick up Book Two first, I have to make certain to reintroduce the characters and somehow explain all that has taken place in Book One without making it sound like a history book or the ingredients list for a high-fiber cereal. That is way, way harder than I thought. After all, I know these characters better than I want to at this point so it's a little hard to "pretend" that I don't.

Aargh. Anybody out there feel like saying a prayer for me? I'd be eternally grateful... :-)

Lemme say this before I get started. I'm cold. Right now, I'm cold. I even pulled out the tiny little electric heater and set it at my feet. We live in a two-year-old apartment building and for some reason cold just leaks in around the windows. Grrrrrrr...

So, two days ago I made a discovery. Going in Circles is actually Going in Circles and another book that is yet to be named. I unwittingly wrote a book and it's sequel all at once.

How'd I do that? Well... when I first set out to write the book, word count was a foreign concept to me. I went by pages. I took a couple of books that I owned that are in my genre, typed them out into Word, formatted them to be one page, and took off, figuring that I'd need about 250 pages.

Nope. Turns out word count is what matters. Going in Circles is about 108,000 words long. Average book length in my genre? Well, let's just say that 75,000 is probably pushing it. So I have a book plus 33,000 words, which would be half of a book. Isn't this fun? :-)

So, here's what I'm gonna do. I've set aside the new book that I was just starting to get the flow on and I'm re-reading Going in Circles. I have to, somewhere past the halfway point, find a natural stopping place and write a new ending. THEN I have to go into the second half of the book, craft a new beginning and add some scenes (which, incidentally, God put into my head quite some time ago. Isn't it funny how He works?). That sounds so easy, doesn't it?

Uh, yeah. Okay.

I like my book the way it is. I guess this is my first really, truly hard lesson in editing and publishing. Sometimes your baby doesn't "grow up" quite the way you thought it would.

But hopefully, what it becomes, will be even better.

My little girl is awesome... She handed me a note yesterday in her special phonetic spelling:

I (heart) my Momy bekus shh is budfl

(Translation: I love my mommy because she is beautiful.)

Awwwww... Now whose day wouldn't get better after THAT?
This has been a topic of conversation on the ACFW loop today, and it's sort of got me thinking. What exactly is success?

When you tell somebody you're a writer, the first thing they want to know is what you've published. Well, if your answer is "nothing" (or, like me, "nothing since a magazine article 15 years ago") then people sort of give you this look that says, "Poor, deluded thing." Why is that? Because published is the first rung on the ladder of success. Top of the success heap? Multiple best sellers.

But here's the thing... before God ever let me write the first word, He took me through a learning time, and one of the things He had me learn was what success looks like. Success is not having a million best-selling novels. It's not having one best-seller. It's not even getting published. Success is doing exactly what God wants and taking it (or following it) exactly where He wants it to go. I could write a book that sells gajillions of copies and is still talked about five hundred years from now. I could write a book that is only read by my closest circle of friends. As long as it's what God wants, then it's success. That's a tough lesson to learn, because what I want is to be published and to sell books.

I wish I had that thought all of the time, that I could hold on to that and be happy with God's will every second of my life, but the fact is that I can get an attitude about that. May God tattoo it on my heart: success is doing His will.
(As usual, you can hear the song by clicking the title above...)

Don't ya just love the way the songs on my mind bounce from the sacred to the not-so-sacred? Random thought.

At any rate, this song's been in my head for the past few weeks. A wise woman sent me an email link one time about being a woman, and in it there was a line that essentially said, "Every woman should know where to go when her soul needs soothing." Well, geez, that was an easy one for me. You find me salt water and waves and you're probably spot on to my soul-soothing place. And I need it about once a year.

When I was a kid, my entire family (parents, aunts, uncles, nine first cousins, and assorted second cousins) would pack up and go to the beach (usually at Fort Fisher, NC) for a week nearly every summer. What a blessing from God to have those memories! When I got older we started going out to Hatteras Island. In my mind, heaven looks a lot like the stretch of beach by the Frisco Pier there. If I had to pick my one soul-refreshing place on earth, that'd be it. Only, unfortunately, right now, I can't exactly easily get there from here.

October was a hard month for me as far as needing some soul quiet goes. That's the time of year we have lately been going to the beach, and to not be going made something in my spirit very restless. But, cool story and one of the reasons I know God loves me... I was on the treadmill on a Very Bad Need to Go to the Beach day and I wanted to know what time it was, so I flipped on the TV and turned to the Weather Channel to catch the time. Well, RIGHT as I flipped it they went to a full-screen shot of (you'll never believe it) the beach right beside Frisco Pier. My beach. On the TV. Right in front of me. I wanted to cry, God's love overwhelmed me that much.

And so, this weekend, thanks to a husband who truly understands, I found myself alone in Panama City Beach, Florida. Me, my computer, my Bible, and my books. And I learned a little something about myself; at some point, I forgot how to relax. I forgot how to turn my mind off. These are important things! It took me over 24 hours to calm down enough to understand that it was perfectly okay to sit and just read and not think about anything. I got the idea somewhere that I had to be on guard all of the time, always thinking, or "bad things" would happen. Talk about being stressed out! And I didn't even know I was doing it!

So, about the song... It's all about going down to the beach when the season is over and you can sit there right by yourself and just be. I absolutely love the line, "Hello, Mr. Other Me, it's been a long, long time." That's sort of how I felt sitting on the beach watching the sun set the other night. I found that calm, relaxed person whose brain just sort of let go and stopped thinking, who sat on the beach next to Jesus and just existed. I've said it a million times and I'll say it again here... I'm gonna walk on the beach in heaven with Jesus someday. It was nice to have a taste of that this weekend and to learn that, whether it's an Atlantic Coast beach on Hatteras Island or a Gulf Coast beach in Florida, God made it and it's beautiful and he knew that one day I'd step up and stand in that spot and just be...