Why

In his first published book, Nicholas Sparks wrote that it’s not the whats and hows and wheres that matter in life, it’s the whys.

While Nicholas Sparks’ writing certainly has its faults (which I won’t go on and on and on and on… and on… about right now), this quote has always stuck with me. Focus on the whys in life, and life will be simpler, happier, and less stressful.

While reading through some old blog posts, I was reminded of why I write, and why I’m trying to get published:

 

There’s one story… on one of the special features of The Little Mermaid DVD that I borrowed from my parents. One of the creators of the movie tells the camera about the various fan mail they received after the movie was released. In one letter, a man told the studio that immediately after seeing The Little Mermaid in theaters, he called his daughter, whom he hadn’t spoken to in years. I get teary even rewriting this story that happened to people I will never meet. Possibly because remembering it instantly brings to mind the image of Ariel hugging King Triton and whispering, “I love you, Daddy.”

I love you, Daddy

This is what I want to give to my readers. This is what I think about when I’m discouraged about my lack of being “discovered.”

Among other things, Finding ‘Ohana is also about a young woman wanting to reconnect with her parents, even though they cut her out of their lives years ago. If I could reach someone who’s in a similar situation, I would consider my book a success.

Just Keep Swimming

Something I’m trying to work on this week is to just keep going. It’s a mantra that’s applicable in various areas of my life right now, writing and trying to get published included. It’s been pretty rough, and I’ve been getting a little discouraged…

So I looked back over a couple of posts I made over a year ago. The first one was exactly what I needed, so I want to reblog it now as a reminder to myself:

 

[To] “Keep Going” is all about perseverance. It reminded me of a Bible scripture, believe it or not. James 1:2&3 “Consider it pure joy, my [sisters], whenever you face trials of any kind, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” I’m not very religious (anymore), but this scripture has always had a nice ring to it for me. Maybe it’s my annoying tendency to be optimistic. It’s like the scripture that says that God works for the good of those who love God. Bad things can’t always be bad. There’s always something good that comes from them. If nothing else, perseverance.

So maybe I’ve gotten some responses from agents saying that my novel isn’t what they’re looking for. But that’s only testing my faith that my novel is worth representation, and as long as I hold firm to that faith with perseverance, it’ll pay off.

I know, ever the optimist. Annoying, right?   : P

Just Keep Swimming

Freedom & Equality

Today, the Supreme Court is hearing a case for Proposition 8, a “voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage” in California. The Court is due to vote in June, and the outcome could be any one of various possible decisions: to “uphold the initiative” or “strike it down on grounds that could apply to California alone, to eight states or to all 50 states.

“The court could also decide to dismiss the appeal if it concludes that the sponsors lacked the legal authority to step in to defend Proposition 8 on appeal after California officials declined to do so.”

The optomist in me is hoping that the court will rule the ban as unconstitutional, and will therefore have no choice but to legalize same-sex marriage in all fifty states. I don’t see any way that such a ban could be determined constitutional, since the bottom line is that if the government can tell certain people they aren’t allowed to get married, then those people are clearly not equal in the eyes of that government.

marriage equality

Our country was founded on the basis of freedom and equality. We are supposed to be “the land of the free,” for crying out loud. If some of our citizens cannot get married to the person they love, we are hyppocrites. And we cannot focus on any of the other issues holding our country back until we are true to our own, most basic foundation.

The Nevada Legislature is also hearing on this issue this week. On Monday, I went to a demonstration to show my support for marriage equality – the only one in Nevada (my home state), but one of 170 across the country.

You can just barely see the rainbow ribbon I pinned to my shirt.

 

 

 

My first march! It was pretty exciting, and a little emotional.

reno march to the arch

 

 

 

 

 

 

We walked from City Hall to the famous Reno arch, and back again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were over 200 people marching, and many who could not march with us drove by and honked to show their support.

 

Some people say that same-sex marriage would somehow cheapen the very concept of marriage. As if any couple could affect the quality of another couple’s relationship. 

My fiance and I are currently thinking about getting a civil union instead of getting “married.” It feels wrong to get married when we know that there are people just like us who don’t have that right. 

What we’ve found out about civil unions make them sound like a complete pain. My employer would not be required to give my fiance health coverage if we only have a civil union. When we move out of state, as we plan to do eventually, we will have to re-register so that our new home state knows that we are together. And there are legal complications involved with the children we will have someday. 

But what gives us the right to bypass these obstacles when millions of people in our country can’t? Millions of people who, like us, were promised liberty and justice for all. 

EPIC

So quite the contrary to same-sex marriage cheapening hetero marriage, it is actually injustice of the ban on same-sex marriage that is cheapening our hetero right to marry.  The worst part is that Christians, people who believe that God is Love, are allowing hatred to win. They hate the idea of giving LGBT people the same rights that they themselves enjoy. Some of them even hate LGBT people. But a homosexual couple in a committed relationship is a better example of love, of the Divine on Earth, than a hateful person telling them to stop loving each other. So I marched, because I believe in a future where there is no more hate in the world.

noh8

No more hate in the world.

How do I go on?

As often happens for me, today I read something that happened to correlate with my own life. This is what writing, and all art, is for. To connect people. Anna Kristell wrote The Road to her Heart (sequel to Crossroad to Love), and I read it, and a couple short paragraphs affected me. That’s what art is all about. That’s why I write – so I can affect others, hopefully for the better. We’re all connected, and art shows us how.

This excerpt takes place a few days after Cara, five months into her marriage and six weeks into her first pregnancy, becomes a widow. She seeks comfort from Katy, a woman about twenty years her senior, who experienced a similar situation ten years ago when her own first husband and their daughter died in a car accident.

 

Cara leaned her head on Katy’s shoulder and said, “What am I supposed to do now? How did you do it? How did you go on?”

Katy sighed as tears rolled down her cheeks. “You cry, you scream, you curse, and afterward, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and, somehow, find the strength to go on. You still have your whole life ahead of you, even though it doesn’t seem like it right now. I spent many years wondering what might have been. But I finally reached a point when I realized it wasn’t meant to be. That’s when I knew it was time to move on.”

“And now you’re happy again.”

“I am, sweetheart. It doesn’t mean I love Bill or Bree any less. It just means that I’ve gone on with my life. I wasn’t in the car crash and there must have been a reason for that. I was meant to be here for [my son,] Alex, and to meet Ryan [my new husband]. That’s what life had planned for me. Just like someday there will be something out there for you. We don’t know when or how or who… but it’s waiting for you, when the time is right.”

 

Someday, there will be something out there for you. We don’t know when or how or who… but it’s waiting for you, when the time is right.

Your job is to have faith that the right time is coming. Your job is to get through this time of your life, as hard as it may be, so you can make it to that time.

New & Improved Query Letter!

Without a truly phenomenal query letter, agents won’t even care to read my novel, which is why I am sooo thankful to J.R. Johansson for her Forging Fridays, and especially the one on February 1st, in which she critiqued my query letter for Finding ‘Ohana.

One of the main things she says is that I need more emotion, which I think is a fantastic point, since emotion is what most people complement when they read my writing (as well as what I pride myself most on).

She also suggests that I drop my attempt to keep the end of chapter one a surprise. It is chapter one, after all. So as much as I despise spoilers, I’ll oblige, trusting that others who have been in the publishing business longer know far more than I.

So, without further ado, here is my new and improved query letter:

 

[Open with specific reason why I am querying this particular agent, such as, "When we met at such-and-such writer's conference, you mentioned that you love novels with the setting as its own character. My novel, Finding 'Ohana takes place in Hawai'i, and cultural values have a significant role in the characters' lives."]

Just last week, Cinnamin Makaiau was painting a nursery sunny yellow, picking out Hawaiian names that mean “Heaven,” and watching her wife, Naali, lovingly hold her round belly as Cinnamin expected to see her hold their baby soon. But after an emergency C-section, Cinnamin instead watches as Naali goes into shock, and dies without ever holding her baby boy, leaving Cinnamin unsure of how to put back the pieces of her shattered life. She is left with in-laws who want to help her through her grief, but whose Hawaiian customs of mourning seem to mock her pain, and so Cinnamin feels no comfort from the people who want to be her family, her ‘ohana.

Meanwhile, Cinnamin cannot help but think of her own parents, who turned their backs on her when they found out the truth about her sexuality, but who had been able to console her back when life was simpler and her greatest pain was a scraped knee or a child’s cruel remark at school. Cinnamin is alone, craving comfort from those who cannot give it. So when she runs into her brother, and he suggests she marry her best (male) friend to earn her parents’ love and acceptance, Cinnamin considers it. And as she is swept away in plans for a wedding to a man she can never love, Cinnamin finds herself being forced to choose between regaining her family or remaining true to her identity, as Naali once taught her to do. 

 

Finding ‘Ohana is a completed, 48,900-word women’s fiction novel that explores the locals’ Hawai’i and the ways in which native Hawaiians adapt their ancestors’ culture. It deals with many complex themes, including parenthood, family estrangement, grief, religion and sexuality, as well as family and individual identity as they are defined by differing cultures.

In order to write this novel, I researched Hawaiian culture and interviewed native and local Hawaiians, as well as used my own personal experience in growing up with religious values conflicting with sexuality. I’ve been working as a professional editor for LazyDay Publishing, so I know the level of perfection required before a novel is ready for publication. I’ve had short stories and academic papers published both in local and national literary journals between 2010 and the present under my given name as well as my pen name, Sierra Dawn. 

Please let me know if you have any questions and thank you so much for your time and consideration.

 

I think this is a huge improvement! The bulk of the query is focused on the novel, rather than other things I’ve written, it’s concise and to-the-point, and, best of all, it’s more emotional than my previous attempts at a query letter. So thanks, again, to J.R. Johansson for the wonderful critique!

Don’t Write Me Off!

Hello, readers…

I hope you all enjoyed PyramidI’m so sorry I haven’t been on in a couple weeks… My job responsibilities changed, and I’ve actually started planning a wedding too!   :D   The downside of these things is that now I hardly have time to breathe.   :/

Anyway. I desperately want to get back to writing… So expect my next real post coming soon. (This one is just to check in.)

I’ve recently had my query letter critiqued, so my next post will probably be about that! I can’t wait!   :)