Unsolicited Advice: Attending Conferences

Last week, I had an amazing opportunity to attend the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference. I had gone before, but not for about three years. Coming back was like coming home, in a writers-bonding-with-writers kind of way. It’s a community like no other, and there’s nothing quite like talking about writerly things with people who have been there, who understand the struggles and the wins just as you do. I thought of a few things that I learned, and whether you’re a writer or not, they should apply to situations related to your own career in which you might find yourself:
1) Follow Directions/Read your handouts: It may sound like a no-brainer, but be prepared. Know where your classes are, and how to get there. Bring the materials that the instructors want you to bring, and in the manner that they told you to bring them. There’s nothing quite like missing out on some valuable information that could change your career because you didn’t double space your sample pages (which I’m certainly glad I did!)
2) Don’t be an A-hole: A good life rule in general, but definitely applies to the conference scene. The last thing you want to do is sit down to a pitch session and stare wide-mouthed at the person in front of you, thinking to yourself, “Oh (insert expletive here), this is the woman who I couldn’t be bothered to hold the elevator for this morning.” Remember, no matter how brilliant your work is, nobody likes a jerk, and more importantly, nobody wants to WORK with a jerk. Would you?
3) Read, Read, Read: Would it kill you to read a book about your craft? Nope. I admit, this is a rule that I’m trying to get better about following. Hence why I bought books by all the master class speakers whose workshops I attended. Which brings me to the next rule…
4) ATTEND THE MASTER CLASSES: Yes they cost more money. There’s a reason for that. I learned more in those half day sessions than I learned in the vast majority of my college classes. GO! You’ll be glad you did.
For more information, email me at authorreneenmeland@gmail.com. Happy reading! 

The Extraction List may not be that far off

We’d like to think that The Extraction List could never happen, but that may not necessarily be true.
Recently I was reading an article in Parents Magazine that, quite honestly, terrified me. In an age where we’ve decided everything from what we had for breakfast to a traumatic disease diagnosis is everyone else’s business, it seems there’s a new way that we can butt into other people’s lives. It was talking about the new, trendy practice of being a “parental vigilante.” Basically, instead of talking to each other like adult-type people, people are calling the police on each other if they see someone making what they would consider a parenting mistake. In the article, many a mother made a split second decision and found a police officer knocking on her door as a result. Of course, there are definitely situations where the police should be called, but as a society, do we really want to, for example, risk a child being separated from his/her mother because she left him in a car for fifteen seconds to put her cart away at the grocery store? Because yes, sending the kid into a broken foster care system is soooo much better (read thick sarcasm here) than him being in his car seat well within his parent’s sightline for a couple seconds. As I said, of course there’s a line where it’s appropriate to call the police, but how hard would it have been to just keep an eye out and let the parent be on her way? There has to be some balance. No one likes to think that there are children out there being abused, and we know that some children do need our help. But can we all agree to sprinkle a little sense into the situation and not make it worse?
What about you? Have you ever experienced a parental vigilante? Or have you been the vigilante? What made you decide to act? Would love to hear from both!

What the Giver Gave Me

I’m aware that I’m pretty late to the party, but I just read The Giver. Amaaazing book! Sounds crazy, but it’s been following me all my life. I remember first running into it in elementary school. That particular edition had an orange cover, and I was always curious about the old man with the long beard that stared back at me. It was only now, decades later, that I picked it up, and it moved me in a way no book ever has. It’s a weird thing to know your own religious convictions, then see them illustrated in a book written by another human being. In another post, I had written about balance: how good people suffer because without evil there can be no good, and vice versa. In The Giver, we see what happens when people are all the same. No one knows good or evil because they have no memories, no lives of variance to base those concepts on. One character commits an unspeakable act (that made me sick since I just had a baby….I won’t tell you the details just in case you haven’t read it), but doesn’t even realize it is one since he only knows the way his people live now, and what rules they have to abide by. In their world, all they have are rules: no love, no hate, no emotion of any kind. But emotions themselves are made up of reference points: what’s good, what’s bad. Take away those reference points and you have a compass spinning wildly on its own axis with catastrophic results.

Pick it up. It might change your life.

Performance Anxiety

Catchy headline, right? Now that I have your attention, I’m probably going to disappoint you in that I’m not going to talk about what you thought  I would be talking about. I’m going to be discussing what I’m sure many other writers go through: stage fright. I am about a fourth of the way through the first draft of book 4, and I’ve got to say, I’m feeling a little gun shy. There are a couple of reasons for this:

It’s time to say goodbye: Like all writers, I’ve gotten attached to these people that I’ve created in my head. Cain and Riley have been a part of my life for years, and at least for the near and somewhat far future, we are going to be parting ways so I can work on some other projects that I’m excited about. It’s time to make some new character friends, but you never forget the old.



These people are real: I bawled like a baby when Jax Teller  (Sons of Anarchy for those who don’t watch the show) died. My husband looked at me like I had two heads. I was a swollen mess of tears. Because for the last several years, Jax Teller had been just as real as any person we’d see on the news. I will never meet those people either, but that doesn’t make them any less real. Writers create real people in our heads, real for all intents and purposes. So when they die, they take a piece of us with them. For book 4, there will be some definite bloodshed, and I don’t think some of my precious friends, who I have spent the last six years with, will make it out of the book alive.

I want to do right by the characters: When you spend that long with someone, as a writer, you want to make sure you do it right. You’ve poured your heart into something and you want to exit with the color and circumstance that it deserves. But rough drafts can make you wonder if you’ll ever get it right. I want the closing act to be the best one yet, and that’s a lot of pressure.

I want to do right by the readers: For every reader that has stuck with me and my books, I want to make you proud. I want you to get to the last page and feel like your journey was worth the trip. And maybe I want to make you remember these peoples’ stories for at least a little while. Maybe you’ll enjoy it so much that you’ll let your children read it when their old enough (and PLEASE wait till they’re old enough). I want to do right by you, and thank you for taking this journey with me.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll take the next one with me too.





What are we teaching our children about love?

A thought occurred to me the other day, about our idea of what love is as a culture, and how potentially harmful it is. We seem to associate true love with true drama. Think about it: all the classic stories of the good girl falling for the bad boy, or relationships going through problem after problem before they make it to the finish line… this is the stuff of movies. Even if the problems are inflicted on the couple from outside forces, it still reinforces it in our collective brains that love is made sweeter by drama.

I call bullshit on that.

Real love is when your husband picks all the red gummy bears out of the bag for you because he knows they’re your favorite.

Real love is when he lets you cry on his shoulder even when there’s snot and drool running down your face.

Real love is changing a poopy diaper after you’ve been working all day so your wife doesn’t have to change her seventh.

Notice how there was no mention of fights, familial warfare or thwarting enemies in any of those statements? Unfortunately, no one makes movies about quiet Sunday mornings where the only conflict between the characters is whether they drive to Fred Meyer or the grocery store first. But isn’t that really what we want for our kids? Love isn’t supposed to be the stuff netflix is made of. Love is supposed to be comfortable. Love is supposed to be something you can depend on to get you through even the darkest days.

That is what I wish for my daughter.

Sale Time

Looking to fill up the Kindle you got for Christmas? The Extraction List and a bunch of other books from Limitless Publishing (including Dreamer by Amy Reece which I recommended a few blog entries back) are only $.99 cents today!

Brace yourself, I’m about to go Full Republican up in here…

Statistically, in 2014, 1 in 274 households were broken into. There’s nothing quite like waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of a stranger trying to find his way into your home. Or even better, you get a heavy knot in the pit of your stomach when you realize they may have already succeeded, and the unfamiliar noise you hear is actually coming from your living room.

This has happened to my husband and I twice.

We were fortunate enough that the first time it happened, we came out of our bedroom to find the rest of the house undisturbed ( we still don’t know what the noise was. It has sounded as if someone was rummaging through our kitchen drawers. Then it sounded like someone was trying to move our eliptical. It was that loud. I’m going with “ghost” as the explanation, but that’s a story for another time). The second time, the sound that we thought was a child crying on our front porch ended up being two cats fighting like Roman gladiators outside. We’ve all heard the stories about people using a child to play on a victim’s sympathies so that they will open their locked door and find a criminal waiting for them on the other side. On a side note, if you are ever in this situation, do the safe thing and call the police.

While a part of me was still terrified, I was able to keep my cool, and have, dare I say, a sense of calm. There was exactly one reason for that:

My husband and I have guns.

If our original thought had been correct, and there had been someone in our home, we would have been able to defend ourselves. We would have been able to protect our nine-week-old daughter. I understand that some people say that a knife or a baseball bat is still a weapon, but I’ll tell you one thing: if the person in your house has a gun, they aren’t going to let you get close enough to stab them or hit them.

I realize that some people don’t believe in guns, or aren’t comfortable with them. That is entirely your choice. But there’s nothing that shatters your sense of control quite like a break-in. Part of why I am comfortable with guns is because from a very young age, both my husband and my families taught us that guns are to be respected. They are not toys. My husband and I ALWAYS treat our weapons like they are loaded. When he was younger, he did competitive shooting. By all means, if you have a gun, you need to familiarize yourself with your weapon if you plan on using it. If you aren’t willing to use it when the situation calls for it, then yes, maybe for you it’s better to not have it at all.

Something else that my husband came up with that I recommend all responsible adults do: we practice loading our weapons at inconvenient times: when we’re tired, when we’re stressed…why? Because a criminal is not going to make sure that they break into your house after you’ve had a full night’s rest and just took a calming bath. You need to be able to think, and use your weapon properly in any circumstances. Believe me, the first time my husband made me load my gun at one in the morning,  I was not amused. But after I thought about it, I knew he was right.

I know you anti-gun advocates are probably seething as you read this. That’s ok. That’s why I love America: we can disagree. And I’m not saying we should take a drive to the nearest  mental hospital and start handing out AK-47s. Most of us do want to make sure we don’t let guns fall into the hands of people who have cruel and horrendous intentions. But we have to be careful of the slippery slope: we don’t want to regulate guns right out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. Regulations don’t fix bad common sense either, and unfortunately, that will always be a factor in the gun control saga. By all means, disagree with me. The minute we’re afraid to have a healthy dialogue, we all lose. All I can speak from is my own experience, and in those instances, I am more than happy with the fact that I live in a country where I have the ability to defend myself and my family.

Another important note to remember: we all would like to think that when we call 911, the police can be at our door within a minute and a half to save us. That is not always the case. It’s not like each house has its own police officer who is assigned to protect it and only it. Sometimes, 911 operators have to prioritize because there aren’t always enough officers to go around. Scary thought, right? Of course, if you call and say “someone is in my house,” they will probably be there right away. But what about in situations where you aren’t sure?  I can tell you that  when we called 911 and said there was crying coming from our front porch, it took at least fifteen minutes for the police to show up. Thank God it was only cats, but what if it wasn’t? What if they were wrong in thinking that our situation wasn’t an emergency? Fifteen minutes is plenty of time for someone to break our door down, or climb through a window. When it comes to your family’s safety, do you really want to have to depend on someone else’s judgement call?

Thank you for reading.