Unsolicited Advice: Attending Conferences

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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! 

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.

Confession Time

Confession time. Everybody ready? Can I get a drum roll from someone? No? Ok…

I am not sure I’m writing for the “right” reasons. I’m told you’re supposed to do it for the joy of doing it, for the love of your readers, etc. This all may be true, and those things are very important to me, but…

I like to win.

I have a closet competitive streak. I don’t show it much, but several times a day, you’ll see me checking my best seller ranking on Amazon.

Because that, my friends, is the only scorecard I have for this writing thing.

Yes, I love getting a great review. Those keep me going when sales aren’t where I would like them to be. But I’d be lying if I said I would be ok with staying exactly where I am as a writer. The joy of doing it isn’t enough. I’m grateful to anyone who has ever bought my book, I truly am, but I look at that rank to get the next high, the next feeling of victory. That sale is my scorecard.

I want to win.

I realize that everyone dreams of being on the New York Times Best Seller List. But that’s truly the mark of where I would feel like I won. My dad taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to, and I can’t help but hope that maybe, just maybe, he’s right. I know that’s a long ways away, if ever, and I don’t know what to do in the meantime, because I need those highs, I need those wins. So my quest now is to find those little victories: the new Twitter follower, the new “like” for my blog…something to sustain me. Because we all need to feel like we crossed a finish line before everyone else, to feel like we got first place in something. If you don’t, bottle it up and send me some. Until then, I’m going to continue the hunt.

The Mystery Review

I’m going to do something a little different for this review. Ready for this? I’m not going to tell you what book it is. There are several reasons. One is that I’m sure the woman who wrote it is very nice. Another is that I firmly believe that just because I don’t like a book doesn’t make it a bad book. In fact, there are millions of people who love her work, so many that she’s been able to publish a number of novels in the realm of Stephen King.

But I didn’t like it. In fact, I described it at one point as word oatmeal: goes down easy, but boring as hell.

I’m going to focus on another avenue for this review though. I’m going to focus on the fact that she breaks almost every writing rule I’ve ever been taught, yet she is wildly successful; which makes me think, if you can succeed without the rules, are there really any rules at all?

Show Don’t Tell- I don’t know the physical description of any character in this book. I don’t know what the town looks like. I don’t know what the characters’ homes look like. All I know is background information that the third person narrator told me. The world wasn’t alive to me, nor were the people, because I had to hear it all second hand. My brain didn’t even have a chance to make my own picture, make my own story, because everything I got sounded like a report, as if someone had read the book for me and was telling me what it said. Not exactly the greatest reading experience.

Make The Reader Care- Maybe I’m a big jerk. Could be. But I didn’t care about the characters. At all. Maybe that’s because there were about twelve of them. Seriously. And all of them had their own stories spread out in tiny chapters all across three-hundred-seventy-something pages. I forgot who people were and had to go back, that’s how spread out they were, which left me having more emotional involvement with the snack I was eating than the characters.

Don’t Leave Things Unresolved- Even though I was bored for 400 pages, I did want to see how each person’s story played out. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. In fact, some of them found a dead body about ten pages before the book ended. I was thinking “Ooh now we’re talkin’!” then I realized there was no more book. I am afraid I won’t be reading the next one, so I guess I’ll never know who they found. But unfortunately, she made me not care.

What about you, dear readers, have you read a book that broke all the rules?

 

 

Unsolicited Advice for New Moms

Nobody asked me my opinion, but seeing as it’s my blog, I thought I’d compile a list of little hints that I’ve learned during my first month as a new mom. Some you’ve probably heard before, but hopefully some will be new information that you can take on your journey into parenthood.

Buy a nursing bra that doesn’t make you feel like a fourth grader- there’s going to be a lot of things that happen during motherhood that don’t exactly make you feel attractive: getting pooed on, spit on, not showering as much as tour used to, etc. But you don’t need to add to it by buying yourself a nursing bra that looks like something an elementary school student wears during gym class. They may look more practical than the pretty ones, but they function the same way.  Treat yourself.

Don’t wait to do basic human necessities- if you find yourself with a sleeping baby and you are in the middle of a chore, and you say to yourself “oh I’m hungry/need to pee/etc,” don’t wait to finish your chore. Just do it. Because it is virtually guaranteed that your baby will start crying two minutes later and you could possibly go hungry by the time you have a chance to eat again. Guaranteed.

Watch those fingers– My daughter thinks getting dressed in the morning is comparable to having an iron maiden used on her, so I try to do it as quickly as possible. But I’ve noticed that if you yank a sleeve on too fast you can catch a tiny baby finger. Not so good. Luckily I haven’t done  it, but I definitely see it would be easy to do. So be quick but careful.

More to come… probably once a week. Mommas, feel free to add in the comments.

The Extraction List is FREE!

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Exciting announcement! The Extraction List eBook is now FREE on Amazon! A great way to start the series. Pick it up here (why not? it’s FREE!): http://www.amazon.com/Extraction-List-Renee-N-Meland-ebook/dp/B00V8KADEY/ref=sr_1_1_twi_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1437501005&sr=8-1&keywords=the+extraction+list

Book Review: Empath by S. Usher Evans- 4 Stars

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I picked up this book because I am a fan of the author’s other writing. I usually am not excited by dragons and such but I trusted this author to wow me again.

And I was right.

I could talk about the fabulousness of the writing, the wit of the main character, and the well-fleshed-out minor characters, but this book has such deep and important element to it that I am going to focus on it instead. This book reminded me of the amazing book 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, a book that will stick with me forever. It is one of the highest compliments I can give, trust me on that. Both authors took the horrors and realities of depression and gave them a face and a name. I thought it was smart that she took a problem that, unless you happen to meet the love of your life when you’re eight or something, everyone faces at some point: a breakup. The main character is afraid to tell anyone that she is not, in fact, doing ok after realizing the person she had devoted 5 years of her life to is not the one she is going to eventually call “husband.” She is afraid to give voice to the fact that her heart is broken and, at least until the end of the book, she doesn’t think it will ever be whole again. I wish I could remember something that a secondary character said verbatim, but I’ll paraphrase. Lauren basically said that she didn’t think her problems mattered/were important in the light of other things going on/etc, to which the secondary character replied “but they are important to you, so they are important to me.” There may be bigger problems in the world as a whole, but it’s important to remember that doesn’t make the problem any less devastating for the person going through it. So in the spirit of this amazing book, ask your friends how their doing…and then ask again. They might not tell you the first time. But eventually, knowing you are there when it counts can make all the difference in the world.