Declaring my Independence

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By Harriet Michael

I started writing in 2005 when God laid a burden on my heart and a desire to understand prayer better. By 2009, I had a 63,000-word manuscript written but no idea how to get it published. I attended a writers’ conference and came away having formed a few conclusions: 1) the only way I could get my book published at that time would have been to go the Indie route, which I was not comfortable with, and 2) even though my book was not going to be a reality any time in the near future, I could try my hand at freelance writing (articles and devotions). writers conference

In 2015, I picked up a traditional publisher for Prayer: It’s Not About You , my book on prayer, and it was released by Pix-N-Pens Publishing a year later. And the freelancing has worked out quite well for me too.

Why was I afraid of Indie publishing? I knew very little about it, and I have a weak area in my writing—I need help editorially.

But since 2009, I have learned a lot more about Indie publishing and have, in fact, published two books through the Indie route. One is no longer for sale, but will be back up on Amazon soon. The other is: The Whisper of the Palms.

My concern? I didn’t want to put a book out there for the public to read that was not a professional-looking piece. What have I discovered that made me change my mind? Two things: freelance editors, and freelance cover artists.

My opinion of Indie publishing now? There are some real advantages, but you need to be careful who you work with (if you choose a subsidy press to help you) and how your book is set up. One of my Indie books is set up under my name instead of the subsidy press name and I am extremely happy with that one! I can see the sales reports myself, and the payments come directly to my bank account … and of course, you earn a higher percentage of the royalties since you do not have to split it with a publisher. 

My advice to anyone considering Indie Publishing is, be willing to pay for a professional editor and a professional cover design.

Click to tweet: My advice to anyone considering Indie Publishing.


Writing Prompt: What do you want to do to declare your independence? Write about what you have longed to do but you were afraid. How do you plan to overcome the fear, and make your desire a reality?

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Gathered Fragments

by Harriet E. Michael

And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” John 6:12 (ESV)

I first noticed this verse in an old handwritten book my father has on his shelf. It was handed down to him by his mother who got it from her mother. It appears to be an old journal of some type. On the pages of the book are poems gathered and carefully written by its first owner. Some are famous poems while others are original work by family members. My grandmother and even my father have some original poems hand written by them in this treasured book. The book is titled, “Gathered Fragments” and this verse is written in beautiful penmanship on the first page.

old journal 2

These words in scripture were actually an instruction by Jesus to his disciples after the miraculous feeding of five thousand people. The crowd which gathered to hear Jesus was hungry. It was lunchtime and the people were without food. Most of them had come spontaneously without planning ahead even enough to have brought lunches. Rather than going home, the disciples found a little boy with a small lunch of five loaves of bread and two small fish. After blessing the food, Jesus broke it into pieces, and offered it to the hungry crowd who consumed it eagerly. Then, when the crowd had eaten all they wanted, the disciples were told to “Gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost.”

Isn’t that a beautiful instruction? How do you gather fragments? Do you have a collection of some kind? Perhaps you collect rocks, coins, or stamps. Maybe you like to make scrapbooks? Do you keep old photos and relics from years gone by; polished and put in a place of honor in your home or give them away as special gifts? My father has a plaque hanging in his home of an old letter he wrote to his mother from camp when he was a child. His sister found the letter and made a very special birthday gift for him one year. Maybe you have carefully held onto family heirlooms so you can pass them to the next generation. Or perhaps, you gather fragments in other ways. Maybe you can or freeze garden vegetables for winter eating or maybe you gather and dry herbs, fruits, or vegetables.

canned food

I have written about this concept before. In fact this blog post is drawn from a previously published magazine article I once wrote. But as I thought about our topic this month, this verse and practice kept coming to my mind. I think one of the best ways to keep costs down is to have a habit of gathering things that can be reused at another time by us or by others.

When the disciples gathered the fragments in the Bible story, they had twelve baskets left over. Though this was a miraculous occurrence, the underlying principle is still valid. If you or I form fragment gathering habits, we will find abundance in our lives too. And so will others whom we bless with our fragments–carefully gathered and lovingly given.

Click to tweet:  “Gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost.”

Writing Prompt: Share about something you gather and reuse. How do you keep / alter it for future use? How/ when do you use it again?

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Clean it Up!

By Harriet E. Michael

These are words I’ve learned to dread when coming from an editor. Cleaning up a manuscript is no fun. At least it’s no pleasure cruise for me; I understand there are strange people in this world for whom these words sound like an order to have fun. These people are sometimes called editors and they are an alien breed to me. At the same time, I need them desperately and am glad they exist.

I recently released my debut novel, “The Whisper of the Palms” published by Olivia Kimbrell Press. When my editor first received my novel, he sent it back to me telling me to clean it up. pc-1207686_1280Thankfully, he gave me specific things to do to clean it up. Here are two of them, which may help any writer trying to present as clean a manuscript as possible to an editor, whether it be a large manuscript like a book or small, like an article.

 1)      Change passive verbs to active. My editor had me doing word searches for all being verbs: is, was, were, am, are, be, being, been. He asked me to change these to active wherever possible.

2)      Do not start sentences with what he called the FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. Again, my editor had me doing word searches for these words and asked me to change it anytime I had started a sentence with any of them. (And this is my favorite vice! I love starting sentences with and or but. Ugh!)

 A couple of weeks later, I was practically cross-eyed from all the word searches but I had a cleaned-up manuscript!  

Click to tweet: Cleaning up a manuscript is no fun.

Three-word prompt: I’m editing because …

Add your 3 words to the three-word prompt to create a six-word short-short story! We’ll publicize our choice of the best one on Facebook and Twitter and other outlets. One all-around winner will be chosen at the end of April!

The Whisper of the Palmsa new release from our own Harriet E. Michael!

Africa beckoned but would Ali have to go alone?

Growing up in the foothills of North Carolina, Ali Blackwell dreamed of going places she had only seen in books and magazines. She lived in a small farmhouse that her farmer father had built with his own hands, and the prospects of ever leaving her little town of Union Mills appeared unlikely. Her family barely scraped by on the sale of produce grown by her dad and brothers and the supplemental income they earned working at the nearby textile mill.

Kyle Edmonds, a few years her elder, lived in a larger house in South Carolina. He possessed things Ali only dreamed of—extra clothes and shoes, a house with indoor plumbing and electricity, a family car, a bicycle and other toys, just to name some.

They could not have been more different.

However, both heard God’s still small voice calling them to foreign missions. How will their paths cross? What obstacles will they face? What will their future hold?


Born in Nigeria, West Africa, as the daughter of missionaries, Harriet E. Michael is a writer, gardener, wife of 38 years, mother, and grandmother.

She holds a BS in nursing from West Virginia University but has discovered her passion for writing. Since her first published article in 2010, she now has over a hundred and fifty published articles and devotions.

Harriet is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Louisville Christian Writers. She is the author of three books, “Glimpses of the Savior” published by TMP Publishing and “Prayer: It’s Not About You,” a finalist in the 2011 Women of Faith book contest, published by Pix-N-Pens Publishing Company, and her debut novel, “The Whisper of the Palms” published by Olivia Kimbrell Press.

Her stories, articles, and devotions have appeared in publications by Focus on the Family, Lifeway, Standard Publishing, David C. Cook Co., Bethany House, American Life League, Crosswalk.com, Christian Communicator, Judson Press, The Upper Room, Pentecostal Publishing House, Smyth and Helwys, and more.

She is also a Christian speaker who loves to talk to women’s groups about prayer or other topics or speak at writers’ conferences on free-lance writing, non-fiction writing, and devotional writing.

You can also follow her at www.harrietemichael.blogspot.com

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Precious Pup

by Harriet E. Michael

They say a really great dog may only come around once in a lifetime. In my life, Buckles was that dog. He was a brown English Field Cocker. My husband drove to Chicago to get him when he was just a pup. He was the runt of the liter, the leftover puppy, the one nobody else wanted. The first time I laid eyes on him, I thought he was either the most beautiful pup I had ever seen or the ugliest—and I wasn’t sure which. He looked a little like a baby cow. But soon it became clear to me that he was indeed beautiful! So much so, that in the years that followed, people always commented on how striking he was.

But the best thing about him was his personality. He was gentle, loving, obedient, and completely non aggressive with children or anyone. But when he got out in a field hunting with my husband, he was a great retriever—aggressive, obedient, faithful and worked tirelessly.

My husband’s high school friend and hunting buddy, Jim, liked Buckles so much he made the trip to Chicago to get an English Field Cocker for himself. She’s solid black and named Ziggy. One of Jim’s reasons for getting a female was to someday get a puppy out of Buckles.

That is where we ran into trouble. For reasons unknown to us, Ziggy and Buckles were not able to conceive. Over a period of four years, at every possible opportunity the dogs were put together hoping Ziggy would get pregnant–but to no avail.

Ziggy was getting older and Buckles was quite old, so in desperation, Jim took the dogs to a vet and had Ziggy artificially inseminated by Buckles. And that is how at eleven years old, Buckles became a father and we were given our pick of the liter. buckles-and-colt

Buckles and Colt (father and son)

Each time we went to Jim’s house to look at the pups, I was, of course, hoping to find one just like Buckles. There were no brown pups–only solid black ones and white with black spots, so I had to judge by their personalities. The personality was more important to me anyway. My husband wanted a male and there were four possibilities. The first time we were there, when the pups were only a few weeks old, one little solid black male kept wagging his tail. I picked him up and he immediately stretched his little neck to try and nuzzle against me–something Buckles did!

“Look!” I exclaimed pointing to the mannerism we both knew so well. My husband took the pup out of my arms and held him up, placing the pup’s nose against his nose. The little guy’s tail wagged a mile a minute. I laughed and took him back. Holding him to my nose, I told my husband to look at his tail. Then we held each of the other male pups and none had either mannerism–none tried to nuzzle and none wagged their tails when held up to our noses.

On the next visit, this same little black male came running to us, wagging his whole body. Again, I laughed. Because, again, this was a Buckles’ characteristic. Buckles was double jointed and when he wagged his tail, which he did most of the time, it looked like his back legs had come unhooked from his body and the whole back part of him would move back and forth vigorously.

It only took two visits to know which pup was most like his father in personality, and that’s the one we wanted! We have not been disappointed. He is laid back, sweet-natured, gentle, and loving–just like the old man.

A couple of Christmases ago, we had one very old, very sweet, brown dog who we have loved completely for going on twelve years and one small, active, happy, precious pup running circles around his dad. On Christmas Eve when I saw that adorable puppy running to my husband with a chewed string of lights in his mouth, bringing it to him and proudly dropping it at his master’s feet, like a faithful retriever should, I didn’t even get annoyed with him. Instead, I laughed and thought how blessed we were to have one of Buckles’ pups running around our house, chewing up our Christmas lights.

They say a really great dog may only come around once in life … but then again, they may be wrong!

colt

Writing Prompt: What was your favorite pet in your lifetime? What made him or her special?

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A Harmattan Christmas

by Harriet E. Michael

Nigeria, where I grew up,  is a country on the coast of West Africa just beneath the Sahara Desert. Christmas in Nigeria comes in the middle of the dry season–a special part of the dry season known as Harmattan.

Wikipedia defines Harmattan like this: The Harmattan is a dry and dusty West African trade wind. It blows south from the Sahara into the Gulf of Guinea between the end of November and the middle of March. Humidity can drop to as low as 15 percent. In some countries in West Africa, the heavy amount of dust in the air can severely limit visibility and block the sun for several days, comparable to a heavy fog.

harmattan

Against this backdrop, we celebrated Christmas. My father used to say he liked the fact that Christmas came in the middle of Harmattan. In America everything would have been stark, cold, and dreary, with the trees bare and the air full of winter’s chill. And in the middle of this otherwise dreary time, Christians celebrate the birth of the Savior with ornamented and brightly-lit trees, gifts, good food, and Christmas cheer. Likewise in Nigeria, when the world was dry and dusty, all the leaves and grass a dreary brown, Christians celebrate the joyous birth of their Savior with songs and good cheer.

tree-lightsI loved the Christmases of my childhood! They were unique and wonderful. We used a small casuarina tree for our Christmas tree and decorated it with whatever we could find. Many of us had brought those old-fashioned large bulb tree lights and we had electricity, albeit somewhat unreliable.

This is not me, but my hair looked a lot like the girl in this picture!

This is not me, but my hair looked a lot like the girl’s in this picture!

On a humorous note, when I was a baby, I had very thin wispy blonde hair. During the Harmattan season the static electricity from the dry blowing air caused my hair to stand on end most of the time and my family fondly called me “Harriet the Harmattan cat” because my hair looked like the hair on the back of cats when they arch in fear or anger.


Writing Prompt: Have you ever spent Christmas away from home? If so, describe your experience, if not, write a fictional Christmas away from home story.

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