Sunday, July 5, 2015

Taking Stock and confessing my weaknesses, by Janet Muirhead Hill

Dreaming is easy. It's what I do best. Ideas are never in short supply. Now it's time to figure out how to implement the ideas in the time I have left in this world. All I know for sure is that it is going to take a lot more than just dreaming.

I've never been a very good planner. That I must admit. I'm an idealist wishing only to make the world a better place for everyone. Lofty? You bet. And overwhelming, too. So overwhelming as to be debilitating. The wheels spin and it’s like a heart going into fibrillation, and nothing gets done. Needing a defibrillator of the brain, I'm taking stock, prioritizing, and attempting, once again, to organize and vitalize a plan.

Raven Publishing, of which I'm CEO—and sole staffer, has some amazing authors who are also wonderful, genuine, and good people. Their talent is amazing, and my company is truly blessed to have had the opportunity to get their books into print. So first on my list is to get the published books circulated, distributed, better known, and widely sold—or to turn them over to someone who can do it better, namely the authors themselves.

Because we are shorthanded, here, (I only have two) I'm going to concentrate my limited marketing efforts on the works of the authors I already have, not taking on any new ones, (with the possible exception of a middle-grade novel whose manuscript, I already agreed to consider.) I will also consider new works of the authors whose books I've already published, if they choose to submit them. If they decide to seek another publisher, I'll support them in every way I can. And I will continue to publish books of my own, although I might submit them elsewhere first.

Raven must always stand for quality. We (me plus a volunteer acquisitions committee) choose content and writing that are topnotch. Quality construction and presentation are top priorities.

So, what is the future of Raven Publishing? That question is not answerable at this point. But my aim is to keep it as strong as I can for as long as it lasts and to have a good exit plan for when I am no longer able to keep it going—a plan in which the books already published will be left in the hands and under the control of the authors or the authors’ heirs and will hopefully remain available for the reading public. They are all good books, and each important in its own way.

Immediate plans include the introduction of our first picture book, a collaboration between myself and famed and talented artist Herb Leonhard. It will be published in 2016. It is my hope that Joan Bochmann, my departed sister’s book, Prism, will also come out either next year or the next. (It was begun before she died of cancer, and I finished it at her request.) Presently it is being reviewed by her children.

I plan to have a sequel to my latest book, The Horse and the Crow, written and published next year. It is called, Horses for Sale, A Miranda and Starlight Story (vol. 8) and I want to write and publish a spinoff, The Horse of the Rising Sun, Teddy Hungry Horse’s story, a continuation from his introduction in The Horse and the Crow.  I’m aiming for 2017 on that one. Books by other authors will depend on them. I encourage them to find a publisher with a greater reach, but, for those who know both my skills and my limitations first hand and still want to have their books published by Raven, I will continue to honor them and publish their writing, for I know its quality.

Looking further into the future, I have several other books either written and needing editing, or begun and needing to be finished, that I hope to publish before I give it up. They are:
Lorvi — first book I ever wrote, a fantasy adventure something like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, in that the protagonists travels back and forth between a real and a fantasy world, but darker.
Return to Lorvi — sequel to Lorvi and my second book to write.
Fault Lines — an adult novel about a large, well-to-do family who suddenly find themselves homeless. (written and awaiting rewrites)

Fugitives from Planet Eden — my attempt at science fiction (written and ready for a serious rewrite and then a sequel. Either that, or I need to write more and make it just one book.

A Play (unnamed as yet) It could become a novel instead. It isn’t finished but has a delightful start, and is authored jointly by my granddaughter and me. I’d love to see it finished.

Then there are a couple more beginnings that my sister wrote, that I’d like to see finished. One, a mystery/legal thriller called By Reason of Insanity would make a terrific novel if someone (maybe me with help?) could finish it. The beginning is instantly gripping. The other is Uncommon Thread and could be turned into a short story. It may be my next short story attempt.

The Wind is a short story that I wrote and recently submitted to a contest. When the contest is done, I will seek to publish it elsewhere or publish it myself.

More to the Miranda and Starlight series after book 8? We’ll see. More for Teddy Hungry Horse’s story? Maybe. Let’s see, I need to live to be about 120. That might be enough time, if I work consistently and don’t have any more ideas. Oh, but the picture book I’m publishing next year will need some sequels. It’s called Billings and Jingles: The First Big Adventure.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gunshot Wound, a true story as told to Janet Muirhead Hill

I heard this story many times from both my mother and my grandmother.
That is my Uncle Gene in the middle, and it's me he is holding.  Left to right: 
Sonja Elkins, Gayle Elkins, Gary Elkins, Gene Elkins, Janet Muirhead,  Evan Elkins, Duane Muirhead, Joan Muirhead.

The winter day was bitter cold. Grandpa, Clarence Claud Elkins, was at the homestead near Milner with all of his school age children except Hazel. She was in Steamboat Springs being doctored for a broken leg. Grandma, Maude Elkins, was with her.  The preschoolers, Marvin and Martha were there as well, while
she tended to her eldest daughter at her brother, Claude Luekens's home.

A few minutes out in the subzero wind to hitch the horses to the sleigh was enough to convince Grandpa that it was too cold for the little ones to venture out. But it was his turn to drive the neighborhood children to school. So he left Gene (who was 8 or 9) and 6-year-old Dorothy in the warm house while he took Carrol (age 10 or 11) and the neighbors who wanted to go to school. He gave the little ones strict order to stay indoors and out of trouble. He put Gene in charge of keeping Dorothy safe.

Gene felt quite grownup with the responsibility he'd been given. When Dorothy expressed fear (probably of lions and bears) Gene reassured her by getting the gun from his parents' bedroom. "I'll take care of you," he said. The creaking of the house in the wind produced more fear, and Gene told Dorothy it must be a mountain lion trying to get into the attic where it was warmer. She was terrified. There was a hole in the ceiling around the stove pipe, and it was through there that Gene said he would shoot the offending lion.

As he was climbing up to get a shot, the gun accidentally discharged, hitting Gene's knee. He fell to the floor in great pain, bleeding profusely. He told Dorothy to run to the neighbor across the field for help. She didn't want to leave the house, but was convinced that her brother would die if she didn't. She ran out without coat or hat.

Luckily for her, the neighbor was looking out her kitchen window and saw Dorothy coming. She sent her son to run and meet her with coat, hat, and mittens. Dorothy gasped out her story as best she could. The neighbor lady sent her son on horseback to go meet C.C. while she went to see about Gene, taking Dorothy with her. When Grandpa, on his way back from delivering children to school, heard the awful news, he ran the team the rest of the way home. The neighbor had staunched the bleeding and wrapped the wound. Grandpa wrapped Gene and Dorothy in warm coats and blankets, nestled them in the hay on the sleigh, and drove them to Steamboat.

There, in Uncle Claude's house, Gene was put in a bedroom to be treated by the same doctor who had set Hazel's leg and put her in traction. Uncle Claude, after getting them settled, said, "Don't tell Maude," thinking another trauma to her children would be more than she could take. She entered the room saying "Don't tell Maude what?" And someone blurted out, "Oh, Gene shot himself, but don't worry." And thus she received the news that they feared would be too much for her. However, they had underestimated Grandma's strength and courage which  she exhibited over and over again during her life.

The doctor dressed Gene's wound and told him to stay in bed and not move his leg. The doctor said Gene would always have a limp. When the doctor came to check on him days later, he was sitting on the side of the bed, swinging his leg back and forth. "What are you doing?" the doctor exclaimed in alarm.

"I'm working my knee," Gene told him. "I'm going to play football someday, so I've got to keep it from getting stiff." The doctor didn't argue, and indeed, Gene did not have a limp and he played football all through high school.