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IMG_1752Why, you may ask me, would I take a picture of a port-o-potty? That is an excellent question. I’m not much of a photographer, but normally I confine my photo snapping to people and nature, not Tardis shaped bathrooms. No, the reason I took this photo was because the little sign on the door amused me. Here, I’ll make it bigger so you don’t have to grab your reading glasses.
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Since Facebook’s popularity boomed, it has become “the thing” that every business, organization, or aspiring so and so, have a Facebook page to advertise themselves. This does not bother me, I mean it’s free advertising so it totally makes sense, but I couldn’t help but snort back a loud mocking laugh at this little sign. I myself have a Facebook page. It receives minimal traffic, but I was advised to start one as part of “building my author platform” and I did so.

I decided out of curiosity, to look up their page and see how many likes they have. I smirked indulgently at their neat little pile of 117 likes.

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Then, a little later, I realized to my shame that I have only 36 likes on my Facebook page. I’m not sure if I just need more exposure, or if the world of Facebookians are trying to gently inform me that they like portable toilets better than me.

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“Replace All”

Autocorrect. Spellcheck. Tab stops. Cut and paste. These are a few of the little things in word processing that are a mixed bag of blessings and curses. They may help us if we perpetually misspell “disease” but sometimes they may cause us to accidentally send a text to our mother to inform her that Dad’s hysterectomy went smoothly. I do most of my writing on my computer, and make regular notes on my iPhone, so I am constantly in a tussle with some smart technological device or other.

This includes the “Find and Replace” feature.

I only used this nugget of blessing once or twice in high school. I wasn’t very computer savvy, so most of my editing was accomplished with a printed copy, pencil, and eraser. Even now, I don’t have the feature quite figured out, except that I know it’s a tricky devil.

When I was working on Immortal Bond, my first novel, I spent the first few drafts trying to think of a decent name for the capital city and country of my setting. Until I decided on one, I just had the words “The Capital” as a place holder. Once I decided on “Cathair,” I opened up the Find and Replace box and found and replaced. This box has a deceptively helpful looking button labeled, “Replace All”. (Beware the Replace All button people. Beware!) I smiled benevolently at it. How sweet, I thought. Some programmer is saving me time. I clicked. I printed.

Somehow, every time “The Capital” was replaced with “Cathair” there was now an odd spacing issue. A sentence that once might have said: “Father, I can’t wait to get to The Capital!”, now said: “Father I cant wait to get toCathair !” I scratched my head, and manually fixed every single one.

Since then I’ve been more cautious.

So the other night when I changed a character’s name for the third, and hopefully final, time I was sweating.

This character suspiciously looks and acts very much like a friend of mine. In my first drafts, this character even, veeeeery suspiciously, had the same name. Obviously this would not do, so I changed his name to Don. It didn’t work for me at all. So my husband and I have been trying to rename him. Last night I decided to try Nick on for size. When I opened the find and replace box, I groaned. There was over 350.

I whined to my husband, “This is going to take forever.”

He shrugged and took the laptop from me. “Just do this.” The mouse hovered ominously over the “replace all” button. I squealed like a wild boar and slapped his hand away.

“Are you MAD?” I snapped. “D-O-N is in all kinds of words! It’ll turn all my ‘donuts’ to ‘Nickuts.’”

“Ooooh,” he mouthed and began to play with the box. A few seconds later he smiled at me. “Just do this!” He clicked a little checkbox that said, “whole words.”

I narrowed my eyes. “What will that do?”

“Watch.” He refreshed the box and the word count dropped by over 150. I turned my skeptical gaze to him.

“You sure that worked?”

“Of course.” His confidence eased my mind. I let him hit the “replace all” button then kissed him affectionately.

“You’re amazing!” I said, then skipped off to shower while he set it up to print.

Shortly thereafter, I was holding the first printed copy of my second novel in my hands. Giddy as toddler with a mini drum set, I sat down to play with my second child. I flipped open to a random page. My face fell.

“TIMOTHY YOU NINNY-FOPPER!”

Yes I did yell that for real. This is normal for me, for these are the names I call my husband. He did not respond. He was in the basement doing laundry. (See! How can I yell cuss names at a husband who does laundry without me even asking?)

He came up the stairs humming. I waited, patiently scowling at the door, until he stepped inside the bedroom. He saw my face and cocked his head at me.

You are a Ninny-fopper,” I repeated, softer and with additional menace.

“Why?”

I motioned to him with one finger. He sat down beside me on the bed. I lifted my laptop onto my lap and opened the find and replace box. I typed the word “Nick’t” into the find section and got a little grey notification that said “167 found”.

Every “don’t” in my story was now “Nick’t”.

Timothy proceeded to hug me and say “I’m sorry” while simultaneously giggling. I changed all my “Nick’t”s back to “don’t”s in my document, but I refuse to print another copy. Save the trees and all that.

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© Rachel Svendsen 2015

What She Needs, Is What I’ll Miss

IMG_3229 From the moment I came to my in-law’s house that weekend, I’d been avoiding her room. Aunt Lori warned me that she’d been packing all week. It made sense, we were getting down to the wire. Now I stood on the threshold looking in. It was everything I expected to see, but that didn’t make the sight more palatable. The pictures were down off the walls. The bible verses tacked to her mirror were removed. All that remained of her worldly possessions were piled neatly on the floor of her room. She looked up and smiled at me, blinking her glittering blue eyes.

“Where should I sit?” I asked.

“I’ll make a place for you here.” She cleared off her desk and pulled up the chair. She pointed at a pile of clothes. “This is it. I’ve always wanted to be a minimalist.”

I chuckled and said, “You know when you get there you’re not going to come back.” I was only half joking. The expression that crossed her face made me think she half hoped I was right.

The Philippines. It already looks far on a map, long before you calculate miles or flight times or time changes. Two years. It already sounds long before you break it down to months or weeks or days. But it’s hard to hold onto my selfish desire to keep her here when she’s glowing like this.

“Rachel it’s been crazy lately,” she said. “I mean through this whole thing, God has just been changing me. Like, all these little things in my life. I feel God putting his finger on everything. ‘You need to give this to me’ and ‘You need to give this to me’. Even my desire to become a missionary. He said to me, ‘What if I don’t want you to be a missionary? What if I want you to stay in New Jersey forever?’ I’m like, ‘God, why can’t you just let me be a missionary?’ But he wanted me to give him everything, even my desire to be a missionary. And when I did, he gave it back to me. Now there’s no fear. I’m sad, I mean, I know I’ll miss a lot, like Ben and Chelsea’s baby, but if this becomes permanent there will be a lot more of that.”

I’m listening with all of me, while still acutely aware of how easily I could burst into tears and how much I wish I could stealthily record our conversation. I want to be able to remember what she said word for word. I want to be able to absorb it into me, along with her confidence in Christ’s plans and ways, the lessons she’s learned and learning, and her abiding peace.

I eyed the clothes she laid aside for her journey ahead. For some in this world it would still be a lot, but for the average American in our area, not so much. But she won’t need a lot of things where she is going. What she will need is the bit of her that I will miss the most. The part I most hate to lose.

The beauty of her gracious heart. The gentleness of her christlike spirit. Her compassion. Her wisdom. Her strength. Her passionate desire to answer God’s call. That is what drew her across the ocean, with a suitcase full of love for the newborn babies she will deliver. That is what she will bring to the poor and needy mothers at the clinic God has sent her to.

Those are the things that make her beautiful, and that is what I will miss the most.IMG_0918

The End: Second Draft, Second Novel

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I have just completed the second full draft of my second novel! 78,895 words and I am elated! Tomorrow, I’m going to comb through the story once more and check for any silly spelling errors before I print out my hard first copy. So far, that is my favorite part of this process, having a printed copy in my hands to scribble all over in pencil. I love what I do so much.

There is no real update on my first novel, which is currently titled Immortal Bond. That one is a Young Adult Fantasy about a newly orphaned girl whose love for a mysterious king is threatened by war. I’m still seeking publishers and agents, a nerve wracking process. I thank God for my husband, who loves me enough to hold my hand when I act like a baby. He’s the most patient man on the earth.

The novel I just finished is a Literary Fiction retelling of Edmund Rostand’s beautiful play, Cyrano De Bergerac. It is modernized and set in NYC. I had a different idea in the beginning, a sort of interweaving of several couple’s stories, but I fell in love with my two of my characters and they practically begged me to tell more of their story. Who was I to say no? They are both goofy, making the book a bit of a romantic comedy. Their dialogue is playful and their story is sweet.

Granted that is only my opinion, I have yet to have others read it, and perhaps someone will read it and tell me it sucks, but at the moment I am floating somewhere between ecstasy and bliss. If the naysayers are shaking their heads, I can’t see, hear, or feel them. I am the happy one. 🙂

© Rachel Svendsen 2015