Valerie Comer's life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie grows much of her own food and is active in the local food movement as well as her church. She only hopes her imaginary friends enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, gardening and geocaching with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters. Check out her website and blog at http://valeriecomer.com.
Rumor has it that somewhere, over the rainbow, there's a pot of gold. Occasional reports trickle back from that distant land. Some confirm the existence of treasure while others express doubt.
As prepublished writers, that first contract seems as elusive as a pirate's hidden treasure box. But when it's in hand, we realize the trail isn't over. There are more rainbows, more pots of gold (mostly metaphorical). More dreams of multi-book deals, of royalties, of bestseller lists, of fame. But how do we get there?
I can't give you a path. I've only reached the first milestone myself. But like any good treasure hunt, there are a series of waypoints, or intermediate goals, along the way.
My husband and I began geocaching in 2008. This is an electronic treasure hunt game using a GPS (global positioning system) receiver to find your exact position on the planet: the latitude and longitude. Having found the coordinates for a cache online at geocaching.com, you're now trying to get yourself to the same coordinates so that you can locate the physical cache. Sometimes the website will give you clues--either a little poem, a riddle, a cryptogram, or some other veiled hint to help you find your way.
Not only did I get a story idea or two from the adventure of trudging along behind my husband up steep mountain trails in search of the latest geocache, but the correlation to writing began to seep into my mind.
The geocache is a defined, precise goal. You know when you've found it. You open it up, peer inside, and sign the logbook. You can exchange a piece of treasure you've brought for something someone else has left behind. Getting a book contract is also a specific goal. When you sign that contract, you know that particular target has been met.
I've seen Jim circling around a clearing in the woods or over boulders beside a river, watching his step and his GPS unit at the same time. The coordinates are right. That cache has got to be here somewhere. It's so close we might be tripping over it.
I felt the same about finding a publishing contract for several years. I'd done everything 'right.' I'd finaled in ACFW's Genesis contest 3 years running. My writing was getting stronger. I'd worked my way through, past, or around the riddles and clues--aka writing advice--along the path, even though many of them conflicted.
Yet not every rock had been turned over. While all the signals I received indicated that I was on target and I'd find the 'treasure' at any moment, still I continued to stumble in circles. Why? It wasn't yet time.
There are so many kinds of treasure. A geocache is only one. While it's wonderful to use electronics to get off the sofa and into the awesome wilderness that God created for us to enjoy, finding a cache is only a temporary thrill.
A writing contract--a book in hand--is another prize. It's definitely a more permanent legacy that may last longer than our lifetimes. Much good, some of it of eternal value, can come from securing this treasure. But in itself, it still isn't the most precious wealth.
What is? The only treasure any of us can bring into eternity is a soul. All the prosperity we've amassed in our life on earth will stay behind. So while there's nothing wrong with seeking a geocache or a book contract, keep your eye on the real prize: believing God's gift of salvation and encouraging others to accept it, too.
Now that's a treasure worth striving for.
Valerie's one-and-only release is a novella in Rainbow's End, where four young women invite you to join them in a geocaching adventure along the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. Will they find the treasure they’re looking for. . .or something else entirely? For more about Rainbow's End and geocaching, check out Romancing America.