Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Writing Activity - New story going very well. Currently at 29,000/60,000 words.
New Year's Day marks a new beginning for many of us, but for me it has even more meaning. On this day eighteen years ago I gave birth to our only child.
As I was wheeled through the hospital in Nürnberg, Germany, the nurses running through the corridors en route to the operating room for my emergency Cesarean, I used my halting German to ask if they thought the baby would be born on New Year's Day. Since it was already eleven p.m., they said they didn't think so.
They were wrong.
My doctor lived very close to the German hospital and was waiting for me when my bed on wheels was parked next to the operating table. As I was lifted from one to the other, someone removed my glasses while the anesthesiologist asked me to count backward from ten.
Zehn, neun . . .
I awoke hours later in a dark recovery room without my glasses. A nurse arrived and congratulated me on my daughter. Convinced I was going to have a boy despite inconclusive ultrasound results and yet wanting so much to have a girl, I was thrilled with the news. Still, I was afraid I'd been dreaming or having drug-induced hallucinations.
The next morning my husband arrived with an enormous smile on his face unlike any I've seen since. He assured me I'd heard correctly. We were parents of a healthy baby girl who had arrived at 11:39 p.m. on 1/1/91.
And now, here we are eighteen years later. My daughter and two of her girlfriends are camped in front of the T.V. waiting for the ball to drop, and I'm hiding out behind my computer reminiscing. Tears threaten, but I'll do my best not to embarrass the Fashion Queen.
Happy birthday to a very special young woman, my daughter, my friend.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Writing Activity - New story going very well. Currently at 22,000/60,000 words.
The line at the post office snaked out the door into the lobby as I waited my turn to mail some packages this afternoon. I had no idea when I entered that today was the busiest mailing day of the year. Why? My packages held blog drawing prizes, not Christmas presents. Having completed the majority of our holiday preparations the day after Thanksgiving, other activities filled my mind.
At this point, I fear you may have a desire to chuck fruitcake at me. Before you take aim, let me tell you I spent years snowed under each December, stressed because I had more to-do's than time. And I didn't like the feeling.
In an effort to de-stress, my family enacted a three step plan that's allowed us to have (relatively) hassle-free holidays, a plan I'm going to share with you.
Step One: Examine Your Expectations
One January several years ago, I asked my husband and daughter to sit down with me and take an honest look at the Christmas just past. I apologized to Gwynly and the Fashion Queen for having been a little grouchy during the month of December (OK, more than a little) and told them I wanted the following Christmas to be different.
We took a few minutes to jot down the aspects of Christmas most important to us and then compared notes. Unlike Luther Krank in the movie Skipping Christmas, my goal wasn't to toss all our traditions. No Gwynches here. I wanted to determine those activities that would reduce my stress level, therefore making our celebration more meaningful and more fun for all. Upon comparing notes, I found that Gwynly and the Fashion Queen had far fewer expectations than I did.
Step Two: Eliminate the Excess
Once we'd determined what mattered most to each of us, we determined a number of things we could eliminate from our family's holiday To-do lists.
Before I tell you what we decided to forgo, please bear in mind that going through this process will produce different results for each family. What we chose remove from our holiday agenda may be some of the very things that mean the most to your family. I share them merely as an example to encourage your own exploration.
Baking. I don't like to cook, so this chore was easy for me to cross off my list. Instead of taking plates of homemade cookies and fudge to our neighbors at Christmas, we make no-bake turkey cookies to distribute at Thanksgiving, a tradition we all enjoy.
Christmas cards and newsletters. I love to write, but adding the task of producing an annual holiday letter to my already full schedule took the fun out of the process. Instead of sending our Latest Gywnformation newsletter during December, we mail it in the fall. Since Gwynly is a teacher, that's when our year really begins. I love hearing from friends and family at Christmas, but they don't seem to mind that our news arrives at a different time. In fact, some think we've got a good idea.
Decorating. The Fashion Queen loves Christmas and begins playing carols and watching holiday movies the first week in November. Having the tree up at the earliest possible moment ranked at the top of her list, so we now head out early on the day after Thanksgiving to our nearby cut-your-own tree lot and choose the perfect tree.
We take the tree home and have it decorated by nightfall. That day or the next, we put out the hand-carved wooden Christmas decorations we bought when we lived in Germany. These tasks complete, she's happy.
Since the outdoor lights didn't make any of our lists of important traditions, we've stopped hanging them, saving both time and energy.
Entertaining. Rather than adding a number of social get-togethers to our already full December schedule, we choose to invite people over at other times when we're able to enjoy their visits in a more relaxed atmosphere. We also limit the number of parties, plays and concerts we attend during the holidays.
Gift-Giving. We chose to put our focus on the gifts we give one another and reduce the number of folks on our shopping list. What I do instead is send presents to people throughout the year. If I see something that makes me think of someone, I'll buy the item and drop it in the mail right then rather than saving it for Christmas.
We stopped doing our shopping during the busy month of December and set a goal to have ours done by Thanksgiving. I'm a bargain hunter and buy throughout the year, so this works for us.
We chose to stop wrapping our presents—with paper. We use drawstring bags instead. We went to the after-Christmas sale at a fabric store and bought several yards. We each selected a couple of different holiday prints for our bags, thereby making tags unnecessary.
We spent an afternoon making the bags the first year we used them. We've saved that much time—or more—every year since. As soon as the decorating is done, we pop the gifts in the bags and put them under the tree. Not only do the bags look pretty, but they do a far better job of disguising what's inside than the paper wrapping we used before. And clean up on Christmas morning is snap.
Step Three: Enjoy the Experience
As a result of taking an honest look at which holiday traditions matter most to us, focusing on those, and eliminating the excess, my family is able to enjoy our Christmas more fully. And, in case you're wondering, I'm far less grouchy during December these days.
My hope is that you and your loved ones have a joyful celebration this year, one in which you concentrate on what's most important to you.
Do you find the holiday season to be a stressful time of year, or do you begin the month of December feeling pressure-free and prepared? What would you change about how you celebrate if given the chance? What traditions are most important to you?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Writing Activity - Working on new story. Currently at 7,200 words.
November 17, 2008 will be a day remembered by many not-yet-published romance writers. This was the deadline for the Romance Writers of America® 2009 Golden Heart® contest. With a trembling finger, many talented women in the U.S. and beyond have pressed "send" in recent weeks, zapping their entries through Cyberspace.
For many a romance writer, the Golden Heart is the contest upon which she pins her hopes and dreams. Why? Because it's the most prestigious. A final in the Golden Heart, the crowning jewel in the contest tiara, sets the finalist apart. With over 1,200 entries, the competition is intense. A finalist spot garners attention and gives each finalist a noteworthy accomplishment to include in query letters, signature blocks and on business cards.
In the fall of 2007, I entered the Golden Heart for the second time, never expecting to final. I'd entered one manuscript the year before. I allowed some talented writer a spot in the top half of the finalists, my score having placed me in the bottom. Last year I had four completed manuscripts, and I decided to enter them all. My goal? To see if one of them could earn a score that would place it in the top half.
When the phone on March 25th of this year and RWA board member Terri Reed told me two of my four entries were finalists, I had a hard time believing her. For several weeks after the call, the soles of my shoes saw no wear.
A final in the Golden Heart really can make a difference. I'm the self-appointed keeper of statistics for the 2008 Golden Heart finalists, keeping track of who has sold how many book to whom. The numbers are amazing. Of the 64 finalists, 16 have already sold. A whopping twenty-five percent! So, yes. It's true. The Golden Heart can be a "golden ticket" for some.
I'm not one of the 2008 finalists who has sold. (You'll hear me shouting when that day comes, let me assure you.) My two finaling manuscripts need major revision before they'll be ready for an agent or editor's eyes. How they even finaled is beyond me. But they did, and I'm grateful. Very grateful.
Why am I so happy with my finalist status? Isn't the ultimate goal publication? Yes. But I've gained so much as a result of being a Golden Heart finalist that my heart is full of gratitude. Here are just some of the gifts I've been given:
•I'm one of the 2008 Golden Heart finalists, the Pixie Chicks as we call ourselves, a group of some of the most talented, fun, generous, knowlegeable women I know. I'm blessed to know each and every one of them.
•I attended my first RWA® national conference, held in San Francisco this past summer, where the other finalists and I were treated like royalty.
•Before I finaled, I wrote in isolation. I prayed for writer friends. I now have more than I ever imagined possible. I've met them on the Internet, at RWA Nationals, through my local RWA chapter, and on my blog, others' blogs, Yahoo! loops, Facebook and Twitter. Finaling in the Golden Heart brought me out of my cave and into the company of many awesome folks.
•As a result of the connections I've made, I have three awesome critique partners: Anne Barton, CJ Redwine and Melanie Dickerson. I appreciate them and their helpful feedback so much. With their wise counsel, my writing will improve.
•Finaling in the Golden Heart gave me the confidence I needed to expand my computer skills. Before I finaled, I knew how to check my email. I'd visited one blog to see the tummy shot of a friend who was expecting. She had all of three posts, and yet I was very impressed. I had no idea how she'd set up her blog. It looked mighty complicated to me. I now have two blogs, this one, where I post personal reflections, and my professional one, Romance Writers on the Journey. In addition, I have a Web site I set up and manage on my own: www.keligwyn.com.
These are but five of many reasons I'm grateful for the Golden Heart and why I would encourage any unpublished romance writer to enter the contest.
Have you entered the Golden Heart? If so, what did you gain from the experience? Would you encourage others to enter? Why or why not?
Monday, November 10, 2008
Writing Activity - Began a new story, a Contemporary. Currently at 5,300 words.
My daughter has a lovely singing voice and is happiest when she's belting out show tunes with such volume that our cats run for cover. Emblazoned on the front of one of her favorites tees are the words," Warning. Owner is subject to spontaneous outbursts of song."
I also like to sing. Our two feline friends are subjected to my impromptu ditties during the day when no one else is home. But I shy away from singing in public, a reluctance that stems from less than constructive criticism by a choir teacher in my youth.
My supportive family tells me my voice is fine. I haven't seen folks around me cover their ears or cringe when I sing in church. But vocal music is not my strong suit.
As a writer, I've heard plenty of talk about voice. My dictionary defines the word in this context as "the distinctive tone or style of a literary work or author."
Some writers have such a unique voice that readers can pick up one of their works and know within a few paragraphs or pages who authored the piece. I admire those pillars of publishing.
During the first two years after I began to write in earnest, I attended conferences where I heard more than one attendee say, " I found my voice when . . ." I marveled at such revelations and longed for one of my own.
I asked myself how one goes about developing this seemingly elusive voice. In an effort to learn, I read books on the writing craft. As a result, my mechanics improved. I no longer "head hopped," jumping from the point of view of one character after another. I added sensory detail, a feature sadly lacking in my earliest manuscripts, and I trimmed wordy descriptions.
And yet, I sensed something was missing. My stories were flat, but I wanted them to sing.
I intentionally curtailed my writing for a few months, during which time I read books written by some of the best authors in my genre, started critiquing the work of others and served as a contest judge. I began to see why some writers' works resonated while others' didn't strike a chord with me.
The day came when the characters in one of my stories begged for me to let them speak. I'd resisted the voices in my head because I feared I'd produce more work at the same level as before, and I wasn't content to do so.
But I had a wonderful surprise in store. As I put fingers to keyboard last week for the first time in months, an incredible thing happened. Everything came together. My writing was markedly improved. That's not to say Nora Roberts, Debbie Macomber or Deeanne Gist have anything to fear, but I saw progress.
I'd felt like I was running into a brick wall for a long time, but then a door was thrown open. The first three chapters flowed from my fingertips as freely as show tunes do from my daughter's lips.
What made the difference? You guessed it. At long last I'd found my voice.
If someone were to ask me to explain how it happened, I'd say I gave myself permission to fill my writing with more of my unique way of saying things and to let go of my former strict adherence to the "rules." Not that I ignore them, by any means. I'm far too OC for that. I finally relaxed, trusted myself and my abilities, and let my voice burst forth. And I'm having a blast.
I'd love to hear from you. How long had you been writing before you found your voice? What happened that led to the discovery? And how would you explain the process to others?
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Writing Activity - Editing for critique partner. Prepping for blog guests. Brainstorming a new story.
I'm unique. No, really. I'm one of a kind.
Yeah, sure. I know I have DNA and fingerprints unlike any other person past, present or future. But I have something else that sets me apart.
I happened upon a Web site one day not long ago, www.isthisyour.name, that gives statistics and interesting trivia regarding names. Using U.S. Census Bureau data, the site provides information on how many U.S. citizens have a certain name. Of course, the one I searched was Keli Gwyn.
Guess what I discovered?
Only 0.0003% have the first name Keli. Only 0.0009% have the surname Gwyn. Combine the two, and the site guesstimates only one American has my name.
I think there's a chance I may be one of a handful in the entire world bearing the name Keli Gwyn. Since I'm a writer and want to see what's been said about me out in Cyberspace, I perform a Google search for "Keli Gwyn" (in quotation marks) from time to time. Tonight's inquiry revealed about 1,870 hits. And every single one of them is about lil ol' me.
Writers work to come up with the name that will grace their book covers when they make that long-awaited first sale. Ever since I typed "chapter one" on my first manuscript, I knew I wanted to use my real name. Some writers don't have the option.
If an author writes stories with Hispanic heroines but is named Gillian MacDougall, the editor will insist on a pen name. If her name is Gabrielle Engelbreit, out it goes due to sentiments lingering from WWII. If her name sounds old-fashioned and she writes for the young adult market, she'll get a pseudonym for sure.
My name is short, catchy and ethnically acceptable. It's two syllables followed by one. Balanced. And it's very unique.
The creatively spelled Keli comes from my forward-thinking mother who didn't want my androgynous name to look like a boy's, so she dropped an "l" and was a pioneer in the use of the "i" ending. My Welsh husband graced me with the "vowel-less" Gwyn (pronounced Gwin).
I love my name. And, yes, I think it's awesome. Not that I'm going to dash over to cafepress.com and order this t-shirt, though.
(And, no, I didn't design the shirt in anticipation of having something to pass out to my adoring fans at book signings once I'm published. I believe it advertises world renown fitness educator and trainer Keli Roberts.)
And now, a couple of questions for you. Do you like your name and the way it's spelled? If not, what do you wish it could be?
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Writing Activity - Judging contest entries, prepping for blog guests.
Saturday October 4 found me caressing my computer. My DH went to the Apple store and picked up my iMac that day. After having spent two weeks without my trusty sidekick, I was thrilled to have it back and did give my machine a hug when it started up, it's new screen free of the colorful bands that had blocked a third of the old one. I'd cruised Cyberspace at warp 4 on my daughter's older model for days, so revving back up to warp 9 brought an enormous smile to my face.
I'd fallen behind while creeping along and being without my bookmarks, email folders filled with messages and the latest versions of the programs I use, so I set out to catch up. I had 147 blog posts in my Google reader and 444 messages that flooded my in box upon the initial start up. Determining what I'd seen and what I'd already dealt with while limping along on my daughter's machine took time.
By Friday October 10, I'd managed to whittle my in basket down to the five most recent emails and had just 40 blog posts left to scan. As I replied to a message from my mom, I noticed that a portion of the text looked fuzzy. I watched in horror as a one-inch wide vertical stripe slowly appeared in the middle of my screen, hiding everything beneath it.
No! This couldn't be happening again.
Surprisingly I didn't burst into tears, scream or panic. In a totally uncharacteristic response, I took action. I quickly stored all my desktop items in a file so they wouldn't be hidden should more of the screen be taken over by this mysterious malady. I think the fact that I didn't lose any data during the previous problem helped me stay calm.
I called my DH and left him a matter-of-fact voice mail message that wasn't tinged with panic but merely stated the facts and let him know I'd appreciate some sympathy when he got home. I didn't even call Apple and rant, vent or issue threats. I know the techs thought they fixed the problem. The problem is there's obviously something else wrong.
Yesterday I ended up very glad I refrained from rushing to get my baby repaired. Why? Because the band disappeared for a few minutes. Then it reappeared. The white stripe has been coming and going ever since. I don't want to drive the hour to the Apple store only to have my computer make a fool of me. "No, really. The band was back. You gotta believe me." That's like visiting the doctor and having him look at the spot where the swelling had been but is no more.
So, I forge ahead knowing that at any point in time my computer could fritz out. I suspect there's some deeper problem, but until the band returns to stay I'm going about my business as usual.
And what can I learn from this? One is that I'm capable of rational thought and don't always overreact. Two. That I can take a logical approach as the financial world goes berzerk. Instead of spending my time freaking out over what might happen, I can carry on, trusting that God is in control, that our retirement accounts won't suffer too badly due to the wise choices we've made in the past and that we have what really matters: family, friends, and faith.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Writing Activity - Other than emails, nothing at all.
Five days have passed since my trusty Apple® put on a spectacular light show, resulting in one third of the screen hiding beneath ever-changing bands of color and leaving me hungering to know what's wrong with my computer. Following numerous calls to Apple to clear up a registration snafu, the apparent result of another customer's typo causing a different person to be listed as owner of the iMac with my serial number, I received the go-ahead to take my sidekick to the Apple store yesterday.
After driving one hour into the heart of Sacramento from my home in the Sierra Foothills, I took the first parking spot I found, grasped my computer firmly and headed for the Apple Store. Not venturing to the big city on my own very often, I didn't realize how far away I'd parked. Many heads turned as I lugged my computer across the food court, through Macy's and up the escalator to the second floor. By the time I saw the familiar Apple logo on the front of the store, my arms ached.
A nice salesclerk in a turquoise tee relieved me of my burden as soon as I entered and directed me to a gal clad in bright orange, the "Concierge." She checked me in, told me there would be a wait as they were a bit behind schedule and assured me that, yes, my name was on the list of those who'd made an online appointment, mine being at 12:20 p.m.
For over an hour I stood in front of the Genius Bar™ watching my name creep from number five to number one on the large overhead screens, thoughts of a late lunch flitting through my mind. As I waited, I made a quick perusal of the new products. Thankfully I'd used my hubby's laptop the day before and realized I'm not a fan, or I might have been tempted by the sleek Mac Book Air. I did waylay one of the many busy clerks and purchased an external hard drive, one more precaution to prevent potential data loss.
My sale complete, I did what any writer would do. I watched people. Clerks scurried to assist one customer after another, sales of iPod-related products being brisk. Children as young as two sat on bean bag style balls playing computer games on screens the size of soccer fields. And those clad in black behind the Genius Bar worked minor miracles, many resolving problems faster than I can scarf down a Taco Bell burrito.
A realization struck me as I stood in a store surrounded by Apple products and filled with eager customers. I'd entered a safe zone. Not one person in that crowded shop questioned my loyalty to my Apple computer. No. They shared it.
As the noon hour came and went, my hunger pangs grew. But no way would I risk leaving the shop and missing my turn. When my name finally appeared at the top of the list, I rejoiced. After an hour and a half, I got to talk with a wizard, as I refer to those bright individuals who understand the inner workings of mind-boggling machines that can store more data than I'll produce in a lifetime.
The "Genius" who assisted me assured me that despite all the hassles I had proving ownership of my machine and its extended warranty over the phone, he would take care of me. The fact that I had the original receipt, my copy of the protection plan agreement and the actual computer convinced him I'm the rightful owner.
When the technician plugged in my computer, I held my breath until my iMac came on with the wacky third of the screen visible just as I'd said it would be. Visions of my computer proving me wrong and starting up without a glitch vanished as I released an audible whoosh of air. His eyebrows rose as a vertical band of black an inch wide separated the working portion of the screen from a damaged four inch section on which the image repeated itself.
An I-told-you-so grin spread across my face as the right hand side of the screen proceeded to dance, erupting into a light blue pattern with horizontal lines, one I hadn't seen before. Two other Geniuses' eyebrows rose as they witnessed the spectacle. After a whispered exchange with another technician, mine told me my screen didn't need replacing. Most likely the trouble is with the logic board. Sounds serious to me, but he didn't seem concerned, so I gulped inaudibly. With his flying fingers a blur over the keyboard of his laptop, the young man typed voluminous notes as I watched and wondered.
Half an hour after my summons to the Genius Bar, the technician looked up from his computer and nodded. Unsure what his gesture signified, I asked if he was going to ship my computer somewhere to be fixed. No, he told me. The work would take place in the back room. I smiled and asked, "So, there are more of you wizards working back there?" The young man servicing an iBook next to us smiled at that. I'd read the front of his black tee earlier. "Not all heroes wear capes." So true. A sense of relief washed over me as I headed out to finally get some lunch.
And now I wait as my computer works its way to the front of the queue, a process that may take a week. My daughter offered to share her older model iMac. I appreciate her generosity, but oh, how I miss my computer with my bookmarks, address book and latest version of programs. Going from warp nine to warp five is tough, but I'm grateful I have a machine to use until the Apple Geniuses come to my rescue.
Have you dealt with a computer crisis? If so, how did you cope? What lessons did you learn from the experience?
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Writing Activity - Judging Contest Entries and Preparing Blog Guest Interviews.
My Apple® is behaving badly, and I'm bummed to the core.
Several months ago, my beloved iMac® developed a minor problem. A bright yellow vertical line appeared about one inch from the right edge of the screen. My hubby, who is more technically savvy than I, said the line was about a pixel wide and suggested I take my computer into the shop right away to have the tech reps check out the problem.
Did I heed his advice? Um, no. I mean, the line was no big deal. It wasn't as though it was in the way, since that's the portion of my desktop where I store the icons for my hard drive and most active folders.
A couple of months went by, and the little yellow line was no longer lonely. A pretty lavender line the same size as the first appeared about two inches from it. Summer was fast approaching, and my hubby, who is a teacher and is off during June and July, tactfully suggested that might be a good time to have my machine serviced, even offering to help with the process.
Do you think I listened? Nope. I needed my machine, you see. The Romance Writers of America® national conference was coming up, and I was hard at work revising the manuscript I was going to pitch to an agent and editor. Not only that, but I'd just launched my first website and two blogs and had much to do to get them running smoothly. I couldn't possibly part with my computer at such a time.
Toward the middle of the summer a faint white vertical band three inches wide showed up on the left side of my screen. The desktop showed through it just fine, and opened documents covered it up, so I was still good to go. Plus, the band mysteriously disappeared not long after I returned from the conference.
So, did I head to the Apple store's Genius counter? No. If a large white band had come and gone, I convinced myself the two little lines would fade away of their own accord.
Did they? Oh, no! As of yesterday, they have many friends.
I was working away on a guest blogger's interview when my daughter, who was watching over my shoulder at that moment, witnessed my horror as the right one third of my screen began flashing in cool psychedelic patterns. When the light show was over, the right one third of my screen was covered by two wide bands, one an inch wide stripe of black and the other four inches of white.
I freaked! My baby was dying, I was sure of it. I could no longer see anything beneath the bands. In desperation I went on a click and drag frenzy as I sought to find each of the nine icons now buried beneath the blocked screen. I may crumble in the face of disaster, but I am tenacious. I fished for those icons until every one of them rested safely on the left side of the screen. Not trusting even that, I filed them in a folder on the hard drive in case more of my screen disappeared from view.
Thankfully my iMac decided to misbehave on a Saturday when my hubby was home. He is my rock, whereas I'm slippery sand. He returned home from a walk and came to my rescue. As tears of frustration filled my eyes, he pointed out that things could be much worse. I could have lost my data. Thankfully, it appears everything is intact. He put in a call to Apple, and the weekend duty tech set everything up so I can call Monday morning and make an appointment with the Apple store in Sacramento. The rep also said my extended warranty should cover everything.
What now? I watch in fascination as my screen displays various patterns each time I wake it from its sleep. The size and colors of the bands are changing faster than prices at the gas pump.
The most interesting to me is the mirror image band that appears from time to time. A portion of the main screen repeats itself on the damaged section.
If this weren't the computer I rely upon each day, I might enjoy watching the varying patterns and see the beauty in them. But that is not the case.
Instead of admiring my Apple's art displays, I'm busy copying files to my web email account, making backups and figuring out how to deal with my iMac being in the shop for several days.
I don't have to tell you it's not a good time for me to be without my computer, do I? I have contest entries to judge, a guest on my blog tomorrow and interviews to prepare for future guests.
I'm doing my best to learn from this experience. No matter how much I want to believe that my trusty Apple will never give me a moment's trouble, it is, as my rational hubby has reminded me several times over the past twenty-four hours, just a machine. "It's not a matter of if a computer will crash," he says, "it's a matter of when."
So, I'm exploring off-site storage options. Infrequent saves to thumb drives is not enough to satisfy me after this scare. And I've learned that I need to listen to my hubby's sound advice.
Losing the right side of my screen really took a byte out of my day, but I trust the doctors at Apple to work their hardware wizardry and to put a new face on my iMac and a smile on mine.
How often do you backup your files? Do you use an off-site service? If so, which one? Would you recommend it? Why or why not?
Friday, September 12, 2008
Writing Activity - Read in my genre for fun and research. Prepped for a blog guest's interview.
My daughter's heard me say that countless times as I trained my camera on her, ready to capture every aspect of her childhood for posterity. She learned to strike a pose at an early age, but the smile didn't always come as easily.
Was she camera shy? No. Since she's been the subject of my photos for seventeen years, she's used to her scrapbooking mom snapping seemingly endless shots. Her hesitation stemmed from the fact that her smile wasn't pretty like the other kids.
Now, how can a proud mom say such a thing? Because it's true. When my daughter was five, like many children that age, she lost her first teeth, creating a cute little gap on the bottom. I awaited the eruption of her first permanent teeth, eager to see those ruffly ridges I find so adorable.
But they weren't there!
Her first two teeth appeared looking like yellowish pieces of chalk. A quick trip to the dentist and then the pediatric specialist revealed the cause. She has a condition called enamel hypopleasia, meaning there is little to no enamel on her permanent teeth. The dentist said it's like a house being built but not painted, thus rendering it susceptible to damage, or in her case, decay.
Fast forward twelve years. Once all of her permanent teeth had erupted, we embarked on the necessary solution to her problem. She has to have crowns on all of her teeth. Yup! Every one of the twenty-eight. (Her wisdom teeth were pulled a couple of years ago.)
First she endured two gum surgeries and a minor amount of orthodontia. With that behind us, it was time to begin work on the crowns. This past Wednesday she was in the prosthodontist's chair for six and a half hours straight getting temporary crowns on all of her upper teeth. Dr. Herlin K. Dyal and her assistants at the Prosthodontic Dental Group in Sacramento, California took wonderful care of my daughter, but the experience was traumatic and painful.
The results, though, are worth it. Not only will she have no further worry about her teeth eroding as they had been, but she's going to end up with Kate Hudson's smile. Dr. Dyal had my daughter choose, and a beautiful copy of Kate's is the goal. She'll get it, too, because Dr. Dyal does exceptional work.
We're still months and several appointments from done, but we can see results now. When our daughter gave us a weak smile after getting home Wednesday, my husband and I shook our heads in wonder, tears threatening to spill down both our faces. Her smile is beautiful. And this is with just the upper temporary crowns in place. We can only imagine how fantastic the final result will be.
We knew for twelve years we faced this mouth reconstruction, so we did our best to prepare, gathering information and saving money (the equivalent of two years at a state college). But even with our preparation, we didn't know how we'd been taken from agony to joy. It tears my husband and me up to watch what our daughter's going through, but all she has to do now is flash those new pearly whites at us, and we rejoice. She has a priceless smile.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Writing Activity - Prepped for two guests at Romance Writers on the Journey, my blog for others, like me, who are seeking publication of their romances.
Don't look now, but your Cyber buddies may be tracing your electronic footsteps. Scary? Maybe at first, but I'm actually inviting people into my world through two new tools.
The first is Twitter. What's that, you ask? At Twitter.com you will find this definition: "Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: 'What are you doing?'" In 140 characters or less a user shares thoughts, observations and the happenings in his or her day.
OK, so why would anyone want to do this? My answer: it's fun. You see, I not only post brief messages about my activities, known as "tweets," but I can also read those of others I'm following. For example, I follow Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, one of the major Christian publishing houses. Another I follow is W. Terry Whalin, a high-powered literary agent and multi-published author. And there are some romance writers whose updates I monitor through Twitter.
Why do I want to know what others are up to? Because I learn a great deal. How often does an unpublished romance writer have daily access to the comings and goings of such powerful publishing pros as I do by following them on Twitter? Rarely. But Twitter affords me that opportunity.
And am I being followed? Yes. Currently two writer friends are keeping tabs on me via my tweets. And you can, too. I've added my Twitter Updates to this blog. Check it out in the sidebar.
Having this blog allows me to follow others as well in a different way. The provider of the service, Blogger, just added a new feature that enables me to show other bloggers I support them by listing me among their followers. The authors of those blogs I visit will know I'm one of their subscribers and regular readers.
In turn, anyone who wants to follow this blog may do so. There's a link in the sidebar where you can sign up. If you do, you'll receive a notification whenever I put up a new post. I know you await every word of wisdom written by yours truly with unrestrained eagerness, so what are you waiting for? Sign up today, and you can follow me. Trench coat, optional.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Writing Activity - Still on hiatus. Am reading in my genre for fun and research.
I completed five manuscripts in a period of eighteen months, so I know about endings. They're bittersweet. On the one hand, finishing a story thrills me like little else. On the other, I go through withdrawal. Having spent weeks or months with my characters, I miss them.
I'm coming to the end of a major chapter in my life. My daughter and only child started her senior year of high school. I snapped a picture as she prepared to leave the house the first day of school, a tradition begun when she was in Kindergarten. I acted cheery, but inside wistfulness waged war with excitement.
Yesterday I attended my final Back-to-School night. My throat grew tight as I drove to the campus, realizing this was another in a year-long parade of lasts. I willed myself not to let threatening tears escape.
How am I going to handle this time of transition? Just as I immerse myself in a story when it's pouring forth, my goal is to savor each event or activity. Instead of focusing on the future, I want to remain in the here and now.
Yes, my daughter's childhood will soon be over, but I could end up missing out on some serious fun if I give in to bouts of melancholy. I want to enjoy this special time in her life.
When The End comes and my husband and I leave our daughter at her college dorm next fall, I don't want to drive away filled with regrets. Bittersweet though the moment will be, I want to look back on her senior year as having been one of the high points of our time together,
Have you raised a child/children? If so, how did you deal with the transition from childhood to young adulthood?
Sunday, August 31, 2008
When I finaled in the Golden Heart® and crept out of the cave in which I'd been cloistered the previous two years, I discovered a whole new world. Cyberspace.
Oh, I'd used the internet to do research for my historical inspirational romances, but I had no idea how to use the web to connect with other writers.
I was invited to join a Yahoo® loop whose members are the 2008 GH finalists. One day a member shared that she was on Facebook and invited us to "friend" her. Having learned that these savvy women were a wealth of information, I decided to see what she was talking about.
In no time I located Facebook, set up an account and learned how to befriend someone. For the first few weeks I had about ten friends--nine fellow finalists and my daughter. I enjoyed playing a couple of games with DD and exchanging a occasional message with a GH pal.
And then I began to receive friend requests from others, people I didn't even know. At first I was hesitant to accept their offers, but then I realized Facebook involves so much more than exchanging messages with people I already know. As a social network, it offers the opportunity to connect with people from across the country and around the world.
As of this point, I have over 160 new friends, many of them writers and authors. As their friend, I can view their profiles, learn more about them and receive periodic updates. I'm in touch with some of the very women who write the books I love to read. Cool!
A side benefit is that I've also connected with relatives and friends with whom I want to keep in contact. Now I can click on their photos in my friends list and drop them a quick message. Plus I get to see photos, including some of my first grandniece, who's a real cutie, btw.
Checking my Facebook page has become a much-anticipated part of my day. If you have an account, I invite you to friend me. Hope to see you there.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Writing Activity - None at present.
After four months of waiting, the Romance Writers of America® national conference finally arrived. I spent five days from July 29 - August 2 in the San Francisco Marriott surrounded by 2,000 romance writers. That's a lot of estrogen and emotion in one place.
I admire the men who braved the conference. There were a few male editors and agents as well as a smattering of deep-voiced, masculine-variety romance writers. Perhaps one of these guys is going to give Nicholas Sparks some competition.
I spent the first two years of my writing career in isolation. When I got the call from RWA® in March informing me that I was a double finalist in their prestigious Golden Heart® contest for unpublished romance writers, I entered a new chapter in my life. All of a sudden I was thrust into the limelight.
Minor celebrity status is conferred upon the GH finalists. I'd placed in four RWA chapter level contests, but this one is national. International, really. We had finalists from Canada, England and Australia. Over 1,000 entries were received in ten categories, resulting in a total of seventy finalists this year.
I entered four manuscripts in the inspirational category, two of them finaling. The manuscript I entered in the GH the year before didn't fare well, so I never expected to final this year. And I certainly didn't expect to double final. I was stunned. I had the honor of sporting two lavender ribbons on my name badge.
During the four months following the call from RWA, I ventured into Cyberspace, setting up a website and two blogs. I joined a number of Yahoo loops where I chat with other writers and with published authors. I made friends with the other GH finalists, a group of talented, generous, fun women. I couldn't wait to meet them.
I arrived in San Francisco determined not to give way to my normal reserve. Instead, I put my newly acquired Toastmaster skills to use and initiated conversations. In spite of the fact that Toastmasters is about speaking, I did my best to get the other person talking. And, oh, what wonderful things I learned from those with whom I had the opportunity to spend time. Like California soil after a hot dry summer, I soaked up the liberal doses of wisdom being showered upon me.
Until the past few months, the word "networking" had a negative connotation in my book. I didn't understand what it was all about and saw networking as self-serving, or even selfish.
A new understanding dawned as I interacted with others who share my passion for writing. We have much in common. Like me, these women deal with hearing voices in their heads and waking up in the night with a scene begging to be recorded. Now I see networking as mutually beneficial. I learn from others and share freely the wealth of information I've been given. The sense of community among the writers, especially my fellow GH finalists, warms my heart.
And speaking of hearts. No. I didn't come home with the Golden Heart, which is a heart-shaped golden necklace, but that's fine with me. I never expected to win. I couldn't be happier for the woman who graced the stage representing the inspirational category with style. Her time has come, and I fully expect her to have her first sale soon.
RWA and our fellow writers treated us Golden Heart finalists like royalty. We all feel like we're winners just for having been nominated. When the one winner for each category was called to the stage, the rest of us whooped and hollered and applauded with such vigor that our hands were sore afterward.
My girlfriend, Kathryn, joined me for the gala event. She's been a staunch supporter since I wrote that first horrid chapter of my first manuscript, the one where the dialog wasn't even in quotation marks. LOL. Sharing the event with her made the conference finale even more special. She got this flattering shot of me. Just wish my head hadn't been so far in the clouds that I forgot to get one with her.
So ends an incredible chapter in my life, one that will stand out in my memory for years to come. Conference may be over, but the friendships formed during my reign as a GH finalist stand as a testimony to what really matters most: people, not a prize.
And what's next? Well, I'm at a crossroads. When I got that call from RWA in March, I was taken by surprise. I'm honored beyond belief that ten of my peers liked my stories enough to give them scores that placed them as finalists. I knew, though, that the final judges, who are editors, use a different measuring stick: the market.
I headed to conference knowing I'd written five manuscripts that weren't "the one," that being the riveting story that will launch my career as a published author of inspirational romance. As I sat in my first ever agent and editor appointments pitching one of my sweet, traditional historical stories, my intuition proved accurate. The publishing professionals were kind enough to tell me what they are looking for, though, and I was quite attentive.
So, now I'm taking a hiatus. At first the idea of doing so scared me, but the initial emotion has given way to reason. I've come up with a plan. I'm going to devour the stacks of wonderful romances I've been collecting. Market research it's called in the publishing world. (Hanging out with great authors leads to discovering how many wonderful books are yet to be read. Those in the photo are the few I purchased at the literacy benefit at conference.) After I read the romance novels, I'm going to study the many books on the craft of writing I've been collecting. I'm going to give my creative mind a rest and wait.
Wait? Keli? The woman who likes to plan every step with excruciating detail? Yes. I feel a need to relax and reflect. The past two and a half years have been incredible. Now it's time to absorb what I've learned, increase my knowledge base and plan for an exciting future. I've heard published authors say that when they wrote "the one," they just knew it. Everything came together, and the book resonated at a deep level. I firmly believe I'm on the verge of such an experience, but I'm going to rein in my tendency to control my world and let God do the leading. Sound plan, that. And exciting.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Writing Activity - Almost done revising the manuscript I'll be pitching at the Romance Writers of America® national conference in San Francisco at the end of the month.
I've waited years to say this: I'm a forty-niner living in the heart of California's Gold Country.
It's my birthday today, and I'm entering the final year of my forties. Happy Birthday to me!
This has been the greatest decade of my life by far. I have enough experiences to feel like I'm finally getting some idea of what life is all about, and I still have the energy and enthusiasm to do almost anything my heart desires. And it feels good!
As I reflect on my life today, which I do every year at this time, I'm struck by a simple truth: I wouldn't be here if it weren't for my mom. I didn't exactly come along at a convenient time for her. She was quite young and had tough stuff going on. Despite that, she took on the task of motherhood, giving it her very best.
Nowadays a woman has many choices available to her, but it wasn't that way back in 1959. My mom faced up to her situation and did the unselfish thing. She put me first. And it's high time I say thanks.
I love you, Mom, and appreciate all you've done for me. - Hugs, Keli
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Writing Activity - Making progress on the revision of Love in Bloom, one of the two manuscripts that finaled in the Romance Writers of America® 2008 Golden Heart® contest.
"Spinning rides and cotton candy." That's what I used to answer when asked what I liked best about the county fair. I had a cast iron stomach in earlier days, er, make that decades. I could consume the fluffy treat before the rides, no problem.
These days I leave the midway madness to my seventeen-year-old. She inherited my pre-pregnancy ability to withstand countless revolutions on the Tilt-a-Whirl or Scrambler, although she considers them tame, preferring rides that go upside down and backward, preferably at high speed. If I so much as walk by one of the rides that used to leave me with a delicious giddy sensation, I'm reminded of the nine and a half months of morning sickness I endured while carrying her and experience a disturbing queasy feeling.
Our county fair took place this week, and my family spent the afternoon of opening day making the rounds. I didn't even set foot on the midway. Touring the main exhibition hall, watching our daughter perform in an American Idol-style competition and downing two delicious tacos with pan-fried shells dripping with grease made me happy. Pretty lame, I know, but consuming that much fat and cholesterol in one sitting is a rare treat these days. My digestive system ain't what it used to be.
At six o'clock, my husband and I prepared to leave the fair. Our daughter headed off with a fistful of ride tickets to hook up with her friend. I made a mad dash back to one booth that had caught my eye. A local couple produces a series of excellent books on the history of California's Gold Country, and they just put out a new volume on Sacramento. Since I write historical inspirational romance, the book was a must-have.
Breathless, I bounded onto the shuttle after my sprint clutching my treasure to my pounding chest, dropped into a padded seat and laughed at myself. Who, but an aging romance writer, would consider buying a research book the best part of visiting the county fair? In my own unique way I had fun at the fair despite feeling my age.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
I'm like my cats, afraid of things outside my comfort zone. While I admit to being an introvert, as are most writers, I won't go so far as to say that I have the same level of xenophobia as our cats.
I will, however, confess that I am claustrophobic and suffer from both altopobia (fear of high places) and the closely related aeroacrophobia (fear of open, high places.) Throw in my aviophobia (fear of flying,) and you can imagine the gouges my fingers leave in airplane armrests.
Just recently I experienced a rare but rather debilitating case of graphophobia (fear of writing.) For a writer, this can be quite a drawback, let me assure you.
Okay. Truth be told, I'm not afraid of the actual process of writing. It's more that I fear I won't be able to produce a decent piece of prose. I won't go so far as to say I had a full blown case of writer's block. I wrote, but I wondered if anyone would want to read the ramblings I produced while I was mired in self-doubt.
I read a blog post recently from C.J. Redwine, one of my fellow 2008 Golden Heart® finalists, which addresses the need to write despite our doubts. Her advice to those of us waging a war with words that won't do what we want was simple. Keep writing.
When I attended the Redwood Chapel Christian Writers Seminar in 2007, the keynote speaker, Kay Marshall Strom, said she doesn't believe in writer's block. Writers write. That's what we do. We are professionals who persevere, put fingers to keyboard despite our emotional state and get the work done. Laughter erupted when she said that a dentist would never close his office one day because he had a case of dentist's block.
After learning that two of my manuscripts had finaled in the prestigious Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® contest, the Oscar of the unpublished romance writer's world, I did everything but write for the next few weeks. I started this blog, set up my website (www.keligwyn.com) and joined a number of online writing groups. Useful? Yes. Fun? Definitely. But tending to those tasks didn't get my revision done.
Why did I stop writing? Because I felt pressure to produce writing worthy of my new status. The joy had evaporated. The words wouldn't come. My creative juices turned to vinegar.
What did I do? I faced my fears. I took the sound advice of CJ, Kay and many other's. I sat down and put fingers to keyboard, and guess what happened? I got unstuck. James and Rebecca began chattering in my head once again. Scene after scene improved. I rediscovered the thrill of writing.
I don't think our cats will ever overcome their aversion to the ringing doorbell, but I can face my fears. When graphophobia threatens to overtake me, I won't be a fraidy cat. I'll keep on writing.
What fears threaten to cripple you? How do you deal with them?
Monday, May 12, 2008
How often in life do I muff up my words? Far too often, if I'm honest. I'll speak before I think about the consequences and hurt someone I care about. I'll say something better left unsaid. Or I'll put off saying what someone most needs to hear.
It struck me that I can learn from my characters. Every word they say counts, or should anyhow. I strive hard to help them express themselves clearly, to be sure that what they say matters. But am I as careful about the things I say? Or do I blurt things out and spend time regretting my words?
The tongue is such a small part of the body, but what trouble it can cause when I allow it free reign. What I say in haste can tear someone down, but I can also use my words to encourage and bless others when I take the time to choose them wisely.
Unlike my characters, I don't get the chance to rephrase or revise what I say. Helpful or hurtful, once I open my mouth and utter my words, there is no deleting them. Thank goodness for those small, but important phrases that can help when I blow it: "I'm sorry" or "Please forgive me." And thanks to the wonderful people who extend grace and allow me to learn from my mistakes.
I continue to work on my dialogue, marveling when James and Rebecca's conversation flows. And I continue to work on my own speech, rejoicing when what I say builds another up or brightens someone's day.
Here's hoping someone will say something today that makes a positive difference in your life.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
I've attended three Christian writers conferences. What a thrill it is to sit in a room full of others who share my love of writing. I received wonderful instruction, and I met some terrific people. Talking with them about their writing journeys watered my parched soul.
Being a Golden Heart® finalist has opened up a whole new world. I had the privilege of being a guest on The Seekers blog along with the other inspirational finalists and was invited to join the 2008 GH loop. I'm now in contact with incredibly talented women who share my passion for romance writing and am learning so much from them. I check my e-mail and find uplifting messages from fellow writers all across the country and as far away as Australia.
Although I spend hours holed up at home in front of my computer screen, I no longer feel isolated. New friends are a click of the mouse away.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
I chose one word as my focus for 2008: balance. While shopping one day, I found magnets with the word emblazoned on their shiny silver fronts and bought several, which I sprinkled liberally throughout the house to serve as constant reminders.
Balance doesn't come easily to me. When I sit down to write, the rest of the world has been known to fade from view as the creative flow gushes forth. How can dishes and laundry compete with the thrill of capturing my characters' stories? They can't. All too often overflowing sinks and hampers are clear evidence of my struggle.
But struggle I do. As much as I delight in writing, I have a real life with real people in the here and now. I fight the sometimes overwhelming urge to neglect all else in favor of getting one more scene, one more chapter or one more book finished. It isn't easy, but I do my best.
When I succeed in prying my fingers from the keyboard, I am often blessed. I'll enjoy an enlightening conversation with my husband or daughter, a delightful lunch with a friend, or a lively Toastmasters meeting, after which I return to my writing refreshed and recharged. I'm the first to admit that I have not achieved my goal of being balanced, but I continue to get closer. I will persist.
If you struggle with balance and have learned lessons along the way that have proven helpful, I'd love to hear from you.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
First are my husband Carl and my daughter Adriana, the staunch members of my fan club who celebrate with me when I get good news and console me when I receive rejections. When my characters take over my head as a novel pours forth, Carl and Adri allow them to become part of our family. They listen as I brainstorm scenes, read passages aloud and bemoan the troubles I throw into my heroes' and heroines' paths. I couldn't ask for more enthusiastic cheerleaders. I love them deeply.
Next come those dear ones, my friends who are so patient as I share news of my writing journey. Kathryn Strand has been with me from the beginning. She was brave enough to read the first chapter of my first manuscript--and it was horrible. More than any other person, she keeps my eyes on the Lord, my partner in this endeavor. She's willing to give honest feedback and challenge me to take my writing to ever higher levels. I appreciate her insights immensely.
Many others are sharing this process with me, delightful people whom I treasure: Pam Alm, Lynn Buescher, Candy Immer, Earl and Dorothea Keener, Pam Kemp, Monica Silver. A number of kind souls have read and commented on my manuscripts, giving me valuable insights: Kathryn, Lynn, Candy, Dorothea, Pam Kemp and Monica, along with Joyce Burrill, Jennifer Crowl, Karin Heyden, Lauren Prichard, Geoff Skjelbred, Dave Soper, Candis Spallina and Mary Staples. Several knowledgeable people have taken time to answer questions as I conduct research on various aspects of my stories: Levi Cambridge, Cathy Clarke-Amos, Sheryl Hiebert, Lauren Prichard, Tim Silver, Dr. Randy Wells.
My parents, both avid readers, are happy for me when I call with good news and buoy me up when I find my spirits flagging. My mom, Patricia Lannon, instilled a love of books in me at an early age. I fondly recall our trips to the library and used bookstore. My dad, Carl Lannon, writes westerns for pleasure and shares my love of the time period in which many of my stories are set. I appreciate their interest in my writing endeavors.
My church family at Discovery Hills is wonderful. A Sunday doesn't go by that someone doesn't ask about my writing, a conference I attended or how I'm faring in contests I've entered. I'm blessed to be part of such a loving, caring body of believers.
I've gained much from the contest judges who have commented on my entries. The workshop leaders at the Redwood Chapel Christian Writers Seminar and the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference have showered me with high caliber instruction, most notably John Olson and Angela Hunt. The talented authors who critiqued my submissions at Mount Hermon, Robin Jones Gunn and Cindy Martinusen-Coloma, were so gracious and took the time to personally meet with me.
Those I've listed are but a few of them many who have given of themselves. I appreciate each and every one who has enriched my life. May God bless you for all you've done for me.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
I've been writing for two years and have completed four manuscripts, all set in the heart of California's Gold Country in the 1870s. A native of the Golden State, I love the history of this area that I've called home the past fourteen years. My profile photo was taken by the Fountain Tallman Museum in Placerville, one of a number of historic buildings dating back to the early days of the town.
I like connecting with others who enjoy watching, reading, or writing romance. If you've seen a good (clean) movie, read a great romance novel, or are writing one, I'd like to hear about it.