Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday's Here! What Are You Doing?

It's Friday! And it's a holiday weekend! Woo-hoo!!

I share plenty of my personal UofMichigan "Big House" pictures on my Pinterest Boards. Click on the above picture for my "Football" board! I also have a board for the UofM Spring Game.
So now that fall is on its way, we tend to ease into a weekend rhythm. Friday nights are super casual--pizza is usually involved--or nachos? both?--and Saturdays and Sundays bring football (I'm singing a little at the thought of football!), church, and hearty family meals.

I love this time of year.

Tomorrow is the long-awaited kick-off of the University of Michigan Football season. We're hanging our UofM flag, wearing blue and maize, and singing the fight song. Yes!

We might even catch the high school football game played at home. Who knows? Wild!

What are your plans for the weekend? Do you have a different rhythm in the fall?

Have an amazing weekend!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Bout with Internet Problems

I'm spoiled.

Really, I am.

I've had high-speed Internet for years, and combined with the laptop I bought earlier this year, I couldn't believe how productive I became.

My daughter took this picture of me. I think she did an amazing job! And I was able to upload it--finally!

Don't get me wrong; I've always been productive with writing. But before my new laptop, the social media/e-mails/online stuff took forever!

My new laptop changed all that. Suddenly, my online sessions were being cut in half--simply because everything loaded quicker. I was thrilled. I really had found more hours in the day.

However, when we moved, something went wrong. I had to switch Internet providers, and my loading times slowed down, way down. I couldn't upload pictures from my computer to my blog. Facebook took forever to come up, and often, I would type an update, but it wouldn't go through. Commenting on blogs was futile.

Within two weeks, I was on the phone with our new provider. They were very helpful, talking me through all the possibilities. I finally concluded the service I subscribed to was too slow, and I upgraded.

Unfortunately, the upgrade didn't solve my problems. Still no uploading. Still super-slow loading times for fun sites like Facebook. I couldn't watch a YouTube video all the way through without it stopping and pausing, caught in some loading loop.

I got on the phone again. This time for 2 hours. Again, the tech support was helpful, courteous, and thorough. But I was very frustrated when he came to the conclusion my Wi-Fi adaptor card was to blame. I hadn't had any problems with my laptop until we moved and switched Internet services.

A month went by. Yeah, I procrastinated. I just don't have 2 hours to do the same things over and over on the phone and not have my problem resolved. And I really didn't want to buy a new adaptor card for my computer (the solution the tech guy gave me), since in my heart I didn't believe anything was wrong with it.

I decided to test it. I figured if I could upload pictures and watch YouTube videos at a different location that provided Wi-Fi, it meant my laptop was fine. So I headed to Panera and tried it out. I was able to upload pictures just fine and had no trouble viewing YouTube videos.

Back on the phone. Instead of even wasting any time with more useless tests, I told them I wanted a new modem. I explained the process I'd been through with tech support previously and the fact my computer worked fine on any other Wi-Fi network. They sent someone out.

He switched my modem, but the problem persisted. I thought maybe I was wrong--maybe my computer really did have a bad card. But, thankfully, the support guy tried a different model modem. I really appreciate the extra mile he went because the new modem solved the problem. I have my fast Internet again!

It's amazing how much I can get done. Checking Facebook takes a few minutes, where with the old modem, it took close to an hour. I can watch a full YouTube video, too! Sometimes, my e-mail would lock up when I tried to reply to a message. Not anymore! I was able to quickly send replies without any problems.

I didn't realize how much my faulty Internet stressed me out. I'm actually looking forward to being online tomorrow! And I can finally share a ton of before and after pictures of our new house.

Have you ever lived with a problem for weeks or months because tech support couldn't find the issue? Did it stress you out?

Have a fantastic day!

Monday, August 27, 2012

WSG 21: Let's Pretend

Writer's Survival Guide 21: Let's Pretend

Last week, I reclaimed my home office. I'm incredibly blessed to have dedicated space just for my writing. In the summers, I usually take my work downstairs, on account of our dog and the kids. We don't allow our mini-dachshund upstairs unless the doors are closed since she can hide under beds and be naughty.

However, when school is back in, I close the bedroom doors and allow Sophie upstairs.

So I was sitting at my desk, reveling in the awesomeness that is my large desk, my pencil holder, my printer, my closet full of books and office supplies, and my comfy chair (notice how selfish I sound? After years and years of sharing everything with my kids, I'm embracing the selfishness!), and I looked out the two corner windows (two!!). I saw trees towering in the distance, and I thought it would be terribly easy to pretend I'm in Colorado or somewhere mountainous.

Let me clarify. I live in a very flat part of the earth. We may have an occasional hill, but nothing our vehicles would strain to climb. Mountains are as exotic as palm trees here.

But squinting at the tree line, it was simple to transplant my house out west. And when I did, it was even easier to imagine I could drive to Pike's Peak this afternoon. Maybe even pull over and grab a handful of red clay so prevalent in the area? Catch a rodeo this weekend. Head to Denver and possibly see snowflakes in August.

Then I shook my head back to reality. And I smiled.

Playing "let's pretend" is a vital part of my life as a writer. It's the starting point of every story. It's what flows through my brain during first drafts. It's always happening--whether I'm at home, standing in line at a store, or hiking in a park. I don't think I can turn off "let's pretend"!  I wouldn't want to. There's nothing like spending a few minutes pretending to be somewhere else, someone I'm not, a different species--anything that comes to mind.

How important is "Let's Pretend" in your life?

Have a lovely Monday!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Me? An Early Morning Person? Never!

Another school year has begun, and with it, a new schedule.

I'm more of a late-morning gal as opposed to an early morning one. So when I realized I would be getting up at 6am, I gagged a little.

Now, I know many of you must rise earlier. Like 4:30am earlier! And I'm shaking my head and murmuring my condolences to you. But 6am just seems...yucky to me.

In a perfect world, I would have been slowly easing my wake time over the past two weeks. I would have been doing the same for my kids. In a somewhat perfect-ish world, I would have at least done this the past week.

In my real world, we slept in until the day we had to get up. It's shocking to the system, but that's life.

I can't speak for you, but here's how new schedules usually go in our house.

Day 1: Everyone jumps out of bed at the alarm. We're all excited and nervous about the start of the school year. The morning flies by smoothly. Happy times!

Day 2: Waking up isn't as easy. We're tired. We got less sleep than usual, and our energy is depleted from the excitement of day one. The morning is ripe for bickering and tension. I drink a lot of coffee. A lot of coffee.

Day 3: We get up, but we're all overtired. The simplest question can result in a snappy comeback, and none of us possesses the patience sorely needed to avoid a verbal war. We try to keep talking to a minimum and just survive the day. I drink more coffee. I add M&Ms to the afternoon snack.

Day 4: Our bodies are finally adjusting--and maybe the school week was cut short. We smile, knowing we can catch up on rest over the weekend. We're still a bit chippy, but it's not the edge of war anymore.

Day 5: Yeah, we got this! We're tired at night and functional in the morning. No sweat!

Adjusting to a new schedule causes my tension to soar. By recognizing it's temporary, I'm able to hold on to my sanity. However, I doubt I'll ever become a morning person. Give me two days, and I've completely reverted to staying up--and getting up--late!

So, let's hear it. Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Why I'm Resubscribing to Entertainment Weekly

Many of you know I have a slight (or major?) magazine addiction. It's not unusual for me to have 8 or more magazine subscriptions. Yes, I read them all! I'm not a skimmer. I also like to save inspiring pictures and put them in binders to browse when I'm hungry for ideas.

I don't automatically renew, though. Sometimes I find a magazine isn't holding my interest the way it once did, or maybe the cost of renewal skyrocketed. Either way, I'm not afraid to let a subscription expire and try a different magazine.

I always thought it was a bit self-indulgent to have all of these magazines, even though the cost is minimal; I only subscribe at the most discounted price I can get. My opinion has changed. I no longer think it self-indulgent at all. I realize how stimulating these publications are to my creativity.

Our library carries Entertainment Weekly. I checked out a few recent issues (I stopped receiving EW over a year ago, but I have ordered it off and on for ten years). Every other page I got ideas for blog posts. I also wrote down new artists I wanted to hear on iTunes, new books that sounded intriguing, and DVD's to add to my Netflix queue.

When I subscribe to Entertainment Weekly, I try new things. I'm more engaged with current music, literature, movies, and television shows. They spark my urge to expand my horizons, and that quality is valuable to me.

So I found a great deal on EW through, and I'm treating myself to a new subscription. Investing in my creativity will always rank high on my list!

What sparks YOUR creativity?

Have a fantastic Wednesday!

Monday, August 20, 2012

WSG 20: DIY Business Cards

Writer's Survival Guide 20: Do It Yourself Business Cards

All summer I told myself to get new business cards, but a lack of expertise prevented me from ordering them. The problem? I wanted to match the cards to my website but didn't know how.

Lucky for me, Sarah Forgrave shared her secrets to creating a professional, gorgeous business card on the cheap. If you're not familiar with Sarah, an inspirational romance writer, please head over to her site!

Step 1: Planning

Before I started designing my cards, I thought of what I wanted to convey with them. When someone, whether a reader, an acquaintance, or an editor picks up my card, I want three things to stand out.

1. Recognition.
If someone were to pick up my card six months from now, the card should trigger instant recognition of who I am and what I offer.

2. Information.
My card should clearly and easily let someone know my identity, what my business is, and how to contact me.

3. Professionalism.
I'm committed to presenting a professional image of myself, my writing, and my business.

In order to assure all three qualities existed in my business card, I brainstormed how to achieve these goals.

Recognition: I consistently match my "brand" across my promotional materials. This means clearly posting my "title" (Inspirational Romance Author) and what makes my writing stand out (Love. Humor. Faith.). I also use the same or similar profile pictures on every social media site, and I include visual reminders to streamline my sites.

Information: My name is my business, so it is the most prominent text on the card. I also include my website address, blog address, and e-mail address. Since I use my author name to create accounts on all social media sites, I didn't include the actual URL's for each of them. Instead, I listed the most prominent sites I belong to, and I put quotes around my name to let someone know how to find me.


Jill Kemerer
Inspirational Romance Author


Connect with "Jill Kemerer" on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and YouTube!

Professionalism: In order to maintain a professional image, I used a quality print service. I wanted glossy, color fronts and plain, non-glossy backs (this makes it easy for someone to jot notes on the card). My current printer could not provide the quality I desired, so I opted to outsource the printing.

Step 2: Designing

I am blessed with a newer computer. I don't know if older computers will be able to handle these steps, so I apologize if not all of these options are available to you.

As mentioned earlier, Sarah Forgrave recommended her method of creating a business card. She used Picasa's collage feature to create a color, picture-filled base, and once that was finished, she added text using Picasa's edit feature.

To use this method, you will need:
1. Photographs. If you are not using your own photos, you must have copyright permission for the ones you do use. For instance, if you have professional head-shots taken, ask the photographer if you can purchase the rights to one or more shots. For general pictures, go to iStockPhoto, Dreamstime, or other similar sites to purchase pictures. Dreamstime offers many free photos with a creative commons license. With any photo site, it's a good policy to review their licensing agreements before you download.

2. A photo editor such as Picasa, Photoshop, Gimp, etc... I downloaded Picasa 3 (a free download) after a quick Google search.

3. The correct dimensions for your project. I needed a standard size business card with sharp (as opposed to rounded) corners. For this, I downloaded a free template from GotPrint, which showed the exact pixels, dimensions, and excess border needed to insure proper printing.

A standard business card is 3.5" x 2" but I had to add a small border around the card to allow for "bleed" which is the trim allowance. Design dimensions must be: 3.6" x 2.1" with pixel dimensions of 1260 x 735. 

Here's how to create a photo collage, business card sized, as a base for your card using Picasa 3.

a. Open Picasa and select the pictures you want to use from your computer's files. When you select a picture, it will show up in a box in the lower left hand corner. Click on the thumbtack symbol to hold the picture. Then select the next picture and "hold" it until all the pictures you want to use are in the box.

b. Click on "Create," a tab on the top toolbar, and scroll down and click on "Picture Collage."

c. A new screen will appear with your initial collage on the right hand of the screen, a secondary toolbar above it (Libraries, Collages), and a left-hand editing box. This is where you will set the dimensions for your card.

     1. In the middle of the settings box, click on Page Format and scroll to Add Custom Aspect Ratio. A pop-up box will appear.

    2. In the dimensions boxes, type 1260 and 735 respectively. Name it whatever you would like. I named mine Business Card. Click okay to exit the box.

d. Choose your background color or set a photo as the background. (You should still be in the settings mode of the collage screen.)
    1. To use a color, simply verify "solid color" is checked and click on the box next to it to select the color. You can match colors by clicking on the dropper and touching it to the part of the picture you want to match.
    2. To use a picture as the background, select the picture in the collage. Then click on "Use Image" in the settings box. (Your picture will still be on the collage, but it will also show up as the background.)

e. Arrange the pictures in the collage. (Remember, leave an imaginary 0.05" border around the edge of the card, as this will be trimmed when you order your cards.)
    You can resize, rotate, and delete pictures from your collage by clicking on them. Hover your mouse over the picture, and a circle will appear. To resize or rotate, click on the arrow attached to the circle where a hand appears. Drag the hand until the picture is at the angle you want and is the size you want. To delete, just click on the picture and hit your delete key.

f. Verify you have space provided to type your information. I recommend having plain space to showcase your contact information. It doesn't have to be a white background, but you want the text to stand out and be easy to read. If you're using a picture as your background, look for a "fuzzy" or less busy portion of the picture to use for your main text.

g. Once you're happy with the layout, click on "Create Collage" in the settings box.

h. Save your work! In the File tab, click on "Save As" and give your file a name. It will be save in .jpg format under the Picasa folder, in the Collages folder.

i. Add text. Now that you've created your collage, you can add text. You should see a new editing box with five tabs on the right side of the screen. In the middle of the first tab's box ( wrench), will be a tab called "Text." Click on this for the text toolbar.
     1. You should see "Type anywhere to add text" on your collage. Point your cursor where you'd like to add words and start typing them. You can set the font type, size, and orientation using the tools on the right hand side. You can put text anywhere on your collage, and you can set each "text box" with different settings.
     2. To change the size of the text, you can either set it with the font size tab or you can change it the same way as the pictures. Just click on the text, hover over the hand, and enlarge, rotate, or minimize. Easy!
     3. If your text seems unusually thick, change the fill size to minimum. There are two "T's" in the center of the edit text tab. There's also a scroll bar next to the second T. Slide it until the text is the thickness you want. You can also change the color using these (click on the dot).
     4. When you have added and adjusted all of your text, click on "Apply" in the edit text tab.
     5. After you "apply" the text, make sure you save your work.

j. Your collage is now complete! If you want to edit it, you can open the file in Picasa and click on the "edit collage" button above it.

The only thing left is to order or print your cards. I've used various print sites with success. Some offer low prices but high turnaround times. Others offer high prices and low turnaround times. GotPrint has low prices and low turnaround times. I haven't received my actual cards yet, so I can't personally attest to the quality, but I read their testimonials and trust the word of my friends who have used them.

For an idea of cost, you can check various print sites, local office supply stores, etc... I ended up paying about $10 for 250 business cards with full color, glossy fronts and plain backs. Additionally, I paid roughly $10 for UPS ground shipping. I anticipate receiving the cards in 10-12 business days. They might arrive before this or after, but the timeframe suited my needs.

If you use an online print service, head to their Order Business Card page and verify they have the option to use your own logo/photo/design. You will have to upload your file, which, again, will be the .jpg file you saved your collage as and can be found in your computer files. Mine is stored in my Pictures library, under Picasa, under Collages.

I recommend using the glossy front with plain back feature. This allows people to write notes on the back of the card. It's a personal preference, though, so please do what you think is best.

So there you have it. Creating your own business cards isn't as easy as 1-2-3, but it's much easier and less time-consuming than I thought it would be. Hopefully, having this guide will cut your time considerably!

Would you consider designing your own business cards? Why or why not? Any tips you'd like to share?

Have a great week!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Pleasures of Moving

As many of you know, a few months ago I was faced with a difficult decision--to move to a new town in another state (you can read about it in my blog post, "When God's Plans and Your Plans Don't Mesh") or to stay put. Over the summer, I've shared our moving journey and how we've remodeled much of the first floor of our new house. Today, I'm sharing a few of the perks I've enjoyed from the move.

1. Close proximity to schools, grocery stores, library, and my husband's job.
I never realized how much time I actually spent in my car until we moved here. Where before, stores and schools--even baseball practice--were a minimum of fifteen minutes away, now we're within five minutes of schools, a large grocery store, baseball diamonds, and the library. An added bonus? I used to drive 50 minutes to have coffee with writer friends. Now the commute is fifteen. I love it!

2. An established neighborhood with sidewalks and friendly neighbors.
Our previous home was in a subdivision, but it was new and underdeveloped. I really enjoy walking my little dog around our new neighborhood, which is full of mature trees, pretty landscaping, and people who wave and say "hi." Maybe not everyone would think this is a perk, but I certainly do!

3. Gorgeous parks only minutes from our house.
I'm a nature gal; always have been, always will be. So when I drove a short ten minutes to one of the most beautiful metro-parks I've seen, my soul sang. We've been too busy and the weather has been unusually hot this summer to explore the trails, but in a few weeks we'll be hiking, and I can't wait.

4. Fantastic shopping and a movie theater nearby.
Confession time: I'm a snob when it comes to malls. Before we moved, we had a shopping mall, but it had lost all of its anchor stores except for Target, and it lacked variety. Since our old town was within 45 minutes of three big cities, we usually drove to one of their malls for major shopping trips. Imagine my delight when we found a new, incredible outdoor shopping mall, with a movie theater, minutes away.

Maybe you're noticing a theme? The biggest perk of our move is we have gained time, precious minutes and hours that used to be spent driving in a car. With that time, we are saving money. We were spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on gas for our vehicles each month. I am estimating our gas budget will be cut in half.

What is your favorite thing about where you live? Least favorite? I'm curious what perks you get from where you live!

Have a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Change the View!

My good friend invited me to a Global Leadership Summit being held at her church last week. This conference was simulcast to tens of thousands of people across the U.S. and even more worldwide. To say I walked away inspired would be understating it.

All summer I've struggled with feeling too busy, too tired, too everything! Moving to a new town and starting over is wonderful, but it's also intimidating. My viewpoint had narrowed until I could only see the stresses before me. The conference changed that. It forced my eyes back open to this vast world, and my heart smiled at the view.

Don't get me wrong, the speakers spoke of terrible injustices, persecution that brought tears to my eyes. But they also spotlighted the amazing work God is doing through leaders throughout the world.

One woman helps free enslaved people in India. A man shared how he and his brother, as teenagers, founded a non-profit organization to rally youth to help fight injustice around the world. We heard from church leaders, political figures, and others who dedicate their days building God's church through the talents they've been given.

When it was over, instead of looking out of the tiny crack I'd been seeing life, I shifted to stare out the picture window. If anything, I am reaffirmed in my belief that our lives are not our own. We are all called according to God's purpose.

I haven't been called to do foreign mission work. I haven't been led to sponsor a child. I don't see myself in the roles many others currently fill. But that doesn't mean my part in building God's church is any less important.

God says in 1 Corinthians 12: 14, 18-19 (NIV) "Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body."

And just as I honor my role, I also pray about it. I pray that God leads me to know and fulfill His will. I've noticed that one step often puts me on a path I didn't plan, but each mile brings me closer to where I'm supposed to be. It's good to pray each day to make sure we're where God wants us.

Does your view ever narrow until you can only see your problems? Can you pray today for God to help widen your view? You won't regret it!

Have a fantastic Wednesday!

Monday, August 13, 2012

WSG 19: The Flower Factor

Writer's Survival Guide 19: The Flower Factor

I recently spent eight weeks writing a first draft. I spent the next eight weeks revising the book. In between were countless blog posts, Facebook updates, Tweets, and e-mails. Writing is my job, and I love it! But, as with any job, I have to work at maintaining my enthusiasm. I can all too easily convince myself the book isn't good, when the reality is that I'm just not in a good mood.

My first drafts remind me of buds. The potential is there, but they haven't erupted and aren't ready to offer their full beauty. I'm usually not overwhelmed at this point. Coffee and excitement over the new project keeps my stem upright and strong. I want to see the bloom, so I keep working until the draft is done.

These water flowers represent my mood when revising. I know something stunning is there, but it might be hiding under a leaf or drowning in water. I feel wilted. Waterlogged. Surrounded by too many words. I have to look for the beauty. It's not as in my face.

Then there are the disappointments. Maybe we submit to an agent, checking our e-mails constantly, only to realize six weeks later "no response means no." Or we wait by the telephone, praying our manuscript is a finalist in a contest, but we don't get that call. Maybe we get rejected by editors, get a scathing critique...any discouraging news can make us feel we have a dead bouquet in our  hands. Yes, it was pretty two weeks ago, but now it's a shriveled up, ugly mess.

That's why confidence is so vital for every writer. If we're going to survive, we have to look at all of our books, stories, articles as vibrant objects of beauty. My first books were not worthy of being published, but they are as beautiful to me as this rose. All of my books are. They came from the best part of me, and that's what will always make them so special, so stunning.

The flower factor means always respecting our work. It IS beautiful.

Do you struggle to view your writing in a positive light at times? How do you overcome this?

Enjoy our Monday!

Monday, August 6, 2012


I'm unplugging this week. See you all next week!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Grandma-isms with Jill Kemerer Vlog

It's that time again--time for another webisode of "... with Jill Kemerer." Today, I'm sharing the secret language my grandma used. Sure, it seemed as if she spoke good old Midwestern English, but she had a few words unfamiliar to me that I spent time decoding!

Grandma-isms with Jill Kemerer

Past webisodes of "... with Jill Kemerer" are available on my YouTube channel!

What funny words did you hear as a child? I'd love to hear them!

Have a super fun weekend!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

No Kitchen? No Problem!

It's been one month since I last enjoyed a fully functioning kitchen. I have to say, it hasn't been as horrific as anticipated. Maybe it's because my husband is so dedicated and has worked hard to keep the project moving, I don't know, but the end is in sight, and I couldn't be happier!

When we decided to gut the kitchen, I worried about meals during the renovation. Eating out frequently would kill our budget, not to mention my waistline, so I knew I'd have to get creative about cooking.

We have a working refrigerator in our garage, and our new house has an upstairs laundry room with a wash tub. Two problems solved right there! Cold storage and a sink. :) We set up a temporary kitchenette in the formal dining room. Until last week, a microwave took up half of our table, and I stacked my small appliances (electric skillet, crock pot, and griddler) in a laundry basket on the floor.

Our coffee maker and toaster stay on a small folding table, and I keep the handful of dishes we use there too.

One choice we made based on the lack of sink on the main floor was to use plastic silverware and paper plates. I confiscated a few cheapie shelves from my kids' rooms to store a small assortment of dry goods and the paper plates and such.

I found it challenging to cook meals for a month without the use of an oven or stove. Thank goodness the refrigerated section offers such a wide variety of ready-made foods. Here is a sample of some of the meals we enjoyed:

- Crock pot roast beef with ready-made mashed potatoes (we all decided the ready-made mashed potatoes must be full of cream and butter because they are delicious!)
- Hot dogs or brats on the grill w/baked beans heated up in the microwave
- Grilled pork chops, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, deli pasta salad
- Grilled chicken tenders marinated in Italian dressing, large green salad
- Caeser salad with breadsticks
- Lasagna from the freezer section, salad, breadsticks
- Shrimp stir-fry with ready-made rice
- Chicken rice casserole (this was the only meal we all hated!)
- Grilled cheese sandwiches, chips
- Steak or Chicken tacos using frozen, cooked meat

Using ready-made products added to my overall food budget, but it still was a quarter of the price of eating out. Plus, we saved time, and we tend to eat less portion-wise when we dine at home.

Although our kitchen isn't 100% finished (next up--installing the sink, dishwasher, and stove!), I'll be unpacking our dishes this week. I'm so excited!

Have you ever had to live without a fully functioning kitchen? How did you do it? Any tricks you care to share?

Enjoy your Wednesday!