Friday, November 30, 2012

Let Hope Blossom

If you remember, I've talked about the faith challenges I've faced this year in my post, When God's Plans and Your Plans Don't Mesh. The new year brought a series of setbacks, then we sold our house, bought a new one, remodeled, and enrolled our children in a new school district. Life fell into place, but I wasn't quite myself. I'm still not quite myself.

To be honest, I push through each day, and while some days are fine, others leave me discouraged, pessimistic, hard to be around.

2012 was a winter season.

I have plenty of things to be thankful for, and I'm very grateful. I have been all year. But being grateful and feeling joyful are two different things.

A handful of good writer friends kept my spirits up with our chats, texts, and e-mails. Recently, I spent Thanksgiving weekend with my sister, her family, and my parents. I don't know if it was a combination of all this, but at some point last week, the layer of snow covering my optimism melted.

I felt hope stir.

I didn't realize how much I missed hope--that glorious, energy-giving sensation--until those tiny tendrils broke loose. When they did, I nourished them and hope did not wither. It blossomed.

Really, nothing specific happened. I think God granted me grace with the promise of spring.

Sometimes everything in your life should add up to 100% happiness, but it doesn't, and you don't have a good explanation for it. That's okay. Just keep getting up and doing what you're supposed to do. Winter will pass. Spring will come. When it does, let hope blossom.

Looking back, how would you describe your year?

Have a wonderful weekend!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Pressure Cooker of November

I blinked and almost missed it. November!

How did November, that crazy pressure cooker of a month, fly by so quickly?

I didn't participate in NaNoWriMo this year, but I did set a goal of adding 40,000 words to my current manuscript. I'm on track to meet that goal. Yay!

Goals I'm not on track to meet? Just about everything else!

Yes, I still have Halloween decorations up. No, shopping isn't even close to being done for Christmas. In fact, I just started. Christmas cards? Haven't bought 'em.

To make matters worse, I keep thinking I should be making the most of Cyber Week, where Christmas shoppers supposedly find great deals on the Internet for gifts. The whole thing confuses me. I go to a site, say, and I don't really know which toys are deals and which aren't. Some sites, like Old Navy, offer a blanket discount on your purchase. Too bad the items I'm interested in are sold out.

No matter. I'll shop eventually. The tree will go up with all its lights and bulbs this weekend. And I'll break down and buy some Christmas cards at some point.

November is busy, and it's easy to feel like I'm not getting anything done, but when Christmas rolls around, I know I'll somehow have shopped for all the gifts, the house will twinkle with pretty decorations, and my manuscript will be tucked away, all written, ready to be revised in the new year.

That's the nice thing about pressure cookers--they gets things cooked quickly!

How are you doing on your goals?

Have a fantastic Wednesday!

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Truth About Black Friday

by Jill Kemerer, @jillkemerer

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Since you're reading this, I'm assuming you either skipped shopping on Black Friday or survived it. I did not go shopping this year because...well...the truth?  It's scary!

On Black Friday, shoppers all over America set their alarms for 3 AM, throw on a pair of sweat pants, and, if they live in northern states, they wrap up in fifteen layers of scarves and coats before trekking to the mall, Target, Walmart, Kohls, and every other store brave enough to open its doors in the wee hours of the morning following Thanksgiving.

I've participated in this crazy tradition a time or two. It wasn't pretty.

First, you have to get in line with hordes of zealous shoppers, all pumped to grab every item on their lists. You're typically waiting for hours outside, and the line-keeping is based on the honor system. This means at least 50 people will "cut" in line by mysteriously seeing someone they know.

Let's face it, your odds of getting that TV on sale go down with each extra person joining the line ahead of you.

As if that weren't enough, it's technically still night out, it's cold, and the store will not open a minute before the appointed time. Someone behind you will be snapping an extra large wad of gum in your ear. The people ahead of you will start fake-wrestling. At least one flailing arm will catch you in the back of your head, and the wrestlers will bump the rest of your body numerous times.

Steam will start to pour from your ears as you mentally count how many people have technically cut in front of you by joining groups already in line.

If you're not the best shopper on a good day, well, it's about to get worse. Once the store does open the doors, you're jostled and shoved into the store like a blocked ketchup bottle that suddenly gets popped. There will be no rhyme or reason where the main items in the ad are placed in the store. Electronics will not be in the Electronics department. You'll practically need a map just to find a single item on your list!

The hot toy on sale? They'll have 3 of the one you want and 174 in the wrong color. It won't matter--they'll all be gone by the time you find the display.

At one point, you'll stop and just stare, circling in wonder at the sights you're seeing. Grown men laden with arms full of children's pajamas. (I don't know any men who buy children's pajamas on a normal day--why are they so pumped about cornering the market on Black Friday?) Women slinging four or five game systems on their shoulders. Carts crashing into each other on the way to the camera aisle.

And then the've grabbed everything you could find on your list, which sadly might only be one item, and you head to the check-out lanes.

Prepare yourself. It will be a doozy. These lines will weave in and out of aisles ALL the way to the BACK of the store. Hope you had a large coffee earlier, because you are going to need every drop of the caffeine just to stay awake long enough to pay for your stuff. Oh, and the gum snapper you thought you'd shaken? A new one will be standing in line right ahead of you. A screaming two-year-old will be behind you.

If you can't tell, I don't like Black Friday. In fact, I might need therapy after my experiences! All I know is this year I slept in, lounged in my pj's, and sipped coffee.

For all you Black Friday shoppers--I salute you! Hope you got what you wanted and the lines were short!

Did you go shopping on Black Friday this year?

Have a happy Monday!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

I'm on vacation this week! Yay! I can't wait to see my family. Good times!

Thank you to everyone who chimed in with Christmas book suggestions. I've already ordered two books and read one short story. :)

Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I'll catch up with you all next week!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Christmas Book Suggestions?

Last week I read the children's book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. I'd never read it before, but both my kids had and they thought it was hilarious. They were right! I loved it too!

One of my favorite Christmas books is Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies. I first read it when I was in high school. I found it in our school library, and I remember thinking it looked interesting. I couldn't put it down--it just made me smile! Now, whenever I watch the movie or re-read the book, I'm taken back to a winter's snowfall outside the floor-to-ceiling windows in our old school library.

Each year, I read at least one Christmas novel. Many times they're romances.

This year, I would love your help. Could you share suggestions with me? I'd love to read a few Christmas books over the next few weeks, but I don't know which ones to read.

Any tips would be appreciated!!

Do you read Christmas books? What one is your favorite?

Enjoy your weekend!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why Santa Claus Gets on My Nerves

The Christmas commercials are starting to air on television, and I love the jingle-jangle, the bright reds and greens, and the happiness that abounds in them. What can I say? I love Christmas!

But only a few days into this most delightful season, and I realize Santa Claus gets on my nerves.

Call it a case of the Charlie Brown Christmas. I don't know. All I know is there's a Hallmark commercial with Santa opening a mail chute. Out pours tons and tons of letters. On the top is a red envelope. He opens it.

And a child's voice starts saying, "I want..."

I cringed.

I guess that's the problem for me. Santa Claus is all about "I want." Kids learn that this happy man exists only to fulfill their wishes--once a year. Yes, tell Santa what you want.

Christmas, to me, is about saying "thank you, Jesus," not, "I want..."

Knowing we have a magnificent God who loves us and calls us His dear children, who stands by us in every trouble, who cheers our every success, who wipes our tears, gives us courage, who blesses us beyond our wildest imaginations, and, who--get this, sent HIS SON to live a perfect life, die as atonement for our sins, and rise afterward to heaven so we can share eternal life with Him--well, I'll take rejoicing in the real reason for Christmas over a shabby list of wants any day.

The magic genie aspect of Santa Claus bothers me. It's an unwelcome distraction from the natural gratitude so abundant this time of year for Christians.

So there's my Christmas rant. I'm putting on my Christmas CD's and letting my heart blossom with the reason for the season.

Does the self-centeredness of "I want" in secular Christmas messages get on your nerves too? Or am I just being a major Grinch?

Have a fantastic Wednesday!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fresh Plots: WSG 30

I'm writing the first draft of my eleventh book.

Yes, eleven!

It's pretty cool to look back at where I started so many years ago. I vividly remember the day I decided I would write a novel. In my bedroom, surrounded by tiny pink flowered wallpaper, Chante' Moore crooning on the radio, and a gentle, patient snow coming down outside, I sprawled on the floor and began filling a notebook with my book.

I vaguely recall it being set in Chicago and the "book" consisted of a series of dream dates--my idea of a perfect romance novel.

Within a few hours, I realized my error. If a man and woman only deal with dream dates, the book ends at page 22. This knowledge didn't stop me; it fueled my desire to get it right--to figure out how my favorite authors did it. How did they write such compelling books?

My engineering career and the early years with my babies led me on a detour from my writing, but I did finish my first book seven years later.

Now that I have ten completed books under my silver, square-linked belt, I know the danger of getting comfortable. I've only ever written one genre--romance. It's the only genre I want to write. Sure, I've dabbled in romantic suspense. I've written quite a few sweet romances for the mainstream audience. But my true love lies in my current genre: contemporary romance for the Christian market.

To keep my new book fresh, I tried a different plotting method, but by chapter three I found myself writing a scene and feeling that something wasn't quite right. After a long session of trying to determine the problem, I realized the plot progression felt familiar. I'd done something similar in a previous book.

Out came my new writing craft book, The Story Structure Architect, recommended to me by Jessica R. Patch. It's  not a read-straight-through-book. It's more to help you make decisions about where your book should go. The "situations" section in the final half of the book really helps with this. I read through two situations and inspiration struck.

In some ways, writing a book is easier now that I have years of experience. The writing itself is better, and I trust my instincts. But in many ways it's a lot harder. I have to challenge myself to find new twists, to come up with more unique plots. And, I'm always learning. Always will be learning.

Have you found yourself copying yourself--or another author--with your current plot? How do you keep your plots fresh?

Have a terrific Monday!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Moldy Pumpkins

We have four pumpkins on our porch. It's November 9. That's 9 days past Halloween. Two of these pumpkins are moldy. Their creepy faces reveal black souls, which is fitting for Halloween decorations and all, but really--it's well into November. Why haven't I thrown these things out??

Here they are before Halloween, when they still looked sweet and happy.

All my fall decorations, including pumpkins and black cats, lurk around the house. I have not put them away. I will not put them away.

They will disappear into the basement when I chug, chug, chug the Christmas boxes upstairs and not one minute before. That's how I roll.

Moldy pumpkins.

Okay, who else is super lazy when it comes to this stuff? Let me know if you have moldy pumpkins on your porch still!

Have an amazing weekend!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Little Things and Contentment

Yesterday I had one of those rush, rush, rush days. The kind where you try to fit it all in--making a grocery list, buying the groceries, VOTING, finishing laundry, and, oh yeah, there's a ton of apples in the fridge and you should probably do something about them before they spoil.

Well, I did make the grocery list. I bought the groceries. I voted. I finished the laundry. I even peeled 25 apples and made applesauce out of them. When I finally sat down to write, it was 2:30 pm, and I knew I had a lasagna to make and library books to pick up. I didn't think I'd be able to meet my goal, but I fired up my laptop and figured any words were better than none.

I did meet my writing goal. It felt good. But what really brought a warm blanket of contentment over me were all the little things I'd accomplished throughout the day.

Sometimes the small tasks snowball and push a huge pile of anxiety on my chest. No, the world won't stop turning if I have to throw out a few apples, but it will bother me. I hate being wasteful. And, sure, I could leave the laundry for tomorrow, but I don't enjoy putting things off that I can get done now.

My heart is also smiling because I have a refrigerator full of healthy food. I don't have to fold clothes because they're all folded. And I'm that much further on my current work-in-progress.

What a blessing to have the little things. :)

What little things could you do today to bring contentment?

Have a terrific Wednesday!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

What's In Your Writer Survival Kit? WSG 29

Writer's Survival Guide 29: What's in Your Survival Kit?

As a writer, I have a lot of tricks to keep me writing. My laptop, chocolate, cute pens, my idea journal, my ginormous thesaurus--and coffee! So naturally, I'm curious about your tricks.

Tell me, what are the essentials in YOUR writer's  survival kit?

Have an awesome Monday!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Exercise Plans with Jill Kemerer Vlog

Now that November has arrived, I pretty much wear my winter uniform of sweaters and jeans. This can lull a midwestern gal into thinking she can hide any bulges. (I'm going to let you in on a secret: she can't.)

Unfortunately, Halloween just hit our house and I'm a candy freak. With Christmas right around the corner, I know I'll be shimmying into cute holiday clothes soon. That's why I'm being proactive this year. I'm getting my exercise plans together.

Here are my exercise plans to stay in shape before the holiday season!

Is this time of year a danger zone for you to drop exercising and overindulge? What are you doing to stay in shape? I'd love to hear your tips!

Have a terrific weekend!