Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Lot Going On

Obviously I haven’t been posting as often as I normally do. There’s a couple of good reasons for that. One, I’ve been gone about every three weeks this summer and I’m leaving again in three weeks for the ACFW Conference in Dallas.

Two, we’re moving. We bought a spec house (a house a builder builds without a buyer) last month and should be closing on it just around the time of the conference. It’s about 30 minutes east of where we currently are, out in the boonies a bit (so far out it’s not on Mapquest and Google Earth still shows it as cotton fields), but it’s a good move for us. But it also requires us to get our current house ready to go on the market. And since “Calvin” has gone through a black Sharpie period in his art, I have to do A LOT of painting. Like nearly every wall in the house. Not to mention cleaning baseboards, light fixtures (how do all those bugs get in there?), and switch plates. So, obviously, I’m having a ton of fun. Feel free to come on over and join me.

This last weekend I was back in California for my cousin’s wedding. It was a fun wedding. They got married on the beach at the Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego by a Navy chaplain who had a family friend for years. The reception was in the officers’ club.

The fun thing about being around my family is that I no longer feel like an Amazon. I’m actually one of the shorter people. I’m the oldest grandchild of nine, and one of only two girls. All my cousins and brothers are over six feet tall.

We drove down from Orange County with my parents and grandparents. I joked with my dad that he’d better not wreck because with four generations of Crosswhites (my maiden name) in the car, he’d take out a big chunk of the family tree.

We arrived at Coronado three hours before the wedding and since we couldn’t just wander around the naval base that long, we headed to some of the tourist spots and walked along the beachfront. Which was interesting considering I was dressed up for the wedding, in heels, walking around while most people were in shorts or bathing suits. And, I still managed to get sunburned. Not hard to do. I can burn under a light bulb.

I rarely go any place that I need to dress up enough to wear nylons, but I did wear them to the wedding. While we were standing outside an ice cream shop, my little Calvin squatted down in front of me. Then he starts poking my leg and rubbing it, and then looked up at me and poked my leg again. Then he pulled up his pant legs and looked at his legs. Ah! I finally figured it out. The sun was shining on my nylons, giving my legs a weird iridescent look which he’d never seen before, and he couldn’t figure out what was happening. Since it’s summer and I’m in shorts most of the time, he sees my legs a lot. Just not looking all shiny like that.

Considering my kids spent several hours in a car then had to sit through the ceremony and the dinner after, they were pretty well behaved. But Calvin had had his limit by about nine. He went over to my grandpa and told him, “GGpa (short for great-grandpa), it’s time to go. C’mon.” Then he goes over and grabs my mom’s big tote bag and carries it to her, spilling out half the stuff on the way and shoving it back in. “Grandma, let’s go.”

And we did.

In case you’re interested, the entry Mike and I wrote channeling Kanner Lake reporter Leslie Brymes will be up at Scenes and Beans Friday. And maybe I’ll have something more interesting to talk about later. Or you all could suggest ideas (except for Peter and Mike).

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

An Interview of Me

Sabrina Fox has posted an interview with me up on her blog, so if you want to know my deepest, darkest sin . . . wait, she didn't ask me that (Dang, and I had a good answer too). If you want to know how many bones I've broken . . . no, she didn't ask me that either. But if you want to know how many different majors I had in college, that's there. Along with various and sundry items that might be of passing interest. Or not.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Reunion and a Meme

Finally, I'm going to talk about the reunion like I promised. I know you were all of the edge of your seats just waiting to hear what happened. Right.

Dineen and Ronie both tagged me with the same meme, so we'll get to that too. It's a good excuse to take a break from painting nearly the whole stinkin' house.

We spent the early part of the day at the beach. At this time of year, the water off the coast of Southern California actually gets warm enough to go into without a wetsuit. For the first time in all my beach going, I experienced a rip current. We were in the water with the kids and the undertow was really strong so life jackets were mandatory for them to be in the water. Then the life guard called over the bullhorn for all of us to get out of the water because there was a rip current just behind us. It's hard to see when you're in the water, but as soon as we got on shore and gained some elevation, you could see the roiling surface that indicated the competing currents.

While we were sitting on the beach and the kids were making a giant sandcastle, we saw three dolphins swim just outside the break zone. My daughter was particularly pleased to see that.

After the beach we left the kids with my mom and Peter and I headed up the coast to Long Beach to check into our hotel and get ready for his high school reunion, West High, Class of 1986, Torrance. I noticed while I was getting ready that my legs felt shaky. I attributed this to fighting the undertow at the beach all day. But then I got dizzy. Surely I just needed to eat. Peter ran to a corner market and brought me back some munchies. Didn't help. By the time we got to the reunion, I was sick. Nothing like trying to act interested in someone's conversation when you're trying not to throw up on them. Still, there were many people I knew through Peter (PK--pre-kids) and we enjoyed getting caught up.

And yes, my broken arm story came back to haunt me again. One of Peter's friends, John, was production assistant in Hollywood when we knew him. He videotaped our wedding. He came up to us at the reunion and the first thing he said to us was about my broken arms at the wedding. Then he had to tell everyone in hearing range about it. I'm definitely getting a lot of mileage out of that story.

One thing they do at these reunions is put together "bio books" on everyone. You submit a photo and a little blurb about what's going on in your life. In Peter's he put the link to my blog. So if any of you reading this are West High alumni, "Hi!" I thought that was sweet.

So the next day we drove back to Arizona, a miserable seven hour drive. Believe me, I'd rather have had the broken arms than the flu on that trip. Ugh.

On to the meme. I'm supposed to answer one these three questions and then tag five people. So, without further ado, here goes.

1. If you could write a novel about any subject, what would it be?
2. If just the thought of having to write anything gives you hives, what would you like to read about in a novel that you’ve never seen done before?
3. If you hate reading fiction (you can get counseling for that, you know), what subject might make you change your mind or try it anyway?

We can't possibly have any people of the no. 3 persuation reading this blog. Obviously, I'm going to answer no. 1. I think I'd like to write something about SpecOps. I don't have any plot or characters to go with that subject, but I think it'd be fascinating. I'm also playing around with a Walter Mitty-esque kind of character. And I think she'll need to constantly injure herself. I won't have to do any research for that part.

Hmm, who to tag? Jeanne and Mike, of course, because looking into their brains is always fun. And Malia, Sabrina, and Jenny, though I don't know if any of you have the time.

Back to painting the house. I'll post pictures when I'm done . . . If I'm not dead.

Monday, August 14, 2006

ACFW Conference

So this is the week to talk up the conference. Well, last week, too, but I’m a little behind.

This year’s conference will be in Dallas September 21-24. It will be my third ACFW conference and my sixth writing conference over all.

My first ACFW conference was the 2003 conference in Houston. I had just joined ACFW and knew no one. I got there, went to my room, and called Peter. I told him I didn’t think I should have come. I felt so out of place. But I met Diana Brandmeyer and Julie Lessman who would end up being in my critique group.

It was also the conference where God really confirmed to me that He had called me to write. I remember so specifically praying before I went for God to show me if I should commit myself fully to this writing thing that I had just been playing at for years. God whispered something to my heart during that prayer, and it played out exactly as He said it would during the conference. I didn’t realize at the time how much I would need to cling to that promise of His faithfulness to keep me on this path. Most days it would just be easier to hang it up.

I missed the 2004 conference in Denver because we were going through a major upheaval in our lives. Good old Crit 19 had evolved into a wonderful support group not only for our writing but for each other spiritually. Whenever I think back on that time, I remember how much comfort I got knowing they were holding my family up in prayer.

Last year’s conference in Nashville was terrific all the way around. Once I got there. Jenny called me a couple of days before the conference during my son’s birthday party to tell me I wasn’t booked on a Thursday flight. Her daughter worked for Southwest and was trying to get her on the same flight as mine. What? When I got home I e-mailed Jenny my confirmation. I was booked on a flight. She called me back. I was booked on a flight for Wednesday. Except I didn’t have a room for Wednesday. Luckily the hotel wasn’t booked up (unlike this year), and I got a room a day early. Got to hang out with another member of Crit 19, Greg Williamson, and Malia Spencer from my mentor group for a day. I liked it so much I decided to come a day early this year.

I also met my agent at the conference. I got to meet my mentees Sabrina Fox and Malia in person. I took Gayle Roper’s fiction clinic and met Jeanne Damoff and Mike Snyder there. We hit it off, and they have added much laughter to my life this past year. In fact, I can blame Mike and the conference last year for the fact that I even have a blog. I wanted to leave a comment on Mike’s blog, and I couldn’t without a Blogger account. I got one since I had wanted to talk about my conference experiences to my friends who couldn’t go and decided that a blog might not be a bad way to do that.

As you might have noticed, what I’ve taken from the conferences have been my experiences with people. Yes, I’ve learned a lot in the classes, but you can always order the CDs. What you can’t do is replicate the experience of hanging out with other warped people who call themselves writers. In real life (not to be confused with cyberspace) the only writer I ever see is Jenny, and that not very often. So coming to a conference is like coming home. I get to see friends that I only know through blog comments, forum postings, and e-mail.

But there’s also a practical side to this. It’s one of the only ways to make business connections. Because the ACFW conference focuses on fiction, this is the place to be if you want to meet editors and agents that are acquiring fiction. Making those personal connections either though an appointment or at meals can make a big difference between being an actual person on the other end of that proposal or just a name on a piece of paper. In my experience the two editors I’ve had extended dealings with are ones that I met in person. If I hadn’t met them, I doubt I would have gotten as far with them as I did. Now, that’s no guarantee of success. I met an editor who didn’t like my writing and flat out rejected me (lots of sympathy, please). Still, I’m farther than I would be if I hadn’t been to these conferences.

This year I’m looking forward to hanging out with all my old friends and meeting new ones. And because I have an agent and my project is out to pretty much everyone it could be out at, I don’t have the pressure of pitching anything. I’m also teaching a late night chat on mentoring, so be sure to come and heckle me. I’ll even have chocolate to hand out.

Feel free to post your favorite conference memories or what you hope to get out of this year’s conference in the comments. If you talked about the conference on your blog, let us know that too.

See you in Dallas.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Count Your Blessings

Ronie Kendig tagged me with a new kind of meme, counting your blessings. I think this is a great idea. So often we get caught up with what's going on in our lives that we forget to see how truly blessed we are.

1. A friend who has blessed me: (there are so many...) Jenny for her unfailing support of me as my personal cheerleader.
2. An unexpected gift: our new house (yes, we're moving, more on that later.)
3. A kind word shared with me recently: Someone told me I had a beautiful voice.
4. Something that makes me stop and praise God: the Arizona sky at sunset during monsoon season
5. Something I'm looking forward to: Hanging out with you all at the ACFW conference
6. A particular part of me I'm pleased with: my sense of humor.
7. Something in my life that I wanted but never expected: the life I have now
8. A place that moved/moves me: I started to put the ocean, but I think a lightning storm off my back porch is right up there.
9. One thing/person that always makes me smile: my kids (of course, they make me pull my hair out too)
10. Most recent "love note" from God: In a post on one of the e-mail loops I'm on, someone mentioned a verse that God has used in the past to speak to me. It was like a little tap on the shoulder from God to remind me that He still knows what's going on and that all is not as it seems.

Wow, that was harder than I thought, mostly because a lot of things are hard to explain in a short sentence, or hard to narrow down to one.

Now it's your turn. I could pick some specific people like Jenny (because her blog is titled Abundant Blessings) or Mike (because he needs to update his blog) or Jeanne (because she talks about this stuff all the time on her blog) or Malia and Sabrina (because they've been blessings to me). But I'm thinking instead that anyone who wants to do this should. Leave a comment here when your top ten blessings are on your blog, and we'll all come visit and celebrate with you.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A Quick Update

Hey all,

I'll be back in a day or two with something of marginal interest to post. I do want to tell you about Peter's reunion. I ended up catching the flu and had a pretty miserable drive home.

In the meantime, here's a link to an article on Romancing the Blog on using details in writing. It's one of the best articles on the subject I've ever seen. So go take a gander.

Also, thanks to Brenda Coulter, I found this little gem: a video on YouTube of some math guys using math lingo in a love song. Now, I'm always fascinated when I find someone else that is equally left-right brained, combining logic with creativity, so this appealled to me particularly.