Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Manage Your Time

Mad Writer Genius Randy Ingermanson is talking about time management on his blog. I plan to implement some of his suggestions over the next couple of weeks, and I'll let you know how it goes. Because we can always manage our time better. Or at least I can.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

If you do it unto the least of these...

I read a few business blogs, always trying to learn more. So I was a bit surprised to see an article on Internet Business 101 challenging readers to buy packages of athletic socks and hand them out to the homeless and listen to their stories. You can read about it here.

When we lived in California we ran into the homeless quite often, bought them food, worked in shelters with our small groups. But in Arizona, and now out in the Midwest, they've sort of fallen off my radar screen. Granted, I'm in a pretty small town. I'm sure if I were in Indy or Chicago it would be a totally different story.

What I learned from James Brausch's blog wasn't what I expected. But I learned something else: the power of a pair of white socks and a listening ear.

I'd encourage all of you to take up James's challenge too.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

History for 100, Alex

I saw this on Georgiana's blog and it cracked me up. Since I have a Bachelor's in history I had to take it.

You Passed 8th Grade US History

Congratulations, you got 7/8 correct!

Whew! It'd be kind of embarrassing if I didn't pass. Of course now I'm wondering which question I missed. I have a suspicion it was one of their questions that I thought was wrong anyway!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Deja vu?

I had an interesting experience this morning. I woke up to check the news feeds of the fires in Southern California since I'm still a California girl at heart and have all my family there. And I saw my current book playing out on one of the screens. Well, not exactly, but I wrote about it over on the Misfits blog. Go check it out.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Informed Consent by Sandra Glahn

Informed Consent is a fast-paced medical thriller with an intriguing plot. While the CBA has embraced legal thrillers as much as the ABA, I haven't seen nearly as many medical thrillers, though they are as equally as popular. So I was happy to see Sandra filling that slot.

And now, here's an interview with Sandra.

What’'s Informed Consent about?
Jeremy Cramer, the next Einstein of research, is a medical resident specializing in infectious diseases. While working on a way to revive water submersion victims, he makes surprising discoveries, while also living with massive guilt over incidental infections that occur (which he could have prevented). Even as his marriage teeters, his career continues to skyrocket. Then, with a few twists along the way, he finds everything he has fought for threatened by the most personal, most heart-wrenching, choices of all.

I love exploring bioethics, and this book allowed me to consider end-of-life issues, patient rights, a compassionate response to HIV-AIDS…lots of edutainment.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?
The story had a thousand or more “what if” moments. I'’m pursuing a PhD in Aesthetic Studies, and I worked on the setting, characters, a lot of the plot, as well as my narrative voice during three novel-writing classes taught by a novelist who writes fiction reviews for Publishers Weekly. And I got some great feedback from fellow students who don’'t believe in Christ about ways to address faith issues more naturally. I also took a Dante class, which influenced my choice to give my characters five of the seven deadly sins. (I'’m saving the other two for a future work.)

But the elements in the plot designed to keep readers up at night came through a brainstorming session with medical doctor, William Cutrer, with whom I’'ve coauthored three medical novels.

What is the most difficult part of writing for you or was when you first started on your writing journey?
I still struggle with expressing character emotion. I feel like I’'ll insult the reader if I stop to say “the shock of the news hit like a two-by-four in the back of the head.” I figure if I tell the horrible circumstance, the reader has enough imagination to feel what any normal soul would feel. I want to say simply “His dad died in a plane crash,” and let the reader fill in the emotional blanks. Yet everybody experiences shock and grief differently. For some the room spins. For others it shrinks. For some it grabs in the pit of the stomach. Or it feels like a physical jolt. It’'s part of my job as a developer of character to choose how this character will react and respond. When the emotions get intense, I need to slow down and let the reader enter the character’s head. But I’d rather get on with the plot.

Take us through your process of writing a novel briefly— from conception to revision.
Once I have a germ idea, I come up with the beginning, middle, and end. Then I figure out the in-between points. Next, I create the main characters. I have four pages of questions I answer for each. About thirty percent of novel-crafting for me is the pre-writing imaginative work on the plot and character sketches. Then I choose a setting. I ask myself how I can use setting to communicate something. Where was Jezebel when she stole the vineyard? In Jezreel. Where was she years later when dogs ate her? Jezreel. The setting tells more than a place. It says something about the character of God. So I try to choose a setting that communicates on a deeper level. All the time I’m making these choices, I deliberate about the best way to tell the story. First-person? Third-person? Who will be the main POV character? Why?

After that I craft a proposal. It starts with a one-paragraph synopsis. While my agent shops it around, I develop the summary into a chapter-by-chapter outline. And then I make a file for each chapter and start dumping in ideas.

When my agent has some success, he calls. Here’'s what happens from there…

Editorial person really likes it
He or she takes it to the marketing meeting
I wait forever for that meeting to happen
Marketing approves it
I wait for them to agree on an offer
They issue an offer
I reel from the shock of how low it is
I negotiate
I wait for them to draw up the contract
I receive and sign the contract
I write the book
I send the book to the publisher.
They send the first half of the advance
I spend it all in one place
I wait for them to edit it
I wait a while longer for them to edit it
They send back the manuscript with lots of changes needed immediately
I edit it again
I wait
And wait
They send a galley proof, which they need back immediately
I edit it yet again
I watch helplessly as the release date gets delayed--again
I wait forever for my progeny to arrive in the mail
Finally, I hold my masterpiece in my hands
I find a typo

What made you decide to write a book that deals with AIDS?
The church in Africa is doing a fantastic job dealing with HIV-AIDS. The North American church— not so much. So I wanted to tackle some of our misconceptions, challenge some of our stereotypes, and hopefully help readers consider their own involvement with AIDS patients.

Favorite dessert?
Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Chocolate gets better with age (mine). (So does Advil, but it’s not a dessert.)

Sandra Glahn, ThM, teaches in the media arts program at Dallas Theological Seminary, where she edits the award-winning magazine Kindred Spirit. The author of six books and co-author of seven others, she is pursuing a PhD in Aesthetic Studies (Arts and Humanities) at the University of Texas at Dallas . She recently released her first solo medical suspense novel, Informed Consent (Cook). She is the co-author of three other such novels, which include the Christy Award finalist, Lethal Harvest.

You can find Sandra at her blog or her website.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Tag! I'm it!

Georgiana tagged me with the 10-20-30 meme. You have to say what you were doing 10, 20, and 30 years ago. Let's hope I can remember!

Um, ten years ago I was seven-months pregnant with my daughter. That I remember. Living in the OC, just a few miles from the beach. Sigh.

Twenty years ago I was in college at the University of California, Riverside. I'm guessing at that point my major was still English. I don't think I'd switched it to Business Administration yet. I can't remember if I was working for IBM then or the local newspaper. I do remember I was living in a cute art deco bungalow and drove a 66 Mustang.

Thirty years ago I was in third grade and Mrs. Bunch was my teacher. I liked her a lot. She had a daughter my age (we ended up in the same class in high school). I had a blue bike with a banana seat and got to ride it to school, about a mile away, through some empty fields and orange groves.

Whew! I think that used up my brain cells for the day.

I tag Michelle, Jenny, Diana (who's always looking for memes), Mike (who needs to update his blog and it's fun to see what he can't remember), Angie, and Chris. It's really sad that I know people too young for this meme!

Monday, October 08, 2007

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Part 5 (finally!)

I bet you were wondering if I’d ever get back to it, huh? Sure you were. Well it ends on a good note.

In August I got a call from a woman at my church whom I’d never met who said she’d heard I was interested in starting my own web site design business, and she had a business proposition for me. I was a little confused and a little intrigued. I didn’t remember saying I really wanted to start my own business, more that I was doing web sites. I guess that’s a fine point of distinction. Anyhow, we agreed to meet at the park because we both have kids, and we started talking.

Turns out she’s a graphic artist and is friends with a photographer. Both of them wanted to go out on their own and start a design studio but felt they needed a third person: me. Sarah, the graphic designer, had already come up with a logo and a name. Think Studios.
I went on line and found that was already taken so we ended up with ThinkStudio3, which I think is way cool anyway.

Angela and Sarah know everybody. Through their connections we got our first job photographing a pilots’ reunion. I happened to bring my video camera and decided to make a movie. You can see it here (let it load before trying to play it). It’s not great, because I ended up having that gall bladder issue in the middle of it, but it helped us realize that we wanted to do video along with photos for any events we do.

As it turns out, one of the couples at our church just bought a building downtown and turned part of it into an art gallery. Through some bartering, they’re leasing us a really cool office space in it. So we will be part of the artistic community.

The past couple of months we have had to make a lot of decisions. We’ve met with some business consultants who were so impressed with our little video and web site that not only have they recommended us to their clients, they’ve asked us to do some work for them. We’ve generated a lot of interest while trying to build the proper foundations of the business at the same time. Feels a bit like trying to build an airplane while it’s flying.

At this point, we’ve decided we don’t want to do run-of-the-mill stuff. We want to do unique and creative things. We’re doing web sites, marketing plans, events, and something unique called a Legacy Project. Think of what Ken Burns did for the Civil War, baseball, and jazz. We’re hoping to bring that combination of photos, history, and technology to individuals and families. We want to record their history the way Ken Burns recorded America’s history. I should have a sample online soon to show you.

So, that’s what’s keeping me up and nights and keeping me from my writing. I just absolutely love it. I never could have articulated it before but it is my dream job. I’m getting to use both of my degrees (history and business administration) and all my widely varied artistic experience. Only God could have orchestrated that. And he brought me together with two amazingly talented women who I’d love to hang out with, regardless if we were business partners or not. Every time we’ve had a business meeting people have remarked at how much fun our meetings are.

Our website’s not completely done yet. It keeps getting interrupted by potentially-paying work. But you can check it out at

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Check Me Out

I'm over at the Misfits blog today.

Tomorrow (I hope) I'll have the final installment on my summer vacation saga. At least it ends on a good note.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Part 4

Continuing with the theme of loss...

I ended up losing my gall bladder too. I had no idea my gall bladder had issues, but apparently it had been bothering me for awhile and I just thought it was acid. It started out with my suddenly having severe pain directly under my ribs. I broke out in a cold sweat and called the doctor, certain I had a bleeding ulcer or something.

The doctor's office got me in. The receptionist said it was because she was afraid I had appendicitis. I didn't tell her I'd lost that disposable part of my anatomy over 30 years ago. But as soon as the nurse looked at me, she said, "Classic gall bladder." Huh? I never would have guessed. The doctor agreed and ordered an ultrasound and told me to go on a low fat diet. I supposed the low fat diet helped somewhat, but the pain was still so intense, I couldn't walk more than a few steps.

Two things happened. One, because my insurance is still based in Arizona, I couldn't find an ultrasound place closer than 3 hours away that would be covered. Two, I kept passing out because I wasn't eating enough protein in my attempt to eliminate fat. One day when the pain and the passing out collided, Michelle insisted on driving me to the ER. The good thing was sometime in the seven hours there, that I don't remember because of the drugs, I got an ultrasound. The bad thing was I promptly threw up in Michelle's car when they released me. Luckily I had a barf bag with me.

The ultrasound showed I didn't have any gall stones, which was good because it meant I wasn't in any danger of one of them blocking my bile ducts and putting my life in danger. But it did mean I had to do a nuclear scan to see if my gall bladder was functioning properly.

It wasn't. When I saw the surgeon four days later, he scheduled me for surgery before even sending me to the lab for the nuclear test. He was that convinced. The test proved him right. The only thing I regret was that I felt bad enough that I didn't think to make any glowing in the dark jokes the day I was radioactive from the test.

So, six days later I was having my gall bladder out in an outpatient surgery. I couldn't believe how quick it was and how much better I felt after I had it removed. Recovery was better than I expected. I'm still on a low fat diet, trying to discover what I can safely eat. It hasn't been a radical change, because I've generally had a good diet. But it does mean I have to eat smaller, more frequent meals and have to do some advance planning. What's interesting is that I lost my taste for Diet Coke and other sodas (except root beer, oddly enough) and most fatty foods. They really don't taste good. I do have to make sure that I get enough protein, which can be a challenge but I make a lot of smoothies boosted with protein powder.

We really don't know why my gall bladder decided to bail on me. I don't have a lot of the risk factors for it, nobody in my family has had gall bladder issues. It was just one of those random things. Ultimately, though, everything is turning out okay.

Tomorrow, the conclusion of this tale, with some really good news that came out of this summer.

Monday, October 01, 2007

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Part 3

Something else died this summer. My beloved Mac. If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you’ll know I’ve had issues with my Mac, really the first time I’ve ever had a Mac act up and I’ve owned one since 1986.

This would make the fourth time in a year my Mac would have to go in for repairs. After the last time, I was told by the technician that if anything else happened, to let him know and he would make sure I got a replacement machine. So when the hard drive went out AGAIN I called Apple. (Note: normally I don’t buy extended warranties, but in this case, buying the three-year Apple Care warranty has been a very good investment. With all the beatings laptops are subject to, I think it’s practically a requirement).

While the technician on the phone couldn’t authorize a new machine, she referred me to Customer Relations. There I was able to convince them that being without my computer, which is my only way of making a living at this point, was extremely detrimental to my cash flow, and given how much time Apple had already had this computer, it was time to give me a new one. They agreed and within two days I had a brand new MacBook Pro. Top of the line. Now, my G4 Powerbook was three years old and they don’t make it anymore. So to give me a machine with the equivalent screen size (17”) and backlit keyboard, I had to get a brand new one. Needless to say, kudos to Apple for doing the right thing.

The downside was, even though I tried to back up everything as much as possible, I still lost some data. Mostly pictures as far as I can tell. The good news is, the newer, faster machine would come in handy in ways I couldn’t imagine at the time. Which I’ll talk about in Part 5. Even in the midst of something that was hugely frustrating, God was working in ways I couldn’t see.