Friday, September 28, 2007

Prizes and Contests Everywhere

Happy Friday! A great time to talk about winning stuff.

First, we're down to the wire on the Queen's contest. The drawing to win a $50 gift certificate to either or Bath & Body Works will be held Monday, Oct. 1. It may be pretty late Monday, because I have to work, but I want to give you all day Sunday, September 30 to leave those last comments (each one is an extra entry) or subscribe. I originally said the deadline was going to be September 29, but I decided to extend it, mostly because I'm too lazy to tackle it this weekend.

Second, here's an announcement that involves shameless self-interest. Camy Tang is having an amazing contest on her website. She's giving away iPods, books, all kinds of good stuff. I've already entered, and most of you probably have, too. But if you didn't know about this contest and want to enter it--please remember you heard about it here. Why? If you say I referred you, I get three additional entries! Have I mentioned to you before how much I'd like to win an iPod?

I told you it was shameless self-interest. Have a great weekend! And good luck in the drawing on Monday.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Timing is Everything

It's funny how much God has been talking to me about timing this past week, including the night before I left for conference. My devotional Bible brought me to an entry entitled "Timing is Everything." (From the NIV Women's Devotional Bible 2.) For a reference, it used the famous chapter that says (to paraphrase) "a time to be born, a time to die, a time to tear down, a time to gather stones together." The point of the devotional was that what may be right at one time in your life isn't right at another. If we try to force things before God's timing is right for us, things probably won't turn out well.

This worried me a little, with the conference coming up. Oh, no, I thought. Is God trying to tell me I'm going to have to do even more waiting on my dreams?

I didn't take my devotional Bible to Dallas, since it weighs a ton. I just hoped the Gideons would be faithful and leave one in the hotel room, and sure enough, they did. I picked up with that same chapter of Ecclesiastes and read through that book. I don't know whether that was the best choice of subject matter. You know how Ecclesiastes is, right? Lots of "vanity, vanity, all is vanity," and life can sound pretty depressing. And sure enough, I did encounter "more of the same." In other words, the same stuff that's kept me from writing success before--writing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Mixing genres, a real no-no. "Missing the market," even though I try to study them and do the right thing. I kept wondering, what is God trying to say to me--through his word and through this conference?

I always get conflicting advice about my writing at conferences. It takes me awhile to sort it out after I get home and choose which suggestions I should listen to. The main conflict this time came as to what I should work on next. My agent feels I should write romance novels, because it's easier to break in there. Someone else whom I respect told me I should go forward with my current WIP, even though it apparently mixes genres shamelessly. But I'm passionate about it, and it does seem to intrigue people.

Now that I'm home, I've returned to my devotional Bible. Last night, the devotional took me back to Ecclesiastes. This time, the words jumped out at me in a beautiful way:

"Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a mother's womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things.
Sow your seed in the morning,
and at evening let not your hands be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
whether this or that,
or whether both will do equally well." *

Isn't that fantastic! Here's the less lovely interpretation that I took from it: "Robin, get to work! If you keep looking at those clouds, fretting over more waiting, mixing genres, not getting it right, you'll never get anywhere. As to which book to write--why not both? I'm not telling you which will succeed. But stop feeling sorry for yourself and get busy!"

Suddenly, I'm over that post conference fog and ready to get back to work.

* Reference is from NIV, Ecclesiastes 11:4-6

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Home at Last!

In a way, it's hard to believe it's been almost a week since I posted. Then again, I feel like I was away for a month. I've now been to Dallas twice and have seen nothing except the airport and the Marriott Quorum. It's hard to find time to breathe, let alone leave the hotel.

For me, the highlight of this conference was meeting several people I had known only through emails or phone calls. I finally met my agent, Janet Benrey, face to face. She was so gracious and gave me a great big hug and a lot of encouragement, as well as some advice on what direction my writing should take next. Here we are at the awards dinner Saturday night.

I briefly met several people who have visited the blog--like Christa Allan, Tiffany Colter, Michelle Hutchinson, and Cathy West. Rose, if you're reading this, I glimpsed your name tag as it was walking out the door of the bookstore and tried to yell, but I was trapped working behind the cashier's table and couldn't manage it. I never managed to connect with you again. I didn't manage to find Sherrie, either. Drat!

The Saturday night awards banquet was one of the last official functions, and as I arrived I was thinking that I still hadn't spotted Sally Bradley. It was harder to identify anyone Saturday night, because most folks refused to wear the big tacky name tags when they were all dolled up for the dinner. But I saw someone across the hallway that looked like Sally's picture, so I followed her and introduced myself. I ended up sitting with her during the ceremony so we got to talk a bit. As I commented on her blog today, I was very disappointed that she didn't win the Genesis award for her category (romantic suspense), but I still felt like I was sitting with a celebrity when they flashed her picture up on that huge screen.

As for the workshops and classes, my favorite was the late-night chat hosted by the Thomas Nelson folks. They moderated a discussion about what exactly Christian fiction is--and what it should be. I was happy to hear the new direction that Thomas Nelson is taking. There might even be hope for some of my strange stuff to slip into that door one of these days, who knows? Randy Ingermanson's workshop on marketing was also excellent. For anyone interested in fresh ideas for marketing their writing on the Internet (even if you're not published; Randy holds it's never too early to start marketing yourself), I'd recommend getting the conference CD's.

And last, you'll be pleased to know that I did get up the courage to wear the Queen pin. I actually stuck it to my name tag. On the one hand, it worked as I planned fairly often, so I got to discuss the blog and give out some bookmarks. On the other, so many other folks were sporting bizarre attachments to their nametags that I didn't get as much notice as I'd hoped--or feared. In fact, the bookstore was selling all sorts of ribbons for the name tags, and would you believe one of them said "Queen"? They were sold out by the time I got to the bookstore, but I saw a couple of people wearing them.

I was indignant, of course. Clearly, there can only be one Queen.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Heading for the Conference

I've been so bad about blogging this week. And I'll probably be bad for the next few days. I really thought about taking my laptop with me to Dallas so I could blog while I'm there. I may regret not taking the laptop, because I have a feeling there will be lots I'll want to share. Plus I may need moral support. But last year I took my laptop with me, and I ended up arriving at the hotel about four hours before they had my room ready to check in. So I had a heavy tote bag and my computer, which I swear was made of solid iron, to lug around with me all that time. I'm just not sure I can risk that again. So either I'll have to find a computer to use somewhere, or save it all up for next week.

Speaking of the conference, did you notice the picture at the top of this post? I started out with a cute little idea. Find a pretty crown pin and wear it, to identify myself as queen. I did find a nice, subtle little crown necklace, but I also came across this rhinestone pin that says "Queen." While I was looking at the picture of it in the online store, it seemed like a great idea. I'll wear this cute pin that says "Queen." People will ask me why I'm wearing it. I can then tell them about my blog. I can whip out a "Queen of Perseverance" bookmark and give to them.

There are a couple of problems with this plan. First, when the pin arrived, it turned out to be the biggest, gaudiest thing you ever saw. Second, this plan goes against my nature, which is to try to blend into the wallpaper and be noticed as little as possible. So whether I'll have the courage to do this or not is anyone's guess. I'm taking it along just in case.

I'll let you know. In the meantime, to make up for my slackness of the past few days, I did post twice today. Be sure to read the other one. The cats are more entertaining than I am!

Oh, What a Night!

Wendy checks the Perimeter...
And gives the "All Clear."

Last night was pretty wild at the Queen's household.

It all started as I sat in the chair next to my bed, looking at a catalog. My husband was already asleep, so I was using a small light on the nightstand, and the rest of the room was pretty dim. My cat Wendy started to stalk a small object on the floor near the doorway. I thought it was her catnip mouse, but I changed my mind when the object suddenly leaped away from her. I did some leaping about that time, myself.

Whatever it was had gone in the general direction of my quilt rack, so Wendy and I both crept in that direction. We pulled apart the layers of quilts and looked all over the place for that little critter, but we didn't find anything. Finally I told myself that it must have been a harmless cricket, even though that would have been the biggest dadgum cricket I had ever seen. Still, I was tired and just wanted to go to sleep.
I did just that, but sometime later a noise made me leap again. Something had squealed, or squeaked, or squawked. I have a hard time describing this noise, partly because I was trying to wake up as it happened. But I knew one thing right away. This was no cricket. I also knew it sounded like it was under the bed.

I asked my husband if he had heard the noise, and he said yes.

"So what was it?" I asked.

"I don't know," he said.
"Oh, great. There's probably a mouse under the bed."

"Well if there is, Wendy will get it."

I don't want to cast any aspersions here, but Wendy is a house cat. She's never, to my knowledge, been outside. Stalking her catnip mouse is about as far as that goes. Still, I looked over at her, and she was giving it the old college try. She seemed to have zeroed in on something between the footstool and my purse--right next to my bed. I went for the light on the nightstand and discovered two tiny little eyes staring up at me. Since this was the same dim light I was using earlier, I was pretty freaked out for another second or two. Then I managed to see what I was looking at--one of those tiny, cute little green frogs.
Cute or no, Wendy was worried about her reputation and was about to go for him. I secretly suspect she wouldn't have accomplished much other than causing him to hop around the room, or back under the bed so we couldn't get to him. The process had already started when Dave deposited her in the hallway and shut the door while he caught the poor little frog and took him outside.

So anyway, I'm pretty tired today. Tonight I work until 10 p.m., and I need to leave my house at the crack of dawn tomorrow to start that long day of travel toward Dallas. So if you see me at the conference and I look pretty haggard, now you know why!

Cera slept through the whole thing, so I had to tell her about it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Thanks, You Guys!

Thanks so much for the response about my photo. I love fishing for compliments! I'm really an insecure puddle when I go to conferences, but y'all have made me feel better. Maybe I'll at least have a decent picture on my one sheets. I noticed yesterday that the picture is pretty dark. Maybe the photographer took me seriously about photographing me in candlelight. Whatever helps.

Melanie, I'm very disappointed you (and Kathleen) won't be at the conference. Maybe next year. Assuming I ever come up with the money and energy to go again. I'm looking forward to seeing all of you who are planning to be there. And Sherrie, how did you know my favorite coffee involves the word "mocha"! I'd love to sit down and have one with you.

Next time I post, I want to ask your opinions about a couple of things. Yes, they're about the conference. I told you I'm very insecure. Some of you may be sick of hearing about the conference by now. Actually I'm getting sick of it myself, and I'm going. Just put up with me for another week or so, and then we can get back to the important stuff. Like giving away prizes!

Again, thanks to everyone who left such nice comments. I started this blog to try to encourage others, but it's turning out to be the other way around.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A New Look

Yesterday I did something I haven't done in quite awhile. I actually paid a professional photographer to take pictures of me. In preparing for the ACFW writers' conference in Dallas next week, I needed to make updated business cards and one-sheets. I wanted to put my photo on them, and frankly, since I've started plastering my picture all over the place, I decided I needed all the help I could get. In other words, I needed to consult a pro.

Seventeen years ago, a wonderful photographer named Ken Hill photographed my wedding. I didn't run into him again for over a decade. Then my husband and I moved to my home town, started going to a new church, and found our wedding photographer in our Sunday School class. He very politely told us he remembered our wedding and how beautiful it was, but none of us could keep a straight face. This man photographs weddings all the time, and since ours was a tiny wedding with punch and cake for the reception, I doubt it made that much of an impression. I, of course, thought it was the most beautiful thing I ever saw, but it's the only wedding I've had!

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I asked if he would take headshots of me and allow me
to use them on my blog and business cards. He graciously agreed and charged a very reasonable fee. So there I was, posing for dozens of shots for over half an hour. (He really gave me my money's worth.) I decided I would hate to be a model or a celebrity, which doesn't seem to be much of a threat right now. I was looking through all those shots awhile ago, trying to choose a new one for the blog. You start to examine yourself more closely than you should--unless it's your soul you're examining, of course. In some shots, I decided he had made me look really young, probably by putting my face in almost total shadow, but then my teeth looked dark. (I asked if he could photograph me in candlelight, since I look stunning in really dim lights. He said no.) In some pictures, my ears were sticking out through my hair like an elf. A deformed elf. I mean, Orlando Bloom and Liv Tyler looked great with ears like that, but me, not so much.

Anyway, I finally chose one. You can see it on the opening page, over there on the right. No ears sticking out, can't see the wrinkles too much, teeth aren't too prominent. Although I do sort of look like I'm up to no good. Maybe I better go examine my soul now.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Driving at Night

I hate driving at night. I don't see very well, for one thing. Yes, I know it's dark and no one sees well at night, except my cats, who can attack a wiggling toe under the covers without the aid of even a tiny night light. But I have trouble beyond that.

First, car lights and street lights seem to spread out and run together. It's hard for me to tell where one begins and another ends, let alone which lane the cars are in. If you add a little rain, I'm toast. I did recently get some nifty driving glasses with an anti-glare treatment that help some.

Maybe this is an indication I'm getting old. When I was a kid and someone would complain about taking my friends and me somewhere at night because of driving in the dark, we would roll our eyes and say, "The car has lights." If there were justice in this world, we would have received at least five or ten lashes for that.

Anyway, this past weekend, it was time for our semi-annual trek to the bluegrass festival. As you may recall, it's way out in the country, and my mother, my husband and I headed out Friday night to catch up with the rest of the family. My mom doesn't drive and Dave wasn't feeling well, so that left me. Driving in the dark.

And I do mean dark. For miles at a time I wouldn't see lights from houses or towns, just black woods on either side, with that one patch of light from the headlights right in front of my car. I was doing pretty well for the most part. After all, I was wearing my new glasses. Then I lost my focus for a few seconds. I glanced up and saw that the headlights of the car I was meeting were coming at me at a weird angle. For a second or two, I felt panicky. I wanted to jerk the wheel and straighten up the car, because I felt as though I were running off the road, but I gripped the wheel and hung on. My emotions were telling me to turn. My head tried to tell myself nothing had changed; I was right on track.

A couple of seconds later, my headlights showed me that the road was about to curve, and I do mean curve. Now it was time to gently turn the wheel and go with the road. Now everything made sense. That's why the car lights were coming at me from about a 70 degree angle.

I've mentioned this verse in an earlier post: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." That time I mentioned an illustration I'd heard of a flashlight--that God's word and his guidance are like that. They only show us one step at a time.

Well, in this day and age, I guess his Word could also be compared to headlights. It shows us all we need to keep the car running smoothly and on the road. But take your eye off the road right in front of you, off of that lighted spot right in front of your own vehicle, and you lose your focus. You get confused and think you're off track even when you're not. You may even panic and want to jerk that wheel, to take that curve in the road before you're ready for it.

My prayer for all of us this week is that we keep our eyes on the road, stay safe--and complete that journey that God has in store for us.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Happy Birthday to our Panda Cub!

I've mentioned before my fascination with Atlanta's giant panda cub, Mei Lan (rough translation, Atlanta Beauty). Only a few giant panda cubs have been born in the United States, so we're very excited to have her here in Georgia. Today she's celebrating her first birthday! I wish I could be there for the fun, but there's just too much going on this time of year.

Mei Lan weighed approximately four ounces when she was born, and they compared her size to a stick of butter. Hence the nickname we gave her where I work: Butter Baby. She weighs over 57 pounds now, but considering that her mom weighs around 250, she's still pretty small. And definitely cute.

If you want to see for yourself, check out the photo gallery of Mei Lan on Zoo Atlanta's website:

You can also watch her live from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays on Zoo Atlanta's Panda Cam. And then there's the blog with updates. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Women's Purses and Other Dimensions

I may not understand all that physics stuff about dimensions of space and time I was reading about last weekend. But I do know one thing. Women's handbags are somehow connected to another dimension. That's the only way to explain how things disappear and reappear inside them.

It's sort of like the socks in the drier thing. Every week, I put in 10 or 12 socks. A nice even number. I get back out somewhere from 5 to 9. I ask you, where do those things go?

Wherever it is, items in my purse go there, too. Unlike the socks, this stuff often comes back. Case in point: I have a name tag that I wear at work. I generally forget to take it off at the end of the day until I get to my car, so I always put it in my purse, in one of four little pockets on the outside. Last Monday when I got to work, I couldn't find it. I searched all the little pockets. I took everything out of my purse and looked in every nook and cranny. I even felt from the inside, because if anything is stuck down in those little pockets, you can feel it through the fabric. Nothing.

So I spent a week looking everywhere else in the world. Occasionally I even went back and emptied out the purse again. Still nothing. I was just about to order a new one, when I reached into one of the purse pockets for something else, and--you guessed it--pulled out the name tag. Right there in the pocket where it was supposed to be all along.

I admit I've gotten pretty ditzy lately. I frequently don't make it home with all my groceries because I'm bad about tossing things into someone else's cart. (I've gotten used to hearing someone scream, "Ma'am, ma'am! You're taking my cart.") I frankly wouldn't have been surprised to find my name tag in the freezer, or in my sock drawer. But in the very spot in the purse where I was looking?

Last year, I had a medium-sized handbag with no pockets. I had three items in it: a small cosmetics bag, my wallet, and a cell phone. But just try reaching in there and casually pulling out that phone. I could grope around in every corner of that bag. No phone. Eventually, I would have to take out every other item and peer directly down into the purse to find it.

So what's the explanation? I think it's obvious. Women's handbags form some sort of wormhole into another dimension. This tunnel must provide two-way access, because most of my items do come back, like my cell phone that would come and go. But where do these things go in the meantime? Are they off somewhere with the socks from the drier? Is it somewhere fun? Maybe we should build a giant handbag so we could climb in and check it out.

I'd really love to track down the mate to my one fuzzy blue slipper sock, anyway.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Time Flies When You're Reading About Time

I hope you all had a great Labor Day weekend. Mine was excellent, although not terribly productive. But hey, it was a holiday weekend, right? Surely those don't have to be productive.

I did manage to crack a few books as research for my work in progress. At this point, I have to digress and put in yet another plug for libraries. A few weeks ago, I came across a book on that I really wanted to look at for my current manuscript. I'd had an idea of someone using insulin in an attempted murder, but I needed some ideas on how this might be done. Lo and behold, I found a book called The Insulin Murders, a historical overview of cases in which insulin was used as a weapon. I really didn't want to spend $30 on it, however, especially when it might not really help, or might not be what I thought. I looked it up in Worldcat and found it was only in about five libraries in the U.S. I hesitated putting in an interlibrary loan request for it where I work since a) I wondered if this would be too much trouble and b) you hate to ask at work for a book about murders and how they're committed. People might start looking at you funny and avoiding you.

Actually, though, our interlibrary loan guru didn't bat an eye. So let me reassure you--interlibrary loan folks have seen it all. Don't hesitate to ask. She also got my book for me within a few days, all the way from Vermont.

Next, I've mentioned being interested in time travel--again, for a story I'm working on. The other day it suddenly occurred to me to wonder if there were any serious scientific books about the possibility of time travel. Turns out there are quite a few. I ordered a couple of them through our library and they came just in time for the long weekend.

So I spent some time over the weekend reading about...time. I discovered one basic fact. The concept of time is a lot bigger than my brain. I think the side of the brain that does physics is completely dormant in me. It may actually give off no measurable brain waves.

I also came away with a sort of awe and wonder of how big our universe is. Turns out, there are more dimensions of space and time out there than we can imagine. And just think, God is not only big enough to imagine it all, He created it all.

I'll probably be telling you more on this subject. It's fascinating stuff. I think. Assuming I understood any of it.

Books I'm reading about time and time travel:

Time Travel in Einstein's Universe: The Physical Possibilities of Travel through Time, by J. Richard Gott III

Enchanted Paths and Magic Words: The Quantum Mind and Time Travel in Science and in Literary Myth, by E. C. Barksdale

What God Knows: Time and the Question of Divine Knowledge, edited by Harry Lee Poe and J. Stanley Mattson