by Rebecca Talley
Before I announce the winner of our contest, I wanted to thank all of you who participated and became followers of our blog. I hope you've enjoyed the blog and that you'll return often. We'll be holding more contests in the future.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
by Rebecca Talley
Sunday, June 28, 2009
“Rachel? I just wanted to call and give you a heads up that you might need to get a substitute pianist for the choir on Sunday,” Sister Jones said on the other end. She sounded a little frantic. “Sister Baker’s daughter is on her way to the children’s hospital in Salt Lake and doesn’t know when they’ll be back.”
“Oh, no! What happened?”
“Emma fell off their horse a while back and they thought she just had the flu. But apparently she has some major internal problems with her organs and they took her to Salt Lake this morning.”
Now, I’m the choir director in my ward and we’re singing today. Fortunately the second councilor in the bishopric’s wife said she’d play and does a masterful job. But honestly, my first thought was not for my choir or the predicament I was in but for the Baker family.
The Bakers don’t have very much money and they have eight children. Sister Baker just had a bout of cancer and one of the boys has had cancer too. So this is not a family unaccustomed to trials. Still, my heart went out to poor little Emma who is not yet even four! I can only imagine how scared she must be – and her parents too.
About two weeks before this, my husband and I were getting ready for bed late on night when we heard the piercing sirens of an ambulance as it stopped across the street from our home. Knowing the 83 year-old grandmother who lived there had a severe heart attack the month before and had problems with fluid collecting on her lungs, we rushed out to see what was wrong. The medics wheeled her out on a stretcher and her sister and her worried children filed into the street. We feared the worst but her daughter said she would probably be okay. She wasn’t eating and had more fluid on her lungs. In fact, over the course of the last month, they have pumped about 48 pints of fluid from off her lungs. But she has signed the papers saying they aren’t allowed to do anything more to her to keep her alive. So it’s only a matter of time. And while the medics and firemen arrived and then helped her into the ambulance, we sat across the street, helplessly watching as they carried away the sweet lady who has been like a grandmother to us.
Now, I don’t tell you these stories to put you down, but I have been thinking a lot about the precariousness of life. It is so easy to take our health and family for granted. I wonder what I might miss if someone special were to suddenly not be here tomorrow. Would they have felt my love for them? Would they have understood the importance they were in my life? And would I always regret not doing things differently? It is amazing how little things can put my mind into certain thoughts. I hope these things make me a better person! And I hope we all will strive to let those closest to us know of our love for them!
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Today, I’d like to delve into childhood some more—when time seemed to last forever, and responsibilities consisted of remembering to feed my rabbit in the hutch I built from boxes; take Gyp the dog for walks; and collect runner beans from the garden for mum to cook for dinner. And the sun always shone. Well, maybe not. England isn’t known for sunny days. But in my memory, there was plenty of sunshine. Imagination can work a magic of its own no matter what.
Snowball (see last post) often left the attic and followed wherever I went - on foot, bike, or roller skates - my invisible friend was all the protection I needed back then. These days, I’d be worried sick if my granddaughters wandered alone.
A favorite place for make-believe was across the road from our Victorian semi in Knutsford. There was a large field occupied by an ancient carthorse, and beyond the field, down an embankment was the railway line. When I walked the length of the field and climbed a fence at the far end, I could jump onto the embankment and edge my way along the top until I came to a gap in the shrubs. Once through, I slithered halfway down the steep slope to the next ledge. There, Snowball and I stretched out on the grass and watched for trains.
It was a quiet place until a steam train clattered past. The occasional bumblebee droned and drooled over pollen in scattered wild flowers, and spectacular clouds formed igloos, tigers, and friendly giants overhead. It was the perfect spot for my fairy people who lived among the matted roots. Their adventures occupied space in my mind for many years.
One story eventually popped out at a traumatic family moment. More about that in my next post. I have to gather photographs for Famous Family Nights right now.
Feel free to join a Facebook group for Famous Family Nights by clicking HERE.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Here are some general answers to frequently asked questions people ask me as a humor author. In future posts I will explore each of these subjects in more depth.
1. What’s the secret to making people laugh? Writing humor is like drawing caricatures. You take true things that happen, or annoyances that are common to most people and you enlarge or exaggerate them and make them silly. For example…In one essay from “Confessions of a Completely Insane Mother,” I have exaggerated my problems with garden pests into a war against bugs…and I have enlarged my daughter’s love of nature to be a crusade to save roly-poly’s. When other people have the same grievance in common with you, they laugh, because it is soothing and reassuring to laugh at other people who have the same problems.
Humor is also about surprises…you have to set people up with a very serious point and then totally hit them out of thin air with something ridiculous. If you’ve ever read Dave Barry, you have seen him do this over and over. Irony is also a big part of making people laugh. When you take a person who thinks he is suave and cool and he's totally not...that is funny.
2. What about the characters, are they part of the humor, and are they true to life? The characters are what make the story funny and interesting. How they overcome their various ridiculous obstacles is something that puts the icing on the cake, humor-wise. Exaggeration is expected in the humor genre. The characters are usually sort of true, but blown out of proportion. In my book “Confessions…,” I have taken true characteristics of people in my family and exaggerated them in each person to make them funny. For instance I have a mind that is always coming up with impractical new ideas to solve problems…and in the stories I blow that trait up into a character who is constantly coming up with these outrageous schemes to solve every tiny family issue.
If you read stories by Patrick McManus, you’ll notice he does the same things with his characters….and even his characters’ names are part of the exaggeration. For instance he names a very “smooth” girl that he dates, “Velveeta,” and his very straight-laced wife is named, “bun” as if she always wears a bun in her hair. Funny characterization is the best form of humor in any writing because when people love your characters, they will keep coming back for more.
Next time: I’ll explore the use of irony in writing and how it can make your writing more saleable.
Kersten Campbell, author of "Confessions of a Completely Insane Mother" (www.kerstencampbell.com)(humor blog: www.kersten4.blogspot.com)
Posted by Kersten Campbell at 8:03 AM
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I wonder how much we as authors have learned from each other since the Writing Fortress became a reality. I, for one, feel that it has been a great success. In one of the postings we might read a simple statement or a profound thought that touches us. Some posts may present ideas. Others awaken our imagination with inspiration. Yet another might explain feelings that unite with our own, and we find that we are not alone in our stuggles as authors. I think this blog has brought us closer, not only as authors but also as friends.
But I have to admit in all that I have learned, I have learned nothing about commas. I have written five books and I still do not understand them. I know what you're thinking. "By now, lady, you should be a master of commas." Right? I agree, but they continue to elude me. They disrupt my dreams and turn them into nightmares. They attack when least expected and plant themselves in the shadows, hiding themselves until they are sure I will not find them, then they blossom like poison ivy, wrapping themselves around sentences and paragraphs, filling pages with their sticky ,,,,,,,.
But alas, I have found a way to weed them out. I have called upon the one who has been given the gift of comma understanding and, with red ink, he suffocates them and leaves them exposed for me to delete. Aha. The only problem is that it takes longer to get a manuscript ready. I'm working on a new manuscript, and I'm waiting for my Comma Extinguisher to do his job then I can delete, delete, delete, with great pleasure and a slight headache.
Since I mentioned that I have authored five books, I had better give their titles. My first book is the product of a musical I wrote for my Community Theatre, several years ago. "Miracles for Michael."
"Journey of the Promise," (a mystery of suspence with a touch of romance) came next. "Pages From the Past" (a modern patriotic mystery) and its sequel, "The Silent patriots," are number 3 & 4. "Prince Etcheon and the Secret of the Ancient," (a fantasy), is my 5th. I can only say that, if you were to ask the author, she would tell you that these books make wonderful and exciting reading.
I realize I haven't told you anything about the author. I love to write. I love to paint. I love to sing. I love to do Family History. When you put all these together it makes for a busy life. Would I have it any other way? I don't think so. But it does make the days fly by.
My writing career began with simple stories that fluttered around in my head. I wrote a few Roadshows (remember those). Then I had the opportunity to write a musical about Joseph Smith's conversion which I titled: "That You Might Understand." I wrote three Children's musicals for the elementry school in the small city of Orangeville, Utah, where we lived for 35 years. Then, one day I had the opportunity to ghost write 2 books for a gentleman in California. After that, I decided I would rather write my own, and I did - and I'm so glad I did.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post and I hope you didn't find any commas out-of-place. If you did, will you keep it a secret, please?
Posted by JoAnn Arnold at 9:24 AM
Monday, June 22, 2009
By Nichole Giles
The day school let out for summer was bittersweet for me. I love my kids, they are the light of my world. But having them home with me—all day, every day—just felt overwhelming.
I know I’ve done it before—this entertaining kids 24/7 thing. But ever since my youngest (now nine) started first grade, I’ve learned to cherish my alone time. It’s my cleaning time, my blasting-the-stereo-while-I-shower time, my running-errands-with-the-convertible-top-down time (even when it’s only fifty degrees outside). But most importantly, it’s been my writing time.
Oh, how I miss my writing time.
That’s not to say I don’t still find time to write, just that it’s a lot harder to do during the summer—especially if I try to write during the day, because I get interrupted literally every three minutes. All I want is a few quiet, uninterrupted minutes.
But there are benefits to not having my schedule revolve around school. For one thing, I’ve always been a night writer. There’s just something about the quiet of the house when everyone else is asleep that gets me in the groove. Except I must be getting old, because anymore, I can’t stay awake the way I used to. But when I do stay up—because I choose to, not because the neighbors dogs are barking incessantly or because the neighbor kids are playing night games—I can sleep in the next morning without worrying about making the kids late. Then I’d have to write a note to the teacher, explaining that my child is late because I spent the night in a battle between good and evil, which the good fairies and mermaids eventually won. Some teachers just don’t get it.
And as soon as it gets warm, we plan to spend time at the pool—me, the kids, and my notebook and pen. There’s nothing like the warm touch of sunshine to help me see the scene I’ve been searching for. Or…wait…maybe that’s the neighbor kid pushing his mother in the deep end while she talks on the cell phone. And…oh no…wait, it’s okay. The lifeguard will save her. I think. But they might have to get a diver to go after the phone.
Hm. I wonder if my computer chord will stretch into my closet? I’ll sit on the floor among the rows of shoes and write about dust bunnies who have an obsession with sandals. Or better yet, maybe I’ll try the bathroom. I could write about a main character who got sucked inside a cyclone and ended up in China—except no one ever leaves me alone in there, either. That’s a bad idea—not to mention a water hazard.
I tried writing in the backyard the other day, a story about two dogs who left their home to go on adventures yet unknown, but after a few minutes my knees dripped with doggy drool from my own dogs, and my keyboard was sticky from being licked—but not by me. I brushed the dog hair off my screen, and then the rain clouds opened up and sent a torrent. Nope, outside doesn’t work so well either.
Well, I should go. I’m going to try hiding out in my car. Maybe if I scrunch up in the backseat and write really fast, no one will find me…
Until we meet again, write on!
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Would you believe there is still one more author in this writing fortress to hear from? Me! I’m Trina Boice, one of the few non-fiction authors in the crowd. I’ve written 6 books so far with lots more on the way! My 7th will be published by Cedar Fort just in time for Christmas shopping. Yay!
I asked my family how I should introduce myself to you in a clever, creative way and I got quite a few mixed suggestions. My husband said I should tell you about all of the things I’m NOT, so I thought I’d try that first:
“I’m not a super sonic rocket, but I have been known to eat ice cream at lightening speed.
I’m not apathetic, and have the emotional scars to prove it from being a political correspondent for KPBS during last year’s election.
I’m not a crazed, texting teenager, but I do write for Go2.com
I’m not a 95 year old grandma, but I sure would like to take a nap, and some say I’m off my rocker.”
Hmmm....maybe I should try my youngest son's suggestion. He thought I should tell you about myself from the viewpoint of the pencil I write my books with:
“Gee, Trina is really sharp and gets to the point.” Silly pencil. I write with my keyboard.
Then my twin sister encouraged me to write from her point of view:
“Trina is really really good looking.”
Ummm, that's obviously not going to work. So I thought I’d try my oldest son’s idea. He's serving a mission in Argentina and loves language and rhyming.
“There once was a writer named Trina.
She dances, but is no ballerina.
She won California’s Mother of the Year.
She’s LDS and has never drunk beer.
Trina served a mission in Spain
Wow, this rhyming attempt is real lame.”
Ok, since that’s not working out very well, how about I try my 2nd son’s idea? He’s a college student and wanted you to know that I graduated from BYU with 2 bachelor’s degrees and competed on the Speech & Debate team and Ballroom Dance team. I was President of the National Honor Society Phi Eta Sigma and served as ASBYU Secretary of Student Community Services. Later I went on to get two master’s degrees from CCHS. I’d love to get a PhD some day just so people would have to call me Dr. and I could pretend like I really know something.
My 3rd son wanted me to tell you about all of the things he and I have in common. He is studying mixed martial arts, inspired by his mom who has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He doesn’t realize I’d pass out from fright if I were ever really attacked by a bad guy. I received the President’s “Point of Light Award” and he likes to point his laser light in people’s faces. He’s an energetic bundle of joy and I feel joy whenever I finally get energy. He plays all day on his computer and I work all day on mine.
It’s a good thing I don’t have more children or you’d be sitting here all day, reading more of their goofy ideas. Let’s just keep it short and say that I’m thrilled to be writing for Cedar Fort and I’m excited to meet you all! Besides, if I told you what I really do for a living, I’d have to kill you.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
By Christine Thackeray
A few days ago I was driving around in the convertible with my youngest. I LOVE summer and was feeling the freedom of no school, open afternoons and general abandon. As we passed the police station sipping soda's and not really in the mood to go home just yet, we noticed the little old community thrift shop. It's run by volunteers and only open from noon to four so I've never walked in the door, but Will and I decided to hop out of the car and give it a try.
The store was once a pre-WWII home. Its front door is made of plywood. We pulled it open, not sure what to expect inside when a smile exploded across my face. The front hall was overflowing with books, floor to ceiling, literally. My nine year old continued into the main store and found a pair of shorts, a cool t-shirt and a bag of bendable dinosaurs, but I didn't make it past the racks and racks of thick, juicy volumes of every genre. I left with an armful of historicals- most published in the seventies and eighties. I wanted to add more color to my writing and was hoping to pick up some brilliant phrases.
In one book it said that a red cloud of dust clung to the horses' hooves and trailed behind like a dragging scarf. Another spoke of the wide plains around them with little mounds of basalt cresting about the flat terrain like fish at sea. The last spoke of two stallions fighting in South Africa, partly in anger and partly in play. The horseman didn't break them up because they were stallions that knew when to stop. Mares, he thought, were a whole different matter. When they fight, they often injure or even kill each other. (Aren't people the same way?)
Later that night I told my husband how delighted I was with each find. I've been struggling with that first scene in my Herod book and I think having stallions fighting and using the mare line would be a brilliant way to begin, symbolically foreshadowing the issues with Salome, Herod's wives and mother-in-law all leading to various executions. As I spoke, my husband turned to me and asked how I could do that without breaking copyright. Wasn't it plagiarism? I laughed and told him that it was far closer to inspiration. But the line is important to understand and not to cross.
About ten years ago Nora Roberts accused bestselling romance author Janet Daley of plagiarism. She said, "In none of the known cases was the copying one or two phrases. It was, particularly in the case of Notorious, several entire scenes and passages. It was not an isolated case, but a chronic one, spanning years and involving thirteen books." Sadly, cases like this are not uncommon. Many of the accused claim the stress of deadlines and personal problems as the cause but it is clearly stealing.
One the other hand, there are a number of phrase books on the market that give you various descriptive phrases of body parts, facial expressions, landscapes, clothing, etc from different works. They are a great resource and often when writing they simply encourage you to think of textures or the shape of teeth- things outside the realm of your average modifiers to brighten your writing.
Lately, I've chosen to create my own phrase book. I added "One Note" to my computer, an awesome MS application which allows you to categorize information. As I read rich descriptors or original verb/noun combinations, I've begun copying them down and categorizing them for later use as the examples above. My hope is not to merely repeat them but to become more adept at mimicking their depth and beauty like painting the classics and then using similar brushstrokes to create your own masterpiece.
Of course, the concern is losing your own voice and becoming instead a patchwork quilt of other writers- that would be just ugly. Sort of like the disconnected historian who simply quotes source after source without ever tying it together. Michael Evquen de Montaigne put it this way, "The bees pillage the flowers here and there, but they make honey of them which is all their own." It's my hope that through pausing and appreciating writing, I'll be able to make my own more sweet.
Do you do this too?
Friday, June 19, 2009
By Heather Justesen
Last March I had the awesome opportunity to attend Snow College's Major Rush (Go Badgers!), which meant I had the chance to speak with students who wanted to go into publishing, but didn't know how to go about it. Afterward one of the young women whom I had met, but hadn't had much time to talk with, wrote me with a question--can I just say how much I love to talk about writing? She said that she had gotten partway through a book and was stuck. Even when she wrote later chapters she found it difficult to merge everything back together. This is what I told her.
I think this is a problem we all face sometimes. I know I have trouble with my stories when I get about 2/3 of the way through. Even though I know where I want to end up, I still struggle to get from here to there.
There are several possible causes for this, in my experience. First, I often don't have enough conflict planned for that section of the book, so I have to add something more. I heard a podcast (Writing Excuses) where the guys said when they get stuck, they have a bad guy knock down the door. Another writer recently mentioned on her blog that when she gets to a spot like this, she starts looking to see if there are any characters she can kill off (Josi Killpack).
Obviously, these aren't going to solve every problem, but sometimes when I get to this place, I re-evaluate what I've written (I don't do a thorough edit, I just skim over what I've got written to refresh my memory and see if there are any loose ends). Often I can find a conflict from earlier in the story that I let drop that I can pull again. Other times I get ideas on how to reintroduce or strengthen an existing conflict (The ex in-laws try to get custody, the character gets arrested by mistake, the guy who has been trying to get her to date him all year pushes again, and she pushes back in a totally unexpected way).
In my stories it is almost ALWAYS a lack of sufficient conflict. I often call one of my writing friends (Danyelle) and brain storm with her, because she's great at coming up with new things that should be obvious conflict possibilities that I totally missed. If you have someone you can talk to about your story, you might want to see if they have ideas.
Another possible reason for the problem could be that you're trying to get your character to do something they wouldn't normally do without proper motivation. I've been having this problem with another book I'm working on because I haven't given my character a good enough reason to do what I want them to do. So I either need to give them a better reason to come to this decision, or I need to give them a different course to follow. In this case, not having them make the decision I want them to make is going to ruin the whole premise of the story, so I need to fix the motivation.
A third possibility is that maybe you don't know your characters well enough. When I don't understand the character, know their quirks and history, I sometimes have trouble staying on track, or figuring out what they would do next to get to the next major story goal. Conversely, if I know my characters really well, I know what conflicts are coming up, and I'm excited about the story, it tends to almost write itself.
So why do I let myself start writing without knowing my characters inside and out or having a reasonable outline? No idea. I guess I'm just a glutton for punishment.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
I never thought the day would come where I’d have to give up gluten and sugar, but it did. Did I feel sorry for myself? Yes, especially at first. I mean, how could I live without wheat?It’s in practically everything. And sugar was like my best friend.
But this experience was a great learning opportunity for me. I discovered a way to prepare wheat that actually digests gluten so I could tolerate it. Then I learned about natural sugars that were nourishing to the body and more gentle on blood sugars. I decided to just have fun with this new information. I became passionate about creating recipes and sharing with people what I had learned about grains, natural sugars, and whole foods in general and their impact on health. I had to express it somehow. Before I knew it, I was co-authoring a cookbook using whole foods, gluten-digested (sprouted) grains, and natural sugars. (We just received the good word that Cedar Fort will publish this cookbook!)
What does all this have to do with writing? Lots of us feel passionate about something in our lives. Writing, parenting, health, economics, creating, etc. Write down your passions, and bring it into your writing. Feel passionate about your characters. Feel passionate about your plot and subplots, or feel passionate about your topic. A lot of good books were sparked by a passion for something. At the very least it is therapeutic and creates a stronger voice, and at the most, you may end up touching and enriching the lives of others.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
BEA Panel: Social Media and the Independent Bookseller
"People want to do business with people, not companies," said Ann Kingman, district sales manager for Random House, a member of the BEA panel about Social Media and the Independent Bookseller. "I want to know who I'm talking to." Kingman twitters to communicate with booksellers, about 20% of whom also subscribe to her blog. (Just last week, Kingman posted an informative blog, "How I follow 1,700 people a day on Twitter in only 20 minutes a day.")
Heather Gain, marketing manager at Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, Mass., uses Twitter to prepare for buying appointments by "talking" with booksellers, and she tweets about events at the store and sends people to the Harvard Bookstore's Web site. But, she said, she also tweeted recently about a muffin she bought from a local bakery and received a flood of responses saying, "I want your muffin."
On that note, moderator Len Vlahos, ABA chief program officer (and now ABA's COO), observed that social networking is "not about marketing but about building relationships. Your professional and personal lives blur."
Stephanie Anderson, manager of WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y., and a Shelf Awareness columnist, said she, too, uses Twitter to get recommendations from booksellers. For example, while recently putting together an order for Europa Editions, she tweeted bookstores to find out some good Europa titles and wound up placing an order for 10-15 books. She also "gets a read on events" through the store's Facebook invitations.
Anderson has both a personal and store account on Twitter. When she writes in the persona of the store, she said she does not talk about what she had for lunch, for instance, but as "Bookavore," she does.
Vlahos said that a lot of people wonder how booksellers can do so much social networking and keep up with their work. The answer is finding a way to weave social networking into "the fabric of your day." Anderson pointed out that people had the same worry when e-mail became widespread. "You just find time for e-mail; it's the same with Twitter." Anderson communicates with roughly 100 booksellers each day, and maintains "a minibuzz all day, just like the one I get at the Winter Institute," she said.
Vlahos also pointed out what a powerful tool Twitter can be in spreading information, citing the #amazonfail headlines-maker (the Amazon controversy surrounding the disappearance of gay-interest books from the online bookseller's rankings) as well as the groundswell of support for #buyindieday, which promoted the idea of buying at an independent business. (And of course the BEA tweetup, which began on Twitter.)
Audience members also chimed in. When one bookseller asked if Anderson was able to do her work at WORD while maintaining her Twitter pace, WORD owner Christine Onorati said emphatically, "Yes!" She also said that Anderson had used social networking to start a basketball league at the court across the street from WORD Bookstore (with league names such as the Virginia Wolves, Purple Pros, the Elements of Style and Mrs. Ballaway), and, giving her own plug for the powers of social networking, Onorati said she received 80 resumes in response to a posting about an open position at the store.
However, Vlahos acknowledged the need to manage productivity, and Kingman suggested that in larger stores it might be necessary to "come together and discuss a strategy" for social networking. Kingman also emphasized that "blogs have staying power," and "give you Googlejuice," meaning that blogs get picked up by Google's search engine (Facebook and Twitter entries do not).
Someone else in the audience asked about online book clubs. Vlahos suggested GoodReads.com, which is still independently owned. Both Shelfari and Library Thing are now owned by Amazon.
Another bookseller cajoled Vlahos: "Len, whatever happened to Second Life?" Vlahos chuckled and explained to the audience that this was an avatar universe set up by the ABA some years ago. But Vlahos also took the opportunity to make a larger point, "retweeting" a quotation from NACS's Mark Nelson at an earlier panel, attributed to Wayne Gretzky: "You have to skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is." Last year, it looked like My Space was gaining ground; this year it's Facebook and Twitter. Who knows what the future may bring? Whatever the future holds, Vlahos suggested, booksellers have to be there.--Jennifer M. Brown
Posted by Lyle Mortimer at 7:56 AM
We've all heard the advice, "Wear clean underwear in case you have an accident." My entire life, this statement made no sense to me. If you had an accident, wouldn't your underwear just be dirty again?
It wasn't until I was being rushed into surgery for an emergency c-section that it all finally made sense. I wasn't being told to wear clean underwear in case I had an accident - I was being told to wear clean underwear in case I was in an accident. One little word change, and the entire meaning of the phrase changes. Yes, that was a weird time for that bit of knowledge to come to me, but hey, the mind does hysterical things when it's under stress.
The point is, one incorrectly used word can greatly change the meaning of what you're trying to say. Sometimes an incorrectly placed comma will do the same thing, giving the reader one message when you mean to give another. As you self-edit and as you have others edit for you, be especially careful for those instances where your meaning might be hidden behind unclear wording. And be especially careful when your wording might indicate something crass or inappropriate.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Since we love followers, we're going to hold a contest. If you sign up to be a follower of this blog, you will be entered into a contest to win Altared Plans, an LDS romance by Rebecca Talley.
Rules:1. Become a follower of Writing Fortress by midnight June 29th.
2. A name will be chosen by random on June 30th and announced here.
3. The winner will need to supply his/her address to receive the book.
That's it. What an easy way to win a book!
by Rebecca Talley
I was once asked by an interviewer if I listened to music while I write. The answer is: not on purpose. Does that mean I write only when there's silence? Ha. Far from it.
I write to Sesame Street, Dora The Explorer, nursery rhymes, Rascal Flatts, Tae Bo, radio stations, countless kid videos, bickering kids, and teenage drama. The truth is, my house is never quiet--not even in the middle of the night. Between kids who talk in their sleep and yelping coyotes outside my window, there always seems to be commotion.
I've had to learn to focus. In fact, sometimes I focus so well when I'm in the groove of a story, that my kids stand at my computer and chant my name until I look up. I suppose that's a bad thing, yet in my house, it's been a coping mechanism to get things done. I'd never complete a YW lesson, read my scriptures, balance my checkbook, pay bills, clean my house, fold laundry, cook, or do family history if my family's organized chaos constantly distracted me.
I've also developed a keen ability to pick up on that which truly needs my attention. Even if I'm in the "zone" while writing, I can hear a child crying, respond to an important request, or take care of an immediate need. I can even answer the telephone. I think all of us who write with children still at home have this innate ability. I call it a mom writer's 6th sense: the ability to discern between immediate needs and that which can wait until after a chapter is finished.
Since I have such a large family that always seems to be in motion, I've learned that if I want to write, I have to make it all work. I've honed my focus skills and I've learned to use time in the shower, time driving my kids to appointments and extracurricular activities, and time waiting at the dentist or doctor to think through my story so that when I do have a minute at the computer, I can use it effectively.
I also write snippets of stories on the backs of deposit slips, post it notes, and grocery lists. Whatever works.
So, no, I don't write to music, I write to life.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Hello, wonderful readers! *waving* I'm going to introduce myself a little differently today. First of all, my name is:
Pronounced Jay-mee Thee-ler
I like to:
I have raced recently in a Sprint Triathlon, a half-marathon, and this Friday I'll be running this race: But not by myself. It's a relay race (with teams of 12 runners).
I'm addicted to:
I never quite grew out of:
I don't like:
And at the age of three I was run over by:
I have 2 non-fiction books published with Cedar Fort (which I wrote to help me figure out things with my own life)
Parenting The Ephraim's Child: Characteristics, Capabilities, and Challenges of Children Who Are Intensely MORE
Enjoying The Journey: Steps to Finding Joy Now
And I'm looking forward to participating in this blog! Look for me every third Monday.
*If you want to know more about me, then you can visit me on my blog, Bookmom Musings, or visit my website at jaimetheler.com.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
I’ve been thinking a lot over the last week an a half about what I would say on my first post. Unfortunately, when I sit down to the computer to talk about myself, I freeze. Not to mention, I am the last new blogger to put in my intro. Perhaps everyone is tired of reading about the authors here. But, I want you to know me as a writer and as a person.
I love to write! And what better way to pass the time? It’s therapeutic in so many ways. Yet when I sit down to my computer and read all the introductions of these great authors I blog with, I get intimidated because I’m so new. Yes, I am a very new author! My first book, By Love or By Sea, was published in April 2009. And what a great adventure it’s been!
You might say, “Well, Rachel, you published a book. That counts for something.”
And it does! I have loved the journey I took to get published! It is a great accomplishment. Especially for someone like me, who couldn’t spell well as a child and didn’t like to read and didn’t do it well either. So, it’s amazing that I ever desired to write a book and see it to fruition. (Therefore, please forgive me for my spelling and grammatical errors. I like them!)
You may ask what my passions were before I began to write. Well, I majored in Vocal Performance. That’s right, I sing. Opera, specifically. I’m a coloratura soprano (that means I sing REALLY high.) When I was young, my mom would play the piano for the musicals at the college and I would often go with her to rehearsals. I LOVE musical theater! It helped make me the hopeless romantic that I am. And I always dreamed of starring in a play someday.
Unfortunately, this was a dream I never saw to fruition, for I got married and had three beautiful daughters. Do I regret that I never fulfilled that dream? No. I star in all my stories!
You may ask, “Rachel, if you hated reading and loved to sing, how did you start writing?”
Honestly, I owe my choice in this matter to one person. Marcia Lynn McClure. Shortly after my first daughter was born, my mother-in-law gave me A Heavenly Surrender to read. I loved it and eagerly searched out more of Marcia’s books. At the time, she only had three in print, but I devoured them!
Then one night I had a dream and when I woke up, I decided to try and write it down. Did I imagine anything might come of it? Of course not. I didn’t even know if I’d have the patience to sit and write all those words! Still, I eagerly wrote down an outline and then timidly told my husband. I will always remember the doubtful look on his face as he said, “Well…I guess if you really want to.”
I told no one else! Instead I wrote. After a month of typing during my daughter’s naps and while my husband was in classes, I finished. And it was terrible! But I had done what I set out to do. So I edited and submitted it. (Only then did I tell my mother, who was floored by my revelation.)
Needless to say, my first attempt was rejected, but I persisted. I kept rewriting, editing, and even began writing another book. I also broadened my horizons and read tons of books. With each rewrite or book I read, I learned more and more. Finally, after five years, I had written five stories. I submitted my third story and finally got a contract with CFI. Six years (almost to the month) after I started writing, I accomplished another goal and held a copy of my book in my hands. What a journey and what an incredible accomplishment!
So to anyone just starting out, I would say learn all you can, never give up, and enjoy it!
First, I’d better explain that I’m from England, which is why some things I say (write) may sound a little odd. The only trouble is, most of the time - unless someone points out the error of my ways - I don’t know I’m doing it because to me it’s normal. So please be sure to tell me if you don’t understand something and I’ll translate.
Growing up mostly in Cheshire, England, in a non-LDS household was uneventful by today’s standards. No Primary. No Young Women. No family home evening. Not much excitement to stir the memory. My brother and sister were twins, and I was two years older, so I spent much of my time alone. I didn’t mind, because I had enough imagination to fill a zoo. From an early age, I had a make-believe horse stabled in the attic. At that time, we lived in an old Victorian semi-detached house in Knutsford, and I think I was the only one who ventured up those creaky, uncarpeted stairs to the two bleak rooms in the sky.
There were no curtains on the windows, sashes were broken, and the glass was dusty, with bird droppings encrusting the outside in strange patterns. Cobwebs in corners fluttered when I blew on them, and spiders kept busy trapping countless flies. I had no fear of spiders back then, since British specimens are not poisonous.
There was nothing comfortable about those rooms with their uneven floorboards. They smelled musty in summer, and dank in winter. A bare light bulb dangled by its knotted wire in one ceiling; the other room had nothing but window light. Yet those rooms were my refuge. The place where imaginary friends lived and played – and where I enjoyed many a quiet read.
It was there that stories began in my mind. Instead of empty space, I saw Snowball, my plucky white stallion, surrounded by tackle-filled walls, bales of hay, and a tub of water, which I refilled on a regular basis, along with a bucket of feed. I enjoyed the company of pretend children, fairies, goblins, and animals of varying sizes. Instead of a Secret Garden, I had a Not-So-Secret Attic.
More about my writing beginnings in the next post. Right now, I should climb down those attic stairs and return to reality. It’s amazing how vivid some memories remain after years of hiding away. But work calls. My new book, Famous Family Nights, will soon be in the stores, and there’s much to do.
Feel free to join a Facebook group for Famous Family Nights by clicking HERE.
Friday, June 12, 2009
I've always been a daydreamer, making up stories in my mind. I don't know how I managed to do well in school and graduate college because I almost always had a story running through my head. At night, I used to always go to bed with a story in my head.
I finally started writing some of those stories down in high school. I bought a computer my junior year of high school and could really imagine myself being a writer one day. I began writing my first LDS novel. At that point, I'd never read an LDS novel. In fact, I don't think I was even aware that they existed.
That was put aside a few years later as I went away to school, got married, and started working full time. During that time, my writing was limited to some poems, but I didn't write another word of my novel for many years.
Children came along, and there was no time for writing. When I finally stopped working full-time, my kids were one and four years old. My mind felt free for the first time in years. I felt as if my mind was my own again, like during those high school years. I no longer had to think about work. I immersed myself in LDS novels and realized many of them were just like the one I started over 10 years before. So, I dug up my (very) old computer and spent weeks trying to retrieve the file. I finished writing the manuscript and during editing I read many writing and editing books. I came to the realization that my book was very badly written. I'd broken so many rules. So, I fixed them as well as I could. Not enough, I now realize. After revising, editing, and polishing it, I submitted it to several publishers. Luckily, it was rejected. Thank you to all those publishers for rejecting my terrible manuscript. A word of advice--Never, never submit your first manuscript.
So, I wrote a second manuscript which was much better and then I submitted it. It was also rejected. But, I was getting better. Third time's the charm, I think is what they say. My third manuscript, Star Shining Brightly, was accepted by Cedar Fort and published in 2006. The following year, Reasonable Doubt was published. Last month, Pickup Games, was published by Cedar Fort. It is a spin-off/sequel and was very fun to write.
I'm working on several other manuscripts and try to balance writing with my most important job--being a mother. I have three boys who keep me busy and make my life wonderful. My husband is very supportive of my writing, and I like to refer to him as my publicist because he tells everyone about my books.
Posted by Marcia Mickelson at 9:29 PM
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I've always thought of myself as a romance novelist. Imagine my surprise when I started writing and my first book turned out to be a collection of humor stories. I just couldn't help myself. For years I've enjoyed reading Patrick McManus's hilarious camping stories, and when I started to write about my experiences they came out all warped and funny just like the McManus stories. At first I didn't realize that I was writing a book. I wrote those stories on a blog to make myself laugh instead of cry at all the mishaps and mayhem that happened every day in my family of seven. But then people who were reading the blog told me that I made them laugh so hard they were crying, and I thought, "Hmmm...I wonder if I could get these published."
The rest is history. I worked to polish the stories and Cedar Fort liked them, and thankfully, other people did too. The book called, "Confessions of a Completely Insane Mother" was released in February of this year, and I hope it will give all mothers a sense of hope and a sense that there are no "perfect" families out there...so that they are more free to experience the joy in their journey.
I didn't realize I loved to write until later in life. I earned a degree in English Literature because I loved to read. But after I had my second child, I decided on a whim to try my hand at writing an article for the Ensign magazine. I was surprised when it got published. So I tried again. And again I was shocked when it got published. Through the years I wrote many more stories and articles for the other church magazines and some national family oriented magazines. I found so much joy in writing that I couldn't stop.
That's when I decided to try my hand at writing a romance novel. I was so exultant when it was finished! But when I read it again, I realized it was terrible! I revised it several times and it only got worse. Luckily, that's when I started to try my hand at a humor blog. I studied the craft of humor writing, practiced, and found that I loved it. It even helped me to be a better mother because it was a great way to keep life and its disasters in perspective.
Thus my romance writing days were over. Maybe someday I'll come back to it...but for now I'm having too much fun telling stories about my crazy family. (They don't like it sometimes, but hey...my son is now famous in his fifth grade class for inventing a fish tank bombing game using Christmas fruitcake. What's there to complain about?)
Besides writing, I am an obsessed gardner. My husband wonders if I am single handedly keeping all the nurseries in our area in business during these hard economic times. It's probably true. I also love painting, running, playing the clarinet in a city band, and playing with children. I currently work with the boy scouts, as a sunbeam teacher, and as girl's camp assistant director.
I hope you'll come visit often as I'll be writing tips every other Thursday about the craft of putting humor into your writing, whether you write romance, children's stories, or mystery. Often, humor is what sells an article or manuscript and gets it to stand out among all the others in the slush pile. For a sample of my humor stories, visit my humor blog at http://www.kersten4.blogspot.com/ or my website at http://www.kerstencampbell.com/.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
In this post first we'll have a long, loud, enthusiasic, standing ovation thanking Mr. Lyle Mortimer and Mr. Lee Nelson for their amazing efforts in preparing and presenting this conference. Next, another round of applause thanking the staff of Cedar Fort for giving up their Saturday so that our Saturday could be a complete success.
Oh, but I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm forgetting the fun Friday evening reception where the staff made sure the refreshment table was always ladened with delicious food while those of us who attended got to know each other.
Now, back to Saturday. Mr. Mortimer welcomed us with a smile and some timely advice about becoming a successful author. "You have to work at it," he said. "Work is 99% of success." (I'm paraphrasing but not taking away from the truth of his words). He suggested a book, "Born to Run" I think I'll buy it and read it just because he said it would help us in our writing.
Mr. Nelson took us on a writer's journey,(He's a good storyteller). He talked about forshadowing - meaning that you can always go back and rewrite your manuscript until you've got it right. (Again, I'm paraphrasing but I completely agree him.)
Lunch was delicious and I want to thank Lyle for giving up his turkey sandwich. Apparently the look on my face when I saw all the turkey sandwiches were gone, was dramatic enough to cause him concern.
Bryce Mortimer touched on websites, Facebook, twitter, etc. But it was decided by all present that we should have another conference in the near future, spending the day learning about linking, googling, SEO, websites, and the list goes on. Bryce agreed to teach us.
Steve Alten, NY Times Best Selling Author, who was supposed to be our next speaker at the pulpit, had, at the last minute, some health issues that made it impossible for him to be there in person, so Bryce made it possible for him to be there via satelight. His message: SET GOALs. Say "I WILL". Write what sells, Do the research . . . and so much more, was invaluable. I was wishing they had set up to have everything put on DVD.
Catherine Lanigan, author of "Romancing the Stone" and "Jewel of the Nile" was every bit the personality she was meant to be. She had so much to offer. So much to tell us and we had so much to learn from her. She explained that writing opens up a whole new universe. That every novel has to evoke emotions. Every character is what you make them.
Oh, there was so much more I could write about but I think my time is up. But before I sign off I want to, once again, say, "Thank you," to Lyle and Lee and the Staff of Cedar Fort. It was a wonderful conference, and I'm glad I didn't miss out.
Posted by JoAnn Arnold at 1:33 PM
Monday, June 8, 2009
By Nichole Giles (who else would be writing about me?)
Last Monday, my good friend and co-author Cindy Beck introduced herself, and throughout the week, you’ve probably gotten to know a few of the other authors who will be blogging here.
I suppose that means it’s my turn. My name is Nichole Giles, and I’m a writer. Hm, that sounds almost like a twelve-step program or an AA meeting—but then again, I suppose writing is something of an addiction for me. I’ve been actively pursuing my creative career for almost six years—which basically means I take classes, have joined critique groups (yes, that’s plural), and attend conferences as often as possible.
As Cindy mentioned, our book, Mormon Mishaps and Mischief: Hilarious Stories for Saints is being published by Cedar Fort this coming December, something for which I’m extremely excited. This particular project is special to me because it includes contributions from several of my writer friends, all of whom have side-splitting stories to tell. Keep your eyes peeled—wait, back up, that’s not even possible, besides the fact that it’s a total cliché. How about keep your eyes open? Yes, that’s better. Anyhow, this book will make an awesome Christmas gift for anyone and everyone you know, and hits shelves just in the nick of time. (Hey, was that an advertisement? I think maybe it was…)
Okay, back to me. I was born in Nevada, but lived in many interesting places between Utah and Arizona, and went to a different school every year of my young life—except 7th-8th grade. I was lucky enough to attend only one junior high school.
In fifth grade I read the book Cheaper by the Dozen and loved it so much, I told everyone who would listen that I was going to have twelve children when I grew up. Since my husband didn’t share my love for that particular book, we’ve settled on the number four, and added two golden retrievers.
Speaking of my husband, we met while I was working in the toy section of a local department store. He was the security guard on duty. We talked less than five minutes and then he left so I could return something for a customer. I was so distracted that I completely botched the return, and my manager made me go into a training session so I could re-learn how to do returns. Gary came back and asked me out before the end of my shift, and the rest is, as they say, history.
Right now I’m working on several projects, and am crossing my fingers that my awesome publisher will decide to say yes to the submission I sent them last month. (Could I be any more obvious?)
If you’d like to read more about me and what I’m doing, feel free to visit my personal blog. Or, if you’re in the mood for a good laugh, come on over to the LDS Humor blog. If you still can’t get enough, look me up on Facebook. Otherwise, you can find me here every other Monday.
See you next time, and until then, write on.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Friday, June 5, 2009
Hello, my name is Heather and I, too, live in a small farming community in Utah. My love affair with books began before I could actually read, since my mom says she used to put a couple in my crib when I woke up at night. I'd look at them in the dark until I fell back to sleep. I started writing stories and plots in my head when I was not much older than that, but I never wrote any of them down until my senior year of high school. I've been writing more seriously for about nine years, and my first book, The Ball's in Her Court, a contemporary romance, is slated for release in October.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Hi, there! My name is Tristi Pinkston. I'm a wife, a mother, a home schooler, an editor, a media reviewer, a blogger (both professional and hobby) and a headless chicken. In my other incarnations, I've been a Stampin' Up! demonstrator, a Nursery leader, a reading tutor, a floral designer, a jewelry maker, a babysitter, a nanny, the assistant manager at a Mexican food restaurant (which went over a lot better than the one week I spent working at Arctic Circle, but there's no need to dredge up painful memories) and a cashier at a craft store. The craft store faced full west and had no decent air conditioning except for on the silk flower aisle, which was, of course, far away from the cash register. Again, a painful memory.
Moving on to happier times, I published my first novel, "Nothing to Regret," in the fall of 2002. It's a historical fiction novel about the Japanese internment camps during World War II, but we get some cool espionage and a little romance in there. My second book was "Strength to Endure," published in 2004. It's also historical fiction, set in World War II but this time in Germany as I explore the Nazi concentration camps and the ability we have to rise above adversity. My third novel is "Season of Sacrifice," and is the most historically detailed of the three as it's the true story of my great-great-grandfather, who engineered the passage through the Hole in the Rock in southern Utah.
My newest release is my first publication with Cedar Fort. Titled "Agent in Old Lace," it's my first contemporary story. I call it a contemporary/mystery/suspense/romance/humor, but that is kinda long so Cedar Fort decided to call it a romantic suspense. That is a little more to the point.
It's been an interesting journey, writing historical fiction for so long and then trying my hand at something new. Each genre has its challenges and its rewards. I'll be the first to say that historical fiction is hard work. There's a lot of research and double-checking that goes on, even if you don't use a tenth of what you learned in the final product. Writing in a contemporary genre takes off some of that stress, and I've been able to concentrate a little more on the actual mechanics of writing more than ever before. I've learned so much over the last few years ... who knew I used the word "was" so much? And what about "that?" Right now I'm working on taking out "just" and "little bit." I'll probably even graduate to where I'm eliminating "just a little bit."
Life is a little crazy around here, with the writing and the home schooling going on, but it's also a lot of fun. I hope you'll enjoy hanging out here and getting to know me better, along with all the other awesome Cedar Fort authors at the Writing Fortress.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
by Rebecca Talley
I live in rural Colorado on a small ranch with a spoiled horse, a new kitten named Jane, goats, and a llama named Tina. We have a baby goat that was born a few weks ago.
I have 10 children. Yes, I actually birthed all of them myself. I asked my husband to at least take a turn or two, but somehow that didn't work and I ended up birthing all of them.
I used to do flamenco dancing when I was a teenager. I was also on the drill team and played basketball in high school.
I love swimming in the ocean, collecting shells, and laying on the beach. I wanted to live in Hawaii, my husband wanted to live in Alaska, so we settled in Colorado (he got beautiful mountains, wildlife, and snow, but I didn't end up with any beach--hmmm).
I love chocolate and ice cream. I dance to disco music while I clean the house--go Bee Gees.
I'm the author of a children's picture book, Grasshopper Pie (WindRiver 2003), an LDS novel, Heaven Scent (Cedar Fort 2008), an LDS romance, Altared Plans (Cedar Fort--due out this month), and numerous children's stories in online and print magazines.
When someone asks me what I do I reply that I'm a nurse, doctor, linguist, maid, baker, gourmet cook, laundress, scientist (someone has to figure out what's growing under my kids' beds), teacher, counselor, actress (comes in handy when trying to convince my children that eating cooked vegetables is good for them), cheerleader, diaper-changer, booger-wiper, musician, referee, juggler, writer, and magician. Or the short title: Mom.
Welcome to our new blog--come back and visit often!
Monday, June 1, 2009
For those who don't already know me, let me introduce myself. My name is Cindy Beck, and I'll be posting on the first Monday of the month. My most outstanding physical features are that I'm under-tall and mostly gray. (My hair, not my face.)
If you looked at the photo above—which was taken sometime in the last century—you might not have observed that I'm under-tall. Mostly because I'm kneeling. However, you probably did notice my cute dog, Corky Porky Pie, who pretty much looks the same today as he did then. I'm sure you'd like to know more about Corky Porky, but he can't type and I can, so you're stuck learning about me.
According to the census taker, my life officially started when I came into the world in Wisconsin. After that, because my dad served in the military, I grew up in several places in the United States.
In college, I majored in entomology (insects), graduating Sum Kinda Buggy from the University of Wyoming. However, I seldom share that information because then people want me to crawl under their homes to check for termites.
Although no one thought of me as funny in school—in fact, most people didn't even think of me at all—I fooled my classmates and grew up to write a humor column for a local Utah newspaper, the Sanpete Messenger.
Despite an irresistible inclination toward humor, my more serious articles and stories have appeared in the Ensign magazine, and in several national anthoglogies—Cup of Comfort for Horse Lovers, Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors, and My Dad is My Hero.
My current project is a book called Mormon Mishaps and Mischief. It's co-authored with my good friend, Nichole Giles, and will be published by Cedar Fort in December 2009. The book contains anecdotes of the Saints at their funniest ... from an organist who falls alseep at the keyboard during Sacrament meeting, to a Father and Son Camp-out that accidentally includes lawn sprinklers.
(I'd like to interject here that Cedar Fort has some dynamite editors, who not only can edit half the world's manuscripts in a single bound, but also have a sense of humor.)
To read excerpts from my short stories, visit my website. Or, if you're in the mood for humor, visit my blog or the blog that Nichole and I co-author. You can also get updates on Mormon Mishaps and Mischief there.