Friday, July 31, 2009

Pushing Creativity in Other Directions

by Heather Justesen

I love writing, and reading, and reading, and writing. Editing--not so much (although if you are one of those insane people who prefer editing over writing the first draft I have a question for you: want to collaborate?). Sometimes though, I find I just have to put away the laptop, set down the books and do something completely unrelated to writing. This has taken many forms over the years. I've done a little quilt making,

played around with garden art,

scrapbooked, embroidered, paint by number (Seriously, this is the only kind of painting I can do. Without detailed guidelines and instructions it just looks like a bunch of blobs.), and more recently I've gotten into cake decorating.

None of these projects are exactly writing related, but they fuel my creativity anyway, get me thinking in different directions. I've been known to come up with fun story ideas or quirky scenes while I work with my hands, letting my mind do something out of the ordinary.

Just like with anything else, too much of a good thing can tire me out and a change of activity can be very important in getting my writing juices flowing again. (Notice none of these options include training for or running marathons? I'm more than happy to leave that to Jaime. A nice, leisurely walk--I'm there! Running two blocks--I like my joints just the way they are, thanks!) After I've taken a break I'm ready to get back into my writing, tweak a subplot, or allow that character to do what they wanted instead of what I had planned. Sometimes their plans are better than mine.

Who knows, I might stumble across an interesting plot twist while I'm surfing the internet looking for cake ideas.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Facing Fears by Jillayne Clements

I'm naturally a reserved, quiet kind of person. For me, this translates into an abundance of fears. Fortunately, I've had many opportunities in my life to face my fears and have conquered many of them. Being an author has helped.

So here are the top 10 fears I've faced in becoming a published author and how facing them has helped me grow.

10. Being afraid that I'd never have the brain power and will to finish a manuscript. (I actually have completed more than one now and that creates a great sense of accomplishment.)

9. Writer's block. (Usually happens when the plot or characters aren't moving the way they want to. After pondering the issue, a solution comes to me. It's an awesome feeling to overcome writer's block.)

8. Handing my writing over to someone else for critiquing. It's like handing over my beating heart to someone with a stern look and a hammer. (Getting good advice from others is actually one of the greatest tools in helping me improve as a writer.)

7. Submitting my beating, hammered heart to potential publishers. (Fortunately they've liked what they've read, and that's a wonderful feeling.)

6. Rejection letters. (They're not the end of the world, though it may seem like it at the time.)

5. All the unknowns about being published. (Everything is unknown until I learn all there is to know about them.)

4. Book signings. (Not so bad, they can even be fun when I look at them as an opportunity to make new friends.)

3. Criticism (Um, yeah. Depends on who is dishing it out, but most of the time, there is something valuable to be learned.)

2. Leaving my comfort zone. (My comfort zone has a much larger circumference now because I've stepped out of it so many times it just grew bigger so it could still enclose me.)

1. What if after all this work and effort, my book bombs? (I hope not! But I do have other exciting things I"m working on.)

Bottom line, facing my fears has helped me grow as a person in ways I never thought possible. Besides, if I hadn't faced any fears in my life, I would probably still be in Kindergarten.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Thing about Thinning ...

by Tristi Pinkston

Allow me, if you will, to take you on a pictorial journey.

This is me, with good hair.

Here, the hair has started to grow out. See how the side is starting to get poofy. And ignore the silly grin on my face.

This is me, as my hair grows out even more. Notice the poofs, marked by arrows.

My hair, still growing. Notice how poofy it is on the left (marked with a black arrow) and how it's starting to go lank on the right (marked by a red arrow).

And this one is just wrong on so many levels.

As you might have noticed, I have really thick hair. It grows thick, it grows fast, and I don’t always have time to run in and get it cut. Hence, the strange Tristi hairdos, as shown. When my hair is first cut, it’s great. It has some natural curl, so it does what I want without a whole lot of effort. But within just a few days, it starts to act up, and by the time I manage to get in for a cut, it’s just out of control. I tell the stylist to go through and thin it out, and then when she’s done, I tell her to go through it again. There’s really no such thing as thinning out my hair too much. It can’t be done.

Believe it or not, yes, this all really does have something to do with writing. I wouldn’t be sharing my bad hair days with you if it weren’t for a greater good.

As we write, sometimes we add in a lot of filler, thinking that the more we add, the better the story will be. We throw in descriptions and actions and dialogue and exposition, all of which help plump up the word count, but in the end, have we really bettered the book, or are we just making it poofy? Do we need to go through and thin it out?

We should also be careful not to make our books too sparse. You could thin my hair out for a full year and still not make it too thin, but you can definitely make a book too thin. Have you described your characters enough so the reader knows what they look like? Can they envision the building or the room or the garden where your story is set? Do they know how your character feels about their circumstances?

Next time you sit down to write, think about me and my poofy hair. Is it time to thin things out, or have you hit on the balance that will bring out the true beauty in your story?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Importance of Goals

by Rebecca Talley

Someone once said, "A goal not written down is merely a wish." I heard this long ago and since then have tried to write down my goals. At the beginning of each year, I write all the things I'd like to accomplish through the year. Though I don't always accomplish all of those goals, it keeps me more accountable during the year. (You'd think after setting patience as a goal for the last twenty or so years I'd at least be closer on that one).

On a daily basis, I'm a list person. I write a list every day of my to-do items and check them off as I complete them. It helps me at the end of a day of cleaning when I look at my messy house because I can return to my list and verify that I actually did clean the house (amazing how kids can destroy a clean house in the blink of an eye).

With writing, it's important for me to set goals, write them down, and then revisit those goals to see if I've accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. Recently, I've set the goal to write 1000 words each day on my current work-in-progress. Some days I haven't quite reached that goal, but some days I've surpassed it. The most important part is that it keeps me on task and gives me the kick-in-the-bottom I need to keep working on my WIP (even when I'd like to hit the delete key for the whole thing).

The number of pages set as a goal isn't what's important, it's the setting of the goal. A novel, or short story, is written page-by-page. No one (at least no one I know) sits down and writes a 60,000 word novel all in one day. It happens bit-by-bit, piece-by-piece. Setting realistic goals each day will help us to reach the major goal.

Some of my goals have included:

Write a character sketch
Research a job for a secondary character
Create a family tree
Write the time line for the novel
Interview my main character
Ask "What if?" for a sub-plot
Write a synopsis for the whole story
Write the story goal
Come up with the story-in-a-sentence (20 second elevator pitch)
List complications for my main character
Outline the story

These are some of the things I do before I start the actual writing and then I set a daily word count. I know some writers who set a daily goal of 2000 words while others set a goal of 100 words.

Don't just wish to write a novel, make it a reality by setting goals to accomplish it. You may be surprised at what happens!

Monday, July 27, 2009

What's Jane Doing?

by Nichole Giles

This weekend I watched the movie, “Becoming Jane,” which is based on the life of author, Jane Austen. In a particular scene, Jane is inspired by something that’s said and excuses herself mid-conversation to go write down the words. As she sits and pulls out her lead and paper, the woman—a ‘Lady’ of wealth—and man—the wealthy woman’s nephew—with whom Jane had been conversing have a small exchange that goes something like this:

Lady: “What’s she doing?”

Nephew: “Writing.”

Lady: “Can anything be done about it?”

Nephew grins and shrugs.

While watching this show, I had to laugh at the situation because it is such a spot on scenario in my own life. It truly can’t be helped, and my answer to the ‘Lady’ is, no, nothing can be done about it.

As authors and writers, we often tend to take in fine points of conversations and surroundings that others easily dismiss. These are the words and details that usually end up in our stories or other writing.

Is it because we’re hyper-aware? Or because we pay closer attention to the details of life? Maybe both. Or maybe our brains are constantly on overdrive as we do our best to go through life thinking around and through the voices in our head. Because for some of us, those voices are always there, and often loudest when we’re trying to close down and have a quiet moment. They hound us as we sleep at night, as we sit in church meetings, drive in our cars, sit on our back porch enjoying the family, during vacations, and sometimes as we attempt to meditate.

So when you ask yourself (or when someone else asks you) “Can anything be done about it?” here’s a possible solution: don’t ignore inspiration. Pull out your handy-dandy notebook (which you should always have nearby) and use it as a filter. By writing down the random lines, thoughts, and impressions as often as they come, we can better pay attention to other things going on around us.

Inspiration can be a terrible inconvenience—and it may take some training, but we can teach ourselves to keep those precious moments of clarity while still continuing through our daily lives with work, family, friends, and other obligations. We don’t have to give up one for the other. Instead, we simply learn how best to capture those moments while we continue to be present in the here and now.

And when you stop mid-conversation to snag a pen and write a few lines on your hand, your relatives and friends will eventually stop asking, “What’s she doing?”

They’ll automatically know you’re writing and that it’s okay. You’ll write down one or two lines, and jump right back into visiting.

Such is the life and reputation of a writer. And personally, I think it’s grand.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

It's My Turn Again. Any Ideas?

By Rachel Rager

I often run into trouble when thinking about what it is I want to write for a blog. This is not necessarily the place you go to post all your family reunion pictures. It's not the place where you tell all your deepest and darkest secrets either. (No, I don't have any. I have kids! And they certainly don't let me leave the house without my pants on.) But it is a place to learn and grow and find friends.

So what do you tell all these friends?

I'm still not always certain. Last time, I was out of town and posted a short story I'd written at the spur of the moment several months before. That works and kind of shows you a little bit about who I am and what I do. But what about the next time? I'm not the most knowledgeable when it comes to how to promote a book, how to write a book, or even how to find an idea. But I'm reading lots and learning.

I do know that I keep notebooks EVERYWHERE and am writing a little here and a little there. Sometimes I start a story at the beginning and go to the end. Sometimes I write different scenes and lace them together. So you see, there is no method to my madness. (Maybe it's inherited?)

I did just post a teaser, for a book I'm working on, on my personal blog. Check it out. I need some help and there might be a prize for whoever can help me! So for now, I will leave you with my jumbled thoughts. May your day be sunny and cheerful and full of yummy kisses!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Peek in the Past - The Bottomless Pond

There were many places in and around our home in Knutsford, Cheshire, for a child to wander. And wander I did. In those days, it never entered my head there might be danger lurking. Besides, I had my super-charged horse, right? On days when I felt like exploring beyond our street, my old bike became Snowball (see previous post) and together we were either invincible, or invisible. Sometimes both.

I tied rope to the handlebars and pretended it was reins - hanging onto the rope instead of the handles. Until one day, the front wheel hit a rock and I flew off, landing on bare knees. Oh, the agony for weeks. It didn’t stop me from doing it again, though. It’s not funny how some children have to learn the hard way. Now, when I see someone riding a bike no-hands, I cringe for them.

A favorite haunt was several narrow lanes away, past the field, past my little country school, out through the village and down the never-ending hill to neatly hedged farmland. That hill was a dream to ride down, and a nightmare to ride up. Near the hill’s end was a field with a bottomless pond. Adults warned that children drowned in its creepy depths. Maybe that's why I was always alone there.

That pond was dark mystery; home to weird water creatures; a place where fish talked, horses drank, and I never dared paddle.

I still recall the sweet smell, though. Today, if I walk past a field of wheat stubble with its earthy grass scent, memories of that English field and the scary pond come flooding back. In those days, when more farming was done by hand, even the stooks (swathes of cut grain stalks) were fuel for the imagination. They looked like wigwams to me, and made good homes for pretend Indian mice. And the haunting shrill of plump-bellied Skylarks added a tuneful backdrop to my fantasies.

One time, I lay on my stomach and reached out with an empty jam jar from my saddlebag for a dollop of floating frogspawn, rescuing it from the jaws of the Loch Ness Monster’s daughter.

Thinking about it now, ominous shapes beneath the murky water were probably shadows of passing clouds. But to me, Miss Nessy was down there and she had an alarming appetite.

So I scooped as much slippery frogspawn as I could reach, into the jar, covered it with a once-white handkerchief and secured this with a rubber band, then set it upright in my saddlebag—which wouldn’t buckle up. Precarious, really.

I wobbled back up that hill with my slimy treasure, being extra careful to avoid bumps in the road, and sneaked my booty down cold stone steps into the cellar below our house. Growing tadpoles was great fun, especially when they turned into frogs. But more about that another day. I must return to 2009 and do some writing.

Feel free to join a Facebook group for Famous Family Nights by clicking HERE.

Friday, July 24, 2009

That First Book

By Marcia Mickelson

I recently read on an agent's blog a bit of advice for first-time authors. She said write that first book, put it aside, write the next one and then send it in. What a great piece of advice. How many of us have that first book, tucked away never to be looked at again. I cringe any time I read my first manuscript. In fact, I try never to read it. It's really bad.

But it was a great lesson to me. I started my first manuscript in high school, finished it ten years later, and felt it was ready for submission. I read through a few editing books, did a little revision on it, had a friend read a little of it, and then submitted it. CRINGE.

I still can't believe I would submit that thing. It did teach me many lessons, though. My first manuscript showed me so many ways not to write a book. I learned a lot writing it and reading through it which has helped me in subsequent books.

I truly believe that first manuscripts are not meant to be submitted. They are learning tools. If you were to enter a baking contest, would you submit the first batch of cookies you made? Or, would you make several batches until you were sure you had it right and then submit it? If you were going to try out for American Idol, would you just show up and sing a song or would you practice it many, many times until you had it just right before you sung it for Randy, Paula, and Simon?

It's the same way with our manuscripts. Write that first one, get it out of the way, then write the next one. There is something to that old adage- practice makes perfect. It's probably the second or in my case, the third manuscript, that is finally ready for submission and publication.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why People Laugh

When I write humor stories, it is interesting to me to see which people laugh at what stories. What fascinates me is that one person can think a situation is hilarious and can hardly breathe because they are laughing so hard, while the next person will just chuckle, or not laugh at all. Why is that? I think it is because each of us come from so many unique circumstances and backgrounds that it depends upon your experience and personality whether something is funny or not. And what is funny to you, may be dumb to someone else.

That is why it is so hard to write humor. Many humorists will admit that they don't know how they do it. They just write on instinct. Dave Barry once said that even though he is basically an expert at humor, if his wife doesn't laugh at what he's written, that means he's failed...even though he knows more about what makes people laugh than she does. But there are some tricks that all humorists know that help them to write in the "laughter zone".

Psychologists have identified certain emotions that spark laughter: surprise and feelings of superiority. People laugh when you surprise them with something that is ridiculous but true. Also people love to laugh at heroes and heroines who are clumsy or naive. The reader thinks it's funny because he knows better than the hero. That is why so many humorists joke about themselves. Because they know that people will laugh when they feel superior.

There are other reasons that have also been identified for laughter which I have taken from the book Comedy Writing Secrets by Mel Helitzer, which is my favorite humor writing bible.

1. We laugh out of instinct
2. We laugh at incongruity
3. We laugh out of ambivalence
4. We laugh for release
5. We laugh when we solve a puzzle
6. We laugh to regress

The next time you are reading something that makes you laugh, examine your reasons for laughing. Is it out of surprise or because you feel superior...or one of the other reasons on the list? Write your observations in a journal. As you continue to analyze what's funny and what's not and why, it will help you develop your own style of humor and you will begin to unlock the secret to making people laugh.

Kersten Campbell,
Author of "Confessions of a Completely Insane Mother"
humor blog:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Quick note

Last week I posted from South Dakota. Today I'm home, but soon to be off to the movies with 4 grandchildren. Since this writing fortress blogging is important to me I don't want to miss out, though short they may be, here are my thoughts.

As we sat on a bench at Mt. Rushmore and studied the faces of the four presidents sculpured into the mountain, I felt a strong sense of patriotism and humility. It made me remember that we have been given so much and sometimes we seem to take our freedom for granted.

When I wrote "Pages From the Past" and "The Silent Patriots" I had that same feeling, and I wanted to be brave. I wanted to stand up and speak out for what this country stands for. I wondered if it was possible that there are still "watcher" who sacrifice their lives to protect our Constition. I pray there are. I hope that, in our own way, we are each "watchers" of our Constition. that we read it and understand it just as those people whose signatures we see at the bottom of that page.

Well, I've got to go now, the grandchildren and waiting impatiently in the car for me and if I hadn't had to spend an hour longer than planned in the Dr's office, this post might be a better post. But such is life

Monday, July 20, 2009

So You Want to Write a Book

Guess what? You’re not alone. According to some surveys, 80 percent of the U.S. population wants to write a book. And it sounds pretty cool, right? Flashing a shiny, new book with your name embossed across the front cover. (Total Aside: You imagine doing that, but then when you actually have a shiny new book you feel a little self-conscious flashing it to people because you worry that they’ll think you’re full of yourself.) The fame, the book signings with lines stretching out the store and down the block (maybe if you’re J.K. Rowling or Stephen King). Yeah… the good life.

Well, if you’re one of those 80 percent, then how do you get from wanting to actually writing a book? Drum Roll… The first step is to have a good idea.

Stay with me here. I am betting that a good chunk of people wanting to write a book don’t actually know what they want to write a book about. You know, you just have this nebulous idea that writing a book about . . . well, something . . . would be really cool. You first need to figure out what that “something” is. So let’s delve a little into the realm of ideas.

How do authors get their ideas?

The answer to this is as varied as authors themselves. I get my ideas for non-fiction because of a need in my own life which I notice isn’t addressed very well. For example, I wrote Parenting the Ephraim’s Child because of what I couldn’t find in other parenting books. Think of a book that you would like to read but haven’t been able to find, then write it.

Believe it or not, I have way more fiction ideas than non-fiction ideas. I have a notebook full of story ideas, and these story ideas have come in many different ways.

It may be that I see a news article or hear about something, and think what if. For example, in today’s headlines is the story “Boy Once Confined to Bubble Emerges Seemingly Healed.” A 7 year-old boy who has a genetic mutation called NEMO (what endless title possibilities!) finally emerges from his bubble. This could be a great coming-of-age story. Or what about a fantasy where not only does the genetic mutation cause immune problems, but maybe superpowers too? Or this could be a story from the parents’ point of view. What would it be like to be the mother of this child? How would it impact siblings?

Sometimes I’ll just have an idea for a dilemma. What if you had to pretend insanity to keep from being killed for political reasons, for example. Jodi Piccoult writes excellent dilemma books. One of my favorites, My Sister’s Keeper, is based on the dilemma of one child that has leukemia and parents that have another child to be a matched donor for the first.

You can even take a story and think how you could twist it in a completely different way. Fractured fairy tales like Robin McKinley writes—Spindles End (Sleeping Beauty), Beauty (Beauty and the Beast), and Rose Daughter (another retelling of Beauty and the Beast)—are great examples of this.

The book I am currently working on originally stemmed from a story I told my son on a rainy day to keep him entertained. He asked to be told the story again and again. The idea then morphed when I heard of the title for another book and decided to do a little research. I have combined both ideas into my current project.

I get many ideas from music. Not the lyrics of music, but the feel of a song. The idea for the next book I’m going to write, in fact, popped almost complete into my head while listening to a song in the car one day. I can’t listen to that song when writing anything else, because it belongs to that one book. And when I start writing it, all I have to do to get in the right mood is play that song.

So, there you go. A few ideas on how to get ideas. I’m sure there are many other ways and I would love for anyone to share other ways they get ideas. The point is, ideas are everywhere, and if you’re a writer at heart, you will find them.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tasty Words

By Trina Boice

I haven't eaten a hot dog since I was a Freshman in high school. That's when I was required to read the book "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair. The assignment was for my U.S. History class to supplement our study of the industrial revolution.

The morbidity of the working conditions at the turn-of-the-century mixed with the corruption taking place inside the meat packing factories were exposed by Sinclair and resulted in a public outrage that surprised even the author himself. Foreign sales of American meat fell by one-half. It was said that Sinclair bitterly admitted his celebrity rose "not because the public cared anything about the workers, but simply because the public did not want to eat tubercular beef."

Is the chemical aftertaste the reason why people eat hot dogs or is it some kind of bonus? Now, intellectually, I know that hot dogs have come a long way since then and are perfectly fine to eat, but emotionally, because I still remember those disgusting images that the author conjured up for me in my mind I just can't force myself to partake. That's good writing. His book played a crucial role in the creation of what became today's Food and Drug Administration. That's great writing.

Upton Sinclair's words were especially persuasive because he wrote with passion. He chose a topic that he felt strongly about and intended to arouse within the reader a call to action. When he began writing the novel, he was quoted as saying "Hello! I'm Upton Sinclair, and I'm here to write the Uncle Tom's Cabin of the Labor Movement!"

Sinclair's novel was finally published after five rejections, becoming an immediate bestseller. It has been in print ever since 1906. For those of you who are writing with great dreams of changing the world, just remember Upton Sinclair and the hot dog. Keep submitting your manuscripts and keep writing with passion!

May the BBQ of life only roast your hot dogs and never burn your buns.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Genuine Surprise

By Christine Thackeray

I have to admit I startle easily. When very focused on what I'm doing, it may only take a hand on my shoulder to make me jump. At church while talking to a friend, one of my children often sneaks up and leaves me jolted by their sudden scream. The worst is when I'm preparing to sneeze, and my husband shouts a pretend scream just before my authentic ach-oo emerges because then my sneeze never comes and my nose is left itchy and unsatisfied.

In life sudden surprises may not be that great, but in writing genuine surprises are phenomenal. Not only are they rare but if done correctly, they leave you revisiting the plot line in your mind long after you've put down the book, trying to figure out how you didn't see it coming.

Bravo to Tristi who has accomplished this feat in her latest novel "Agent in Old Lace." It's a worthy goal many writers should strive for.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Plotting it Out

By Heather Justesen

I used to be what is commonly called a discovery writer. You know, you get an idea, play with it a bit (if you can stand to wait to start writing, which I sometimes couldn't) and then sit down and start typing. This is a great way to get a book started, and I know some people just let the story take them wherever it wants to go and end up with great stories.

Me, not so much.

I was writing for several years and had only finished one book from beginning to end...the other two dozen got anywhere from 30 pages to three-quarters of the way finished before I ran out of steam or lost the plot threads.

And then a couple of years back I learned I am much happier as a plotter. It's true, if I'm excited about what I'm writing and I have the major complications spelled out I can write a 90,000 word novel in under a month. The other bonus is that I can have it cleaned up and submitted in only five or six drafts, instead of twenty-five. Can I write a new novel every month? No, I'd probably go on burnout, and the edits would never get done, but I'm capable of writing that fast and with a decent first draft if i know where I'm going.

But despite that, I still let myself get moving on my current writing project (which was one of my three-quarters finished projects from a couple of years back) without plotting out that last quarter. And then as I got to the half-way point I started to flail.

Why wasn't it coming together? Why did I feel directionless and as though the story didn't want to be written?

And then I realized I hadn't plotted it out, and it all clicked.

Now, I'm not the type to write a thirty-page synopsis for a 300-page novel. If I did that, I would never end up writing the book--it's already been written, after all. Where's the fun in that?

Instead I open up my handy spread sheet and just put a sentence for the basics of what I plan to do in that scene. Each line is its own scene and I can easily cut and paste the lines as I shift around the storyline. It helps me keep track of my story arcs, to realize when I've gone too long since a certain thread was mentioned, or if my second character hasn't had a scene in his point of view for fifteen scenes.

Sometimes once I get started writing, I don't refer back to it very often. After all, the characters have wills of their own, and sometimes things happen in different orders than you expected, or a character decides to do something you had never planned. This leaves me with enough room to change things up and go with the story the way it wants to be written, but when I get frustrated and start feeling lost, I can refer back to the original plan and realize what I still need to cover to reach my happy ending.

Writer's bock? Not anymore!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Happiness in the Journey

I’ve always been the kind of gal who likes a finished product. I would often find myself thinking and saying, “I’ll be so happy when this dress is done,” or, “I’ll be so happy when we have grass in our yard,” or, “I’ll be so happy when my kid is out of diapers.” But that attitude translated into my writing. I thought I would be so happy when my book was done, when it was published, and when it was on the shelves.

Recently, I struggled with a long spell of writer’s block. I don’t know if it was burnout or what, but for several months my mind was completely blank. It was very frustrating.

Now I’ve got that spark back, and I’m so thankful! I’m just so happy to be writing, I don’t care anymore that I have a long writing road ahead of me. I’m planning to enjoy the entire ride, and I’m excited. It’s fun to have plot ideas run through my mind, I look forward to the time of day I can sit and type them into my computer. It’s fun to comb through and edit things to make my writing the best it can be, and to research so I can learn along the way.

This experience has helped me realize that all the finished products and accomplishments I achieve won’t make me happy, but I am happy when I enjoy the journey along the way, in all aspects of my life.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Making a Memorable Book

Several years ago, I read the LDS novel "Emily" by Jack Weyland. Emily is a young woman who is severely burned when the sleeve of her shirt catches fire while she's cooking lunch at the stove. Her recovery is extremely painful and I remembered wincing every time she went in for therapy. That book has stayed in my mind so clearly that every time I stand at the stove, I think about it, and make sure there are no flammable materials close at hand. Weyland did a good thing, helping his readers remember to be careful cooks.

But he also did something else - he imprinted his name on my brain. I couldn't remember the title of the actual novel and had to look it up online, but I remembered who wrote it. I don't just think about how important it is to be careful while cooking - I remember how well he wrote Emily's recovery scenes and how I felt while reading them. Then I start to think about the other Weyland novels I've read over the years, and the ones I enjoyed vs. the ones I didn't enjoy quite so much. This train of thought doesn't take me very long - usually ten seconds or so - but it's completely automatic and it happens every time I use the stove. Weyland connected his character's mishap to a common, everyday occurrence like cooking at a stove, something we use every single day, and so every single day, we think about Jack Weyland. If his character had been burned in an airplane crash, we wouldn't think about the book as often, because really, how often do we fly? Whereas, we use the stove often.

I don't know if Weyland did that on purpose. Maybe he used the stove to cause the fire because he wanted to keep the story simple, and having his character make lunch is sure easier than getting her on a plane. Regardless of his reasoning, the stove was brilliant.

We want our readers to think about our books time after time. We don't want our work to get read and then shoved to the back of the bookcase, never to resurface - we want our readers to become so connected to the characters that they think about them long after the last page has been flipped. How can we do this? We can't all set our characters on fire - I think someone would notice that. But we can take simple, everyday happenings and give them a twist, whether dramatic or comedic, so that every time our readers experience that common event, they are reminded of our book, and perhaps want to read it again, and maybe, just maybe, go out to buy the next one we've written. And that is a very good thing.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Agent in Old Lace by Tristi Pinkston

by Rebecca Talley

Agent in Old Lace
Tristi Pinkston

Shannon Tanner seems to have everything, until she realizes that what she's believed about her boyfriend, Mark, is a total lie. He's a creep and he's been embezzling a lot of money from many of his clients. He even believes he can convince Shannon to come with him and revel in the stolen funds. Thankfully, Shannon has morals and won't even consider it. Mark kidnaps her, but she escapes.

Then it's a cat and mouse game while FBI agent Rick protects Shannon from Mark and his obsession with revenge against Shannon.

Agent in Old Lace is a fast and fun read with plenty of humor. I especially enjoyed the budding romance between Shannon and Rick. I thought it was realistic and believable.

I thought Tristi did a great job of making Mark, the villain, slimy. I was glad when he got what was coming to him.

Other than a few pet words/phrases, I thought the writing was solid and the story flowed well. I also enjoyed the storyline about her dad and how it was resolved at the end (I was convinced I knew what was happening, but Tristi threw in a twist--she's good at that).

I recommend you add it to your reading list and tell your friends. It's a fun book!

Monday, July 13, 2009

My Writing Story

By Nichole Giles

I got a phone message the other day. My neighbor’s sister heard I write books and wanted to ask me some questions. Though I haven’t talked to her yet, I definitely plan to call her back. It’s easy for me to remember the day when I consciously decided to start writing—for real.

I’ve always been a big reader, and had recently read several books in which a main or supporting character was a writer. (Yeah, goes back to us writing what we know.) Believe it or not, reading those books was the first time it occurred to me that people could actually write as a career. I mean, you know, there are authors, and they do it, but they’re like actors and supermodels. At the time, in my mind, I might as well go apply for a job at Nasa and ask to be an astronaut. But the idea was planted, and no matter how I avoided starting, it grew until I decided to write anyway. Not for fame and fortune, but because I needed to do it. Because it was something for me. I’d supported my husband in his career, my children in school and sports and babyhood, and this was something I wanted, and that I could do for me.

The catalyst, though, came one day when I was reading a parenting magazine and came across an advertisement for a writing class. It seemed too good to be true that I could take this college accredited course (I’d had zero college) through the mail—and they promised to help me produce at least one publishable article by the end. What I didn’t realize was that they didn’t guarantee my article would be accepted anywhere—just that it would be good. That class was the first interaction I ever had with another author, and it was absolutely liberating for me. I learned a lot.

As I communicated with my instructor, she encouraged me to find and attend some writing conferences. But I had no idea where to even look (this was before the days of Google and having information available at the click of a mouse—or at least that I knew of). Then one day, I was in the library checking out, and came across a flier for a writer’s conference by a group called the LDStorymakers—and it happened to be the very next weekend. I took the flier, and hung onto it for two or three days before I got brave and called the number to talk to a lady named Tristi Pinkston. She told me they had room and that I could pay at the door.

I had no idea what to expect when I went, but let me just tell you, I never, ever in my wildest dreams expected what I got. That weekend I learned a lot—but what’s more, I made some amazing, incredible friends. Also, I joined my very first writer’s group, where I’ve had more encouragement than I could ever had imagined. These people have taught me more than any college or class ever could, and I’ll forever be in their debt.

See, even as I was searching for that special thing for myself, I was fighting incredible amounts of guilt. I was the wife and mother—and it should be enough for any woman, right? Why should I need something for myself? But I did, and somehow, I knew that if I didn’t do this, I would lose myself entirely.

It’s been several years since I started this journey. This year, I’ll have two books published—something that I never could have dreamed was in my life path before I started it.

But the very most amazing thing is the comfort and support I’ve received since I started. Heavenly Father has shown me over and over again how important it is that I magnify my talent, and use it to better myself and those around me. I almost didn’t do it—but I am infinitely grateful that I did.

Just in case my story isn’t enough inspiration to help give you a boost, watch this video. I promise, there will be no more doubt and no more guilt—but you may shed a few tears.

See you in two weeks!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Where Mom is, There the Fun is Also!

By Rachel Rager

The morning dawned bright and cool but promised to warm up toward the afternoon. I unbuckled Layla and Seryn from their car seats and proceeded to herd the children into the house. Having just dropped off Lylli at school, the younger two quickly darted toward her desk to rummage around for treasure.
“Girls, stay out of Lylli’s desk! Why don’t you come in the kitchen and color,” I suggested, hoping that would keep them out of the way while I did last night’s dishes. Crusted food clung to the tower of plates and pans piled precariously in the sink and on the neighboring counter. Before I endeavored to attack that task, I placed coloring books and crayons on the table. The girls raced into the kitchen in a whirl of noise and giggles and climbed up to the table. I prayed they would stay occupied for a good half hour and that I wouldn’t have to clean crayon off the walls later.
To my relief, the girls were engaged in the activity longer than I’d hoped. Not only was I able to get the dishes loaded into the dishwasher and the counter cleared off, I was able to make it into the bathroom unnoticed and start to work on that germ and dirt infested room. However, before I was able to do much, Layla, my three-year-old, hollered from the kitchen.
“Mom! Seryn needs her britches changed! She’s stinky!”
“Ugh,” I groaned. But, rather than see another diaper rash break out on my one-year-old’s bottom, I called, “Come here, Seryn, and Mommy will change your diaper,” in as pleasant of voice as I could muster.
Seryn came running through the house to me, as fast as her little legs would carry her. I changed her diaper and after seeing her back to the kitchen to color, I returned to my chore of cleaning the bathroom. One of the dirtiest rooms of the house, the bathroom seemed to need cleaning at least twice a week. I grumbled as I worked. With five people in the family, the bathroom never stayed clean, and I didn't seem to get to it nearly as often as I wanted.
One reason the bathroom was so dirty was that the girls had learned to scale the drawers in order to reach the counter, thoroughly frightening their mother. From there, they loved to stand on the counter and search for things within the vanity – preferably my make-up or the toothpaste – or play in the water, claiming to wash their hands and leaving puddles of water all over the bathroom.
“Mommy, I want to help. Can I help clean?” Layla asked, with Seryn trailing right behind her.
“Honey, Mommy just wants to get this done. Why don’t you girls go find some books to read?”
“I don’t want to read. Can we play outside?”
“Not right now. I want to be able to watch you. Maybe you could play when I go out to weed later.”
“Can we play with the play dough? We’ll stay in the kitchen.”
“Mommy’s cleaning today. Could you go straighten your room? That would be a big help. Do you want to help Mommy by cleaning your room?”
“Sure!” she squealed and darted off to clean her room.
If they actually managed to get their room clean, that would be a huge help and one less thing for me to worry about. If not, perhaps they would at least stay busy for a while. I would much rather be out enjoying the sun at the park instead of working inside. Cleaning is invigorating, but I wished I could go outside and enjoy the warmth of the day. Oh well, I sighed and quickly set about finishing the bathroom.
When I was done, I trudged down the stairs, already weary from a busy morning. Undoubtedly the sheets would be dry and ready to be put on the beds. I opened the dryer and retrieved the sheets. They were so warm! The smell of fabric softener permeated the air as I buried my face in them. I loved the smell of freshly laundered sheets, so warm and inviting, I wanted nothing more than to wrap them around myself and cuddle up with a good book. But I still had bills to pay and weeds to pull on this fine spring morning. So, ignoring my impulses, I quickly headed up the stairs to make the beds.
The girls had become distracted in their cleaning adventure and now raced little Tonka trucks across the hardwood floors in the living room. I tried to walk around them without stepping on one of the toys as I made my way to their room. All three girls shared a room and I quickly put sheets on the crib first. I then began with the mattress of the bottom bunk bed and finished it off with the quilt.
As I moved to the top bunk, my little sweethearts came barreling into the room. Trying to finish quickly in an effort to get the bills paid before the mailman arrived, I vaguely registered that Layla and Seryn had climbed onto the freshly made bed and were playing around – undoubtedly rumpling the neatly tucked-in sheets.
After a brief moment, Layla said, “Mom, can you please leave so we can jump on the bed?”
What a day it had been. I’d been so busy doing my chores I don’t think I’d smiled all day long. Now, of course, I wanted to laugh! Why on earth would a child ask her mother to leave the room and then admit the crime she was about to commit? Knowing if I laughed, the teaching moment would be for naught, I swallowed my amusement. Sitting down on the bed of the bottom bunk by my daughter’s side, there was enough room for me to sit up straight. There would probably be ample room for her little body to jump, if she hunched over. Still, I could not allow it.
“Honey, you can’t be jumping on the bed. You might fall and get hurt and that would make Mommy very sad.”
“Could I break my leg?”
“I’ll be careful,” she said with a confident look in her eye.
“Layla, we don’t jump on the bed.”
“But it's just pretend. See? Watch!” She bent her little legs for maximum power and leaped across the bed as Seryn giggled and started to bounce with her. “That's not a real jump, Mom.”
A giggle burst from deep within me as I began to laugh. Of course it was a jump! But in her mind, since it wasn’t high, the jump hardly constituted breaking the rules. Rather than scold further, I gathered my giggling girls in my arms with a big hug and laughed, enjoying the togetherness of mother and daughters. For a brief moment, my heart swelled and I remembered – amidst the demands of my day – the reason I am so grateful to be a mother. Nothing matches the tender, precious moments of enjoying my children.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Peek in the Past - Watling Street and Old Aggie's Wisdom Tooth

In my last post, I mentioned a scary incident where one of my stories diverted family attention from disaster. More about this adventure today.

In 1950s England there were no motorways (freeways), and little old English roads wandered here and there through villages and towns in whimsical fashion. And still do, by the way. However, ancient Roman Roads connected larger cities with straight/ish lines. Most Roman Roads now have new roads built over them, such as the A5.

The A5 is a major road in the UK. It was also the first Roman built road in England hence the name Roman Road. It runs for about 260 miles from London to Holyhead, Wales, following in part a section of the Roman route which the Anglo-Saxons name Watling Street.

Although the A5 was an improvement on minor roads, in the 1950s it had many bends, bridges, and narrow places. It was on one of these winding, tight roads that our family drama took place. I still remember details to this day.

My Mum and Dad were in the front seats, with Dad driving. I was in the back, sandwiched between my twin siblings (no seat belts in UK then), telling them a story. I was about 8 and they were 5½. We were returning home from a visit to our aunt and uncle who lived in Watford, Hertfordshire.

My story had reached a gripping moment (Minny the Tooth Fairy, who lived in old Aggie’s wisdom tooth, was about to be slaughtered by the dentist), when both my parents gasped and my Dad let out a scary yell. And nope, they weren’t engrossed by my zany tale. The horror was on the road ahead.

We had crossed a narrow bridge and were about to round a blind bend. I looked up and saw a massive lorry (truck) coming at us, using most of the road. By some miracle, Dad managed to flip the wheel and take us up the embankment, teetering along the edge before lurching back onto the road the other side of the fiercely hooting lorry.

Fortunately, because they were still living in my fairy tale, the twins didn’t panic. They were low enough in the seat to miss the drama, and simply poked me to carry on with the story. I’m sure my voice must have trembled. I can’t remember how Minny escaped from Aggie's tooth because my brain still clings to reruns of the near crash.

Looking back, and knowing what I now know about angels, I think one must have been helping us that day. Come to think of it, I've had more than a few narrow escapes on British roads. Another incident much later in life was equally frightening. But more about that another day. And yes, it was writing related :-)

Feel free to join a Facebook group for Famous Family Nights by clicking HERE.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tips for adding humor to your writing

You’ve seen it in movies. You’ve seen it in books. You’ve seen it everywhere and perhaps never noticed it. It’s a humor device called “Irony” and it’s one trick that authors use to make their characters and plot lines interesting and funny. Irony is, to quote Webster’s, “a method of humorous or subtly sarcastic expression in which the intended meaning of the words used is the direct opposite of their usual sense,” for example, when someone calls a stupid plan, “clever.” That is considered irony.

When used subtly, irony can make your work more saleable, because it makes the characters more interesting and fun to read about. It makes the characters more likeable because it gives them a fault that people can relate to. Who hasn’t thought of himself as something he is really not? It also gives your work more depth. An example from my recent reading is Jonathon Stroud’s Bartimeaus Series. His genie talks like an all powerful, ferocious, intimidating, godlike creature, when all his actions indicate that he is cowardly, and not as strong or smart as he thinks he is. This makes for some hilarious and clever situations that are very fun to read about. Another example from a very popular work is Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The “wimpy kid’s” dialogue is laced with irony, making us laugh and fall in love with the character. Even the Berenstein Bears has irony. The Papa Bear is always setting himself up as an expert and he is really klutzy and not very knowledgeable. In the movie, “G-Force,” a dainty, sweet little girl tells someone if they try to put a bow in her hair they will lose a finger. This is funny.

You’ll notice irony everywhere in popular fiction and movies because it makes fiction and movies popular, and it makes the author seem clever. One caution though. It can be overused, and then it makes the author look like he is trying too hard to be funny or sarcastic.

To add irony to your work, take a good look at your character. Is he a body guard? What would be the last thing a buff and burly dude would say or do? You need to surprise your audience. Make him a germaphobe who loves decorating, or have him love something sweet and cute. In the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters, the very intelligent and mature sounding boy uses his intelligence to invent things that cause all sorts of hilarious trouble for everyone, making us realize he is not as grown up as he thinks he is. This is the type of interesting character that leaves readers clamoring for more. Author Janette Rallison has made a name for herself lacing her character’s dialogue with irony to make what they say humorous and clever. Read some of her books to study how she does it. As you study other authors who use this device it will begin to make sense to you and you will become an expert yourself.

Kersten Campbell, author of "Confessions of a Completely Insane Mother"
humor blog:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Posting from Mount Rushmore

I want you to know just how dedicated I am to this cause. I'm sitting inside the Keystone Library, in Keystone, So. Dakota, and yes, I know it's 12:30. But the Keystone Library doesn't open until noon and I seem to have left behind my little internet gadget that inserts into my laptop so that I can go on-line inside the motel room. The bag with that gadget is sitting somewhere at home. Brent and I have a bet. I say it is sitting in plain sight. He claims it's probably still sitting in my office invisible to the naked eye.

With that explanation I'll get on with my post. Saturday morning we started our vacation, leaving Utah behind and entering Wyoming working our way to "Devil's Tower". Oh! it was an amazing sight.

Our next stop: "Deadwood". Now if you've never been to Deadwood, you don't know what you're missing. It's the town where Wild Bill Hickok was murdered by the cowardly . . . I can't remember his name, only that he chose a very cowardly way to do his dastardly deed. We visited Hickok's grave and the grave of Calamity Jane. Deadwood is a quaint, old western town with several modern, big-city casinos, which really detract from the small town's beauty. But we had so much fun. (Let it be known that we did not put one coin inside those lusty machines.)

Right now I'm sitting just a few miles from Mount Rushmore, one of the most incredible sites in this world, I think. It's beauty is breathtaking and its meaning is timeless. You have to see it to believe it. Gutzon Borglum deamed a dream and made it happen.

While traveling I've been reading Rebecca Tally's book, "Altared Plans" It too, has kept my interest. I'm on Chapter 32 and can't wait to see how it ends. I'll do a review on my blog when I get home. So, be sure to check it out, sometime next week.

Before I sign off I need to leave you with some quotes from Gutzon Borglum, the artist who sculptured the faces on Mount Rushmore. He was a man who always believed the anything was possible, you just had to do it . . . to create it . . . to believe that you can.

Don't say, "I can't" On this work the "I can'ts are unknown in the world's work and unremembered in history. (Gutzon Borglum)

T (Gutzon Borglum)

(I found a couple more quotes from other well-known men I want to share before I sign off.)

"You see things and you say "Why?" But I dream things that never were and I say "Why not?" (George Bernard Shaw)

One more:

"it may be those do most, dream most" (Stephen Leacock)

I have to go now. We are on our way to Custer, So. Dakota. Bye

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Taste of Purple Prose

By Cindy Beck

Now that you've read the title of this blog entry—

What? You didn't read the title? Well, I'll give you a minute ... go take a look again.

Okay, now that everyone's read it, I'll bet some of you are asking yourself, "What in the world is purple prose?"

According to Wikipedia, purple prose is ... a term of literary criticism used to describe passages, or sometimes entire literary works, written in prose so overly extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw attention to itself. Purple prose is sensually evocative beyond the requirements of its context. It also refers to writing that employs certain rhetorical effects such as exaggerated sentiment or pathos in an attempt to manipulate a reader's response.

To put it a little more succinctly, it's prose that's overwritten and uses a lot of adjectives, adverbs, similes, metaphors, and run-on thoughts. Not enjoyable to read in a novel, but most certainly fun to read in a contest.

Recently, QueryTracker held a purple prose contest, and if you go here, you can read interesting facts, as well as examples of it.

When the contest winners were announced, I was excited to hear the winner was one of Cedar Fort's own authors, Rachelle Christensen. (Rachelle's book, Lost Children: Coping with Miscarriage will come out in 2010.)

For your enjoyment, here's Rachelle's entry:

When he heard about the empurpled contest on Query Tracker, the coils of dark, multitudinous hair which made up his eyebrows knit together in fury, like a spry grandmother’s knitting needles, clicking incessantly and rapidly, the sun’s rays illuminating them with a silver gleam, like the gleam of a young child’s brand new bicycle bedecked in all its glory with lemon-colored streamers and chiffon paint with stripes of lavender that shimmered like the violet hue of his eyes which were now thoughtful; the wrinkles around his wide, pupil-inhabited orbs seemed pensive as he considered how he might win Query Tracker’s contest and emerge a champion like a magnificent Olympic sports-star—but not like Greg Luganis because he hit his head—instead his own powerful kind of win—the kind to fill a man’s soul with joy to overflowing like a large bowl of Rocky Road ice cream with ostentatious helpings of steaming hot fudge, but not butterscotch because it would contrast with the rich hues of the chocolate which was so sweet as would be his joy when he won—like a bareback rider in the National Rodeo Finals hanging on for dear life to a fraying strap of yellowed rope—he imagined this with fervor, gripping the gleaming pen in his hand as he began to write.

You just have to laugh at such a long sentence that basically says ... well ... nothing. But, of course, that was the point in the contest. It's not, however, something we want to recreate in our writing.

If you'd like to read a few of the other QueryTracker entries—so that you know what not to do in your upcoming, best-selling novel—click here.

(Thanks to Rachelle Christensen for allowing me to post her winning entry.)


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Helpful riting tips

By Trina Boice

I've been sick all weak with the flu, so all I can muster for today's blog are 15 helpful riting tips to improve your craft. Enjoy!

1. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.

4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

5. Avoid cliches like the plague.

6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.

7. Be more or less specific.

8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unncessary.

9. Also, too, never ever use repetitive redundancies.

10. No sentence fragments.

11. Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.

12. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

13. never use a big word when a diminutive word would suffice.

14. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.

15. Who needs rhetorical questions.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Suspense versus Confusion

By Christine Thackeray

Last night I stayed up way too late watching "Passengers" with Anne Hathaway on DVD. (Okay, I admit it, we are AH fans.) But halfway through the movie I wanted to throttle the writer and the director for that matter. Both men had apparently been asleep when taught the difference between suspense and confusion.

Webster does a great job of defining suspense. They say it is the excited anticipation of an approaching climax. For me the key word here is ANTICIPATION. In order to anticipate something you have to know enough to be excited that it's coming. How can you anticipate something you are totally ignorant of? You can't.

Where some people go awry is when they understand part of anticipation is not telling everything up front and they foolishly decide if a little is good than a lot is better. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the less you tell, the less satisfying the end.

I'll give you an example. Look at the three pictures below and tell me what you think they are.

Think hard and guess.

The first picture is either a mended donut or a plate of spaghetti served by a very neat waiter. The second is a superstitious giraffe throwing salt over his shoulder. The third is a spider doing a handstand.

The reason these pictures are intriguing is because once you are told what they are, you have to agree and you sort of kick yourself for not getting it first. You are given enough clues to make the puzzle doable without being easy.

This sort of brainteaser is the essense of suspense. Confusion would be drawing a picture, covering it up with your hand and asking someone to guess what you drew. Unless they have ESP, you're just being a frustrating idiot. Growing up, my family used to watch the best series in the world. It was called "Banacek" and the reason it was so good is because every week you were promised every clue that Banacek was given. When the case was presented, it was fun to see if you were as smart as the investigator- I mean, the writers. "Sixth Sense" did the same thing and did it well. The second time you watched it you kicked yourself that he wasn't dead. There were clues EVERYWHERE! That's what made the shock valid.

In writing, it is essential to present enough bits of honest information to build credibility between the author and the reader. Red Herrings that are realistic are totally fair, as long as they don't seem manipulated into the plot. Done well, suspense in writing can be thrilling. Done poorly it can make readers want to hurt you with your own book. And if you want an example of it done stinkin' awful, rent the DVD.

So much to do after the first draft

By Heather Justesen

It's been a busy but exciting couple of weeks for me. Cedar Fort has agreed to publish my second book, "Rebound." I finally got my third book out for a final round of critiques so I can get it polished and submitted this fall. I also have made some headway on publicity for my first book.

Does it sound a little crazy? Yeah, it can be, but I tend to like crazy.

One thing I never thought about when I started writing was how much work went in once the book was finally finished. First there are edits--and for some of my earlier books, the edits have been 20+ as I learned what worked and what didn't. Thankfully, I've learned a lot about writing since then, so I don't go through quite as many versions, but getting things right takes a bit of time and tweaking.

Second, I send my book into at least two rounds of critiques from other writers. Now that I've joined a weekly critique group with several other bloggers on this site, they are my first line against stupidity. One of the major advantages to having a supportive, honest, trustworthy critique group is that I have to have a chapter to take with me each week. That means I have to keep writing--even if it's only a few pages.

After my group, there are edits and corrections, polishing and tweaking, and then it goes out to more writers for critiques. This one is a full-manuscript critique. Since my weekly group takes five or six months--or more--to complete a book, there's a big loss of continuity. When you're reading that final scene, it's hard to remember what happened at the beginning. My final round of critiques helps me fix flow problems and continuity issues along with catching the problems I edited into the book in later versions.

Then there are final edits and I get to submit. And then the wait begins. Thankfully, the two to three months Cedar Fort takes to review manuscripts is considerably less than some of the other publishers. Once I have a contract, I like to do one last round of edits because I'm a bit anal. This is a very light edit, just looking for the little typos I missed in my previous rounds of insanity, and a few sentence tweaks. Really, at this point there shouldn't be much I want to change. If the book isn't polished and very clean already, it's not ready to submit, so this is mostly for my peace of mind, not because there is much to do.

And then we get to start planning publicity--which is a whole other topic and I'm sure we could all spend the next several weeks discussing everything we've done or plan to do, things we've heard of others doing, and how they seemed to work. Regardless, expect to spend a grundle of time getting everything organized and contacting everyone you've ever met to let them know you have a book out because when the book is accepted, the real work is only half done.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Opportunity for presenters

I listed this on facebook Cedar Fort Authors, but some of you may not be there. If not, please join.

This is at UVU.

If any of your authors would be interested in presenting a class during the conference, let me know their name and proposed topic or area of expertise. We will be discussing class topics and presenters at our next committee meeting and would be happy to consider any suggestions. Many of the classes will relate in some way to the theme of Finding Your Road to Success as it relates to writing, getting published, marketing and even hosting a successful book club. However, not all topics will be constrained to relate to the theme. We are going to have a good mix of topics, covering various stages of the writing and publishing process. If you have any suggestions, let me know and I will present them at our next meeting then get back to you.

Altared Plans by Rebecca Cornish Talley

The perfect day. The perfect marriage. The perfect groom. WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

Caitlyn has been preparing for her perfect wedding all her life. But when her fiancé abandons her at the altar, Caitlyn vows she’ll never love again.

Going to BYU doesn’t make that easy, however, and avoiding all social contact can only last so long. When her bishop calls her to be the “mom” of her family home evening group, Caitlyn is suddenly thrust into surprising circumstances that leave her flustered-the attention of two unwanted suitors.

Travis, the FHE “dad,” has plans to woo Caitlyn by using his cowboy charms, while Chase has his own ideas for dating her. Will Travis or Chase change her mind about love? Or will it be déjà vu?

Follow Caitlyn through all the flirtatious looks, dates, ex-girlfriends, and unexpected surprises. Altared Plans is a light-hearted romance that is sure to please.

When I first received this book, my daughter snatched it up before I had the chance. Less than 24 hours later, she came to me with glistening eyes and said, “This book was so good. You have to read it so we can talk about it.”

While I read, my daughter occasionally peeked into the living room and asked, “What page are you on now?”

When I finished it, we had a good talk about it. It was an enjoyable book, fun characters, and an awesome theme that I hope my daughter will remember as she grows into her dating years and plans for her own temple marriage.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Get a Plot, Already!

I am a movie junkie. I'm particularly fond of the old classics and have made up my mind to become an expert on them. Achieving expert status requires a lot of research, so I watch a lot of old movies. I highly recommend choosing a career you love ...

I recently watched the 1952 movie, "The Belle of New York," starring Fred Astaire and Vera-Ellen. With two top-notch dancers like that, the musical numbers were bound to be outrageous, right? Well, they were. The two of them glided effortlessly around the stage, leaping tall buildings ... you think I'm joking, but they actually did, with the help of some special effects ... and you've never seen such flying feet. But the plot line ... oy.

Essentially, this movie is a sad precursor to the 1955 movie "Guys and Dolls." Rumor has it that Astaire wanted the role that went to Sinatra in "Guys," but that's neither here nor there. In "Belle," Astaire sees girl who is a member of a religious organization, falls for, and ends up leaving his riotous life behind for her. While singing and dancing.

The point I'm making here is this. You can have all the spangles and glitter you want. You can embellish something with dance numbers and pull in the big names to star, but if you don't have a plot line, you're sunk. How many of you have ever even heard of "The Belle of New York?" I'm willing to bet that not one of you have, despite the excellent dancing.

The same is true for books. You must have a clearly defined plot. The reader should have an actual story to follow. Wandering off into musings about the downy feathers on a little birdie's back is all well and good, I suppose, but the reader needs to have some sort of indication of where they are going, and if that part's a surprise, please at least give them something to entertain them while they're on their journey. Window-dressing will only get you so far. Work on establishing your plot - don't end up like a Hollywood flop no one has ever heard of before.