Saturday, February 27, 2010

What do you know about Copyright Law?

By Christine Thackeray

As writer's there are a few things we should be aware of. Basic grammar is pretty important. How to write a smoking querie letter can prove very useful, and coping techniques for dealing with rejection are essential. But one thing a lot of authors overlook is a basic understanding of copyright law.

In preparation for the upcoming LDStorymakers conference I've been doing a lot of research and have been surprised by so many misconceptions held by my writing friends and my own family.

Just to give you a little taste, can you answer the following question:

Which of the following is most protected by copyright law:
1. An autobiography
2. A newspaper article
3. A poem consisting of only two lines
4. A proposal for an original concept for a new TV series.

The reality is that only the tiny poem is really covered. Copyright only protects original expression, not facts or ideas. So the autobiography, newspaper article and proposal could be used conceptually. You couldn't quote from them without permission but you could openly paraphrase any concept you wanted. On the other hand, the poem is made unique by expression and would be totally covered.

More to come.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dear Mr. Bad Guy

The subconscious mind is amazing. This past week, I came to another block in my current work in progress. It came to the point where it was essential to know the next move of the bad guy in order for me to know the next move of my heroine.

But as any author knows, characters actually live in your head, often communicating to one another and to the author, letting you know where to take the story. (At least that's the way it is for me, and I've heard a few other authors mention it as well so I hope I'm not some freak of nature.)

As I was pondering this situation, and wondering how to get into the mind of the bad guy so I could finish my story, a thought came to mind. Why don't I just write a letter to this person?

So I sat down at my computer and typed the following words:

"Dear Mr. Bad Guy,

Would you please let me into your head?

You have done a marvelous job at making the life of the heroine in my novel miserable. With your illusive nature and evil ways, she has been on her toes for several chapters. But now what? What is your next move? It’s imperative I know your motivations, not so that I can destroy you, but so I can know how this will impact my heroine.

If you know that yada yada yada...(I won't disclose all the words of the letter in order to protect the innocence of the plot) are you going to try to yada? Do you just yada and leave the country? Do you send one of your monkey men to yada yada or do you take satisfaction in doing the job yourself?

And how did you yada yada?"

And then this really weird thing happened. Just after I typed the sentence above, my bad guy answered, giving me a direct name in response to the question, that in essence, was like a missing piece of the puzzle.

"That was weird...and cool," I thought. So I typed out another question. "When did he find out?"

Another answer came: "When she yada yada'd."

Whoa, that was amazing.

So I wrote another question, and it too was answered. I did this several times, like an interview, until I had all the puzzle pieces in place, and I felt satisfied I could continue my story with the information I had received from my subconscious mind. It was incredible.

Before I sat down to write the letter, I had hopes that my subconscious would think about the questions overnight and that I would receive new inspiration in the next day or so. I never thought my questions would be answered so quickly and to the point. Now I'm excited to have the rest of my plot down and a new way to communicate effectively with the other characters in my mind.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Writing Weaknesses

by Rebecca Talley

I've attended conferences, taken classes, read books, talked to other writers, and practiced writing. All good things that have helped me improve my writing.  I recently had my manuscript professionally edited by Heather Moore at Precision Editing Group and I learned so much from the experience. She helped me see my weaknesses more clearly and pushed me to improve in ways I hadn't even considered.

It's one thing to read in a book, "Flesh out your scene," but it's quite another to actually have someone show you how to do that with your own scene, how to make it deeper and fuller, how to take it to the next level. Perhaps, some, or most, of you already know that innately, but I don't. I'm still learning how to take a scene and fully develop it.

I've learned that some of my weaknesses are:

Writing too lean--I'm always in such a hurry because I have so many things to do in my life that I tend to write in a hurry, too. I leave out details that would make a scene feel more realistic. I don't include a lot of description and that makes it hard for a reader to feel grounded in the scene.

Leaving out emotions--I write a lot of actions, but I don't include a lot of emotions. I guess I figure if I'm feeling something when I'm writing it, then the reader will feel the same thing. I've learned that's a faulty assumption. I still struggle with how to "show" that emotion without telling it.

Awkward or non-existent transitions--Again, I'm in a hurry so I don't include transitions that would make the entrance into the next scene smoother. I flit from scene to scene and forget to transition between them.

Having this edit has opened my eyes as to how I can improve scenes and make my story fuller. I hope there are some things I do well, but for now, I'm focusng on what I can improve so that I can make my current manuscript the best it can be (isn't that what we all hope to do?). I've included a subject in this manuscript that's very close to my heart and I want to do it justice. I want to make an impact and possibly influence people who read it to think a little differently. Now that I've had this edit, maybe I'll be able to come closer to doing that.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, February 22, 2010

Why Networking is Important

By Nichole Giles

When I first started writing, I believed it to be a very solitary thing. One in which it didn’t really matter who I knew or what my connections. I mean no one else can write for me, right?

Over time, I’ve seen the wrong in that way of thinking over and over again. Writing as an art form may truly be a solitary thing—that’s true—but the process actually requires the help of others. Lots of others. Writers, publishers, editors, mentors, publicity specialists, agents…all these people have a part in getting your writing into the public.

No, it’s not a lone effort. Because without a team of people on your side, chances are that no matter how much you write, or how good your writing ability, your story will never be seen by anyone else. At least, not a published version.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s totally okay to write for yourself and not care about sharing your work with others. If that’s your purpose, it’s been served by the simple act. Congratulations on your success!

But if you—like so many other writers—hope to someday see your work in print, it’s time to consider making those crucial connections that will help you succeed in your quest. How do you do this? Here are a few of my ideas. (I’m sure there are lots, lots more, but this is a blog, not a book.)

1. Attend writer’s conferences. This is a great way to connect with all the types of people you’ll need to know. Don’t be shy, even if you have to pretend. Branch out and introduce yourself.

2. Join a critique group or other writer-type group. Other authors and writers can help you find ways to improve your craft and make it marketable. Because no matter how good you think your work, there’s always room for improvement. Always more to learn.

3. Start a blog. Not only does regular consistent writing improve your skills over time, but this is a good way to create a following or fan base, which will in turn help generate future sales.

4. As much as it pains me to say this, popular social networking sites truly are a good tool. They have a way of extending connections across the world, linking you up with people you need to know and who may be important to your future.

5. Make public appearances. Again, for some of us this can be painful and scary, but it gets your name and face out there, where others can see and remember it. In this industry having a memorable name and face can be the difference between failure and success.

6. Follow other agent, publisher and author blogs. There is a wealth of information out there, and these people are publishing it for everyone to see, as often as weekly, and in some cases, daily. It’s like getting a free education or taking a free class.

All right, I know all this can be overwhelming. Don’t worry, though. It may require some dedication, but it’s not as hard as it sounds. I promise. Take a chance. You won’t be sorry.

For those authors in the western states, here are some links to popular, excellent conferences. I highly recommend them all.

Book Academy
League of Utah Writers (Or you can search for a similar group in your state.)
Romance Writers of America
Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

And these are just the ones I've discovered. I'm pretty well positive that there are lots I don't know about. If you've been to or heard of other conferences, please share the information in the comments! I'd love to know about it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Real Life Always Gives You Something to Write About

This past summer, I attended education week classes at a nearby university. The last class of the day was on increasing the LOVE in your relationships. Sounds like your average marriage class. But it was far from it. The LOVE lesson I learned that day will stick in my mind forever.

My friend and I found two open seats near the front of the classroom. We sat down and pulled out our notebooks and pens. Within minutes, the room filled with eager students ranging from ages 18 to 75. The instructor began an informative discussion about the three Greek words that define the most important word in the English language...L-O-V-E.

The instructor explained that . . .

"Eros is the romantic kind of love."

"Philos is brotherly love, or the deep love you have for family members and good friends. "

"Agape love is god-like love. The unconditional, giving, serving, and sacrificing kind of love."

Interestingly enough, as the instructor began describing eros, I spotted a young couple (very young) sitting near the exit door. They couldn't keep their hands off each other. I thought to myself, "Ah, ha! That's eros in action." And believe me, there was action. Fingers through the hair, back rubs, shoulder rubs, and arm tickles. For 50 minutes straight the strawberry blonde and her bronzed counterpart were obviously engaged in eros. I guess you could say they were a very effective visual aid. (Ha!)

Next, the instructor introduced philos. The bonding kind of love you feel for a dear family member or a good friend. This kind of love is deep and has the other person's best interest at heart. I looked around the room. And what do you know? To the right of me, sat a mom and a daughter. They were linked arm in arm. They had to be mother and daughter because the dark haired one looked like a younger version of the gray-haired one. They seemed very close. At one point, the dark-haired one pulled out a granola bar, split it half and gave a piece to the gray-haired one. "Okay," I thought. There's philos in action." Again, another great visual aid.

Well, next, the instructor introduced agape love. Now, keep in mind, I've been in classes all day. My rear end is starting to go numb. My mind is wandering to what I'm going to make for dinner and which children will have what homework. "Okay, back on track. Back to agape." I tried to focus.

So, the instructor then explained that AGAPE is the God-like love—unconditional love that forgives and endures. He talked about how agape love could not be shaken or altered and that it is the heart of God that we as humans would experience if we could experience love in its fullness. I think to myself, "Well, there's no visual aid for that." I got my protein bar out of my bag and took a bite. My eyes wandered. That's when I noticed a couple sitting right in front of me. A gray-haired man and a gray-haired woman. I guessed they were in their late 60s. There was nothing stand-out obvious about this couple except for, at one point, the husband fixed his wife's knitted sweater that had fallen off her shoulder. How sweet. Then, it happened. A long, loud, bodily sound accompanied by a gassy smell came from the gray-haired woman. Ugghh! Can you imagine a quiet room of 200 people and having that happen to you? Unfortunately, there was no way to disguise it. She had "tooted" and everyone—at least those of us close by—knew it. I shifted in my chair feeling her pain but at the same time feeling gratitude that it was her and not I. (Does that count as philos?)

Well, right then, this woman's husband, slowly but surely, lifted his right arm, stretched it around her and lovingly patted her on her the shoulder. He even gave her a little pull towards him as if to say, "It's okay. I love you."

"Ah! Agape!" I couldn't resist. I turned to my friend and whispered, "Did you see that? THAT! THAT'S AGAPE!" We giggled silently with hearts full! We had witnessed Agape at its peak. Maybe no one else around thought so. But we sure did. And it was beautiful! (A little smelly, but beautiful.)

That day, I can honestly say love was in the air!

To the couple who sat in front of me at Education Week 2009, I thank you! In you, I saw AGAPE in action. You know, I can't remember much more about that class—not even the instructor's name. But thanks to those three couples, I will remember the lessons of love never to be forgotten.

Whatever you see in normal,
every day life...there is a story to tell.  Tell it. 

Have a great week everyone.
--Jodi Marie Robinson

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Books that teach and books that entertain while they teach

JoAnn Arnold

I'm sitting here with a book that tells me where to put the commas. As I read that I'm to use commas between coordinate adjectives not jointed by a coordinating conjunction, and not to use a comma between cumulative adjectives, a frown appeared on my face. Next, I read how to use commas to set of nonrestrictive word groups and how not to use commas to set off restrictive word groups. Then on to Using commas to set off conjunctive adverbs, transitional expressions, parenthetical expressions, absolute phrases, and contrasted elements, etc., etc.

Now, some of this stuff I already knew. But, some of it apparently doesn't hold true in writing a novel and that's where I start getting confused. Do you, too?

Sitting in front of me is another book. It's called "Treasury of Wisdom". Because it's much more fun to read, I'm not going to bother to share the in's and out's of commas, I'm going to share some wisdom.

Mark Twain said, "When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them . . . then the rest will be valuable. they weaken when they are close together. they give strength when they are wide apart."

Winston Churchill stated, "From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put."

Ray Bradbury: "My stories run up and bite me on the leg. I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off."

And as Norman Augustine so eloquently put it, "Simply stated, it is sagacious to eschew obfuscation." (You may have to look that one up. I did)

I love my treasury of wisdom. The coma book . . . not that's something I'll have to work on.

Thank you for visiting my post and have a very good day

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Love puts the fun in together, the sad in apart, and the joy in the heart.

By Trina Boice

“The most important things are the hardest to say, because words diminish them.” Stephen King

          “Who, being loved, is poor?” Oscar Wilde
          “The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of.” Blaise Pascal Pensees

Those are some of the words written on cards that greeted me this morning as my husband sent me on a treasure hunt around the house. My first card told me that a dozen red roses had been hidden separately around the house and that attached to each rose was a card with love quotes by famous writers. Well, not all of them were so famous…my husband quoted himself on one card: “Inside every middle-aged skinny bald guy lurks a dynamic, passionate, world-conquering tiger.” Ha ha

Words are powerful things. I’ve heard it said that the 3 most important words are “I love you”, the 2 most important words are “I’m sorry” and the most important word is “Love.” On this most romantic of occasions, I’d love to hear how you expressed your love to your spouse or to your family and friends.

Here at Cedar Fort, we LOVE our readers!
Have a LOVEly day today!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Marketing: The Hardest Part of Being Published

By Christine Thackeray

Two years ago Rebecca Talley and I both had our first books come out about the same time. The first time I spoke to her on the phone I remember we got on the subject of marketing. She told me (I hope you remember this, Rebecca) that she was worried about it, and I told her I wasn't at all.

Well, ignorance is bliss. I told all my family and friends about my first book, got a few strong reviews, started a blog and website, did a few less than stellar signings and thought the world would race to the bookstore and gobble up every copy. Instead, it didn't even get a double printing. I was devastated.

This spring my second novel is about to be released, and I know in the next month or so I've got to roll up my sleeves. I'm so grateful for the wonderful advice of our new marketing director at Cedar Fort who called with some good pointers, but I'd be interested in seeing what other authors have found most successful.

Blog tours can be very effective, as well as Facebook.

Also, putting up reviews on Deseret, Good Reads and Shelfari.

I've heard mixed reviews about book signings but I do think they are worth it even if just to get the staff excited about your book.

I get a little jealous of YA who can do school visits because its a little more difficult to find groups of people in my market- LDS fiction. I've applied to a number of writer's conferences to speak and have tried to be more involved.

I know very little about where to get hard copy reviews, especially in the LDS market.

How do we reach out and get people to know we are here?

Has anyone had real success with something. Any ideas???

Friday, February 12, 2010

Writer's Conferences: LTUE

By Heather Justesen

Every year BYU hosts a sci-fi/fantasy writing conference called "Life, the Universe, and Everything." I've known about the conference for at least seven years, but my schedule has never permitted me to attend until this year. The conference runs Thursday, Friday, and Saturday the weekend of Valentines (every year, as far as I've been able to tell), and then there's the magic word--it's FREE, which puts it easily in my budget.

Unfortunately I got a late start on the day, so I didn't arrive until after noon, but it was an interesting day filled with varied classes I'm sure I wouldn't have experienced in any other way. You might note that I write contemporary romance, not sci-fi/fantasy, and I admit, there were a number of elements taught in the classes that don't apply to my writing, but there were still many that do.

I think the most fabulous part of being a writer is knowing that no matter what I learn, there's always a possibility that someday I might be able to work that into a story. I may never write a character with multiple personality disorder, but I might give someone a deceased parent who had it. I have no intention of writing horror, but I'll be able to use the portions from the class that apply to suspense.

And really, how do I know what I'll be writing in a few years--some of that might come in more handy than I expect.

After classes ended a bunch of us ended up at a restaurant together to talk and eat and laugh together. I met a lot of great women I never knew, and look forward to getting to know them better in the future. That's another great reason to attend conferences--networking can be the bomb!

Several times in the past year or so I've heard writers say that they didn't go to any conferences before they were published because they couldn't justify the expense. However, like many, many other authors out there, I can tell you that I probably still wouldn't be published if I hadn't attended conferences and learned more about my craft, received feedback, and formed friendships and support groups with other writers. If you're serious about writing and want to make it more than a fun little side hobby, conferences or writers groups (like the League of Utah Writers, which can be an awesome resource if your community has one) are extremely valuable, and there are lots out there that are low to no cost.

I have a full day of classes that I'm looking forward to tomorrow, and lots of new people to meet. If you're in the area, pop by BYU's Wilkinson Student Center to catch a class or two, and if you can't go this year, make a note in your calendar for next year!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Diet Rebel's Cookbook: Eating Clean and Green

I am so excited! Michelle Stewart (my co-author)and I have been getting our cookbook ready to go to print, because it will be out in April. Today, it's difficult for me to think about anything else but recipes and the words that create them, because we've been going over the proof, so I'll just blog about it.

Michelle and I discovered how very much quality of food impacts health. (We found this out the hard way, after losing health for a time, then regaining it through proper food and lifestyle choices.) This information was gathered from dietary studies of the world’s healthiest and disease-resistant cultures throughout history. We wanted to know what they ate that contributed to their health, and as a result, we learned the cooking techniques they used to increase nutrition and create healthier bodies—information that is lost to us today—and quite by accident discovered that preparing food this way made it taste amazing.

"What are the forgotten and tasty traditions of our ancient ancestors? It’s no secret that a good diet was essential to their health and longevity. What did they eat, how did they prepare it, and how does this information affect the nutrition and flavor of the food we prepare today? How can applying this information help prevent disease and potentially reverse it?” - from The Diet Rebel's Cookbook

I would love to answer these questions right here and now, but for the sake of time and space on this blog, you'll have to read the book to find out the answers to these questions. :0) But don't worry, it will be out in April, and I'm looking forward to getting my recipes out of a cookbook instead of my four inch stack of recipes, where whatever it is I'm looking for is ALWAYS on the bottom.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Finding Ideas

by Rebecca Talley

I'm often asked how I find ideas  for stories. The answer is: everywhere. I have so many ideas I'm sure I'll never be able to write about all of them. I keep track of them in a notebook, allowing some to simmer in the back of my brain for months or years.

My favorite place to gather ideas is from my own family. This works out especially well when I write for the Friend because the Friend requires that authors submit stories based on true experiences. I've written about getting stuck in the snow and saying a prayer for help, learning to sing a Christmas song in German for a lonely neighbor, and about a child sacrificing a part in a local television production to keep the Sabbath day holy.

My picture book, Grasshopper Pie, was based on an experience when my kids tried to feed me a live grasshopper.

Both of my novels have included experiences from my own life and my current work-in-progress even has snippets of conversations we've had in our home.

Another place to find ideas is in the newspaper. I read a story about a woman whose husband committed suicide. The doctors were able to harvest some of his organs for donors. The gentleman who received the desceased man's heart, wrote a letter of thanks to the widow. After some correspondence, they began a relationship and ended up getting married. Some years later, the second husband also committed suicide in the same way as the first one and the question was posed: "Did the heart remember?"

The idea for Rachel Ann Nunes's novel, Saving Madeline, came from a newspaper story she'd read.

The nightly news can also be a source for ideas. Plenty of conflict dances across our television screens each night as newscasters replay the day's events.

Ideas can come from reading other books and asking, "What if?"

Shannon Hale has been successful at retelling fairy tales and adding new twists.

You can also find ideas by eavesdropping. We were at dinner the other night and at the table next to us a couple in their sixties was discussing their relationship. We were in close proximity and they weren't hushing their voices so it was impossible not to hear their conversation. They were obviously not married, but had dated and were trying to define their relationship. I overheard a few details I didn't want to, but after they left, my daughter played the "What if?" game. She decided they'd been high school sweethearts but had married other people and were now rediscovering their love. I would've guessed they'd met on eHarmony or some such site and were getting to know one another because they'd both lost their spouses. Two completely different stories picked up from the same conversation. Of course, it's rude to eavesdrop, but sometimes it can't be helped and if a great story comes out of it, all the better.

Ideas are literally everywhere and anywhere. If you're stuck, try some of these ways to spark ideas.  

Thursday, February 4, 2010


There is an instinct that writers develop after gaining some writing experience for how the rhythm of their sentences flow. Have you ever read a manuscript that seemed choppy...or worse, so long winded that the whole thing felt like one never-ending pile of mush? I have. And they were my own manuscripts.

At first I had no idea how to fix the problem, but after I got a little practice under my belt I realized that the length of my sentences had to be varied. They couldn't all be short or long, and they couldn't all have the same rhythm when they were read aloud. Like music, the language had to be interesting, broken apart by differing speeds,rhythms, and pauses.

Try reading your manuscript out loud to yourself. Does it sound short and choppy? Are all the sentences the same length? Try to vary the length of the sentences in each paragraph until they sound like they flow well when read aloud. Sometimes of course you may purposefully shorten or lengthen a few sentences in a row in order to create tension or another type of mood.

In any case, paying attention to the flow of your language will make your writing much more professional and enjoyable to read. After awhile, you will start to vary your sentence lengths automatically without even having to think about it.

Kersten Campbell
"Confessions of a Completely Insane Mother"

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Everyday Challenges bring Everyday Excitement

I’ve been my 87 year-old mother’s care-giver for the month of January and will continue to be for the first two weeks of February. Being a caregiver is 24/7. It is physically fatiguing, emotionally demanding and mentally draining. But surprisingly, I have found it to be spiritually breathtaking.

At times it brings tears to my eyes as I watch her aged body struggling to walk, gripping her walker for fear of falling, as she moves about, and I remember the mother who could run as fast as me when I was in trouble. I think my mother often felt physically fatigued, emotionally and mentally drained as she dealt with my tantrums, frowning face and stubborn attitude, and I applaud her patience.

We laugh when we talk about old age. We cry when we reminisce about my father. I will miss her when she returns to Ferron and back to my sister who is her real caregiver, yet I know I will feel the relief of not having to be on 24/7 watch.

Needless to say I haven’t had time to write or paint, and my incoming e-mail is stacked high. But I’ve had time to reflect on the fact that this experience may make me a better writer - a better artist - a better person. One who is more in tune with the creative side because of the depth of the feelings that stirs within me when I sit beside her and view life from her personal experiences. It’s an education you can’t get in a class because it’s and education of the heart. An education of love.

I leave you with this quote from Ray Bradbury. "Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for."

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Nothing Box

By C.L. (Cindy) Beck

There's no doubt about it, men and women think differently. A man can walk past a piece of lint that's on the floor and never see it ... even though it's the size of Chicago. A woman, on the other hand, notices every piece of lint, string, or dust in the universe.

If a group of fans composed of all men and one woman were watching Keanu Reeves filming The Matrix: Sequel 25, the guys would be cheering and clapping over the manly stunts. The woman would be staring at Keanu's black overcoat, then interrupt the filming by walking up to him with scissors in hand and saying, "Excuse me, but you've got this little piece of thread hanging from your collar. Let me just cut that for you."

In light of that, and because this video is so hilarious, I'm posting it for your enjoyment, as well as for your edification. You never know when you might need to reference the thoughts contained therein for your next male character.


On a more serious note, the plight of the poor Haitians seems to be growing worse by day, and my heart breaks for them. I'm posting an offer here that I posted on my personal blog. In an effort to help, I'll be donating $1.00 to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Emergency Response Fund and/or to the Red Cross for every comment that's made on this particular blog article. The offer is good from now until Feb 5, for up to a total of $200 (total for both my personal blog article and this article). Let me know in your comment if you have a preference on those two charities.

If you don't have any cash to spare for the Haitian people, now's your chance to have $1.00 donated to Haitian relief by simply leaving a comment here. Multiple comments by the same person will only be counted once, but feel free to have your friends drop by so their comments can be counted as well.