Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Life is an Art

It's been an interesting morning. We're getting the smoke from the fire up by Beaver and I'm alergic to smoke. It gives me asmtha. Therefore, I've been getting medical attention and medication. But now, I'm home and glad to be here.

Now to the important stuff. I've been taking an art class in sketching portraits in pencil and pastels. Using only the gray and black colors we bring a portrait to life by using only shadow and highlight. First, you start by squinting your eyes so you can see the shadow in depth. By squinting your eyes, your mind becomes focused on what is important at that moment. It sees only the darkness of the shadow. You take the pencil, or pastel and you sketch what you see - Shadow. There are deep shadows and there are blended and lighter shadows. When all the shadows, light and dark,and inbetween, are is in place, you highlight with white all that is not touched by shadow. At times you blend the white into the shadows for more depth and, at times, you throw that white on all by itself.

It's been a great learning experience, and I decided that writing a novel is much like sketching a portrait. We bring to life a story by squinting our eyes so we can only see shadow, letting the depth of the story be determined by the depth of the shadow, blending and highlighting to bring a story together in a way that gives it life.

We ask ourselves how deep do we want the story to be? Where will we blend to give the story more depth? Where do we add the highlights to bring story to life?

Sketching takes a lot of concentration. Writing takes a lot of concentration. But If, in the end, we can recognize it for all we hoped it to be, and we are pleased.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Can you Tell I'm Excited?

Today, Monday September 27, 2010, I'm scheduled to get my author proof. So I put this post together early.

Last week was amazing. I got my final cover for my book, and found out that THE PEASANT QUEEN is now available for pre-order online. How cool is that?

So I have to share.

Isn't it wondrous? I'm so excited, and relieved to be honest. I've heard lots of authors over the last few years talk about how they didn't like their book cover, and I worried that it would affect my sales if I didn't love my cover. Consequently, I worked hard to have an open mind. I mean, lots of things can be eye catching, beautiful and intriguing all at once, right? I feel very lucky, and very blessed, to have such a cover.

You can pre-order THE PEASANT QUEEN at either AMAZON.COM or BN.COM. I'll be honest, Barnes and Noble has the better price, but Amazon has my beautiful cover pic up. :)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Overcoming Writer's Block

By Christine Thackeray

The beginning of this week I had arranged my schedule to spend hours writing. I'm working on a screenplay, spoke to a co-author about changes and was determined to get through them for our conference call on Friday. Unfortunately, everytime I sat down, I'd stare at the page and couldn't make it work. Then I'd do something else, hoping the answer would just "come", but NOTHING!

I remember a few years ago Heather Moore told me that most writer's block is a result of unclear characters or motivation. That was exactly the problem in my case but I couldn't make it work. The person I'm working with wanted to change the action in the first scene but by doing it, it changed the main character. The old main character would never have done such a thing. I remembered reading Dwight Swain who believed that you could recreate characters with quirks that could do what you wanted them to but I couldn't bend any personality to be consistent with the two events.

On Thursday afternoon, so frustrated I could pull my HAIR OUT, I took my husband out to lunch and forced him to listen to my dilemna. He told me to just change the character. Make her the new girl and change the dialogue so it's her. Oh. Duh. The minute I accepted the new main character, everything fell in place. Dailogue started coming to my mind and it was genuine. Ta-da. Block over.

I got the first five scenes done and mailed them off just before my meeting but the meeting was cancelled. We'll meet next Friday instead, only this time I hope to have the rewrite complete. That is hope because this week I may not have writer's block but with something going on everyday next week, do I have the time???

The Mayonaise Jar

By Heather Justesen

I know I was scheduled to post yesterday, but sometimes that's how life happens. I know we've all heard people say they wish they could do xyz--if only they had more time. Then they sit in front of the computer playing video games, or 'have' to watch the latest episode of 24--but they don't 'have time' for that dream that stands out of reach (authors hear this constantly from people who have just been wanting to write a book for their whole lives, but the same could be said of people who always wanted to learn how to cook, or play the piano, or put in a garden or any other worthy goal).

For most everyone, time is what they make of it--and I just received this fun email (sorry, I have no idea where it originated from, but if you do, I'd be more than happy to credit the writer), and thought I'd share it before I get back to working on my new manuscript:

The Mayonnaise Jar

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle,

When 24 hours in a day is not enough;

remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class

and had some items in front of him.

When the class began, wordlessly,

he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar

and start to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured

it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly.

The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again

if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand

and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else

He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded

With an unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table

and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively

filling the empty space between the sand.

The students laughed.

'Now,' said the professor, as the laughter subsided,

'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things - God, family,

children, health, friends, and favorite passions

Things that if everything else was lost

and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car.

The sand is everything else --

The small stuff.

'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued,

'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.

The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff,

You will never have room for the things that are

important to you.


Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Play with your children.

Take time to get medical checkups.

Take your partner out to dinner.

There will always be time

to clean the house and fix the dripping tap.

'Take care of the golf balls first --

The things that really matter.

Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.'

One of the students raised her hand

and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled.

'I'm glad you asked'.

It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem,

there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.'

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

LDS Fiction

I read an article by Jennie Hansen titled  Where is LDS Fiction Going? It's an excellent article on how far LDS fiction has come over the last two decades. I recommend reading it.

What do you think about LDS fiction? Is is too sappy? Unrealistic? Has it improved over the years?

How does it comapre to national releases?

When you choose a book is it:
exclusively LDS fiction?
exclusively national releases?
a mixture of both?

Do you have any favorite LDS authors?

I'd love to have comments and see what you all think about LDS fiction.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Frustrated Saxophonist

Before I took up writing, my creative outlet of choice was music. I've had formal instruction on instruments in all five categories - keyboard, string, woodwind, percussion, and brass - and have been in a number of musical groups over the years.

During high school, I played both the saxophone and the xylophone. I wasn't able to find a picture of myself with my sax, but here I am with my xylophone in the 1983 Aloha Week parade.

However, it was while playing my tenor sax that I learned a lesson I've been able to apply to my writing these many years later.

The jazz band had already played our formal concert several weeks before, but for some reason we'd been invited to play at another school somewhere else on the island. It was my senior year, and graduation was just around the corner. A ton of homework and class projects had worn me down, and I was not particularly happy about what was to be the final concert of my high school career.

School was stressing me out - probably my pending AP exams - and I was tired from all of the studying. There was also some tension between myself and the baritone sax player - we had dated earlier in the year, and the relationship did not end well.

I was really not in the mood for this concert, especially since we'd be playing Help Me, Rhonda, and I didn't want to do the solo again. Although I had practiced it to perfection and executed flawlessly during the regular concert, my solo still fell flat. I could tell the band director was disappointed, as he usually was with my solos. I just didn't get it, whatever "it" was.

So the concert came, and I went through the motions, playing everything the way I had practiced. Then it was time for my solo.

In my bad mood, I didn't bother to play the solo the way it was written. I just blew. The notes were close, I stayed in the right key, but all I was really doing was venting my frustrations through my horn. It was the worst solo I'd ever played. It was also tremendously therapeutic.

After the concert, the band director approached me. "What was that up there?" he asked. I braced for a good chewing out. "That was the best I ever heard you play."

I was shocked; here I thought I'd completely messed up the whole thing, when in fact I'd done what he'd been trying to get me to do for four years - play with feeling.

All the time I'd been working on executing the notes exactly, what I'd really done is scrubbed away all of the emotion. Precision and conformity is exactly what's needed when playing as part of the band, but during a solo, it's the passion that counts.

Now that I've traded a mouthpiece for a word processor, I notice I tend to be the same way with my writing. I edit and edit until the voice is thoroughly sanitized.

This would be fine for a newspaper article or users manual, but I'm writing fiction. And in fiction, it's the voice that counts.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How well read are you?

                                                            By Trina Boice

Today's post is brought to you by author, Susan Dayley, who created a fun quiz to test how well read you are.   She created ten lists of characters to see if you can recognize them from books that are found on the Children’s Classics Book List.   Have you read them?   Which books are the following characters from:

1) Mary Lennox, Martha and Dickon

2) Peter, Lucy, Edmond

3) Duchess, Ginger, Merrylegs

4) Peggotty, Betsy Trotwood, Wilkins Micawber

5) Marilla, Matthew, Diana

6) Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Isaac of York, The Black Knight

7) Mario Bellini, Chester, Tucker

8 ) Fritz, Ernest, Francis

9) Edmond Dantes, Danglars, Villefort

10) B612 (slight fudge on this one–it’s actually a place), The Rose, The Fox

11) Nathaniel Bowditch, Elizabeth, Mary (Polly)

12) Homer, Freddy, Uncle Ulysses

13) Pa, Mary, Laura

14) Henry, Jessie, Violet

15) Jim Hawkins, Long John Silver, Captain Flint

16) Margot, Mrs. Van Daan, Peter

17) Ichabod Crane, Katrina Van Tassel, Brom Bones

18) Scout, Jem, Atticus

19) Captain Nemo, Aronnax, Conseil

20) George Knightly, Frank Churchill, Harriet Smith


• All twenty correct: (assuming no internet searches were resorted to)—You deserve the Award for Literary Acumen (if there were such an award, I’d be delighted to send it to you, but you are welcome to claim on FB, your blog, or Twitter that you qualified.)

• 15-19: Well done, and well read. Please accept the accolades of those who wish they had done as much, which would be, well, you know who you are.

• 10-14: Pretty good. Really. Better than it could have been at least.

• Less than 10: I wouldn’t tell anyone. Seriously, less than ten?

Be sure to visit Susan's blog at

To see the Children's Classics Book List go to:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mystery, Suspense, Dramatic Irony

JoAnn Arnold

Interesting. I posted my blog this morning and now its not there,

I'm glad you picked "The Book Thief" up again, Rachael. It was a book well worth reading.

As I do my assigned reading for the 5-day workshop in March, I find little excerpts I want to share with you. The chapter is entitled "Problems and Solutions" We all know that in story telling we must capture the reader's interest, hold it unswervingly through time, then reward it at climax. In order to do so it's necessary to attract both sides of human nature - intellect and emotion.

Curiosity is the intellectual need to answer question and close opened patterns.

Concern, on the other hand, is the emotional need for the positive values of life: justice, strength, survival, love, truth, courage.

Curiosity and concern create three possible ways to connect the reader to the story: Mystery, Suspense, and Dramatic Irony.

Mystery means gaining interest through curiosity alone.

Suspense combines both curiosity and concern

Dramatic Irony creates interest primarily through concern alone.

Of course, I'm giving you Reader's Digest, very condenced version of what I read but I think we all know what these words are telling us. Sometimes, however, studying it in depth, inside a book so filled with knowledge that we need to put everything out of the way so we can concentrate and comprehend what we are reading, (Whew) it turns on a light inside our heads, and we say to ourselves, "I knew that but it's good to be reminded.

Have a good day.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What Life Teaches You About Writing

I think Jillayne and I have been thinking along the same lines. If you wonder why, check out here post from Thursday HERE.

As I turned my writing focus to more spiritual fulfillment and included God in my writing practices, I was reminded to observe my children in particular for ways to improve my writing voice. They provide me with tons of great information in general, those kids, but when I use what I see, hear and feel in my writing it makes for a stronger story.

For instance, because I nearly lost one of my sons to an undiagnosed disorder when he was a baby, I know a lot about the feelings a mother experiences in that situation.

And, last Thursday, my oldest son taught me what a mother feels when her teenager is thrown from a horse and then stepped on by said horse.

These examples are pretty obvious ones. I'm sure most of you can imagine the general feelings a person experiences in these situations. But the more subtle nuances of the moments, the things that can enrich a tense moment in a book, are things you can only know if you life through these things.

And I don't want to focus on just the bad stuff, though that does make good fodder for writing books. The sweetest moments of life can bring about the happiest endings, or the most tear-jerking moments of a book.

So, what is life teaching you?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Life Can Make You a Better Writer

I spent the summer organizing, cleaning, playing with my family, and taking a break from writing. We visited ghost towns, rode motorcycles & four wheelers, went camping, and spent a day at Lagoon. While we were hiking through the ruins of the ghost town Standardville, I thought it would make an awesome scene in some adventure book I would like to write, which then reminded me of my first published novel, Deadly Treasure, and the summer-time adventure it entails.

Recently I read through the portion of that book where my main character ends up trapped in a dark cave with no apparent escape. The darkness, being lost, praying and pleading for help, and even knowing that our prayers are heard and that we are supported by others, even "angels", was a reminder to me that while we may experience dark times, there is almost always a light at the end of the tunnel, and there is always heavenly help. For me, this scene was shaped by the pain I experienced with health issues a few years ago.

When I write, my own life experiences tend to bleed into and shape my characters. I've found that my characters can attain some pretty amazing character growth when I know first hand what it's like to achieve it and experience it myself. I've found that when I'm in touch with my own feelings and emotions, I'm so much more able to express those qualities on paper in the lives of the characters I create. And like-wise, when my characters are brave and strong when they need to be, or when they make mistakes and feel badly about them, they teach me some valuable life lessons.

How do you influence your own writing, and how does your writing influence you?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Book Thief

by Rachael Renee Anderson

A couple of months ago a friend of mine lent me this book. I started reading, couldn't really get into it, and set it aside. This past week, I picked it up again, determined to finish it just so I could return it.

So glad I did. What an incredible book! Written from a POV of an angel of death, it offered a new and poignant perspective on WWII. Through the course of the book, you come to respect and love the narrator, as well as those people he chooses to observe and almost look after.

It has moments of sadness, yes, but it's more about kindness, love, sacrifice, and finding joy in the moments. It's a book that teaches, uplifts, and reminds us all how truly blessed we really are.

If nothing else, read it for the writing alone. Markus Zusak is a gifted writer and The Book Thief is a phenomenal book.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Changing Lives One Book at a Time

                                                                       By Trina Boice

Teach a child to love reading and you can change his life.   I remember sitting in my bedroom as a young girl, reading for hours.  When my mother called me to dinner, I would yell back "Just one more paragraph!" and another hour would fly by.  My parents thought they were teaching me a lesson by making me miss dinner if I didn't get to the kitchen in time, but as I continued reading I didn't even notice I had missed a meal.  That's pretty significant, considering how much I really love food!

There is a wonderful orphanage in Guatemala that is led by an amazing American mother, Vickie Dalia.  She and some other angel volunteers have come up with a way to create a library for their orphanage that I thought you might be interested in.  I hope this doesn't sound like a sales pitch...

They're holding an Usborne on-line Book Fair (eFair) to benefit Safe Homes for Children! Usborne is a leading publisher of children's books, offering high-quality commercial-free books.  By the way, I don't sell Usborne...I'm just sharing this information because I love this little orphanage!

For total Book Fair sales of $200-$499, Safe Homes for Children will receive an additional 25% in free books. For total sales of $500+, Safe Homes for Children will receive an additional 50% in free books! For example, if total Book Fair sales reach $800, Safe Homes for Children will get an additional $400 in FREE books!  There are two ways to shop... both Wishlist sales and personal use sales count towards this total.

Please go to the website below, then click on "Safe Homes for Children" under Active e-Fairs. There is a Spanish book wish list for you to choose from. Once you get to the check-out, choose "Ship to Organization – Safes Homes for Children", and the shipping will be free. Also, there is no sales tax.

Or, if you would like to shop for your family, while benefiting this Book Fair, just click on "Safe Homes for Children" under Active e-Fairs and begin your shopping. Once you get to check-out, choose ship to your home and your order will ship immediately.

The Book Fair will be open until Sept. 15th. At the close of the Book fair, the Spanish books will be mailed to Vickie Dalia, then make their way to Guatemala and into the hands of those sweet little ones.

Thanks for considering supporting this Book Fair.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Peek in the Past--The Grand Canyon and Later Conversion

At one point in our travels, East to West across America (click HERE for last month's post), my friend Pauline and I reached the Grand Canyon, and had to decide whether to take the Greyhound bus to Los Angeles (our final destination) via Las Vegas or Salt Lake City. For some reason, although I knew nothing about the place, I had a sudden desire to see Salt Lake City. We tossed a coin. Pauline won. We went to Las Vegas, and I forgot about Salt Lake.

I mentioned last month, that Pauline and I investigated different religions on our travels. I always felt each time that something was missing, and gradually became disillusioned with the whole concept of a “right church.” I was also unhappy about the way many of my peers lived. It felt like there was an ugly darkness and little direction in anyone’s life. Immorality, drinking, smoking, drugs—they all seemed alien to me. I could not believe that was how life should be.

So you can imagine my reaction to Las Vegas and its nightlife. Not good. We were both glad to climb on board another Greyhound bus the next day and head west.

Once in LA, I found a secretarial job working at Western and Southern Insurance on Wilshire Boulevard. I was there ten months and then decided it was time to return home to England—not just for a visit, but for good. My job involved more than straightforward shorthand and typing, so it meant I had to stay another four weeks to train the replacement secretary.

The young lady hired to replace me happened to be Mormon, and that began the most amazing four weeks of my life. I later came to believe this was the purpose for my whole trip across North America. When I heard Carolyn's religion, I was fairly interested. Her faith was a new one to me, and to be honest, I thought it would be just another concept for the “been there, done that” list.

However, I found satisfying answers to my countless questions, and spent the remaining evenings and weekends with Carolyn and her friends and family, talking mainly about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I eventually listened to missionary discussions crammed into little over a week. There wasn’t time to read much of the Book of Mormon at that point, but I had such a strong logical and spiritual conversion that I knew I needed to be baptized as soon as possible.

Nothing went smoothly. The worst obstacle happened when I came home from work one night and fell down the apartment building stairs, wrenching my ankle so badly I fainted for the first time ever. I was supposed to be at Carolyn’s apartment for the missionary discussion on baptism an hour later. Some friends saw me fall and carried me home. I thought I’d broken my ankle, the pain was that bad, and actually called Carolyn to cancel the appointment as I couldn’t even walk to the bus stop. She came and collected me anyway, and the evening was wonderful. The following weekend Elders Van Dyke and Abelhouzen baptized me. Two days later, I returned to England to a disbelieving family who took me to dinner and wanted to treat me to champagne. That was tricky.

I later discovered that Carolyn had been in the middle of a BYU English degree before she arrived in LA looking for a job. She felt impressed to leave her studies and work for a while, and live near her parents’ home in Van Nuys. She later returned to BYU and completed her degree, but always felt the purpose of taking that break was to meet me. I am forever grateful she followed those promptings of the spirit.

I had faith, and an embryonic testimony, but did not have instant knowledge. Friends held a farewell party in the Los Angeles apartment, and several young Irish men of dwindling Catholic faith were there. When they heard of my baptism, they ridiculed me, and taunted with questions I had no idea how to answer. But somehow, I instinctively knew the stuff they threw at me was false doctrine. All I could do was state my gut feelings and walk away. I quickly realized I needed to study a whole lot more if people were going to do that to me. I could not deny the burning confirmation I kept receiving that this Church did indeed contain the truth for which I had searched. However, it was a surprise to discover I would need to defend my beliefs from that moment on.

These days, my testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has deep roots. It is the reason behind everything I do—especially my writing.