Monday, December 26, 2011

It's Time

by Cheri Chesley

I hope everyone had a beautiful Christmas filled with the true spirit of the season. My family had one of the best we've had in a while, and it really meant a lot. I want to say thank you to all my extended network of friends and family who post beautiful and meaningful messages online for me to read and glean a little vicarious Christmas spirit. I appreciate it.

It's also time that I say goodbye, at least to being a regular fixture here at Writing Fortress. Starting in the new year, I am devoting more time to writing stories and less time to writing blog posts. Not that I don't love it, but I've managed to fill my plate with so many blog post assignments I'm not being the prolific writer I need to be. Besides, after a year of posting almost every day in various blogs, I'm running out of things to say.

Cedar Fort has brought on a lot of new writing talent in the last year, and I'm sure one of them will happily fill my spot for Writing Fortress. You will get a fresh, unique perspective to this blog--which is always a good thing.

As for me, I hope to bring my readers more stories, both as published novels and e-books. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to blog for you. And I will miss the comments and often useful advice given me here.

Thanks for sharing this journey with me.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry CHRISTmas!

                                               Wishing you all a very merry CHRISTmas!!

                                                                     Trina Boice

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Writing A Query

Writing a lousy query is easy. Writing an engaging query is hard. Since no one wants to write and submit something that's lousy, and writing a good query can be a challenge, let me share a few of the basics I've learned as I've been studying queries. Hopefully, as I refine my query over time I will write a strong query that helps me find success.

A query letter is a single page cover letter designed to introduce your book to prospective agents or publishers. It sounds pretty simple but it's not. It is often recommended that a query contain three concise elements that will inform the agent or publisher about the work being submitted, and also about you.

The Hook: This is a tagline that is meant to hook the readers interest. Just like a potential reader needs to be hooked when they pick up a book as they decide whether or not they want to read it, the hook in the query must interest the agent/publisher enough that they are enticed to read the manuscript.
So how dow we hook the reader? In a concise sentence we should introduce our main character and the conflict that drives him, and we must give a feel for the genre and and audience we're writing for.

Synopsis: Writing an entire manuscript is an incredible accomplishment, but distilling all of that work into one or two paragraphs is a real challenge. What are teh main conflicts of the story and how does it impact the main character? Why should we care?

Author Bio- This is simply information that the agent/publisher may be interested in knowing. Do you have work or education experience that makes you an expert on the subject matter? Have you been published or won any writing awards? This section should be brief and is not intended to be a full resume, but it can share valuable information with the agent/publisher.

The query is a professional letter, but it should also grab the readers attention and give the reader a feel for the voice and tone of the manuscript. Otherwise it will be bound for the round recycling bin.

Format: Typically, query letters are single spaced, 12 point font with everything aligned to the left. There are no paragraph indentations but there should be a space between paragraphs. Be sure to include the name of the book (duh), word count and genre/audience in the body of the letter. Also, DO NOT FORGET TO INCLUDE YOUR CONTACT INFO so the agent/publisher can reach you if they are interested.

I know this is basic and I do not claim to be an expert on this, but I do believe the sources I've read. So as I begin my query process for my new manuscript, I will be following my own advice. I will write a query and edit, and rewrite, and try again.

One last thought--Research the agent or publisher you're querying. Seek out those who fit your work so you don't waste their time or yours. Good Luck.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sharing the Gift of Words

My very first publishing credit came in 2009 when a short story I'd written a couple of years before was included in Stolen Christmas and Other Stories of the Season, a compilation put together by the mysterious and insightful LDS Publisher.

The story, called Believe, Mr. Thomas, was my attempt at allowing Santa Clause to be 'real' while staying consistent with the the typical adult view of reality. (Anyone who's been up until 2:00 am on December 25th using special wrapping paper and trying to disguise their handwriting will understand what I mean.)

I was very proud to have my story in print, and bought copies of the book for everyone in my family. (After all, anyone related to an author knows what gift to expect for Christmas. But I digress.)

Since that time, my excitement at having a 1,500 word story published has been eclipsed by the release of Bumpy Landings, and I'd all but forgotten about Mr. Thomas.

Fortunately, my sister remembered. She teaches a section on writing and literacy at her elementary school, and each December she reads my story of Mr. Thomas to her class as an example of creative writing.

A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting Utah for business and stopped by this sister's house to pick something up on my way to work. As we chatted, she got a funny look on her face and said, "I just realized I'm going to be doing your story in class today. If we move that section to first thing this morning, would you like to stay and read it to the kids?"

I hmmed and hahed, not really sure. It'd been a long time since I'd read the story, and to be honest I wasn't sure presenting it to the class would be the best use of my time. But I had some flexibility in my morning schedule, so I agreed to think about it. She handed me her copy of Stolen Christmas, and I read through my story while she finished getting ready.

Would it be too boastful to admit that after reading the story again, I found that I still loved it? Too bad, because I did.

I agreed to share the story, and had an absolutely wonderful time reading it aloud to a receptive and appreciative audience of fifth graders. My first public reading! And as my sister led the class in discussion, she pointed out little bits of technique and symbolism that even I hadn't realized were there.

I spent the rest of the morning with that warm glow that only comes when we share our talents with others, and I realized how truly blessed I am to have an active imagination and a smidgen of writing ability to turn my ideas into stories that can entertain and inspire.

My muse is loud and demanding, but hers is not the loudest nor the most insistent voice in my life. (Lately she's having trouble cracking the top five.) But those few brief moments of joy that I felt reading to a group of kids reminded me of just how important writing has become to me in my life. It's a wonderful gift, well worth the extra effort it takes to carve out some writing time from a crowded, hectic schedule.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a story that needs some attention.

(You can read Believe, Mr. Thomas as it originally appeared on the LDS Publisher's blog. If you like it, pick up Stolen Christmas and enjoy the other great stories inside.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Web Presence a Must

by Rebecca Talley

We've all heard the advice that we must have a web presence if we want to be successful authors. Yet, many of us disregard that advice. Why?

Maybe we think it's too hard to create and maintain a website and/or blog. Or maybe it's too intimidating. The truth is, it isn't. If I can do it, anyone can :). Setting up a blog through Blogger is very simple. If you aren't interested in blogging but simply want a presence, you can set your blog to have static pages. Wordpress is also fairly easy but takes a little more technical expertise. Authors who want a presence need, at a minimum, a blog.

Websites may be more involved but there's plenty of software and tutorials on how to create and maintain a website. I host my website through Yahoo. I created the website using Wordpress which allows me to upload a blog entry each week (you can also set up entries to post automatically). My website is specifically dedicated to writing. I have articles about writing as well as tips and advice. My blog is more personalized and casual and allows readers a chance to get to know me. I have all the info about my books on my blog as well as my website.

Imagine a reader hears about your book and wants more information about that book. Or, maybe someone reads one of your books and wants to know more about you. When we want to know more about something or someone what do we do? We Google. Now imagine this excited reader tries to Google your name but comes up with nothing. No website. No blog. No information at all. At the very least you have a frustrated reader and at worst, a lost opportunity to introduce yourself and more of your books to someone who already likes your writing.

I discovered an author that I wanted to learn more about. He's a very popular author in the LDS market. I Googled his name but found nothing. I checked other search engines but still found nothing. I wanted to see if he'd written other books, but I couldn't because there was absolutely no information about him. This has since been remedied and he has a very nice website.

As authors, we want a web presence. We want readers to find us. We want them to know about our other books, if we have them. We want them to worship us--okay, maybe not that, but we do want them to find us. Some of my best experiences with readers have been through website contacts. I've received emails from readers that truly touched my heart--something that would not have happened if I didn't have a small web presence.

I cannot emphasize how important it is to have a web presence. If you do not have one, consider creating one as soon as possible. Even if you only have a blog. You never know when a reader will want to learn more about your work, contact you, or send others to your website or blog. When someone Googles your name be sure they can find you easily. Be accessible.

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's HOW Many Shopping Days till Christmas?

by Cheri Chesley

12 days. Shopping wise, anyway. Can we panic yet?

Most of my shopping is done, thankfully, which is a far cry from last year (and, to be honest, all previous years). I await one more delivery, and then I can call it good.

The thing is, there's more to Christmas than shopping. Some years ago, during one of those leaner Christmas seasons, I purchased a doll pattern. I was going to make my daughter her own doll. I don't even know how long ago I did that. I have 2 daughters now, and have never used the pattern. In my overactive imagination, I envisioned this sweet moment when the girls opened their boxes to reveal something I was able to lovingly hand craft for them. Something that will remind them of my love for them every day.

Over the weekend, I made new stockings for my twin sons. They turned out pretty awesome, and as one of them talked about how it will be cool to have these forever, I realized I had another opportunity to make the dolls for my girls. They have great stockings with fun family stories attached to them already. One was made by a beloved aunt; the other my daughter picked out for herself at 6 months old. I'm not going to cheapen those memories by making them new stockings.

When you think about it, the homemade doll is something of a pioneer tradition. That makes it special. Of course, I'm terrified I will mess up. I can't figure out the instructions for putting on the yarn hair to save my life. Wish me luck. I know I'll need it.

Good luck to all of you with your holiday plans. And have a very Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Getting Celebrity Endorsements

by Trina Boice

Getting a famous celebrity to endorse your book could bring huge recognition and sales to your marketing efforts!  But what if you don't know any famous movie stars or industry experts personally?  No worries!  Ask anyway!  I've found that those who succeed in life are those who are persistent and brave....that's definitely true for authors too.

Here are some steps to consider while you're working up your courage: 

1.  Reach for the stars!  Do a quick brainstorm of the celebrities or experts in your field and create a Wish List of everyone you would want to endorse your book or project.  Think big.  Of course, they should actually have something to do with your target audience, platform or subject matter.

2.  Do your homework about each famous person on your list so that when you write to them you can mention something specific they did that inspired you. 

3.  Make it easy for the celebrity to say yes to your request for an endorsement or testimonial by showing them 2-3 quotes you've written ahead of time that they could choose from.  Of course, don't offer the same quotes to everyone on your list; personalize them for each celeb.  Offer to do a video or written testimonial for them to use on their web site.

4. Don't think of yourself as a little peon.  Just be brave and ask!  The worst that can happen is they'll say no.  Most famous people love recognition and love to be quoted.

I found a cool web site that offers a paid membership access to celebrity contact information at    They have all kinds of examples of regular 'ole people like us and how their books, products, and fundraisers earned a LOT more money when they were endorsed by famous people.  Check it out!  Your new BFF celebrity may be waiting...

- Trina Boice -

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Life is Like a Novel

I'm the author of my life, creating my own character; me. Only unlike most characters in books, I am real, and I can create, to a large extent, the plot of my life. (Which can be anywhere from exciting and fun to problematic. But it helps to know that a good problem or growing experience is essential to a good novel.) The point is to celebrate and enjoy my life journey.

One of the ways I do this is to remember that sometimes trials can eventually become funny with enough time. Such as the following experience I wrote in my journal several years ago. Names have been omitted to protect the innocent. :)

"My Day From Heck:

A couple of weeks ago I returned home after a shopping trip. My 14-month-old child fell asleep on the way home, so I left him asleep in the truck (which was parked in the garage) because I knew he would wake up if I put him in his bed, and I wanted him to have his nap. While I unloaded groceries, my seven-year-old daughter made herself a PBJ snack and my three-year-old girl wanted some too and was beginning to get upset that I wanted to finish unloading the groceries and bring the baby in before I made her one.

The phone rang at that moment, and it was one of my oldest child's teachers calling with some difficult-to-hear information about said child's classroom behavior. Now most parents do not enjoy hearing such news about someone they gave birth to, at least I didn't, and I was close to tears.

During the phone call, and while trying to defend my child and bring in the remaining grocery bags from the truck all at the same time, my three-year-old began screaming because she wanted her older sister's sandwich and tried to grab it from her. I took her by a sticky jam hand up to her room and closed the door, but that only muted the sound.

When I got off the phone, I was so close to tears that they almost leaked from my eyes. But I didn't have time to just sit and cry since my baby was still in the car, my three-year-old was still screaming in her room, and I still had a mound of grocery bags to go through.

While descending the stairs to the garage from the kitchen, (this was in a four-level split), my three-year-old ran out of her room crying even more because she had wet her pants.

So, thinking things through, I told her to take off her pants while I got the baby from the truck and then I'd come up and help her. But when I stepped back into the house with my sleeping baby in my arms, I heard a man's voice coming from the front door asking, "Is your mom or dad home?"

I sped up the stairs and found that my wet three-year-old had opened the door for a young man selling pizza coupons, only she had obeyed me first by taking off her wet pants, and stood at the door in nothing but a shirt and jam all over her face and hands.

Now at this point I could have just given up, but that wasn't really an option. Instead, I sent the man on his way, put down my baby who promptly woke up, and grabbed a wet cloth to wipe down my sticky-wet daughter, only to find her chasing the man down the sidewalk still wearing only her shirt."

Seven years have passed since this day, and now I look at it and laugh. I also look at it and think, that was a bad day? I've had many since then that would make this day look like nothing. But I try to remember the blessings, and I have much to be grateful for. I also try to imagine that life is like a novel, and a good novel is one where each page and each scene is worth reading.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Words and Symbols Mean Something

Today is Pearl Harbor Rembrance Day. As F.D.R. said, it is a "day that will live in infamy." We lower our flags to half-staff and we remember this somber occassion by paying tribute to the soldiers who lost their lives in the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, and we express gratitude to God for the blessings of living in such a blessed nation. The flag is a symbol of our nation's strength and goodness but also a reminder of the blood that has been shed for the cause of freedom and liberty.

As with all aspects of our lives, we can learn lessons that we can apply to our writing.

Words and symbols mean something. As writers we probably all agree. Every year on this date, F.D.R's words are etched in my mind and I'm reminded of the reported internal political struggel he faced before giving that speach. He defied many of his closest advisors because he believed those words needed to be spoken. What words do we believe in?

We write for many different reasons but most of us have a desire to be published so that our work can be seen and enjoyed by others. We look at what's popular, what genres are hot and we devise fantastic stories based on what we think will sell to an agent or publisher. This is fine, and smart, but there are times when we shouldn't seek popularity and sales. Sometimes there is a story that needs to be told that may never see the light of day. It may be unpopular or politically incorrect, but if we believe in the words, we should press forward and write them boldly.

We remember that sometimes a good fight has to be fought. We don't seek after conflict or war, but we recognize that sometimes it may be necessary to protect our lives, families and ideals. Sometimes the pen is mightier than the sword. If we believe in our words and can convince others of their strength we can fight the good fight without the shedding of blood. We can give honor to the words and symbols that matter.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

NANOers and Productive Writing Time

by Rebecca Talley

How many of you participated in NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) or NANO for short? How did it go? Did you meet your goals? Are you happy with your results?

I participated last year and am currently revising that manuscript. I did not participate this year. I admire all of you who can consistently participate in NANO year after year. In fact, I admire all of you who can consistently write a novel, or more, year after year.

I know we should never compare ourselves with others, but, sometimes, it's difficult to not feel frustrated with myself when others who are busier than I am are also more productive. I'm looking forward to learning from the keynote speaker, Kevin Anderson, at the LDStorymaker writing conference in May 2012 because he writes so many books each year. I'm curious to know how he does it. I'm hoping to learn how I can better use my time to be more productive.

I don't have a lot of time to write. Between being a wife, raising my kids (I still have 7 at home), taking care of my home (the endless laundry pile), taking my youngest to speech therapy and homeschooling him, attending to my church calling, seeking to do service, and all the rest that comes from being a wife, mom, and member of the Church, I don't have the kind of time I'd like to have. But, I know lots of people in my same position who are very productive and use snatches of time to produce multiple books. I have so many stories floating around in my head. I need to learn how to better use the little time I have so I can write those stories.

What do you do to make your writing time more productive? 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Registration Opens Dec 1

by Cheri Chesley

Are you as excited as I am for the upcoming LDStorymakers' Conference? Well, why not? ;)

There have been a number of updates to the Conference's Facebook page, but I want to share some of the highlights with you today.

Here's the tentative SCHEDULE. Not everything is set in stone yet, but it still looks incredibly exciting. And educational. Look at all those breakout sessions. Imagine the learning!

Find out about BOOT CAMP, an intensive, extra course where you can get real hands on feedback from published pros.

Sign up for a PITCH SESSION. Pitch your polished novel to an agent or editor.

Check out the new (as far as I know) RESERVED CLASSES for those writers who have the basics but never want to stop learning--and moving forward.

Click HERE for dates, times, location and all the other pertinent details.

I love the Storymakers' conferences, even though I haven't had good luck with them. The first one I ever attended I could only go the second day. Felt a little lost. The second one I attended, I was still recovering from a serious illness and didn't make it through the first day--didn't even attempt the second. Last year, I had too much going on that month and couldn't even get there.

And now, well, I've moved 1200 miles away.

But I still want to go. It's that good. Not sure how it's all going to work out, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to try. Conference weekend is always packed full of great fun, great learning and extremely fun people. Authors are the best!

Hope to see you in May!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cyber Monday book deals

                                                  By Trina Boice (a/k/a )

While I’m not one to stand outside a store at 4:00 am for Black Friday bargains, I definitely get excited about “Cyber Monday.” Why? Because I can get great prices from the comfort of my home by shopping online!  Now is the best time to order those books you've always wanted!

Cyber Monday has become so popular and a part of our Christmas shopping lexicon that it’s even in Wikipedia now. The term Cyber Monday refers to the Monday immediately following Black Friday. Whereas Black Friday is associated with traditional brick and mortar stores, Cyber Monday symbolizes a busy day for online retailers. The premise was that consumers would return to their offices after the Black Friday weekend, making purchases online that they were not able to make in stores.

Each year offers some of the best bargains and this year they’re in a price war with I love that! Some of the common discounts include free shipping and percentages off the sales price. While I love going inside a real store and being able to touch the merchandise and get my picture taken with Santa, I REALLY love being able to stay home and shop in my pajamas!

Below are some really great web sites where you can see at a glance which retailers are offering discounts this year:

One of the great advantages to shopping online is that you can ship directly to your gift recipient, saving you hours of packaging presents, driving in crazy traffic to the post office, and standing in long lines during the busy holiday season! Some stores will even allow you to "double dip" which means you can stack discounts. Before you purchase anything online, remember to do an online search of the name of the store you're interested in buying from, along with the words "discount code" and you'll be pointed towards sites that give you special codes to use in the shopping cart to save even more money!

Some of my favorite discount code web sites are:






Each year consumers spend more than $80 billion shopping on the Internet. It’s fast. It’s easy. No crowds. No searching for parking spaces. And who doesn’t love shopping in their pajamas? Unfortunately, one out of ten adults reported being victimized by online fraud in 2011, so you definitely need to be careful. Computer security experts have come up with some shopping tips to help protect you from cyber crime.

1. Investigate the vendor. Check the site for refund policies and contact information. It only takes a minute to review a company’s track record at (Better Business Bureau).

2. Protect your private information by never giving financial information by email.

3. Start a paper trail. Print online receipts, product information and email confirmations.

4. Choose carefully where you shop. Only shop online at sites that provide password protection and encryption. When you see “https” you know the site is secure.

5. Protect your computer with antivirus software and firewalls.

The Internet has also made the world a much smaller place. There might be a company in Wisconsin who has exactly what your son’s school needs but can’t afford. is a great resource where charities, businesses, and individuals donate items and can get free items in return! Be sure to sign up your kids’ schools or your church!

The holidays are a busy time to be sure. Remember to pause and reflect on what’s truly important. Toss the guilt if you can’t buy the expensive gift for others that you wish you could. There is no shame in writing up some of those hand-made gift coupons, good for one back rub or car wash. People on their death bed never say they wish they had that gadget; rather, they often express regret for not having spent more time loving and serving others.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Black Friday Books

                                                                        by Trina Boice

Now is the time to pick up an e-reader for Christmas or those expensive books you've been wanting!!
Saving money is all about being organized and thinking ahead.  Black Friday is a perfect example.   Most of us are completely exhausted after all of the busy activities of Thanksgiving and still have dirty dishes in the sink the next day, but the organized shopper wakes up early the next morning, ready to hit the stores and grab the bargains.  Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, and it marks the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season in the United States.

The term dates back to at least 1966.  "Black Friday" originated in Philadelphia in reference to the heavy traffic on that day.  More recently, the media have used it instead to refer to the beginning of the period in which retailers go from being in the red (posting a loss on the books) to being in the black (turning a profit). In many cities it is not uncommon to see shoppers lined up for hours before stores with big sales open. Once inside the stores, shoppers rush around and snatch up what they can, as many stores have only a few of the big-draw items in stock. On occasion, some shoppers are so overly enthusiastic about the savings that injuries and even fatalities have been reported.   No savings is worth that!

This year, in hopes of surviving the rough economy, some stores have started their Black Friday sales already!  Check out these helpful web sites to find some of the great deals out there:

Now, having said all of that, the best gifts are those which come from the heart, and not the shopping mall.  In a tight economy, we should never go into debt just to purchase gifts.  There are plenty of inexpensive, yet meaningful gifts we can give to our loved ones without breaking the bank.  Remember, spending quality time with others is priceless!

Many retailers allow discount code web sites to "leak" their sales information several days before Black Friday.  If you love to shop at a particular store, do a Google search with the name of that store, plus the words "Black Friday" and you might get to find out what steals and deals they'll be featuring after Turkey Day!  Target and Wal-Mart have already released some sneak peek info about nice discounts on their flagship door-buster electronic items.  BJ's Wholesale Club, Harbor Freight, and Ace Hardware have already released their Black Friday catalogs as well.

While the best deals are usually found in the wee hours of the morning when the stores first open, most retailers this year are planning on extending their bargains through the Thanksgiving weekend to encourage more consumers to spend their dollars and kick-start the Christmas shopping season.  Do a web search with your city’s name, plus the words “Black Friday” and you’ll find some store listings with their special hours.
Happy Turkey Day!

A November of Miracles

I'm not doing so well with the newer November traditions.

My first November fail comes courtesy of the new "Mo"vember movement, which asks guys around the world to grow a "Mo", or mustache, for prostate cancer awareness. Instead of playing along, for the first time in 23 years I spent November with a clean upper lip.

My second fail has to do with NaNoWriMo. My version has almost been "National Non-Writing Month." I have been writing, and with any luck I'll have another chapter or two done by the time December starts. But that pales in comparison to the tens of thousands of words being cranked out by many of my awesome online friends.

The one November tradition that I am doing--and doing well--is expressing thanks for my many blessings. I'll spare you the laundry list of gratitude, but I want to share a true miracle that has taken place in my life this month.

Yesterday, I sat by my wife at church.

Those of you who know about our long, difficult battle with Lyme disease will understand how amazing this is. And while my wife still has a long way to go, the fact that she has recovered enough to join our family at church--not just once, but four times in the past five weeks--is a miracle truly worth giving thanks for.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How do YOU spend your free time?

By Trina Boice

This made me laugh out loud and I just had to share it.  If you're reading this blog, then I know you'll appreciate it too!

Friday, November 18, 2011

New book cover for Family by Design!

By Heather Justesen

I've been sitting on this exciting news for a while, waiting for my final draft of the cover to arrive in my inbox, and for the back cover copy, so I'm totally excited to be able to share it now. My next book, published by Cedar Fort, inc. is at the printers right now and will be available for purchase in early January.

Cute, isn't it? I'm totally excited! And here's the back cover blurb:

Before he could think better of it, he blurted out, “I understand your concerns. I’m going to speak to my commander about getting an early discharge. My girlfriend, Rena, and I have talked about getting married. There just hasn’t been any rush.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he wondered what he was thinking. Yes, they had discussed marriage, but not to each other! He and Rena had never even dated.

Tucker’s on his way to the biggest challenge of his life. Rena already has it all—except a family of her own. But neither one expected their friendship would take such a dramatic turn.

When Tucker becomes the guardian of his newly orphaned niece and nephew, he knows he can’t handle them alone, not when he might be shipped out with the Marines at any moment. Desperate, he turns to Rena for a major favor. His marriage proposal would give her everything she wants, but can she learn to live without the romance she’s always dreamed of?

As time, prayer, and a life-changing kiss work a little magic in her heart, Rena wonders if someone up there has a plan for her that’s better than anything she could’ve come up with on her own. And though it seems crazy at first, this could become her chance for a marriage that will last for eternity.

Monday, November 14, 2011

An Authors' Reality

by Cheri Chesley

This weekend has been an enlightening one, and I can blame/credit Facebook for that. I have the privilege of being friends with many authors in various states of publication and/or success--from National and International bestsellers to people still waiting to break in to publishing, or even those not so interested in publishing so much as sharing their stories or poems with friends and family. It's a blessed life.

And a cursed one. This weekend, several of my author friends have posted how their feelings of doubt about their abilities as writers have surged. These are established and even award winning writers. They have the chops. From the outside we question how they can doubt themselves or their abilities. They're proven successes.

But doubt and being a writer go hand in hand. It's the curse of art, I believe, or any artistic pursuit. We lack a standard by which we can measure success. Truly, success can be defined in different ways. Publishing a book. Getting the book contract. Having more than one book published. But, in truth, most of us just want to get better with each book. We crave the growth that comes with the process of writing. That is success.

It pains me to hear how my writer friends struggle. I know, from experience, that the doubt never really goes away. Right now I have what I think is the best manuscript I've ever written of to beta readers, and I know they're going to find problems with it. I want them to--so I can fix it, but, at the same time, I want to have the perfect book. Which I know is a pipe dream, but it doesn't stop me from striving for it.

To my friends who struggle with the process--and with their own doubts--I want to say that only you can define your personal success. As long as you are doing what you love, and doing your "Very best" as Gordon B. Hinckley would have said, you don't need to sweat the rest.

Recently, a friend asked if I could be anything I wanted or do anything I wanted in this world, what would it be. After some thought, I had to say I would be and do exactly what I'm doing now. I get to stay home and be here when my kids need me--which, after years of working, is such a blessing. And I get to write. I'm not the fastest or most prolific writer out there, but I'm steady. This has been my dream for so long, and I'm living it.

What would you be?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sometimes Dishes and Inspiration Go Hand in Hand

By Christine Thackeray

Last weekend I went to the Northwest Writer's Retreat and came home on fire, ready to pound out brilliant prose and finally finish my WIP. The first chapter whizzed by without a hitch and the second chapter wasn't bad but fell a little flat. The third chapter just plain stunk. I knew what I wanted the final scene to look like but the build to get there was not coming. I couldn't imagine having my MC merely run in circles until the final show down be an effective stategy.

Finally I slammed down the computer lid and faced my kitchen. Now I don't know if your house is like mine but when I'm writing we often only cover the "have to" and let the details go. In the kitchen that means pots and pans. The dishes get washed all right, but cake pans filled with soapy water may linger in the corners days after the macaroni casserole has been consumed. So this morning I decide to get every corner clean. I started at 7 am and just kept scrubbing, drying and putting away as the counter slowly reemerged from its hidden condition.

As I sloshed in the bubbles, ideas popped in my head. Humor- the brother says my wife Miriam never liked Rheba and Ananel replies "A two week old opinion doesn't count." (Okay, it was funny when I thought of it.) Action- There's a secret passage in the villa. His ex-betrothed leads him to it and the evil priest Kohen Yacob directs him back in a circle for the final showdown. Ananel thinks he's being lead to freedom and he promises the vindictive rabbi that he will not return. Kohen Yacob laughs "No, you shall not" as he opens the door and delivers him to a sword drawn Simeon.

I finished and was ready to write, pulled out my computer and then remembered I was supposed to blog today. So I'm going to add all of it and keep writing. Meanwhile my kids came up to get breakfast and have taken out eggs, tortillas, cereal, milk, the frying pan, bowls, grated cheese and spices. They've eaten as I've typed and just walked out the kitchen door, leaving it much the same as when I entered this morning. My plan is to type for an hour or so and then I'll roll up my sleeves and attack. Maybe I'll get more inspiration before lunch.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


EVERYONE- PAY ATTENTION: Check out this awesome new website that goes live today. The concept of Big World Network is intriguing and is worthy of our attention.

From the BigWorldNetwork Website- "Think of us as a television network, but for literary series written in episodic format. Choose between reading each week's episode or listening to the audio versions."

BigWorld will list weekly episodes that can be read on the website or Audio Episodes that can be downloaded free from iTunes. The website includes a ratings system for the work included on the site and even has a submissions process for authors who would like to be involved.

Heather Justesen & Trina Boice, our very own Writing Fortress Authors, are involved and you can read their episodes now. Some of our other favorite authors such as Tristi Pinkston are also involved.

Visit the site. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Whitney Awards: Eligible Novels

Have you read a great novel by an LDS author? We have several novels written by blog team members as well as other CFI authors that qualify for nomination.

Minor Adjustments by Rachael Renee Anderson
My Girlfriend's Boyfriend by Elodia Strain
The Upside of Down by Rebecca Talley
Blank Slate by Heather Justesen
Bitter Blessings by Christine Mehring
Alias by Mandi Tucker Slack
The Last Archangel by Michael Young
Wings of Light by Laura Bingham
Carving Angels by Diane Stringam Tolley

If you'd like to nominate a 2011 novel written by an LDS author you can visit The Whitney Awards. Finalists will be annouced in February 2012 and winners at the Whitney Awards Gala on May 5, 2011 at the Provo Marriott. If you'd like to learn more about the Whitney Awards program you can go here.

Be sure to tell your friends about the Whitney Awards that were established to recognize writing excellence by LDS authors.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Book Review of "The Alias"

                                                                     by Trina Boice

Haven’t we all fantasized about changing our identity and slipping into another world at some point?  Ok, maybe I’m revealing a little too much about myself now.  (wink)

Blog tours for new book releases are a lot of fun, but I’m so busy that I don’t normally participate in many.   My blog post yesterday concluded a tour that features newbie author, Mandi Tucker Slack, whose first book caught my eye and made me want to jump on the blog tour train.  I love a good man-on-the run story, especially when he’s innocent, and especially when he’s a woman!   Mandi’s suspenseful story reminded me of Julia Roberts’ movie “Sleeping With the Enemy,” which I got a real kick out of.

Without any spoiler alerts, here’s the gist of Mandi Slack’s tale:  Jacey’s ex-husband is wanted by the FBI.  To protect her son, Jacey flees to a small town and attempts to hide their identity, but her past is never too far behind.  Neither is the FBI.  Throw in a little romance, and it’s a fun, quick read, perfect for when I was taking a long flight, escaping from my own personal world on a quick business trip.

Jacey’s son’s name is Blaze, the same name my family gave our pet dog.  Every time I read the name Blaze in Mandi’s book, I imagined my sweet Papillon as a shapeshifter in her story.  Their personalities are somewhat similar…young, adventurous and not quite a man.  What mother doesn’t want to protect her son?  I have four sons and could relate very well to the mother-bear mentality of doing whatever it takes to keep them safe.  The author is a playful mother of three who lives in beautiful Utah, where the story takes place. 

In an interview with Mandi, she explains “I love to incorporate my hobbies and interests into my writing.”  My favorite thing about writing is being able to create my own adventure. I was a tom-boy and as a child I craved adventure. I explored exotic countries and conquered high mountain peaks all from the comfort of my own back yard. I had a very vivid imagination and that love of creativity followed me into adulthood. I have so much fun when I am able to sit down and pound out the ideas floating around in my head, and I enjoy writing the type of stories that I love to read.”

To learn more about Mandi Tucker Slack and her new book “The Alias”, visit her blog at:

The Kindle edition is only $3.99!  To read more reviews about Mandi’s new book, check out the rest of the blog tour stops:

October 1st –   DebbieDavis
October 3rd –   KimberlyJob
October 4th –   JulieBellon
October 5th –   CindyHogan
October 6th –   CamiChecketts
October 8th –   LauraBingham
October 11th – Aimee Brown
October 12th – Steve Westover
October 13th – Mindy Holt
October 14th – Holly Barnes
October 14th – Danyelle Ferguson
October 15th – Lynn Parsons
October 17th – Janice Johnson
October 18th – Kaylynn England
October 18th – Maria Hoagland
October 19th – Rachelle Christensen
October 21st – Alice Gold          
October 25th – Tristi Pinkston  
October 28th – Heather Justesen
October 29th - Trina Boice   

By the way, if you’re a new author or even a seasoned one, take note of Tristi Pinkston’s excellent marketing techniques.  She’s the one who put this blog tour together and is a master at networking in this industry! 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Defeat Your Personal El Guapo!

"In a way, all of us have an El Guapo to face some day. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo, for others a lack of education might be their El Guapo. For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous guy who wants to kill us. As sure as my name is Lucky Day, the people can conquer their personal El Guapo, who also happens to be the actual El Guapo."

See the inspirational speach here. Are you inspired? I am.

As writers, we each face our own personal El Guapo. We face obstacles that prevent us from being the writer we desire to be. For some, finding the time to write might be their El Guapo, for others commas might be their El Guapo, for others character development or dialogue. For me, El Guapo is the doubt that my writing will ever measure up to be what I want it to be.

So how do we face our personal El Guapo? Practice. Persistence. Patience.
Check out my post on Happy Gilmore and the 3 P’s of Writing.
Good luck to each of you in facing and defeating your own personal El Guapo.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Girl

Alison got into the shower late. Mom was shopping, Dad was watching the younger kids. Ali heard the screaming, but she put it all down to Dad's roughhousing--until she stepped out of the bathroom and got the shock of her young life.

A year later, Ali and her mom are starting over--again. She hasn't yet recovered from the dark turn her life has taken, and doesn't know if she ever will. Then there's that pesky little detail--she's seen the face of a murderer and doesn't know if he will let her live long enough to graduate high school.

Honestly, all I did was take a shower today and this story hit me. What would this do to a young girl? How would she pull out of it? What are the immediate after-effects? By the time I get to bed tonight, I'll have a rough draft of the details all ironed out.

As if I don't have enough to do, writing-wise. Lately, my strong suit has been ideas. I've been getting them in spades--some good, others not so much--but they don't stop coming. I take notes and put them aside. If the story seems strong enough, I'll pick it up at a later date. There are some details that might change, but that standard life-or-death struggle is something that readers never seem to tire of.

What is your writing strength? Are you a plotter? A pantser? Do you love the idea stage, or the rough draft stage, but hate editing? Or are you one of those amazing people who loves the editing stage? Come on, don't be shy. :) Share!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Books Eligible for a 2011 Whitney Award

Bitter Blessings by Christine Mehring

After Megan lost her father her family became a separate thing, cut off from other people.

Her suspicious grandmother insisted that Megan and her sisters "keep themselves to themselves." Her mother worked long hours and was too tired to argue. They moved often, drifting, rootless, until Tucson.

The warm desert sun suited her mother and for the first time it seemed they would have a home and a stable life.

Then, one normal summer day, when Megan's friends were getting ready to start their senior year, a freak accident took her mother and Megan found herself desperately trying to hold her family together.

With her grandmother and sisters lost in their own grief, it's left to Megan to sort through the past and find a path to the future, but when a small insurance detail uncovers a devastating family secret, making the people she loves into strangers, will she find anyone she can trust before it's too late?

Alias by Mandi Tucker Slack

Jacey Grayson is an average, young, divorced mother struggling to build a new life for her son, Blaze.

But when the FBI discloses some disturbing information about her ex-husband, Jacey's life becomes anything but average.

At the risk of losing her identity, her future, and her heart, Jacey and Blaze flee to Utah, hoping to hide and start over once again. But no matter how far she runs or who she pretends to be, her past is always lurking nearby, bringing old fears with it.

Thrilling action and a suspenseful plot make this novel an edge-of-your-seat-read.

The Last Archangel by Michael Young

Xandir has been exiled to earth until the end of time.

But when his cherub trainee disappears, Xandir makes a deal with rogue angels and giants that could restore life to the mortal woman he loves and end his assignment as a destroying angel in exchange for helping them bring about the end of the world and all of mankind.

Wings of Light by Laura Bingham
Becoming immortal isn't everything they thought it would be.
Sixteen-year-old Erin and her twin brother, Bain, chose to leave their normal lives, step into the magical world, and become immortal elves.
But when it comes to falling in love and solving mysteries, all the magic in the world doesn't seem to help.

Carving Angels by Diane Stringam Tolley  
Papa Adam, the North Pole's oldest elf and Santa's former chief carver, has given up.
Blind, frail, and useless, he counts the minutes in every day as he waits to die.
But a challenge to carve, given by his youngest granddaughter, reawakens Papa Adam.
Together they prove that the most paralyzing thing you can do is underestimate or undervalue anyone, especially yourself. With the right love and encouragement, anything is possible.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Amazon Scares Publishers

                                                                    By Trina Boice

In publishing news today....
Amazon will soon be competing with the publishing houses that supply it.  The giant company is set to publish 122 books this fall in both physical and e-book form. Amazon has signed deals already with self-help author Tim Ferriss and film director Penny Marshall, and is said to be aggressively targeting top authors.

 “Publishers are terrified and don’t know what to do,” says Dennis Loy Johnson of Melville House. Amazon has hired publishing veteran Laurence Kirshbaum to run the operation, which will publish both fiction and nonfiction.

LDS Fiction: The Minor Leagues?

A few short decades ago, I was serving as a missionary in southern Illinois with three other elders. On one particular P-day (excuse me--PREPARATION day) we were cleaning our apartment and listening to some music.

Our mission rules allowed us to listen to "church music" on Sundays and P-days, and while some guys I knew interpreted that to mean "music by anyone rumored to have talked to a missionary," we stuck to the more traditional groups like Afterglow and the Tabernacle Choir.

I don't remember which contemporary (ca 1988) musician we were listening to that day, but the new elder in our group soon got a little irritated and said, "Can we please turn that garbage off?"

"What's wrong with it?" I asked.

"Oh, please. I can't stand any of those guys. It bothers me that they're just trying to make a buck off of the church, and the only reason they're singing LDS songs is they're not good enough to make it in the real music industry."

The rest of us didn't agree, but to preserve peace we switched to some classics by the Mormon Youth Symphony, since Beethoven's "real music industry" success is pretty much indisputable.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and my foray into LDS literature. While I have never agreed with this missionary's opinions, those thoughts were always in the back of my mind as I worked on the early drafts of "Bumpy Landings." Am I just trying to make a buck off of the church? Am I not good enough for the national market?

Lately, I've seen a similar discussion questioning whether or not the LDS literary market is some kind of "Minor League", which implies that those who write LDS fiction somehow aren't good enough to make it in the real literary industry.

I've thought about this question a lot: Is LDS fiction the minor leagues of writing? I've decided that the answer is no. And maybe.

The reason there are two answers to this question is that what we call the "LDS Market" is in fact two different markets, both closely related and serviced by the same few publishers.

The "traditional" LDS market--books where being (or becoming) LDS is central to the story--are very popular within the church but have no real interest in the broader market. LDS fiction is a niche, and as such fills a need ignored by the national market.

As for whether or not they are any good, LDS books, just like their national counterparts, fall along a broad spectrum of quality, with the best of LDS fiction easily in the top tier. And the books are getting better and better every year, thanks to an excellent LDS writing community that supports, educates, and motivates its members through conferences and awards for excellence.

In addition to traditional LDS-themed fiction, LDS publishers also sell works that have little or no connection to Mormon life. These titles are considered "regional," rather than "niche." Where a niche publisher focuses on an audience that has specific religious/cultural/recreational interests, a regional publisher focuses on an audience in a specific geographical region.

These regional publishers are often willing to take a chance on unknown writers. Combining this fact with their smaller size, limited marketing budget, and more modest sales numbers, it's easy to understand why regional publishers are often referred to as the Minor League of publishing.

All around the country, there are local authors writing and publishing books with local flavor through these regional publishers. The same is true for the Intermountain West, only here the regional publishers are the same companies that publish for the LDS niche.

This is why LDS publishing is sometimes seen as a stepping stone for authors looking to break in nationally. Recent years have seen a number of high-profile writers make this transition: Ally Condie, James Dashner, Rob Wells, and Jeff Savage, just to name a few. Even the LDS publishers are looking to grow nationally, with the Shadow Mountain imprint at Deseret Book, and CFI calling for more national-market submissions.

This is an exciting transition, and it's fun to see local friends and authors make good on the national scene.

But don't assume that since some authors have honed their skills by writing LDS fiction and then moved on nationally, that this is the purpose of the LDS market, or the goal of all LDS writers.

Many authors I know write LDS fiction because that is what they love. They would enjoy a national market-sized royalties check, and have the knowledge and skills they would need to break if that's what they wanted. But they love writing LDS fiction, and they are free to write the books they want in the way they want, because their values line up so well with those of their readers. They write LDS fiction because they can.

LDS fiction is kind to beginners, and provides a great place to learn and develop excellent writing skills. But it also provides a valuable product to hundreds of thousands of readers, and those who make LDS fiction their permanent career can be every bit as satisfied with their success as those who publish nationally.

Perhaps maybe even a little bit more.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Writing a Synopsis

You’ve just written the final word on your novel, and you’ve combed through it no less than 35 times editing, reworking subplots and characters, and you’re ready to submit your manuscript. One thing you may need is a synopsis, or an outline that discloses the plot. Depending on the publisher or agent, the synopsis will vary in length, usually one to two pages.

A synopsis is important to give the agent/editor a disclosure of the plot. They also give a glimpse of your writing style.

When I wrote my second novel, I was surprised at how much time it took for me to make sure every word in my synopsis counted. But it paid off. At least I think it did, because my book did get published. 

But how can a 100,000 word manuscript be squished into two pages? What do you put in? What do you leave out?

A basic outline for a synopsis can be:

  1. A brief summary of the beginning of the story.
  2. A brief description of the characters and the problems they will need to solve as they go through the book, the basic plot.
  3. The obstacles they go through to solve these problems, and climax.
  4. Summary of how the story ends, who the bad guy is and all. (Leaving any hanging ends or questions that haven’t been answered doesn’t generate curiosity here.)
It’s important to keep fluff minimal in a synopsis, use an omniscient point of view, and to do the obvious like spelling and grammar checks. It doesn’t hurt to have others look at it and give you feedback. Would they want to read your story based on what you’ve written in your synopsis? Are the characters and plot presented in such a way that it creates interest? If so, then your manuscript may well be on its way to becoming a book in your hands.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Alias by Mandi Tucker Slack

The Alias by Mandi Tucker Slack is much more than just a “girl power” kind of book. Yes, there is an abused woman who fights back. Yes, she is brave and willing to do anything to protect her son. (What mother isn’t) She is strong but proud, independent but vulnerable. This book has something for everyone: Romance, Action, Intrigue and a development of characters that makes you feel good when you finish. I may not sit down to read a straight romance, but I enjoy the book that successfully involves all of these elements. The Alias is a winner.

The story is centered around a woman who flees her abusive ex-husband and hides out on a Utah ranch. When the FBI locates her to ask questions about her Ex’s business dealings, she realizes she may not be as well hidden as she thought. If the FBI can find her, so can her ex-husband.

The first half of the book develops at a modest pace but Mandi knows how to turn a good phrase and keep the tension high. I need a fast pace to keep from getting bored and Mandi succeeded in keeping my attention, teasing with tension and conflict in every chapter until it ultimately races to its exciting conclusion.

I’m the kind of guy who identifies the ending of a story within the first ten minutes of watching a movie or TV show. (My wife and kids REALLY love that) I ALWAYS know who did it the moment I’m introduced to the character. I recognize a plot twist is coming before it happens. Pretty impressive, huh :>)My keen eye is attuned to these kind of things and while the plot is sometimes predictable the many twists keep you on your toes, guessing, wondering until you reach the satisfying resolution.

Again, this is more than just a “girl power” book for women. Men can definitely enjoy this as well and I recommend it. The Alias is a quick and enjoyable read.
You can purchase The Alias here
You can also order the eBook version for only $3.99 which is a GREAT deal.
and check out Mandi’s Blog Here

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Literature Turned Into a Vegas Show!

by Trina Boice

 “Jabbawockeez is the best show I’ve seen in Vegas by far” was what my 16 year old son posted on his Facebook status last night, after seeing their fun show at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino.  We live in Sin City and my son has seen quite a few shows, so that’s really saying something. 

Even if you don’t have a break-dancing teen in your family, you’re sure to enjoy this world-famous dance crew’s high energy show. (Old folks near the stage will want to wear ear plugs.) Picture comedic mimes doing some of the coolest hip hop dance moves you’ve seen, add some fly costumes designed by Kara Saun, the runner up on Bravo’s “Project Runway” Season 1, and put it all on a hip stage set and you’ve got 90 minutes of good, CLEAN entertainment, perfect for families.

The Jabbawockeez first gained fame in their national television appearance on America's Got Talent in 2006, before winning the MTV hip-hop dance reality series, Randy Jackson Presents America's Best Dance Crew in March 2008. They’re considered to be the ultimate dance crew these days and have inspired countless kids to get out there and bust a move.  Does anyone say “bust a move” anymore or did I just reveal my age?

 While the target audience is most definitely the young club set, we were surrounded by an amused older crowd in the audience as well.  The dancing is accompanied by a spliced mixed tape of sorts that features musical fan favorites and movie audio clips that span several decades, causing the audience to cheer and clap in excited spurts.

The crew’s signature look includes white masks and white gloves, but even without faces, the dancers’ bodies gave effective expression, often communicating with hesitant volunteers from the audience for some delightful comedy sketches.  In fact, the performers don’t take themselves too seriously at all and the show is almost a comedy routine mixed with some impressive flares, locking, popping and dime stopping.

Without a word from the dancers, they were able to weave a faint story throughout the show of how anyone can find their muse (the show’s title “MUS.I.C” is read “Muse I See”.  I’ve seen several Vegas shows start with a janitor sweeping the stage (get in your seat at least fifteen minutes early to enjoy his pre-show antics), but this blue collar Wockee maintains his faceless identity during the whole show and attempts to teach us that anyone can dream big by bringing “the colors of sound” to life.

 One of my favorite sections of the show was a ninja showdown that featured some glow-in-the-dark antics that were fun with the lights off and hilarious when the lights came back on to reveal their secret tricks.  The Jabbawockeez know how to poke fun at Vegas too, dressing up as Elvis, Blue Man Group, Carrot Top, and a show girl.

The original crew consists of seven members: Kevin Brewer, Joe Larot, Phil Tayag, Chris Gatdula, Ryan Paguio, Jeff “Phi” Nguyen, and Ben Chung “B-Tek.” Before being accepted as official members of Jabbawockeez, Jeff and Ben Chung had to participate in a dance battle with one of the three founders.  I did a head count during the Vegas show and soon learned that MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew” Season 2 winners Super Cr3w perform nightly with Jabbawockeez, adding some extra athleticism and acrobatics to the show.  In fact, at times there is so much going on the stage that it’s hard to know which performer to focus on.

The name Jabbawockeez is derived from Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky, briefly alluded to in the show when the janitor starts to read the book and then falls into a dream state.  By the way, don’t sit in the first three rows if fog machines bother you. Although the show started off a little slowly, the packed audience was eager to award the crew with a standing ovation at the end.

And now a few bummers…I talked to several adoring audience members who had their wallets out, ready to buy merchandise before and after the show, but were quickly discouraged by the ridiculously steep prices, leaving the dope signature masks and t-shirts in the store.  I was surprised that the dance crew didn’t take their masks off at the end of the performance like they so often do, and a bit disappointed that they didn’t come outside the theater to greet the audience and take photos.  (I had my Flipcam ready to film them becoming best friends with my son.)

The crew’s success in Vegas means that the show has been extended through spring 2012.  Performances are Thursday at 9:30 p.m., Friday at 9:30 p.m., Saturday at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and Sunday and Monday at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets start at $52 (plus tax and fees).    For more information, please visit or