Thursday, November 30, 2006

Finding the Write Spirit

By Nichole Giles

It’s that time of year again. Christmas colors light up rooftops and shrubbery. Pine trees that tower toward ceilings are loaded with colorful lights and homemade bobbles. The warm aroma of baked goods drifts through the air. Garland and bows adorn our houses and our lives. And somewhere amid the clutter in a far off corner, someone puts up a tiny crèche. The pieces may be worn and broken, but they’ll glue it together. Make it last one more year.

“Can’t blow my Christmas money on a new one,” they say as they flock to the store to begin the madness as soon as they’ve finished feasting on turkey. Earlier. Next year, we’ll go earlier. Thoughts of frustration run through the heads of hundreds as they punch, claw, and fight for a five dollar Barbie or a three dollar toaster.

Others have waited for days to secure their place in line, cooking their “honorable” feast on a portable grill, and enjoying it on the sidewalk in their pajamas. Bigger, better, cheaper! Becomes the spirit of the day. If it plugs in, they will come. If it plays games, movies, music, or software…they’ll break down the doors to make sure they get one. No matter that they can get one next week, next month, next year. No matter that these things are available for purchase all year long. These people must have it NOW!

Gone are the days when Christmas shoppers had time to think about what they are buying and for whom. Here and now every purchase is rush, rush, rush. Forget about wooden trains, and hand-sewn dolls. Every child must have an iPod, or a new gaming system.

We consumers spend so much time and money fighting for bargains. Have we forgotten why we celebrate this holiday? Even the legends of Saint Nicholas speak of charity and giving. He is an iconic figure, passed down through stories for a hundred or more years. How can we forget what he represented?

I am one of those mothers who left my house before some people had gone to bed on the morning of Black Friday. I scoured the stores, I shopped, I bargained, I spent. And at the end of the morning, while I did have most of my Christmas shopping done, I could not force the Christmas spirit into my veins.

Later that day, I tried to write. I wrote—for at least an hour—about my favorite Christmas memory. But I had a major problem. The spirit wasn’t there. I hated every word I had written because I could not feel the spirit of Christmas. I had allowed my holiday to become so commercialized that I could not even force that lovely feeling into my words.

So, I am scrapping that attempt and starting again. But before I do, I’m going to take a few precautions. I will play some inspirational beautiful Christmas music while I bake some…well, something, and give it away. I’ll wrap a few gifts and place them under my tree. I’ll stand at my window and look at the snow that has recently fallen. Maybe I’ll fill out a few Christmas cards, and mail them. Then, I’ll brew a nice cup of hot chocolate and bring it with me to my computer to start writing.

I don’t know if it will work. Maybe I should sing a few Christmas carols with my kids. Oh, and then I’m going to read them the Christmas story. That should do it.

Whatever I do, I’ll make sure to stay away from the stores. I already know I won’t find the "write" spirit there.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Handy Tools

by Connie S. Hall

I work for a construction company. No, I don’t do construction, but I work in the office paying bills, doing payroll, and other related activities. In the 13 years I have worked in this job I have become familiar with the many tools of the trade. Each sub-contractor follows the plan and they have specific tools they use in building the house.

Writers also have tools of the trade. We don’t use hammers, staple guns, or saws, but we can use writing tools – pencils, pens, computers, and notebooks. Sometimes we can learn from other writers, from authors of books on writing, and from teachers in writing workshops.

My most often used tools are my books. You can also go on line and find anything concerning writing that you have questions about. Everything you learn will become a handy tool to you as a writer. Practice will help you become handy with your tools. As you continue to use them, your writing will improve. Some tools will help you improve sentence structure, your grammar, and a variety of things. The more you write the better your tools become.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanks for No Memories

By C. L. Beck

Since November is the month for giving thanks, it seemed appropriate to think of Bob Hope’s theme song, "Thanks for the Memories", and then write about a few of the non-memories I’m grateful to have forgotten.

Medical procedures are the perfect opportunity for a writer. Especially for a writer that doesn’t pass out at the sight of blood. Unfortunately, that’s not me. All the same, when I’ve gone to the doctor’s office I’ve thought of the multitude of plots that could be concocted about the medical field . . . if I just had the technical knowledge.

In the past several years, I’ve had two colonoscopies. You might wonder why the person who wouldn’t normally tell her best friend that she has a hangnail would tell the entire world about her medical procedures. I think that must be one of the side effects of a doctor injecting stuff into your veins which totally erases your inhibitions. They tell you the medication in the I.V. is to relax you, but we all know the truth. You can bet no one is going to wear that hospital gown with the natural air conditioning in the back unless there’s a way to keep you from remembering you paraded around and mooned everyone.

There’s no doubt in my mind why the doctor asks you to have someone with you at the hospital, either. It’s not to drive you home. It’s so they can tell you the crazy things you did and don’t remember.

Before my first colonoscopy, a multitude of questions ran through my mind. Aaah, research for a future novel. Who better to ask than the doctor? By the time the procedure was over, my mind didn’t have a question in it. In fact, it didn’t even really have a brain. It was a blank slate . . . but only for a moment. As I was getting dressed to go home, a song popped into my head and I vaguely remember humming it. To hear Russ tell it, I was singing the verse, “she walked up to me and she asked me to dance, I asked for her name and in a couple of months she said Lola”, over and over again, at the top of my lungs.

Well, I can’t be certain those were the words, since my memory is fuzzy, but that’s what Russ tells me. "Lola" is a rather strange song to have stuck in my mind, and certainly not something I would sing to just anyone. The lyrics are not obscene, but they are about a questionable subject . . . cross-dressers. It’s not a topic I’m particularly well-versed on, and admittedly, I should have been singing "I Am a Child of God", but you can’t blame me. I was only singing what the I.V. dictated. My doctor’s receptionist, Lola, is a very kind person, and has always been helpful to me. Apparently she was on my mind, and the I.V. liked her as much as I do.

The second colonoscopy went much better. No, I still didn’t remember to ask those technical research questions. But, remembering my last faux paux, I reminded myself not to sing. You’ll be glad to know I accomplished the task. Not because I couldn’t recall any songs, but because when I offered to sing, the nurses and doctors all remembered my last rendition and refused to take me up on the offer. That being the case, I turned my attention to the medical facts at hand. The doctor told me the colonoscopy had gone fine and they hadn’t found any evidence of cancer. Did I sing about it? Nope. Did I formulate a plot about it? No, indeed. Instead I announced to everyone, on my long gurney ride back from the O.R., that the doctor said everything was fine and I had a "good butt".

Honest, I’m not the kind of girl who would run around and announce that to everyone. You can’t blame it on me. It was the ‘milk of amnesia’ in my I.V.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Staying in Sync on the Farm

By Keith Fisher

Have you ever noticed in the early days of the church, most of the important meetings were held in the winter or early spring? I wondered about that, until I realized that most of the first members were farmers.

In the spring, farmers did chores and mended tools, but mostly they waited. They couldn’t do anything in the fields until the fields dried out. In the summer, farmers were busy weeding and doing the chores that provided a living for their family. In the winter, they survived. If the weather got bad they were cooped up for days with nothing to do but read and play games.

It’s no wonder that Joseph picked the spring to go into the grove and pray. After a winter of reading the scriptures, he must have been anxious to get out and try out his new found wisdom.

I was reflecting on my writing habits the other day, and I remembered when I started writing. It was in the dead of winter. There wasn’t much I could do out-of-doors and I hated to waste time watching TV. For a few years this was my habit. I would put out a rough draft over the winter and polish it as I found time in the spring.

After a few years, I discovered a desire to get closure for my characters. A year or two later, I got serious about writing. Now, I write every day sometimes into the wee hours of the morning.

With the approach of the holidays once again, I am observing another anniversary. I celebrate my awakening to the joys and sorrows of writing fiction. In March, (the early spring), I will attend the big meeting, (writer’s conference), I will be renewed, I will be ready, I will be a published author . . . well I can dream can’t I?

Anyway it’s time to write the family newsletter and shut myself up in my office. This winter I have six books in the works. I hope to get one of them finished. One book is written and waiting approval. When you read this blog, Thanksgiving will already be over, but let me wish you a happy one anyway and just for good measure, I wish you a happy productive winter. May you emerge in the spring among the hibernating critters with your finished book in hand and a publishing contract to sign.

To paraphrase, I hope your holidays are full of joy.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Cooked Up Any Good Ideas Lately?

By G.Ellen

It occurred to me one afternoon, as I perused the contents of my fridge in preparation for dinner, that writing a novel was similar to following a recipe. You have the story outline or plot which is like a recipe, then you have ingredients; which are like the characters and scenes. With that, there are the directions/instructions, which are like going to writing classes or seminars and gaining more experience. Finally, you have the final product which is something you (hopefully) get published, like a finished course for a meal.

Many of our posts have ended up talking about and comparing writing with food. We can'’t help it, we are creatures of habit and just a tiny bit ruled by our appetites. Chocolate always comes up this time of year, despite our best intentions.

The same can be said for writing.

How do you think about your writing? Do you have a recipe that you follow? Do you follow an outline of how many chapters, or how long a chapter or the climax, the build up, the foreshadowing? How long do you let your ideas simmer? Sometimes they can take on a life of their own and boil over in excitement, leaving abstract ideas behind.

After you've started your recipe, do you ever want to change ingredients? Try something new? Have you gone to any classes that taught you new ways of doing things? I remember the first time I discovered spices and herbs and how they change the flavor of things dramatically by just a pinch here and there. Writing can be the same way too after attending a writing seminar and discovering many different ways of adding depth to a character or richness to a story.

Since Halloween just graced our calendars, and Thanksgiving just ended, we tend to think of food even more. Halloween is great for '‘ghostly'’ challenges, who-dunit’s and the like. Thanksgiving is great for those pumpkin pies, fresh homemade rolls and Turkey, fresh out of the oven. And, let us not forget the leftovers the day after--–yum! Are your senses craving anything yet?

Here'’s your chance for looking through those '‘recipe cards'’ or note cards sitting on your desk. We're going to do a mad write exercise, and I want you to remember it has only two rules: Must have the sentence in the writing, and can only take 10 minutes of your time. Mad writes are like spontaneous cookie making; —it'’s great fun to see how they turn out.

Here'’s the sentence:
The sudden crash echoed off the walls of the small apartment, making her/him flinch.

We'’d love to hear how your attempt goes.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


By Nichole Giles

I’m thankful for the moon and stars
The mountains and the trees
The flowers growing in my yard
And the rolling open seas

I’m thankful for the desert sand
And cactus with prickly pears
A forest full of evergreens
And the animals living there

I’m thankful for the USA
A place I call my home
And soldiers willing to sacrifice
For men they’ve never known

A place where I can lay my head
Securely every night
And tuck my children safe in bed
Before turning out the light

The wheels that drive me everywhere
And music in my soul
And words that seem to fill my head
All things that make me whole

A companion who will hold me close
And love me ‘til I’m gray
Who whispers softly words of love
Each and every day

For friends I couldn’t live without
I’m thankful, endlessly
And the thoughtful simple little things
That others might not see

I dream about the future
And it’s possibilities
I’m thankful I am given
Many opportunities

The chance to write
The chance to dream
The chance to worship
Laugh, and sing

I live a life of promise
Starry skys and endless sea
Because my Savior cared enough
He gave it all to me.

Happy Thanksgiving from the LDS Writers Blogck!

Monday, November 20, 2006


By Connie S. Hall

One of God’s greatest gifts to man is freedom of choice. We all get to choose which path we will take. Our success or failure depends on the choices we make every day. It’s scary to realize I am responsible for all the choices I make. How we use our agency is important. Some choices are important – some are not.

This week we will celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a day set aside to give thanks. I am grateful for my ancestors who came to this land where we would have freedom of choice. Their choices have affected me and made my life easier. I don’t think they realized what they were doing for their posterity when they left their homes afar to settle in the wilderness of this land.

I am grateful for the Pilgrims who came to this free land, and the Pioneers who walked for miles and miles to a desert, and other ancestors who gave their life fighting in the wars so we could be free. The choices each of them made were for my benefit.

One thing we all have to remember is that Satan is always there and glad when we choose to just slide downhill. Some writers are tempted to follow the way of the world with the things they write. I’m grateful we have a group of writers that look to the light and only write stories that are uplifting.

Let’s all give thanks for the freedom we have to make choices.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Giblets Roasting on an Open Fire

By C. L. Beck

Aaaah, Thanksgiving—the time of year to eat roast turkey, smashed taters and stuffing. There’s only one way to make the stuffing and that's with sour dough bread and giblets. Ok, I hear some of you gagging at the mention of giblets, but mine is an old family recipe that tastes great. And I wouldn’t be caught dead touching a giblet otherwise.

We have time honored traditions in our home and we follow them to the letter. One year, however, things didn’t go quite as expected. We watched the Macy’s parade in the morning while the giblets simmered in the pan on the stove. Then we turned them off (the giblets, not Macy’s), and made the stuffing . . . using . . . well, I won’t tell you which parts, because it’ll just start you gagging again. I will say I’m picky about which innards go into my stuffing and there’s no way that gristly ol’ gizzard went in there. In fact, being an animal lover, I left it in the pan of water and turned it back on so it would cook more for the cats. Then I shoveled the stuffing into the gobbler and got that baby roasting.

While it cooked, we jumped in our truck and headed up the canyon to go skiing. I could almost catch a whiff of roast turkey floating among the pines. The clouds threw dancing shadows that resembled pumpkin pies, and the snow looked like mounds of whipped cream.

After a couple of hours, it was time to go. On the drive down my tumbly was rumbly, thinking of the turkey that would be ready at home. My favorite Thanksgiving moment always happened when we walked in the door and the warmth of the kitchen washed over us, while the pungent odor of sage, onions and roast turkey wrapped us in a culinary hug.

I was the first to bail out of the truck and raced to the door anticipating the aroma. I stopped short with my hand on the knob. “What’s that weird sound?”

Being deaf in one ear and not able to hear out of the other, Russ had no clue. “I don’t hear anything,” he said.

“It sounds kind of like a high-pitched siren.” Puzzled but not concerned, I turned the key in the lock and opened the door, inhaling to my fullest in preparation for the wonderful smells to come.

Acrid smoke poured out and rushed up my nose, while the smoke detector screamed like a wild banshee. “What’s going on?” I yelled to Russ over the din while waving my hands to clear a path through the smoke.

“Something’s burning!” he hollered.

Duh. I could tell something was burning, but what was it? Had the turkey exploded from its cooking bag and plastered itself all over the oven? Just then my son walked in and said, “Hey, something’s burning!”

My family has a talent for stating the obvious.

By now we were almost deaf. Apparently it never occurred to fire alert manufacturers that some people might not dash out the door, but instead would stand around discussing what’s on fire.

Taking decisive action, I grabbed a dish towel and flapped it frantically under the detector to clear the sensors and shut it up, while Russ dashed to the oven to pull out the turkey. Dave stood in the doorway waving the door to clear the air, and cheered us on in between coughs.

Russ yelled at the top of his lungs, “It’s not the turkey. It’s something on the stove that looks like . . . like . . . a black turkey gizzard, burned until it’s become one with the pan.” Naturally, the smoke detector quite screaming at just that minute, so that even strangers on the streets of Provo knew we had giblets roasting on an open fire.

Despite the fiasco of a holiday where our house smelled of burned gizzard, and we ate bundled in coats because the doors were opened to air out the smoke, it was a Thanksgiving to remember. My son, now thirty-something, loves to tell the story to anyone who will listen.

Some might think it foolish to tempt fate, but I’ve cooked giblets every Thanksgiving since. And even though there will only be two of us for Thanksgiving this year, I still plan to make my grandma’s stuffing. A tradition like that can’t be tossed out the window just because of a little burned gizzard in the past. Besides, I’ve learned from my mistakes and now take extra precautions.

The night before Thanksgiving I always pull the battery out of the smoke detector.

(Have a happy Thanksgiving! May your turkey be succulent, your mashed potatoes fluffy, your pumpkin pie delightful . . . and may your gizzards never burn.)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Editorial Blindness

By Keith Fisher

First let me apologize for the poor way this is written. Here at LDS Writers BLOGCk we have a group where we meet and review each other’s blog before we post it. I for one have benefited immensely from this relationship.

Normally I tend to capitalize things, and I repeat words to the point of distraction. I used to write "started" a lot. Now I use the word "that". I am so glad that Nichole has eyes to notice that. (You see I did it again.) Connie and Gaynell constantly ask me to explain my meanings, Cindy, (I mean Inky) should be an English teacher because she catches things that I should know better.

Darvell is an inspiration, Wendy helps me see things in a different way, Karen gives me ideas, and it’s a blessing for me to be associated with these people.

Now that you have read this far, have you spotted any errors yet? I couldn’t ask my friends to look this over because I have been in a crisis since last Thursday and didn’t get it written in time.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I have editorial blindness. I can look at a whole page of manuscript and not see any mistakes. Then I have what I call a slap myself on the forehead moment, when I see colored marks from an editor. I fix the mistake and move on. I think those moments are getting fewer and farther between. (It’s a good thing. I was getting a headache.) I am getting better, but I don’t think I will ever outgrow an editor.

That’s the beauty of a writers group. At Authors Incognito, I have friends that can see what I missed. We’re tolerant of each other because we know how many mistakes we make ourselves. We all have editorial blindness to one degree or other. For those of you who don’t know, Authors Incognito is the writers group who sponsors this blog. You can join by attending a LDS StoryMakers writer’s conference.

Those of you who don’t live on the Wasatch Front may not have heard the commercial that says, "You have a friend in the diamond business". For those of you who are members of Authors Incognito I would say, "You have a friend in the writing business," Even the authors will help out.

This was going to be a piece about the approach of the Christmas season and the shameful way we commercialize it. Maybe I’ll save that for another time. Until then, feel free to comment and tell me how many errors I made. It will make my friends feel good to know they have been so helpful to me. Comment anyway, I love to see responses, it always makes my day.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Be Careful Sending In the Dogs

by W.L. Elliott

Having found myself staring down another deadline, with not a shadow of a notion what to write, I turned to my notes from the 2006LDStorymakers Writers Conference.

Pages upon pages of sound, educational writing advice and I still had no ideas. Then, in the midst of the notes from one particular workshop, I stumbled across the most amazing sentence, instantly lighting a fire of curiosity and, hopefully, leading to something entertaining -or better yet, inspirational. It said, simply:

"Be careful sending in the dogs."

I have no clue whatsoever what that sentence means. I wanted to read more, but there was no more to read. The notes following went on about effectively curing writers block; there was no more about any dogs, or why I should be sending them somewhere. I could imagine all sorts of intriguing situations springing from a sentence like that, but I ended up leaving my notes unsatisfied and irritated, never knowing the outcome of those poor pooches.

As a fumble, I accomplished something accidentally that good writers strive to do on purpose-give your readers a first line that leaves them dying to read more, to know more, to find out where the dogs are going and why. In so doing, I also unwittingly committed the first cardinal sin of writing-breaking the promise of a great story made by an amazing opening.

So what have I gained from all this?I have learned the true power of a really awesome beginning, and the promise of a good story that comes along behind.

And to take better notes.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Importance of Friends

By Nichole Giles

For the past nine years, my girlfriends and I have been meeting once a month for a girls’ night out. We leave our children and husbands’ home, and meet—at various locations—to share gossip, laughter, and other chit-chatty things women talk about when they are alone together. During these years, we have come to be more like sisters than friends. We are a solid six.

We have supported each other through many of life’s hardships, including death, divorce, and deployment. We know the names and interests of each other’s children, and other silly things like what we will order to drink in a restaurant, and who eats spicy foods. These are the things that keep our friendship strong, solid.

Recently, one of these dear friends received some terrible news about her husband, a soldier who has been stationed in Afghanistan for the past ten months. He was severely injured in a suicide bombing attack. The first call my friend made was to one of our six. She knew without having to ask that word would travel, and we would be there. And we were. Within minutes of the initial phone call, those of us who could, dropped what we were doing to go to her, to bring comfort and support, and to help her through her shock.

That’s what friends are for.

Because I love my friend, I have felt emotionally on edge for the last week as we wait for word about what happens next. Our girls’ night this month happened to fall on this same friend’s wedding anniversary. So while her husband lay in pain in a military hospital in Germany, we celebrated his nineteen years with his wife. And for the first time in over a week, she was able to eat. She even laughed a little.

Writers understand the importance of good friends. We get together with other writers daily, or weekly, or whenever we can, in order to support one another. We celebrate our accomplishments, offer encouragement, and support one another. And when one of us has written something that needs a lot of help, we are not afraid to tell the brutal truth.

That’s what friends are for.

We may not know what the others eat for breakfast, but we will get to know our individual writing styles, and our punctuation and grammar flaws. We will know each other in a way none of our other friends can. And hey, I have to admit that occasionally the conversations of writers do veer off into creative cravings and sugar-ingesting habits. That kind of stuff just makes friendship all the more interesting.

If you are a writer without a group, I strongly suggest you find one. You may not realize how badly you need these friends until you actually have them. Friendship is one of life’s greatest rewards. Grab hold while you can. You never know where life will lead you. Today is your chance to make a new friend. Don’t let it pass you by.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Conquering Rejection

By Connie S. Hall

Writers enjoy challenges, and we don’t give up easily. Failure along the way is expected and accepted.

Two things I hate to hear from anyone is – good things come to those who wait, and–rejection builds character and helps you appreciate success even more. These statements may be true, but they don’t help me feel better.

God doesn’t intend for us to struggle with feelings of low self-esteem or rejection. He wants us to understand we have value and worth. No one can shield us from rejection because we can’t control the way editors feel about our stories. Some may like what we wrote, and others will reject it for no apparent reason. When we fail to accept ourselves, rejection can open a door to our emotions, but we have control over our attitude and actions.

Most writers count their rejection letters. We all know we are not alone because everyone gets them. No, I don’t like getting one, but it goes with the territory. The important thing is to spring back after the blow. Coping with rejection and failure is not easy. It certainly doesn’t mean we are not good enough. No one likes criticism, but most writers know that is what makes our work better.

Writers are different from most people. I admit I’m unusual, but I don’t care because it means I’m unique. I just want to be me, and writing is part of me.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Germ Theory

By C. L. Beck

Germs—bad, bad germs. I once knew a doctor who told his patients he didn’t believe in the germ theory. It was a joke and if I didn’t have an awful cold right now, I’m sure I’d find it funny.

Have you ever thought about germs? It’s never been proven, but I believe they’re part of an insidious plot. Nowadays everything is thought to be a conspiracy, so why not the common cold?

Can’t you just see it? A scientist with wavy hair, a polka-dotted bow tie and black glasses is sitting on the stool in his lab. Chemicals bubble in beakers, heat rises from his Bunsen burner, the scent of formaldehyde and sulfuric acid mixed with the smell of a bologna sandwich wafts through the air. He ignores it all in his effort to train a germ to do its duty.

“Now go on out there, find every LDS writer that you can, and give them a cold right before their publishing deadline.” The scientist lovingly pats the germ on the head.

“Yes, my master,” the germ replies.

“And don’t forget book signings. Lay them low as they sit at the table, hoping to impress the masses.”

“Yes, my master.” Apparently this germ has learned how to divide and multiply, but he doesn’t have very good language skills.

“Cloud their minds so they forget to use a handkerchief when they cough,” the scientist continues.

“Yes, my master.”

Hold on a minute. This cold germ is starting to sound like Darth Vader talking to the Emperor. Maybe we’d better beef his character up a little.

“When they go to church, impress them to shake hands.” The scientist’s eyes gleam with insane pleasure behind his Coke bottle glasses.

The germ blinks in confusion. “My master, I don’t need to do that. We’re in Utah, which is an ancient Native American word for ‘people who can’t meet without shaking hands’.”

“Oh, I always thought it meant ‘people who can’t meet without refreshments’,” the scientist replies. He slicks back the germ’s hair, straightens its little polka dot tie and sends it off into the big, wide world.

You might think I’m making this up in my illness-fogged mind, but I have living proof. That very same germ showed up at my writers’ group on Tuesday and managed to infiltrate its way into my life, giving me the wretched cold I have today.

I’m onto the germ, though. Knowing that I’m contagious, I’m not going to church or shaking hands with others. I refuse to cooperate in spreading the monster around. I’m not sending it by computer to my writer friends, either. Before starting this blog, I sprayed my keyboard with Lysol.

Hmm, maybe that explains the zzzzzt, zzzt, zzzt sound and sparks flying as I type.

Despite my burning fever, hacking cough, and legs that feel Pinocchio’s, I wanted to warn you about it. Germs—they’re more than a theory. They’re out to get you. Pass it on.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Getting My Butt Out of the Chair

By Keith Fisher

In all the seminars I attend on the subject of writing, there’s one thing they have in common. Writers will always say, you have to get your butt into the chair. It’s a quaint way of saying don’t procrastinate or waste time, just do it.

Today I want to turn that saying around to make a point. It’s a point I’ve made before, but I’m going to elaborate.

In my day job, I spend eight hours a day glued to a computer. I don’t move anything but my head and my hands for hours on end. I often don’t take breaks because I’m trying to finish a job. Then I come home, take care of family needs and glue myself to my chair to write.

My daughter told me there is a name for people like me; she called me a numb-butt. It’s the modern equivalent to the couch potato. I never thought of myself in those terms because what I do is exercising my mind. I don’t sit on a couch being entertained.

But you know . . . She may be right. How many times have I had to stretch out the kinks after spending too long in the chair? I don’t think I’m alone either. I think that the American couch potato is being replaced by numb-butts. Those who spend hours working in front of a computer then drop into bed late each night, exhausted because they have stretched their mind to the limit.

In my schedule, which should be called the best-laid plans of mice and men. I have carved out time for my writing. I also penciled in time for gardening, exercise, daddy/daughter dates, husband/wife dates, work time, and church time. Often I get so caught up in writing that when my scheduled time comes, I’ve already been writing for hours.

Those of you who know me well, know I can use all the exercise I can get so, I need to tell myself to get my butt out of the chair. What good will it do to get my books published if I can’t enjoy book signings and other activities? I don’t want to be published posthumously.

So I resolved to do it! To stop procrastinating and make sure I get out of my chair and get moving. I’ll still do the writing; I’m going to do my research while I’m out of the chair. I plan to carry a CD player and listen to books on CD. Maybe I can give my dad a run for his money on the number of books he’s read. I talked about that in another blog too. If your characters are dragging you in, and chaining you to a chair, maybe you should make a resolution too.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Truth in Mythology

By Nichole Giles

Last summer I came across a rather large book on mythology. The sheer size of the thing interested me, not to mention the clever packaging. The legends and lore of cultures past are the things that fantasy is made of—and it was a bargain at $20—so I bought the enormous book.

I leafed through it some when I got home, and read the first thirty pages or so. Then I got sidetracked with children, home, and other projects and my new treasure began collecting dust. It wasn’t until I recently toured some thousand-year-old Mayan ruins that my interest was renewed, and I leafed through it again.

Our tour guide for the ruins was LDS, and gave us a more accurate insight into the culture of the Mayan people. He was able to explain to us why all Mayan temples have three rooms (think about it) and the difference between the feathered serpent and the serpent that “lost his feathers.”

Another interesting tidbit…some of the paintings inside the ruins depict teachings that we the Latter Day Saints are familiar with. Particularly, the “Life Tree.” Archeologists explain this painting as “a sacred tree…used to celebrate Mayan rites under its foliage. It represents wisdom.”

There is much symbolism in this painting. Our tour guide was kind enough to explain in better detail the meaning of each symbol—“as a proposed representation of Lehi’s dream as recorded in the Book of Mormon.” There are too many symbols to list, so I’ll just name a few. According to Helaman (the tour guide, not the prophet) the tree represents eternal life, and its twelve roots—the twelve tribes. The figures in the depiction represent Lehi, Nephi, Sam, Sariah, Laman, and Lemuel. There are more symbols, but blogs are intended to be short, so I’ll move on.

One of the figures etched into the face of the temples is forever upside down, representing a God, or more accurately, the Son of the most supreme God, who came down from the heavens shining like the sun.

Back to the serpents again. The feathered serpent—known in my mythology book as Gucumatz—is the representation of a deity who came down to the earth, and then flew back to heaven on feathered wings. While the other serpent—whose name isn’t even mentioned in my book—is a deity who has lost his feathers, and is forever cast out of heaven.

An elderly woman who was touring with us mentioned a visit to Egypt, and the pyramids there…where strangely, the temple floor plans were very similar, as were the paintings depicted within. Interesting coincidences? For most people, probably. But we know better. All we have to do is read the Book of Mormon, and it all makes perfect sense.

As wonderful as my giant mythology book is, it cannot tell me the answers to the questions posed by all the archeologists in Mexico. I have another book in my possession that has those answers. Those archeologists are pretty well stumped on some of these things.

Too bad no one ever gave them a Book of Mormon.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Finish Your Milk

By Connie S. Hall

Do you remember your parents saying, “Finish your milk”? Or, did they say, “You can’t leave the table until you eat your vegetables”? My mom and dad did that a lot. My brother and I can still remember sitting at the table all Sunday afternoon because we wouldn’t eat our beets. I still hate them–not my parents, but the beets. I think I also did the same thing with my own children (I didn’t make them eat their beets because we didn’t have them, I mean the part about telling them to eat their vegetables or else).

Finishing reminds me of writing. Actually almost everything reminds me of writing, and I have several ideas about finishing.

One thing I have trouble with is finishing my thoughts or telling the complete story. Have you ever written a scene that you knew in your mind, but you didn’t explain it clear to the reader? If you don’t paint a clear picture, the reader can never visualize the scene. Things may be clear in your mind, but the reader can only read what’s on the paper. They cannot read what’s in your mind.

Following is a list of things I have read that have helped me...
1. Make writing a priority and arrange your schedule around your writing. I actually have told people I’m busy when it’s my writing time.
2. Set a certain time each day to write. Since I work, I chose to write between swimming and dinner. Two days a week, I do errands and three days a week, I write. Actually, I cheat and slip into my computer anytime I have a free minute.
3. Remove all distractions while you write. For me this is easy because my computer is in the far end of the house where I can’t hear the television. If I keep my office clean then I don’t get distracted.
4. Don’t answer the telephone. That one was hard for me at first, but after realizing how many solicitors called, it became easy to ignore the ringing, and let the answering machine do its job.
5. Write when no one else is at home. This works the best for me. Although my husband tries hard to not disturb me, he always does.
6. Decide to finish your story. The only thing standing in the way is you.

How many of you have notebooks of incomplete stories? Why aren’t they finished? I have found that when I leave stories unfinished they linger in my mind. I’ve spent many a sleepless night with stories roaming around in my head the entire night.

My father taught me to finish what I start. He also told me that I shouldn't give up when times are tough, and I shouldn't make excuses–just do it. Dad has been gone many years now, but I still try to follow his advice because he was a wise man. I guess I better get busy and finish my milk (stories).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

This Is My New Life

By G. Ellen

There have been many times in my life when I felt like things had stalled. Kind of like I'd been left behind while everyone else was going forward. We're all familiar with the phrase “if you're not going forward, you're going backward.” It’s so true, especially when it comes to your gifts or talents.

I guess we usually bring those things on ourselves by getting tired of doing monotonous/everyday things all the time. Tired of simply being--worn down by all the challenges in our lives. Sometimes it's a physical tired, sometimes it's a mental or emotional tired. We just can't take any more.

After you give yourself a couple of days, perhaps weeks–let's not think months or years–it's time to pick yourself up and get back into the flow of things. Perhaps something you read gets you going. Perhaps it's someone you know--a spouse or a sibling or a good friend. It doesn't really matter what causes the trigger--you are just grateful something has.

I've been in a slump for the past month. I'm sure part of it is due to starting work again (yes, I'm not a money making writer yet) and my days have become quite busy. By the time I get home, I'm not feeling like facing another computer and trying to explore my thoughts in writing, so things stall out. I used to have time to write at my work–but that hasn't happened so far this year.

And then, physically, things interrupt. I've been sick for almost a week and finally took a day off work, hoping to get a handle on it. It didn't help, but I can't afford to take any more time off. So I found myself asking–why? Why do I want to do this in the first place? Is it really something I need or want to do?

I read one of my favorite books while I was home sick. It's called The Summerhouse by Jude Deveroux. Even though it's total fiction and none of it could ever happen, I always put the book down at the end with a stronger resolve to make more of my life. To make it more of what I want and not make myself a slave to the life thrust upon me.

I believe this is what we are striving for in our writing. We want the reader (or at least I do) to come away from reading our novel with a feeling of satisfaction, enjoyment and, perhaps, a determination to do better with their world. I want my readers to have a desire to have
romance in their daily lives, because I am a romantic–ask my husband. ;)

Perhaps we can make those periods of dryness shorter when we find the real life we want to lead. We can wake each morning with the thought “this is my new life, what do I want to do with it?” We can't change anything about yesterday, but we have today and tomorrow. I feel like the Capitol One commercial "what's in your wallet?", only I'm asking "What's new in your life?"

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I’d Rather Drive a Truck

By C. L. Beck

It’s only fair to warn you—since I usually write fluff and stuff—that this blog is serious. Why am I warning you? It’s a matter of trust.

Lately at the Authors Incognito website, emails have been flying about a well-known writer that often changes his morals from one book to the next. Some people stated they refused to read his books because of it.

One of our bloggers, W. L. Elliott, posted this thought: “I feel I should be able to trust someone who claims to believe in the same values as I do . . .”

It got me thinking. Do we owe anything to readers in terms of keeping their trust?

I know that as a reader nothing turns me off faster than an author who has betrayed my trust and changed their style without giving fair warning. If their language is normally clean, I expect that to continue. If they usually have a humorous thread, I expect they’ll occasionally be funny. Not that they can't change and grow, but a vast, sudden departure from their norm is a betrayal.

It's a guarantee on my part that if J. K. Rowling ups the ante on swear words, or puts two of those teenage kids in bed together in the last Harry Potter, I will never read another book of hers. I'm so sincere about this that when the last book comes out, I'm planning to wait for a review from a good friend before buying it. If Rowling betrays my trust, I won't plunk a half-penny on the sales counter or even crack the cover of the book out of curiosity.

Right now, I'm worried about that. She stated the later books will be more 'mature'. Is she saying that 'mature' is a euphemism for amoral? Should I consider that to be fair warning? Maybe trust doesn’t matter to her; she's already making quadrillions a year off Harry Potter. It does matter to me, however. I’ve placed my faith in her.

If as writers we have a certain trust we're obligated to maintain, how do we branch out into new, soul-stretching areas without betraying that trust? If we normally write light, fun stuff, and we have a sinister plot in our heads, are we never allowed to move over to the dark side?

The story goes that singer Ricky Nelson was invited to sing at Madison Square Garden, but it’d been a number of years since he’d had a hit song. When he got there and sang the new music he was working on, the crowd got annoyed. They wanted to hear the ‘oldies but goodies’ they remembered as hits.

Legend has it that shortly afterwards, Nelson penned the song, Garden Party, as a way to express his frustration. He ended the song by stating that if memories were all he sang, he'd rather drive a truck.

Most writers feel the same way. No one wants to be cast into a mold, crammed into a style we’ve outgrown, writing the same old stuff until our life is over and we’re just a dusty memory on a library shelf. However, whether we want it or not we have an obligation of trust toward our readers. If we want to branch out, we can use a pseudonym, give warning in a foreword, or announce it on the jacket cover. For the rich and famous, there’s always the avenue of talk shows and radio promotions.

I’m sure there are other means beyond those, but it's past lunch time, I'm "rumbly in my tumbly" and my mind is more focused on a ham and cheddar on rye than on trust. Besides, I’m not one of those writers who need to worry about it. My genre is fluff and stuff . . . and that’s a good place for me.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

It’s That Time of Year Again

By Keith Fisher

Each year the primary children in our ward gather at the church for a Halloween party. It’s directed by the young men/young women organizations. I look forward to it because of the trunk-or-treat.

If you’ve never participated in this ritual let me lay it out for you. Years ago it was relatively safe for parents to let their kids run wild in the streets on Halloween. Now, because of sick-minded individuals, it’s no longer an option. Someone developed the idea to have a trunk-or-treat so parents could feel that their kids were safe.

That’s a great idea isn’t it? Well it would be, except the kids in our neighborhood still do the Halloween night ritual. I’m so glad I live in a neighborhood where I know all my neighbors. Even with that, I still wouldn’t let my kids go out without supervision. But I digress, let’s get back to the trunk-or-treat.

The way it’s done is simple; you take a car, truck, minivan, SUV, and in one case this year, a Moped with the seat up. Back it up to the sidewalk, decorate it and provide the candy. It is fun for the adults to compare how artistic the decorations are. We had a good time with ours as you can see from the pictures. this one was ours

One of the families has always brought animated decorations for their trunk. This year, they
brought a new one. It looked like a little kid with a jack-o-lantern head. When someone approached, it would shift it’s weight from side to side and move it’s arms a little. Something about those actions made me fall in love with it. Did I say it’s cute?

I watched the cute little guy for awhile and my writer’s eyes took over. I dreamed up a scenario where the cute little thing spent Halloween night on someone’s porch greeting visitors. Everyone loved it. Then at midnight it turned evil and went on a Stephen King type of rampage throughout the neighborhood, starting with the death of the owners of the house.
Those who handled the estate put it into a box. Then on the following Halloween . . .

I was reciting this scenario to one of the guys in my ward and he said, "You ought to be a writer."

"Hmm," I said. "I think I am." He didn’t hear me and I didn’t want to get into another of those discussions so I let it go. I turned into my contemplative thoughts as I often do, and I said to myself, "No I ought to be a published author of fiction."

I may write the story of the cute little serial killer someday. But it’ll have to wait until I finish my other projects. In the meantime, I’m going to find a cute little guy for Halloween but I’m going to chain him to the porch, maybe keep a shotgun handy.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Out Of My Hands

by W.L. Elliott

There is something absolutely terrifying about submitting a manuscript. It's the most agonizing happiness known to any writer. I experienced it firsthand again today as I dropped the box containing my latest novel into the outgoing mail.

It's out of my hands now.

I think writing a book must be very similar to raising a child. You give birth to an idea when you put it down on paper, pouring everything you have into it with the hope that it will someday become something great. You nurse it through its sick days. You discipline its faults, though it really does hurt you more than it does the story. You spend sleepless nights with it, and share joyful moments when everything comes together right.

At first, you trust it only to friends, then as it comes to stand on its own, you send it out into the wide world to make its way. It might take a trial flight or two before your fledgling takes off, but with any luck, you think as you make sure that stamp is straight on the corner of the box, this will be the time it flies.

Hopefully, while its out there in the world, someone will fall in love with it and take it home to meet the parents. Eventually, there'll be grandchildren--lots and lots of little books just like the one you sent out into the world with all your hopes and prayers.

But for today, all I can do is sit on my own little branch of the tree, and hope that my creation finds its wings.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Few Days of Silence

By Nichole Giles

Being a writer, no matter where I am or what I am doing, I am constantly hearing voices in my head. I think of story lines, or plot twists, or interesting non-fiction ideas to jot down in my notebook. I carry a digital recorder in my purse all the time—just in case. And whenever I leave home for an extended amount of time (overnight) I always take my laptop.

But last week, I broke my own rule. I left home for a week and deliberately left my laptop home.

Somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I think I needed a break. Don’t get me wrong. I love to write. I write something everyday, even if it is just a letter or email to my friends and family who live far away. It is such a habit, that before I left my house at 4:30 a.m., I stood and looked at my laptop—as if to say goodbye.

I went determined to forget writing for the entire week. I would not work on one single project—however short or long. I decided to focus every ounce of my attention on things that had nothing whatsoever to do with writing, and somehow, I was able to quiet those incessant voices in my head. No plot twists, or stories, or characters stepped into my vacation. I didn’t even worry about whether or not I had rejections or acceptances in my mailbox. I gave myself a few days of silence, and even the voices obeyed.

I did take a notebook with me. After all, you just can’t give up everything. But amazingly, the notebook came back blank. (So did the digital recorder in my purse.)

Now my mind is rested and refreshed. I am absolutely ready to start working again…

Wait, wait! I didn’t say now! I did not give the voices permission to speak yet. I was going to edit first. Would you please be quiet already! Fine. I’ll write you. But only if you will only speak to me one at a time.

Sheesh. I guess my vacation is officially over.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Creating a World

by Connie S. Hall

In Genesis 1:11 it says, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.”

We all know the story of the creation, how God created day and night. He created the dry land we call earth, and the water we call seas. Then He created the sun, moon, and stars as well as the grass, seeds, fruit, and every living creature. Next God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

President Spencer W. Kimball gave a talk ‘Our Great Potential’. “You and I—what helpless creatures are we! Such limited power we have, and how little can we control the wind and the waves and the storms! We remember the numerous scriptures which, concentrated in a single line, were said by a former prophet, Lorenzo Snow: ‘As man is, God once was; and as God is, man may become.’ This is a power available to us as we reach perfection and receive the experience and power to create, to organize, to control native elements. How limited we are now! We have no power to force the grass to grow, the plants to emerge, the seeds to develop.”

As a writer, I sometimes feel all-powerful. No, I’m not as powerful as God is, but I create people, places, situations, moods, and make believe worlds. I can give a character any personality I want, or make them look or act a certain way, such as attractive, ugly, fun, or grumpy. They can be angry, confused, curious, or jealous. Maybe I want my character to seek revenge, or if I want them to live in another world and fly, then they do what I say.

I guess you could say that as writers we are control freaks. We find it fun being in control as we create our own world. However, God is wiser than writers are because He lets people make their own choices. Unlike Him, I make my characters do what I want them to do, and I love every minute of it.