Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fussy Judge

By Connie S. Hall

I’ve had a difficult two weeks judging a non-fiction contest for a local writing group. I never realized what a complicated task this could be. It has been time consuming and challenging. At first, I wanted to be compassionate and not hurt anyone’s feelings, but at the same time, I felt I owed each person a good critique of their work. Now I will tell you about some of the problems I encountered along the way.

First, many did not follow the outlined rules. At least six entries left the word count off. Some did not number the pages in the upper right hand corner as indicated. Margins were not correct. I wonder if they follow directions when they submit their writing to publishers. If not, maybe this is why they receive rejection letters.

I could immediately tell that several of the writers had not run a spell check. Why would you forget to do this important task? The last thing I want is for someone to find a mistake in my writing.

Several entries had common annoyances in which the writer started some sentences in the same paragraph with an identical phrase. I’m sure most readers notice how frequently you use duplicate words in a story. At least, I do.

As I read I was amazed at the detail included. Most readers don’t care about all that happens. They only want to read about what is important to the story.

It is best to avoid using cliché and redundant expressions. If you use too many of them your reader may become distracted.

Early in my writing career, I learned there are some words that detract rather than add to your story. Some of these words called weak modifiers are very, just, even, actually, and really. It’s a good idea to use the search tool on your computer to help eliminate these words.

Sometimes individual words can distract the reader, but maybe you need to remove some of the phrases used. A good rule to follow is if the words you are using do not add something to the story, it is better to leave it out. Some of these that can cause frustration are:

1. In the End
2. Worst of all
3. At that very moment
4. Seems to be
5. In order
6. We all, at some point in our lives
7. With what I was trying to deal with
8. Was on a roll

Now I can breathe a sign of relief because the assignment is complete. I’m sure I didn’t do as good a job as someone else may have, but I did my best. I do hope the people whose entries I reviewed are still my friends.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Right Place at the Right Time

By Darvell Hunt

My daughter went to the Hanna Montana concert last week. She was very pleased about that. Her brothers and sisters, on the other hand, were not; they were quite jealous.

I didn’t pay $200 to a scalper for her ticket. I didn’t pay anything. She just happened to be friends with a girl whose mother was entering all sorts of contests to win free tickets. After all was said and done, her friend and her friend’s mother ended up with too many tickets.

You may have heard of the proverb: “Luck is when opportunity meets preparedness.” That’s what happened to my daughter.

I honestly believe that sometimes becoming published boils down to having the right manuscript in the hands of a publisher at the right time. Or, as the above phrase seems to imply, luck.

What does this mean to a writer? It’s simple: write a lot of good stuff and submit it often. The more you have out there in the hands of publishers, the greater chance your luck will hit (a.k.a. opportunity meets your preparedness).

Monday, October 29, 2007

Halloween Fingernails

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

One Halloween morning, I decided to wear ghoulish fingernails to work. They had an imprinted skull and crossbones that looked awesome.

Life proceeded routinely on the job—until I needed to blow my nose. And then one of the falsies—you’ll remember we’re talking fingernails here—got in the way and I blew the nail right off.

A co-worker laughed so hard she choked on the pumpkin cookie she was eating and left the room. Probably to search for someone with shorter fingernails to give her the Heimlich.

I should have known I was cursed. But never having worn fake nails before, I had no clue. All I knew was I couldn’t blow my nose in public.

Off to the ladies’ room I went. Once inside, I unwrapped a wad of tissue paper, brought it quickly to my face … and stabbed one of the fingernails up my nose, causing a nosebleed.

Back to the office I went, head tilted backwards to stop the bleeding, hands pointed down to avoid poking anything. At my desk, an itch developed on my neck. Forgetting that I wore projectiles on my fingertips, I scratched. A nail flipped off and flew down the back of my shirt—a shirt I couldn’t pull out of my pants because it would pop off the remaining fingernails.

“Help,” I said.

One of the gals came over. She untucked my shirt and shook the bottom of it, trying to get the nail to fall out. I hopped and shimmied like a skeleton hanging from a tree on a windy night, but it refused to budge.

Laughing, she said, “You’d better go to the ladies’ room to get it out.”

Back to the powder room I trudged. In there, I realized I couldn’t take my shirt off without giving myself multiple body piercings. After twisting like a contortionist, and explaining to every woman who came in that I was not on drugs, the thing finally fell out. I’d have tucked my shirt back in, but was afraid another fingernail would fly off and go down my pants.

Back to the office I scuttled, hands pointed downward and shirt tail hanging to my knees. The gal who’d tried to help said, “Don’t you know how you do this?”

“What? Tuck in my shirt while wearing fake nails?”

“No, how to put on false fingernails.” She handed me a small tube.

Super Glue. That’s how you do it? Silly me, I thought you used the adhesive strips that came in the package.

I wasn’t certain if I was being conned and didn’t relish the thought of wearing super-glued orange and black fingernails until I was 90. I decided to glue only the two most troublesome ones. Not wanting to risk droplets on my desktop, I sat and held my hands over my legs. Sticky liquid dripped everywhere, and after almost gluing my knees together, I finally managed to get the two nails on straight.

Everyone went back to work and an hour later, a customer needed help at the counter. I walked over. We completed the transaction and he handed me the money. I reached for it—and stabbed him with my fingernails.

I apologized. I told him I would have removed them but two were super-glued. And they would probably only come loose by some means of mechanical separation that would include a tractor, heavy chains, and the loss of two of my real fingernails.

Thank goodness it was almost time to go home. I walked to my desk and for the safety of the customers, stayed there until closing.

That night, I managed to get all the fake nails off except for the two that were held fast by glue. The same glue—I now remembered—that was advertised as able to hold a bowling ball to the ceiling.

However, the nails did glow nicely in the dark. Eventually I remembered that alcohol was a solvent and managed to remove them before Christmas.

I’ve learned my lesson. No more fake fingernails for me. This year as part of my costume, I’m going to try false eyelashes instead … nothing could possibly go wrong with them.

(To all our readers—Happy Halloween!)

View C.L.'s other work:
Newspaper column
Photography Website
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann--story on pg. 70

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Leaky Cauldron

By Keith Fisher

As I mentioned before, I have avoided reading Harry Potter. I’ve seen portions, but I’ve never seen the movies. No particular reason, I just haven’t been much of a fantasy fan. Recently, I acquired the whole series except The Deathly Hallows. Since I was between novels anyway, I decided to read HP for a change of pace.

In the story, there’s a place called The Leaky Cauldron. The image that name presents is the reason this blog has the title it does. Think of it—a vessel that cannot hold any liquid. Put a fire under it and the fluid will extinguish the flames.

I was just finishing the second book in the series when I heard the news. Apparently, the author announced that Dumbledore is gay. (See the article.)

When an author writes a story, there are many facts created about characters that never make it into a novel. The reasons are varied but basically, too much exposition can bog a story down. The reader gets lost in a sea of non-relevant facts and they lose the story.

In the case of HP, the author created a character that teenagers love, the image of that character is set in our minds, and the book series is immensely successful. So why announce this now? Did Rowling let it slip accidentally? Was it an effort to boost her popularity? Nothing more than a publicity stunt? Could it be she’s succumbing to the clouded judgement of the moviemakers that want to include something more in the next movie?

Whatever the reasons for it, HP will never be the same. Setting aside the influence it could have on teenage readers, I can’t read it without thinking about the implications. It might have been different if the author had included that information in the book originally, but now I look at the character differently—I’ve been tainted.

I hope the character will survive. I want the kindly, caring, old man, to live on. As one of the internet news articles said: Put Dumbledore back in the closet.

To all aspiring authors may I suggest, if it wasn’t important enough to include in the book, then, leave it in your heads—especially if the information is as controversial as the information above. Don’t put out the fire under your cauldron by poking holes in it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

I Have the Power!

by G.Parker

If you have ever watched the Disney movie The Great Mouse Detective, you'll recognize my title. It's when the bad guy (a rat) replaces the mouse queen with a robot and tries to take over. Now, while I'm not trying to take anything over and I don't really have much power over anything in my life, I do have some power. We all do.

We are writers! We can change a story totally -- change the way a world works -- change characters and their motivation -- whatever we want!

This came to me last night as I was reading my scriptures (I know -- bad timing, and obviously I wasn't pondering what I was reading very much, sigh). In last week's blog, I mentioned some new friends I have created in a story that I've started writing that has evolved into what will be three books. (I have no clue on the third one yet -- but at least two are there, grin) I'm still not totally comfortable with the way the story is going. As I said in my blog, I usually write in first person, and this story has started out as third (I think). It's not really working as well as it should or could.

I've also been reading a book called The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (which I wouldn't really recommend to anyone -- even though it was recommended to me). In it she is telling the story of a family, with each one of the women telling the story from their point of view. Much as I was doing with my story, only from first person.

I'm not sure why I decided it needed to be written this way in the first place, but it came to me last night that I can change it. I can put it in first person and get moving on it. I've been held back trying to word it so that the POV stays correct -- making sure that the person who is telling their part of the story is the only one thinking or feeling.

Whew! This was such a relief to me! And that's when the phrase from the children's movie popped in my head.

Isn't it great to be all powerful? At least in something...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Alternative Signs

By Nichole Giles

Last week I told a story about a politician who—ignoring my clearly posted no soliciting sign—interrupted me in the middle of a writing streak. Sadly, he was not the only solicitor to ring my doorbell in the last two weeks. He was the only one for whom the door was answered though.

That’s right, I stuck to my own advice. But the consistent and timely—as they always know just the right time to knock—visits have given me cause to wonder. Can my sign really be seen as well as I thought? I decided to try an experiment.

Leaving through my garage door, I went to the sidewalk and turned to face my house. Even with my aging, computer-stressed eyes, I could read the sign—without glasses. I walked slowly along the sidewalk to the front door, and again, the sign was clear and visible. Standing on the front porch, I could not imagine not seeing the sign. It’s posted only inches from the doorbell.

Then I wondered something different. Perhaps the sales people chose to ignore my sign because I was clearly visible through the window. First, I can see the sidewalk through a fairly large window in my den, and then I can see the front porch through a smaller, circular window—also in my den. It’s the neighborhood from two different angles. From the big window, I can see all the way down the street. So, it goes without saying that if I can see them, they can see me.

I wonder what I look like to someone standing on the sidewalk outside. That’s an experiment I haven’t tried yet, since I can’t both sit inside and walk outside to see myself sitting inside. That would be impossible, unless I was living in a fantasy world with little bottles that said “drink me” and white rabbits that were late for tea parties. Or maybe at a wizarding school in England whose headmaster was willing to give me a time turner so I could actually be in two places at once. Hm. Maybe I should take a little trip?

Anyway, the point is, I started wondering if I need to make a new sign. A big bold sign. But what would I have it say? I considered the usual slogans: Beware of dogs, or Trespassers will be prosecuted. But, being a writer, nothing that boring would ever do. My thoughts became more creative, things like, Solicitors are trespassers, and will be left to the mercy of the neighborhood kids, and Our dog loves the taste of trespassers. Then I considered covering my door in police crime tape with Do Not Enter signs all over the place. But that might bring the Relief Society over with dinner—and then I’d have some explaining to do.

A little more thought brought up Vampires sleeping, do not disturb if you value your blood. I also considered painting a skull and crossbones on my front door. That might work. I could always put up an illiteracy campaign sign above my no soliciting sign. The problem is, if the person truly cannot read, how would they know what it said?

After a great deal of thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that the truth might be my best defense. My new sign is going to say: Beware of Writer—Lives at Stake. And then I’ll politely post my working hours and request that visitors come back some other time. That way, just because people can see me pounding away at my computer in my little room—even though I work on a folding table instead of an actual desk—they might realize I’m not just playing solitaire and checking my email.

I am a writer, and I’m busy! See the sign?

Oh, and for the politicians that continue to attempt to interrupt my work so they can introduce themselves I can only say this. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Ignoring the silent requests of the voters does not give them cause to cast a vote in your favor. Think about it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Who Do I Want At My Dinner Table?

By Connie S. Hall

Friday I went to a writer’s conference in Salt Lake. One of the speakers suggested we ask ourselves to name five people that we would like to sit down to dinner with. After the meeting I rode Traks to my car and thought about this as I watched the scenery fly by.

The first person I thought about was Jesus Christ. I know women didn’t usually get to sit with the men, but a memorable dinner would have been the Last Supper.

The next person I thought I would love to sit with was my earthy father. He has been gone for almost fourteen years, but I would love to ask his advice about many things. Dad was soft-spoken and always had wisdom in the things he did. I wish I could be so wise.

Next, it got a little hard. I think everyone knows I’m a history freak so naturally I have to name someone I love from the history books. Right now, I’m listening to the book on tape called “Prelude to Glory”. One of the prominent characters in the story is George Washington, the father of our country. I don’t think he would have enough time to answer all the questions I have.

The fourth person I thought of was Lehi. I can’t begin to comprehend what it would be like to be in his presence. He was such a visionary man, and someday I hope to meet him.

Joseph Smith was my final choice. I can’t begin to thank him enough for the wonderful church he helped restore to the earth. Without this church, I would not have such a meaningful life.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Unusual Game of Tag

By C.L. Beck

I thought I’d retire from the games of tag that have been going around the internet. However, I don’t know why I tried because when a new version shows up, I’m always shouting, “Me, me! Tag me!” And when this latest one came along … well … I just had to get into the game. Not because of the game itself but because there were two specific people that I wanted to tag after my turn was over.

Here’s what I’m supposed to write about: “Ten Literary Characters (Men, obviously) I Would Totally Make Out With If I Were Single and They Were Real But I’m Not, Single I Mean, I Am Real, But I’m Also Happily Married and Want to Stay That Way So Maybe We Should Forget This."

Just so you know, it sounds more risqué than it actually is, but just to be safe I'm going to tone it down from "make out men" to my top ten kissable men. And I’m only playing because I want to tag Darvell Hunt and Keith Fisher. (Ha ha.) We’ll see if they list ten kissable men, or if they just go into hiding. (I know, I’m bad … so very bad.)

My Top Ten Kissable Men

1. Prince Charming: What can I say? He owns a kingdom!
2. Peter Cottontail: It’s hard to resist a male who’s soft and cuddly.
3. Peter Pan: Well, I don’t really want to kiss him, (he’s too young for more than a peck on the cheek) but I’d love to go to Never-Never Land with him.
4. The Cat in the Hat: Now that’s a guy who knows how to have fun.
5. The Tramp (from Lady and the Tramp): Ooo, who can resist a bad boy?
6. Hiawatha: How romantic, a kiss on the shores of Lake Gitchigoomi .
7. Puss in Boots: Gotta love those leather boots.
8. Humpty Dumpty: I’d have given him a farewell kiss, right before the great fall. Oh, the tragedy of it all!
9. The Tinman (Wizard of Oz): A guy who not only has a heart, but knows how to cry.
10. Russ Beck: The man I've loved since I was 15. He's not only cuddly but has a heart. And knows how to have fun. If he could just inherit a kingdom and get a cool pair of leather boots, he’d be perfect. :0)

Thanks to Marsha Ward at for tagging me.

Oh, Darvell and Keith—I suppose if you’re really nice to me, I’ll let you pick ten kissable women instead of ten men. What’s it worth to you? :)

View C.L.'s other work:
Newspaper column
Photography Website
Blog. Scroll down to Mon.
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann--story on pg. 70

Friday, October 19, 2007

Oh, Darn! I Give Up

By Keith Fisher

Once again I didn’t get the challenge answered and G. Parker tagged me for another. The trouble is, I have been snowed under. Every time I try to carve out a moment to write I am called away for another of life’s moments. This week I have been trying to get organized to submit part of my Dutch oven cookbook. I’ve been cleaning up after the yard sale, and trying to get my night job in line.

While cleaning up, I discovered something that may mystify you as it did me. We took a truck to Deseret Industries and were told they wouldn’t take certain items. I have the back for an office chair. It was brand new when the chair broke so I saved it, hoping I would rebuild the chair.

Brand-new and they wouldn’t take it.
"Do you have the bottom part?" he asked.
"No," I said.
"Then what good is it?"
"It can be used by someone who is trying to fix chairs."
"We can throw it in the dumpster for you."
"Unbelievable," I said.
I drove away wondering where I could find a home for it.
Do you want it?

I also went to the book fair at school this week. Pretty good racket—the teachers bring you in to talk about your kids, and your kids drag you into the book fair. The problem is that it’s not all books. The kids want to buy the toys too.

I purchased an eighth-grade level grammar book. Maybe it will help my writing. I’ll let you know. Good luck in your writing, and let me know if you need a new back for your office chair.

Meet My Friends

by G.Parker

I have been participating in various BIAM (Book In A Month) this year, one of which ended in September. I had decided to pick something new to write, an idea that had come to me (like most of us) out of the blue. The story developed well, and it was actually one of the few stories that I completely outlined ahead of time, including the characters, their names, what they looked like and their motivation.

Then the month ended. I had gotten pretty far in the story, though it was a change for me because I was writing the characters from sort of their viewpoint, but from third person. I usually like to write in first person, which drives most people crazy.

This last week I was in Hawaii. While most people would be out visiting the beaches, (which I did once or twice) I was writing. The group I'd been doing the BIAM with during September had decided they'd enjoyed it so much, they were continuing it into October. I figured it would only help me be more prepared for November and Nanowrimo, so I continued too, despite my location. Only -- the story didn't. I decided I needed to write something about Hawaii so that perhaps I could count some of it as a business expense. Research and all that...

The story I tried forcing about the area just wasn't working. Suddenly I realized I needed to use the same characters that I'd been writing in the September story. They were familiar, they had become my friends, and I wanted to see how they would do in Hawaii. It was almost like an epiphany! The story flowed from my fingers, though it was still hard to concentrate -- I was missing my family too much.

Now that I'm home, I've got to transfer it all to computer because I was writing it in longhand. Man does that make your hands tired! What surprised me the most though, was how attached I've grown to these characters.

They are three women, and in retrospect, all three of them are some kind of extension of me and what made me who I am today. One is Sandi -- single, gorgeous, blonde and a workaholic who thinks that her soul mate died on the pioneer treks. Next is Ray, short, slim, dark haired, artistic and recently divorced (though in this story she might not be yet or just barely) with a dead child. Third is Mary -- average height, auburn haired and a little plump, a control freak, happily married and the mom of 5 children. They make me wonder if I'm a closet schizophrenic.

What excites me though, is developing how they deal with life. I want to see how they go through different experiences and how they depend on each other's friendships to get them through. I've come to the realization that I'm going to be doing three books, one for each character, though all three will be in every book.

I suppose that most of us become attached to our stories and feel close to the characters. But this is the first time I've really felt close to mine. It's a new experience for me. Perhaps it's because of the outlines I made of each of the characters, but to be honest, they were like that when they came to me. I just put it to paper.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Don't Answer the Door

By Nichole Giles

These days everything has a sign. Business signs, traffic signs, for sale signs, do not disturb signs, and a myriad of others we stick on our doors or windows to announce our intentions to the world. Usually people watch for these signs. They help us make important decisions on where we are going next, or what we’re going to do when we get there.

But there is one sign—one magical, seemingly invisible sign that lives on the doors or in the windows of many private homes and businesses—that seems to go mostly unnoticed or ignored in my neighborhood. If you live in my house, that sign says, “NO SOLICITING.”

Now, when I bought my sign it was with the intention of politely asking the door-to-door sales persons or politicians who might be tempted to knock, to respect my right for privacy and refrain from ringing my doorbell the minute I jump in the shower. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask, does it? I also harbored the hope that I could sit in my den—which has a window looking out on the front porch—and write while my children are in school without the worry of rude interruptions. There’s nothing like a ringing doorbell to pull you out of your fantasy world and force you back into reality. It’s a writer’s nightmare.

I have nothing against door-to-door salespersons. Even though they have chosen a job that is grueling and unpleasant, which requires them to knock on doors to sell vacuums and cleaning products that most people can buy at a store if they really want them. I do have a problem with people who blatantly ignore a clearly posted sign telling them to please go away.

Take, for instance, the political campaigner who rang my doorbell the other day. Of course, it was during the school day, so I was in the middle of furious writing. I had a self-imposed deadline to make. I was deep into the story, and on the verge of a major plotline. Now, I’ll take some blame. I should have stayed sitting in my little drama and ignored the incessant door dinging. But, by the second ring, I was pulled out of the story anyway, and so…I paused my play list, saved my document, and went to answer the door.

“Mrs. Giles?” said the man. He had a clipboard in his hand and an official looking polo shirt on his back.

“Yes,” I said, leery. Door to door sales persons don’t usually know your name unless your oh-so-kind neighbors gave it to them. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, assuming my neighbors were all at work.

“I’m here with the such-and-such political party, are you familiar with this-and-that bill?” (Obviously I don’t want to spark political debate by telling all the facts here, but you get my drift, right?)

Sigh. Of course I’ve heard of it. I looked across the street to my neighbor’s lawn and the bill supporting sign staked there. “Yes, I’m familiar with it.”

“So,” the man lifted his clip board, “can I put you down in support of it?”

I looked to the left of me at the bill opposing sign posted almost exactly opposite of the first, on a different neighbor’s lawn. Suddenly, I was irritated. At that moment, it hit me that the bill this politician was pushing had pitted my usually peaceful neighbors against each other in a sign-posting war. Not only had this man ignored my sign—the one requesting that he NOT ring my doorbell—but he had interrupted me while I sat at my desk bleeding onto the pages of my open computer file. Now he stood on my porch asking me to make an uninformed decision so he could check a box on a pre-poll poll.

Irritation flared, and I snapped. “No,” I said. “You cannot put me down. Wait,” I said, needing clarification. “Did you say you are for or against this bill?”

“For,” he said.

“Oh,” I said. “Well then, go ahead and put me down for against.” And then I shut the door in his face. Rude, I know. And so unlike me. But here’s the thing. All political agendas aside, how can I give support to any political campaign when the politicians involved in pushing it don’t even have the consideration to READ MY SIGN?

I’ve tried and tried to justify the man’s position, since even my seven-year-old knows what “No Soliciting” means. And I’ve almost forgiven that poor unfortunate soul for his ignorance because the only excuse I can come up with is illiteracy. Why else would a middle aged man who should know better ignore a clearly posted sign? Either that or he just didn’t care enough to notice. The sad thing is, whatever my previous view was on the bill he was pushing, I’m still considering voting against it just for spite.

The lesson of the day—for the door-to-door people—is pay attention to people’s signs. You never know when you might be interrupting a writer who has just opened a vein. And if you happen to be that bleeding writer, do yourself a favor. Learn a lesson from me and don’t answer the door.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Reading Is Like Breathing

By Connie S. Hall

I was away for a couple of weeks so they skipped me in this fun tag game, or maybe they passed me by because I said I was tired of tag games. Anyway, I want to participate so here I am.

My Reading – I love to read. While away on a recent vacation, I took many books with me. I knew I would need lots of reading material as I waited for the plane and while in flight. I was sure I would be too busy to read much, but every night I read at least 50 pages before turning out the light. Finally, on the first leg of my flight home my last book was complete. Now what would I do? (We changed planes twice) There wasn’t enough time to do anything about my dilemma on the first stop in Atlanta. I contemplated pulling out my Alpha Smart and doing some writing, but with someone on each side of me I tossed that idea away. Instead, I read the airline magazines from cover to cover. When in Denver my first piece of business was finding a bookstore.

I don’t usually read the same books over and over – there are too many books out there that I haven’t read. Historical fiction is my favorite topic. I also like suspense, and I love to read books by Beverly Lewis and Wanda E. Brunstetter about the Amish.

Total Number of Books Owned – I have never counted all my books. I go to the library frequently, but I still have many books. The bookcase in the living room is from the ceiling to the floor, has eight shelves, and is a little over three feet wide. It holds all the church, school, and self help books. In the hall, I have a small three-shelf bookcase, and a four-shelf bookcase. My largest bookcase is located in the kitchen near a desk and goes from the ceiling to the floor. It only has five shelves for books, but it is deeper. There is a large shelf that holds the stereo. After the five shelves became full, I had to do something with all my books so I started a new row in front of the other books. I hate to say it, but it’s almost full. I have a pile of children’s books on the fireplace mantel so that when the grandchildren come they can find a book to read. In my bedroom, I have a stand with three shelves and three drawers. Two of the shelves are full of books (stacked two deep of books I haven’t read yet), and the other one is full of music tapes. In my computer room, I also have a shelf for all my writing books. All the music books are stacked on a shelf in a closet. I almost forgot my cookbooks. In the kitchen near the cooking area, I have a three-shelf bookcase. I also have a drawer full of cookbooks. If I sold all my books, I think I would be rich, except I’d be lonely without them. I do wonder why I keep all of them because once I’ve read them I usually don’t read them again.

Last Book Bought – In Denver at the airport, I bought a book "The Memory Keeper’s Daughter" by Kim Edwards. I’m having a hard time getting interested in the book, but I’m sure it’ll turn out to be good. Before leaving on my trip, I purchased a book to take with me "Three Against Hitler" by Rudi Wobbe and Jerry Borrowman. If you haven’t read it, you may want to. It’s about three young LDS men, who dared to distribute the truth about the war to their neighbors.

Last Book Read – The books I read while on my trip are "Three Against Hitler" by Rudi Wobbe and Jerry Borrowman, "Missing Children" by B J Rowley, "Just What the Doctor Ordered" by Sara Fitzgerald, "Going Home" by Wanda L. Brunstetter, and "A Star in Winter" by Anita Stansfield. Before my trip, I read "The Bishop’s Bride" by Elizabeth W. Watkins. It was a fun book with plenty of humor. I’m also reading "Expecting Joy" by Janene Wolsey Baadsgaard.

Books that I have but haven’t yet read – This list could be long, but I’ll just name a few. "He Marked the Path" by Janine S. Creager, "Running with Angels" by Pamela H. Hansen, "Humorous Tales of Woe" by Patrick Patrick (he is in my writing group), "Sorry the Stork Takes No Returns" by Claire Bowen (our own G. Parker is the illustrator), "No One Can Take Your Place" by Sheri Dew, "The Light Inside The Dark" by John Tarrant, "Bound For Canaan" by Margaret Blair Young and Darius Aidan Gray, and "Unlikely Heroes" by Ron Carter. There are at least another couple of dozen books on that shelf by my bedside.

Five Meaningful Books – "Fishers of Men" (3 volumes) by Gerald N. Lund, "Prelude to Glory" (9 volumes) by Ron Carter, "Rumors of War" (5 volumes) by Dean Hughes, "Hearts of the Children" (5 volumes) by Dean Hughes, "Faith of our Fathers" (4 volumes) by N. C. Allen, "The Promised Land" (3 volumes) by David G. Woolley, "Leah", and "Sarah", and "Rebekah" by Orson Scott Card, "Out of Jerusalem" (I think 3 volumes) by H. B. Moore, "Anne of Green Gables" by Lucy Maud Montgomery, and "Doctor Zhivago" by Boris Pasternak. I know that’s a tad more than five, but I really couldn’t choose. I could actually go on and on adding more to this list. All of the above books have touched me in a special way. They are all different, and have a different message that speaks to my soul.

As you can tell, I love to read. No, I don’t read all the time, but I do read every day. I still go to work, have plenty of meetings, go out with friends, and somewhere in there, I do write. Without reading life would be boring.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Not the Colonel’s Chicken

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

Several years ago, my husband, Russ, and I had an interesting experience. It was so interesting that it sticks out in my mind like it was just … well … several years ago.
“You should have been at the post office today,” I said to Russ.

“Why’s that?”

“One of the boxes of mail-order chicks broke open and yellow babies were peeping and running all over the place.” I paused. “What would you think about raising poultry?”

Russ looked dubious. Who can say why? It’s not like my schemes ever backfired or anything.

“We don’t know how,” he said.

“I’ll find a chicken manual,” I replied. “If an old guy like Colonel Sanders can handle them, so can we.”

“Where would we put them?” Russ asked.

“We’d keep them on the porch in a box under a heat lamp. Then when the weather warms, we’ll put them in that old coop in the back.” I had an answer for every objection.

The next day we ordered fifty Rhode Island Reds. And became chicken farmers. Only things didn’t go quite as planned.

When the chicks came in, we brought them home and opened their box. “Gee, they sound a lot louder in here than I expected,” I said to Russ, as he put pillows over both ears to block the noise.

Then the cat showed up. The birds fled the box and scattered to the four corners of the porch. The cat thought it was great fun. I thought it was a minor setback. Russ thought it was an omen.

The chicks ate and ate and grew into …well … big chickens. There they were, 50 birds nesting and roosting in our screened porch. And squawking at the break of day. Every day.

Russ moved them to the hen house.

One morning while cleaning up after breakfast, I realized I’d fixed too much cereal. “What can we do with cold, left-over oatmeal?” I asked my son, Davey.

He replied, “Eat it for lunch.” Obviously, a three-year-old is clueless about what constitutes a good meal.

I scratched my head. “Maybe we can feed it to the chickens.”

Davey nodded in agreement. That’s what I love about toddlers—they’ll agree with anything.

I consulted my chicken manual. Everything seemed to indicate it was fine. We marched to the coop, pot and spoon in hand, and ladled the lumpy oatmeal into the feeder. The hens gathered and clucked their excitement at something new.

No sooner was I back in the house when I heard Davey yell, “Mommy, Daddy, something’s wrong with the chickens!”

Oh no. Had one of the cats gotten them?

We raced to the hen house. The birds milled about, their heads low to the ground, none of them clucking. “They must be sick,” I said to Russ, watching the poor things stagger around and fall over.

Russ looked puzzled. “They’ve got a big wad of something on their beaks.”

“A big wad of something? That’s weird.” I shook my head and tried to think of all the chicken diseases I’d read about that might fit the description.

“It looks like cooked oatmeal,” Russ said. “Where would they get that?” He turned to me with his, “What have you tried now?” look.

“It’s perfectly logical,” I said. “Oatmeal is made from oats. Oats are a grain. Chickens eat grain. It said so in my manual.”

“Yes, but not cooked and in a big, sticky lump,” Russ said.

We watched a few minutes more. The chickens kept rubbing their beaks, trying to get off the goopy cereal. The more they rubbed, the more dirt they picked up in their wads of oatmeal. Pretty soon, some of them had lumps the size of golf balls surrounding their beaks, throwing the poor birds off balance and onto the ground.

“You know what you have to do,” Russ said, opening the gate to the birds’ fenced area and ushering me inside.

“What?” I asked.

“Give 50 chickens a bath.”

Well, all I had to say was those chickens had better taste pretty good once they were on the table. I was sure the Colonel had never gone to this much trouble.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Life is Like a Yard Sale

By Keith Fisher

She climbed out of her car and stepped up to the first table, not knowing what treasures she would find there, or how much they would change her life.

My wife and I have been hoping to have a yard sale all summer. With the press of day to day activities, and booked weekends, we never quite got the chance. When she, who must be obeyed, came home with a couch and love seat from her mother’s house, she decided it was time. I returned from my camping trip and heard the edict: "We are having a yard sale this weekend!"

She scrambled, and I survived on four-hours of sleep per day while getting ready for the big event. We hoped it would clear our house of clutter and perhaps, bring financial rewards. I also put my writing projects on hold. Now my head feels like my house, stuffed to the rafters with ideas for new projects, waiting for the chance to be displayed in the yard sale of an unpublished book.

During my forced vacation from writing, I discovered that even though I’ve missed it, I felt relieved from the daily word counts, and the work of polishing submittals.
When our yard sale began, my writer’s heart discovered a bag full of metaphors and similes. I watched a young mother sorting through my daughter’s old clothes, and asking what the prices were. I looked at her selections and realized we had also purchased most of those items from yard sales, and our prices were pretty much the same. Life had completed one of those endless circles, giving purpose to our existence on earth.

Many of the standard character types attended the event. There was the successful businessman who drove up in a pickup that cost more than my first house. He was appalled that we wouldn’t drop the price on the antique Christmas tree ornaments.

The old man, who wanted the brand new, never used, hole-saw set but offered seventy percent of the already rock bottom price. He dropped the item and stormed off when we wouldn’t go that low. One woman surprised me when she gave us more than the quoted price. "I like your prices," she said. Also there were two young men who said, "Stop the car dude," They jumped out to purchase two wigs and provided a comedy show for my daughter and her friends.

The big lesson I learned is how much we, as a society have changed since I was a young man fresh out of high school. In those days, people rented until they saved enough for a down payment on a home, they waited to purchase furniture until they could afford it, and they used yard sales or discount stores to help make ends meet. Today, many kids grow up thinking they are somehow entitled to everything. They wouldn’t be caught dead at a yard sale, and a used anything should be thrown away.

Today, used refrigerators have no more purpose than to take up space in landfills or to store apples against the winter. At least the latter is a worthwhile purpose. Of all the things I gleaned from the yard sale, perhaps the most important, were the feelings of joy in remembering the precious moments of my family’s life. Like when someone purchased a toy that Santa brought for my daughter’s second Christmas. The tune it played drove me crazy then. Now the tune brings happiness in remembering, and the toy went to a good home with another baby who loves it.

Last week I promised I would answer the challenge of Tristi Pinkston’s tag, but I wanted to give a writer’s tip. I was plotting a book in my head the other day and remembered the way the Titanic movie was written. It’s a story told from the point of view of the old woman. However, for continuity, there were other points of view that needed to be told.

I wonder how it would read if the script was a book and we didn’t know the story. We would read about the old woman remembering then suddenly, switch to the poker game and Jack’s point of view. Without the visual explanation, the reader might be left to wonder who the character is. Perhaps the old lady was once a poor man trying to get to America.

I wrote a story that begins with one character remembering in the prologue then switches to third person omniscient and introduces other characters in the normal way. I was afraid the continuity would suffer. It has been a struggle to transition point of view, but even though the whole story has been told in one character’s Point of view, I think I did it in an acceptable way. I’ll let you know how it turns out, or perhaps you can tell me when it’s published.

Good luck with your writing. See you next week.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Lucky Girl

By Nichole Giles

Last week I took a poll. I was working on a writing assignment for one of my classes, and I had decided to write about why women need other women friends. Of course, I sent this poll to many of my women friends, and as always, my girls didn’t let me down. I got the most touching and heartfelt responses.

Working on this assignment got me thinking about some of my other friends. For instance, as soon as I finished my assignment, I sent it to a few of my writer friends for editing assistance. They didn’t let me down either. As soon as they were able, my writers sent suggestions for editing and improvements.

I realize this is a lucky thing. Not every woman has a group of girlfriends surrounding her with support, and not every writer has other writers only a mouse-click away willing to help them improve their work.

How lucky am I?

I am also a member of a group of writers who—aside from cheering each other on during positive times, and mourning in tough ones—happily and willingly share contest, submission, and market information with each other. This information is shared even with the knowledge that some of the other group members could very well become competitors in said contests.

It is amazing to me how each person I know is able to affect my life for the better. Even more amazing is the thought that—however many people I have influencing me to become better—I have the opportunity to affect that many people. I get the opportunity to be a friend to all these great people, and to help them however I can, the same way they’ve all helped me.

I repeat. How lucky am I?

Doesn’t every writer dream about making a difference in the life of one person in the world? Here I am starting out, and I just realized that I am already doing that. That’s pretty cool, if you ask me. In fact, I think that thought made my day.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Skeletons in the Closet

By Connie S. Hall

The past two weeks I’ve been away on vacation touring some of our great country. I found North Carolina and Virginia full of early American history.

During the last four days of my trip was a gathering for the Mathieu Agee descendants. This was an extended family gathering for my grandfather who came to this country from France during the Huguenot movement. He came with an uncle when he was but a young man of fifteen in the year 1700.

There were more than ninety people at this reunion, and most of them I’d never met before. They came from many states, and many religions. The only thing everyone had in common was they were related to this one man, and they wanted to know more about him and those who came after him.

Many times, I have pondered if certain people were my friends before I came to this earth to live. As we assembled, I was surprised some of these strangers seemed so familiar to me. I was sure I had known them before. It was as though we had been friends for years, and they are no longer just distant cousins. I know the friendships I developed last week will continue for years.

The speaker the last evening encouraged us all to not just look for dates, but to look for the skeletons in the closet. Find an interesting story from their life. This is what makes family history come to life. Everyone would rather hear a good story about something that happened instead of just that he was born, married, had children, and died. Genealogy isn’t just finding the facts it’s about seeing our ancestors as real people. We should walk the paths they have walked by telling their stories. I would like to encourage everyone to dig up those stories about the past.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Writing Daily

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

Last week I started my blog with the words, “In the 23 years we’ve lived in our small valley, we’ve never found the local fishing hole named New Canyon Lake. The last time we tried, we had a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and we still ended up light years away.”

I promised to give you an analogy this week. Ideas flitted through my mind about comparing burning brakes to burning desires to write, or comparing a GPS receiver to an outline.

Then I had an interesting week trying to get an online store set up for our photography business. With the exception of hitting the deadline for my column and an assignment for writing class, I didn’t write for the entire week. All I thought about were the greeting cards, t-shirts, and tote bags that eagerly waited being imprinted with our photos and placed in the store.

Every day, I became more annoyed. I grumbled to myself. Often I paced into the pantry, anxiously scanning the shelves for something to help. I’m sad to say, even chocolate didn’t dispel the gloom and anxiety.

What I needed to do was write. What I wanted to do was write. What I didn’t do was write. The other project seemed too important to spare the time. An underlying fear pervaded—if I interrupted my focus towards the online store, I’d lose track of what I was doing.

I did lose track—but not at the store. By the end of the week, my inner writing-GPS wasn’t sending out a strong signal anymore. Why? Because I’d ignored it for seven days. It now worked as well as the GPS we’d used to find New Canyon Lake. I ended up light years away from writing.

When I woke up on Sunday morning, I realized that all night long I’d dreamed about uploading pictures onto products, tagging them with key words, and setting retail prices. Not one little tiny dream about the characters that used to live in my head.

I’ve learned my lesson. No matter how consuming another of life’s projects is, a writer has to write everyday. Even if it’s only a few paragraphs. Otherwise the inner GPS will start to dim. Its battery will begin to die; the display will go fuzzy.

It’s hard coming back. I feel like I’ve lost my groove. And all because I didn’t take fifteen minutes out of each day to write.

If you’re ever in the same position, remember that stealing a few writing moments daily will amount to a lot of time saved later on. Heather Sellers, in her book Page after Page, says, “There is a famous quote: If you take one day off writing, your muse will take the next three."

It’s so true. I took a week off and now my muse is on a three week cruise to Fiji.

What books C.L. recommends:
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann
Publishing Secrets by LDS Storymakers (BJ Rowley and others)
Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by Jon Franklin
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Browne & Dave King

View C.L.’s other work:
Newspaper Column
Photography Website

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Writing life’s Experiences

By Keith Fisher

I’ve been camping in the rain and snow this week, listening to conference on the radio, and being with my family. In other words taking the day off, (If you believe that, I have some waterfront property for you to buy.) Anyway, I decided that since Tristi Pinkston tagged me for another Meme, I would take advantage of it and fill in my responses.

However, over the course of the weekend I didn’t get the challenge completed so I will curtail it until next week. Let’s just say the weekend hasn’t been going well.

I was to be camp cook for my family’s Elk hunt, but I ran into adversity and I wasn’t able to relax the way I wanted to. Cooking in snowstorms has never been a problem for me, but dealing with a petty demagogue who has a Napoleon complex is.

I realize I have left what happened to your imaginations. Suffice it to say that, Power, even perceived power, can corrupt the nicest campground host.

I also realized that it must be hard for some writers, to write certain scenes. Having no experience with some situations, we are left with our imaginations and the depictions of the media.

But on the other hand, we are sometimes better off to interview others, and read about experiences in order to get our descriptions correct. Perhaps it is better to leave Hemingway’s invitation to glory unheeded. Get out there an experience life but be careful opening pretty boxes, you never know what might be inside.

Good luck with your writing and see you next week.

Friday, October 05, 2007

My Reading...Pieces of Life

by G.Parker

I was recently tagged for this 'meme' about reading - what I like to read, etc. So, this weeks' blog is going to be that information.

My Reading – I really love to read. I've loved to read since I was in elementary school and discovered the library. I also love to read the same books over and over -- the librarian would only let me check the same book out so many times and then she would ban it. sigh. I will read just about anything, but romance is my favorite topic. Romance with meat, like suspense or a real story line. (Of course I have been known to read magazines from cover to cover just because I was sitting in the doctor's office and had nothing else to do...grin)

Total Number of Books Owned – This is a hard one. I don't think I've ever counted it before. I hate to admit it, but we have a whole drawer of Inspired Romance books that I've purchased at the local little trade or buy book store. So, those alone we probably have 75. sigh. I don't buy them anymore, but at least my girls have something to clean to read when they're bored. I have probably 100 other books, scattered through out the house, about 20 of them are kids books, and about 20 of them are church related non-fiction, and the rest are various authors that we've liked. However...we usually check out at least 10 every time we go to the library.

Last Book Bought – Um...that would be Brandon Sanderson's Elantris, BJ Rowlings series about My Body Fell Off, and another one, that isn't coming to mind. If I had the money that my daughter does (and let me tell you, she has two boxes full of anime type books alone...sigh) I'd have tons more...especially of the LDS authors. I still haven't been able to get my hands on Tristi's books...(sorry Tristi!! I really want to!)

Last Book Read – Um, that would be Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, or no! Winter Fire by Rachel Anne Nunes. (Then again, I read so many books that I forget the names of them.) I read most of a series last month by Joanne Fluke called the Hannah Swenson mysteries. Not all of them are equally good, but you really ought to try at least one, she also includes recipes! The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder was first, but I haven't read it yet.

I have four books that I keep by my bedside table so that my children don't finish ripping the covers off of them like they have with some of my others. These books are not religious, but they have the kind of writing that I want to emulate, and stories that keep me wanting to read them over and over. The first one is Coast Road by Barbara Delinsky. I like a couple of her books, but like most of the main stream authors, she has several that you don't want to touch. This book just pulls you into the characters lives and makes you a part of them. Perhaps the other reason it grabs me is because the main character and his ex are artists.

The Summer House by Jude Derveraux. This one is much the same, only I think most women would love to experience what happens in this book. This is probably the cleanest of her stuff too...sigh.

Beauty by Robin McKinley. Robin McKinley has the ability to draw me into her fantasy with words of reality, if that makes any sense. She does such a good job, and I've liked all her earlier works. The last book is her's too, The Blue Sword. I simply LOVE that one. I can read it over and over and ...well, you get the picture.

There have been many books that have shaped my thoughts and encouraged deep thinking. While many of them would not be what you consider classical or worth the effort, I enjoyed them. One such book was the Diary of Anne Frank. It's was got me thinking about writing.

I'm not sure who to tag at this point, I think most of us have done this. But those who would be interested, have a try. I'd like to see what you are reading! That means you, Keith and C.L. Beck!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I Finished!

By Nichole Giles

In the words of my new idol Chris Baty, I have “Eaten the challenge for breakfast, and cleaned my teeth with its footnotes. I am brave, talented, and brimming with the kind of loquacious storytelling skill that no doubt will serve me well in my new job as up-and-coming novelist.” Why?

Because I did it.

I took master writer Chris’s book, followed his advice, and finished his 30-day-50,000 word challenge with an extra 409 words to spare! Yeah me! According to Chris, “This is something to write home about.” Well, since I live at home, I decided I’d blog about it instead.

In the end, I have an unedited masterpiece that, while definitely in need of a serious overhaul, has a workable storyline, loveable characters, and interesting fantastical elements. This particular story will be worth the extra work, I think. Well, as soon as I go back and write the beginning.

I had to start somewhere, and it seems to me now that where I started was closer to the middle than the beginning. But I’ll get to work on that while I’m still going strong, and when I’m finished, I’ll edit my writer’s heart out.

Now, has anyone heard of National Book Editing Month? I think I might have to check into that….

Don’t forget, National Novel Writing Month starts November 1st. Unless you want to be like me and take the challenge all by yourself, start getting ready. November is only weeks away.

A Firm Foundation

By Connie S. Hall

As a child, did you ever try to build a house from stones? I did. I laid the stones one on top of the other so they fit together. That is how you construct a story. You put one fact on top of another until the pieces simultaneously become one.

If you didn’t assemble the stones correctly, your house tumbled down. The same is true with writing. If you don’t develop the plot, and create a good story then no one will want to read it. It will collapse.

It reminds me of the parable of the house built upon sand and the one built upon rocks. Matthew 7:25 – And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock.

When you write if you have a good plot and your facts are correct, you will have a solid foundation for your story. When the mighty winds blow, and the storms beat upon it your story will stand.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Getting Personal

By Darvell Hunt

For the first time ever this week, I cut my ear shaving. My therapist thinks I need more sun. We keep a prisoner in our backyard, sometimes chained, sometimes caged.

Personal writing gets attention. When readers come to know your characters’ specific traits, fears, and ambitions, they often care more about them. That isn’t always easy to do. It’s hard to get personal with the person who reads your material, because you’re writing to a future reader you may not know. It’s kind of like reaching out to the future. Writing is, in effect, a time machine between the writer and the reader.

Yes, I do shave my ears occasionally. Men are hairy. A few years ago, my wife pointed out that my hairiness extended to my ears, so I’ve been attempting to correct nature with a sharp blade.

I’ve also suffered from clinical depression for years and have finally decided that since it’s affecting two of the most important things in my life—my family and my writing—that I should do something about it. It sounds weird for me to say, but after just two sessions, my therapist (that’s the weird part) thinks I need more sun to help improve my mood.

And, yes, if we don’t keep our dog, a mix of black lab and sheba inu, caged in his dog run or on a leash in the backyard, he runs away. As a young dog of just over a year old (in man years, which is probably about nine in dog years), he runs away faster than an almost-forty-year-old depressed man with a bleeding ear can go. This makes him somewhat difficult to catch sometimes, so I’m grateful to have my two teenaged sons.

There you go. I got personal. Do you feel like you know me better now?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Finding New Canyon Lake

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

In the 23 years we’ve lived in our small valley, we’ve never found the local fishing hole named New Canyon Lake. The last time we tried, we had a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and we still ended up light years away. The time before that was even more interesting.
“Did you bring the map?” I asked my husband, Russ.

“What map?”

“We don’t need one,” my son, Dave interjected. “My friends told me how to get there.”

Right then I should have known. Men never think they need a map. That’s why couples spend hours circling the same four blocks in Sandy, looking for Temple Square.

“You just stay to the right,” Dave said.

The first right-hand fork in the road arrived quickly. It dead-ended half a mile later, at a locked gate. The sweat trickled down our necks as we got out, swatted mosquitoes, and looked around.

“I don’t see a lake,” I said.

As we piled back in the truck, Dave mumbled, “Maybe they said stay to the left.”

An hour of left turns later, the dirt road narrowed and the aspen grew closer. I asked, “Shouldn’t we be there by now?”

Russ and Dave looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders, and Dave said, “It’s probably just around the bend.”

Russ swatted the gnats that buzzed him. “Give it one more chance. If it’s not around the turn, we’ll head back.”

I should have ignored them and listened to that inner voice screaming, “You’ve donated 20 pints of blood to mosquitoes and you’re lost. Go home.” No one wants to be the kill-joy, though. We drove on and within minutes I heard a loud “clunk”. “What’s that noise?” I asked.

“What noise?” Russ jerked the wheel right and left, too busy avoiding trees to hear anything.

Then he slammed on the brakes. We peered over the dash. The road dropped in a downhill grade that would make even a mountain goat hyperventilate.

“Time to turn around,” I said, prying one white-knuckled hand loose from Dave’s knee and the other from Russ’s forearm.

“There’s no room to turn,” Russ said, so we drove on. The truck clunked every time the steering wheel rotated. I had visions of tie rods snapping as we bounced along.

A few minutes later, I asked, “What’s that smell and why are we going so fast?”

“What smell?” Russ replied, never taking his eyes off the dirt crevice we were pretending was road.

“The one that smells like burning brakes,” Dave said.

Now I had visions of tie rods snapping and us pitching headlong down the mountain side, the truck a flaming fireball from over-heated brakes. After a tense half-hour filled with clunks and smoke, the grade leveled and we flew down the last hill, bouncing around in the cab like the ball in a pinball game. The truck slid to a stop, the red-hot brakes still smoldering.

Dave pointed at a guy walking towards us. As he got close, the man took his cap off and smoothed his silver hair. “Where’ve you folks been?”

“Up the mountain. We were looking for New Canyon Lake.”

“You’re not anywhere near it,” the man said. “You’re in the valley, in Pigeon Hollow. Did you drive the whole way down on that sheep trail?”

I blinked twice. “Sheep trail? That wasn’t a four-wheel drive road?”

“Nope.” He put his cap back on. “Nice day for a ride, though.” He headed towards his truck, then turned and called, “You can leave my field by that gate over there.”

I looked at Russ and shook my head in disbelief. “We’re sitting in Pigeon Hollow—in some farmer’s field.”

“And we came down the mountain on a sheep trail,” Dave said.

Russ sniffed the air. “No wonder our brakes are burning and we have a clunk.” Silence prevailed, broken only by a meadow lark’s song. Finally, Russ said, “Next time, maybe we should take a right before we hit the sheep trail.”

“We’re never going to find it by driving around aimlessly,” I said.

Dave scratched a mosquito bite. “I read that one day scientists will come out with a futuristic, super technology, satellite tracking thingy—”

“And then we’ll find it,” we all said in unison.

(Wondering what all this has to do with writing? Check back next Monday to find out!)