Friday, August 31, 2007

Humor - um, Was That funny?

By G.Parker

One of my favorite things to read is Matthew Buckley's Chickens in the Headlights. Why? Because it is dang funny! Humor is my favorite thing to read. If a book is a romance and has humor in it, I'm loving it. If it's a suspense or mystery novel, (like Jeff Savage's books) with humor added, I think it's great. Unfortunately, humor alone (apparently) doesn't sell. I know this from first, or perhaps I should say second, hand experience.

I illustrated a book of essays that a talented newspaper columnist wrote called Sorry, the Stork Takes No Returns. It's a funny, sometimes touching, look at motherhood and dealing with children. I thought it was hilarious, and so did everyone I gave a copy to. I had a brother buy a couple. I think a neighbor said she bought one. Unfortunately, it wasn't a national best seller, and Clair Bowen will keep writing newspaper columns.

Matthew Buckley's book is wonderful as well, it's full of true stories from his youth--funny experiences of a large family. It has sold much more than the Stork book, but I don't think it's a national best seller yet–-it would be nice, huh Matthew? You could quit your day job...

Unfortunately, what sells is mystery, fantasy, history and sex, and standard publishing is all about what sells. On the other hand, if you try something silly to get attention, sometimes it brings the whole world to your door.

Take the latest words by a mom to sell some Pokemon cards on Ebay. She wrote this really cute little essay about how her kids had managed to stick them in her cart while shopping, and had over 100,000 hits. People thought her little story was the funniest thing they had read in a long time, and kept telling other people. By the time the auction ended, she had sold the cards for $140 or so. This was a regular pack of cards by the way, nothing special, but she had caught the imagination of the people, and they had rewarded her for it. She's now doing radio interviews and keeping track on her blog.

At first I felt miffed. I have seven children, and let me tell you, they've done some pretty funny things (although they didn't always seem funny at the time – like when they tried to burn spaghetti noodles on the electric burners after dumping Tang all over the stove while being babysat by their older sisters...) and I fully intended to write a children's book about my autistic son using the escapades he got into while he was young – (notably how he loved to run down the street in nothing but a diaper, chasing the water in the gutters)but time escaped me and I neglected to write them down while they were fresh. My bad.

Now that I've had a chance to sit back and ponder the situation, I'm impressed and happy for her. More power to you! Isn't that our feeling with our fellow writers? Support and high five's when they get it right? Not all of us will get there that way, that's just the way life goes. Some of us must struggle and suffer for our efforts. Perhaps it's not in my destiny to become a famous writer, humor or otherwise with a surprising flash of -- whatever.

But the thing I've found the most, is that forcing the humor never works. It's when it slips out in the normal flow of things that it goes right. So, here's to hoping some day we'll all get it right--we've got lots of footsteps to follow.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Jump at the Chance

By Nichole Giles

I am the queen of hesitation. An opportunity comes up and I ho-hum around it, skirt the issue, and do my best to think of reasons why I shouldn’t grab that opportunity and run with it. Even after hesitating, usually I am unable to talk myself out of a good thing, but every once in a while, I do.

For instance, I’ll bet no one knows how much I hesitated to go to the first LDStorymakers Writer’s Conference almost two years ago—because, that would mean admitting I was a writer, of course. And then, a few months later, I hesitated to go to the BYU Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference. What is my problem? Attending those conferences was possibly the best available remedy to my hesitancy for admitting how badly I want to write.

This month, I realized I’ve hesitated yet again. There is another important conference coming up. In three weeks. I’ve heard about this one, known it was coming, and yet had decided against going because it’s in another town—even though the drive is only four hours, and I have relatives in that city. But then, I realized I really want to take classes from some of the presenters, and decided to pay the extra fee for late registration. Talk about fickle!

I’ve realized something recently. There are days that go by when nothing makes any sense. Then there are days when everything seems to fall into place perfectly, and the world seems to go in a straight line. People come and go in your life, and sometimes, you have no idea why. They might say a few words, mention a great story, give a few words of advice or simply give you support you didn’t even know you needed, and suddenly your creative side is bursting. The story you’ve wanted to write all your life is within your grasp, and now you are able to get to work on it.

I may be bursting to write it, but my new story idea is daunting nonetheless. I know it will require dedication and the digging up of emotions I’d rather not have to feel, but I also realize that these are the things that will make it good.

So I’m going to this conference, listening to these presenters, and jumping at the chance to write this new story as quickly as I am able. And this time I’m giving myself a non-breakable deadline because one of these days the world is going to start making sense again.

Ugh. What will happen to me then?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Use Your God Given Talent

By Connie S. Hall

I suppose this blog may date me a bit, but here goes. A few evenings ago, as I was watching a performance called '50s Pop Music an idea hit me. A much older Andy Williams sang Moon River, and he was as good as ever. I realized that once we have a talent, as long as we continue to nurture it, we never lose it.

That means we have to use the talents God gave us. I haven’t always used all the gifts given me. Most of them I continue to cultivate, but some things such as my violin sits under the bed gathering dust. Many pictures are sitting in boxes waiting for me to pull out the needle and thread, and I haven’t picked up my knitting needles for years.

I know the ability is still there, because on that rare occasion when I pull out the old fiddle, I still remember the notes, but the noise is something awful. I don’t want to spend the time making wall hangings because my walls are full. When my ward begs for a hat to send off to the Humanitarian Center I can still do it, but it doesn’t give me the joy it once did because my mind is wandering to something else I would rather be doing.

I think I have always loved to write, but never realized it was a special talent given to me. I wrote for pleasure and for church assignments, but I never used it the way I now know I should. I guess I better keep writing.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Green Moth

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

I love Luna moths. They’re a lovely, sea-foam green, with wings that curve and arch. Unfortunately they’re an eastern moth, so we never see them in Utah.

Last week when I opened the front door, there was a small, beautiful green moth on the glass. Not a Luna, to be sure—no curves and arches—but I liked the way his wings held an emerald transparency. I grabbed the camera and started taking pictures.

After a few shots, the sun came up, putting the moth into half-sun and half-shade. Not a good shot, to be sure. It will only be a matter of minutes until he’s in full sun, and then I’ll get a picture of the light sparkling off him, I thought. Picking up the garden clippers, I started trimming my flowers, waiting for the sun to shift. After a few minutes, I turned back and....

He was gone. The sun had warmed his wings and he’d fluttered away.

Writing is often like that. Sometimes an idea comes and I dilly-dally over it, looking at it this way and that. Then I decide to wait on it until the time is just right and my thoughts are well-formed. I walk away and trim the flowers of other stories … and while I do, the idea flutters from my mind.

Inspiration often comes as a gift on sparkling, transparent wings, to be embraced and put into words … if we only seize the moment.

What C.L.’s been reading recently:
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
The Art of Photographing Nature by Martha Hill with photographs by Art Wolfe

View C.L.’s other work:
Newspaper Column
Photography Website
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann (Story on pg. 70)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

In Memory of... A Poorly Written Book

By Keith Fisher

We buried our family pet this week. It’s never a happy occasion, but we’ve had Cocoa for 17 years. She was my Valentine’s gift to my wife and the only pet my daughter has known. She was a good cat.

Cocoa was showing signs of her age and it was a blessing to see her pass, but it’s never easy. We buried her under the big pine tree in the back yard.

Also, this week, I’ve been working on a blog. It’s a fantastic idea that will touch and delight you. It will bring you to tears and leave you with a sense that all’s write with the world. (Get it? all’s WRITE).

Okay, I admit I’ve got nothing. I really did have a blog but I discovered I’ve already written it. The experts say one of the signs of old age is repeating your self. Your self.

I started reading another book by one of my favorite prolific authors and discovered a pile of obvious mistakes. I was mystified. "How could that author do that?" I asked. It’s almost like the publisher printed the first draft.

Just to give you an idea: in almost every chapter there are info dumps and exposition that should be dialog. The author lost track of details. In one place, the police are coming over to have a very important conversation but they don’t come, the conversation never happens.

Recently I had a very good friend look at a manuscript and make suggestions. It came back full of red ink so to speak. I look at it and wonder how I could’ve ever considered sending that to a publisher, it wasn’t ready. If I were a best selling author with name recognition, the publisher may have printed it and I would’ve had to live with it.

I’m going to continue reading the book but I have to put it down frequently in order to recover.

I guess I went ahead and wrote this blog even though I didn’t think I would. See what happens when you get me talking (writing)? I tend to run off at the mouth.

Anyway, have a good week and get out the polishing compound. Start rubbing on that manuscript of yours. You never know; a publisher may lose his/her mind and set it in print. Then you’ll have to live with it forever or until you buy every copy back.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Writing in Chocolate

by G.Parker

If I haven’t mentioned it lately, chocolate is something that is often on my mind. I am not a true addict, in that I can go without eating any for days on end, but I am a connoisseur. I enjoy the finer chocolates rather than the common every day candy bar. I like rich fudge brownies with a layer of frosting, or smooth, melt-in-your-mouth truffles—just thinking about them makes my mouth water. When I’m desperate, I’ll grab a Hershey’s bar with almonds, but that’s only when something better isn’t around.

Why do I mention chocolate you may ask? Because it occurred to me yesterday as I was ruminating on the glories of chocolate, that it is similar to reading and writing.

The paragraph about the kind of chocolate I like, would fit into reading categories. I know I’ve mentioned that I like to read–okay, that’s like saying I ‘like to breathe’–and the type of books I like to read varies with my mood. Usually, I would prefer a book that is in depth, has richness of character to it, a solid plot and a wonderful ending–something to curl up with while sipping hot chocolate. But when I am short on time and don’t want to get involved with something that complex, I reach for anything handy that might serve my needs. A simple romance or a light mystery–something that doesn’t require a lot of thought.

I bring this up to point out there is room for all kinds of writers out there. Not all of us are going to be literary greats, however wonderful that would be. Most of us are going to be every day writers, the ones that supply the greater need for the daily reader. Our works are sometimes in depth, but usually a simple read. That’s where we are going to have the greater impact. People are going to be looking for something to read at the doctors office, on the bus, while waiting for kids in the car pool–and we will be giving it to them.

While we start with that, however, our writing will be just a bit above the norm–just a shade richer than the average candy bar–because our writing evolves and improves. Our writing holds a hint of richness in the short, a depth of character in the description, and a longing when that book is closed. We are the budding writers of the future that holds the kind of fiction where everyone wants to read the next Darvell Hunt, Nichole Giles, James Dashner or even, the next G.Parker. (I had to add me!)

We are the Ghiradelli in writing. Personally, I like that chocolate far more than any of the fancy imports.

What kind of chocolate are you?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pieces of Their Hearts

By Nichole Giles

I am a lifelong romance fan. Books, movies, real life, I love it all. Yeah, guys, it’s probably a girl thing. We can’t help it, you know? And having been such a fan, I have learned to appreciate a great variety of the different types of love one character can experience.

Real, true feelings aren’t simple or straightforward, and never, ever are they easy to explain in a handful of words. That’s the thing with love. Even the experts don’t understand it. So how then, are we—the writers—supposed to convey it?

Don’t get me wrong, it can be done. It is possible to write a complex love story, one where the characters involved are torn in several different directions. These are the stories that become classics, bestsellers, and someone’s favorite book. But really, there is no right or wrong method to doing this.

Take for example Romeo and Juliet. Love? Definitely. Complex? Absolutely. Happy ending? Sorry, no dice. Tragic.

Or Sense and Sensibility. Love? Yes. Complex? As much as possible. Happy ending? Oh yeah.

But what about the complex relationship between two friends? The compelling, supportive, unconditional I-love-you-even-though-you-drive-me-crazy kind of friendship? Does that not also constitute love?

Now you’re probably wondering, what is she talking about? The thing is, you can write a good love story with well thought out characters, a great plot, and the perfect ending (happy or sad) but if you have left your story without those complex friendships, it will always be lacking that one important element.

Think about it. How different would your life be if you had chosen not to have relationships with your closest friends? Or if you were to move away and not keep in touch with them. What would it be like if they weren’t just a phone call, or a car ride, or an email away? Would their absence leave a hole in you? How would your life be altered? Now ask yourself what difference these friendships make in your other relationships.

I have come to the conclusion that, just like in real life, the more complex a character’s relationships, the more compelling the story becomes. I guess what I’m saying is, it’s okay to let your characters give pieces of their hearts away to many different people. It’s the best part of life, and so will become the best part of the story.

These are the relationships that make life worth living. These are the relationships that make stories worth reading.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Caught Again

By Connie S. Hall

Nichole tagged me a few weeks ago and these are my responses.

Four Jobs I've Had:
Secretary/Treasurer for Treasure Valley Real Estate & Construction
Billing Manager for Westwood Physical Therapy
Secretary for LeBouef, Lamb, Leiby, and McRae
Office Manager for Denver Manufacturing

Four Places I've Lived:
Spanish Fork, UT
Salt Lake City, UT
Ontario, CA
Kearns, UT

Four Favorite TV Shows:
Mystery Woman
Jane Doe
Murder She Wrote
Diagnoses Murder
Since I rarely watch tv this tells everyone the only time of day that I indulge

Four Favorite Foods:
Strawberry Crepes

Four Websites I Frequent:
Institute of Children’s Literature
Rand McNally get directions (I’m planning a trip)
Wasatch Front Regional Multiple Listing Service (WFRMLS- I still work)

Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now:
On a cruise
On my next trip

Four Movies I Love:
National Treasure
Dr. Zhivago
Anne of Green Gables

Four Bloggers I Tag Next:
This game is fun, but like Nichole, I seem to be spending a great deal of time playing tag. I’m also calling an end to the game…for now. Since I know I’ll be interrupting someone’s writing time, I’m not going to tag anyone.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Necessity

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

E-mail. It’s an e-vil necessity. And sometimes an enjoyable one—it’s one of those things you can’t live with and can’t live without. Many times, however, it chews up our writing hours. Since networking is important for writers, we can’t just quit reading and sending the stuff. We need the contacts. We need the moral support. Most of all we need the opportunity to vent when we’re all rejected, in the same week, by the biggest LDS publishing house … otherwise known as it-who-must-not-be-named.

Another thing that chews into our writing time is blogging sites. Reading my e-pals’ blogs is fun and I pick up a multitude of writing tips. If I stopped visiting, my skills would stagnate. (Not to mention the fact that it would hurt my friends’ feelings.) However, I can also spend hours reading and commenting … and then moving on to the next blog, and reading and commenting.

Should we give up those things? Definitely not—but we do need moderation. Think of them as study or research time, but limit it to what seems reasonable. Then take down your browser, bring up your word processor and write.

Or use them as a reward for getting x number of pages written. Then they won’t be e-vil, they’ll be e-ncouragement.

What C.L.’s been reading recently:
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
The Art of Photographing Nature by Martha Hill with photographs by Art Wolfe

View C.L.’s other work:
Newspaper Column
Photography Website
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann (Story on pg. 70)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Finding a New Source

By Keith Fisher

I’ve noticed a trend in some of the books I’ve been reading lately. Some of the prolific authors tend to use the same names over and over again. I caught myself doing it one day when I gave a new character a name and realized I used the name in another book.

As authors I think we tend to use names and people we are familiar with, instead of expanding our horizons. To keep from falling into the trap, there are many places on the internet that list names. I found a great one at Unlike most name websites, it lists last names too.

On a related note, I was clearing out spam and old emails from accounts I don’t use anymore. The process took the better part of an hour, but as I was deleting, I discovered something interesting. I was erasing a list of names. Not just first names, but first names with last names.

Suddenly I was paying more attention to the sender column than the subject lines. I found some great antagonist names in the sender line of the most aggravating spam emails. Don’t you think that Cialis would be a great first name for a female villain?

But I did find some good name combinations and the work of creating has already been done for me. There were normal names like Betty Collins but there were a lot of unusual names too. Names that readers will remember. Like Tyrone Watson, and Alexander Thompson.

There were many unusable names too, like Unwanted Fat, and Hair Replacement. But I got a kick out of the thought of using Sears Sale. It kinda sounds like She sells seashells by the seashore. Instead we’d use Sears Sale sold socks in his solid stand built by stinky silkworms. It’s not much of a tongue twister, but its cute none-the-less.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Last Team Tag

by G.Parker

Well, since I've been uninspired this week, I decided to cop out and take Keith up on his tag game. Here's my version...

Four Jobs I've Had:
Working at Lagoon
Working in housekeeping at Jackson Lake Lodge
Working as a cook at Jacob Lake Lodge
Secretary at AP&P (adult probation and parole...)

Four Places I've Lived:
Fremont, California
Oregon (my mission)
Kaysville, Utah
Ephraim, Utah
(um...) Jacob Lake, Arizona and Jackson Lake, Wyoming

Four Favorite TV Shows:

Don't watch TV old favorites were
MASH! (Oh yeah, grew up to that music going off right after the news everynight)
Star Trek (both old and Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager!)
E.R. (Before it became a soap opera...LOL)

Four Favorite Foods:

Fettuccine Alfredo
Chocolate anything...

Four Websites I Frequent:
certified marketing services
ebay/ ...LOL

Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now:
on the beach in San Diego
on the beach in the Bahamas
On a cruise ship anywhere
in the mountains at my sister's cabin

Four Movies I Love:
Return to Me
Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves
While You Were Sleeping
The Money Pit
(and an endless score of many)

Four People I Tag Next:
I think I'll drop it here. Everyone seems to be tired of the tag game, and I concur. Let's bring this up again in what...a year? I'll add another category-

Four favorite summertime activites:
Anything on or in water
picnicking with family with watermelon
sitting on the porch at dusk before the mosquitoes come out

Thursday, August 16, 2007

New Addictions

By Nichole Giles

I recently added a new addition to my stash of books. This storyline has lead to an addiction that is apparently sweeping the nation. I’m talking about the Stephanie Meyers vampire series beginning with Twilight.

I have been meaning to read this series for a while, but have had so many things to keep up with that I’ve put it off. When I finally picked it up and got started, I was glad I for the wait, and even more glad for the chance to finally read it. Why? Because I couldn’t put it down. Not even to write.

Let me explain further. I started Twilight while on a camping trip with my family. Even with many interruptions, I finished the book in two days. Granted I’m a fast reader, but only when I’m completely absorbed. Actually, I was so engrossed by this book that when I finished it—while sick with pneumonia and fighting to breathe—I went directly from the doctor’s office on a quest to find books 2 and 3, New Moon and Eclipse, even though I had no energy for shopping. (I know I’m beyond help.)

To my consternation, they were much harder to find than I expected. Since Eclipse had only just been released a great many people were on the hunt for both books. But after three stores—and one extremely lucky find, thanks to the book fairy—I had both books. I hurried home, loaded up on cold medicine and settled in for three solid days of nothing but reading.

My addiction got me thinking. How would I feel if my book was so engrossing that people were willing to obsessively drive around in a fevered stupor in order to find it? And what would it be like if I knew that full grown adults were excited to put on one of the tattoos included in the back of the second book? (These same adults judiciously hiding the special tattoos from their kids.)

Hm. I don’t know how it would feel, but I have decided I really want to find out. So, I have to tell Stephanie thanks for a great example of what a well written, national-hit, LDS style romance/ fantasy can be.

There is no better motivation than having someone else’s work push you to extremes to find it. I can only hope that someday someone in the world will want my work that bad. Only then will I be satisfied.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Throwing Rocks

By Connie S. Hall

When I visit a lake one of the things I enjoy doing is throwing rocks into the water. I’m sure you’ve all noticed that rocks make big waves, but little stones barely touch the surface. I rarely throw small stones because it’s more fun to see how big a splash I can make.

That is how I feel about writing. I try to write a lot about a few things, but only a tiny bit about lot of things. Your readers don’t care about the little stuff; they are looking for the important events. They don’t want to read about the ordinary bits and pieces of everyday life. They want the phenomenonal experiences, the trials that are life altering. Readers want to see the big splash.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Tag Bug

By Darvell Hunt

At my home and at the homes of our extended famliy, a stomache bug has been going around recently, but among LDS writers, it's the tag bug. :-) I was recently double tagged by Marsha Ward on her blog The Ink Ladies and our own Nichole Giles. I now have to (um, I mean get to) tell you four things about myself in several different topics.

Four Jobs I've Had:

Creating Military Simulators for a company in Salt Lake City
Creating Slot Machine Games for a company in Las Vegas.
Creating PC Video Games at a company in Utah County, Utah.
Creating Slot Machine Games for another company in Las Vegas

Four Places I've Lived:

Massachusetts, seven various cities (My LDS mission).
Roosevelt, Utah, where I grew up.
Five different cities in Utah County over the past few years (Provo, Orem, Lehi, Pleasant Grove, and Saratoga Springs).
Logan, Utah, where I went to school.

Four Favorite TV Shows:

Homicide: Life on the Street, which probably has the best writing of any series I’ve watched.

Battlestar Galactica, the new series. The second installment of “Mormon Star Wars,” but certainly not “as Mormon” as the original 70’s version. Also has great writing.

M*A*S*H: Probably the TV show I have watched the most, but not for a number of years now.

Ghost Hunters: A current favorite, starring a Mormon co-host who likes debunking stories of haunted houses.

Four Favorite Foods:

Almost anything spicy hot, bitter, pickled with vinegar, or otherwise very strong in flavor. (Does that count as four?)

Four Websites I Frequent:

Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now:

Writing a book.
Reading a book.
Writing a book in an exotic, far away place, like Hawaii or Italy, or a secluded mountain cabin.
Reading a book in an exotic, far away place, like the beach in Jamaica, or a cruise ship in the Pacific, or even at home on my comfy La-Z-E-Boy microfiber recliner in my basement theater room.

Four Movies I Love:

The Graduate¸ 1967, starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft.
Easy Rider, 1969, starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson.
Joe Versus the Volcano, 1990, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
The Ring, 2004, starring Naomi Watts and David Dorfman.

Four People I Tag Next:

The first four people who respond to this blog and don't say, "Not it!" are hereby tagged!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Can’t Run Fast Enough

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

Apparently I’m not as fast a runner as I thought, since I’ve been tagged again. Even though I love tag, I’m playing more than working lately. It seems if I want to get my non-fiction book finished, I either need to lose weight or lose years so I can run faster (and write more).

Here are all the things you never wanted to know about me and will probably be happy to forget.

Four Jobs I've Had:
Good Humor Ice Cream lady (Yes, I rang a little bell and sold ice cream from a truck.)
Entre-manure …oops, sorry, that word should be “entrepreneur”.
Deputy tax assessor (Hey, no fair throwing rotten eggs at me! Remember, the apostle Matthew was one, too.)
Insurance clerk for Geico

Four Places I've Lived:
Oh goodness … only four?
Tonopah, NV
Novato, CA
Forestville, MD
Powell, WY

Four Favorite TV Shows:
Dancing with the Stars
Rosemary and Thyme
Green Acres
Anything clean and funny

Four Favorite Foods:
Turkey and mashed potatoes
Pork chops and sauerkraut
Chocolate cake
Four-layer dessert

Four Websites I Frequent:
Sanpete Messenger
Bumblebee Photography
Ronda Hinrichsen's Website/Blog
Marsha Ward's Blog

Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now:
In a cabin in the mountains
Hiking in Park City
Snorkeling in Hawaii
Capitol Reef National Park

Four Movies I Love:
White Christmas
It’s a Wonderful Life
Harry Potter (all)

Four Bloggers I Tag Next:
Most of my friends have either been tagged, or are no longer playing, so I'm only tagging two people. G. Parker and Karen Hoover, if you want to play, consider yourself tagged.

I'm afraid that ends the game for me. As enjoyable as it's been, it's time to end the fun and games and get back to writing. Thanks to all who tagged me in the past!

What C.L.’s been reading recently:
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:
"Priming the Pump" in Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann
Newspaper Column
Photography Website

Saturday, August 11, 2007

I’m Just Happy to Be Here

By Keith Fisher

Thanks to Nicole for tagging me. This time I was able to get in the game almost at the beginning. I love to play these games because one, they give me something to write about. Two, I get to find out who’s thinking of me. If my friends mention me, It makes my day. Here are my answers to the questions:

Four Jobs I've Had:

Inside sales Rep Amico-Klemp
Service Station attendant (back when the term service station meant more than gas station)
I could give a lot longer list but you don’t have the time.

Four Places I've Lived:

Gander, Newfoundland
Helena, Montana
Orem, Utah
Evanston, Wyoming

Four Favorite TV Shows:

History Detectives
This Old House
Ghost Whisperer
Most of the sitcoms before 1980 (but that’s not current).

Four Favorite Foods:

Roast Beef and Potatoes.
Hamburger and Eggs.
Almost anything cooked in a Dutch oven.
Toasted Tuna sandwich.

Four Websites I Frequent:
Yahoo groups
All the blog sites I can find about writing

Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now:

Kanarraville, Utah (running a general store and writing books)
Fishing anywhere in Utah
Hunting in Alaska
A large stone mansion, (if JK Rowling can get one, so can I) only mine will be on the edge of a cliff, looking down on a large body of water. IT would be in the United States in a place where I have to commute by helicopter. Can you imagine landing your helicopter in the church parking lot on Sunday? But I digress.

Four Movies I Love:

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World
All the Star Trek movies (especially First Contact, but then I like Generations too. Oh I’ll just go with my first answer).
Lonesome Dove
Mr. Blandings Builds a Dream House (Cary Grant)

Four Bloggers I Tag Next:
This is difficult. I’m not sure who has been tagged already. I’ll take a shot in the dark:

Marsha Ward
Karen Hoover
Julie Coulter Bellon
LDS Publisher (but she’s probably too busy this time of year. She probably wouldn’t reveal any secrets anyway so I’ll tag . . . . . . .
Mary Higgins Clark

I knew this was going to be a good blog this week. Hopefully you have learned something about me that will help you decide to buy my books when they come out. If not, send me an email and I’ll talk you into it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

It's Your Serve

by G.Parker

I don't know how many of you are into sports, but I'm an avid tennis fan. I used to be a big football fan, but that waned with my marriage, as my hubby is more of a baseball fan. I love to watch a good game of baseball now when I wouldn't have thought of such a thing 30 years ago.

But tennis is my first love. I started playing when I was ten or twelve and managed to get on the high school junior varsity team in my freshman year. As a senior, when I moved to Utah , I didn't want to try out for a team that was unknown, so I stopped playing - sort of. Every now and again I pick up the racquet and remember how much I love playing this sport.

Since over the years I have gained some - uh - weight with my children, I'm not quite in the shape I was before I got married. Playing takes a little more effort, I'm not as accurate, I'm winded after just a couple of shots across court and my serve is not the ace maker it used to be. Some of the ladies in the neighborhood get together once a week to learn how to play, and I've joined them this month, determined to play again. Last week we got rained out, since the neighbor's court is made of clay and it's just not a good mix with water.

Yesterday I got to play for the first time in a year.

It's strange, because it occurred to me that this experience has been similar to some people's approach to writing. They did it a lot when they were younger, and then stopped for a season and are now attempting to pick up the threads of their thoughts from the past.

While I'm rusty at my game, and no one would have issues trying to beat me, I do have some skills. They are still there, just waiting for some warming up and reminding of the muscles. It takes practice, it takes time, and it takes effort.

Just like writing.

Everyone has a thought waiting to be printed, expressions waiting to be shown and stories wanting to get out. But, like in tennis, it doesn't go anywhere until you serve the ball.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

All About Me

By Nichole Giles

Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen commented on last week’s blog. She ended her comment with, “by the way, I tagged you on my blog.” So, I guess I’ll be the first of this group for this different tag. One of these days I’ll have to start a whole new website just to keep up with all the games of tag. It does feel good to be first for once, now I know exactly who to tag back!

So, here is a little bit about me:

Four Jobs I've Had:

Sales associate,ZCMI
Makeup artist for Dillards
Regional manager for Healthrider, UT Kiosk division
Retail sales, Limited Brands

Four Places I've Lived:

Henderson, NV
Phoenix, AZ
Orem, UT
Pleasant Grove, UT

Four Favorite TV Shows:

Grey’s Anatomy
The food network

Four Favorite Foods:

Snow Crab
Japanese food
New York Cheesecake

Four Websites I Frequent:

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
Institute of Children’s Literature

Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now:

On a cruise (Had to add that fifth one.)

Four Movies I Love:

The Notebook
While You Were Sleeping
Forest Gump

Four Bloggers I Tag Next:

Keith Fisher
Darvell Hunt
C.L. Beck
Connie Hall

Thanks for playing, everyone. And don’t worry. Just about the time you don’t know what to write, someone will tag you and you’ll automatically have a subject. The wonderful games are so fun, but I seem to be spending a great deal of time on them. So, it is with sadness that I call an end to the game…for now. But keep reading! You never know what next week will bring.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Explore Your Backyard

By Connie S. Hall

My family and friends know I love to travel, and see new things. I’m a big believer that everyone should see their own backyard. I have seen most of our great state, and encourage everybody to see the things put here for our benefit. I can’t believe there are people living here in Utah among all the beauty that have never explored beyond their own town.

I love the eastern part of our state with its red rock country along the Colorado River, and through the colorful Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Park. Yes, I’ve visited many of our National Historic sites; all five parks, six forests, and all the other sites and monuments except Flaming Gorge. I’ve also been to each Utah State Park except Antelope Island. I haven’t traveled every trail, but I’ve enjoyed the hikes I’ve taken.

The stone arches throughout our state amaze me and I’ve spent time wondering how anything this magnificent could exist. The desert areas hold a different type of splendor. Roaming dinosaur graveyards make me reflect on how these creatures could have traveled the same roads I explore. The extreme diversity of the landscape in Utah is something you don’t see anywhere else.

Living in Utah places us in the center of the American west where explores, trailblazers, Native Americans, mountain men, trappers, and miners once lived. Their many stories will always give you something to write about.

If you can’t find enough ideas to write about there are many museums near you that you can visit. There are also many fun activities in our wonderful state that you could see that would get your mind spinning. If you need help knowing where to go, look at the Discover Utah Guide on the internet. Utah offers your family many fun experiences.

Monday, August 06, 2007

It Was Just a Jar of Honey

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

You may remember that last week (July 30) I wrote about an incident with a TSA guard at the airport in … well, I didn’t tell you where because I didn’t want my friends to stone me when I mentioned it was Hawaii.

Regardless of the knots I’ll receive on my head for mentioning that, I need to bring up the airport incident again. Why? Because there’s a good analogy hidden in it—one that’s just waiting to peek out and see the light of day.

Before we went to the airport, I did everything I could think of to prepare for going through security. I read through the list of acceptable container sizes and contents. Then I re-read it. And re-read it. I got rid of some gels and creams. Others went into Ziploc baggies so the security guards could easily see that they were bonafide beauty aides and that they met the standard.

Still, I overlooked something. It was just a small jar of honey, but it wasn’t acceptable to the guards.

Writing is exactly like that. We read and re-read suggestions to improve our craft. We throw out the writing “gels and creams” that don’t meet our needs, and keep the ones that will beautify our work. We worry and stress that what we’ve done is correct and will meet publishing standards.

And then we discover we’ve overlooked something. Perhaps our work has too many adverbs, or a number of passive verbs. Maybe there’s not enough tension and suspense in what we’ve written, or our plot is weak.

Just like being searched at the airport, it’s discouraging and nerve-wracking to have it pointed out that we didn’t get it right and our work has a flaw. But we do grow stronger because of it. We learn from our mistakes, and our writing improves each time we fix a problem.

Despite the inconvenience of being searched at the airport, I will gladly put up with it to insure that the guy in the seat next to me isn’t carrying a block of C-4 to blow up the plane. Being blown up would not make my day.

The same is true with writing. I will gladly put up with having my mistakes pointed out to me by friends because my writing will improve because of it.

The next time you’re tempted to over-look having your work critiqued because it hurts, remember my little jar of honey at the airport. And remind yourself it’s better for your manuscript to be searched at the gate, than to be blown up in mid-air by the publisher.

What C.L.’s been reading recently:
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

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Gentle Rain

By Keith Fisher

We had a cloudburst here the other day. It wasn’t a press stopping, earthshaking experience, but it was welcome none-the-less. We’ve been mostly missed by the current monsoon in the area of Utah where I live, so I was happy to watch the rain as it fell in sheets.

I was reminded of a television movie about WC Fields. Apparently, he was an insomniac but he could sleep if it was raining. I’m not as sleep deprived as he was, but I’m also soothed by the sound of rain. I love to listen as the drops hit the ground. I love the sound of the water collecting into runoff, forming tiny rivulets on their way into the gutters then it races to the storm drains.

The cloudburst lasted but a few minutes and was finished almost before it began but it left a mark. The streets were wet, the grass was watered, and the humidity climbed. The swamp-cooler became ineffective. It was uncomfortable.

You may wonder where I’m going with my rain inspired writing but I just wanted to tell you about the storm.

Just kidding. There is a point here that pertains to writing.

Sometimes we write the storm but forget to write the effects. I once heard someone say, we have a character throw a ball, but we never see it get caught. It stays in our story hanging in the air forever. It never has the opportunity to hit the ground or be caught by someone.

On the other hand, we pull a handy water bottle from a backpack but never tell the reader where the backpack came from. These things are left hanging in the reader’s mind like the nagging question "Did I turn off the gas before I left on vacation?"

We can’t have a rainstorm without it making the streets wet and the humidity rise. Likewise, a character can’t let go of the string without watching the balloon as it wafts toward the heavens and gets caught by the breeze and carried away, disappearing into the sky.

Keep telling your stories but if you need to relax, I’ve got a Gentle Rains CD. It’s a wonderful storm and it helps when the rains don’t come.

Friday, August 03, 2007

What Do You Do In The Summertime?

By G.Parker

Remember that primary song? I used to love to sing that with all the variations we could come up with. Now that I’m grown up with children of my own, it has a whole new meaning.

I think it could use a new title for adults, like, "What do your kids make you do in the summer time?" Or "What do you squeeze in during the summer time?" Or, even better, "How do you write in the summer time?"

My most productive time is when school is in and I don’t need to worry about what my kids are doing or not doing, eating or not eating, etc. Although, now that I have children out of school, it’s strange when they are home - I feel as if I have a babysitter.

The summer time has too many distractions, not just the kids being home and bored. There is swimming and picnics and volleyball and tennis and all the other stuff you can’t do in the winter - which is why writing is my favorite activity. Although, reading is right up there...nothing like reading in front of a fire with a cup of hot cocoa. Did I say I was excited for winter?

What is your most productive time of the year? I read a poll at a site I belong to and it asked the same question. The most responses were for fall, second was winter, and then it dispersed after that. I picked winter for the obvious reasons, but, the reality is that every season should be our writing time.

We should find moments in every day, all year round where writing is our favorite thing to do, if we want to make a living at it. Or are you still in the hobby stage?

Take a look at your year and see where you write the most. You might be surprised.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

She Succeeded

By Nichole Giles

Upon finishing the last book of a certain series of 7, I expected to feel a great sense of loss. I’ve spent several years with these characters, and have grown to know and love them like trusted friends. In this way, she-who-must-not-be-named has succeeded in grabbing us by the hearts.

The villains and bad guys were also well developed, and we were given just enough background to feel a little bit sorry for them. Thus, some of them were redeemed of their wrong doings, and in the end, we loved, rather than hated them.

The plots of all 7 books were so intricately woven together that they were obviously planned many years in advance. Without spoiling the ending for anyone who hasn’t yet finished, I’ll just say that there is no string left untied, no small plot point left unused. The sub-plots were well developed, and rich with depth and emotion. Yet another way the author has succeeded. (Here, I have to mention that about three books ago, my son and I noticed a certain pattern and made some predictions. It was a proud moment for both of us when they came true.)

Now, where suspense is concerned, this book is the best of the group. Not only is it packed with desperate moments, hair-raising worry, and life threatening scenes, it tops all that out in the end with one person who willingly makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to save the rest. If the last four chapters didn’t bring tears to your eyes, you are either lying—and you didn’t really read it—or…well, you couldn’t have read it. She-who-must-not-be-named has succeeded in wrenching our emotions. Again.

After rumors and speculation circulated the globe about the outcome, after phone-in counseling centers staffed extra people to minimize the feelings of loss, and after the majority of the world spent hours and hours biting their nails—vowing to forever hate the author if she did the wrong thing—the ending was absolutely brilliant. There was no other way for this story to have ended. The world’s readers were left with a feeling of satisfaction and triumph. So, in the most ultimate of ways, this author, one of the most revered and brilliant of our time, has succeeded.

Though I don’t know her, I am proud to say I’ve read her work. I have spent countless hours reading and re-reading the first six, and now I imagine I’ll go back and re-read the whole series again. In this way, the story lives on. (Let’s not even discuss the movies.) And it will continue to live on for many generations. That, my writer friends, is the ultimate in success.

So what does that leave for the rest of us? A world of hungry readers, just waiting for the next big, wonderful series. Now’s your chance. Aim for the sky!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Kicking A Habit

By Connie S. Hall

What's wrong with wanting to be perfect? Isn't becoming "perfect" the reason we were put on this earth?

As a child, I wanted to please my parents and teachers. In doing this, I tried to be perfect. Why should I settle for "good" when I can be the "best"? Later when I was a parent, I pushed my children to achieve excellence. Wasn’t that what I was supposed to do?
Now I’m finding that perfectionism can turn out to be a roadblock to a writer. Instead of being a positive character trait, it has filled me with guilt, and caused me to question whether my story is good enough for publication. Sometimes I blame my not writing on the lack of time. Other times I think, “Maybe I’m not meant to be a writer.” Then I stumble across a story I wrote and remember the fulfillment I felt when I wrote it.

Next, I get brave and send my story out in the world again. When the rejection comes, it’s a confirmation that I just wasn't good enough. Weeks and months pass before I try again.Yes, perfectionism does block me and prevent me from submitting my work. It’s hard to say, “I will not let this ruin my life.” Being perfect is not a writer’s friend, and the sooner you get a handle on it the better it will be for your writing.

I have numerous half-finished stories and articles. Will I ever finish them? I hope so, but maybe not. I know I need to strive for my best, submit it, move on to the next project and don’t look back. The not looking back is hard for me. I even dream about things that I can’t do anything about. I’ve heard that with time it will become easier and easier and my writing will get better and better. I certainly hope so because I’m not willing to allow this one habit, perfectionism to stop me from writing. If I didn’t enjoy writing, I would have quit a long time ago. I like capturing an idea, memory, or scene. I’m not going to let doubt suck me in. Trying to write is satisfying and I’m going to keep saying, “My story doesn’t have to be perfect.”