Thursday, July 31, 2008

Success of the "Tape-Guy"

By Nichole Giles

The other night I had the privilege of attending a concert given by one of my all-time favorite recording artists, John Mayer. This guy is a favorite of mine for several reasons. For one thing, music is his art, and his voice rings through with strength and purity. Another thing is that he’s amazing to see live, and downright inspiring.

It really says something about an artist when the economy is on a downward spiral and people are struggling to fill their gas tanks, yet his fans filled the amphitheater to overflowing.

Anyway, back to my point. John was on stage, playing his soul music for us—ripping on the guitar and stretching his voice in impossible ways—and when he stopped, the crowd roared their approval, as they did after every song. So John walks up to the mike, guitar in hand and says, “You know, I love playing for crowds like this one. You all make it so fun to be up here performing.”

He stopped, taking a sip of his water, then turned back to the mike. “It’s this heady kind of power trip to know I can do or say just about anything. No matter what I do, you’ll cheer. Am I right?”

The crowd cheers again.

John leans into the mike. “Case in point. Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m running out of clean socks.”

Well, of course, the crowd cheers again. Wouldn’t you? I mean, come on, the guy’s been on the road for probably a month. But then he came back with a profound point that made me say to my husband, “I need to write that down.”

He said, “That’s the power my audience has given me. You have given me the power to play what I want, and write from my heart. I promise never to abuse that power. All I want to do is play my guitar.”

That sounded familiar to me. The trust of an audience is key to an artist’s success, and the same goes for writing. And once we develop that audience, we have to be careful about abusing the powers they have allowed us.

You see, ten years ago, John Mayer was the guy who put the actual black-movie tape in VHS tapes. He had no money, and struggled every day to hone his craft and write his music hoping that sometime in his future a recording studio would sign him. Then one day, it happened. Now, he has something like five (or six?) albums, a well-known name, his face gets plastered across gossip magazines every time he dates someone new, and his concerts sell out.

It is amazing what persistence can do.

In the words of the man himself:

Guess I’m grounded
Got my wings clipped
I’m surrounded by
All this pavement

Guess I’ll circle
While I’m waiting
For my fears to dry
Wait for my fears to dry

Someday I’ll fly
Someday I’ll soar
Someday I’ll be so[ ] much more
Because I’m bigger than my body gives me credit for.

~John Mayer

The moral of the story is, keep writing, keep submitting, and keep trying. One of these days, if you want it bad enough, it will happen.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What Will You Put in Your Wagon?

By C. LaRene Hall

Several years ago, my son’s family and I toured the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon. It was a fun experience. My grandchildren and I enjoyed an activity where we loaded our wagon with supplies. Different sizes of blocks represented the supplies and were labeled flour, sugar, gunpowder, and etc. You were supposed to load it with the supplies you thought you needed for the long journey west. The hard part was having enough room for everything you wanted to take. Maybe you think it sounds easy, but it wasn’t.

This experience makes me think of what I’ll put in my wagon. No, I’m not taking a long trek west, but many times my life is full of too many things, and I need to decide what I will spend my time doing, and what I will write about next.

What is important to one person might not be important to someone else. Everyone makes different decisions, and what you decide to put in your wagon can make a difference in how your life will turn out.

The things one person wants to write about may not interest everyone, but someone cares about the same things you do. They’ll want to read what you write. Don’t give up. Keep writing.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Where do you get your ideas?

By Darvell Hunt

Last week in Las Vegas, I was propositioned by a prostitute in the parking lot of my hotel. This was the first time I have been offered the services of the oldest profession. It was a new experience for me and I’ve always been interested in new experiences.

One of the most common questions I hear writers being asked is: Where do you get your ideas?

I’ve heard lots of answers to this question over the years, but if I’m ever asked it, I have a simple one-word answer:


The job of a fiction writer is to write truths about life in the form of lies. We, as fiction writers, try to write stories that aren’t true, but sound true. But how can we do that? By writing about true things we observe from life.

My best stories have been inspired by true-life events, but enhanced by what could have, would have, or should have happened, in order to make the story more interesting or more powerful. In other words, we tell a tall tale, conjure up a fish story, or just simply exaggerate the facts, and pass it off as truth. Well, as fiction, anyway.

I don’t know if I’ll ever write a story about a character who gets propositioned by a prostitute in a hotel parking lot in Las Vegas, but at least I know the details of how it could happen. Since I promptly said, “No, thanks, I’m good!” I don’t know how the story would have gone from there, but as a fiction writer, I have lots of possibilities. This experience could be the first page of a mystery, a thriller, a comedy, and, yes, even a romance, depending on what other “true-life components” I decide to mix into the story (but most likely it will not become an LDS romance story, but, you know, given the right details, it could be).

If you tell the truth when you write, you have non-fiction. If you tell the truth, but lie about the details, you have fiction.

I hope you have weird experiences in your life, so your writing will be more interesting and more compelling. And, better yet, I hope you will have the insight to recognize those treasured moments for what they are: ideas for writing.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I feel honored to be tagged for this one. It seems to lean a bit toward the femine so I didn't think I would be tagged. I was tagged by my good friend, Nichole for the camp cooking blog and by my other good friend, Kim for the ldswritersblogck. This is going to be fun.

1. My Kitchen sink.

You should know I'm outdoors a lot. this is where I wash my dishes while camping or cooking Dutch oven.

2. inside my fridge

We were cooking for a large group

3. My favorite shoes
I have three. one for church, one for everyday, and one to mow the lawn. I have boots also, but you asked for my favorites.

4. my closet
You didn't expect to see my clothes did you. this is my favorite closet . . . in the carport.

5. My laundry pile
The hamper in the bedroom, and no, they're not all my clothes

6. What my kids are doing are two, The other one must have been out chasing a mouse or something

7. My favorite room . . . I have three.

My three favorites are; my camp trailer, front porch and home office. All of which are my favorite writing place.

8. My most recent purchase

An extention cord to plug my computer into a cigarette lighter. So I can write in my trailer. unfortunately I can't get enough power.

9. Fantasy Vacation:

This is Josi Killpack I love her office, but I can write anywhere and I prefer a mountain cabin with all the ameneties.

I also like the Hot Tub Idea on Kim's blog:
Then there is the sublime:

10 Self portrait
Just kidding
Isn't it scary? I keep wondering who the old guy is. Hope you had fun looking into my private life. Keep in mind it isn't really like this. I can't remember who has been tagged for this so If you wnat to do it feel free. For now, I'm going to Tag C.L. beck, Darvell Hunt, and C. Loreen Hall.

Good luck guys. It really is fun. but if you decide not to do it. Thats okay, I understand completely.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Are You Too Close?

by G.Parker

You know the expression "Can't see the forest for the trees?" I had an experience with that recently.

Remember that story I said I was very fond of a while back? How I felt the characters were almost real and true friends? Well, I finally introduced it to my crit group. I figured since the other stuff we'd been working on needed extensive revision, I would have them look over something else.

On a side note; I came to the conclusion that all the things I had written and thought were about ready to submit -- weren't as ready as I thought. The more I work with my writing group, the more I realize how much I need to improve and how much my stories need editing.

Anyway, so, I give my crit group the first couple of chapters of my book (the chapters are short) and wait with bated breath to see if they like it. While the initial response was positive -- they all like the main premise and the characters -- they had lots of questions. Who is in the first chapter? Who is speaking to whom? They thought one of my characters was a man until a later paragraph indicated it was a woman. Sigh.

Part of the trouble is this story was started somewhere else entirely. The version they saw was after I'd done all the character work, written out a plot outline for a whole different book, but they don't know any of it.

They are plopped down in Hawaii without knowing why they are there (outside of a vacation) how many are married, and what their names are. Oh boy. It's a case of too little trees in the forest. I'm too close to the characters -- I know who and what they are, but the reader doesn't.

Have you experienced that? Are you too close to your characters and not letting your reader get to know them? If they aren't familiar or likable, the book isn't going to be finished. The reader needs to know things like why a character is called by a nickname rather than her full name. They need to know why these characters are best friends and have been for 25 years. Who is going to tell them if you don't?

That is one of the main reasons to have other people read your work. Sometimes you can be too close to it to know what's best or how to improve it.

At least now I know what needs to be done -- It's all a matter of it making sense. Although, I might have to go back to Hawaii ...which wouldn't be all that bad. Only this time I'd take my hubby.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


By Nichole Giles

Well, it finally happened. Deseret Book rejected my manuscript. They’ve rejected every other author I know who has submitted to them in the last six months, so I’m not alone in this. Truth be told, in most cases, I’d turn around and submit nationally. But this particular story is an LDS story, and thus limited to the LDS market and its publishers.

If you’ve been following my blogs for more than a year, you’ll remember me mentioning my grandfather who, in 1958, was kidnapped, driven across two states at knifepoint, bound and gagged in the middle of a desert and left to die. His faith, and ability to listen to the promptings of the Spirit not only saved his life, but altered the course of another man’s future.

That is the book I wrote, and it's the one the publishers rejected. Here’s the thing. I can understand budget cuts, full publishing calendars, and rejecting something because it likely won’t sell well. Publishing is a business, after all. But what are we, the rejects, to do when we have a well-written, compelling story—one we’ve spent countless hours writing, researching, and fact checking—only to find out that our story is not good enough? Or won’t fit into the budget for three more years? What do we do when the small publishers don’t have a place for us?

It was discouraging to get my own rejection, but watching all my friends getting rejected makes it even worse. Their books are good, well-written books that I would buy in a heartbeat. All of us have been rejected.

However, there is a silver lining in every situation, and I firmly believe that things happen for a reason. I know of a group of authors who found themselves in similar circumstances and used their own experiences to not only help teach others, but to pull together a group of friends and peers. The efforts of the group benefit not only themselves, but others like them, and have stretched so far, and so wide that they will probably never know how many people they have helped, or how many lives they’ve touched. Including mine.

So as we’re all feeling sorry for ourselves because we’re rejects—while we all wonder what comes next—I find myself looking forward and wondering what bigger and better things are in store for me. I know there’s a reason this story insisted on being written, and even though I can’t see it now, something amazing is heading my way.

In the meantime—I’m already back on the horse. I spent the week revamping the cover letter and doing mass submissions. If you happen to be a publisher looking for the next big seller, give me a call. Or hey, I suppose if you’re a movie producer, I’d be willing to convert my book to a screen-play. I’d even help you cast the roles…

Ah, come on. A girl can dream, can’t she?

Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.
~Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pioneer Day

By C. LaRene Hall

The month of July holds many fond memories for me. As a young girl during the 4th of July parade, I watched my father flip pancakes as he rode on the back of a pickup truck down center street in Provo. During my teenage years, I followed the same parade route doing somersaults on the hot asphalt.

My family has always attended parades on July 4th, July 24th, and sometimes in between. One year I even went to the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day. I sometimes wonder if I were born loving a parade with all the bands, and gorgeous floats.

Another thing embedded in me during the month of July was my heritage. My Mayflower pilgrim ancestors and my Hugenot relatives sacrificed much to come to this land. Two-hundred years later, others sacrificed again so they could worship as they wanted and drove wagons for hundreds of miles to the valley I call home.

To me, July signifies sacrifice for liberty, and the freedom to worship God. Many of my grandparents gave their lives so I could be here in this free land. Because of them, I can worship as I choose, and write the things that are important to me.

As we celebrate Pioneer Day this year, I hope you will join me and bow your head and give thanks for those who made this day possible. Have a great holiday tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Keep it Simple, But Make it Powerful

By Darvell Hunt

The best stories I have read are those that have a simple premise, but do something that has never been done before. This might sound easy, but in practice, it’s usually not.

Think of Velcro: a very simple idea based on a cocklebur sticking to your socks. This invention took the world by storm and revolutionized footwear for the very young and the very old, among other things.

Think of the snap: also a very simple idea, but based on a clothes button that you press to fasten, instead of threading something big through something small, yet it revolutionized the way men hold up their pants and women hold up their socks.

Try to think of our world without these items. It’s hard, isn’t it? A world without Velcro? That would be like a world without Harry Potter!

I’m currently reading Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Wow, what a neat idea, exploring how Peter Pan became a lost boy in Never Never Land. I’m only about halfway through it, but I’m entranced. Every time a new element is introduced that I know from the world of Peter Pan, I think, “Ah! So that’s how that came to be!”

Sure, I know, this book is an “after work,” or a derivative work based on the original Peter Pan story and not written by the original author, but it seems to mesh so well with what I already know, that my mind seems to gloss over that fact. It works, because the explanations are simple. I'm left thinking, "Well, of course that's the way it happened! How else could it have?"

Some of my stories take a whole page to describe. As a writer, it’s hard to make things simple, because we tend to make our stories complicated so we can show our friends how smart we are. The more I learn about writing, though, the more I find that it's quite a complicated process to make things simple.

And when I say simple, I do not mean shallow, but rather, easy to explain. If you can pitch your idea in 20 seconds and wow the person to whom you are pitching, so that they immediately want to read your story, then you have done what I am suggesting.

Well, got to go. Time to practice what I preach. I’m thinking about writing a story about a little man with hairy feet who lives in a hole in the ground with a round door who meets a powerful master who trains him to lift things with the power of his mind, but is bitten by a spider so that he has superhuman strength, who’s rich parents were killed when he was young, so he decides to be a vigilante good guy, but then we really find out he’s from another planet, and when he came to earth, he became stronger and more powerful than other people, and he can fly, too, but if people make him really, really mad, he turns green and ugly and forgets how to talk.

Let's see now... maybe I could simplify that plot a little. Yeah, maybe. I probably don't need to say he turns green when he's mad. I think that’s been done before anyway.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Beats Me Up

By Keith Fisher

I'm sorry for the late hour, but I just got back from fishing.

Recently, at critique group . . . well, let me go back. When I first began to write seriously, I wrote stories with more exposition. I read a few books that told me to use more dialogue. Then I learned not to use so many attributions. Also, having a lot of blank, white space on a page was a good thing because the reader can read it quickly.

After attending a conference I knew I should avoid talking heads so I used meaningful dialogue. Stuff that had meat in it, none of the:

"Nice weather today."
"Yes it is."
"What are you going to do today?"
"Don’t know—what about you?"

To be fair, I didn’t use that kind of dialogue anyway.

Then someone pointed out I need more beats, and I started to add them, and add them, and add them. Then at critique the other day, you guessed it, too many beats. I was devastated. I came home and pulled the books out. I studied everything I could, trying to figure out where I went wrong. I knew my dialogue was lacking because I’d been reading it. I added the beats to show what my characters were doing. Then I realized there is a fine line.

According to Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King:

Beats are little bits of action interspersed through a scene, such as a character walking to a window or removing his glasses and rubbing his eyes—the literary equivalent of what is known in the theater as stage business. Usually they involve physical gestures, although short passages of interior monologue can also be considered a sort of internal beat. Pg. 102

The line between perfect dialogue and drivel is fine, but it can be felt. When you read what you wrote and it sounds like mechanical clickity-click-clack, it needs more beats. If it sounds like you are saying, said too much, lose some of the attributions. The fine blend of beats and attributions can be heard when reading aloud. Like a musician can hear when a string is out of tune, writers and readers can hear when dialogue is out of tune.

I am learning to stay away from attributions. I’ve removed them almost entirely. I use beats instead, but I use them only when the reader can’t tell who is speaking or when the conversation becomes too mechanical. I’m learning to use beats like playing my guitar. I can feel when a string gets slightly out of tune, and I’m becoming a better writer.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Learn Before You Submit

by G.Parker

My daughter was watching the LDS version of Pride and Prejudice the other day -- the one with the "Pink Bible".

There is a scene where Elizabeth is confronted by the knowledge the man she despises is talking about her manuscript and is critical of it. He tells her that while they want to buy her story because it's really good, it's "deeply flawed" and will need extensive revisions by an experienced writer.

She immediately goes on the defensive and informs him that it's been through 10 revisions and suspects that his rejection of it has something to do with her turning him down for a date. He tells her their personal life has nothing to do with his professional evaluation of her work, and goes on to point out different spots that need work.

Watching this, the thought popped in my head that if she'd only been a member of a writing group, she could have avoided that whole scene! The group would have caught all the glaring errors and other problems before an editor would ever have seen it.

I know it's made a difference in my writing. My group has been so helpful that I'm having to take stock of my work they were evaluating, and have them look at something else while I do a major edit on the manuscript I thought was ready to be submitted.

It amazes me to realize how I view things now. I'll read through something and it's like I can hear the group in my head -- commenting on this or that aspect of my writing. It's almost like having a built in editor.

If you haven't already done so, I highly recommend joining a critique group to anyone who hasn't already become part of one and wants to be a serious writer. Find a group close to you. Take your work. You'll never regret it.

Then you'll never be faced with someone wanting to buy the story line -- but not the story.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Room for Two" Book Review and an Afternoon With Abel Keogh

By Nichole Giles

“Sweetie, I’m home.” I tried to put as much kindness into my voice as possible. I didn’t want to have another argument—at least not right away.



A gunshot echoed from our bedroom, followed by the sound of a bullet casing skipping along a wall.

Everything slowed down.

When a life is destroyed, when guilt says you played a role in its destruction, how do you face the days ahead?

Twenty-six-year-old Abel Keogh chooses to ignore the promptings he receives concerning his wife’s mental illness, and now he feels he is to blame for her choices. If only he had listened…

I have to admit, my faith in the LDS publishing industry is shaky. I’ve seen so many really well written books being rejected, and lots of merely so-so books being published, that it’s hard to feel truly excited about picking one up and taking it home. And to be honest, more often than not, I’m more inclined to turn to the national market for my pleasure reading. Sad but true.

I picked up a copy of “Room for Two” at a writer’s conference where Author Abel Keogh spoke. I had the opportunity to read the first paragraph, and was so hooked, that I had to read the rest. Just so you know, it was the only book I bought that day, and I waited in line for half an hour just to pay for it. Then I went right home and read it cover to cover. People, I was seriously impressed.

First of all, that Abel had the courage to share this experience with the world was amazing to me. Second, his book teaches a lesson but is in no way, shape, or form preachy. He owns responsibility for certain parts of a circumstance he didn’t choose, and ultimately, learns how to move forward after this devastating, life-altering thing. I can’t help but admire the guy.

We all have turning points in our lives. We don’t usually know they’re turning points until after the fact, but we all have them. We can’t always control what happens to us, or other people’s actions or choices. What we can control is how we react to our circumstances.

“Room for Two” is the story of a year out of Abel’s life. While this book is sad—I mean make sure you have a box of tissues, you’ll need the whole thing—it is incredibly well written, and shows emotional growth in Abel throughout the story. I read it in a few hours, hardly able to put it down—even to go to the bathroom.

Abel and I are on location in international waters. The sound of tropical music mixes with the smell of salt and brine, the sun shines brightly, and a light breeze teases our hair as we cruise along on one of the world's largest cruise ships.
NG: Hi Abel. Thanks for taking the time out of your vacation to visit with me for a while. I see that you've brought your beautiful wife, Julianna, with you on this trip. Did you bring your children as well, or is this a sort of second honeymoon?

AK: Second honeymoon. We love our kids but because they’re still so young we don’t get much time alone. This is a much needed break.

NG: I understand that both you and Julianna are runners. They have a track on one of the upper decks. Do you always run, even when you're on vacation?

AK: We try our best to run when we’re on the road for business or pleasure. Usually that means finding a hotel with a good exercise room or finding local places to run. We both find that it makes vacations and business trips enjoyable if we can get at least 30 minutes of running or other exercise in every day while traveling.

NG: In your book—well, in your life I guess—you used running as a healthy way to overcome strong emotions such as confusion, anger, and heartache. I got the impression it is also a source of joy for you, as well as your wife. For those of us who aren't marathon runners, what kind of alternative activities would you suggest?

AK: Do something you enjoy. If you don’t like the exercise, you’re not going to stay with it. If running isn’t for you, try bike riding, swimming, weight lifting, basketball, or something else that you’d enjoying doing daily or at least several times a week.

NG: Is it harder to run on the deck of a ship as opposed to the solid ground at high elevations, or is it easier because the air is thicker at sea level?

AK: Lower elevations are better to run because there’s more oxygen in the air! Since most of my runs are approximately 5,000 feet above sea level, I always enjoy running at sea level.

NG: You seem like such a positive person. Even when your world was falling apart, you reached out to help other people in similar situations. That took a lot of guts. How do you feel about support groups?

AK: I’ve personally never attended a support group though I might have tried one if there had been one specifically for young widowers. That being said, I have mixed feelings about them. Knowing that you aren’t alone and that other people are going through a similar experience can be a tremendous help. However, I know several people for whom in-person and online support groups have become a crutch instead of a temporary method of support. They can’t give up the support group. As a result, they’re unable to let go of the dead and move on with their lives. I don’t think that’s healthy.

NG: Not that your story is forgettable in any way, but personally, I don't have the most stellar memory. When you were writing your book, did you find it hard to remember all the little details of what had happened? Or did you have journal entries to back up your memories?

AK: I wrote the first draft of Room for Two from memory. However, I kept a detailed journal during that time and referred to it on revisions to make sure what I wrote was accurate. I was glad I kept the journal because there were some details I’d forgotten.

NG: Do you consider blogging better than private journaling?

AK: I don’t think blogging is better than keeping a journal and vice versa. It’s a different medium and has different uses and audiences. I keep a private journal as well as a public blog. Sometimes the content of my private journal spill over into by blog. On the rare occasion that happens, I usually edit it before posting it.

My journal is more for my family after I’m dead. It’s very personal. There are many things I write about in the journal that I’d never share with the public. Despite having my own website and writing a memoir about a year of my life, I still believe in keeping some things private. A lot of bloggers would be smart to do the same.

NG: Obviously, a situation like yours was difficult to get past. Did you find yourself reliving it as you wrote? If so, how did you handle all those emotions a second time?

AK: I relived everything when I wrote the first draft. Experiencing all those emotions again turned out to be somewhat helpful as it aided in the writing process.

It’s been long enough now that I can read most of the book without becoming emotional. The exception to that is chapter three. I still tear up when I read it. It’s the only chapter I refuse to read in public.

NG: I understand that you're working on a new book, this one fiction. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

AK: I finished the first draft last week. The working title is “Angel of Light.” I’m not going to detail the plot too much right now until the second draft is done. I’m hoping to have publishable manuscript by summer’s end.

The one thing I’ve learned is that fiction is much more difficult for me to write. Writing this book has been quite a challenge. However, I think my writing will be better because of it.

NG: After you finish your blog tour, do you have any upcoming promotions or book signings in the near future?

AK: I don’t have anything scheduled at this time though I’m currently working on a few appearances. However, I’m always open to speaking at churches, book clubs, of other organizations. Anyone who wants to schedule something or contact me about a possible book signing or speaking engagement can do so through my website

NG: Abel, thanks so much for sitting down to chat with me when you could be doing the Macarena by the pool or participating in the "Man With the Best Calves" contest. It looks like Julianna is waving you over to the ice cream stand. What's your favorite flavor?

AK: Vanilla bean.

NG: Ooh, that sounds delicious. Maybe I'll get one of those myself. Right after I stretch out on one of these lounge chairs and have a nap. Enjoy the rest of your cruise. Oh, and when you're out surfing, don't forget to look for the perfect wave and aim for shore. It's a momentum thing.

Room for Two
Trade Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Cedar Fort (August 2007)
ISBN-10: 1599550628
ISBN-13: 978-1599550626
Purchase the book Here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Who Has Stolen All the Time?

By C. LaRene Hall

The last few weeks I’ve been feeling a lot like this 14th Article of Faith that I happened to run across while filing some things away.

We believe in meetings-all that have been scheduled, all that are now scheduled, and we believe that there will yet be many great and important meetings scheduled. We have endured many meetings, and we hope to be able to endure all meetings. Indeed, we may say that if there is a meeting, or anything that resembles a meeting, or anything that we might possibly turn into a meeting, we seek after these things.

Sorry I don’t know who the original author was or I’d certainly give that person credit. I laughed as hard when I read it again, as I did the first time I saw it. Then I stopped as I realized how true it really is.

Every summer my schedule is worse than the year before. No, it’s not always a meeting taking my time, but there’s always something to do. There’s never seems to be an evening that I can just kick back and relax.

Where have all the fun evenings gone? As a child I remember having time to play hide n' seek, or a fun game of tag almost every night before our parents herded us to bed. Summer was my favorite time of year. Now all I get is a hectic feeling as I think of the upcoming things that will fill the rest of my week.

What’s happened to the time I used to spend writing? I swear someone has sneaked inside my house and added many unnecessary things on my calendar. If it’s not that, maybe the sun has zapped all the writing thoughts from inside my head because I’m certainly not getting any writing done this summer.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Diet Coke Baths

By Darvell Hunt

“And again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.” --Doctrine & Covenants 89:7

To conform to the Word of Wisdom, I recently began taking Diet Coke baths. I had a soda fountain tap installed on my bathtub and it works great. I use diet because the sugar tends to dry out my skin. I was also worried that the sugar would soak into my love handles by osmosis.

The soda fountain tap is the best solution I've found so far for washing my body in a strong drink. Do you know how many two-liter bottles it takes to fill a tub? That's just not practical.

Try it, you'll like it. The carbonation tickles more than just your nose! And try a lime scented candle for added effect (better than just using lime-flavored diet coke).

I was also worried that, although Diet Coke is probably a strong enough drink for conservative Mormons to comply with the above scripture, us liberal Mormon who actually drink a case of it per day might have to get something stronger in which to wiggle our toes.

Okay, I admit it, the above is not true. What I tried to do was introduce to you an old topic in a new way—a way that perhaps you’ve never thought about before.

While attending the recent BYU conference on writing, I kept hearing the same thing, which was basically this: It’s not good enough to have excellent writing and a great story—your book has to be fresh and different and show a new way of looking at something.

Well, I don’t know if a Diet Coke bath is fresh enough to get me noticed, but it’s probably a good start.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Floater

By Cindy Beck
© 2008

When the LDS Writers Blogck first started, I was a “floater.” No, not the kind you find in a septic tank … the kind who didn’t post her entry on any particular day, and just posted when she had something to say.

Because of the state of world affairs, politics, and the price of gas, I find my time crunched in all directions. Well, okay, I’ll be truthful. World affairs, politics and the price of gas have nothing to do with it … I’m just busy. All right, maybe not even busy, but slower. Every day, and in every way, I’m getting slower and slower.

Hence, it’s time for me to go back to floating again. I’ll still give my thoughts, as mundane as they may be, but they won’t be out here as often.

In the meantime, should you feel a need for my oddball humor, you can find it twice a week at my blog, Write Up My Alley, at

Or if you’re looking for more serious musings (which come farther and fewer between) you can find them at Meandering Thoughts, at You’ll even find them here occasionally, because I couldn’t bear to leave you and my blogger friends—Darvell, Connie, Nichole, Gaynell, Keith, and Karen—for good.

View Cindy's other work:
Cup of Comfort for Horse Lovers, "Horse on Lap"
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle, by Shirley Bahlmann, "Priming the Pump"
ByTheBecks' Website
Blog--Write Up My Alley (humorous)
Blog--Meandering Thoughts (serious)
Newspaper column
Ensign magazine article

2008 Utah Press Association--"Best Feature Column," 2007 League of Utah Writers' Contest

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Night Stalkers

By Keith Fisher

She only had a minute and she’d used thirty seconds already. She pushed the button to start the timer knowing she wouldn’t have enough time to get clear of the blast . . .

I’ve been heavily involved in edits lately. I haven’t been able to think of anything else for two weeks. The edits have begun to invade my dreams. When I dream at night, I outline. My characters always solicit my attention, but they get it when I’m sleeping. The other day, however . . .

I was dreaming normal stuff. Something to do with my last job and being under pressure. The ever present plot to eliminate my boss. Then without warning, people I know from my real life turned into mythical beings. They were themselves, but my friends had turned into centaurs and elves, people like that.

Now, I wouldn’t mind, but as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t write fantasy. The world my mind created was completely out of character for me. Now you might think that since I’ve been reading Farworld by J. Scott Savage, that’s where my mind conjured the images from, but I had to set aside Farworld last week. I’m back reading it again, but the point is I wasn’t reading it at the time. Therefore, it wouldn’t have much influence over my dreams.

No, the world in my dream came from the far recesses of my mind. From a place I don’t like to think about. The good news though, we killed the dragon. I’m not going to tell you who the dragon was, but suffice it to say, I won’t be having trouble with that authority figure anymore.

Things are pretty much back to normal. If normal is spending all my non-job related time editing. My dreams, (when I have time to sleep) have also gone back to normal. But like all good dreams, I wrote that one down too. I’m positive I’ll never try to delve into the world of a fantasy writer. I have enough nightmares about normal people. I couldn’t deal with dreams about alternate worlds.

The point, if you missed it, is to write down your dreams. I have several first drafts written from something I dreamed, including, the hook I used in the first lines of this blog. Someday I’ll get that story written, but for now, I’ve got edits to do.

Good luck in your writing—see you next week.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Deadlines -- Pressure or Pleasure?

by G.Parker

All my life I've wanted to be a writer. Okay...maybe not. Since I was a teenager I've wanted to write and get paid for it. Now I've finally got that chance, and all I can think about is -- deadlines.

It's sooo stressful! Writing my own blog was just a gee whiz. I wanted to be part of the new techie thing. Writing for someone else was something I'd always wanted to do -- but now that gives me three blogs I'm writing, only one of which is a relaxed 'here I am'.

I'm glad that I've been given some practice by writing on this blog. It's given me a glimpse of deadlines and commitment. We don't get anything out of this, you know, besides camaraderie and experience and some of the best friends you'll ever meet... But now I feel that pressure has doubled.

I have to admit, when I'm painting, I paint better under pressure. When it's getting down to the deadline to enter the fair and I haven't painted anything yet, let alone framed it? Man...that's the zone. That's when I can usually do my best stuff. I'm not sure it's the same for writing.

I've always felt I could write "off the cuff". I love madwrites, or addlibs, where you're given a line and have to expound on it. But that's fiction. This is reality. I'm supposed to write about a subject I love, but I find myself wondering how many different aspects of one subject can I possibly explore? What if I run out of ideas? Do I quit?

Fortunately, writing is an ongoing medium. Words can always be twisted, turned and used again and again. I don't feel that I'm one of the top bloggers on this site, but I feel that at least I'm consistent. I can stand in the shadow of the great ones, and try and learn from them; much as we're hoping to encourage you, the reader, out there in blogland.

So...once again I head into deadline weekend, and hope that something comes to inspire me.

Anyone have any ideas on how to paint still life?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Random Rambling

By Nichole Giles

Usually, my entries for this blog go one of two ways. Either a great idea occurs to me and I have to stop whatever I’m doing and write it down quickly—be it in the middle of the night or during a shower or…whatever—or I rack my brain for days, finally come up with a line or two, and sit down to write hoping the rest will come as I go.

And now that I’m doing two other weekly blogs besides this one, ideas are even harder to come by. Or so you’d think. As it happens, I have three different topics to cover, and I intend to tackle all of them in one blog.

First thing’s first. Danyelle Ferguson did a book review the other day on J. Scott Savage’s new book, “Far World: Water Keep.” The book sounds so good, and so in my field of interest, that I am dying to read it. It’s just my luck that Danyelle’s having a contest to give away an advance reader’s copy. Since I didn’t get to review that book—and thus get an advance copy of my own—I totally had to sign up. And, by mentioning her contest here, I get two entries to the contest.

If you’re interested in getting your name put in the drawing, check out her blog at:

And since I’m mentioning Danyelle’s contest, Candace Salima is also giving away a copy of this book. To enter her contest go to:

Go ahead and enter their contests, but just so you know, I’m planning on winning one of them!

I also recently realized that Gaynell Parker is running a similar contest at:

Okay, moving on. Tristi Pinkston issued another of her famous “Book in a month” challenges. ( Of course, since I’m feeling pressured to get my book done by the end of summer, I had to jump on the bandwagon with that one. So. My original goal was three chapters a week—or—four thousand words a week.

As of writing this blog on Tuesday night, July 8th, I have written a total of 10,585 words, which translates to roughly 37 pages or three and a half chapters. Just to give you an idea about the scope of this project, I actually started this book earlier, and with the additional words and chapters I’m halfway through chapter fourteen. Each chapter is between eight and fifteen pages, which puts me somewhere near 140 pages. I’m thinking I might possibly be somewhere near the halfway point. Maybe. I’ll let you know.

So for this BIAM, I’m looking to finish a book that should end up somewhere near 75,000 words. Anyway, I’m hoping to have the entire thing finished by July 31st, so I can do final edits and get it submitted by Aug 31st. That’s my goal, anyway.

All right, now the last random topic. I am privileged to belong to an amazing group of writers. It is because of this group that I have made the contacts that have kept me updated on upcoming events like writer’s conferences, enabled me to write for Your LDS Neighborhood, and given me the wonderful opportunity to be a stop on several Virtual Blog Book Tours.

In the next month I will be participating in four:

July 18th “Room for Two” by Abel Keogh
(LDS Writer’s Blogck)
August 5th “Preparedness Principles” by Barbara Salsbury
August 7th “Surprise Packages” by Lael Littke, Carroll Morris, and Nancy Anderson
(LDS Writer’s Blogck)
August 14th “Caught in the Headlights” by Barry K. Phillips (Forward by Glen Beck.)
(LDS Writer’s Blogck)

I am thrilled and privileged to do these reviews and author interviews. Don’t forget to stop by and see what I thought of each of these books. You might even learn a little bit about the authors.

Pshew. That was a lot of stuff. Until next time, write like your life depends on it. This month, mine certainly feels that way!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Easy Road

By C. LaRene Hall

Are you complacent or casual about things, doing only that which is most convenient, and avoiding any hint of sacrifice? The easy road is not always the best way. If you only do things that are convenient, it doesn’t help you learn. Lack of sacrifice can only make you think life is easy.

So you think you’re pretty good, but why not be better? Almost everyone can do better. Taking the easy way doesn’t lead to a better life.

Avoid camping on a plateau or it may stop your progress. If you don’t accomplish anything significant and you don’t do things that are bad, you are just vegetating. You accomplish nothing. You only stand still.

Don’t compare yourself to others, only to yourself. Unless you want to be like everyone else, you should only do things that will make you accomplish what you care about and are striving to do.

Are you going in the direction you want to go? Only you know what you want from life, and only you can make it happen. The choice is yours.

I have found I have to keep striving to make my story better. If I stop, I accomplish nothing. I don’t want to be like everyone else; I want to be the best writer I can be. Yes, I’ve had many people help me along the way, but only I can make it happen.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Finding an Agent

By Darvell Hunt

This week I start a scary task: Finding a mainstream national agent for my semi-LDS thriller novel.

I’ve never looked for an agent before, but that’s mostly because most of my submissions up to this point have been for the LDS market, which doesn’t deal with agents. Because of the small profit margin in the LDS niche market, agents don’t really make sense (so they say).

Now I find myself branching out into the mainstream national market with a novel that I had originally intended for LDS audiences. Why the broadening search for a publisher? Two reasons, really.

First, it’s a thriller/mild-horror LDS novel, which I think is a hard sell in the LDS market. I know plenty of LDS readers who enjoy this sort of story, but LDS publishers are hesitant, it seems, to publish material such material.

And secondly, why not? If I can get a broader readership with a novel that has LDS elements, but can still work in the national market, why not try?

I’m not postive I can go national with this novel, but I’m willing to give it a shot. Neither am I abandoning the LDS market for this work, but I do think it might have broader appeal than to just LDS readers. It seems the national market is interested in unique characters, even Christian or possibly LDS, so why not exploit that interest?

I’m hopeful, wary, and certainly excited to try something new.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Aack! A Homophone!

By C. Lynn Beck
© 2008

Years ago in an English grammar class:

I sit at my desk, sweating hand grenades because I know Sister Mary Kellie (yes, I went to Catholic high school) will surely call on me. What will it be today? Diagramming sentences? Or discussing terms whose meaning I can never remember? Like the word homophone ….


I sit at my desk, sweating fully loaded, heat seeking missiles, (weapons have gotten bigger over the years, and so has my sweat) because I know I have a blog deadline due. What will it be today? Diagramming sentences? Nope, I can’t talk about that because I still can’t do it. Maybe I should discuss a term whose meaning I can never remember. Now what was that word? Aaah yes, homophone ….

If you’re like me, you have no clue what a homophone is, or what it means. So, I tried to figure the word out by its parts. “Homo,” which means … umm … well … okay, you know.

And “phone.”

See? That wasn’t so hard. It means Liberace’s gold-gilded telephone!

Actually, not. Homo means “same” and phone means “a speech sound.” Therefore, a homophone is a word with the same pronunciation as another word, but with a different meaning.1 A good example of this is “bread” and “bred.”

Homophones can cause mistakes in our writing and for that reason, I thought I’d mention a few that are common goofs.

● He's a shoo-in (not shoe)
● Yin and yang (not ying)
● Throes of passion (not throws)
● Mother lode (not load)
● Beyond the pale (not pail)
● Segue (not segway)

(Info from Accu-Assist’s Weekly Grammar Tips,

I should discuss one thing on that last word, “segue.” There is a motorized, two-wheeled vehicle that is called a Segway. It’s a cool looking machine, and I’d love to try it. If you’ve ever ridden one, let me know. But in the meantime, remember that the French spelled the real word, "segue."

Aaah, French. To quote my Spanish instructor, “Spanish, the language of the gods. French, the language of the devil.”

Oh, wait. Segue isn’t French. It’s Italian. So, “Spanish, the language of the gods; Italian the language of love.”

Or pasta. I’m not sure which.

1. Wikipedia contributors. "Homophone." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. (accessed June 30, 2008).

C. Lynn’s other work:
Cup of Comfort for Horse Lovers, "Horse on Lap",pg 83
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann, "Priming the Pump, pg. 79
Newspaper Column
Ensign Magazine, Dec 2007-Q&A
2007 League of Utah Writer's Award-Historical Fiction Website

What books C. Lynn recommends:
You Know You're a Writer When ... by Adair Lara
The Writer's Book of Hope by Ralph Keyes
Publishing Secrets by LDS Storymakers (BJ Rowley and others)


Saturday, July 05, 2008

232 Years and Counting

By Keith Fisher

It was a hot July day. The debate in the chamber had been going on for sometime. Finally, there was compromise and the representatives signed the declaration. There would be a price to pay for their insolence, some said the price had already been paid.

Today, I sit back in my "easy chair" of American freedom with a grateful eye on those who were so blessed to receive divine help against all odds to accomplish the impossible. To those who suffered to establish this great freedom that I enjoy I say, thank you.

To those who would destroy it because of selfish desires and great pride I say, shame on you. I pray everyday that our leaders will put aside agendas and party lines in order to listen to the same divine inspiration that established our great nation.

I trust your holiday brought joy although I suspect it was somewhat wilted in the heat. I hope you were able to pause and reflect on 232 years.

I went camping this weekend and I spent time listening to the chorus of birds making music before the sun came up in the morning. It was beautiful but I had to turn my attention back to editing. I’m on a deadline and must trudge forward.

I have been reading my ARC copy of the first book in the Farworld series by J. Scott Savage. Love the book and the author’s talent. I will be stepping into the author’s scary lair soon, to interview him and review the book, which will be available in September.

Good luck in your writing, see you next week.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Freedom to Write

by G.Parker

The 4th of July is an awesome day. I've loved this day of the year since I was a kid and discovered fireworks. I have to admit, though, that the idea of what it meant was lost to me most of the time until I was a teenager. When I was 16 it was 1976 and the bicentennial of our country. Talk about patriotism! The whole country was wrapped up in celebrating it, and my community was no different. We had a blast, with parties and fireworks and BBQ's.

Now that I'm an adult with children of my own, we've tried to make it a real family day. We have also tried to stress the importance of what the day stands for. Today, being a writer has even more significance, because where we live enables us to write pretty much whatever we want. We have the freedom of speech.

Of all the freedoms we enjoy, I rank that up there among the top five. Most of us have read something that makes us angry, insults us, or causes us to take action. There are many places in the world where that wouldn't be possible. While we may get angry with how the media handles things in our nation, we have to be grateful that we have the right to express our feelings as well. We CAN write letters to the editors of newspapers and complain about how they handle their headline stories. We are able to write our senators and congressmen and let them know where we stand on issues and complain about what they are doing or thank them for the stand they are taking.

And it's because of the brave men and women in our military that have continued the fight for those rights that we have what we have.

I come from a long line of military men, as does my husband. My father was a Ranger on the beach on D-Day. My grandfather was in the Navy (unfortunately I have no idea what...grin) My second father was in Korea in the Marines. My brother was in the Air Force, and I have several nephews who have joined the Marines, Army and Navy.

Now my son has joined the ranks of the reserves -- Army Reserve. He has felt strongly for some time that he needed to be among those who make a difference. He was proud of the history involved with his ancestors, and wanted to do something that they would be proud of. He also likes to write.

He feels that the freedoms we enjoy are precious and worth risking his life to preserve. Especially freedom of speech, along with freedom of religion.

I’m very thankful we have these rights, that we live in this amazing country and have been blessed by a loving Father in Heaven.

On the flip side of this coin, is the idea that we have, therefore, a responsibility.

It is up to us to make the facts known, the right truths come to light and that our rights are respected. As LDS writers, not only do we need to hone our craft and become the best writers in our fields, but we need to express our concerns and be involved in our nations government. If we sit back and live in our own little worlds, it will fall down around our ears because there are many who would use our rights against us. Every day we see the media used to twist the truth, tell baldfaced lies and try to shape the opinions of our nation.

While there are many times we feel nothing we do makes a difference, I think we still need to have hope. Every blog we write that holds truth, every newspaper we write and get printed is a step in the right direction and every letter written to our government official lets them know that we are listening -- we are there, and we are going to try and do something about the world around us.

We are free -- therefore we write.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


By Nichole Giles

With a somewhat important quasi-deadline looming at the end of the summer, I’ve set certain goals for myself in working on my new book project. And since I started blogging twice a week for Your LDS Neighborhood, I also have those deadlines. Then there are the newsletter articles I try to submit as often as possible. Plus this blog.

Pshew! That’s a lot of writing. And it doesn’t include personal journaling or editing of other people’s work—which I do regularly. With all that writing to do, it’s no wonder no one in my family has clean clothes, or that my toilets need serious scrubbing, or that my kids have gone through a giant box of corndogs this week.

But everyone needs a break here and there. When my youngest two kids begged me to take them to the pool the other day, I could hardly tell them no. I mean, I did pay a small fortune to buy a family pool pass and I hate the idea of wasting money I could have spent on something else…like a trip to Hawaii…or at least some pretty jewelry.

Besides, I have a long reading list this summer, some of the books important for editorial research. You know, you have to know what style of writing an editor publishes before you send her your stuff. It’s logical and practical.

I digress. Actually, I love basking in the sun, and my poor brain just couldn’t work very well inside my air-conditioned house that day. So I packed a book, a printout of my rough draft, a pool chair and my sunscreen and we headed out to the pool.

After ten or fifteen minutes of lying in the sun, listening to the children laugh and play, and the water lapping at the edge of the pool, I had the spark of an idea. So, rolling over onto my stomach (it was really time to flip over anyway—gotta have a tan on both sides) I took a long sip of my drink, flipped through my manuscript and started writing in the margins. When the idea just kept flowing, I turned the pages over and filled up the back of one, two, then three pages.

As I lay there on a towel writing as fast as my wrist could move, one of my neighbors asked me from behind, “Where do you get all those papers to grade in the middle of summer?”

Well, I’d known this lady for several years, and I figured that by now she knew I’m not a teacher. So understandably, the question took me by surprise. “They’re mine,” I said.

“What is it?” She asked.

Again, I’m pretty sure she was aware of the fact that I am a writer. I’ve told her more than once. “It’s my book.”

“Your book?”

“Yes, my book,” I said, trying hard not to be rude, but continuing to scribble words as they flowed through my brain and out my fingers.

“You wrote a book?” She persisted.

I nodded, pausing in my writing to look up and smile at her. “I’ve written several books.”

“By yourself?”

Oh man, really? I sighed. Just so everyone knows, people aren’t actually capable of doing things like writing entire books by themselves, so they usually enlist the assistance of book fairies, who write the books, and then give the humans all the credit. “Yes, by myself,” I said. “It’s what I do.” I went back to my scribbling, drawing purple arrows from margins on one page to the back of another.

“Cool,” said the lady. “Where can I buy one?”

Now here’s the tricky part. Generally, when you tell someone you’ve written a book, they assume it’s been published and is in a store somewhere. They figure they’ll run out and grab a copy, just to be able to say they know someone who wrote a book—then they’ll have you sign it. Which would be fine. Except none of my books are published. Yet.

So I told her, “I’ll let you know. It might be a year or so, but as soon as one comes out, I’ll invite you to my book launch party.”

She shrugged, as if suddenly being let in on a secret, and walked away—probably thinking, “Yeah, sure. In your dreams.”

But on that particular day I really didn’t care what my neighbor thought. (Actually, come to think of it, I don’t care on any other day either.) I looked at the manuscript on my towel, all spread out and scribbled on in purple ink and my pulse raced and my heart fluttered.

It isn’t every day a girl can accomplish three things at once. Not only had I been working on my tan all afternoon, but I’d also broken through a short bout of writer’s block to write a marvelous new scene, and on top of that, I even had a conversation with my neighbor.

Hey wait, if I was to count taking my kids on an afternoon excursion that might actually be four things I accomplished. Wow, that is multitasking at it’s finest! Hallelujah!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Modern Era

By C. LaRene Hall

People my age have a hard time keeping up with all the modern conveniences that come our way. I’m eternally grateful for my microwave oven, my cell phone (sometimes), cable television, and mostly my computer. I don’t miss the typewriter at all. The only real problem I have is it seems that I just finish learning how to do something on my computer, and there’s a new concept or gadget to buy.

You will be surprised to learn that I have no idea what an iPod or MP3 player is, so of course, I don’t know how to work one. I guess I have no idea what I’m missing. Those who know me aren’t surprised that I haven’t tried them out yet. I’m not in any hurry, but I’ll get on board soon.

One thing I really hate is wearing headphones in my ears. I never use the Bluetooth that came with my cell phone. I guess if I learned to use it properly, I would probably love it. And I do agree that electronic gadgets are great, if you learn to use them.

I do know that without a computer I wouldn’t want to try writing a novel. Can you imagine how hard it must have been twenty years ago to write? If you changed your mind, or decided you wanted to add something to your story back on page 10 you would almost have to start over. I’m a fast typist but I’m sure I would have given up after retyping my story a couple of times. Today all I have to do is go back and add what I want and the computer renumbers all the pages and pushes everything where it belongs.

One of the features I really like is the find key. If I decide I want to change a name all I have to do is search for it and hit a replace all button and in the blink of an eye it’s the way I want it. Yes, the life of a writer in today’s world has it easy compared to those a few years ago. Aren’t we lucky?