Saturday, January 28, 2012

Getting Out and About

By Keith N Fisher

With all the thought, and Feng Shui, writers put into their writing spaces, it seems strange to say, but I needed to get out of the house so I could write this morning. Do you ever feel trapped in a writing style? Like an office space, chosen genre and even subjects can be limiting sometimes.

The problem for published authors, however, arises after they spend their whole career building a writing style their readers have grown to expect. I’m not talking about the mechanics of writing, but the voice of the writer. No matter what else happens in the story, Lewis’ mythical creatures are going to be different than Tolkien’s

Of course a style can be a burden to some writers. Take Mary Higgins Clark, for instance. Readers have learned that, no matter the story, some of the characters will, at some point, have cheese and wine. She also seems to live in a world where almost everyone does the same things for a living.

Writers can also get trapped in their plot style. I’ve noticed this in my own writing and I now spend hours deliberating a better plan. I’m very careful to give different careers to different characters and even though a fantastic romantic scene worked in one book. I fight to come up with different ideas.

I’ve noticed some best selling authors have developed pseudonyms to write stories in different genres. I can relate to that. I get ideas all the time that don’t fit in women’s fiction. Or if they do, there are other elements that don’t fit with the established type of novel I’ve been writing.

Like getting out of the house this morning, it’s nice to be able to experiment a little. I went to a twenty-four hour restaurant and wrote this blog. The problem was the group in the corner who insisted on being loud and repulsive. Between four-letter words they’re grammar caught my attention. I wondered if they knew how unintelligent they sounded.

Just like the distractions in the restaurant forced me to concentrate harder, we need to be careful writing new genres. Don’t lose sight of what works for you. If you can tell the story in your voice, then great. If the new genre makes you develop new habits entirely, then pick one and stay with it.

I hope what I’ve written makes sense. If not, then blame the group in the corner. It’s late and I won’t have time to edit before posting. My greatest hope is that it helps you become the writer you want to be.

Good luck with your writing---see you next week.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Book Prints

by G.Parker

I was reading through the other day and came across an amazing article.  You can access it here.  The main idea is that each book we read leaves some kind of imprint upon us.  It's like I've said in many of my previous blogs - we are what we read.  They had a quote by author Anna Quindlen:

  "If being a parent consists often of passing along chunks of ourselves to unwitting — often unwilling — recipients, then books are, for me, one of the simplest and most surefire ways of doing that."

I thought this was excellently said.  A book can touch someone in ways that speaking to them face to face cannot.  It gives them time to absorb, to ponder, to get the real message that is intended.  When we speak to people in person, emotions and body language sometimes convey the wrong meaning.    

That is why writers are so important, and what we write is doubly important.  You can change a whole person's life with your words.  For both good and bad.   You've seen examples of that with the media, especially the press.  

My husband said he heard a reporter quizzing someone about the Whitehouse and how we need to allow the President and his family some privacy.  That's something that has gone by the wayside since the days of Kennedy.  Now-a-days, for example; if Kennedy was having an affair with Marilyn Monroe, it would be all over the tabloids within days, let alone the internet.  Jackie wouldn't have been able to keep a solid front on their family and I think things might have happened a little differently.   Just this week there was a big flap in Europe over a writer who had made some 'racial' slur against the First family in a column about how the Obama's have added to fashion in the African-American scene.

Everyone is watching.  And, everyone is going to have an opinion.  

So whatever you write, I hope you feel it strongly and are willing to stand up for it.  I hope that it's something that is enriching and life changing for those who read it.  You can do it.  We all can.  So tell us -- what books have left a lasting imprint on your life?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Developing Style

By C. LaRene Hall

Last fall I attended a writers conference where Clint Johnson spoke about developing style. He encouraged us to find a passage from a writer we either love or that interests us for some reason, and then try to recreate the style as best we can see it, by writing either a short story or one complete scene.

He told us that we should experiment in our writing. See what is possible for us to do with the written word, and pay attention to our successes and our failures. Write one paragraph that works using only simple sentences. Write another paragraph that is at least five lines long and is all one sentence. Write a paragraph that is written completely in sentence fragments. Write a page of dialogue. These are all good exercies.

He encouraged us to learn grammar, punctuation and syntax rules and then break them for effect. Words are tools; they have no value beyond their ability to communicate and evoke. The better your skill with these tools, the more influence you have over their effect on your reader.

Now all I have to do to improve is follow his suggestions. I know he is right and if I try doing these things my style will improve. He had lots more to say, but I'll leave that for another time.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Please Don't Steal My Babies

By Keith N Fisher

I got involved in a discussion on Facebook this week. An author wondered if the SOPA legislation might not be a good idea after all. His point was protection for his copyrighted work. There were many opinions from writers and artists and computer geeks. It proves there’s an issue we must face in the future.

I argued that the Internet is already a place where everything is public, and trying to stop piracy would be futile. Later, I had time to think a little. I didn’t change my opinions, but I felt it would be a good subject for this blog.

Those of you who have read my posts before, know about my misgivings on the subject of e-books and self-publishing, but this discussion might be a little different.

In 1990 I bought a computer that had a modem attached. At that time, the Internet was poised to take over our lives. The World Wide Web hadn’t even started yet. I signed up for an online service called Prodigy and found it fascinating. Soon Prodigy began to tutor us on how to access the World Wide Web.

There was some discussion about policing the Internet, but the big argument was how do you do that, when much of the content originates from other countries. Would we go to war with England over objectionable content?

A few years later, I developed a website devoted to Dutch oven cooking and made several graphic images for the site. The next thing I knew, those images were on other websites. People had captured my images and used them as their own. I didn’t even get a thank you, let alone, credit for creating them.

Yes, I was angry, but then, I realized the nature of a free content Internet. The alternative would be a place where we must use a credit card to gain access to everything. Yes there are dishonest people who will steal all your creations, but if you put it on the Internet . . .

What did you expect?

As writers, photographers, artists, musicians, filmmakers, we love to use the Internet for publicity. We even give enticing freebies away hoping to sell our next piece of work. Then, we’re shocked and demoralized when someone steals part of that work. I’m not saying it isn’t wrong, I’m asking, what did you expect? After all, it is the Internet.

Copyright infringement has been a problem since the beginning of time. Whether we pass more laws to prevent it or not, those of us who create, will always be violated. Recouping from piracy is expensive and time consuming. We could curse the invention of the photocopier, but I think it goes farther back. Artists have always worried about forgery. Other artists would paint a copy of their work and sell it as an original.

Should we just chill out, and accept piracy as the norm? NO! But, perhaps changing the face of the Internet isn’t the answer either.

On a related note: I’ve always wondered how so many writers can justify their complaints when they reuse software on a new computer. When you buy a new computer, do you buy new software to go with it? “Why should I do that?” you ask. “I own a copy of Microsoft Office.”

Yes, you probably do, but the license is for your old computer and it clearly states you can’t install it on two different computers. Did you know that? I’ve always objected to software companies charging for outdated versions. Microsoft Office has been upgraded several times since the 97 version. Why does Microsoft charge for 97 at all?

Royalties for writers is a tricky subject. Like the software companies, we want to keep charging the same price for the book we wrote twenty years ago, in fact, we’d like to charge today’s prices. We work hard writing and promoting books. Of course we should be paid.

I hope to someday, live in a perfect society, where creative people get paid at least as much as sports people. A place where we spend more on helping the poor than we spend on getting somebody elected. Until that time, Good luck with your writing---see you next week.

Friday, January 20, 2012


by G.Parker

Okay, I wish I were in bed right now.  Seriously.  My two youngest sons came down with a cold last weekend, and I think they gave it to me.  Fortunately I don't have the running nose or the coughing like they did, but I have the sore throat and tired achy mass that I just want to curl up in bed and forget I have responsibilities.  Like writing this blog.  Sigh.

But life goes on, and I'll press on -- hopefully you'll get something out of my Swiss cheese and chaos thoughts.  ;) I hope everyone had a great weekend last week and contemplated their civil rights.  We've been having our children watch the move The Help this week (it takes a week sometimes in our house, I tell ya we are one busy group!) and it's been interesting to watch their reactions.  We've watched other specials, documentaries, movies and discussed books before, this isn't the first time.  But it's always a teaching opportunity.  I feel that The Help is also a lesson on writing.  If you are unfamiliar with the story line, I'll give you the gist in a nutshell:

Young woman graduates from Ol' Mis in the early 60's.  Wants to be a writer.  Has never dated.  Closest friends are all married and having children.  She lives in Jackson, Missouri.  Everyone has maids and they're all black.  She decides to write a book from 'the help's' perspective.  She finally gets the help of one maid, which leads to two, and after a terrible incident, several jump on board.  The stories they have to tell are heart wrenching, sweet, and terrible.  All involved are risking life and limb, especially the maids.  They  publish the book and it takes the south by storm, wondering where it's based and who wrote it.  Those involved have one big secret that keeps them safe -- but at a great risk to themselves.  The young woman lands the job she's always wanted in New York, but hesitates to leave now her mother is dying.

As you can see, I'm not good at summarizing plots in one sentence or less.  This would be a great challenge for someone who liked that sort of thing.  ;)  I also have a hard time with summaries, and it's something I've got to improve on if I'm going to submit, right?  Which is my major goal for the year, so I've got lots of work ahead of me.

But I digress.  My point is this young woman becomes very discouraged at one point in the movie because she doesn't have enough stories.  The publisher is pushing her for more maids, and no one else has been willing to help.  The two that have contributed figure she can just use their stories and change names, but she claims that wouldn't be right.

I'm afraid I agreed with the maid.  Who would know??  It was all anonymous anyway -- I think I would have done it.  But she didn't.  She represented integrity in writing.

Have you thought about your integrity in your writing?  With fiction, it's a free world.  You need to be careful if you're mentioning real places and times in history, but otherwise, it's your world, you created it, you decide what's in it.  With non-fiction, it's a whole different ball of wax.  If you mess up, it's a betrayal to the reader.  They realize they can't trust what you write.  You have let them down.

I thought it was good food for thought, and wanted to share it with you.  Have a productive week and see you next Friday.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Writers Conferences

In January I always start thinking about the coming year and which writers conferences I can afford to attend. I didn't start writing until my later years and had no idea there were so many choices. My first writers conference was to the LDStorymakes in 2004. On my shelf are books from each of those years since. The next writers conference I tackled was the League of Utah Writers. I haven't attended as many of those, but I still enjoy going when I can. I'm still working, so it's not always easy to get time off to attend all those offered. It's not expensive to belong to the League of Utah Writer's so maybe you should check them out because locally you can usually attend monthly meetings. I used to attend, but now I have a church calling that keeps me busy on the night they meet together.

I guess what I'm trying to tell you this week is - if you are a writer, there are a lot of options in Utah to attend writing conferences. Some of them cost, but many of them are free or inexpensive. Search for them and attend as often as you can. In February there is one in the Provo/Orem area (LTUE)- that is resonably priced. In April there is one in Ephraim that is free.

If you are wanting to study about writing and find help, there are many options. There are many writers in Utah and it seems that there is always help just around the corner if you look for it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Stray Thoughts

By Keith N Fisher

Well, it’s three am on Saturday morning, my usual time for posting a blog, and I haven’t got anything written. I just woke up from a nap with another book idea, but I need to work out the details before I tell you about it. I’m chasing stray thoughts like a man following a lost dog down the street.

During my deliberation about possible posts, this week. I considered the presidential race in this country. I asked a customer what he thought and his response surprised me. He’s always been good for an opposing opinion, or at least a strong point of view. Essentially, he suggested that we could take all the money every candidate wastes on getting elected and use it find homes for almost all the people who live under bridges.

I stood there in awe. He was right, but he’d always been an advocate of no government intervention. How did we get to a place where candidates spend more money on the campaign then they do helping the needy?

On another, more writerly note, I was pleased to pick up my copy of Writer’s Digest and read about Andy Ross. He runs a literary agency and I’m thrilled to see him succeed. You might remember I wrote about him when I talked about the demise of independent bookstores. You can find his contact info here.

Also, on a more local note, I made plans this week to attend two local writer’s conferences; Life the Universe, and Everything (LTUE) on February 9-11 at UVU (Utah Valley University), and LDStorymakers Conference on May 3-5. I hope to see you there.

I have two friends (and critique group partners), launching their books soon; Family by Design by Heather Justesen, and Targets in Ties by Tristi Pinkston. Heather, on Jan 21, and Tristi, in February. See you at Pioneer Books in Orem. Utah.

Now, on a personal note: I’m still waiting to hear from a publisher about The Hillside and I’m sitting on the sequel until I hear about the first. Every day I check the mail. And check my email about thrice. If any of you have any pull, say a little prayer for me?

I’m editing Star Crossed and writing Shadow Boxing. I think you’ll like them. Good luck with your writing---see you next week.

Friday, January 13, 2012

I Apologize!

by G.Parker

Okay - this is a formal apology to all our readers.  I've been a slacker!  Well...only sort of.  If I'd been really on the ball, I would have had blogs written and set up to post on my assigned day (which I have done before).  But, this time on vacation I totally spaced it out.  I don't know why - I think perhaps because my writing life has kind of taken a back seat to everything else the past month.  But whatever the reason, I didn't post the past two weeks, and I'm not thinking anyone really missed me (lol) but perhaps expectations weren't met.

So - I'm back.  In some ways I feel a lot like Connie with regards to my writing.  My life isn't too out of control, though it is not what I want it to be right now, but my writing has been non existent for the past month.

However, all of that is changing as you read.  In December I outlined to my husband that I had resolved to get something submitted this year.  He wants me to get several somethings, and hopefully that will be what happens, but despite the amount, I'm working on editing!  My struggle (if you remember previous posts) has been to balance the writing with the editing.  Editing is what make things submit-table, readable, view-able, etc.  I have long struggled with editing, it is NOT my favorite part of writing.  But - if I'm going to get moving onto the next step in my writing career, I need to jump in and get moving.

So, I will be editing one month and writing the next.  January is heavy editing month.  I'm getting the book I wrote for NaNoWriMo finished up so that I can get that off to readers and finished before June, when the free book offer ends from Createspace for nano participants.

Then I have two other works that I'm hoping to get finished editing and sent off before June as well.  It's going to be a busy year!

I don't believe in New Years resolutions, because I figure if you have to make goals once a year to make them happen, they never do.  But I do like starting new and making changes when needed.  So, January is a great month for that.

Did you make any writing goals for this year?  I'd like to hear what they are.  Have a great weekend, and see you next Friday!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Joyful Noise

I already posted about this movie on my personal blog but decided it was worth repeating. On Monday evening I attended a premiere showing to a movie that will be in the theaters on Friday, January 13, Joyful Noise. I loved this movie so much I could probably see it over and over. I’ve never written a movie review before. The reviews I write are usually about books.

The person who wrote the screen play did a great job. Following are the details that I found on line about this movie. It takes place in a small town in Georgia. The people there have fallen on hard times. They are counting on the Divinity Church Choir to lift their spirits by winning the National Joyful Noise Competition.

The choir has always known how to sing in harmony, but the discord between its two leading ladies threatens to tear them apart. Their newly appointed director, Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah), stubbornly wants to stick with their tried-and-true traditional style, while the fiery G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton) thinks tried-and-true translates to tired-and-old and her rebellious grandson, Randy (Jeremy Jordan) really shakes things up. He has a good ear for music, but he also has an eye for Vi Rose’s beautiful and talented daughter, Olivia (Keke Palmer). Sparks between the two teenagers cause even more friction between G.G. and Vi Rose.

The musically driven story also brings together the sounds of gospel, pop, country, rock and R & B with memorable songs, performed by the cast. If you love listening to music, you will love this movie. If not, I suggest you stay home.

I loved the movie and was glad that I had attended a prior showing. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't like this movie - unless you don't like music, you don't like Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, or Jeremy Jordan. Or maybe if you don't like watching a movie because you would rather stay home and watch television. There is plenty of action, lots of humor, and it is a fun movie.

All day Tuesday at work I pulled the music up from this movie and listened. I'm thinking that is what is missing from my day today so I guess I better find it again.

If you haven't made plans to attend the movies this coming weekend, maybe you need to rethink your plans. And don't just pick any movie to see - you really need to go see Joyful Noise. Yes, it is noisy, but who cares the music is great.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Living the Dream

By Keith N Fisher

Every time he comes into my work, I ask my customer how he is. “Just living the dream,” he often says. Of course, he’s being sarcastic, but it got me thinking the other day.

When we were kids, we all dreamed of things that would happen in our lives. Some even chose a career path based on those dreams. Some followed that path, others took forks in the road. Most of us have yet to realize those dreams. Some of us never will.

I suppose fear plays a big role in that, but circumstances often get in the way, too. What are your dreams? Have you mapped your course? Many of the writers who read this, have the same dream: I want to be a best selling author. I want to be able to quit my other job and write full time.

I sat in a workshop once, listening to James Dashner talk about his dream and how he realized it. He said that he decided he wanted to write full time. He didn’t talk about goals or how to attain them, he didn’t really talk about focus. He mentioned how blessed he had been, which is an important key, but knowing James, I think for him it was focus. He wanted something bad enough to act, and keep after it, until it happened for him. Google him, it might give you hope.

I often talk about my desire to write full time, but responsibility often gets in the way. If I were to be honest with myself, however, I think it’s been a lack of focus. I’m a prolific writer. I have a full, project file. I’ve been focussing on the craft, not on the promotion.

I have another friend who found writing success by focussing on blogging and other promotion, so entirely, she now teaches others about it. She is published nationally, partly because publishers know how much work she is willing to do for success. Yes, her name is Elana Johnson.

It’s true. If we want something bad enough, we must focus and exclude other concerns. So with a little hard work, and perseverance, we can be living the dream. Whatever it might be.

There is, however, a possible dark side. Someone once said, “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.” I knew a man, who hated his job. He felt abused by his superiors and told himself that he could put up with abuse, if only his wages were higher. One thing led to another. He got the salary he wanted, but the abuse increased. This time, his boss was an ex Marine and he used the whipping boy method of management. My friend was the whipping boy. The salary almost compensated, but the abuse messed him up in the end.

We’ve all heard stories about people who get their wishes and find out they were happier before. We often appease our self by saying, if only. Or things will be better when . . . then, after achieving those dreams we discover unforeseen circumstances.

As for being able to write full time, promotion in the national market involves a lot of travel. Writing is often done in hotel rooms before leaving for some book-selling event. If your dream involved locking yourself away, writing your next best seller at home, you might be disappointed.

Good luck with your writing dreams---see you next week.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Frazzled World

by C. LaRene Hall

The new year has just begun and already I feel like my life is out of control. I set many goals, but I'm having a hard time making them work and it's only day four. Do you have that problem?

I think my life is out of control.

Hopefully it won't get this bad.

So far I've only written one other blog and the things that I've written for work or my church calling. I've written nothing for myself - nothing on any of my many stories. I'm disappointed in myself.

I love setting goals because that is how I get things done. I just didn't plan on life getting in the way. The other thing that helps me is time management. For years I always plan out every single day. Until then I didn't realize how much time I was throwing away doing things that were not important.

The month of January is going to be interesting because already my calendar is plenty full. Too much to do and not near enough hours. I wish I could find a good balance. So far it looks like the beginning of each week starts out smooth but by Thursday it's out of control.

I wish I had advice for you, but first I have to figure it out myself. I hope you are doing better on your goals for the new year and that you are planning out your days so you have time to do the important things.