Friday, November 30, 2007

I'm A Winner!

by G.Parker

Well, it's official. I even have a bright yellow certificate to prove it -- I'm a winner! Of course anyone can be the winner in this particular contest, and being a winner doesn't necessarily mean much to anyone else, but I still love the feeling. My son came and looked over my shoulder as I was downloading my certificate and asked what I won. I pointed to the screen and told him I'd gotten the certificate. He said "No money?"

NaNoWriMo is not about money, fame, or even competition. It's all about getting the words out of your brain and onto the paper. We don't get much for our final product in a real world sort of way, but we do get self esteem, a sense of accomplishment and a big sigh of relief from our family members. (My husband has been looking forward to this day since November 1.)

My official count for the records is 50,565 words. I hit that at 2:30 this afternoon. Last year I was typing way into the night and downloading my final count at 11:30 pm. Talk about getting it in under the wire... I'm just excited that I got it done ahead of the deadline. Thrilled that I have words left to type, story left to get out and the excitement still going. This was a banner year for me, in that I only hit a slow spot once in the whole month. Last year I was bored with it because I knew the story ahead of time, and there wasn't much excitement to it. This year involved guns, the FBI and (It helps to have children when you write, they give you so much inspiration!)

If you want to read part of the unfinished story, check out my website where I'll post a chapter of it. I had lots of fun this year, and I am already looking forward to next year -- although I'm glad to have the month of December to relax. My nerves are fried!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Simple Thing

By Nichole Giles

Retailers call it Black Friday. Walmart employees call it Blitz. Husbands have been known to refer to it as doomsday, knowing that by three AM their quiet, usually docile wives will turn into efficient shopping machines who will fight with elbows and fists—and sometimes merchandise—for the ten dollar Cabbage Patch Dolls and the five dollar DVD’s. The rest of the human world knows it as the day after Thanksgiving.

It’s crazy. We spend Thanksgiving Day feasting, visiting family members, and remembering all the many things for which we should be thankful. But as soon as the pie is cut, a lot of people scour the newspaper ads for bargains, map out the most efficient route from store to store, and count their pennies to know exactly how important it is for them to acquire that specific item for that specific blowout price.

The problem is, everyone willing to brave the crowds on this the blackest of days, has a good reason for being where they are. I seriously doubt the people camping out at Walmart at 2:30 AM are guarding their spot by the specialty skateboards because they have an abundance of money. On the contrary, these are the people for whom the special deals matter so much that they are willing to forego sleep in order to fight to afford a special gift to put under the tree for their child.

Fight they will, and fight they do.

Sadly, there are many retailers who look forward to such fights. They dare to advertise a product at a specific price but only supply the crowd they’ve drawn with a handful of that item. When this happens (and it happens frequently) shoppers are often encouraged to “find a way in” and grab an item out of the arms of someone else. Ethics are thrown out the window as people who are usually polite resort to stealing things out of the shopping carts of others and throwing merchandise over the bobbing heads of a crowd.

Can you tell I’ve been there and done that? In the process I’ve seen a lot of things. Young people trampled, children being crushed as a crowd rushes a finally open door, men fighting with fists over $5 Barbie cars…. The chaos is almost enough to ruin Christmas entirely. What are the words to the song?

“And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on Earth, good will to men.”

Last Friday, I waited my turn, shaking my head in sadness and thinking, “Look what the world has done to this holiday. We’ve ruined Christmas.” But then I noticed something else, something I hadn’t noticed before.

As they stood waiting, people were chatting with each other, discussing the children who would receive the gifts. Some were actually even friendly. And when the time for grabbing came, some people (not all, that would be too much to hope for) were polite enough to ‘grab’ an item for the strangers with whom they’d spent the last few hours waiting.

It’s just a simple thing, and yet those small acts of kindness were enough to redeem mankind and help me find a little bit of the Christmas spirit I thought I’d lost. That spirit put a smile in my mood and left me hoping that sometime this season I might be able to do something nice for someone else.

After all, it is in the small and simple things that we find our greatest joy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Take One Step At A Time

By Connie S. Hall

I recently attended the Association for Mormon Letters Writer’s Conference. Dave Wolverton (Farland) was the keynote speaker and his topic was, “A Leap into the Void”.

Dave reminded us that we all have something important to write, and it becomes easier when we write about something dear to us.

He spoke about writing with courage. His talk made me realize that sometimes I do fear having someone read what I have written. It’s easy to enter a contest because they don’t know who I am. I was encouraged as he reminded us that we develop our courage as a writer a little bit at a time.

His best advice was that we should not worry about what people think of our writing. If we are afraid of what we are doing, we are going to find it difficult to write. Nothing will destroy our writing as much as fear.

I guess I’m supposed to say that I will write with courage and not be afraid. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy? However, I can take it one-step at a time, and I’m sure you can too.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Stuffing the Turkey

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

I ate and ate until I thought
My buttons all would pop.
I gobbled up the turkey
Not considering when to stop.

I scarfed down mashed potatoes,
With gravy, yams and rolls,
And wondered why, when I looked down,
I couldn’t see my toes.

I polished off the stuffing
And a cranberry or two,
Then noticed that my stomach felt
Like it had caught the flu.

It seemed like maybe time to quit
Before I up and died—
But that was just before someone
Brought out the pumpkin pies.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Wit & Wisdom of a Wonderful Character

By Keith Fisher

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you remembered to give thanks to God for all his tender mercies. Myself, I got some writing and editing done. For which, I am truly grateful.

Have you noticed, when writing a book, an opinionated author must try to keep his/her opinions to themselves? If not, the author could be guilty of the cardinal sin of losing point of view and we all know what can happen if we do that.

But have you also noticed, if we put those opinions in the mouth of a sympathetic character, it can be said, and sometimes accepted? This can, however, be a two-edge sword that could hurt us on the back swing. But, you say, it was the character that said it not the author right?

I realized the implications when I read something that Dumbledore said in book two of Harry Potter and I wanted to write it down. Do I give Albus Dumbledore credit or do I give credit to JK Rowling? The character isn’t real, right? Or is he?

Without getting into the whole Stranger than Fiction mania, Keep in mind that in the end, it was JK Rowling who said it. Therefore, if what was said was something embarrasing . . . ah, there’s the rub as Hamlet said in his/Shakespeare’s soliloquy.

What was the quote? Dumbledore/Rowling said, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

Also, I discovered a section of self-dialog that I wanted to show you. In the book, Seven Days for Ruby by the Yorgason Brothers Ruby is worried about her friend. She prays for him and makes a discovery,
"Dear God in heaven," she prayed in desperation, "I’ve got troubles, real troubles, and I don’t know where to turn. Johnny is innocent, I feel he is, I know he . . .
"Lord, is Johnny innocent?"

I absolutely love this passage. Not only does it show the way we sometimes go about our lives but it’s well written. Now there are flaws in the story, of course there are. None of us are perfect and neither is what we write, but we can try, submitting our best work and maybe someday one of our characters will be quoted, but be careful. Keep a muzzle on your character’s opinions. Like children, they could have a tendency to embarrass.

Good luck with your writing, keep trying—believe you can be published—you can touch lives.

Week Three

by G.Parker

Well, here we sit at week three in the NaNoWriMo. While I'm not finished or that far from finishing, I am pretty much still on schedule. I'm at 36,500 words, so I still need to type about 2,000 or more a day to keep to the total.

The story is developing, the characters are evolving (sort of) and I just have to keep writing.

It's come to the perserverance stage. We all get to this stage, where you have to just keep writing on, even when you don't feel like what you're writing has any meat to it.

So, next week is the last day of November, and the last day of NaNo, so we'll see if I make it. Good luck to everyone.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful for Hope

By Nichole Giles

Have you ever noticed how people get so excited for Christmas that they inadvertently forget to celebrate Thanksgiving? How could anyone forget that most wonderful of meals? How could anyone gloss over a giant turkey, mountains of mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, homemade rolls, and pies that cover more counter space than any one kitchen would allow?

Well, we don’t. We eat. Of course we eat. We watch football, plan for black Friday shopping, and gorge ourselves until we can’t keep our eyes open. Then we fall asleep on a handy surface somewhere until we wake up and stuff ourselves some more.

For most families, this is the holiday tradition. At least, it's a good description of how my Thanksgiving Day usually works. And to tell the truth, it’s a good tradition. It’s familiar and fun. But there is one tradition that started when I was 12 years old. Unfortunately, this is a tradition I never shared with my family. I chose to share this particular tradition with a very special close friend.

We sat alone at a card table in the garage at my Grandparents house during one warm Arizona Thanksgiving Day. Our plates were loaded with all the traditional fixin’s—I’m sure of that, since my grandma would never have it any other way—even though I don’t remember a thing about the food that day.

Although it wasn’t something we’d done with either of our families, we took a moment of time to ponder the year that had passed. We picked out the things we were grateful for, the life lessons we’d learned, and then we made goals for how we could make use of these lessons in order to be better people during the upcoming year.

I know, it sounds more like a New Year’s tradition than Thanksgiving. But when you really think about it, they go hand in hand. Being thankful for something should give you a reason to make more goals.

Anyway, since today is Thanksgiving you can bet I’m hard at work making a feast for 30 + people. But I’m not complaining. Actually, since we’re all friends, I thought maybe I’d share with my readers a few of the things I am thankful for. Because it’s a holiday, I’ll do my best to keep it short. (But since I’m a writer that is difficult to guarantee.)

I am thankful for my friends. Without them, my life would be boring and incomplete. This year, I’d like to try to remember to thank them for their friendship and let them know how much better my life is because they are in it.

I am thankful for my talents. Eveyone has talents, but each of us is different. Individual. This year, I will continue to hone my skills, to study, and to perservere.

I am thankful for my family. You know, that should be a given, but I realize that some people don’t have a family with whom to celebrate. They are my breathing air, my life blood, and I could not survive this life without them.

I could write pages and pages of the things I’m thankful for, but I won’t bore you with all of them. Just one more, then you can go back to eating turkey and pie.

I am thankful for hope. In so many aspects of life, hope is the thing that gives us meaning. Hope is the reason writers keep submitting, even when they’ve been rejected over and over and over again. When life gets tough, it is the thing that keeps us moving forward minute after minute, hour after hour, and day after day until that thing we continually pray for becomes ours. Hope is the heart of every soldier who fights to make a difference, the breath of every child lying in a hospital and waiting for a cure, the wings on which angels deliver a baby to a couple that has struggled to conceive.

Hope is the Christmas wish of a destitute child, the prayers of a single mother struggling to pay her grocery bill, and the loving arms of a long lost friend, showing up at the moment when they are needed most. Hope is the thing that keeps us going when we think we have nothing else to lose.

I hope that this year I can finish and submit a publishable novel. I hope that the people who are suffering through difficult trials will keep moving forward until they find themselves in the light of happiness. I hope our soldiers can make a difference, that sick children might be given a second chance at life, and that everyone in the world can find some reason to have hope.

Hope for a chance to make a better future.

Happy Thanksgiving from the LDS Writers Blogck!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Holiday

By Connie S. Hall

After I had written my blog, one of the speakers in sacrament meeting on Sunday spoke about GRATITUDE. The scripture quoted was D&C 59:7 – Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.

She told us that on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah suggested we should all keep a gratitude journal, and we should list five things we are thankful for each day. That sounds like something I need to start doing. However, for now I’m going to continue with the blog I originally wrote and save this gratitude journal for another day.

I thought since it was Thanksgiving tomorrow I would write about gratitude. I never imagined it to be such a long subject. The list of things I am grateful for would fill several pages. Since no one wants to read anything that lengthy, I will condense it into one page.

There are the usual religious items – a loving Father in Heaven, a brother who died for my sins, church, prophets, scriptures, and many more.

Next is the family – husband, parents, children, grandchildren, and siblings. At this time of year, I reflect upon my ancestors who came to this continent on the Mayflower. I also go back to the religious aspect and recall those pioneer relatives who crossed the desolate wilderness to come to Utah so they could worship, as they desired. Again, if I named all of them this blog would be lengthy.

When I think of family, my friends are close behind. Some are as dear to me as a sister is. Others I haven’t seen for years. The multitude of people I know and call friends would take quite some time to list.

There is the world – sky, sun, moon, stars, mountains, rivers, animals, birds, plants, and trees. I knew this list would be extensive.

I’m thankful for my good health, that I have eyes, ears, mouth, arms, and legs. I appreciate my home, the food I eat, and all the earthly things I enjoy. I like the job I go to five days a week and church callings.

One thing precious to me is the talents I have. My Father in Heaven must love me since he gave me gifts to develop that make me feel good about myself.

I’m pleased to have people read our groups blog. If you didn’t read what we write, we wouldn’t have this great opportunity to express ourselves.

I’m glad I didn’t just list five things I’m thankful for, like Oprah suggested, because there are many things to thank our kind Father in Heaven for on this Thanksgiving Day. Have a happy holiday as you also count your blessings.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My Wife Canceled My Vote

By Darvell Hunt

In our recent election, my wife’s vote cancelled my vote, but I’m still glad we both were able to express our opposing views.

If you’re in Utah, you probably know about our school voucher program. If you’re not, well, the legislature passed a law this year to allow state voucher checks to be paid to parents who enroll their kids in private schools. Many residents didn’t like the idea and forced the issue onto the ballot.

I won’t say how my wife and I voted, but we didn’t come to the same conclusion, so basically our votes cancelled each other out. And that’s fine. We each did what we thought was right, but it brought up an interesting thought.

Not everybody is going to like everything we write. No matter what we write about, nor how we deal with any given topic, somebody is going to think differently—and that’s okay. If you want to sell your writing, though, you have to make sure enough people like what you are writing to make it marketable. You certainly don’t have to sell your material to everybody, but if you do plan to sell it, you should be thinking about who may want to read (a.k.a. buy) your material before you write it.

If you’re writing for yourself, do it, enjoy it, and don’t care about what other people think. If, however, you are writing to sell, you need to think about the marketplace for which you are planning to write.

After all, writing is an art, but publishing is a business.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Who Do I Want at My Thanksgiving Table?

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

On October 24, 2007, one of our bloggers, Connie Hall, posted a blog titled, “Who Do I Want at My Dinner Table?” If you didn’t get a chance to read it before, you can find her thoughts in the archives at .

My interest was piqued by what she said, and I tucked the topic into the back of my mind as a subject for a blog of my own. Normally not the serious type, I try to snatch—no, I did not say “steal”—good ideas as presented by deep thinkers. And this seemed like a topic to save for a holiday—a time when even the most jovial blogger is expected to say something profound.

If those aren’t reasons enough for abandoning jocularity—at least for the moment—there’s one more. I’ve broken my elbow in a weird bicycle accident. No doubt I’ll write about it at some point in the future. For the present, though, it seems my funny bone must have been bruised as well because most of the words coming out of my mouth for the past two weeks have been, “Ooo, ouch.”

But I digress—on to the five men I’d be like to seat at my Thanksgiving table.

George Washington: I’d take the opportunity to thank him for being a man of courage, one who stood by his beliefs and founded a fledgling country that, in my opinion, is the best on the face of the earth.

Abraham Lincoln: I’d express gratitude to him for his honesty, loyalty to the Union, and kindness and compassion. I’d like to have the chance to tell him how much I appreciated him keeping our nation intact.

Joseph Smith: Few people have endured the abuse, torment and torture that he did and maintained their integrity. I’d like the chance to—in typical LDS fashion—shake his hand and thank him for being an instrument in the Lord’s hands and in restoring the fullness of the gospel to the earth.

C.S. Lewis: I’d like to chat with the man whose books inspired me long before they became popular movies. I’d like to thank him for a land called Narnia, a lion named Aslan and for the way in which they touched my heart.

Jimmy Stewart: There are few actors that I admire, but he’s one. I should have sent him a note while he was alive to express my appreciation for his talent and the wonderful ways in which he used it. But, I didn’t and I would love one last opportunity to thank him for making me laugh in, Harvey, making me cheer in, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and making me cry in, Mr. Krueger’s Christmas.

Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you. May you have a multitude of things for which you’re grateful!

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

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

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Deck the Halls, Not the Shoppers

By Keith Fisher

I think it gets worse every year. This year, I noticed two radio stations started playing Christmas music on November first. Not that I hate Christmas music, but it gets a little old by December Twenty-fifth, especially if the radio station plays the same twelve songs day-in and day-out.

I know the holidays haven’t really started yet, but I got irritated at the store the other day. The source of my displeasure, although mild, will only get worse by the time New Years rolls around.
It’s always a surprise when the season that should promote goodwill turns normally kind people into ruthless, ungrateful, and selfish children. The long faces and angry looks are enough to turn anyone’s heart away from the spirit of giving.

While shopping, I noticed no matter how hard I tried to be courteous, I was met by people who acted like they were somehow entitled, perhaps by theological decree, to be first in line and they somehow deserved the right-of-away more than I did.

I was taught to say pardon me when I cross someone’s path, and to recognize the kindness of others who let me pass first. On another occasion, I was in Deseret Book trying to see the bottom shelf without bending over and a man stepped in front of me to look at the racks I was searching. I didn’t count minutes, but he stood there for a long time. If you know me, you can imagine some of the things that crossed my mind.

Maybe I’m just oversensitive, but judging by last Christmas, I know it can only get worse.

Perhaps this year, we could all pray for strength to look past the rudeness and try to see what God sees in the man who steals our parking place, or the harried woman that butts in line at the grocery store. I know God loves them as much as me and I can use all the help I can get to remember that.

Now for a note about writing—awhile ago, C.L. beck challenged Darvell and me to provide a list of top ten kissable women characters. I’ve thought about it and I think I'll pass. Keep in mind that married men, if they know what’s good for them, will avoid thinking about other women.

Because I want to remain married, I decided to not take the challenge, but I want to point out how real some characters seem to be. An author who came to know them on an intimate basis has painstakingly developed those characters we remember best.

My advice to all of us would be to take the time to develop your characters. If you can put your character into a completely different type of story and the character is still real, you know you have succeeded.

Good luck with your writing, and good luck with your shopping. I hope to see you sane on January second.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Why Does That Never Happen to Me?

by G.Parker

Ever see the movie National Treasure? Remember the scene where they're headed down under the church and Nicholas Cage kisses the girl while one of the bad guys (soon to die, poor man) looks on and asks "Why does that never happen to me?" That scene just popped in my mind while I contemplated today's blog. It comes in reference to how we see things being affected by ONE person. Yes -- this is going to turn a little political, so hopefully this doesn't offend anyone.

My blogs have been about NaNoWriMo this month. Today's was going to be simply another update, when a situation came up on my forum list. Now, it's not that I'm a big wig over there, anyone can create a list at the Nano site. I decided to do one because I did it last year and it was fun to see the responses. You can find my list, Clean Romance, here.

Now, in the first couple of weeks (I started the list in September, I think) there was nothing but positive comments. Writers who weren't sure if their works fit in that genre or not, those who thought it was a good idea, etc. Then I got one person who was offended by the idea that it meant what she wrote was 'dirty'. Good grief! Then, yesterday there was another comment that she didn't like 'clean romance' because it inferred that what she did was 'dirty.' (there's that word again...)

It just makes me shake my head. I wrote back to the effect: you know -- this list was only made for the purpose of exploring romance without sex. It was not meant to offend anyone. There are lots of other lists available on the forum for your use. Feel free to use them. (or something like that.)

It all comes back to how people feel everything should fit or not offend ANYONE. Regardless that it's personal choice, or if the facilities are there for that person to create whatever thing they choose that fits them. They have to take something someone else does and change it to fit them. They have to take something that's good and wholesome and alter it to fit their perception or their lifestyle. It's like people moving to Utah because they want the atmosphere, and then complaining because they can't buy alcohol at any time of day. It's all a matter of choice.

NaNoWriMo is about choice as well. It's the choice to look at your heart, your desires and see if you have what it takes to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Despite what life tosses at you, despite the fact that perhaps you haven't written a word in your whole life, or perhaps that you haven't finished anything -- this is that chance. For some it's a kick in the pants that they've needed to get that novel finished. For others, it's a way to get a habit set again, so that when Nano is over, they will continue writing every day.

It has been an eye opener to me this year as to how tight things have been, trying to get my word counts in and still getting everything else accomplished. Today I'm up to 29380. It's still just a tad behind, but I'm happy with it. I'm pleased with where my writing is going -- although I still haven't come up with a title.

But anyway the point of my opening paragraph, is that should this be the other way around; me complaining that someone said something offensive on someone else's list, I would be labeled 'bigoted' or 'conservative' or a 'religious fanatic,' just to name a few. What I thought wouldn't be as important because it was something good. It seems we that have good values and desire good things, cannot affect as quickly or as loudly as those who are out to take down that which is good. I don't think I'm wording it right, but hopefully you get the idea.

I'm hoping that those of you who read our blog are open minded, intelligent souls who understand the creative process and the desire we have to produce good for the world. I hope one of you are able to make a change for good. Somebody has to since my voice doesn't seem to get heard.

Unless it comes out in my writing.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The More the Merrier

By Nichole Giles

“What a wonderful idea,” my mother exclaimed. She even dotted her sentence with a period, using her soup spoon and flicking a drop of broccoli cheese goo on my sleeve. “Thanksgiving at your house would be so nice.”

We sat across from each other at a bistro table in an out-of-the-way café. She with her blue-tooth in her ear and her phone constantly buzzing, and me trying to gently, but firmly convince her that five Thanksgiving dinners was too much for anyone to eat.

“Well,” I replied, rubbing my soiled sleeve with a napkin. “It gets tough dividing our time between two sets of parents, grandparents, and in-laws every holiday. I thought it would be nice if I had my brothers and sisters over, and both sets of parents as well.”

“And I agree,” she said. “I just want to do whatever is easier on my kids.”

“I’m glad you feel that way,” I said. I gulped down a mouthful of pop knowing that the worst part of this conversation was next. “Because with that same thing in mind, I hope Grandma and Grandpa will understand that we won’t be making it to their dinner this year.”

My mother blinked. “Well, of course not,” she said acting surprised. “Why would you go to the trouble of making a big dinner at your house and then go to theirs as well?”

I sighed in relief. “I wouldn’t,” I said, rushing on. “I love our extended family, but there are just so many of us, and our own immediate family is getting so large that we almost need to book the cultural hall for Thanksgiving dinner.”

“Yes,” she said, nodding. “There are a lot of us. I completely understand.”

We went on to discuss the menu, and what each family member should contribute. I would do the turkey, stuffing, and potatoes. There was discussion of yams, salads, hors d’oeuvres, and it isn’t Thanksgiving in our family without at least twenty pies.

The idea of creating so much food didn’t stress me out nearly as much as the idea of spending our day going from dinner to dinner all over two counties. I walked out of the charming café with a spring in my step knowing that I had just performed a small personal miracle by convincing my mother that our holiday traditions might be better with a little bit of change.

As we walked through the parking lot, my mother stopped in thought. “You know, Honey, I’d be happy to let Grandma and Grandpa know about the change of plan, but I think the invitation would be so much better received coming from you.”


“And,” she continued, “since your aunt and uncle from Las Vegas will be in town that week, we’ll need to invite them and their children as well. You’ll need to call them.”


“I’m so glad you’re such a gracious hostess that you’d volunteer yourself to host Thanksgiving this year. Do you have everyone’s phone number? You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by leaving them out do you?”

“No, Mom,” I said slowly. “I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.” Am I missing something here?

“I know you don’t. And it won’t hurt us to invite three or four more people. Oh, I’m so excited this is going to be great fun. Love you!” Turning away from what could only have been stunned shock on my face, my mother slid into the driver’s side of her car and revved the engine. She answered her ringing phone and wiggled her fingers at me as she pulled around the parking lot, barely missing the curb as she went.

“How did that happen?” I wondered to myself. Not only had I just managed to get steamrolled into hosting an extended family party, which was sure to be much larger than four extra people, but also somehow, my mother had turned it into my idea. I leaned on the hood of my car trying to piece the conversation together in my head.

My mother had just caught me in a classic word trap, and I hadn’t even seen it coming. Then, with a shrug, I got in my car and turned down the stereo—which was currently on deafening loud volume—before fishing my cell phone out of my purse. “Hi honey,” I said to my husband. “Looks like we’re going to be needing to borrow some banquet tables for Thanksgiving. My mother just invited everybody.”

“You mean EVERYBODY?” he asked.

“EVERYBODY,” I said.

“Ah,” he said, “Okay.” And I could practically hear the ‘I told you so’ he was thinking as he laughingly suggested, “Do you think we’ll need to book the cultural hall?”

“Why not?” I replied. “The more the merrier, right?”

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Why Me?

by Connie S. Hall

When disaster strikes many people ask “Why me?” or they blame God for their misfortune. Not my friend Janice, she says, “The important things are here – my husband, myself, and our cats.”

Friday, November 2nd started out a normal workday, until the telephone rang shortly after 8:30 am. It was my friend Karen, “Connie – there’s a fire in the park – it’s Janice’s mobile home.”

After making a few phone calls prior to leaving work, I closed down the computer, but answered one last call. It was Janice, “I’m racing home Connie – my...”

I interrupted, “I know Janice. I’m leaving right now.”

Janice arrived a few minutes before me. Already the television cameras were on the scene. Friends watched as the fire department continued spraying water. Soon they were digging through the ashes. The most heart-breaking scene was when a firefighter came toward Janice holding out a couple of charred giraffes from her collection, which had belonged to her grandmother. All together, they found five blackened giraffes in their search, and three burnt around the edge 11” x 14” pictures of her recently deceased mother. It seemed to take forever for the firefighters to complete their job, then the long wait for the fire inspector to say it was safe to go in. The news people lingered most the day.

The kitchen area where the fire started was a complete loss, but we were able to enter through the rear door and start the cleanup in the bedrooms. At first glance, we were sure the clothes were okay, but as I pulled them from the closet, it looked as though someone had left their iron on the shoulders of each shirt. The scorch marks were obvious. There was none left untouched. After washing them, the brown marks remained, and so did the smell.

There were many miracles that day. Although everything was lost and they had no insurance, all the cats survived. Most of the pictures were left untouched, even the ones retrieved from areas where the fire destroyed other items. There was no rhyme or reason to the direction the fire burned.

To me it was unbelievable the people who drove by the burned out trailer and the offers of kindness extended. Complete strangers offered to bring food, clothing, and anything they might need. There are many good people in this world, and offers of help are still coming in.

As a writer, I want to tell stories showing this sort of kindness because there are many fine and caring people. When I write, I hope to show the type of empathy displayed that day. Too often, writers leave the emotion out of the story.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Definitely not the Colonel’s Chicken

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

Lately I’ve related two anecdotes from my exceptionally brilliant career as a chicken farmer. It was during that hen-filled stint that some bright person gave the suggestion we should also raise pigs. The idea was so enticing that I talked my husband, Russ, into trying it.

“What shall we call them?” I asked, watching our new little pigs in their pen.

Russ grinned mischievously. “How about naming them Pork-Chop, Ham-Hock, and Bacon?”

I grimaced, covered the ears of our three-year-old and whispered to Russ, “Be careful what you say; Davey doesn’t know we’re going to eat them eventually.”

Russ whispered back, “When were you planning on telling him—as Pork-Chop was sitting on his plate?”

“Obviously before that,” I said, releasing our squirming son.

We watched the oinkers rooting around. Snorts of discovery echoed through the barn. Davey spoke, “We could call them the Three Little Pigs.”

I smoothed the blonde cowlick on his head and said, “That’s a story, Sweetie. It’s not really a name.”

The silence stretched between us as we pondered other ideas. Russ fidgeted, apparently tired of taxing his brain with pig names. “I still think that Pork-Ch—“

“—How about Winken, Blinken and Nod? That’s cute,” I said.

Davey nodded his agreement. Russ raised his eyebrows and stated, “That’s a bedtime story about kids going to sleep.”

“Pigs have to sleep, too, you know.” I harrumphed, waiting for a better suggestion.

Silence reigned. A mouse stuck its nose from under the water trough and then dashed for the feeder. Winken—or maybe it was Blinken; it’s very hard to tell three pink pigs apart—scrambled over, snatched the mouse and gulped it down before I could cover Davey’s eyes.

“Look, Mommy, the pig ate a mouse,” he said.

“Uggg,” I said.

“Cool,” Russ said.

“Cool,” Davey echoed.

And to think I was worried about his tender sensibilities.

My pig manual stated the animals were as smart as dogs. It was true. It didn’t take the porkers long to realize that when we picked up the trough, mice scrambled from beneath. The pigs dashed about, snorting and slurping down rodents. Hearing the ruckus, the cat slunk in. Apparently, oinkers have the ability to extrapolate information. They eyed the cat hungrily. From then on we kept the cat out of the barn.

One day an idea hit. “Why don’t we teach them to come to a whistle?”

Russ shook his head in disbelief. “You fed the chickens oatmeal and hotdogs. And tried to herd grasshoppers to them.”

“You told Daddy about herding the hoppers,” I accused, looking at Davey. He shrugged and grinned.

Russ continued, “The neighbors already think our grain elevator doesn’t go to the top. Now you want to train pigs to a whistle?”

“It might come in handy.”

“I’m sure. Maybe we could use them as substitute hunting dogs, too.” Russ replied.

Months later, we got a phone call. “Your pigs are loose.”

We hopped in the car and sped down the road to the next farmhouse. On arrival, we bailed out. There stood Winken, Blinken and Nod, munching ripe strawberries from the patch.

“Here piggies, nice piggies,” I called. They ignored me.

“Here piggies, stupid piggies,” Russ said. For obvious reasons, they ignored him.

He watched the pigs with their berry-red lips and dirt-blackened snouts. “How’re we going to get them home?”

“Herd them,” I suggested.

Russ replied, “That’ll work about as well as a grasshopper roundup.”

Then it came to me. I gave their food whistle and all three turned with a grunt. They waddled over and stuck their snouts in the air, sniffing for scraps. Probably oatmeal or hot dogs.

Russ said, “Walk back with them and we’ll follow in the car.”

I nodded and started down the road, whistling. Three one-hundred-pound pigs trooped behind in a line, snuffling and snorting all the way home. It was my agricultural moment of triumph.

I’ll freely admit to everyone—except Russ—that when it came to chickens, I was no Colonel Sanders. But hey … when it came to pigs, I was the best pied piper in the county.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ouch, The Pain of Writing

By Keith Fisher

For those of us who look forward to weekends, Friday is the day of days, the light at the end of the tunnel. This week, however, it sneaked up on me before I knew it was coming and I was blogless.

To make matters worse, I inflamed my Sciatic Nerve (not sure of the spelling), and had to spend the day lying on my back reading. It’s painful to sit at my desk to write.

This is my longwinded way of apologizing for the condition of my (ouch) writing. And the (ouch) tardiness.

I want to share a condensed quote with you, however, it’s by David G. Woolley, and it hangs on the wall in front of my desk,

"Writing fiction is storytelling, but we must be more than storytellers. Ours is an art of communicating emotions, creating suspense. Describing the grit and grime and smell of a place. If we do it well, we transport the reader to a place just beyond eternity without leaving the Lazy-Boy. It sure ain’t easy—but it is doable."

Good luck with your writing.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Here We Are...Week 2

by G.Parker

Well, here we are, heading into week two of the world renown NaNoWriMo. What is your word count? I’m at 17266 words as of Thursday night, which is my goal.

I decided I won’t be writing Sundays, I rarely write on Saturdays and I’m definitely not going to write on Thanksgiving – so I had to budget the remaining days. It’s an average of about 2,200 words a day, and totally workable.

However – I’m not going to hold myself to 50,000 words this year. I’m planning to finish the story, whatever the word count may be. Sure, if it’s less than 50,000 I’ll have to do some scrambling to make up scenes that I’ll take out later, (grin) but I’m going to get to that goal, regardless.

Whenever this time of year comes around, I think of goals more. Have you ever had a objective you were determined to reach? Especially with writing? It’s like a new years resolution to me, but I never make those because I never keep them. Goals have always been a fleeting, flimsy thing that I’ve never got the hang of until I became an adult. Even then it has only been the past five years or so that I’ve appreciated the value of a setting a goal and how to reach it.

So this is my month of major goals, my new years resolutions so to speak, and I’ll let you know next week if I’m still in the game.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

My Heroes

By Nichole Giles

I don’t watch TV very often, but recently I’ve been watching more television than I’ve watched in years. It isn’t my fault. Not really. A friend suggested that I should try watching the season premier of a fairly new series. Though I had missed an entire season of this series, I was surprised to find myself hooked after the first episode.

The show is called Heroes. Part of the reason I was hooked so quickly is that the characters are in many ways superheroes of their time, minus the tights. Each character has one super power that has developed over the course of his or her life due to mutated genes. Some can fly, some have extreme strength, one can bend time, and one is a copycat who can do anything she sees done—including wrestling moves and the creation of food masterpieces.

Obviously this show was made for fantasy fans—especially those who loved the superheroes of the past. (I noticed the comeback of Wonder Woman costumes this past Halloween—all on adult women.)

What fascinates me about this show, and the reason—I think—it is so successful, is that not all the characters with super powers are good. It makes sense. The power of choice. Just because someone is given amazing abilities doesn’t mean that person will choose to use those abilities to save the world, or to help others. Some hide their ability, choosing to keep to themselves in hope of continuing with what they consider a normal lifestyle. Others use their powers for thievery, petty crimes, murder and worse.

And so in the same way of the heroes is created a villain. Or two or three or four….

We know how it works. The best conflict in a story comes from forces that are at least equal in power to the main character, and often more powerful and more dangerous. The villain continues to gain power, keeping the upper hand throughout the story. But the main character continues fighting persistently, eventually figuring out how to defeat the villain and win the war.

There it is, the keyword. Persistence. We writers know all about that, right? Editors and publishers continue to gain power over us each time they reject us, and always, always have the upper hand. But we still write and we still submit persistently until eventually we get an acceptance and win the battle for publication.

That makes us heroes of a different kind. I think anyone can be a hero, as long as we don’t let the disappointments in life defeat us. It is through our stubborn determination that we can fight our battles, knowing that we have the ability to—eventually—win the war.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Repetition or Variety

By Connie S. Hall

There are only a couple of things that I enjoy when it comes to repetition, both of which are church related. First, I love seeing the same thing occur over and over at the temple. It is the only movie I’ve watched hundreds of times and I can hardly wait until I can see it again.

Second, during the church services on Sunday, I’m grateful for the duplication of lessons. I know this is the only way I’m going to remember all the details that are necessary for my salvation. Don’t get me wrong – I like the lessons given in an interesting way, not just someone standing in front reading from a manual, or repeating scriptures the entire hour.

Normally, I hate repetition. If I’ve been there, I would rather not go again because I’ve already seen it. I’m not a traditional person. I don’t like us to do the holidays the same way every year – I prefer they are different. I like variety and decorate differently every year.

After I’ve learned to make something, I already can do it so what is the point in doing it again? Once I taught myself to knit basic booties, I had to learn a different stitch each time I made a new bootie. I had so many booties, not pairs, that a friend often told me, “Maybe you’ll have a one-footed baby Connie.”

I would like to learn to do something myself instead of having someone teach me. First, I pull out the directions and read as I do each step. After quitting my job to be a stay-at-home mom, I agreed to sell Creative Circle items at home shows. I taught myself to do counted cross-stitch, needlepoint, latch hook, and every new thing sent my way. You can probably guess I don’t do this any longer because I already know how to do it all.

In the kitchen, I have a blast. I love cooking new and different things to eat. Not all of them turn out edible, but most the time I’m successful in creating delicious new dishes. With only two of us, it is more difficult and I find myself doing the boring everyday cooking that I hate.

I only read a book once, and watch a movie one time. Because of this unusual quirk, I have a hard time deciding what stories to write. I don’t want to choose a genre because I want my stories to be different—so I sit wondering what unusual twist I can think of each time.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sprint Writing

By Darvell Hunt

As I write this on November 5, yesterday, to get ready to post on my day, which is normally Tuesday, I think back to November 5, 2004, when I started my first NaNoWriMo challenge.

By November 30, 2004, I had written over 54,000 words, completing the novel-in-a-month challenge. By December 5, one month after I started, I completed the first draft of my novel at 85,000 words.

I discovered during this exercise that I am a sprint writer. This has since become my primary method of writing. I don’t write everyday. I’ve never been able to do that, but I write lots of material in short bursts. I’ve found that this is what works best for me as a writer.

While I am too busy this month to do NaNoWriMo, I plan to do some sprint writing this Christmas, when I’ll be taking a few weeks off from work to be home with my family. In the meantime, I’m preparing my writing shoes for the crack of the starter pistol.

Ready, set, WRITE!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Not the Colonel’s Chicken, Part II

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

Not long ago, I related an anecdote from my exceptionally short career as a chicken farmer. If you missed it, you can read it in the Oct. 15th blog archives.

For those who’ve already read it, you’ll remember I had the brilliant idea to feed our flock of chickens left-over, cooked oatmeal. Waste not; want not—that’s my motto. The hens pecked at the glop, which collected into sticky wads that enlarged as the birds tried to clean their beaks in the dirt. From that experience, I learned poultry have the IQ of a grasshopper—which coincidentally, is how the next event occurred.

“Hey look,” I said to my three-year-old son, Davey. “Chickens eat grasshoppers.” We watched the hens flapping their bronze-red wings as they zeroed in and fought over the helpless bug that had mistakenly leapt into the pen.

It gave me an idea. “We could herd grasshoppers to them,” I said with enthusiasm.

We walked into the weeds 20 feet away and waved our arms, trying to drive the long-legged hoppers into the pen. It was like trying to herd minnows. When we were done, we’d managed to shoo two beetles and a mosquito into a pen of 50 chickens. You can imagine the fight that ensued.

Giving up, Davey and I started back to the house to fix lunch. “Don’t tell Daddy we tried to herd grasshoppers,” I said.

“Why?” he asked, his blue eyes bright with curiosity.

“Because Daddy has this silly notion that Mommy comes up with crazy schemes.”

“Schemes? What’s a ‘schemes’?” he asked.

“The nutball ideas that Daddy thinks up,” I explained.

Lunch was hotdogs—not my favorite. We ended up with a few left on the plate. “What can we do with disgusting, left-over hotdogs?” I asked Davey.

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

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

Davey nodded in agreement. Somehow, it felt like déjà vu.
I consulted my chicken manual. It didn’t say anything about feeding hotdogs to chickens—I don’t know why. Probably a lack of real-world education on the part of the author. But if the birds liked grasshoppers, hotdogs had to be fine.

Remembering the oatmeal fiasco—and opting not to give 50 chickens CPR because they were choking on whole wieners—I sliced the hotdogs into round, one inch pieces. We marched to the coop, pieces of meat in hand and flung them into the pen. The hens gathered and clucked their excitement at something new.

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

Definitely déjà vu.

My husband, Russ, and I raced to the hen house. The birds milled about, flapping their wings.
“They must be sick,” I said, watching them shake their heads as if they had palsy.

Russ looked puzzled. “They’ve got something stuck on their beaks.”

“That’s weird.” I replied, wondering if I could beat him back to the house before he figured it out.

“It looks like … like they’ve speared pieces of hotdog,” he said, peering intently at the birds.

The hens “ba-wahked” softly as if trying to give him a clue. I turned and stepped toward the house, but before I had a chance to expand my talents as a sprinter, Russ grabbed my hand and said, “What have you tried now?”

“It’s perfectly logical,” I said. “Chickens eat grasshoppers. Grasshoppers are meat. Hotdogs are meat. Therefore, chickens eat hotdogs.”

“Yes, in small bits. Instead, you gave them a bulls-eye to peck.”

I looked at the hens, their beaks held fast by a ring of hotdog. “You know, I don’t think your suggestion of raising poultry was such a good one,” I said.

“My suggestion?” Russ dropped my hand in surprise.

I waved in the direction of the hens, which were still preoccupied with getting hotdogs off their beaks. “Yes, we’re not cut out to be chicken farmers.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Russ replied.

“So the next time an idea like this comes up—” I stepped out of reach and flashed him a wicked grin, “—let’s raise pigs!”

Saturday, November 03, 2007

It’s Not Fiction That’s Strange

By Keith Fisher

I was attending a writer’s conference once when I heard someone make an observation. In essence, she said that it was good to be around people who understood a statement about trying to get her characters to behave.

We writers are a weird lot—we spend our days, and late nights, listening to our creations. Then we sentence them to death, or worse, without any regret. We tell ourselves it’s all for the good of the book.

I know, I know, you’ve all seen it before, but recently, I finished watching Stranger Than Fiction. I hated the build up, but I loved the ending. Like most of you, I knew what the story was about before it started. Overall, the parts about the writer were very gratifying, but I have some questions for you:

Did you cry when the author couldn’t bring herself to kill Harold? How many of you could identify with her, to the point of feeling anxiety? Wasn’t it nice to know there are others like you?

I don’t want to spoil the movie, but when you see it, ask yourself, how real are the characters you create? If you saw them in a crowded airport, would you know them? If a character walked into your writing place, would you need to be introduced to them?

If you answer these questions the way I did, then you’re a writer. If you sometimes need to stop the car and get out because you recognize a scene from your story, then you are a writer. If you schedule vacations around research, then you are a writer. If you watch the spectators instead of the football game, then you are a writer. If you stand at the edge of a high place, trying to imagine what it would be like to fall off, then you are a writer.

There are many examples of this kind of behavior—perhaps you could name many more, but now that we established that you are a writer, start working on it. Be warned, however, people will think you’re odd when you try to explain the concept of a character who won’t behave or leave you alone. Then you will know that it’s not the fiction that’s strange—it’s the authors, but take heart, you’re not alone.

Friday, November 02, 2007

It's Not Too Late!

by G.Parker

In case you are new to the world of blogging or writing, you might not be aware of what is happening right now. All across the world, people are pounding their fingers on their keyboards in a race to get 50,000 words out before the end of November. It's called National Novel Writing Month, or Nanowrimo. Last year there were over 79,000 participants from around the globe. It was amazing. This thing has grown from being a little idea in 1999, to a great inspiring one.

I didn't hear of it until 2004. That was my first year of insanity, but I made the goal -- I wrote 50,000 words. My hubby just couldn't understand why it wasn't finished...sigh. That one was titled The Hidden Heart.

In 2005 I did it again and this time (to make him happy) I made sure I finished it. I actually had to add scenes because the story wasn't long enough. It was called The Bishop's Wife, but has been changed to The Bishop and the Angel.

Last year was another try, and I was able to do it again, but it was by the skin of my teeth. I remember sitting there with my hubby watching, at 11:45 pm, saving it as a text document and running it through their word checker. (it puts things in a code so that it doesn't get read in actual words, just gives them a word count verification.) All of the stories are mentioned on my web site, if you want to give them a perusal...

The whole point of Nano is to get people writing. Everyone says they are going to write a book some day, and the people behind the site decided that this would help them. A national thing where everyone was encouraged to participate. They have forums with age groups and ideologies and regions and anything you can think of to associate with and make yourself feel at home. They send you encouraging emails during the weeks. It's enough to encourage anyone.

So if you have ever thought, you know, when I get older I'm going to write The Great American Novel, don't wait. Do it now. Just start writing. You never know what will come of it.

My hubby just wishes it wasn't in November.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Playing Dress-up

By Nichole Giles

I have always loved Halloween. As a child, a teenager, and even as an adult, I have loved the opportunity to dress up and pretend—just for a day—that I am someone else.

I’m a woman, and inside every woman is a little girl clawing and fighting her way to the surface. For some of us, that inner child shouts and screams as loudly as she can to make herself heard. Besides, what little girl doesn’t love to play dress up?

I’d like to think my love for Halloween is the voice of my inner child, wanting to pretend I’m a queen, a bride, an elvin princess or vampire warrior. Sometimes, I want to be the villain—Grim Reaper, Medusa, The Wicked Witch of the West…the list is endless of course, especially for someone who loves to read.

Halloween is the one day of the year when I can wander around my neighborhood dressed up as someone else. This is much better than hiding in my closet playing dress up with my daughters (as I have been known to do on occasion) and worrying that my husband will come home and catch me wearing an old prom dress, spiked heals I would never wear outside, and my nine-year-old’s costume jewelry.

Okay, so if I’m completely honest, the hiding in the closet thing isn’t so bad. You can change as often as you want and prance around in whatever suits your fancy, any day of the year, and for as long as you like. (I can’t believe I’d admit that in public.)

And actually I can think of another reason to try dressing up on a day other than Halloween. It might be fun to be one of my own characters for a day. Dress in clothes she would wear, color my hair—or put on a wig—the same color as hers, and live her life for just one day. This one might require that I venture outside though.

Okay, so the neighbors MIGHT think I’ve lost my marbles. And my kids might think it’s time to check Mom into the nut house because she’s prancing around the house in workout clothes and carrying around a wooden stake and a flaming sword or some such thing, calling, “Don’t worry Hoyt, I’ll save you from that evil villain!” But really, what better way to get to know the people I’m writing about?

I’m a writer. I stopped worrying about what the neighbors think a long time ago.