Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Best of Connie Hall, Original Post, April 26, 2006

What does every writer need more of?

By Connie S. Hall

I attended a seminar twenty-five years ago that completely changed my life. Leaving that day, I resolved to change habits and take control of my life. My life wasn't less busy. The difference was I was now in control.

Most busy people are into a thousand different things, giving freely of themselves to everybody. The list of places where you give away pieces of your life is endless. In the process, you usually forget to save anything for yourself. I learned to arrange my life more efficiently and more effectively, and to save space for myself.

Life for me was busy. All my children were still at home, ranging from 5 to 18. I was president of a children's organization in my church, and I worked a full time job.

It wasn't easy changing habits, and it took effort to plan my days and do the important things first. I use to do things as they came along. Organization isn't always easy, but it's important.

I'm sure by now you have guessed the thing all writers need more of is TIME! Have you ever run out of TIME? Everyone has the same amount of time each day. When TIME is gone, it's really gone.


TIME is a gift - You can't demand more time, you can't ask for less, you can't buy it, you can't sell it, and you can't recycle it. Use your gift of TIME well. Learn to manage your time or you will always be one step behind.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Free Writing vs. Jazz Music

By Darvell Hunt

I’ve always been a fan of music. I also like good writing.

Just like my enjoyment of many different genres of writing, I enjoy many types of music, from Pop, to Country, to Hip-Hop, to Folk Music, Classical… and even Jazz.

Unfortunately, I’ve never really loved Jazz. It’s okay and I don’t hate it, but I think I finally figured out why it’s not on my list of favorite music types: much of the Jazz music you hear is a lot like a rough draft—it’s music that’s often created as it’s played, but never quite refined.

Like a rough draft that hits the paper as it’s created for the first time, Jazz often flows into your ears as the performer creates it. It’s not always written down and it may not go through additional revisions.

While I think there are some GREAT Jazz players out there who create “a wonderful musical first draft”, as a writer, this music form just doesn’t make much sense to me. Who wants to read my rough drafts? Probably nobody. I certainly don’t like sharing them with people.

Yet at the same time, there is great power in Jazz. It’s wonderful to hear something played at the moment of creation. It’s a bit like free writing. You can write what you want and you don’t have to worry about how it sounds later. Free writing can be great for conjuring up new ideas that you wouldn’t otherwise create.

Honestly, though, like some Jazz music, my free writing rarely goes into a second draft. That’s not the point; that’s not why I do it. It’s there to get me thinking—and writing—and becoming inspired—sometimes when I may not even feel like doing it at first.

In that regard, I consider Jazz to be a wondeful thing.

While on my mission, I once “jammed” with a companion who played a guitar. I knew how to hit a few notes on my harmonica and could even play a few memorized tunes. Neither of us was really very good with our instruments, but we still had fun playing them. What we did one day was like playing Jazz.

My companion played his guitar and “wrote” his music (in his head, anyway) as he played it. So did I. We played together and it sounded good—at least to our ears. It wasn’t great music, but it was a lesson in creativity—and it was fun.

There were four other missionaries as our audience that day and they enjoyed what we played, too. None of it was ever written down or recorded, and, to be truthful, it probably wasn’t good enough for a repeat performance—but, again, that’s not the point. It was good enough for what it was.

Writing is many things. It is art. It is self-expression. It is spirituality. It is a means to portray meaning. And it is power. It’s probably a bunch of other things, too.

And—here's the important part—I get to create it and enjoy it. If anybody else enjoys it, too, well that's just a bonus.

Being a writer means being a creator. I can't think of many things better than that.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Viva la Difference

By Ali Cross

Last week I attended the one-day Book Academy writers’ conference at Utah Valley University. There were many wonderful moments at the conference, but today I’d like to share with you the first and best little nugget I gleaned.

We are all different.

I know you’ve heard that before. But you need to hear it again.

As writers, we are all different. And that’s a very good thing.

Brandon Sanderson delivered the event’s keynote address. He spoke on the ten things he needed to know before he got published, and one of those ten things was to remember that everyone is different.

Some writers carefully outline their story, building character sheets and crafting the arc for each scene before ever beginning to write. Others throw caution to the wind and write to their heart’s content, only going back to address character development and plot after they’ve exhausted their muse. Many writers are a combination of both.

But no two writers are the same.

Embrace what works for you. Don’t hesitate to try the methods of others, but in the end, viva la difference!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Too Much to Say

By Keith Fisher

I was asked to write a review on Prayers that Bring Miracles, by Stephen M. Bird, but I am full of it this morning . . . I mean I have too many things to write about. I’ll get back to the review in a moment, but first, let me express my condolences to fellow blogcker, C. LaRene Hall. Her mother passed away, and even though these things are sometimes expected, or a relief, It’s still hard to say goodbye.

I attended a writer's workshop on Thursday and recharged my batteries. It was wonderful to see all my friends and network with fellow writers. As you might have guessed from my blogs of late, I’ve been re-evaluating life’s choices, and the workshop presenters managed to give me a renewed sense of direction. I believe again---I can be a writer---I can touch hearts.

I need to write about two friends, but I’ll save that for another time. Perhaps on my other blog, A Writer’s Eyes. But for now, I wish to pay tribute to L.T Elliott. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but she has a wonderful capacity to build others. Like everyone, I have a list of blogs to visit each day, and invariably, I find her leaving positive comments, making the writer feel good.

Laura, (L.T), has touched my heart at times when I wanted to chuck the whole thing, and I want to show my gratitude. I got a chance to give her a hug at the workshop, I hope she knows how much I appreciate her support.

Now, the book report. Bet you were thinking I had forgotten?

When I was asked to review Prayers that Bring Miracles, I never dreamed it would be just what I needed. I must admit, I’ve heard the story before. Published in 1997, The book is timeless. Brother Bird walks the reader through a story of when he was a Navy Chaplain and teaches valuable lessons about prayer.

The lessons, when understood, will help increase faith in getting answers to life’s questions, and help with trials. Above all, in my opinion, The lesson, that God loves all of us and wants to give us wonderful blessings, is the most valuable piece of information in the book. The fact that anyone of any religion can talk to his/her Father in Heaven like someone conversing with a close parent is very comforting.

I recommend this book to everyone and I hope you will find peace in troubled times.

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

Friday, September 25, 2009


by G.Parker

I had a different blog I was going to post today, but I've saved it for next week. We just found out that one of our bloggers' mother passed away and is having to go through a difficult time.

This is the third time this has happened in our blogging group. While it's not unexpected when one gets to be in their 40's and 50's, it's still a shock -- no matter how prepared you think you are.

I was up in the canyons this past Sunday with my family to admire the fall leaves. While we didn't get to see much of the leaves, we were able to watch some rock climbers.

As we watched, I noticed that there were several on the ground as two were climbing on different ropes. One person had to go up farther to enable the group to climb higher. It looked as if they were all together in the activity, and I thought it was a pretty neat lesson on teamwork.

As a team, we present these blogs to you on a daily basis. We worth with each other on editing them and presentation. We are aware of each others lives and the time it takes to do this blog. We are also there to offer sympathy and support in times of need.

While this member of our blog won't be posting this next week, we might just offer something from her past blogs that we know will still be beneficial. Words of wisdom aren't limited to time frames, after all.

Our thoughts are with you Connie. Take care.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Be Thankful and Have Business for Life

By Nichole Giles

The Following is a True Story:

A man named Scott owns his own mortgage business. This man does not advertise in newspapers or on billboards, doesn’t send out fliers or promotions over radio waves. His company is built strictly by word of mouth. For that matter, he only takes new clients by recommendation. Meaning, everyone who goes to him is sent there by another client.

In this way, he saves advertising costs and is able to use the money toward other things. Scott chooses to throw big parties for all clients of his company—inviting them to bring friends to come eat and play. And when I say play, I mean this is a big deal thing with way fun activities and door prizes. Whenever a client recommends someone else, the recommending person or family receives a very nice thank you gift. Sometimes it’s chocolates, sometimes it’s gourmet cookies, gift baskets, gift cards, personalized address stamps or labels, etc. But whatever they send is always high class, and thoughtful.

Over the course of several years, the company has grown from small and intimate to huge and ultra-successful.

Mike and John own a law business. These partners are nice guys, professional, cordial, and hard working. But even though they don’t advertise much, they have a much different plan for building their clientele. No parties, no recommendations, and no thank you gifts—or even cards. When someone calls needing assistance, they take days or weeks to respond, and once they have a check in hand, the client is long forgotten. Granted, it’s true that their clients are very different from those of the mortgage company, but the concept probably works the same way. Their firm is small, and with no one excited about recommending them, will probably stay that way.

What’s the difference?

The mortgage company will finance, refinance, and serve the needs of their clients to the best of their abilities, and it shows in their thoughtfulness of people. Someone can call them and have his call returned within hours, his questions answered immediately, and an application processed in an afternoon. Their clients are clients for life.

On the other hand, the law firm is difficult to reach, abrasive with the people they serve, and ungrateful for the opportunity to render their services—regardless of the circumstances. If the need ever arises again, those clients needing an attorney will likely try going somewhere else to see if they have better luck. After all, even criminals have choices when it comes to lawyers.

Which business would you rather associate with?

The same way of thinking can be applied to us as authors. I think it’s important to treat our writing as work, and our work as a business. Are we gracious and thankful—even when we get rejections? Or are we bitter and mean? How do we speak to others with whom we associate? Do we bash other authors openly or give them private, constructive criticism, while building up their confidence?

Are you thankful for the agent or editor to whom you submitted and who took the time to read your work—even though they have an enormous pile of other manuscripts to go through? Even if they passed, they took valuable time to look. Did you think to thank them for that? If not, maybe you should. Maybe we all should.

Rejection is a part of the business, and I get the feeling that editors and agents don’t love that part of their jobs. Maybe that’s why some don’t even bother to reply. Maybe it’s too hard to stomach the idea that they might be squashing someone’s dreams.

My recommendation: Thank them anyway. They work hard, and certainly deserve it. And who knows, maybe someday you’ll submit to them again, and they’ll remember that you were gracious and thankful. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll become your agent or editor for life.

**Names in the story have been changed.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Marketing Is Important

By C. LaRene Hall

I spent this last weekend at the Homestead attending the LUW Conference. As always, when I attend these things I always come away with a resolve to do better.

Since I recently had a book published, I was really interested in the marketing workshops. There was one taught by Richard Paul Evans and another one by Jill Vanderwood. They were both exceptional and taught me many new ideas.

Mr. Evans gave us some ideas on – How do you know if you have the right product?
1. Is there an audience?
2. Is that audience big enough to provide success?
3. Who is going to purchase the book?
4. Can you create perpetual motion? Marketing is the starter engine in the car.
5. Does it fulfill a need?
6. What is it about your book that sells it? Find it – crack the code.
7. Find out what your unique proposition is. You keep looking until you find what it is.

He also told us that we should take prisoners – names of everyone – a mailing list. Have an emailing list. Send out newsletters. Join mailing list. It was a good class.

I didn’t get to take notes during Jill’s presentation because I was busy taking a video for her. Because she is a dear friend, I have seen first-hand the many things she does to promote her book. I’ve attended the book parties that she has held. She always goes the second mile, and gets organizations involved by doing fundraisers. During the class she handed out a couple of valuable handouts.

After your book is published, here are some suggestions from her:
1. Send out press releases.
2. Have a charity event.
3. Plan your book interview
4. Plan your book trailer
5. Send out review copies
6. Join a PR Network
7. Continue to send out articles
8. Continue to blog
9. Spend time reviewing books/movies
10. Arrange speaking engagements
11. Enter your book in contests
12. Arrange an interview with the media

For those of you who didn’t read my blog last week take a look on Jill actually did a leap for Literacy to raise money for their program. Jill has taught me lots about marketing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Exhilaration of Creation

By Ali Cross

There’s nothing quite like the newness and wonder of working on a new project, when the ideas come at a frenetic pace and your mind is full of the possibilities. For me, that’s bliss.

When I first begin a project, I feel like I’m cracking open a good book. I’m thrilled to discover out what comes next, to see the characters reveal themselves and face their challenges.

The writing won’t always stay this way—at least it doesn’t for me.

At some point the need to put the story on paper will fade and I’ll have to hunt for the pieces, connecting the words that come in seemingly random patterns until they paint a picture.

Later, the hard work of editing and revising and making sense of all that I wrote the first time will keep this story alive in my mind for a long time. Later, I’ll bleed sweat and tears over the process of writing and completing a story, until I can finally say The End, and mean it.

For now though, I’m going to strap myself in and enjoy the wild ride of a newborn story. I live for this.

How about you? What’s your favorite part of writing?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Out in the Garden

By Keith Fisher

My mother used to sing a nursery rhyme when I was a child and now, she’s taught it to her grandkids. It clearly shows I’ve gone off the deep end.

Out in the garden picking peas,
thought I heard a chicken sneeze.
He sneezed so hard with a hooping cough,
he sneezed his head and his tail right off.

I’ve been working in my yard this week. It was time to try and reverse the neglect caused by several years of Dutch oven cook offs, and Saturday morning editing sessions. I've run into a few problems in my task. One problem I faced was a weed that had taken over and put down deep roots. I worked for two days to dig it out and I swear I heard it laughing the whole time.

Now, there are many object lessons we could take from my weed, but after digging and pulling on that stump, I’m too tired to think of any. I'd like to take the day off, find a shady place, maybe a hammock and a cold drink? Well, It was nice to dream. If you need me, I'll be in the garden . . . uh, pickin peas . . . uh, wrong time of year.

I want to leave you with a wise quote I paraphrased from The Peace Giver, by James L Ferrell.

“The Lord isn’t saying it will be easy . . . He says, pulling free from the sinfulness that has kept us bound may well be like taking up a cross and carrying it on our backs. But by that image he reminds us we are not in this alone and we do not have to carry it forever. For the One will take it from us, and with it, the burdens that weigh us down.”

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

Friday, September 18, 2009

Reality or Fiction?

by G. Parker

I'm of a more serious frame of mind lately, due to the political climate of our country. The media makes me wonder what has happened to journalist and think fondly of the days gone by when the reporters searched for truth -- not just whatever story they could come up with.

Today, The media and journalists (for the most part) are mostly driven by money. I don't know if you remember the Superman movies series with Christopher Reeves, but Lois Lane was after a Nobel Prize. Not money -- though I'm sure that was a motivation it wasn't what drove her. She wanted the perfect story, thirsted for the truth and felt it was her duty as a reporter to tell it.

Nowadays, I'm not aware of too many reporters like that, but I have read newspapers that I feel are more honest than most -- where you can feel assured the reporter has done his/her homework and has written the truth.

There are many journalists who slide through with whatever gets them by. There are also those who taint their story according to their perspective. Recently, my boss was interviewed by a newspaper in the northern part of Utah and the story that came out was totally slanted to the negative. Our office was amazed and dismayed that the journalist would write things in that light.

As writers, there are many who write fiction and those that write non-fiction. Journalism is pretty much under the non-fiction genre, but it's also a category of its own. A journalist has to have sharper spelling and grammar skills because newspapers don't usually have the money to retain lots of editors to catch errors. Journalists have to be able to write quickly, with most beginning writers struggling with daily deadlines, or just the chance to cover a prime story. Those articles created from facts and figures, interviews and information are turned into something interesting and catchy to read. (sounds familiar, huh?) Those fortunate enough to have a weekly column, have a little more time, but a week isn't much of a time frame either when you have a topic to cover. I know -- blogging is similar in style and I've been there.

I would encourage those who are deciding what kind of writer they want to be to delve into all the facets of the art. Good journalists are few and far between in today's world. The media is getting a bad rap because of this, and a good writer could make quite a difference. No kidding!

Just think how the viewpoint of the average citizen is shaped through reading the local newspaper and watching the local news. You could be the one to get the news out there.

You could make the difference.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Point of Thought

By Nichole Giles

Earlier this week, I reviewed a book on my other blog. The author, Rachel Ann Nunes, is not only a wonderful, sweet person, but also an excellent author whose stories really make a person think. Her most recent release, Saving Madeline, is one of those thought provoking reads. I finished the book within about two days (despite time taken to taxi children to soccer, piano, guitar, school, etc.) but have caught myself thinking about the characters and their circumstances ever since. What would I do in a given similar situation?

Next week, I’ll be reviewing another thought provoking book Alma, by H.B. Moore. (Same blog, different post). I realize that this book is unusual, as it’s based on scripture story that’s been fictionalized, but in Moore’s books, the characters become so real, the situations so harsh, that I can’t help but see these prophets and scripture characters as real people.

That sounds bad when I put it that way. But how often do you read scriptures and then think about the everyday lives of these people? The wives and children, homes, loved ones and the relationships between them all? Do you ever wonder what they ate for dinner? What their homes looked like or where they spent their days? Did they have jobs? Markets? How did they survive?

Both books gave me “a-ha” moments in which I had to set them down so the wonder could fill my brain as I thought, “I get it.” An epiphany of sorts.

These are the moments every reader longs for when they pick up a book. Because, no matter how entertained we are by a plot, how we enjoy the story, or love the characters, or are drawn into the setting, what we’re really looking for in a book is that one morsel of wisdom that makes us think, “A-ha!” That moment, suspended in time, in which something in our life connects us to something in the book, and we learn from what we’re reading. We understand. We empathize. We decide. And something inside us changes.

Every fictional story has some core base in reality. That’s the truth. Somewhere deep down, whether intentionally or not, every story has something to teach, something for the readers to learn. And as readers, isn’t that what we want out of a book?

Granted, this does not mean that we—the authors—should set out to write a book strictly with the idea of teaching a lesson. I’m sorry, but those books tend to come across as preachy.

Instead, I think it means that inside every story is a little core of a lesson, and—after the rough draft is written—it’s our job to find those little nuggets and polish them to a shine so that as our readers search for them, they’re able to find them and use them to light a path to the end of the book. And maybe, if we’re lucky, something in our words will light a path to something else in the life of a reader. An epiphany of sorts.

Our books will make readers think. Isn’t that the point?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Don't Be in a Hurry

By C. LaRene Hall

Caution in life, does pay off.

Confucius says, “The cautious seldom err.”

One important lesson I’ve learned is - don’t get in such a hurry while driving or writing to speed on through those red lights or to send your manuscripts out before they are ready.

I only live about ten minutes away from my work. Depending on which way I go, I have five or six intersections with lights that I go through each day. Yesterday, three red lights were run, not the yellow cautious ones, but the bright red ones. I’m grateful that I’ve learned to wait a moment before venturing into the intersection after the light turns green. It’s a shame that so many people are subjected to those who every day have to run the red lights. I wish we could all be safe, but the truth is that every time we get into our cars we are putting our life on the line. We have to drive defensively and watch out for ourselves.

Sometimes authors get into a BIG hurry to get their manuscripts in the mail, only to find out they missed something. Maybe they didn’t do their research enough and sent it to the wrong person. Or, they should have done just one more edit to catch that one mistake they missed. Either way, I believe we should set our story aside for a short time, and think about what we are doing. A new look in a few days may make all the difference in the world. Make sure it’s ready to go before you stick it in the mail.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Breathings of the Heart

By Ali Cross

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with a few writers about their writing journey. We talked about how we came to be writers and about the challenges we faced along the way. And an amazing similarity was discovered.

More than half of those gathered had battled with depression and/or been discouraged in our writing efforts early on in our lives.

One had been told to not stand out or to draw attention to herself because other people deserved to shine too. So she needed to hide her light under a bushel—literally.

Another had been told that her imagination was something to be overcome, denied, because fantasies were bad and shameful.

One of the writers had been told he could never make a career out of writing so he should just forget it. And he did.

All of these writers had ignored their desire to write for a long time. Writing is not something we fell easily into. Writing, is an often painful journey that is fraught with the danger of self-discovery.

But, to a person, everyone agreed they are truly happiest when they are writing.

William Wordsworth said “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” And so I say to you, to all of my writer friends, my sensitive friends who yearn to paint pictures with your words, write. And be happy.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Waiting for Inspiration

By Keith Fisher

“Where do you get your ideas?” I think everyone has been asked that question. It inevitably seems to follow the announcement that you are a writer. I suppose, everyone who dabbles in artistic expression whether they paint, design, or make rock art, fields that question.

Back in 1980, After working as a carpenter/house builder, I decided to become an architect. I enrolled in the Drafting and Design program at UVCC. As plans often are, mine were interrupted by a sudden desire to serve a mission for the LDS Church. I was twenty-six, and I got married right after returning home.

I never became and architect, but I started a part time, home design business. Some of the houses in my area started out in my head. People asked me where I got my ideas. Of course my designs were pretty standard, and they followed traditional building practices of the time. I did, however, put something original into each one.

To make a long story short, (too late), I don’t design houses anymore, because what I did, can be done by any homeowner with a computer. I still play with home design, though, and I’ve re-designed my house many times. It releases creative energy. For a brief moment, I’m back building walls and walking through the house on my computer screen.

It had been a while, but I sat down the other day, and redesigned the deck I’ve been planning for years. It took me away from the daily grind, and I escaped into the world or house, I had created. It made me think of last week’s blog and my reasons for escaping into the worlds I invent in my stories.

Creative release takes me back to the safe world of childhood. When I played make believe. Perhaps this is the answer to the question. For me, ideas come at unusual times, and in strange places. The idea for my book, Brother’s Keeper, came while sitting in church. The whole story, beginning, middle, and end suddenly popped into my head. I began the outline. I wrote the prologue (almost verbatim as it is now), before the meeting ended. It was a great game of make believe.

You see, playing make believe is the key. I loved the game as a child, and I never stopped playing it. I play it every time I design a house, and I play it, when I plot a story. I have a million story ideas in my head, and I know how each one plays out. The problem for me is writing them correctly.

If you’re a writer who writes correctly, I hate you . . . just kidding. Seriously though, If you have trouble plotting, and you’re waiting for inspiration, try making believe. If you can’t remember how to play, ask your children to teach you.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Freedom to Write

by G.Parker

As I ponder the situation in our country today, I am grateful for many things. Especially that at this moment, I have the freedom to write whatever I want and can show it to whom ever I please. We have some amazing freedoms in our country, and I am extremely thankful that I live here.

Nine years ago, I remember standing in horror as I watched a second airplane go through the world trade center. I had just gotten several of my children off to school and my husband had called me and told me to turn on the television, a plane had just crashed into the twin towers. I had turned it on in shock and disbelief, only to see a few moments later the second plane.

I don’t remember doing much that day other than sitting in front of the television and watching history unfold. I remember during the next couple of days being very thankful every time a jet went overhead from Hill Air Force Base. I knew those jets were keeping watch and I would tear up just watching them. The skies seemed very empty other than that, there were no other jet trails or sign of planes flying overhead. It was quiet and rather ominous.

Today, I’m sure there will be a few memorials and speeches. There will be many who go by the memorial in New York and remember those who died that fateful day. Our local leaders and friends have suggested that we remember this day with prayer and fasting. That seems appropriate to me. I’m pretty sure we’ll end up watching something related to the event, either the documentary or the dramatized version. But we will honor those brave souls who worked so hard to save the lives of the people in those towers.

What is ironic, is those same people would have been impressed with the patriotism that followed that day for several months. And then been dismayed by the direction our country has taken since.

The spoken and written word can have much power – we’ve seen that in the past year of elections and since. Those who have the talent and gift of writing, should do so to preserve their liberty – their freedoms. Because we are rapidly approaching a time when it might be taken away.

Remember what happened that dark day, September 11, 2001, and never forget. Our nation has many enemies, without and within.

The written word might be the only thing that saves it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Authentic Storybook Culture

By Nichole Giles

Last weekend my family visited a local Latin festival. My husband served his church mission in Mexico, and has always had a deep love of the Latin culture. That love has apparently rubbed off on me and our kids.

Actually, though, now that I think about it, I’ve always loved the culture myself, for different reasons. Having spent some of my most critical growing-up years in Arizona within a few hours of the Mexican border, I experienced lots of small tastes of those same customs, albeit somewhat Americanized.

So we went to this festival, and the minute we got out of the car, the music touched my ears and made me want to dance. Ladies in colorful, full skirts danced with trays of glasses on their heads, and then men in Aztec headdresses with feathers taller than them danced a tribal dance. The scent of cooking, marinated meat permeated the air, causing my mouth to water and my stomach to growl. We ate authentic tacos—YUMM-O!—and walked among the booths, where local people sold hand-made goods, jewelry, and piñatas. As we meandered, we ran into some close friends from Mexico, and conversations commenced in a mixture of English and Spanish, and for a little while, it almost felt like we were visiting another country.

The effect of ambiance took me temporarily away from my own cares and worries in the city near my house, and transported me to another country and another situation. It was a nice break, and a wonderful day.

This is the same kind of thing I want to accomplish with my writing. When I pick up a book, I hope to be transported to the setting, become friends with the characters, smell the air, taste the food, and feel the warmth of sun or cold of the snow. I want to be there. For a lot of people, books are a portable, affordable vacation. It is the small, important details that help them enjoy visiting the setting of your book.

To do this, it’s important to remember that we have five senses, and use each sense as often as possible in our writing. Sensory details connect readers with the characters and setting, and leave them unable to put down the book.

Well, okay, plot plays a part in that, too. But put the two together, and you have a potentially explosive piece of writing that people are dying to read. Let’s face it. Everyone wants to be transported into their favorite story, and as authors, it’s our job to get them there.

In the meantime, try something new so you can share it with your readers. There’s nothing more authentic than life experience. So go out, experience life, and then go home and write about it.

Until next week, write on!


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Finishing a Job

By C. LaRene Hall

In May, my husband and I decided we needed to do something about staining our redwood deck, especially since I was planning to hold my book signing party at our home in the yard. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate. We left on vacation the week the rain finally stopped.

Upon our return, we were able to start the giant project. My husband covered the siding so that it wouldn’t turn red, and brought out his paint sprayer. When I came home from work, he asked me how it looked. I told him that the deck looked nice, but I didn’t think he needed to paint the grass. I honestly don’t think he had even noticed the lawn.

Now it was my turn to do my part. I spent every evening with a brush, putting stain between all the boards. The deck wasn’t finished by the time I had my party, but it still looked better than before we started. Since that time, I have taken my brush outside many evenings to fill in all the spots that the sprayer missed on the trellis surrounding the deck. It’s taken me all summer, but finally I can say that the job is finished.

This reminds me of the feeling I had when I finally finished my last novel. Spraying the deck was much like the first draft. It still needed work. Each time I’ve taken the brush outside and stained a few more boards that the spray couldn’t reach reminds me of the countless hours spent doing re-writes; deleting scenes, adding a little bit on that page, and changing the dialect so it didn’t sound so wooden. It’s a good feeling when you finish staining your deck or when your book is completed and you can finally say The End.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

What Other Writers Have To Say
(Or, How I Stole Other People’s Words Because
the Long Weekend Made Me Forget to Write My Own.)

By Darvell Hunt

There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. --Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. --Anaïs Nin

I try to leave out the parts that people skip. --Elmore Leonard

If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. --Toni Morrison

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out. --Author Unknown

Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book... but you might not know it until you write...
--President Barack Obama

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster. --Isaac Asimov

I'd rather be caught holding up a bank than stealing so much as a two-word phrase from another writer. --Jack Smith

Saturday, September 05, 2009


By Keith Fisher

It’s quiet now. The whole house is asleep, so I rise from my bed in my vain attempt to write, hoping to find words that will inspire. I marked an anniversary recently. It was twenty-seven years ago, when I first tried to write a story on an old typewriter. Nineteen years ago, I began to write biographies for family history, and twelve years ago, when I came home from a stress filled day at work, locked myself in my office, sat in front of my computer, and started to write serious fiction.

After awhile, my neck muscles loosened and I found myself carried away, so to speak, on wings of my imagination. I revisited the world of make believe, where, as a child, I spent hours making life conform to my desires. I was in charge. People and events followed my will.

The next night, I returned to my keyboard. I picked up where I left off, and found myself putting my characters in places, and situations, I never expected them to go.

I was hooked by the third night, and I found treasure in the experiences of my life. The story I’d written turned out great. It ended up with 45,000 words, and it became my pride and joy, my offspring.

When I finished, my neighbor agreed to take a look at it. She had editing experience and I didn’t have a clue, but I was a talented guy. I could do anything, and I could cook too.

You can imagine my dismay, when she tore my manuscript apart. My pride fell. I didn’t understand half of the things she talked about, but I knew, (I knew) my story was good, and I could write it any way I wanted. After all, what did she know?

As time went on, I wrote another book. I swallowed my pride, and perused the writing section in the public library. I read about the right, and the wrong ways to write, and I got better at it. I submitted manuscripts, always, with the same results. I did, however, get a rejection recommending a conference or workshop.

I attended my first writer’s conference in 2006 and heard someone talk about how good it felt to be around people who understood. Yes, it did feel good, and I began to believe I could be published. I learned many lessons that day, and adjusted my writing. I improved, but there were still problems.

Through it all, I knew belonging to a critique group would help me, but nobody invited me. So at the LDStorymakers conference 2008, I did the inviting. We met and established our critique group. We had two published authors. One member was a beginner. Another talented, member had worked on a newspaper, and there was me, (the mediocre wannabe).

There have been changes. Because of time constraints one of our group can’t come, and a new member lives out of state. I’m the only unpublished writer. Everyone else is either published, or they have contracts.

Now, I write three blogs and try hard to post a positive thought on Facebook, but I remember the sound of that old typewriter, and the pressure I had to apply to each key in order for my words to appear on paper.

It’s been a tough road. For some reason, it’s hard for me to balance all the rules and still be able to write the story I want to tell. A friend said I’m a much better writer than I used to be, but with my latest rejection I got a very nice letter. It mentioned the changes I need to make, but to be honest, I’m not sure I understand all of it. Part of what they mentioned occurred as a result of following the directions of other editors.

So, I rise in the morning with great intentions of writing, hoping I can make the changes that will finally transform me into a better writer—good enough to be published, good enough to make a reader want more. Next year, I will have been writing for twenty years. I think I’ll throw a party and invite all of you.

I’ll continue to try and put all the pieces together, attempting to tell the stories that run through my head now, like a continual stream of soldiers marching. They pause briefly, making sure I note their presence on the stage of my mind. I will keep writing, because I have no choice. It’s part of me.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Facing Your Fears

by G.Parker

I bought a scooter this past week.

It's something I never thought I'd do. We looked at the number of drivers in our home, vs the vehicles available, and it seemed like the smartest option -- let alone the gas savings. However...this is me on two wheels, something I'd never thought would happen.

I kind of like scooters. If you've ever ridden a motorcycle you understand the principles of leaning and not interfering with the driver -- both things that I've always had trouble with. I trust my husband with my life, until we get on a motorcycle, and then the fear takes over. Scooters, on the other hand, are more on my level.

This past month as we've looked at and test driven various scooters, I've come to find them fun. Lower to the ground than the usual motorcycle, they are definitely lower than bikes (which I haven't been able to ride without panic since my mission...ugh! ) and feel more controllable. The speed bit kind of gets to me, which is funny because if I am I'm not careful, I tend to speed when driving.

But I decided fear was getting in the way of reality. I was letting it get the best of me.

I think a lot of times as writers we do the same thing. The 'what if's' freeze our fingers as they are poised over the keyboard. What if no one likes it? What if I can't get an agent? How will I ever get published? What if I'm no good?

The only way to get past the fear is to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

I'm not really comfortable with riding a scooter to work, especially now that my work is 10 miles rather than the 2 it was, but I'm determined to do it. I know it's reasonably safe, I've seen several other people riding them around town, so I'm going to bite the bullet and just do it.

The same thing needs to be done with my writing. I have pretty much stopped writing for the past two months. I have no desire and unfortunately right now, I don't care. I know that will change soon, but at this point, that's how it stands. Once again, I'm going to have to push myself.

For now, I'm working on breaking through my fear factor. What is your worst fear?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Book Review: "Illuminations of the Heart" and a Contest

By Nichole Giles

Hello friends! I'm going to take a break from my regular-scheduled writing blog to introduce you to a really good book I'm sure all you romance fans will just love, especially if you like historical stories. Stay tuned next week for more about writing from yours truly. (That's me.) Next week I'll be discussing...well, actually, I have no idea. You'll have to stop by to find out.

Back Cover Blurb:

“Clothilde.” He spoke the name on a breath like a prayer. Then he lowered his head and kissed her.

Her heart is lost in that first embrace, her world shaken to its foundations. There is just one problem: her name is not Clothilde. It is Siriol De Calendri. Trained in the art of illumination in the far-off city of Venice, Siri is directed by her late brother’s will to the county of Poitou in France, where she enters the guardianship of her brother’s friend, Sir Triston de Brielle. Once in Poitou, Siri hopes to find employment in an illuminator’s shop—until Triston unexpectedly snatches her heart away with a kiss.

Triston is a man of quiet honor and courage, but the guilt he carries for the death of his late wife, Clothilde, has left him numb and hesitant to love again. Worse yet, Siri bears an uncanny resemblance to his lost love. Or does she? Her merry laughter and twinkling eyes are very different from his late wife’s shy smiles and quiet ways. Yet when he gazes into Siri’s face, all he sees is Clothilde.

Then Triston’s past returns to threaten them both. Will his tragic life with Clothilde be repeated with Siri? Trapped between the rivalry of the king’s sons on the one hand and a neighbor out for vengeance on the other, Triston realizes it would be safer to send Siri away. But how can he bear to lose her again?

Siri is determined not to be cast off and not to live in another woman’s shadow. She has illuminated many a priceless book with pen and paint. But can her own vibrant spirit illuminate the darkness in Triston’s soul and make his heart beat for her alone?

My Take:

Once again, Joyce DiPastena has outdone herself. I absolutely loved her first book, Loyalty’s Web, and wondered how she would ever write another one with so much depth, so many plot twists and turns, and let’s not forget the heart-melting love story (the kind that doesn’t make you cringe). But how could I have thought such a thing? Of course, Illuminations was up to par! I absolutely loved it.

Okay, first I have to warn you. I’m a sucker for a good romance. Really. But I’m also extremely picky about what I read, especially since I started writing myself. Other than Loyalty’s Web, it’s been quite a while since I found a sweet romance that I just couldn’t put down. But this one was definitely packed full of heart-pounding romance. The downside is that I’m going to have to wait for probably a year or more to read another book by Joyce. (Frown. That’s a long time!) The point is, Illuminations of the Heart has sealed the deal. I’m a fan for life!

My Nitpicks:

I have issues with this section of my reviews. There are those who think a nitpick section is uncalled for or unnecessary. And in most cases, that’s probably true. However, I feel that it’s important for my readers to understand that I will be honest in my review process, and if I end up reviewing a book I wasn’t fond of, that I’ll kindly let them know that, while pointing out the things I did like.

That said, I have a really hard time finding anything to nitpick in this book. Seriously! Oh wait. I got one. (Joyce, we already had this discussion.) After reading Loyalty’s Web, I’d grown very fond of all the characters—except Clothilde and Helen’s extremely EVIL mother—and so was sad to discover Clothilde’s death in Illuminations. Seriously, every time Triston thought of her, I got sad too. So, I guess my nitpick is that I got teary in several places, which can be embarrassing when you’re sitting in the orthodontist’s office waiting for your kids, or waiting in line to meet teachers at the school or something. But worry not. I grew to love Siri as well, and found the ending very satisfying.

So now I’m left wondering who’s story Joyce will tell next. Perhaps Acelet? Ettienne? Hm. Only Joyce herself knows.

I give Illuminations of the Heart a five on my diamond scale, and recommend that you run out and grab a copy as fast as you can so you can start reading it too.

Wait, running out would require leaving the computer. I’ll make it easier. Click here to order yours from Deseret Book or here to order from Amazon.

Oh, but that’s not all! Leave a comment here and be entered to win an autographed copy of Illuminations of the Heart or one of three gift cards. The best part is that this tour goes until September 15th, and you can leave comments on as many tour stops as you want, and each one counts as a new entry. (Tip: I’ve posted this blog in two places—comment on both for two entries.) Good luck! I believe the winners will be announced on Joyce's blog at the end of the tour.

I've done a short interview with Joyce. To read it, click here.

To read more about the author, click here or here.

Joyce DiPastena will be touring many Costco locations in Arizona. Watch her blog or website for dates and locations.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The First Time

by C. LaRene Hall

Most of us have dreamed about the first time we did something – sometimes it was frightening or maybe it was exciting, but we’ve all experienced the first time at everything we’ve ever done.
It started long before our recollection of anything. Our parents can remember the first time we took a step, the first tooth, and our first Christmas. Maybe we can remember our first day at school, but I don’t recall anything about that day. I can imagine and it isn’t a pretty picture since I’ve been told that I was so shy I wouldn’t even tell my teacher my name. I recall many things that happened in elementary school. Some of those incidents are good and some I would rather forget because I was a timid child.

One experience I’ve never forgotten, and I’m grateful I finally had the opportunity to do, was flying in an airplane. I was extremely frightened, and not so sure it would be a good experience. I had four children, and had never ever desired to do such a thing.

My husband traveled all the time and one year in 1977, he thought it would be a good anniversary present to have me fly out to the east coast to visit him instead of him flying home to see us. I agreed to his plan, but as the time grew closer, I became nervous. When the day arrived, as I looked at the giant plane I was about to board, I wanted to back out of the crazy idea. With my children and parent’s looking on, I forced myself to climb the steps and go through the door.

Sitting in my seat waiting for the moment to arrive when we would lift into the air, I prayed hard. I was more scared than I had ever been before. I loved riding the roller coaster and other fun rides at Lagoon and was hoping it would seem just like I was at the amusement park.

As the plane sped rapidly down the runway, I gripped the armrest tight. It didn’t take long for us to raise high in the sky among all the clouds. The ride was smooth and as I looked out the window, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Never had I ever seen anything so spectacular.

Why had I been so scared? It was wonderful. I could see things I’d never seen before. The earth was beautiful. God’s creations were magnificent.

Never have I regretted the decision to fly, although right after the moment of take -off I was sure I’d made a tremendous mistake. I love flying and would rather do that than take a long drive. When you take a road trip, you see things you can’t see up high, so once in awhile, I choose to do that, although now my favorite way to travel is in the air.

Flying is a lot like writing. The first time you send your manuscripts out to have someone read, it is frightening. You wonder, why did I do that? When the answer comes, you have a hard time tearing open the envelope, afraid of what might be inside. I assure you, you’ll be glad that you took the plunge because someday it’s going to all be worthwhile.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Aunt Ant

By Darvell Hunt

“Hey Grant?”
“Yeah, what?”
“You see the end yet?”
“No. Not yet. Brant is still ahead of me, though,” said Grant.
“You know where we’re going, Grant?”
“No, Vant, stop asking me that!” said Grant.
“I know, I know. We’re supposed to follow,” said Vant. “That’s what we do. But I’m getting bored!”
“You can’t!” said the ant.
“I can’t?” asked the other ant.
“No,” said Grant. “We’re ants!”
“Oh, yeah, that’s right,” said Vant. “I forgot.”
“I’m hungry,” said Grant.
“Me too,” said the rear ant.
“Who has the food?” asked Grant.
“My aunt,” said Vant.
“Where’s your aunt?” asked Grant
“At the end,” said Vant.
"Where's that?" asked Grant.
“Shut up back there!” said Brant, the ant in front of Grant.
They did. For about two minutes, they walked in silence, Grant following Brant and Vant following Grant, looking for Vant’s aunt. Vant longed to see his aunt, because he was very hungry. He thought about reaching the end and seeing the food.
“Hey Grant?”
“Yeah, what?”
“You see the end yet?”
“No. Not yet. Brant is still ahead of me, though,” said Grant.
“You know where we’re going, Grant?”
“No, Vant, stop asking me that!” said Grant.
“I know, I know. We’re supposed to follow,” said Vant. “That’s what we do. But I’m getting bored!”
“You can’t!” said the ant.
“I can’t?” asked the other ant.
“No,” said Grant. “We’re ants!”
“Oh, yeah, that’s right,” said Vant. “I forgot.”
“I’m hungry,” said Grant.
“Me too,” said the rear ant.
“Who has the food?” asked Grant.
“My aunt,” said Vant.
“Where’s your aunt?” asked Grant
“At the end,” said Vant.
"Where's that?" asked Grant.
“Shut up back there!” said Brant, the ant in front of Grant.
They did. For about two minutes, they walked in silence, Grant following Brant and Vant following Grant, looking for Vant’s aunt. Vant longed to see his aunt, because he was very hungry. He thought about reaching the end and seeing the food.
“Hey Grant?”
“Yeah, what?”
“You see the end yet?”
“No. Not yet. Brant is still ahead of me, though,” said Grant.
“You know where we’re going, Grant?”
“No, Vant, stop asking me that!” said Grant.
“I know, I know. We’re supposed to follow,” said Vant. “That’s what we do. But I’m getting bored!”
“You can’t!” said the ant.
“I can’t?” asked the other ant.
“No,” said Grant. “We’re ants!”
“Oh, yeah, that’s right,” said Vant. “I forgot.”
“I’m hungry,” said Grant.
“Me too,” said the rear ant.
“Who has the food?” asked Grant.
“My aunt,” said Vant.
“Where’s your aunt?” asked Grant
“At the end,” said Vant.
"Where's that?" asked Grant.