Friday, December 31, 2010

Don't Look Back, Unless...

by G.Parker

I saw a snippet of an article on that said we shouldn't dwell on the past.  I gathered they were indicating one should move on with hope and faith in the future.

I figure that's the best way to go about things.  This has been an amazing year.  My personal life has been absolutely crazy, though my work life hasn't been much less.  My writing hasn't been very productive other than participation in NaNoWriMo, but it's been okay.  I know there's hope for next year.

Since looking back invariably causes regret and unhappiness, I'm determined to look at things differently this time.  There's nothing that can be done about 2010 now.  It's over.  The old man has breathed his last, giving room to the new baby of 2011.  It's really strange to have that in print, by the way.  Any of us raised on the movie 2001 knows what I mean.  Anyway -- now comes the time when everyone makes all sorts of new year resolutions and goes crazy with the new goals.

If you remember anything I wrote last year, you will note that I don't make resolutions.  I don't like making up a list of things that I know aren't going to happen.  I need to make a list of things that I want to work on, goals I want to set, but not resolutions.  

If it helps in setting the goals and desires for the new year to look back and contemplate, then that's a good thing.  If it only discourages you and makes you frustrated, then you should avoid it.  It won't do any good to bring yourself down.

Personally, I'm hoping to finish two books this coming year, get one of them submitted for self publishing (through the NaNo promotion) and another one submitted for Christmas publishing.  Nothing too ambitious, but far more than I've done this past year.  So, we're good.  At least I have a plan and goal in sight.  

How about you?  What are your writing goals for 2011?  Let us know, we'd like to hear.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Hard Stuff

by Cheri Chesley

I didn't post last week. As close as it was to Christmas, my son nicely requested I not do anything writing related for at least one day, and spend time with them. I asked him about the time I was still awake after they went to sleep, but that was a no-go, too. He wanted me to take a full day off. I mean, how can you say no to that face?

He's a wise 11 yr old boy. Since I was so busy with signings this month, I had left the Christmas shopping to the last week, and all that wrapping, and the stocking stuffing, food shopping, etc.

But that's all over now. I'm starting the new year early. Today. I don't do resolutions, but I do set goals. One goal for 2010 was to see my book published. Yay! Another goal was to lose 15 lbs, but I seem to have gotten that one backward. So that goal will follow me, with a few adaptations, to 2011.

But that book publishing goal still stands. One is not enough. I knew that already. Following God's plan for me, I know I have to keep moving forward. And now I have new voices chiming in to request book 2. Someone I haven't even met yet emailed me to ask when it will be in stores. Um, hopefully this time next year. Not soon enough, she said with a smile. Some of my closest friends have volunteered to help me with my rewrites and read-through because, they say, they can't wait a whole year to find out what happens next.

That is all great to hear, and I'm not going to lie, it fills me with all sorts of warm fuzzies. But I also want to know I'm enriching hearts with my writing. I have to stay true to my path.

I've had an amazing December. It's one for the record books. Now I'm ready to take on 2011.

How about you?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

By Keith N Fisher

As we hurry along through our hectic daily lives, isn’t it nice to have a day to catch up? I don’t mean clearing off your desk, or even emptying your “in” basket. I’m talking about the pause the world takes at this time, each year.

I once saw an episode of a TV show called Fraggle Rock. It illustrates my point. The writers took the premise of the longest day of the year, (Winter solstice), and made the whole world shut down, on that day. Everyone, and everything gradually wound down, then reset, and the world was fresh and new again.

What you celebrate on December 25, doesn’t matter, or even if you celebrate at all. Isn’t it nice to have a day when the world shuts down? Well, mostly. I have to work this year, too.

Lately, I’ve been hearing people correcting others. They claim we should say happy holidays instead of merry Christmas. It’s all in the interest of political correctness. I used to say happy holidays because the term encompassed all the special days at this time of year. Now, I’ve soured to it.

Okay, If I remove the “MC” words in favor of the “HH”, will I be offending those of us who have to work, and can’t take a holiday? The list of taboo words, in our society, continues to grow. I suppose the reason is, we don’t want to offend any special interest groups, and frankly, I can’t keep up with the changes. When it comes to Christmas, I’m more worried about offending Jesus than a special interest group.

Back in the sixties, when they made A Charlie Brown Christmas, there was a big fuss over the Christmas play portion of the show. The producers were concerned about delving into the baby Jesus, thing. I’m so glad, they let Linus narrate the true meaning of Christmas, aren’t you?

Now, there are many people, who would point out the pagan beginnings of the holiday, but as for me, Christmas is for remembering my Savior. It’s a chance to take a moment, take stock, and reset my life. It’s a bright spot during a season of drudgery and despair. Whether, you are Christian or not, giving gifts, singing songs, family gatherings, and even the feast can cleanse the soul.

Like Fraggle Rock, our world has one day a year, when it shuts down, resets, and continues.

As for being politically correct, may you come to grips with what ever you believe in, but try to show tolerance for others, and stop trying to force the rest of us to espouse your cause. I love Jesus and I can’t fathom how that would effect you at all. You can believe what you want, too. It’s call freedom. I will try to remember the preferred way you wish to be addressed, and you can call your holiday whatever you wish. Let me have my preferred names as well. I could say, have a lousy winter season, but I choose to wish you the best. May you have a Merry Christmas.

Good Luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Christmas Angel

by G.Parker

Since it's Christmas Eve, I didn't have anything special to write, so I'm giving a Christmas present to all of you.  Here is a short story I wrote for a contest several years ago.  Hope you enjoy, and have a wonderful Christmas weekend!

The Christmas Angel
by G.Parker

The broken ornaments lay on the floor like scattered crumpled petals from a golden flower. Sharon stared at them in dismay, her heart beating like crazy after the loud crash, knowing that soon her mother would come running to see what had happened.

It had all been an accident, she would never have dropped the heavy box on purpose! She knew how much these ornaments meant to her mother, hadn’t she been told so every Christmas since she could remember?

Sure enough, the quick heavy pounding of her mother’s steps up the stairs announced her arrival, and Sharon couldn’t look, knowing by the quick gasp of dismay that her mother had already seen the mess.

“Oh Sharon! What happened?” her mother was down on the floor, cradling the fragile broken ornaments as if afraid to break them further.

“I didn’t mean to! It slipped out of my hands,” she whimpered, tears already filling her eyes. She knew that blast was going to come, having experienced it many times yet never fully prepared for the anger her mother could summon at the drop of a hat, or box in this case.

But to her surprise and confusion, her mother just knelt there on the floor holding the broken class as if something precious had been lost, tears silently streaming down her flushed cheeks. It was almost worse than the anger Sharon had been expecting and she didn’t know what to do. She made as if to pick up the box and start putting the broken pieces in, but her mother made a sharp motion with her head.

“Leave them. I’ll get it.”

Sharon bit her lip, unsure of what to do. They were supposed to be decorating the tree. Her father and the rest of the family were all down stairs, waiting for the ornaments. The music from the CD they were listening to could be heard faintly through the floor, and the voices of her sister and brother as they argued over something trivial.

There was nothing for it, she needed to get the next box. She turned and climbed up the short run of stairs to the attic, feeling a dread in her heart that wouldn’t lighten.  The picture of her mother kneeling on the floor in her worn polyester pants and plaid shirt, the old apron covering her plump chest and stomach, her gray hair gathered up in the typical clasp and her eyes, small and tired in her lined face, full of tears.

When had her mother gotten old?

Sharon had always thought of her as old, but at that moment, she'd looked old. Come to think of it, her father had begun to look old as well. She supposed that happened when your children began growing up and life was passing you by. Sharon was the youngest, 15, a tall gangly 15 at that. Her parents were probably in their 50’s, and she hadn’t really given it any thought before. She also knew that this Christmas was going to be hard on everyone, dad had just been informed he was going to be laid off after New Years -- cut backs and everything.

So, on top of everything else, her parents were worried about how to make ends meet. The ornaments probably seemed like the last straw, and Sharon felt the weight of it in her heart. The ornaments had been handed down from Grandma. She had made some of them, but most of them were just things that had been handed down from great-grandmother. There were some made of spun glass, some fragile store bought ones, a couple that had dates on them from almost 60 years ago. Her favorite had been the angel with the broken off halo. It didn’t matter if a couple of the ornaments were chipped or worn, Sharon knew that to her mother they were remnants of her family in the past.

As she picked up the last box, the only box of ornaments they had now, she wondered if they were going to be able to enjoy it or the evening. The box she held now held all the handmade school stuff that she and her siblings had created over the years. She even had a new one to add this year, one that she’d made in art class in school. Her teacher said that she had real talent, and praised her highly for the object she’d created. She had been waiting in anticipation for this very day, for her mother to see it and think it was as special as the others she’d held precious. Now it would be overshadowed by her weak grip and the sadness that would not go away.

She slowly went down the stairs, wishing her father had sent her brother instead of her, wasn’t he stronger? Surprised, she found her mother had already cleaned up the broken glass and left the hallway. There was no sign that anything had even happened, and she felt her breath catch in dismay. 

“Oh mom!”

She gripped the box in her hands tightly as she made her way back downstairs to the front room, putting it down on the coffee table amid shouts of “You’re so dumb!” “You’re the dumb one!” “Dad, he called me dumb!”

“Shut up, both of you!” their father yelled, his voice full of frustration and anger. “Can’t you think of anybody but yourselves? Can’t you see your mother is upset?”

Sharon’s brother and sister looked in surprise at their mother, who was sitting in the rocking chair by the tree, gazing at the empty fur in a dazed tearful silence. The lights had already been put on by their father, his only willing participation in the ceremony. It just waited for the ornaments to grace it’s branches. The room fell silent, even the CD had stopped, and they could almost hear the drop of each tear as it fell off their mother’s cheek.

“What’s wrong, mom?” Kaity walked over, slipping an arm around her mother’s shoulders. “Someone die?”

“No,” their father said, sparing his wife from having to talk. “The box of ornaments got broken.”

The ornaments?” the two of them gasped at the same time. They looked accusingly at Sharon, who was miserably opening up the box of hand made ornaments, wishing she could sink under the floor.

“What happened, Sharon?” Jack asked, his voice sharp. “Did you trip on something?”

Sharon shook her head, her chin trembling with her own despair. “I-it just slipped out of my hands,” she whispered.

Her brother was about to rail on her, and Kaity looked as if she would join in, but their father glared at them and everyone fell silent. Sharon realized that he seemed to know it was as terrible a thing for her as it was for their mother.

The next hour was spent silently adorning the tree with the few remaining ornaments, and Sharon looked at it, silently reproaching herself, knowing it was never enough for the large tree they had gotten. Watching her mother and father as they spoke softly to each other, she knew that they were debating if more decorations could be afforded.

Slipping away, she went to her room and retrieved the special one she’d made at school. She felt perhaps it would ease the pain in her mother’s heart, even if it couldn’t replace the whole box that’d been broken. She quietly reentered the family room, noticing the music had been restarted, and some light conversation between her brother and sister took some of the tension out of the room.

She walked up to her mother, still sitting in the rocking chair, and placed the paper wrapped item on her lap.

“Mom, I made this in art class, and I wanted you to put it on the tree.”

Her mother looked up at her, a quizzical expression on her face, but she still said nothing, only slowly unwound the newspaper that Sharon had made sure protected every inch. When she was finished, she held up a large Angel, complete with wire wings and halo over her glistening glass head.

“Oh, Sharon!” her mother’s astounded whisper was like a balm to her sad heart, and it lifted with some hope. “You made this?”

Her father reached out and lightly touched the fine wire serving as the wings and halo, as if he was afraid it would break under his touch. 

“You made this by yourself?” His voice was low with wonder, and Sharon felt she’d finally done the right thing for once.

“Yeah, um, we were working with glass and wire as an experiment this past quarter, and I thought we needed a real angel for our tree.”

Her brother and sister came over to examine the angel, their oohs and ah’s were added to her parents, and then her father looked up, a determined expression on his face.

“Jack, go grab that chair and pull it over. This angel needs to be put on the top.”

Within minutes, they were all sitting in the darkened room, the Christmas lights on the tree the only light. The glistening angel at the top of the tree seemed to glow and fill the room with heavenly light. Sharon sat by her mother, whose arm rested tightly around her shoulders.

“Thank you, dear,” she said softly, her voice full of love. “That makes all the difference in the world.”

Somehow for a few minutes, Sharon realized the worries and fears of the future, the incident with the broken ornaments — all was pushed aside while they gazed at the small representation of a miracle in their lives, and she knew she'd been forgiven.

What her family didn’t seen to acknowledge was the glass angel didn’t have a face. But, each of them were able to see features in the glass as they looked at it. They knew that someone dear was watching over them, which was what her mother had always said about the ornaments she'd cherished. Each of their ancestors was watching over them through the ornaments that had been handed down through the generations. Now they were all gathered into one item of love, and it made everything able to bear again.

Merry Christmas and may you have all the joy the season holds. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Use a Change of Schedule to Your Advantage

Hello, writers.

Well, life has changed for me for a couple of weeks due to my kids being on Christmas break. Just as the song says, Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again, but I'm really hoping to get some good writing done during the break.

Since I won't be getting up to help my kids get ready for school, the temptation is to catch up on sleep, but I think a smarter plan is to wake up at the normal time and use the "get ready" time to write instead. According to Dave Farland, mornings are supposed to be the best time for creative thinking.

If you're in a similar situation, meaning you are home and the kids will sleep in and allow you some quiet time, let's see what we can get done on our writing during Christmas break, shall we?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Like a Bundle

By Keith N Fisher

I had occasion to visit a previous place of employment and talked with some of my friends. We talked about changes and I told them what I’ve been up to. In 2005, I lost my career job and I’ve been bouncing through life since. Most recently, I was a victim of the Bush economy and the Obama recovery hasn’t helped.

Because of those issues, I’ve had to start over and build a new career. Don’t get me wrong, I’m doing okay. Getting out the chair from sedentary jobs has been beneficial, and the new skills I’m learning have been challenging.

During my visit, three people independently asked if I was still writing. I said yes of course. Then after the last person asked I considered the question on a deeper level.

Of course I’m still writing. How could I not? A couple of years ago, on this blog, I wrote about the need we all have to write. Some of us pretend to quit but always come back to it. For many of us, writing is a core desire. To echo what I wrote then, I have a friend who signs every email with the words, writing is life.

In my new job, I meet many people who claim they just can’t function without that first cup of coffee in the morning. I’ve known others over the years, who can’t relax without that glass of wine or the beer after work. These are indications of addiction and illustrate my point.

I can’t quit writing. Ideas and plot lines float around my head and must be released onto paper, so to speak. Every day something presents itself that must be written down. Once, I have written it, I can move on through my day.

To be fair, I do have friends who are great writers but they just don’t have the all-consuming desire to write. I understand. I seem to function just fine without a cup of coffee and I don’t need a beer or a glass of wine to relax. In fact the older I get the easier it is to fall asleep. So it’s okay to not be driven. On the other hand, I cannot quit.

I told my friend at the old job, that I would always write. Even if my books were never published, I will write them. I cannot not, write. With each new twist my life takes I keep my writing with me. Like a bundle tied to the end of a proverbial stick, resting on the shoulder of a transient, I keep my writing close.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, December 17, 2010


by G. Parker

Here we are, staring Christmas down the throat with only a week left and you are struggling with your writing.  Perhaps it just needs a nudge to get it going.  A contest could be the answer!

Have you entered many contests?  I like entering contests because it gives you a taste for what it's like with publishers.  If your story is liked in a contest, then perhaps it will be noticed by an editor.  Doesn't always mean it will happen, but it's a positive thing.  

There are several contests generally around this time of year, one of which is going on right now and ends on Saturday.  LDSpublisher's blog has the annual Christmas story contest in which you have to tell a story of any genre in 3000 words or less.  It has to be an original story, and the readers vote on it.  I've submitted one, (though I can't tell you the name -- it's part of the rules) so I'm asking all of you blog readers out there to go visit, read and vote on the stories.  It's not often you get to be part of the selection process.

So, while you're trying to keep the family happy with appearances, cook all the holiday food, make the candy and work, remember to keep writing.  Even if it's only five or ten minutes a day -- it will keep the creative juices flowing for after the holidays when you're back into reality mode again.  Enter a contest or two and see how it goes.  You never could win! 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Traditions

by Cheri Chesley

A couple years ago, I started a tradition of writing a Christmas story to share with our neighbor gifts. Last year I had no intention of writing one, but a story came to me anyway and it ended up being a narrative version of The Little Drummer Boy, which is my favorite carol. I still think it needs some work, but every time I look at it I can't think of anything to change. So it sits.

My first story, the one that started this tradition, was born from a well-known theme: that of Santa Claus visiting the baby Jesus the night he is born. I shared the story with someone who told me they'd read a version almost exactly the same published in a book by someone else. Oops. Oh well. What I wrote came exclusively from my own brain.

If you remember, a couple Decembers ago President Hinckley was still our prophet. I wrote that story, and shared it with our neighbors and my family. A nagging little voice in my head said that I should send a copy to each member of the First Presidency. I promptly told the voice it was being ridiculous, and that I wouldn't do it.

Then another voice said, why not? You may never get another chance to talk to President Hinckley on this earth.

So I did. I called and got the address to mail something to the Prophet and his counselors, and sent it off with a letter and a picture of my family.

I expected nothing to come of it. Then, I got a letter. If you've ever gotten a letter from the First Presidency of the Church, you'll know how beautiful the paper is. It's an amazing feeling to open such a letter and read words meant specifically for you.

I got three of them.

These wonderful men took time to reply to my letter, poem and story. I won't go into details of what the letters said, but they were heartfelt and touching, even the one written by Pres. Hinckley's secretary. :)

As you know, shortly after that President Hinckley passed. If I hadn't listened to the voices in my head, I would have missed my chance to share my talents with that great man.

Don't ignore the promptings you receive.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Free Audio Book Download:
A Mormon Christmas Carol

By Darvell Hunt

I had written a blog entry for this week, but decided to offer a free LDS Christmas audio book download instead. A few years ago, I wrote and recorded an LDS version of the Dickens classic and called it, rather uncreatively, A Mormon Christmas Carol.

I still very much enjoy this version of the story, even though it is my own, because it adds visits to the life of Christ in the section of Christmases past, as well as a local Utah flavor. A Christmas Carol has always been my favorite Christmas tradition, in whatever of the many forms it has taken--from Mickey Mouse, to Mr. Magoo, the classic black and white version staring Alastair Sim, and even the ones with Patrick Stewart and Henry Winkler starring as Scrooge.

I hope this Mormon version doesn't take away from your Scrooge experience--and I think it just might add something to it that you may have never considered. In any case, feel free to download and enjoy
A Mormon Christmas Carol. It's about two and a half hours of audio, featuring me reading my own story. I hope you enjoy it.

Please use this link with the accompanying username and password. It will be available for free download for three days, or until Friday, December 17.

Username: amcc
Password: free

A Mormon Christmas Carol was written and produced by Darvell Hunt & Lake Mountain Media. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The End of the Slump

I have been in a writing slump. I have great excuses, ones which nobody can argue with. I have an online business and this is the busiest, craziest time of the year. I also have seven children and I babysit a fussy, demanding baby. I also am the Mia maid advisor in our ward and my husband and I have been called to be pioneer trek committee chairmen. I am, frankly, a very busy person.

An article in the January issue of Writer's Digest made me realize that, as busy as I am, any excuse to not write is just that--an excuse. The article is an interview with author Harlan Corben. He says in the article that he accepts no excuses. He says, "You just have to put those excuses away. You have a choice: you can either hate yourself, or you can write." He is right.

That was the push I needed to get back to my novel. The same Writers Digest issue has all kinds of great helps for novel writers, including various systems for outlining and writing a great first chapter. I am happy to report that I've revisited my project and am getting up earlier to give myself time to work on it. I've re-worked my outline--really completed it for the first time--and I find I spend more time thinking about my book, from plot twists to character development. I am getting excited about it again, which is wonderful!

If you need a kick in the pants to get you back on track to writing your novel, you might check out the January issue of Writer's Digest. It really helped me. I don't get any goodies from them for saying this, either.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Simultaneous Inspiration

By Keith N Fisher

A great idea for a new story came into my head the other day. The premise, beginning, middle, and end lay themselves out for me while I watched the local news. Then, a few hours later, another idea popped up and I wrote it down, too.

I added those ideas to the myriad other drafts floating in my project file, many of which will never be completed. I’m just too old to write them all. Maybe I’ll bequeath them to my friends so they can write the stories in their own way.

Ideas often come to me like that. It’s how I write. I look over the drafts in my project file and see what excites me the most. The problem lies in being equally excited about more than one story at the same time.

Have you ever written a book, knowing it was given to you through some kind of inspiration? Like the idea that came to me from television news, it falls into your lap? Then, after laboring to write it correctly, you discover someone else had the same idea.

My friend complains that almost every time she starts a new story, a particular famous author writes it too. It’s almost uncanny. One of my current works lost most of it’s luster when I discovered a similar book written by a successful author and we both started writing at the same time.

Why does this happen? I wrote a song once, and then heard it on the radio. There were a few differences, but some of the phrases were exactly the same. I wondered if my lyrics had been stolen. I began to take steps to copyright my work. I even had a notary sign off on some of my songs.

The truth is, there’s something in the wind—always has been. Some call it muse. Others say there is a mystical force that governs creativity. I believe that God wants certain stories to be written so he inspires everyone. Sometimes there is more than one writer listening.

In everyone, there is a magnum opus, a life’s work that defines who we are, and what we believe in. I take comfort in making a difference in other people’s lives. I don’t always succeed, but maybe if I listen to the inspiration, and work hard, I’ll be the one who gets to write the next great book.

Good luck with your inspiration and your writing. See you next week.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Only 15 Days Left

by G.Parker

Okay, what happened to the year?  I mean, just a couple of weeks ago it was Easter and then summer.  Now it's only 15 days left till Christmas?  Where did the time go?

I know that NaNoWriMo took a big chunk of it, but I just realized last night that I haven't finished shopping, I'm not ready for candy making on Monday and haven't been keeping up with my writing since the 30th.

Woe is me.  I could really be tempted to act Grinchy, but I love the Christmas season and all the things we do as a family.  It is really family time, after all.  Traditions and memories are what keep us together and help families survive life's up and downs.  

One of our big traditions as a family is making candy together and then giving it away.  This year we've invited some neighbors that have been friends for a long time and moved back into our world.  I'm excited, but I realized that I haven't sent her a list of what she'll need and prepared anything else.  Like cleaned the house which is still a mess from decorating (which hasn't been finished yet either).

Another tradition is going shopping together and trying to hide each other's presents in the store so they don't know what they're getting until Christmas day.  The younger boys have been asking about that all week, and it's made me realize that they really look forward to this time of year -- more than any other.

It's a time filled with memories and smells, traditions and food, family and friends.  It also is filled with lots of romance, and for a romance writer, it's my favorite time of year.  More so than Valentines.  So, keep lots of notes of the interactions you observe -- you'll never know when you'll need it for a story.

Have a great week!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

It Can't ALWAYS be Perfect

by Cheri Chesley

I had my so-called book launch party last night, which was less of a launch, less of a party, and barely a signing.

First, though, thanks to Canda and Kari for coming out. I know the holiday season is busy, and I'm really glad they could make it.

But I'm not bitter about last night. And I don't want you to think I'm complaining. Like I told the store manager, nights like that are practice. And she was absolutely great, inviting me back another time when traffic would be better.

That's just awesome, I think.

December launches are hard, unless you have such a following **cough Richard Paul Evans cough** that people will MAKE time to come see you. My friends, though they love me and are happy for me, have lives. I'm really okay with that. My goal was to get the book out there. I know, since I'm not an established author, that the first book isn't so much about the sales. When you're working with a smaller market, you have to do things a little differently. For instance, I'm giving away a lot of books. I need to generate buzz, and the best way to do that is to get people reading my book. I didn't even want to fuss with a blog tour in December, so we're doing that in January.

I also knew that I wanted my next book to not launch in December. November would be great. October even better. But, since I'm still sitting with the draft and haven't submitted it yet, we're probably looking at January 2012. If all goes well.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Writing AND Having a Life

By Darvell Hunt

I started a new job in June and I must admit that I’ve had a hard time making room for my writing since then. When writing doesn’t pay the bills, it can sometimes be hard to justify the time spent on it—except that I suppose if you’re truly a writer, you can’t help but write.

I’m sure most of us writers have had times where our lives pushed our writing into the corner. For me, these busy times can sometimes be sad times, because writing is what makes me happy. But, paying the bills in this poor economy is currently pretty high on my happy list and, unfortunately, has ended up bumping writing down that list—but no more.

It seems that the "successful" writers out there are those who have been able to deal with the conflicts of life and still keep up with their writing. Whether by choice or not, I’ve taken a bit of a time off to get my career back in order, but hopefully that time is past and I can now get back to what satisfies me the most.

So, as this year ends and a new one begins, I plan to set these three personal writing goals:

1. Send out more queries for my mainstream middle-grade novel, “There’s an Alien in my Head!”

2. Finish the rough draft of my LDS romance novel, “The Bee and the Butterfly.”

3. Get more involved again with my writing groups.

Wish me luck!

(Feel free to post your personal writing goals as well, or blog about it and post a link.)

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Time is Now!

by Michael Knudsen

For some of you, it is long past, and for others it still lies in the future: I'm talking about that handful of nerve-strumming days leading up to the release of your first book. The travails of rejection and soul-lifting triumphs of acceptance are in the past, the cover art has been trumpeted from your website, and it seems like you can't have a conversation with anyone without your book coming up. This is no place for the shy, retiring author who spent months cloistered behind a keyboard, brain awhirl with plot and character (if "awhirl" was not an actual word, it is now, because I'm an author, dangit).

So what's it like to live through these heady days before the celebration that will be as big as all my combined birthday parties since the age of one? As my wife would put it, blah, blah, blog! My book is LDS fiction, and a huge segment of those who read it also read the Blogck and an untold number of author's blogs that have their fingers on the pulse of LDS books. I've been reading and commenting on these forums for a good six months now, and I've really come to feel at home in this friendly and heavenly little subsection of cyberspace. I've got several interviews and guest posts out there already, and the reviews will be rolling in. I apologize to those who have developed Knudsen and The Rogue Shop overload, but that's what "buzz" is all about. Now I face the moment of truth--will anyone buy my book? I am a fifth-generation Mormon, so I just might crack the bestseller list with relatives alone.

Then there's the party! Good heavens, what a bash we have planned. Every carbon-based life-form whose eyes alight upon these words is invited to the open house at 500 East 8680 South in Sandy, Utah on December 13th from 6-9pm. I will be in a tuxedo to fit the theme, but you can come as you are. There will be food and prizes and Christmas cheer. Bring the kids, it is Monday evening and this is an FHE-approved activity. I will be thrilled to meet many of you that I have only met online. I don't expect you to buy a book (I'll only have 100 copies there, so I'll probably be sold out in 15 minutes anyway - yeah, my attitude is that good right now), but I would love to shake your hand and share the joy during my fifteen minutes of local fame.

My WOMBAT (Word Of Mouth, Buy And Tell) program is taking off like gangbusters. If you're not already a participant, it's not too late to earn points toward one of 10 Amazon gift cards I am giving away. I'm happy to share the things that have worked for me. After all, I wouldn't be "where I am today" without the excellent mentoring I've received from members of this group, directly or indirectly.

There you go -- the most horn-tootin', self-promotional post I've ever done. I am not ashamed. You shouldn't be, either, when your time comes. The world deserves to know about your work, your vision, and your talent. I will be right up front in your cheerleading section (though I will NOT be in a miniskirt, thank you very much). So roll out of that shell, chuck that bushel-basket off of your lit candle and let it shine, baby shine. Only two words remain:

Carpe Diem!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The mad rush of November's NaNoWriMo is past. Now we enter a new stressful challenge: the Christmas rush. I have a few thoughts to share with you about December.

First, let's not lose what we learned in November. Those of us who set a goal for our writing and accomplished it, let's remember the value of setting challenging goals. Perhaps our writing goal for December will look a lot different than our goal for November, but we need to give ourselves a new challenge to work towards. Without goals, we accomplish little of value.

Second, let's remember the true meaning of the Christmas season. We can ask ourselves if we are giving gift to impress others, or out of genuine love. We can focus on the gifts our Savior gives us and try to follow His example. Sometimes the key to keeping the reason for the season foremost in our minds is to simplify. Try to think of ways to minimize stress and maximize enjoyment. For me that means this year I'm taking my time getting all my decorations up, I'm not sending out Christmas cards and I am going to give fewer, more thoughtful gifts. I am even thinking of using my budding writing skills to create a special letter to each of my family members. It would be an inexpensive, but hopefully memorable and meaningful gift.

What are your ideas for simplifying the Christmas season and focusing on the birth of Jesus?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Harry's World

By Keith N Fisher

I read Harry Potter out of self-defense. When I started, everyone was waiting for book six to be released. Speculation about the plot was the subject of every conversation. I didn’t understand what they were talking about, because I hadn’t read the story, or seen the movies.

I read the Sorcerer’s Stone expecting to get the facts. I didn’t expect to be entertained. That genre has never been my favorite, but I kept reading because the characters were well drafted, and I wanted to know what happened next.

The Philosopher’s Stone was published in 1997 and came to the United States as the Sorcerer’s Stone in 1998. Who knew the profound affect it would have on literature and a whole generation of movie buffs.

Harry Potter has been part of our culture during the whole lifetimes of this year’s seventh graders. The author wrote great characters, expanded by some wonderful actors. I love the way Bellatrix taunts Harry with the chant “I killed Serious Black.” The actress personifies the homicidal evil that exists in the character.

Who didn’t cry when they saw Dumbledore fall from the tower, even though we all knew it was going to happen? The characters of HP will live in our memories, like the great tears shed by Hagrid as he carried Dumbledore’s body to the tomb.

I went with my family to see the seventh flick the other day. After the previous movie, The Half Blood Prince, I was convinced the producers would screw up The Deathly Hallows, too, but it wasn’t too bad. Since my wife hasn’t read the books, I found myself answering dozens of questions about the plot.

The experience made me wonder when I went from curious reader, to connoisseur of Harry’s world. My little perusal into the magical realm has turned into much more than trying to keep up with conversation.

With the size of the final book, the movie producers determined to spread it out over two movies. I wish they had done the same with some of the other books. I felt cheated when certain scenes were left out of the movies, but I read the books. My memory of the story is much richer because I read the books.

Next year, we’ll get a chance to see the final movie and the world will have to move on. Somehow, though, I don’t think it will. Harry’s world will be part of my culture forever and I tip my hat off to the author. Personally, I can’t wait to find out how the producers deal with the last chapter. I want to see Harry’s world, nineteen years later.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Everyone is a Winner!

by G.Parker

Well, the counting is over, the verifying done and the fingers can now rest from the frenzied typing of the past weekend.  NaNoWriMo is now officially over.

Many of us have achieved the 50,000 word mark.  Those who didn't, wrote far more than they had ever done before.  Landmarks have been achieved and verified.  It's been an amazing year.  I've written more than I have before; 57,000.  I was trying to do like Nicole and reach 60,000 because I knew my story wasn't finished, but I didn't make it.  

This is the time when even those who've never really given it a try can sit back and know that they are winners.  Because, you see, it doesn't really matter if you made it to the 50,000 word level or not.  What really matters is that you got in there and wrote on that novel every day.  The hope of the sponsors of NaNo is that you'll realize that it's possible.  You too can be a writer.  It just takes determination and doing it.  Every day.

Now that we're heading into the holiday season, I just want to express my thanks for the great team with whom I work and the friendships we have.  It's been a great year, and I'm excited for the the next one.

Also...for those who celebrate such things, Happy Hanukkah!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Taking the Plunge

By Cheri Chesley

Yesterday, I had my first scheduled book signing. I say that because I have had pre-book signings (I know that sound weird, but it's a nice way to generate interest), and one that ended up being a book signing because I got books the day before.

But, yesterday I was at the UVU bookstore in Orem for a publisher-scheduled signing. I've anticipated this one the most because it's been on my schedule longest. I mean, before we did the final edits and sent the book to press, I knew I was doing this signing.

And it was fun.

I sold 4 books in 2 hrs, which is not fantastic. But, I did talk to a lot of people and gave them either a wrist band or a book mark with my info on it, so word is getting out. Some people even came up and asked what they had to do to get a wrist band. I restrained myself from saying, "jumping jacks." Though I may not have that control next time. :)

I also realized a few things. One, I'm not in this for the money. While it would be nice to make a ton of money with my books--I won't lie, lol--I don't write books to make money off them.

Two, I love connecting with readers. I love talking to people who share my love of books and reading, even if they don't read the genre I write.

Three, College kids are funny. And they really haven't changed much in the last 20 yrs, though I do admit they have more gadgets. I've never seen so many earbuds in one place before--except maybe a shelf at the store.

Four, I actually enjoy this! Sitting at a table for two hours, smiling, nodding and saying hi to strangers, talking to the ones who approach the table--all of it was really fun. I've been described in my life as painfully shy, introverted, and not sociable. Growing is good.

What have you learned?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Traditional Thanksgiving

By Keith N Fisher

When I served a mission in the Maritimes of Canada, I celebrated four Thanksgiving Days. Two, on the third Thursday of November and the other two, were celebrated in October. Canadian Thanksgiving was a great day to get together with members and investigators and have a great traditional dinner. The US traditional holidays lost something in the translation.

On one of those US holidays, I invited my district for a picnic in Victoria Park. I’m sure the natives wondered what the crazy Americans were doing in the park in November, but we enjoyed the privacy.

On one occasion, I asked my friend what Canadians celebrate on Thanksgiving. He stated, “The same thing you celebrate in the States, I guess.”

“Oh? You had a group of pilgrims eat dinner with a bunch of Indians, Too?” Of course I was being facetious, but the truth is it’s always a good idea to take a moment and remember your blessings. Especially in light of who gave them to you.

This year, I sat in the restaurant buffet surrounded by three hundred of my closest family and friends and pondered the eating part of the holiday. My mother had decided to have Thanksgiving at Chuck-A-Rama. My brothers, in turn, complained about it for different reasons. With the exception of the long lines, I didn’t care one way or the other.

I had roast beef and mashed potatoes, (one of my favorite meals), and considered our traditions. Then I noticed the characters who paraded in front of me, on the way to the food tables. I’ve mentioned my inclination toward watching people and writing a story to match their actions. That is what I did, then it was time to go. My wife took me and my daughter to a movie and that was Thanksgiving.

What do you do with your non-writing time? Take a look around you. Is there something happening in front of you? Can you use it in your current work in progress?

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Last Push

by G.Parker

So, as we round the last weekend of November, let us take stock of the past couple of weeks.  There has been week one, where the word count was in it's infancy and we were getting the plot going.  Week two was the mid ground -- setting the stages, getting the characters moving, hoping the plot was working.  Week three was getting the word count up and catching up to the many who are word hounds and seem to have fingers of steel.  Now we end the final week and head into the last couple of days, it's time for those who have been struggling to really put the fingers to the pedals and get the words out.

Myself, I'm on target and doing better than I'd hoped.  I try not to be intimidated by those who have (apparently) no jobs or families who depend on them for everything from meals to clothing...grin...and have amazing word counts half way through.  At least I feel confident in reaching my goal and beyond...hopefully 60,000 words this year.  I say that because my story isn't even close to being finished, and I've only got 2000 more words to go.

It's been crazy with blizzard warnings, cold wind blowing and power outages threatened...(that's when a laptop on battery really comes in handy!)  But we've survived the month of living dangerously, and it's looking good for the finish.  

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, being able to give thanks for the many things we enjoy in our modern lives.  Like the internet, cars, chocolate, fireplaces and smores.  I'm even more grateful for my family and their support now, and always.  I'm thankful for my wonderful fellow bloggers who help keep me motivated and going when I'd rather sit at home and not think about words in general.

Onward into the last days of count...and hopefully forward into NaNoWriMo immortality.  Of course there's always the other much shopping did you do on this Black Friday?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

By Cheri Chesley

Happy Thanksgiving! Hopefully, if you’re here, then you’ve already stuffed yourself with all the delights of the day. I know I love to read blog posts on a full stomach. :)

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to spend a little time on the things I value most in my life. And share an experience with you.

My little family is the most wonderful, amazing little family ever. We have our ups and downs, but when we pull together nothing can stop us. Right now, everyone is pulling together to help make my writing career a success. What defines success is different for everyone. We’ve clearly defined it within our family, and we’re working for it.

As the mom, this is hard for me. My mind set is that I have to do everything I can for my family, not have them do all they can for me. I know it turns out that we all have to make sacrifices, but at the same time I just want them to know how very much I appreciate what they do for me.

I’m sure we all have at least one friend or writing acquaintance in our circles who doesn’t have the support of their family. I know I’m blessed; I can’t imagine having that struggle.

Last Thursday, my books arrived in the Cedar Fort warehouse in Springville. I found out Friday morning. Since the kids got out of school early on Friday, we drove from Tooele to Springville to pick up 25 copies of my book. The feeling I had when I first saw my book, when I held it in my hand—indescribable.

I’m thankful for that, too. :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Talents and Gifts

Today at church we had a lesson about talents and gifts. The teacher had us look up scriptures about talents. We learned that everyone has been given talents and gifts, that we are given gifts that are different from one another, that we are responsible for our talents and are under condemnation if we do not exercise and increase them, and that talents are given to bless the lives of others.

I naturally thought about this lesson in respect to the talent of writing. It seems to me that there are many different types of writing talents. Some people write beautiful poetry. Some write great novels. Some people are talented in writing short stories. Some are gifted in grammar and punctuation. While many of us strive to develop skills in many different aspects of writing, we probably will be better at some than we are at others. We don't have to be good at every aspect of writing because we can help each other. That's what a community of writers is all about and we can grow and improve together.

If you are like me, there are days when you question whether you have any talent at all. Here's a quote by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf that should encourage you:
You may think you don't have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us. The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and do not require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano. Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before--colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter.
 You are a creative, talented writer. You have a gift from God. It is your duty and destiny to write the words only you can write. It is your mission to improve the world by using your talent and sharing it with others. Your words do make a difference.

Now, go conquer the world!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

How Was Your Week?

By Keith N Fisher

I’ve been feeling selfish and self-centered this week. Those are feelings, not conducive to my writing. If I were participating in NanoWriMo, I would be failing my goals. As it is, I’ve fallen behind on my blogging projects and my novels.

Normally, locking myself away would be good for writing, but I’ve started a new work schedule. I’m back working the graveyard shift, and I’m having trouble keeping my days straight. I missed a dental appointment because I assumed it was Wednesday when it was really Thursday and I went to bed thinking my appointment wasn’t until the next day.

Okay, enough about me and the onset of old age. Seriously, though, When you work nights, it’s hard to feel a part of the rest of the world. Schedules get out of kilter, and you spend a lot of time with your self. Time to consider what you want to be when I grow up.

So, It’s Saturday, and I thought I had more time to write this blog. I’m trying to penetrate the fog of writer’s block and think of a topic that will delight and inspire you . . .

I attended the Utah County, League of Utah Writers meeting the other day. Tristi Pinkston taught about self-editing and explained some of the reasons why humans write like we do. I’ve been blessed to be in a critique group with her. She can see the humor in ever split infinitive or dangling modifier.

Also, this week, I’m grateful for our new bloggers, Cheri and Karen, they are breathing new life into this venue and helping writers overcome the struggle. Take a moment to thank them for their efforts.

Well it’s almost the time to rejoin the realm of the night creatures. I have to get ready for work. When you hear that bump in the night, don’t worry. It’s only me trying to navigate the unfamiliar surroundings of a new job.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Head Above Water

by G.Parker

Okay, so last week I was all positive and enthusiastic and headed on into the NaNo sunset.  Groan. Then this week hit.  It's been crazy from Monday on, and I also got sick last week just after I no writing Friday or Saturday because my brain just wouldn't work.  It was so strange to sit in front of my computer, stare at the screen and wonder what in the heck my characters were supposed to be doing.


But, yesterday I was able to catch up.  It's been great, but I think the thing has taken on a life of it's own.  I realized yesterday that one of the characters isn't doing what she's supposed to be doing at all, and I'm worried that I've twisted things enough that the ending won't be possible.  And then I've discovered other aspects that will feed on each other and make a whole different story than I envisioned in the first place.

Isn't NaNoWriMo fun?

If you are keeping track, there are several people who have already reached their goals.  One of my writing sites has a list of the participants, and there is someone who has already written 100,000 words.  That totally blows my mind, because the idea of writing that fast in so little time makes me wonder if his computer keyboard is fried or not.  I know mine would be!  

There was a pep talk this week from Chris Batty, and he mentioned that he had a couple of friends doing the challenge that had finished.  It was his contention that if you've written 50,000 words before the middle of the month, then you aren't taking the challenge seriously.  This isn't meant for you.  The whole point of Nano is to revel in the writing experience, enjoy the feel of the words flowing from your fingers, and the stress of trying to reach word count goals.  I liked that thought, and I'm glad that I'm part of the average lot.  I guess we can't all be over achievers, right?

Well...thanks for taking a break and reading.  Now get back to work!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Do You have a Critique Group?

By Cheri Chesley

Last week, I was finally able to attend a session with my LUW chapter’s critique group. It. Was. Amazing. I can’t even tell you how wonderful it was to have them tell me what was wrong with my first chapter.

I know that sounds strange. But, really, I mean it. My chapter was missing some key points that only someone with fresh eyes (and no history of the characters) would notice. Essentially, if this book gets published and is sitting on a shelf and some person picks it up—would they find it interesting, or would they just be confused?

Right now, one of the books I’m reading is book 3 in THE SISTERS GRIMM series. Within the first chapter in both books 2 and 3, the author spends almost three pages revisiting the history of the characters. I realize this series is for a younger audience, but it seems ridiculous to me to spend so much time on reminding the reader about what’s happened before.

I’m really happy to have my critique group, because they pointed out to me that, in my book—the second of a trilogy—there is no history at all. This left most of them confused about what the action was all about. The other thing was that they had no sense of setting, which is an issue for me. They knew the action was happening inside a castle, but what are the characters wearing, what does the room look like, etc—all a mystery.

Fortunately, I left room in that first chapter to make additions like these.

So, do you have a critique group? How often do you meet? Or do you critique each other via email? I’m curious to know how other authors make it work.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Inspiring Thoughts From Job and Spencer

Today at church our bishop read from the book of Job, a passage which I had never recalled hearing before. I had a hard time finding it once I got home, but with the help of my husband, I found it and I'd like to share it with you.

"Oh that my words were now written! Oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!"

I was amazed to discover that Job was one of us. He wanted his words to be written in a book. More than that, he wanted his words written with an iron pen and lead into something permanent, like rock.

Here's another quote I found today, this one is from President Spencer W. Kimball. He wrote these words in 1977.

"We are proud of the artistic heritage that the Church has brought to us from its earliest beginnings, but the full story of Mormonism has never yet been written nor painted nor sculpted nor spoken. It remains for inspired hearts and talented fingers yet to reveal themselves. They must be faithful, inspired, active Church members to give life and feeling and true perspective to a subject so worthy. Such masterpieces should run for months in every movie center, cover every part of the globe in the tongues of the people, written by the best artists, purified by the best critics."

I believe President Kimball would be pleased with some of what has been written and portrayed on the big screen about Mormonism since 1977, but I also believe that there are still many, many misconceptions about the Church in the world, and it is up to people like us to make a difference. I know not all LDS writers are going to write about the history Church, but hopefully our works are filled with truth and light. There are many ways we can share truth with the world.

Back to Job for a moment. The verses I quoted above are Job 19:23-24. In the next two verses Job gives us a clue as to what he would write about if he could write in a book, or if his words could be graven in stone. Here's what he says, and it's probably familiar to you:

"For I know that my redeember liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God."

Maybe we can find time in our lives to follow Job's example and, through our written words, share our testimony of Jesus Christ with the world.

Have a good Sabbath.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Wayfarer

By Keith N Fisher

I grew up during a time when nobody locked doors. Well, we sometimes locked the house, before leaving on a trip or extended visit elsewhere. We didn’t worry about picking up hitchhikers, and beggars were truly needy.

Whatever the cause, the world has changed. We lock everything, even if we’re only going to be gone for a second. We lock the door in traffic to prevent carjacking. We’ve learned that I’ll work for food isn’t always true, and hitchhikers can be a threat. There is one, however, who beckons.

When I think back, trying to analyze how we got to this point, I come up with many factors. Not the least of which, is our media addiction.

I know many people will take exception, but when we were kids, we looked to the media for direction. Hairstyles, dress, and even our taste in music was influenced by those we watched, read about, and listened to.

The funny thing is the fact that it’s always been that way. In the late nineteenth century, Brigham Young addressed the problem of young women following the trends from back east. In answer to it, he and his peers created the Young Women’s Retrenchment Association. It was the forerunner of the Mutual Improvement Association in the LDS Church, and is now simply Young Women’s and Young Men’s.

The point here is that even in the isolation of Utah in the eighteen hundreds, media influence was prominent in shaping our society.

Now, before you start thinking I’m condemning the media, you should know I’m a writer. I want to be one of those influences.

Today, we take our cues from myriad sources. Each one adds another piece to how we think, feel, and act. No, I’m not suggesting we’re sheep following every would be trendsetter, I’m suggesting it has an effect. Even if it only influences our reaction to a man holding a sign asking for a ride. But, there is One, Who beckons.

We live in a scary world because we made it that way. We watch a scenario played out on a TV crime show, and lock our doors against that ever happening to us. We see plenty in real life, too. How many of you have seen a person holding a sign saying, I’ll work for food and noticed the food donations, hidden away so the person can pursue the real purpose of panhandling money from sympathetic souls. After all, there is one, who beckons.

Then there is the person in need, whose car breaks down but we don’t dare stop and help because we’ve heard stories of people being carjacked, or worse. One day, I figured I could use all the good karma I could get, so I helped a couple of guys and was struck by their gratitude. The inference in that is clear. Very few of us will stop and help. Now, if the truth were known, I had second thoughts. What if they pulled a gun and stole my truck?

As writers, we must be careful. The proverbial Pandora’s Box was opened long ago and can’t be closed. What we choose to write, however, can be a haven from the storm. In a world with highly dramatic TV programs and books that offer more of the same, we can’t ignore all of it in our writing. Much of what we write will echo the media or we won’t be read, but we can control where the emphasis is placed, and to what extent we pursue the negative.

You see there is a Man, a Wayfarer, who beckons us to take him in. He struggles to strengthen our hearts. He will provide shelter from the storm, peace in a trouble world. He can use our help. Every writer, actor, and newspaperman has been given a talent. We can use that talent to follow the crowd, or we can do our part to enrich our brothers and sisters.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Second Week Down

by G.Parker

I guess I've declared myself the NaNoWriMo correspondent for our blog.  It wasn't intentional, but that's what I'm living right now, so that's what I write.  So, we enter the third week, with people going strong.

I've been able to stay on top of things so far.  I gave you all the numbers last week on what needed to happen to keep going with my goal.  I've been watching some of the others in our group (of Authors Incognito) that I'm writing buddies with, and let me tell you, some of their numbers are inspiring.  I'll think I'm doing good and can relax, I'll look up their numbers and realize that I'm way behind them.  Literally.  Ugh.  It's down right frustrating.

But it's a good thing, because it helps motivate me.  I don't need a lot of motivation during this time, because just knowing I can accomplish the 50,000 words keeps me going.  Fortunately my family has been really patient and last Saturday I even got things done around the house!  It was amazing.

I think week three is the hardest though - it's where you realize your story might be struggling, or you might hit a wall with a scene, etc.  It gets into more of the nitty gritty than just writing.  So, if you are one that needs someone cheering you on and motivation, well, here goes.  

"YOU CAN DO It, YES YOU CAN!  Beat my numbers, who's the man?  ....or something like that.  Grin.  Have a good week!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Does This Happen to You?

By Cheri Chesley

I posted on Writing Fortress this week about my well of ideas never running dry. In fact, there’s never a time when I don’t know something I could be writing about. It’s daunting, since I have no idea how I will ever make the time to get them all out of my head.

That’s not to say everything I write is for publication. I had to write some things to purge my soul—others are so atrocious they’ll never see the light of day. But, once I write them down, they release my mind. And I can be free to work on the next thing.

Here’s the best example of what I mean: In 2007 I was certain I had the perfect book. I submitted said book to a publisher. But while waiting for a response, something odd happened. One particular character would not leave me alone. He was with me in my dreams, in my waking hours, always demanding that his story be told. He’s the villain. And he was upset that I had chosen to end the story with him losing out on what he’d wanted.

Silly me, I tried to reason with him. In my mind. Yeah, I know it sounds crazy. Finally I sat down to tweak the ending of the book. I barely got it finished before hearing back from the publisher. They accepted it! Hooray! (BTW, they never got around to working on my book and offered me a contract release in 2008, which I accepted. And I’m so glad I did.)

Still, this character was not satisfied. Finally, utterly at a loss, I sat down and wrote an alternate ending to my story. Seriously. In it the bad guy wins, he gets the one thing he prizes above all else, and I wrote him into old age. At last, the voice in my head quieted. I’d done it.

I don’t ever plan on putting that alternate ending anywhere but on my flash drive. I guess you can say it’s something I did entirely for myself. Because I wanted peace.

So, what do you guys to when your characters don’t leave you alone? Or is this just something that happens to me? :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Never Too Busy

Have you ever been so busy that you didn't have time for anything more? That's the way I felt last night. After all, I am getting ready to take a plane to Colorado Thursday morning. Who has time for anything else?

Still, I wasn't too busy to notice the dog pacing the floor, smelling under the coat closet door. Her ears perked up and she continued sniffing. I stopped what I was doing and took the time to watch. Sydney had never acted this way before. She must be on to something.

No writers, no matter how busy, can ever resist a mystery. Carefully I opened the closet door. I was sure something was going to jump out at me. This isn't an ordinary coat closet. It doesn't just hold dozens of coats, but it has five tables, and 20 folding chairs, some step stools, lawn chairs, rock salt, a shovel, and the family garbage (where else do you put it when you have a dog who loves dragging stuff all over the house?)

The dog started sniffing the floor, so I pulled out the garbage can and put it into the kitchen. That gave her a little more room to move. She crawled under the row of folding chairs and backed back out. I pulled out a couple of card tables, and continued to watch the dog running all over, sniffing everywhere.

By this time, it was getting interesting so I called to my granddaughter to come watch. The dog was hilarious as she ran from one table to another and back to the closet. This is one distraction that I needed. It was fun watching, and I was in no hurry to get this show over.

After a short time, my granddaughter and I started taking the chairs out of the closet and stacking them against the wall in the kitchen. We then pulled out the larger tables. When I cleared that area of the closet, I walked to the back of the closet and lifted up a pair of long coveralls that were hanging to the floor. Sure enough, there was the culprit. It was a tiny, darling gray mouse.

Alexia and I closed the door on the dog and mouse and expected Sydney to do her job. There was no noise, nothing, except silence. We waited and still nothing. My daughter came to pick up her daughter and almost freaked out when we told her there was a mouse inside the closet.

Unwillingly she took the broom and agreed to keep watch. I opened the door and the dog escaped. My daughter told me she thought I should take everything else on the floor out of the closet so I started pushing and handing things to her. Every time I picked up something, I expected to find the little creature hiding beneath it. Everything was out of the closet, and it had disappeared.

Just at that moment, my daughter screamed and she went running after it with the broom. I was right behind her, but we never did catch that critter. Evidently, it had hitched a ride on one of the lawn chairs. Now it's somewhere in my house. Annette's sure she smacked it good with the broom, but there was no body.

Annette and Alexia’s adventure was finished and they hurried on home. For me, it was another couple of hours before I, armed with a caulking gun, and mousetraps had the little closet back in order. Now it’s time to get busy and get back to real life.