Monday, August 30, 2010

Our Guest ~ Karen Dupaix

Karen Dupaix was born in Portland, Oregon, the second of nine children. She met her husband, Paul, while attending BYU. Together they have been blessed with seven children, two of whom are currently serving missions, with a third child waiting in the wings for his mission service in about a year.

Karen enjoys many creative endeavors, including knitting, sewing, book binding, gardening, and of course, writing. She loves to learn new things by taking community education classes. She took the Master Gardener course and other advanced gardening classes through the USU Extension Service, earning her Master Gardener certificate in 2002. She has recently breathed new life into a faded dream by beginning to write her first novel.

Some of Karen's favorite things are: spending time with family, eating good food, creating beautiful things, reading good books and enjoying good, dark chocolate.

You can visit Karen's blog by clicking here.

~ ♥ ~

At some point in life, each one of us has figuratively thrown our hands up in frustration and declared: "This is not what I signed up for! This was not a part of my life plan."

Maybe this sentiment is in response to a devastating loss, or a disappointment. Loved ones may have made poor choices. Maybe it is a financial problem, or perhaps our health takes a turn for the worse. Life's trials come in many forms, and often cause us to feel that it just isn't fair that we should be required to suffer so.

But, suffering beyond our control has a purpose. In D&C 122, Joseph Smith is having one of those "not what I signed up for" moments and he complains a little to the Lord. In response, the Lord gives Joseph these words of wisdom, after describing more trials Joseph may be required to endure: "...know thou my son, that these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."

Entire Sunday school lessons could be taught on the purpose of suffering, but I would like to focus on one aspect of having trials that is unique to this audience. As writers, we try very hard to present believable characters. How can we accurately portray a loss or heartache a character is experiencing if we have never experienced loss or heartache?

Having difficult life experiences adds depth and believability to our writing. Think about your life 10 years ago. Would you have been--or were you--as good a writer then as you are now? Have the difficult circumstances you've waded through not made you a more mature, better writer? I would suggest that they have, and that they will continue to painfully enrich your life and understanding.

Next time you feel like lifting your eyes to heaven and asking, "Why me?" remember that life must be experienced to be described. I'm not suggesting we volunteer for difficult experiences--most of us don't have to. I'm only suggesting that we allow those hard times that we will naturally encounter to create depth in our character, so that we can create characters with depth.

~ ♥ ~

Thanks, Karen, for being our guest today!

Next week, we are excited to have Rebecca Blevins as our featured blogger.

If you would like to be our guest, email Connie for information.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Posting Something

By Keith N Fisher

It’s been a tough week, but I’m not complaining. I know that everybody experiences opposition. Life was never supposed to easy.

When I sat down to write, my mind went blank. I drifted away into parts unknown, places where I could have everything I wanted. Places where nobody imposed anything on me.

Fortunately my current novel is in a place where the characters have taken control and I can write in that direction. Anything new is good right? Even if I have to delete it later? I do, however, like the stuff I wrote this week, but it’s in the place where we find out who done it. I have so much information to impart, I’m trying to decide the best way to tell it. Should I have the guilty party explain in monologue? Or perhaps an explanation from the agent in charge will suffice?

Well, as I said at the outset, I’m not complaining. I’m just explaining why my blog sucks this week. I felt it was important to be consistent, just to post something. Thank you for reading and commenting. I’ll do better next week. I hope your work is going well. Keep writing no matter what happens. Here is a picture to help you reach your happy place. Maybe you could write about it.Good luck with your writing—see you next week

Friday, August 27, 2010

Don't Let Fear Block Your Dreams

by G.Parker

I never thought there would come a time when I didn't want to lift the weights that I work with three times each week.  I figured they would always be something I was going to be lifting now, in order to keep my weight in check and continue a healthy lifestyle.

That was until my personal trainer changed my routine this past week...ugh.  I mean, that's why we hired her -- to help me get the best from my workouts.  But, I didn't figure on this aspect.  I'm now at a point where she's having me lift the weights till my muscles fail.  If you've never experienced that, it's a strange sensation.  You have determination to lift the object, but your muscles just say "NO - not happening."  And then you do it two more times.

It's been interesting to see how my body responds.

Yesterday I was to the point where I wanted to cry.  I'd never been so weak or so frustrated.  I wondered if I would be able to convince myself to come back and do it again.  I mean, who voluntarily goes through that kind of pain?  I mentioned to another woman who was there working out that we actually pay these people to give us pain.  Sigh.  Well...I did it again today.  I did pass on one of the exercises, but I did all the other ones.  It wasn't as bad today, which is a good thing, because I really wondered if I could do it again.

Normally, they don't recommend that you do weights back to back.  I'm supposed to do cardio in between, but I'm going out of town and won't be able to do the weight routine.   I figure I can do the cardio wherever I end up. 

It occurred to me that it's similar to writing.  After you get that book written and edited and polished and sent out, how many rejects can you handle?  Each one is like a knife wound.  Ask those of us who have gotten several...I know Darvell and Nicole are way ahead of me.

I think it could possibly make you hesitant to send that baby out into the world, if it's going to keep coming back bloodied and torn.  Fear builds as you wonder if the agent or editor is going to slash at your work or like it.  For some people, fear can paralyze their creativity.  They are overloaded with the 'what if' thoughts that crowd the mind.

You have to overcome.  You have to push through the pain and despair and doubt to find your place of peace.  To find where the adrenaline shadows the pain and brings the dream closer.  Every day another word written, another step forward.  Don't let fear keep you from your dreams and your creativity.  Be the master of your fate.  You can do it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Short-short Stories

By Nichole Giles

One of my favorite things about writing is being able to tell a story. My husband was on Facebook the other day, and someone had updated her status. In four short lines, she’d told an entire hilarious story that went something like this:

Short-short story: Raging headache. Found two baby Asprin, I thought, washed them down with four-shot latte. Turns out they were maximum strength Dulcolax. Unhappy ending.

I laughed out loud because in those short sentences, I could vividly picture this woman’s whole, miserable day. What a great story. People tell stories like this regularly, even if they’re not quite so succinct.

Consider Twitter users. Each update must be 140 characters or less—including punctuation and spaces. Here’s my update from last weekend:

Got confirmation, my copies of Mockingjay have been shipped. Also, discovered Red Vines now come in grape flavor #itsagoodday #yumgrape.

Is that really a story? What about this tweet courtesy of author Daron Fraley?

Fun-size candybars are a LIE.

Think about something that’s happened to you today. Can you tell the story in four lines or less? 140 characters or less? 10 words or less? I’d love to see your attempt. Do share!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Guest Post ~ Michael Knudsen

Mike currently works as a call center manager for a subsidiary of the Xerox Corporation. He caught the fiction bug as a small child and has not been able to stop reading or writing since. He worked for about a year in a formal wear shop in downtown Salt Lake City while making his way through college, and couldn't stop thinking about how great a setting it would make for a coming-of-age romantic comedy from a male perspective. Twenty years and countless drafts later, his first novel The Rogue Shop will be released by Cedar Fort in December 2010. Mike also enjoys running, hiking the Wasatch mountains, and spending time with his wife and three children. He tries to keep things lively on his blog; you can visit it here.

~ ♥ ~

I've noticed that the Storymakers/AI group encompasses a full range of writers. There are those trying hard to break into the (relatively) tiny LDS market with their first novel. There are those who have developed substantial followings with their series romances or standalone thrillers. Then there are those with ambitions in the national market, some of whom have broken through in a big way. It's been gratifying to see how much time and effort the published are willing to invest in mentoring and teaching the unpublished masses. With our talents, the Law of Consecration flourishes in the here and now.

Some of us have clear goals and know exactly where we're headed. Others face the question: Should I write for my people, or for the national market? It makes sense to think that more is better when it comes to the influence good writing can have. On the other hand, the worth of souls is great, even one being of infinite value. From that perspective your writing is an unqualified success if it never touches anyone beyond yourself.

Of course, God wants us to expand our vision, lengthen our stride, and enlarge the sphere of our influence. This involves relentless practice of our craft, annual conferences and critique groups, and, when success comes, coaching others as we were once coached. The best way to maximize the size of our audience is to improve the quality of our product. To mangle Shakespeare, good writing will out.

My first novel, launching in December, was written primarily for LDS eyes only. That's just the kind of story it is. If it's successful, a few thousand people will read it and be touched in some way. I might make enough money to replace the noisy washing machine in the basement. My new project is an epic fantasy that will hopefully appeal to a thicker slice of those who appreciate such things. If successful, tens of thousands could read it. Am I doing this because I want to slip the surly bonds of my day job and pound the keyboard in my jammies all day? Well, fantasists do fantasize, but my primary motivation is the sure knowledge that this is the story I am supposed to be writing now.

Channel your daily ambition into plotting, word counts, drafts, and revisions. Forget about bestseller status and how your name looks on the cover. Learn about genres and how the publishing industry works, but ultimately let your story tell you who it's for. When you get stuck, turn your characters loose on the page and let them take you to undiscovered places. If we are to be partakers of the divine nature, we should certainly allow our creations their agency within the microcosm of our fictive dreams. This has always been my answer to writer's block.

When success does come, it may come at an unlikely time and on an unexpected scale. Tears in a loved one's eyes after reading your story or enthusiastic acknowledgment of your progress by a respected alpha reader are every bit as much of a win as a book contract or lineup of fans at Costco. Those with access to personal revelation should have no trouble knowing when they've rendered 'good and faithful' service with their writing.

Never worry that you're wasting your time. To steal an old fisherman's saying, "time spent writing cannot be deducted from a person's life."

~ ♥ ~

Thanks, Michael, for being our guest today!

Next week, we are excited to have Rebecca Blevins as our featured blogger.

If you would like to be our guest, email Connie for information.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Secret Life of Cindy Brady

By Keith N Fisher

Who’s your favorite girl character on The Brady Bunch? I will admit, mine has always been Jan (Eve Plum). I don’t know why, maybe it was because we were the same age, but lately I’ve been watching the reruns, and paying particular attention to Cindy (Susan Olsen).

You might ask, why is Keith writing about Cindy Brady on the LDS Writer’s Blogck? In answer to that question, I might suggest that I’m doing character research, but I’m not.

I’ll get to the writing part in a second, but first I’ve got to ask, have you ever seen NCIS? With my schedule, I don’t get to watch much television, but I’ve discovered I like that show. Yes, it has flaws. Even some writing flaws, and much of the technology they use, is really in development stages. Some of it is science fiction. I like NCIS because of what I call the family dynamic. The characters mesh well together like a family and it keeps me coming back for more.

One of those characters, Abby, (Pauley Perrette), has me captivated. The first time I saw Abby I felt I knew her. “Where have I seen her before,” I’d ask myself. I watched several shows before it finally hit me.

It’s uncanny. If it wasn’t for the black hair and tattoos, Abby would be an older version of Cindy Brady. I mentioned it to my wife and now she can’t see past it either.

I did a superficial search on the Internet and found pictures of Susan and Pauley. I discovered they were born about eight years apart and I compared the pictures. Look for yourself. Can you see elements of Cindy in both actresses? With all the similarities, I’ve started writing my own scenario for NCIS. In my version, Cindy Brady grew up and rebelled. She died her hair black to stand out from her sisters. The tattoos are a sign of the rebellion. She changed her name and went back to college. Now, Cindy, uh Abby, runs the NCIS lab.

This is the beauty, and the curse, of being a writer. My mind tends to re-write plots I see in the movies and on TV. I wince because of the mangled sentences written for radio and TV news. Since I’m not an English major, or a grammar expert, if I notice, you’ll know it’s bad.

Lately though, my struggle has been in writing for women in the LDS market. As many of you know, I write women’s fiction, and if it weren’t for my, (all women) critique group I wouldn’t be able to do it.

This week, they reminded me of my need to be in my female character’s head. If for no other reason, than because female readers want to know those things. Also, my group loved the romantic scenes I’d written, but they all suggested it wouldn’t get published in our market. Not that it was too steamy or anything, I just need to change a few words and tone down the desire.

Such is the nature of writing in this market. I take encouragement in knowing my group loved the romance. Now to tone it down a bit and get into the heads of my character’s more. It seems I’m too subtle, how do you show motivation?

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Funeral

by G.Parker

Two priests stood in the doorway to the chapel, their white satin robes with gold embroidery standing out against the wood of the foyer/entry way as family and friends gathered around the coffin in the foyer.  The sunlight poured through open doors to rest on the flag covered coffin as the white gloved pollbearers stood ready to carry it in.  The priest with a microphone intoned his greeting and solemn prayer of thanks for the departed's life, and then turning, began to walk down the aisle.  Behind him, two women in dark robes, carrying large lighted candles, followed slowly, gazing straight ahead.  The procession made it's way to the front of the chapel, ending next to the baptismal font.  The family filed into the wooden pews, filling up the first three rows.  A blessing was intoned on the departed, and Holy Water was sprinkled as a reminder of his baptism and the knowledge that he was being awaited by his Lord.  They then removed the flag and draped the coffin in material matching the robes of the priests.  The coffin was then moved to one side, and the services were began.
In case you were curious, I wasn't able to post a blog last week because I was attending a funeral in California.  This was the first time I've seen a Catholic type funeral.  It was only the second or third time I've been in a different church for services other than LDS.  The previous visits were not pleasant ones, and so attending this ceremony with no meaningful glances or priest calling down the righteous anger of the Lord for the sinners was nice.  
My husband's father joined the church when he moved to Utah before he married my mother-in-law.  His mother joined a couple of years after that, remaining staunch and faithful, despite being the only one in her family to attend.  Her other son (my husband's uncle -- the one who's funeral this was) joined the Catholic faith in his 20's, and apparently remained faithful throughout his life, though it didn't change any of his personal habits - perhaps that's only an LDS trait.  Grin.
Anyway, I found it interesting how things were so different, yet had some points that were the same.  They had crucifixes on the wall, but the one in the center of the main wall was lovely, carved from wood.  It wasn't the typical anorexic and suffering Savior, but a clothed and loving Lord with His hands reaching out.  No one was pressured into anything - if you didn't participate, you weren't called to repentance.  The thing that I found the most interesting, was the reading of scripture.  
They read, in particular, a verse from the New Testament I think all of us are familiar with -- about Charity.  1 Corinthians 13.  It talks about how charity never faileth, etc.  However, in the version of scripture they were reading from, they changed the wording.  They changed charity to love.
Now, most people wouldn't see any problem with that.  Love isn't a bad thing, right?  And yet, I felt it changed the whole meaning significantly.  Charity is the Pure Love of Christ.  It's not just love.  The pure love of Christ brings a new meaning to the word.  It's not just love when you feel like it, or because you're a parent, or when someone has done something that made you happy.  It's love that comes from deep inside and overpowers all negative thought.  It's the change of heart that Alma talks about.  
I thought of this because of my earlier post where we talked about words, and how there are so many different ones with different meanings.  While to most, substituting love for Charity would be no big deal, in fact they would think the two synonymous -- it changes the most basic text for me.
I'll leave you with the words from the priest who blessed the coffin at the graveside, wearing jeans under his white satin robes:  "Okay, everyone take care traveling home.  It's time to party hardy."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nichole's Goodbye to the Blogck

As hard as it is for me to admit, at the end of August, I will be giving up my Thursday slot here on LDS Writer’s Blogck. There is no inciting incident that caused this, no hurt feelings or anger at fellow bloggers (gosh, I just love those guys!) but I have come to a realization.

I. Am. Not. Wonder Woman.

No, really. I’m not. Sometimes I try, though. And it’s exhausting. I am a mother of three (yes, three) teenagers and a fifth grader. I am a wife. I’m a book promoter and author.

On top of all those things I’m a blogger. But more importantly, I’m a writer. The thing I’ve had to ask myself recently is am I a writer who blogs or a blogger who writes? (Many thanks to L.T. Elliott for putting it so succinctly.) I blog three times a week on my personal blog, review books at least once a week, assist in keeping up a monthly newsletter, post a humorous blog once a month, and then every Thursday, I’ve had my slot here on the Blogck.

No wonder I keep running out of writing time before I finish my novel word count goals!

So. As much as it pains me, I’m going to have to let this spot go. It is the first of several changes I hope will enable me to be more efficient with my time. Never fear, though! I will still post regularly, especially on my personal blog.

I’m not sure what my fellow bloggers have planned to fill the Thursday spot, but I know you’re going to love it. And if you miss my posts, well, you know where to find me. Thanks, dear readers, for four-and-a-half years of faithful following. This blog was my first ever experience with posting anything public. I’ve learned a lot since we first started, made lots of new friends, and most importantly, gained enough confidence to branch out on my own.

I hope you’ve enjoyed having me around as much as I’ve loved being here. It wouldn’t have been the same without you. Good luck with all your writing endeavors. I'll see you in the bloggosphere.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


by C. LaRene Hall

Have you ever written something and felt that it wasn’t quite correct? I have. One story that I’ve worked on for years just didn’t feel right. I then researched everything again, and made calls to talk with people who knew about these things. Still I didn’t feel good about what I had found. Then I decided I had to go see for myself. That’s what I did this summer – RESEARCH.

Was my search helpful? YES!

My daughter and I spent a Sunday afternoon traveling to a small town, Spafford, New York, where my great-grandfather lived until his family joined the Mormon Church. This town lies between two of the Finger Lakes – Skaneateles Lake and Otisco Lake. The highest summit is Ripley Hill.
His journal told about many of the things there when he was a young boy, but I wasn’t fortunate enough to find any familiar landmarks other than the large hill. I guess things can change in 175 years. Still, somehow, I felt a connection to the land. It was disappointing, but an enjoyable day.

The following day we went to Lockport and took an Erie Canal Cruise. I can’t describe how much this fascinated me. Experiencing the feeling as the boat moved in the water, and watching the locks open and close is hard to explain. I know that my descriptions in my book will be much better now that I have been there. Yes, it is different than back in the 1800’s because they didn’t have our modern conveniences. Mules pulled the boat they rode, but it’s similar.

We spent most of our trip walking the same paths and seeing some of the same things as my grandparents saw. We also visited Kirtland, Adam-Ondi-Ahman, Far West, Haun’s Mill, Nauvoo, Carthage Jail, Mount Pisgah, and Winter Quarters. Will my story be better now? I think so. Although things have changed, now I’ve seen some of the scenes I’m writing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Fine Example of Engrish
(and why writers like us should care!)

By Darvell Hunt

Consider the following email I recently received regarding an online game that I occasionally play:

"Greetings! Recently, the problem of account invasion is getting worse and worse which cause enormous players’equipments and virtual currency stolen. This severely damages the benefits of mass players, also causes our company lose a lot of customers. Our company has to adopt some measures to safeguard our common benefits in order to strengthen the safety of mass players'accounts, and firmly resist the account to be stolen again.Through our company's research and investigation to xxx customers,we will make the following decisions: we launch a package of updated code strengthen system and dynamic code protection card which can effectively prevent the accounts invaded. We will send this package of code protection system to players free of charge."

This is a fine example of what some call Engrish, or an attempt at writing English by someone who is not a native speaker and does not know the common word usages and practices of the language. We generally understand the content, but it seems to have been written with an English dictionary in hand by somebody who really doesn't speak the language.

What the writer of this particular email is attempting to do is prompt the game player to log in, using his real game credentials, but they supply a bogus link for the player to use. In this way, the email sender (in this case, probably someone in China) will gain access to the player's account and can thus plunder the player's virtual game equity.

Email message like this rarely succeed, because the writer doesn't effectively communicate with his or her audience. So, what does this have to do with writing fiction? Plenty, I think.

If you want to write a good fantasy novel that you plan to sell in the fantasy marketplace and expect fantasy readers to buy, you need to know how fantasy fiction is done. Likewise, if you wish to write and sell a romance novel, you should probably be reading romance novels, so you have somewhat of an idea about what you should include in your novel.

That's not to say that "accidental successes" don't happen, because they do--but don't count on making a killing with your who-dunnit-murder mystery, unless you know how to make a killing in your story and make your reader believe it. (And, oh boy, don't try to make puns based on murder mysteries if you are really bad a writing puns--but that's a different topic.)

What I'm really trying to say with all of this is: know your market. (Now why didn't I just say that and forget about the whole Engrish example? Ah well. If I had more time to edit this, it would certainly be shorter.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Our Guest ~ Carolyn Frank

Carolyn Twede Frank grew up in Payson, Utah. Ever since elementary school she loved to write. In junior high and high school she was on the newspaper staff. Her senior year she even had her own column: Carolyn’s Corner.

While attending USU as a freshman, her journalism teacher—in an effort to “prepare her for the real world of writing”—tore down her work to the point that Carolyn gave up, dropped her minor of journalism, and concentrated on her other love—biology. She graduated with a BS in Horticulture and an MS in Botany and went on to start her own business manufacturing puppets, (go figure), totally forgetting that she once had a passion for writing.

Four years ago, after marrying, raising five kids, and growing her business to a point it was viable to sell, she rediscovered her love of writing. She has since sold her manufacturing business, retaining a small division of it that she can operate out of her home, affording her more time to write. Carolyn now lives in Kaysville, Utah. She writes YA/Middle grade historical and science fiction and hopes to be published soon.

You can visit Carolyn's blog, here.
Carolyn with her new grandson.

(She’s a writer who likes to evoke emotion)

~ ♥ ~

Isaiah warned people of the last days, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20). Why would he give this a warning if he did not know that such would be the case? On an almost daily basis I see where this is, indeed, the way of our world.

The other day I chatted with a neighbor who had recently moved to Kaysville from California. Somehow we got on the topic of the American history class her thirteen year old son attended in California. Her son, Eric, brought home a copy of the Declaration of Independence to study. My neighbor noticed how the word God and Creator had been replaced in the document with an ellipsis. She went on to mention a painting that caught her attention hanging in the hall of Kaysville Jr. High when she went to register Eric for school. It was the Arnold Freiberg painting of George Washington kneeling in prayer at Valley Forge (one of my favorite paintings). “You would never find such a painting in any of the schools in California,” she said. “They would consider that mixing church with state.”

We’re talking about history here, not trying to convert some teenage boy to Mormonism or Catholicism, as part of the curriculum. These things happened. They are part of our country’s history. The signers of the Declaration of Independence believed in God. Their belief and faith is what moved them to seek independence. And yes, George Washington prayed to God for help as he undertook the impossible—leading a rag-tag army of farmers against the greatest military power known to that date. To deny that these events happened as they did, or to alter a historical document because it offends someone, is no different that denying the Holocaust ever happened. History is history, whether we like it or not.

I dare say that the educator that censored the Declaration of Independence for those California students was probably in favor of same sex marriage or something equally as pernicious; a perfect example of those who would call evil good and good evil.

I’ve seen this paradigm in the world of YA writers. Last year I attended the SCBWI national conference in L.A. for my first time. Up to that point I had been naive, assuming if a book was written for children it would automatically be rated G or PG. Wrong! The buzz seemed to be that YA fiction needed to be realistic, and the real world of the adolescent was filled with sex, violence and filthy language. By being open and realistic with every intimate detail on such matters, we as writers were supposedly helping kids deal with life—it was a good thing. During that conference I wondered if I even had a chance at being a successful YA author if I didn’t have an absolutely horrible high school experience and I didn’t lace my manuscript with filthy language and sex.

Fortunately, an agent from the Andrea Brown Agency reassured me that, even though sex was selling, there is still a market for good, clean YA. She, for one, did not care for the smut. I didn’t end up hooking up with that agent, but I did come away from the conference with an increased desire to write and publish well-written, entertaining, uplifting literature for kids.

I know that’s what the Lord wants me to do, and I know He has helped me thus far with my writing. If any of you YA/middle grade writers have felt a similar passion, urge, calling—whatever you want to name it—to write uplifting literature, I think it is your duty to follow it. We need to make sure that there are just as many wholesome books out there for kids to read as there is unwholesome ones. And if the world wants to make fun of our books, saying they are not what kids need or want, but their smut is, we’ll just remember Isaiah 5:20, keep writing, and give kids a choice.

~ ♥ ~

Thanks, Carolyn, for being our guest today!

Next week, we are excited to have Michael Knudsen as our featured blogger.

If you would like to be our guest, email Connie for information.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Getting Myself Out of the Corner

By Keith N Fisher

Did you ever hear the old story of a guy painting a floor with such intensity, he doesn’t notice he painted himself into a corner? He stands up. The door is on the other side of the room. The only window is too far away to reach. He looks at all that wet paint, knowing he will have to walk on it, in order to escape his predicament. Of course, he could wait for the paint to try.

This is a great metaphor that explains what happened to me this week.

I’m told there are two kinds of writers. There are outliners and there are by the seat of your pantsers. I suppose that’s true because many writers are variations of the two. I’ve been known to do both. Usually, I hold the outline in my head. I know the beginning and end. I plot the middle as I go.

Most of the time, I know the specific points I must write and the plot twists I will throw in, but for the most part I write by the seat of my pants letting my characters tell me what they want to do.

Such was the case this week. I started writing a transition chapter. (The chapter that brings the reader from point A to point B and gets them ready for the killer plot to follow). I was in the Zone, high on endorphins, or whatever they are, when my character said something I never intended for him to say.

I know you’ve all been there, and I’ve written about this before. Like the floor painter, I’ve learned if I keep writing, ignoring my escape to follow the new path, then I end up painted into the corner. At that point I must decide whether to rewrite the old parts, or discard the stuff my character wants.

Both choices will leave paint on my shoes and possibly spoil the story. “But,” I tell myself. “The new plot turn is so cool, I wish I’d thought of it before.”

Well, my writing must be improving, because this time I made a mental note and wrote down the alternate plot idea. Then, I started debating. If I had continued to write the plot, I would have gotten to a point of no return, where the agony of extracting any part of it would’ve killed me. It seems I’ve trained myself to stop and analyze which is the better way.

I used to be a true seat of my pantser, and there are some stories I never outline, but I’ve evolved into what I call a counselor style of writing. I sit and let my characters bounce ideas off me and together, we make the story work. There are still times, however, when I end up painting myself into a corner. In those times, I take it to my critique group.

Ultimately, it’s my decision, but its great to get input from someone who isn’t a figment of my imagination.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Marshmallows, Bean Bags, or Bullets?

By Nichole Giles

Monday, on my other blog, I posted about choosing our words wisely. Today I’m still thinking along that same line. Words can be either tools or weapons, depending on your skills and your views. They paint pictures, pull heart-strings, and above all other things, have the ability to affect a person’s life one way or another.

Actions too, but I believe words can be stronger.

Soft, loving words, for instance, can open a heart wide enough for a whole entire person—or even several people—to take residence there. Kind words might give someone an ego-boost, or much needed confidence, or even give them the strength to do something brave and bold, to be more than they were before. Smart words will bring the speaker success in life, career, relationships, and other things.

Sharp words cut. They cut deep and leave large wounds that don’t heal easily, if ever. Lying words create chaos in one form or another, and never better the person who has uttered them.

Words, in themselves, are actions that have the potential to ripple out in the pond of life and create tidal waves.

It is our responsibility to know how to use our words, and use them well. We should incite emotion in our writing, yes, but also in our lives. How does your knowledge of writing affect the things that come out of your mouth? Or into an email or blog? Who will those words affect and how? What repercussions will come from the things you write or say?

Can you possibly bring peace to a ravaged person or family or entire country? Might you be able to comfort someone in need? Maybe you’ll inspire someone into greatness, or help them find religion, or some other form of spiritual awareness.

Or will something you say or write create a mutiny? A war? A dissention in the ranks? Will what you say cause a large organization to fall apart at the seams? And if it does, can you ever take it back? Make it better? Fix the damage?

Words are the most powerful weapons available to mankind. Everyone has them, and everyone uses them, though not necessarily always skillfully. And everyone—even the deaf—hears them.

This is why we study words in the same way a hunter studies guns. The difference, I think, is that the hunter buys a gun, knowing full well the risks involved. He knows that as soon as he pulls the trigger there is potential death.

Are your words marshmallows, bean bags, or bullets? And do you know the difference? If not, you should probably figure it out before you shoot.

And that is all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


by C. LaRene Hall

A couple of years ago I attended a writing conference at Cedar Fort. Eloise Owens, author of “Get Off The Beach!” was the guest speaker.

I’m so glad that I finally got around to reading her book. The last page really caught my attention especially the part about enjoying the ride. I also want to share a quote with you from this book, “If everyone does it, you don’t. You do it differently.” This is exactly the way I think. Sometimes I think I’m the oddball. I don’t want to be like anyone else. I want to be me.

Eloise says that it takes great balance to live. I know that in my life I need to find the right kind of balance every time and every day. I wonder if this really is all that can be missing from my life. Is anyone else having as much trouble balancing their life as I am?

Ms. Owens encourages us all to build our life on things that matter and fill our life with purpose. To me writing matters and without it, life wouldn’t have much purpose. Now, all I have to do is balance things every day so that I can have more time to write. What do you need to do, to give your life more purpose?

Eloise Owens also told us to demonstrate love to all that cross our path. If we do this, life will feel more complete. This is great advice, and something I’m going to work harder at accomplishing. If I do things my way, and loving balance my life with important things, life has to get better.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What’s in a Name?

By Darvell Hunt

A major part of writing good fiction is naming the fake people who live inside your head. Picking names for characters can be a daunting task, but is a necessary step in creating good stories. There are probably about as many ways to pick character names as there are writers, but I'd like to mention a few things that I've found useful.

First of all, I don’t take the topic of names too seriously. When I do, I generally end up fretting over my name choices so much that I never actually get onto the writing. On the other hand, I’ve found it difficult to write about characters in my head as if they were real if I don’t know their names. For my writing, I try to get somewhere in the middle between these two extremes.

There are a few methods I use to pick names. Sometimes I like to choose names with meaning that match what I'm trying to say. That can get a little heavy if overused, though. I also like just grabbing a name that doesn’t really mean anything, but somehow seems to match my character. These two examples represent opposite methods of choosing names and there are plenty of other ways to choose names between these two extremes. Which method I use often depends on the genre and the particular story, but the process of choosing names can vary greatly in practical use.

In addition to these methods, there are different types of names to choose from. You can choose common names, because many parents aren’t very creative when naming their kids in real life. (LOL, just kidding.) Or you can choose unusual names that make your characters memorable, or even bizarre. Your names can highlight certain characteristics of your story’s players, or even emphasize elements of the story itself. Generally, I pick about 50% of each type for my stories. A good mixture seems best.

When thinking about possible names, it's helpful to think about people you know or people you meet. You should take notice of trends in names, and be aware that these trends change over time, so you may need to choose names based on the time period of your story, or perhaps the birth date of your character. For your story to “ring true,” your names should mimic real life (or the unreal world in which your story is set). If you don’t want to “date stamp” your story, make sure you don’t choose a name from a short span of time.

A whole how-to writing book could be (and has been) written on naming characters, and I really only have time to hit the basics. Not everyone names their characters in the same way, which is okay, because not all parents name their kids using the same “rules “ (or else everybody would have the same names in real life—and that would be boring!).

I think one of the most important things to remember when naming characters is randomness. Sometimes the best name is the one pulled from a hat. It’s often best to just keep your names simple, despite the common writer’s urge to make every name have significant something.

There are a number of tools that I've used for naming characters. If you’re having trouble with names, try one or more of the following resources. If these don’t help, there are plenty others available on the Internet—let Google be your friend. You can search for things like “random name generator” or you can use other similar keywords. There are also a number of websites that give meaning for names, which can be fun for a writer.

Here are some of my favorite name web sites:

Your local phone book can also be useful—but don’t use first and last names exactly as you see them! You’re bound to pick the name of a real person eventually, especially if you use common names (like Harry Potter!), but don’t do it on purpose!

I also tend to follow a few rules in matching first names to last names, like, for example, a common first name goes well with an uncommon last name, and vice versa. Take Darvell Hunt, for example. I’ll be the first to admit that the first name is a bit “out there” (thanks mom and dad!), but I think it goes well with my semi-common one-syllable last name. Strange first AND last names can get confusing, and unless you have a reason for doing it, they should probably be avoided.

Make up your own rules for naming your characters, but don’t forget to break them occasionally as you see fit. Names can be a fun part of your story if you'll allow it to be, but don’t get lost in creating your characters and forget to write their stories.

If you’ve found other online resources or suggestions that have helped you in naming the fake people in your imaginary worlds, please feel free to post a reply for everyone’s benefit

Our Guest ~ Joshua Perkey

Josh is a senior editor for the Ensign magazine. When he is not playing with his kids, talking with his wife, serving in the Church, or sleeping, he tries to find time for writing novels.

Although he has d
iverse interests, from singing and playing in bands and choirs to sports, mostly these days he gets a little exercise now and and then and just tries keeping up with his kids.

Currently, he's shopping arou
nd an epic fantasy and almost finished with a middle grade fantasy.

can visit his blog here.

~ ♥ ~

All About Deadlines

The past few weeks I raced in an attempt to get my middle grade book finished and out to readers in time for good feedback. The reason was because I was hoping to pitch to a specific publisher at a specific event.

Well, I didn't get my book quite finished, I did sent it out to some friends for review but had to attach caveats explaining why it wasn't finished or polished, and then discovered that the individual I was going to pitch to wasn't going to be available as I had thought.

I was a bit frustrated in how the whole process got to where it was, but in the end it turned out better than I had expected. But I learned a few things about setting goals and deadlines in the end.

1. Deadlines can be useful things. They help you push through a lot of barriers, whether self imposed or otherwise, so that you can accomplish great things.

2. Even so, don't let deadlines rule your life. Deadlines can also create a lot of stress, and sometimes that stress is unnecessary because of ill management or because something changes in someone else's schedule and you didn't need to bother. Or, if you had analyzed things a little better, you'd have seen there was a different route to take to begin with.

3. Deadlines, if properly managed, can help you produce great work. If ill managed, they can cause you to submit before your work is ready, and that means people won't have a chance at first impression with the best you can offer.

4. Analyze those deadlines. Be flexible with arbitrary deadlines. I guess this is a two parter: (A.) Don't waffle if you don't need to. You've got to write in order to publish, obviously, but, (B.) You also can't control everything out there. Sometimes things beyond your control change the environment for which your deadline was created. If you can be flexible, you won't be unnecessarily disappointed. Well, maybe that's not always true. But you can adjust and plan out your life with greater happiness if you do.

5. If someone gives you a deadline--a serious deadline that won't shift in time--then start as early as possible to meet that deadline. Figure out what you've got to accomplish by the calendar, either on a daily or weekly basis, and then make sure you do everything you can to meet those deadlines. When a publisher or agent sets those deadlines for you, then you are in a whole different ball game.

So, use deadlines, and worked toward them. But try and make them realistic so you don't feel like you're letting yourself down. I did that some this summer, and it was a bummer. If I'd done a better job at analyzing the calendar, I would have either adjusted my schedule or my self-imposed deadlines. Either way, I'd feel better about what I did and how I went about it.

Nevertheless, I feel like I had divine help in the end. Oh, the deadline essentially just got pushed back two weeks, but it gives me a greater chance of accomplishing what I've got to do--get the draft finished, out to reviewers, and edited. Oh boy, there's still a lot to do! Guess I'll be putting in some late nights!

So what was it I learned this week???

~ ♥ ~

Thanks, Joshua, for being our guest today!

Next week, we are excited to have Carolyn Frank as our featured blogger.

If you would like to be our guest, email Ali for information.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

I is a Righter

By Keith N Fisher

Boy, how do you follow all the excellent blogs we’ve had this week? It’s great to see a full line up, and the guest blogcker segment is always good. I stand in awe with fingers poised over my keyboard, waiting for something to come into my head.

I had the opportunity to be counseled the other day. It was in regard to my career direction, and was extremely helpful to bring my life into focus. My mentors, with their lack of understanding, pointed out that my writing career might never bring any returns.

Now, I’ve been paid for articles and blogs, but I’m aware, as you are, writing in the LDS market will never make me rich. Well its possible one of my books could cross over to the national market, but there just isn’t a lot of money in LDS fiction. So, I agreed with my mentors.

After the meeting, I felt I’d betrayed myself. Why did I agree with them? My writing means more to me than mere money. If I don’t believe in myself, who will? A man has obligations to his family, but he can still dream—can’t he?

My mind traveled back to the 2006 LDStorymakers Conference when Josi Killpack said. “Get used to the fact you are a writer.” She went on to tell a story about somebody she knows who wouldn’t take her authorship seriously. After getting a few books published they still tried to convince her it was just a hobby.

I believe, if you put words together in hopes they will find their way into another heart, you are a writer. If you wake up, and rewind your dream in order to edit it, you are a writer. I make mountains out of molehills, jungle landscapes from a patch of grass, I am a writer.

A few years ago, I listed freelance writer on my income tax form as my first occupation. Even though I made more money at my day job, I was proud of being a writer. I consider it a church calling.

Because of the wheels I’ve put in motion, my life might take strange turns from here. I might not have enough free time to write, but I will be a writer until I die. I look forward to signing one of my published books and handing it to my mentors.

“See,” I will say. “I might not make a lot of money, but it proves I am a writer, and if it helps God bring souls to Christ, my life is not a waste.”

Still, if I work my tail off it could sell 5,000 copies. Why not, since the world is my oyster. Remember you are a writer too.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Patience is a Virtue

by G.Parker

Have you ever gotten an email or a letter from someone and it made you angry or emotional in some way and you wanted to respond immediately?  I know I have.  And usually, it's not a good idea.  I had an email this past week, a couple of them in fact, that I decided to wait on.  I had another situation that I could have made worse by commenting, and decided to wait and see what happened.

You know what?  It was a good thing.  The email situation, I don't know - only time will tell.  But the in person situation went perfectly, and if I'd said anything, it would have escalated.  I'm so relieved!
I think the same can happen with writing.  You get going in the flow of a story and let the characters lead you in a different path than you meant to have happen.  Sometimes this is a good thing, but most of the time it's not.  There's a reason you have plotted the story a certain way.  If I haven't written a plot or outlined a story, then it's no big deal when things end up different than I'd figured.  But if I've outlined pretty much the whole book and it takes off in a different direction, it tends to mess up the ending.  I have to stand back and contemplate if that's really where I want it to go.  It usually isn't, and that's when you have to make the cuts.
No one likes to cut or edit their work.  It's hard and it can be painful, especially if it includes some of your favorite scenes.  But you have to look at the good of the story.  What will make it the best?  Will the scenes really help in the long run?  Would your readers even notice after you've changed the path back to what was intended?  
Patience helps in these cases, because there are times when our characters know where they're leading us, and it's good.  It's those other times that you have to weed things out and get back on the right course.  If we didn't take a day or two to evaluate, we'd be in a world of hurt.  There's nothing like getting to the end of the story and wondering how in the heck it ended that way - it wasn't how you meant it to go at all!  You don't want to go back and start at word one, but sometimes it ends up that way.  Nicole's blog of a week ago is case in point -- where she threw out a story she'd been working on and started over.  Twice.
See, that's a lot of patience.  And with her, I'd definitely say it was a virtue.
Till next week.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Seventeen Forever

By Nichole Giles

Last week, one of my crit partners was having an issue with nail polish. She sent out a Tweet, asking for some suggested colors. (I suggested a sparkly coral, because it would match her skin tone well.) This led to her explaining that she’s going through a phase where she feels like a teenager, experimenting with hair color, nail polish, and clothing style.

Luckily, my friend is not a teenager. She’s a grown woman with a couple little kidlets and a grownup job that requires her to work forty hours a week.

But she is feeling somewhat like a teenager. And rightfully so. After all, she’s writing an issue book in the young adult genre, which means she’s spending a lot of time in the head of a seventeen-year-old character who is filled with all kinds of angst.

This happens from time to time. We feel what our characters feel, we experience what they experience, and while we’re helping them discover their identities, we’re also discovering more about our own. There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact, it’s unavoidable for some of us.

We actually put ourselves in the shoes of our characters. For YA writers, that might mean feeling like teenagers all over again. For middle grade writers, that might mean experiencing middle school. For adults, well, that’s another story altogether. Usually, it means living a double life, which has its own merits and issues.

My friend was feeling very nervous about her current teenager phase. But I told her it’s really not all bad. I mean seriously. Worse things could happen. Nail polish? Hair color? Clothing style? Yeah. All minor stuff that most women enjoy anyway. And let’s face it. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like you’ll always be seventeen.

Is there?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Develop Your Own Talent

by C. LaRene Hall

After returning from my vacation, I was quickly looking through some of the emails from the Authors Incognito group that I belong to, and one by Marta Smith quickly caught my attention. She mentioned how her husband thought it was great that she liked to write - as a hobby. He thought it was something that could wait until their children were grown and she had more time.

Wrong. That’s exactly what I did, but not because someone else thought, I should wait. It never occurred to me that I could write and still be a mom. I have regretted that decision many times in the past few years. Because of that choice, I missed many opportunities and thousands of stories that I didn’t act on vanished from my head. The only time that I wrote something other than a letter or my journal was when someone in my church wanted me to write something for a program they were doing.

Marta told about finding a quote by President Hinckley. "Give your companion the opportunity to grow in her own interests, to develop her own talents, to fly her own way, and to experience her own sense of accomplishment." Ensign May 2003

I was always busy fulfilling my church callings and taking care of my children that I never once thought about myself and my talents. Several years after my children had left the nest, I found myself one day looking at an ad about writing. It caught my attention and it only took a few days for me to gather the courage to approach my husband and ask if it was okay if I looked into it. I, like Nichole, took a correspondent Children’s Writing Class (from the same company). That is what changed my life.

I realize that my husband also needs to do things that he enjoys. Like me, after our marriage, he hid his talents. He used to be a good artist, but with not developing it, he no longer has that ability. Because of health issues, many of the things he likes to do, he can no longer do. For several years, he built and painted birdhouses. A year ago, he made a leather coin purse for every child and grandchild for Christmas.

Now, I talk with all my grandchildren about developing their talents, no matter what they are. It’s surprising to me how many of them actually love to write. I think by me pursuing my talents it has helped them to realize they also have something to say.

When I speak with other children, such as at the library in Nebraska, I also encourage them to seek after the things they enjoy and to develop the talents they have. This world needs the talents of every one of us. We need writers, artist, ball players, cooks, seamstresses, teachers, and pilots. We all need to excel in what we like to do, no matter what it is.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

There's an Alien in my Head

By Darvell Hunt

"Arnie just wants to be a 'normal' sixth-grader, but he keeps hearing goofy words inside his head—words with mysterious power capable of turning him into an alien.

"As if Arnie’s troubles aren’t bad enough with his voice crackling and going deeper, he’s telepathically learning a foreign alien language, but he keeps that abnormality a secret—for now.

"As the language lessons progress, he discovers that his elementary school is on the front lines of an alien invasion, and if he completes the language training, he’ll be assimilated into the alien race.

"Good thing he meets up with a representative from the Alien Resistance Coalition (or ARC). Arnie gets sent on a secret spy mission to discover the identity of the boss alien, who’s hidden somewhere at his school.

"But even the ARC can’t help him as he slips behind enemy lines, seeking to stop the telepathic messages and save his school—but he must risk everything, including the ability to communicate with his friends and family, and possibly even having to move way to the home alien planet.

"For the past six years, I have been moderator of a group of over 200 prospective writers called Authors Incognito. I created and now co-write the official blog of this group, which can be found at An award-winning novel excerpt of mine was published in 2005 in Irreantum Magazine ( I have also won several awards at the LDStorymakers Conferences.

"THERE’S AN ALIEN IN MY HEAD is a completed middle-grade novel at just under 23,000 words. The full manuscript is available at your request."

That's the query for my current project. I feel pretty good about it, but so far I haven't landed an agent--just a bunch of form-letter rejections. The road to success is paved with those rejections and I fully expect to publish this novel.

I welcome your comments regarding my query letter. I haven't looked at it for awhile and am considering updating before sending it out again.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Our Guest ~ Deborah Davis

Debbie Davis will celebrate 22 years of marriage to her best freind tomorrow. She recieved her degree in elementary education with a dance minor from BYU 18 plus years ago, 6 weeks after having her second baby. She loved the paniced looks that her teachers gave her when ever they thought she was in labor.

Now she is the mother of 7 active busy children( ages 19 to 6 ) and life is never a dull moment. She volunteers at her kids schools as accountablity president for the middle school and high school, and helps in her kids classes when ever she can. She loves to go caving, and camping and doing fun activities with her family. She loves to dance, sing, draw, write, teach her fitness classes and pretend to play the piano. She runs full and half marathons and has her eyes set on doing a triathalon in the next year. She hopes to be a published author in the nearer rather than farther future. She has lived in Colorado for the last 13 years.

You can visit Debbie's blog here.

~ ♥ ~

Last September I took a huge leap of faith, I decided that the writer inside me dying to be let out and be heard, could be. I began to write my first noveleven though I was afraid of being found out and exposed by the inner workings of my mind.

Besides, who was I, a crazy busy mom of seven very active kids to think I could be a writer?
This summer alone I had to get my boys to basketball, football, lacrosse, and track practices, camps, games and meets. I was teaching 3 to 4 plus group exercise classes a week, and leading a bunch of energetic fun beehives as part of the Young Women's presidency. Not to mention getting my second daughter ready for college, and keeping my little children entertained too all while my husband was going to be gone most of the time.

But, I figured if I could commit myself to the incredibly difficult goal of running a full marathon with all the training it required and raise over 2200 dollars for charity (which I ended up finishing in a little over 7 hours through hail, rain, snow and winds that blew me off the road) and do another one that same year, then I could commit to being an author and this goal I set for myself.

So I took up a challenge to write every day in the month of July for an hour. I was commited, no matter what. It would be a piece of cake, right? After all it was just an hour a day.
Well, I was way wrong on this one.

It turned out to be more difficult than I could have ever imagined.

Not thinking, I chose to take on this challenge that would be in effect during a caving trip , going out of town to visit family that had plans of thier own that I was expected to be a part of for 8 days, taking care of kids on my own while my husband was either traveling for work or serving the Lord at Scout Camp or cooking for over 250 people on a four day Pioneer Trek, most of the month of July. In addition, I was traveling on my own with all seven of my kids (ages 19 to 6 years) to Utah to see my mom, brother and to take my daughter to college orientation in Logan.

Not a single day of this challenge went by that I haven't started writing before 12 am. It is so hard at times. I'm sooo tempted at times to just quit and not keep at it. But I told myself that I was writing no matter what, like I promised myself. And so with bleary eyes and jumbled brain waves, I stayed committed.

I can honestly say I haven't missed a single day of writing and kept my goal alive, beyond my expectations, even when it was as late (or early) as 1:30 am when I finally hit the keys. After finishing my writing time for the day, I always feel a huge sense of accomplishment for not giving up on me.

I have made more progress this month than I ever thought possible. I know that some days my eyes are held open with extra help, when all they want to do was head off to dream land. But I am somehow able to rouse myself enough to finish what I am writing on, hit save and stumble off to bed.

So I say, if me and my crazy self can keep committed to writing everyday no matter how out of control life can get, then I believe you can do it too.

So experiment! Try it out for yourself. Make a goal, stay with it, and come tell me at my blog and tell me what it was and how it went. I'd love to hear about your writing experiences. Besides, I know one thing for sure, you definitely won't be sorry, when you look back at your accomplishments.
~ ♥ ~