Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Michael Knudsen Interview

My heart goes out today to all who've served in our country's military. Memories of my few visits to Pearl Harbor fill me with sadness of the ravages of war and deep gratitude to the men and women who have fought for our freedoms or directly supported those people. May God bless you always.

On a lighter note, I have a super cool interview today and one I'm so excited about. Michael Knudsen's book 'The Rogue Shop' comes out TOMORROW! That's right, the last day for pre-orders is today, so go HERE and get your copy. Then check out Mr. Kundsen's website. It's a fun website and I highly recommend 'The Rogue Shop' teasers. So, on to the interview - which is the best part of this post:


PU  What do you like best about your character Chris?

MK  I like that he wants to redeem himself from the awful mistakes he made as a teenager. At age 20, he is still suffering mentally and spiritually due to a car accident he was responsible for at age 16. What hurts him the most is that his own parents were killed by a drunk driver when he was just 3. It's heroic that he tries to atone for this by improving his own life, but during my story he learns the limits of what he can do by himself.

PU  A good lesson for all of us, too. What is your favorite line from the book?

MK  "I scanned the contents of my cerebral quarry for the bedrock of my convictions and came up with a load of sand."

In writing that line, I was looking for just the right metaphor for Chris to realize that despite his efforts at walking a straight and narrow path, his refusal to find foundational principles and live by them is severely limiting his progress--and is also creating distance between him and the girl he's falling in love with.


PU  Do you outline or let the fingers fly?

MK  An outline is critical to start with, but after letting the "fingers fly" for a few thousand words, the outline is pretty much out the window and I wing it until I get stuck again. Then I revise the outline and take off for another flight. This process is repeated several times, and the finished product is never very close to what the outline was. Even the ending tends to change dramatically. I know, it sounds awful, but that's how it happened with The Rogue Shop.

PU  I don't think it's awful. I think having a basic idea of where your story is going is valuable. Especially for me when the process is so long that I forget where I had originally gone with it even though, as you said, it changes as you go anyway. What are some ways you work through writer's block?

MK  I see the presence of writer's block as evidence of 1 of 2 things:

1) I'm feeling lazy and don't really want to write a novel as much as I want to have written a novel.

2) I don't have a good enough story idea or outline and need to spend a little more time in preparation (but not too much).

The best block-breaking motivation for me is to go visit a bookstore or library, just browsing around. After about an hour of seeing all the millions of words other people have written and published, I am
anxious to get home and back to work.

PU  What was your favorite genre and/or author growing up and has that changed?

MK  I grew up on speculative fiction. Tolkien, Brooks, Mervyn Peake and his delightfully wordy Gormenghast Trilogy, tons of science fiction and horror. In college I enjoyed many of the classics of American literature, particularly Hawthorne and Faulkner. I learned a great deal from Shakespeare and Dickens. As an adult, I read it all. I like to go back to the fantasy and sci-fi, and when I get sick of that
I pick up a classic, or mainstream fiction. I've read a lot of LDS fiction lately and have loved what I've found. I also enjoy a wide range of non-fiction on many different topics.

PU  Who has been your greatest influence as a writer?

MK  #1 is my 12th grade English teacher, Ms. Argus. She is the first person (besides my mom) who read my papers and told me she thought I was talented and could be a good writer. I've never forgotten that.

PU  Any words of advice for aspiring authors?

MK  There are a million distractions these days that take away from your writing time. Even things we consider important like keeping up on a blog and maintaining your place in the writer's community can take away from what you really need to do, which is finish your novel. Just today I looked at my blog stats, and saw that in November 2009, I made zero posts and had zero visitors to my blog. How pathetic, I thought. Why was that such a lame month? Then I realized: November 2009 was the month I finally finished The Rogue Shop. I wrote over 200 pages that month. Sometimes the level of intensity required to finish something big requires the sacrifice of smaller things.

Thanks Peggy for hosting me today!

PU  Thank you Michael and best of luck. Remember to check out Michael's cool website and order your own copy of The Rogue Shop.

Monday, November 22, 2010

True Miracles uTube

True Miracles

Need a Christmas gift for that person who has everything? This is perfect. Even non-readers can enjoy the compilation of inspiring stories in Anne Bradshaw's book True Miracles with Genealogy

Whether you are a genealogy buff and or not, I think this would be in interesting read. I know we get help from those who have gone before as people within my family have experienced this when doing genealogy.

The following is an interview with the author:

What is your current book and how would you describe it?
I actually have two new books out, but the one I'm concentrating on right now is "True Miracles with Genealogy~Help from Beyond the Veil." Compiling it was an amazing experience.

"True Miracles" is a collection of inspiring research stories, spiritual moments as help comes from beyond the veil. It is unique, comforting, and powerful. Each account can't help but touch hearts as readers come to the heady realization that there really is a world of spirits.

How and when did you gather stories for this book?
I put out requests for stories on many social websites, including Facebook. Genealogists from all over the USA and from other countries responded. It amazed me to read so many unusual experiences—to learn of the many different ways researchers received the help they needed.

I'm sure my book contains only a tiny portion of the vast number of stories that go unrecorded every year—even every day—throughout the world. As someone says in the book, "Heaven is only a whisper away." It really is that close, but most times in the busy hours of our life, we're not in tune, or not ready to listen and act.

I began compiling seriously at the beginning of 2010. The more stories I received the more fascinating, and compelling it was to keep going. Once the initial call for stories went out, friends began telling others about the project and story gathering took on its own momentum.

There was a lot of work involved in the initial story editing to make each one fit the book's style. I thought about putting different accounts into categories within the book, but as stories kept arriving, I they simply didn't fit neatly into any particular groups because each experience was unique, and as such, each one needed its own classification, which defeated any effort to make them match others.

Is there a website for "True Miracles with Genealogy?"
 Yes, I created a website at http://www.truemiracleswithgenealogy.com to further the book's purpose of sharing research stories. I hope many readers will send in their experiences. I realize it's unusual for most people to have more than one or two genealogy miracles in a lifetime—and many have none—but treasuring and sharing these events is so worthwhile.

The website is also home to the book's reviews. These are under the Book Review tab, top of the page.

Where can readers purchase this book? 
It's available in both paperback and electronic form. I deliberately kept the price low so more can afford to enjoy it. The Kindle and Nook eBook versions are only $2.99. I hope local bookstores will soon make it available. The book is on many Internet sites. Below are sample links. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download free software for your computer, phone, iTouch, iPad, and more on Amazon HERE.

Amazon's CreateSpace $8.99, shipping $3.61
Amazon $8.99, shipping $3.99
Kindle eBook $2.99
Nook eBook $2.99


What other genres do you write?
I’ve tried my hand at several—YA mystery suspense (my other new book is titled "DINGO"), adult fiction, poetry, non-Fiction, and screenwriting.

What type of writing schedule do you have?
Now the children are grown and flown, I can write any time I choose, which is most of the day on one thing or another. I get up at 5.30 a.m. and fit speed walking, chores and meal making between writing.

How do you handle life interruptions?
Interruptions are good breaks for me. If I type too long, I get neck and shoulder pain, so I welcome a change of pace—unless I’m in the middle of something that’s going particularly well, or coming to an end—then I grit my teeth and hit “save.” And I usually scribble down whatever thought was passing through my mind at the time, because I'm sure to forget it later.

Where did you go to college and master in writing? 
I studied writing through an online college course in England. The rest was practice, practice and more practice. And reading, reading and more reading – especially books about writing.

How much time does writing take?
Many long hours. For me, getting it right is not a fast process. Re-writes take forever. Marketing takes even longer.

What else do you do besides writing?
My hobbies include vegetable and herb gardening, photography, and getting lost in great books. I’m a lousy cook, but we have to eat. Years ago in England, we reared goats, chickens, and bees, and I really enjoyed those times. As for travel, if it weren’t for children and grandchildren spread around the country, I’d be perfectly happy staying home. Travel seems such a huge, uncomfortable thing these days, but, like eating, it has to be done.

Are you ever nervous when writing? Ever have self-doubts as to your skills?
Oh yes, all the time. If I dwelt on doubts, I would never get anything written. But they do serve a purpose. My doubts make me continue to read about the art of writing. There is much to learn and relearn. I attend writing conferences, also. They are great for rekindling enthusiasm, and an excellent resource.
What have been some of your most successful work habits as a writer?
Probably my most successful habit is the ability to stay focused. And I'm happy to change a manuscript if it means a better story. Growing a thick skin against rejection was a tough one for me, because rejection feeds self-doubt. It never gets any easier to read, "Thanks for your manuscript, but . . .” However, these days I'm doing better at shrugging it off and battling on.

Do you believe there is any "magic" formula to being published?
I’d love to know it if there is one. Sometimes, it seems more like good luck, striking the market at the right time, and combining that with huge marketing efforts.



What others have said about this book:

"There aren't enough collections of these stories, and I, for one, am very grateful to Anne Bradshaw for compiling a few more of them. They truly do touch and encourage and uplift, and having read the book, I am once again inspired to try a little harder on my own 'blind alleys.'" ~ Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury for the Association for Mormon Letters
****
"Anne Bradshaw’s book is not a genealogical how-to manual. "True Miracles with Genealogy" is a worldwide collection of astounding personal stories that illustrate the remarkable assistance available to us when we combine diligent research with help from beyond the veil." ~ Laurie L.C. Lewis, Author.

****
"True Miracles with Genealogy~Help from Beyond the Veil" is a collection of research stories written by ordinary people with extraordinary experiences. These events are part of the reward that comes from doing genealogy. They are the fathers turning their hearts to their children—the spiritual moments as help comes from beyond the veil. Each account is unique. Each is a miracle. Each will inspire readers as they come to the heady realization that genealogy is more than it appears to be, and there really is a world of spirits.

"'Sometimes we forget how close Heaven is to Earth—just a whisper away' ~ Elizabeth Jane Roberts. This is the kind of comfort offered by True Miracles with Genealogy. Personal story after story rivets your attention. This book is a powerhouse of inspiration—an absolute must-read to keep on your nightstand." ~ C.S. Bezas, Author and Columnist

****
"Whether you've been doing your family history for years, or have just started, or just enjoy reading about the process, you'll find something to delight and inspire you in this remarkable work." ~ Tristi Pinkston, Author



Doesn't it sound fascinating?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Talents

Today while listening to the Met Opera station I mused about what the singers might have been like as children. Did their parents recognize their young child had a 'gift' or was it a mentor later in their life? Did they love singing? Did they start singing the moment they got up and not quit until their siblings threatened their very lives? What if they didn't love what they did - would they make it to the Metropolitan Opera House? I doubt it.

Then I thought about myself (let's call it introspection rather than selfishness, OK? That will make me feel better). Do I have any talents like this? Hmmm. None that I could think of. I can do lots of things but none really well. For example, I can design and sew clothes (I did my own prom dress), but I'm not a sewing genius. I can ride a bike, but Cycle Oregon? No way. I'll leave that to two of my sisters. I can cook, but will my children eat it? Sometimes. I can draw, but I'm more of a Picasso (maybe that's why his art appeals to me) than a Rembrandt. I can play the piano but not well enough to play in front of people. You get the picture.

So, what sets the Met Opera people apart from people like me? They have what it takes, but I'd like to think I do too. They have studied their craft. Perhaps this is where I've gone astray. Mediocrity comes easily. They have spent countless hours practicing and studying to the point of near perfection. Few of us are prodigies, but even they hone their craft for hours upon hours, day in and day out.

I am no prodigy, but I have resources available to me to excel in any area I determine. So, should I take up basketball? At 6' I'm tall for a female, but short by WNBA standards. I like basketball, particularly when I can sink a shot faster than my teenagers and husband. But, what I lack is the desire. If I had to go out and shoot hoops and run for hours on end, I don't think I would like it so much anymore.

So, what is something that I could do for hours and not get tired of it? The answer: Make up stories. I was about to go on a tangent about a Project Management class I took, but I will save it for another post. My point to all of this is that I have the resources and the desire to be a great writer, now I just have to put it all into action. Study my craft and minimize my distractions and work at it every day. Someday I hope you'll read something I've written besides this blog.

Is there a talent you are pursuing? Keep at it and for all you writers out there, Write On my friends!

Contests Contests Contests

So many great contests out there from chocolate to signed copies of pop fiction. These are also great people that I know! Coolio, huh?!! Check them out and see what they've got going on their websites. Also, stay tuned because I will be hosting my own contest soon.

Nicole Giles Contest

Donald J. Carey Contest

Here is a video teaser from Donald's book scheduled for release in January. Enjoy! (Can't wait to read this as it's set in one of my favorite places - Laie, Hawaii).


Friday, October 29, 2010

Pride and Prejudice

No, not the fabulous novel by Jane Austen. What I'm talking about is letting our pride and prejudices hinder our progress as writers. Would you carry around and use a 'brick' phone today? Some of you probably aren't old enough to remember those - they were cell phones about the size of a brick and we thought we were so very cool pulling out the antenna and punching in numbers to call our buddy's land line to show off. How about a crank start car? My dad had a crank start tractor and I thought it was both super cool and super ancient. I have to admit, I love the roar of the engine when all I do is push a button or turn a key and away I go. Lovely!

How about central air conditioning and heating. Living in Arizona I am very grateful for AC. I know some people don't use theirs or don't run it often. I am not one of them. Along with AC, we have homes built for energy efficiency so that we can live more comfortably. And then there's heating. I grew up in the mountains and sometimes it got down to forty below (I realize it's not as cold as some places, but waiting for the bus in the dark, very cold hours makes an impression not soon forgotten). We had an old enormous Heaterola wood burning stove. My dad spent a lot of hours chopping and we spent a lot of hours stacking, but it was all worth it when the chill of winter came.

There are so many things that make our lives easier. The writer's world is no different. There are so many resources we have to help make our writing better. Even the experts agree that they continually learn about writing - picking up a book on writing, attending writing conferences, critique groups, reading current books in the genre in which they are writing. So, don't be prideful or hold prejudice against those who are successful - use the information they offer, learn from them, let them help make your writing better, and as always, Write On my friends!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cabbage

Last Saturday morning I lay in bed pretending to sleep as I listened to my daughter and husband discussing a hiking trip. "This is good," I thought knowing that hiking was on her list of things to do during fall break. Then my husband came in and asked if I wanted to go. Um, let me think about that, NO. I don't want to go hiking, I hate hiking. Besides I'm tired and I want to laze about in bed for a little longer.

Guilt worked on me - I knew I should go for a few different reasons... a) time with my family, b) I really need the exercise, c) it might impress my husband if I went (yah, after knowing him more that 20 years, I still try to impress him - sometimes it even works!)

We grabbed our water bottles and headed out. We hiked Silly Mountain for an hour (half hour up and half hour down. We saw a lizard, a desert bird in a nest in a palo verde tree, a whole bunch of quail, big fire ants, creosote bushes, saguaro cacti, and a few other hikers. We stood atop the highest peak and looked out over the vast expanse of the Valley of the Sun. It was beautiful but I have to be honest, I still really hate hiking.

Which brings me to something my mother used to say to us as we were growing up. "It's a good thing we don't all like cabbage." I happen to like it cooked, not raw. My husband loves it raw, but not cooked. Hiking - just think if everyone liked it, the trails would be over run and people would have been everywhere. 

So what does any of this have to do with writing? A lot. Not everyone will like the things I write. Some people will probably hate it (of course, I hope this will not be the case). Should I worry about it? No. There is a little saying I come across frequently in the writing world and that it 'write the story that is in you'. I realize that the story in my head is my story. I want to use the things I have learned to write it in the best possible way - so that even if someone doesn't like the story they will still be able to say, "but, it is well written." So, write your story, write it well, and as always, Write On my friends!


Friday, October 15, 2010

Wedding

Today is a wedding day. Ah, joy and bliss and busyness. Scott's niece got married this morning in the Mesa Arizona LDS Temple. What a sweet occasion to gather family and friends and loved ones. As a romance writer, you know I love this sort of thing: the way Eric looked at her in that tender way, the way Breana looked at him as she gave herself to be his wife, the way he rubbed her hand when a tear rolled down her cheek, their first kiss as husband and wife - so beautiful. I hope they always cherish these moments and feelings. Relationships have ups and downs - hard parts and easy parts; just like our characters and our writing. Some parts come easy and others are so difficult that sometimes you feel like your head will split and you wonder how anyone does this - and wish for their gift of getting it out so eloquently. The key in both is to not give up. Keep learning, keep plugging away, keep working at it until you have something beautiful - and then edit again and again getting rid of the parts that don't work. Love you guys - Write On!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cheerleaders



Friday night I met my sisters and mom in St. George, Utah. We met up at Poncho and Lefty's Mexican restaurant for dinner and then drove out to a house we rented in Santa Clara. It's a really nice place in a brand new subdivision.

Saturday we went out to Bluff Street and parked at a church. The streets were lined with people cheering for the runners of this year's St. George Marathon. We set up our chairs in a shady spot and cheered people on as we waited for my sister and her husband to run by. 

The runners are so amazing and it was so much fun once we figured out that their names are printed under their number and we started shouting and cheering for them by name. Several of them slowed down wondering how we knew their names. One lady stopped and asked how she knew us. My sister replied that she knew us because we were her cheerleaders. So FUN!

It's so gratifying to cheer the runners on. They have worked and trained and prepared for this, but still need encouragement along the way. The thank yous and thumbs up that people give in return filled my bucket. So Write On my friends - I am cheering for YOU!

Some quotes of the day:

Me cheering: You're awesome.
Runner: You're not the first woman to tell me that today.

I got these sunglasses tomorrow. I'm so glad I bought them yesterday. (too much time running in the heat)

On parking the truck: This is like parking a tree trunk in a toothpick slot.

Mortuary sign at mile 25: We can wait. Keep running.

How do you know my name . . . doh! You can read!

I'm not very smart but I think a lot.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hunger Games Trilogy

It's true, I am addicted to reading. I stay away as long as I can and then plunge in for a fix. The past two days I have been absent from life and immersed in books two and three (Catching Fire and Mockingjay) of the Hunger Games trilogy. There are several points I want to make here - they are all my opinions of this trilogy.

  • In a recent blog post Tamara Passey posed the question of whether we had ever wanted to re-write the ending of a book. I could only think of one at that time, Villette by Charlotte Bronte (a brilliant novel until I reached the end). I will now add Mockingjay to that list as I scream into my pillow in frustration.
  • In a "Daily Kick in the Pants" by David Wolverton the title is "Killing Your Babies." (side note and off topic: my daughter walked in while I was reading this and a horrified expression crossed her face - she thought I was plotting to kill her. I did laugh out loud and then I explained what he was talking about) Back on topic. So we have to be careful about killing off our babies (aka our characters). He talks about readers getting attached to our characters and becoming offended when we kill them off - some so much so that they will no longer read anything by that author. One reason for eliminating characters is that it is necessary to motivate or to reach a particular end. Ms. Collins does a lot of eliminating in these two books - some of which I think could have easily been avoided. 
  • David Wolverton also talks in several "Kicks" about dream sequences or misleading your readers. Your readers don't like it. Yah, we don't like it! Maybe I missed some clues, maybe I read things into the story that really weren't there, but in the end I felt misled and I'll repeat it: we don't like it!
  • I think Ms. Collins is incredibly creative - right up to the end of Mockingjay. Really? Didn't I just read this in the beginning of book three? Plus, the character arc works through book one, but I think it falls flat in two and most of book three and then suddenly in the epilogue we're supposed to think it all works out. It wasn't very believable for me.
  • I look at this as similar to George Orwell's '1984'. It has political allusions. I would say it's not futuristic, but current. The 'capitol' to me is no different than our governments, both local and national. They continue to reach deeper into our pockets and control more and more of our lives - and like the people in the districts we continue to let them. How will it end for us? Will we make a stand before our children are 'sacrificed'? Oh wait, I almost forgot the trillions of dollars of debt we are hefting on their shoulders. Their standard of living will be hard pressed to live up to ours. 
  • Would I recommend the series? After book one: Yes. After books two and three: No.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Writing Compelling Characters

I think this is something we as writers think a lot about - I do anyway. I was contemplating recently a character in my current work-in-progress. He doesn't enter the stage until toward the end of the novel but plays a very important part. So, I was thinking ("a dangerous pastime - I know"*), how do I give him his own voice and make him someone my readers want to cheer for (or despise if he were a villain)?

I need to get to know my character better because I'm struggling with this. What motivates him? Why does he care? What things does he dislike/hate/fear? What is his biggest strength? What is his biggest weakness? Because we know him for such a short time, his growth will be less than that of the main characters, but we still need to see either a way he grows or a way he digresses - because we like him, I'm choosing growth. He will have to overcome an old and bitter grudge and come to realize that he was wrong.

Now, how do I give him a unique voice? That's a dilemma because I don't personally know anyone like him. I guess I need to dig a little deeper. Arrogant, always right, strong willed, justice-oriented (wait, I do know some attorneys...)

It's true, my characters are all bits and pieces of people I know or have known. It's so fun to people watch and use things we do or reactions we have - you know, truth is stranger than fiction...

These are just some of the ways I create my characters and I do hope they are compelling.

*LeFue and Gaston, Disney's Beauty and the Beast

Friday, September 10, 2010

Independence

Independence. A good word. (I know, interdependence is much better, but I'm not on a psychology rant today, I'm taking an introspective vein). It's a word I like and one that describes me on most days. The past week and a half and for at least another four or five days my independence has been challenged. I had a little surgery and cannot drive. It was fine and dandy until all my drivers left. My sweet mother was here until early this morning. My husband left town yesterday morning. My teenage driver has to be at school. So today, the busiest driving day of my week, I had to humble myself and ask for help. Oh, and not just one person. Turns out that I had to rely on four people - my niece, Taylor, my friend, Stephanie, and my father-in-law and his wife, Lynn and Jean. And the day is not over. The good news is that tomorrow is Saturday and my teenage driver doesn't have school and my husband will be home in the afternoon.

It's difficult to rely on others when you are accustomed to doing things yourself. Believe me, I really wanted to get in the car and drive this morning. That being said, I am such a newbie writer that I definitely depend on the many resources that are out there to improve and learn this fabulous craft. I love writing and I love telling stories. I am so glad there are good writers and knowledgeable people out there who are willing to share what they know.

And although I really like being independent, I've learned that the writing world is not a place for that. We depend on others to get through the entire process. Think of all the books you've picked up with the little blurb in the front dedicating and thanking and acknowledging the many people who made the book possible. Just last night I was texting my childhood best friend and resident horse expert with questions. She texts me right back and never makes me feel like an idiot for not knowing the simplest things about horses. Love her and will certainly acknowledge her expertise in the front of my novel - I've just got to get it finished! So, Write On, my friends!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Blogger Frustration

I am not a techie! I was so excited last year when my friend, Cindy Williams, hosted a "How To" blog class. It was wonderful and helpful and I slowly figured out how to do a few things to customize my blog. Then, Blogger goes and changes their format adding the fabulous (NOT) Template Designer. I really hate it. It is NOT user friendly for those not interested in the few basic designs they have available. I have tried to look in the help section, but there isn't anything there that I found helpful. I have spent hours trying to get back to the fun blog I had, but as you can see, I haven't had any success. So, as with writing, I must persist until I find a solution. Write On my friends! (and any of you techies out there that know how to add custom templates in the new Template Designer, please help me!!!)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hometown Girl

Michele Ashman Bell is celebrating her release of Hometown girl with a blog tour and $50 Giveaway. Click on her name to go to her website and get more details.

I attended a class in April taught by Ms. Bell and found it engaging and wonderful so I am excited to read her Butterfly Girls series! The back of the second book Hometown Girl says,

Jocelyn Rogers’s life is in a rut. Maybe she should step outside her comfort zone and move to Milford Falls, where she has inherited her grandmother’s house. With the encouragement of the other Butterfly Girls, Jocelyn musters her courage and starts a new life.

However, when she arrives in the small town that holds both good and bad memories for her, she discovers the house in worse shape than she expected, and getting repairs done is anything but easy — especially when it comes to dealing with Jack Emerson, a man who seems to be agitated by Jocelyn and everyone else within a fifty-mile radius.

To make matters worse, she has begun to worry that moving back to the place where she once spent a troubled summer will expose the deep personal secret she has kept hidden for fourteen years. But Jack also has a hidden secret that has prevented him from getting close to anyone in a long time. And now it seems that interfering neighbors may prevent both Jack and Jocelyn from moving forward with their lives.

Join the Butterfly Girls in this charmingly romantic story that shows sometimes it takes a leap of faith to land on your feet. 



Doesn't it sound like a fun read?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Alligator Season

Earlier this week we had dinner at my father-in-law's and we turned on a TV program called 'Swamp People.' At first, I thought, "Oooh, cool, a Sunday horror flick!" It turned out to be something entirely different. It was a show about Alligator Season in the swamp lands of Louisiana.

If I wanted to be an alligator hunter in Loosiann, what would I need?

Equipment would include a flat fishing boat (sorry all you boat experts out there, I have no idea what kind of boat it is, I'm just trying to describe it), large pieces of decomposing chicken on enormous hooks (aka bait), a strong pole and line, and a hand gun and/or shotgun with ammunition.

Non-equipment essentials would include a guide/mentor, knowledge of alligator hangouts and a great aim (or a sharpshooter).

The bait is hung just above the water along the banks of the swamp lands. After baiting several hooks and setting them out along a route, the team returns and checks the lines. Sometimes bait is missing, but when they're lucky, a 'gator is on the other end of the line. They carefully reel it in and it puts up one mother lode of a fight. This is where the sharpshooter comes in. As soon as that 'gator's head is above water the shooter is firing. If the first shot doesn't do the trick, he fires off another round into what they call the 'sweet spot'. The 'sweet spot' is about the size of a quarter and unless you hit that spot Mr. Alligator is not slowing down. Next they load the gator - head first (very important) - into the boat. Then they move to the next bait spot. They have 30 days to hunt their license limit.

It's fascinating.

One thing that really struck me was the mentors - the older men - passing their skill and knowledge on to the next generation. They were so patient, guiding the younger men through the whole process and a few mistakes. Who had taught them? Their fathers and grandfathers and so on, going back generations and generations. When those young men followed the lead of the older ones success and safety followed.

Our writing is much the same. There are so many generous and talented 'mentors' out there helping those of us who are just starting out. They encourage us and guide us and give us little tidbits of wisdom. Our writing is better because of them. I am grateful for past generations of wonderful writers. Thank you and Write On my friends!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Books Are My Drug

Sadly, when it comes to reading a good book, I have very little self-control. I am transported to another place and don't want to leave until the conflicts are resolved. My housework and laundry sit waiting, my sink is full of dishes, the kids don't get fed, I stay up until the wee hours of the morning, and basically become an irresponsible mess. Therefore, I really don't read much as I would like.

But, I love to read. I love a good story - in almost any genre. For example, I don't care for westerns, they would be one of my last resorts to read. However, my brother-in-law convinced me to read one of his favorites, a Louis L'Amour novel titled Last of the Breed. Devoured and loved - but it wasn't a typical western. A great book that, like usual, I became completely absorbed in.

There are only a handful of books that I have picked up and walked away from. What was it about those books that I couldn't get into? They were books that just didn't engage me as the reader. Is this a bad thing? Does it mean it wasn't well written? Probably not, for me, it just didn't click. As a writer, I want to tell a good story, have it be well written, and I want everyone to love it. Will everyone love it? No. It's just the way things are. Not everyone will have the same opinion or feel the same way about a book. Just like in life, we all experience things differently. We look at the same mountain and my heart may warm and fill with nostalgia while someone else's would revolt.

So, ignore the critics, write what you love, write your story, but most of all, Write On!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Illusions

This may meander a bit, but stick with me. In 1995 my husband and I were expecting our second child. One day as I was walking home from dropping our oldest at the sitter (I had a job where I telecommuted 4 days) and had an experience that frightened me enough that I told my husband it was time to move. So we commenced our house hunt. Divine providence led us to our second home in a neighborhood surrounded by alfalfa fields (ahhh - a little reminder of 'home'). It was a home that we were able to semi-customize as it was being built. I loved that little home because it was MY home. I picked out the color schemes and carpets and some of the designs. We did all the landscaping ourselves (yah, that was back when we were young and had that kind of energy, sigh). We grew in that 3B2B house to a family of 6. While it was manageable, we considered that it might be time to move in the not too distant future as our kids were growing. We bought a house on more than an acre in a quiet neighborhood. I will just say that we bought it for the acreage and had plans to build. No worries, the lady we bought it from wanted to rent it back until she was ready to move. Perfect since I didn't want to live there yet.

All right, back to 1995. Scott's parents lived a quarter mile around the corner from us and went through a similar phase, just sooner than we did. They ended up also having a house built in a master community. They were so excited about it and every new thing that happened we had to jump in the car and go check it out - if you've ever had a house built, you know how it is: you get so excited, the foundation is poured, then you wait weeks and it's framed and you get so excited, then you wait weeks for the next event (rollercoaster!) - but you're out there all the time watching the pot that won't boil. Yes, I'm meandering again... Anyway, Scott's mom picked out this dark wood flooring. Flashback to the 80s when everything was whitewashed and bright - I was still in that mode. I was a little concerned about what she picked, but it wasn't my house (no, I did not pick any 'dark' wood for my house). 

Fast forward to the 21st century. 2002 to be exact. We moved into the house on the acreage and nine days later Scott's mom passed away. Dec 2003 Scott's dad remarries. Early 2004 we 'traded' houses with them to ease the facilitation of their building a house on the adjacent property of our acreage. Early 2005 I inform Scott that I really don't want to move again, so we buy his parents' house. I am now living with the dark wood flooring that I would never have picked, but it's 2005 and dark wood is all the rage. Now, normally, I'm not one to hop on the bandwagon, so I classify the wood color as 'classic' and therefore always in style.

The house also came with beautiful mauve corian countertops and matching mauve carpets in the living rooms and bedrooms. Those were top priority to be replaced, so we hired some contractors and got it done. One of the contractors asked me, "So, how do you like your wood floor?" I smirked to myself and said, "I love it, but it isn't wood!" It's true, it isn't wood, but it looks and feels enough like wood to fool a contractor - it's a lovely illusion. So you are dying to know, what is it really? (drumroll, please.....) It's linoleum. And yes, I love it. It's super easy to clean and it's incredibly durable and it appears to be wood!

Illusions. Isn't that what we do as writers, type words on a page creating a scene in the reader's head - a grand illusion. Done right, the reader steps right into that illusion and becomes part of it, wanting to reach out and interact with the scene, be there, help right prevail and the protagonist succeed. As a reader, I love those books that I cannot pull myself out of the illusion, I've got to stay with it until the final words, The End. So my friends, continue your illusions - Write On!

**side note: If you haven't check out the movie, The Illusionist, I highly recommend it. It competes with Count of Monte Cristo for second on my list of favorites.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Up the Ante

One of my favorite books is ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ by Baroness Orczy. Recently I spotted it on Netflix, and my husband, who prefers movies to books, suggested we watch it. There are three episodes and we have watched the first two. Last night as we watched the ending (spoiler alert) I noted something. The informant told the revolutionaries – who control the government and ‘Madame la Guillotine’ – that the supporters of the republic (and the king), led by Vicomte Henri would attack Calais in the morning along with the Scarlet Pimpernel and his accomplice.

I expected that somehow the Pimpernel and his group would discover that the revolutionaries knew their plan. This did not happen. Morning came and they attacked Calais and a bloody battle ensued. That high stress situation was brilliantly played out on me, the viewer. I did not know how they were going to get out of the mess they marched into. As writers, those kinds of situations ‘hook’ our readers and keep them wanting more, wanting to find out how things work themselves out. So ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that could happen to my protagonist(s) right now?” It makes for heightened adventures and I’ve-consumed-a-whole-bag-of-chocolates-without-realizing-it reading! Write On!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Critique Group

There are two things I do for myself each month almost without fail if I am in town. One is bunco and the other is my ANWA chapter meeting. This is my time out with my girlfriends and I love it. LOVE IT! Did I mention that I love it??? So, today we had our ANWA chapter meeting. What a great group of writers*! I came away energized and excited about writing, yet feeling like it's time to step away from free writing and do some plotting and a character bible. There are so many great resources out there for helping novice writers and I need to take advantage.

My father-in-law has a saying: "Pay me now or pay me later." Essentially, you have to pay one way or the other. I can either take the time now to plot and plan the basics or I can free write like crazy and spend a serious amount of time editing and re-writing and figuring out plot holes and what does/doesn't work in the end.

Why do I avoid it? I don't know the answer to that because the character bible class I took at LDStorymakers Conference was so much fun. Plus, I want a really strong character arc and I think that takes more planning than I have put in so far and I think it will be an aspect that is easier knowing up front. So much for being excited about my increasing word count... This week I'll be doing some of the "behind-the-scenes" stuff and hopefully it will turn an average story into a classic.

Dream Big and Write On!

*Check out the blogs of two of these writers: Tamara and Valerie. They rock!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

One More Month

One more month of summer vacation. I loved summer vacation as a child. It meant the beloved bookmobile every other Tuesday. We would ride our bikes a few miles to the town park with our book-bags. We checked in our stacks and were so excited to see what new adventures would be waiting on the shelves. We left with lots of new stories to read. Mysteries and sci-fi were my favorite until I got older and then it was romantic suspense.

My parents had a pink over-stuffed chair that sat on the covered front porch. I loved draping my legs over one arm and lounging there for hours in far-away places with fantastic characters. Of course, none of that could be done until all my chores where finished. We lived on a small farm, so there was plenty to do, but I had great motivation for getting it done. It's hard for me to understand not loving books! I hope that what I write will someday inspire someone to read more and at least like reading. So for now, read on!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Pool

It's been finished for a week now. The kids have played in it every day and my youngest has finally learned to swim. Through this adventure, I've thought about two things.

First the process of refinishing the pool from start to finish. Our salesman was fantastic and very knowledgeable - hence the choice of his company over a few others. We signed all the papers and went down to the showroom and picked out our color and our tile. They came and chipped out the old plaster. Then we waited. And waited. A worker showed up one morning to place the tile turtles on the step. This was fine except that I wasn't home and my husband kept sending pictures as I drove. Then we waited and waited some more. We called. They looked into it and I guess there was some confusion about who was installing some anchors. They finally came out and did a blue pebble-sheen finish.

So what does this have to do with writing? It's a long process, from rough draft to polished copy, but in the end we aim to have something wonderful that people will enjoy.


   

The second thing that occurred to me is that sometimes we have to jump in, learn all we can about our craft, trust our mentors (our crit groups, our editors, our agents etc.), have fun, and give it our all. Then, before you know it we are swimming like pros. Jump in and Write On!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Special Olympics

I am fortunate enough to have a daughter with special needs. She is an amazing girl that has blessed our family enormously. Most of us know someone with special needs - and if you don't, I challenge you to volunteer to help at Special Olympics and get to know these great people.

Clearly this is a cause that is dear to my heart and I was so impressed when my cousin Lauren decided to get involved. She is raising money for Special Olympics in Utah.  Special Olympics Utah is a non-profit organization that receives no local, state, or federal government or United Way support. They rely on donations of time and money to provide these great programs.

Please click here to learn more and join me in supporting Lauren and Special Olympics Utah.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Copyrights and Trademarks

Copyright laws. It all depends on the question. Rather than try to cover everything there is about copyrights - which has already been done, I am going to list some of the resources I found in researching copyright laws.
Government website
Get copyright permissions HERE
Using trademarks in fiction - a publishing and intellectual property attorney's point of view
More trademarks in fiction - from a publishing company point of view
chart of copyright terms and public domain in the US
An easy to use site with tons of links and resources.

Remember, citing a source is not "permission" to use someone else's work. Good luck and write on!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

More Heroines

Yesterday started with me dropping my oldest daughter off for a week long youth conference. She is beautiful and amazing and by far the most persistent person I know. She going to have a great week.

Then I had lunch with a dear friend whom I met at the LDStorymakers Conference in April. She is such an inspiration. I truly believe that God puts people in our path from whom we can learn. Connie is one of those people for me. It's a little (OK, a lot) unfair - it's as if I am feasting at this great banquet and all I've provided is the cheese plate. I've started her LifeChange Program - a simple way to set goals and make simple but effective changes in your life - love it! I am currently listening to her Get Organized CD (yes, I need to get organized!) So, you can see, I am nibbling on this fabulous table of goodies thanks to her.

After a long and wonderful lunch, I went to see my best friend from high school. It had been way, WAY, too long since we'd gotten together (like 10 years). How does that happen? I guess it doesn't help that we live in different states - about 11 hours by car from each other. But still. I should be better at the keeping in touch thing, after all, she's another amazing person in my life - and I love her! She's had to face some incredible trials throughout her life.

But what does this have to do with writing you ask? Well, creating characters in our books that are believable and real sometimes comes as a challenge. What kind of attributes do I want my protagonist to have? These ladies are my heroes and the strength of their amazing character is a great example of the kind of women I want to write about. They have profound faith and true courage. Even when the pain blurs minute into minute and day into day, they reach deep inside, lean on the Lord - God is an integral part of their lives - and work through it. Thank you my friends for your friendship and your example and for being women of God.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Awakening Avery by LC Lewis


LC Lewis typically writes historical novels but has switched gears with her just-released novel "Awakening Avery." The following is an excerpt from an interview with her.

Author Interview with Laurie Lewis

Laurie, why did you switch genres and write “AWAKENING AVERY?” It’s not historical is it?

No, ”AWAKENING AVERY” is current, so it’s a nice diversion from my historical work.

What is the message behind the title, “AWAKENING AVERY?”

Our lead character is an LDS author/wife and mother who gets catapulted from her comfortable support role in the family to the lead after the untimely death of her wonderful husband. Although her husband, Paul, had been slowing fading for a long time, Avery had closed her eyes to the toll his illness and death had taken on her and her family.  Her oldest son tells her he needs to get away to deal with his grief, and she is forced to face some hard truths—things are falling apart in her once perfect family, and instead of preparing for the eventuality of Paul’s death, she has been shriveling away.  Avery needs to step up and take action, a daring thing that requires her to grow and stretch in ways she never imagined.

So is this story primarily about handling grief?

The Thompson family’s grief is the vehicle we use to address the major theme of the book, which is family vigilance. Their grief opens cracks in their spiritual veneer that weakens them, and makes them vulnerable, but hopefully readers will recognize that all of our families are vulnerable if we lower our vigilance for whatever reason. But another lesson from the book is the power available to us as we draw upon our families and friends for strength. The book is very hopeful.

The themes are serious, but you call "AWAKENING AVERY" a chuckle-out-loud and grab-a-hankie read.  Why?

Avery is grieving, but she goes through a summer of self-discovery  where she opens her narrow world up to receive a host of quirky new friends. They all have life experience and strength she can draw from, and she discovers she has a few things to teach them as well. So it’s not a sad book. Parts are very tender—happy tender and sad tender— and parts are a riot. We’ve got some fun, crazy characters in here.

 Like Teddie and Rider Davis? They’re hilarious!

Yeah, I love them! They remind me of kids playing dress-up, but they have already been through the fire, and under all their designer duds, they are people of great substance. They have been tested in the crucible of faith, and they are stronger because of it.

And George?  I hear the dedication of Awakening Avery is also very personal to you.

It is. It reads, “To my father, Allen K. Chilcoat, the chef behind the magic of slumgolian and peanut-butter balls; and to my mother, Bernice, who kept us alive despite his kitchen exploits.”

Of all the books I’ve written, or that I will ever write, this one probably best reflects my childhood memories of my father. He is the model for George because when Dad went into the kitchen to cook we knew it was going to be an adventure.

So Slumgolian is a real dish? You actually ate it?

Oh yes! I think the recipe had its beginnings in Iceland where my father was stationed for a time. The men threw whatever they had into a pot and called it Slumgolian. One evening when we were camping, after a long day of crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay, my dad offered to make dinner. Mom was horrified at what was being thrown together—baked beans, chicken noodle soup, corn, peas, you name it—but Dad insisted we’d love it. It looked dreadful, but Dad’s presentation and sales pitch transformed it from slop to Slumgolian, a very exotic foreign dish.

And the Kool-Aid pancakes and Peanut Butter Balls?

Yeah, they were all my dad’s recipes.

Avery is an author. Was that meant to be another biographical element?

No . . . I needed Avery to have a career that made her mobile enough to take this journey, and to provide her with a tool with which she could measure her personal growth. Writing her as an author fit that bill, and I already understood that industry. For Avery, her writing and the writings of another author—Axel Hunter—provide an outlet for expression . . . of her grief, her fears, her hopes. I think we all need an outlet.  Hopefully one of our outlets is good friends.

Axel Hunter figures critically in this book.

Neither Avery nor Gabriel sees any personal life for themselves after their spouses die.  Axel’s books open their eyes and hearts to possibilities they had shut out. As a writer, I’d love to think my books made a difference like that in anyone’s life.

That’s powerful, but there is also great power in humor. I love the story of the Carson sisters and the pink flamingo rug!

That was the most fun scene to write! I hope to begin a new pink flamingo trend in home décor!

The Thompsons are LDS but the Carsons are not. That becomes a major theme in the book as well.

“Awakening Avery” explores the additional tensions that arise in a marriage when religious differences exist, and the devastating consequences that occur when partners allow that to build a wedge in their family. The absolute essential nature of strong families is the underlying theme of “Awakening Avery.”

So what other projects are you working on?

I’m still promoting my Free Men and Dreamers series. Volume three, “Dawn’s Early Light,” debuted in December, and I’m hoping we’ll see book four on the shelves by late summer.

Thanks for the interview, Laurie Lewis. “Awakening Avery” sounds like a great gift for mothers and wives.



Reviews. . .

Readers will love the journey that Avery takes them on and will find themselves transformed in the process. —Martha Adams

“Teddie and Rider are most delightful, and they immediately find a place in Avery's heart and in the reader's heart as well.”

“I had to chuckle out loud.”

“A very . . . compelling read.”

“[This] author has a definite knack for making her characters' voices distinct.”

“I love Avery . . . a middle-aged woman being the heroine.”


Click on this link to reach chapter one: Awakening Avery Chapter One or click here to go to Ms. Lewis' website.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Illuminations of the Heart by Joyce DiPastena

Back of the Book:

“Clothilde.”

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

Her heart is lost in that first embrace, her world shaken to its foundations. There is just one problem: her name is not Clothilde. It is Siriol de Calendri.

Trained in the art of illumination in the far-off city of Venice, Siri is directed by her late brother’s will to the county of Poitou in France, where she enters the guardianship of her brother’s friend, Sir Triston de Brielle. Once in Poitou, Siri hopes to find employment in an illuminator’s shop—until Triston unexpectedly snatches her heart away with a kiss.

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

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

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

And who would not want to pick that up and read it? I recently bought this book after reading the first chapter on the author's blog, JDP News. It was posted June 6, 2009. I have read her book, Loyalty's Web - which I really enjoyed and one of these days I will post a review. To get to know Ms. DiPastena and her newest book, read on:


How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing silly little stories I never finished since junior high school. When I started a new story my freshman year in college I thought it’d end up the same as all the others…begun but never finished. But this one, my first attempt at a medieval romance, somehow captivated my attention and carried me through all the way to the words “the end”. It took me six years to get there, four years undergraduate and two years of graduate school. Although that book was never published, I’m still in love with its hero to this day!

What genre do you write and why?

I write medieval romances, although I tend to include so much additional plot alongside the romance that I had an agent tell me I don’t really write romances at all. But they’re all romances to me. There may be a lot of other stuff going on…mysteries, assassination attempts, medieval politics…but at the heart of each story is a man and a woman falling in love against all the odds around them.

Where do you get your inspiration to write?

My inspiration comes from many different sources. Sometimes it comes from a book I’ve written before. For example, my first published book, Loyalty’s Web, was based on characters from that first unpublished novel I wrote in college. The hero and heroine of Loyalty’s Web were an elderly married couple in that early romance, and I became curious to find out how they had met and fallen in love, so I wrote Loyalty’s Web to find out the answer.

Sometimes bits and pieces of research will fascinate me and influence how I draw a character’s background. For my second published romance, Illuminations of the Heart, I became interested in the subject of medieval illumination and decided to combine that interest with my new heroine, the daughter of a medieval illuminator from Italy. (Although the novel itself is set in France, like Loyalty’s Web.) During the writing of Illuminations of the Heart, I became interested in the subject of medieval troubadours. So that’s a subject I’m incorporating into the novel I’m writing right now.


Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you to overcome it?

Writer’s block is a toughie. There was a time I thought I had so many ideas that I’d never get writer’s block. Now I find myself struggling with it quite frequently. I’ve discovered it’s not a lack of ideas that I have. It’s a byproduct of stress. When my stress levels go up, I find it very difficult to “turn off” my worries and focus enough to work on my novels.

The thing that has worked best for me through the years is to set a timer for a specific length of time (an hour, two hours, whatever you can set it for) and tell myself that I don’t have to write anything, but I do have to sit at the computer until the timer goes off. I can’t go get a snack, I can’t play any games, I can’t turn on the TV, I can’t do anything except either stare at my blank computer screen or type something. And that “something” has to have something to do with my new story! Sometimes I only type a handful of words, sometimes I’ll end up typing a stream, but whether out of boredom or inspiration, I don’t think I’ve ever not written something before the timer goes off. And no matter how terrible what I wrote might seem at the time, it almost always ends up moving my story along no matter how microscopically. And I always feel better about myself just for trying.

If you could spend an hour talking to anyone from any time in history, who 
would it be? And Why?

King Henry II of England! I fell in love with Henry II back in high school when I first read The Conquering Family by Thomas B. Costain. Not “romantic” love. There was just something about the way his contemporaries described him that stirred a great affection in me for him. He seemed to be one of those rare kings who was actually more interested in trying to improve his country than in simply enjoying the “glory” or “privileges” of his rank. He is described as a man who hated war, even though circumstances forced him to spend most of his adult life at war. He was a man of tremendous energy and intellect. And he laid important foundations to the legal system that we have inherited from England and enjoy ourselves today.

His legacy was marred by his quarrel with Archbishop Thomas á Becket, and the son who succeeded him, Richard the Lionheart, is a more flashy character of legend. But everything I’ve read about Henry II since those high school days has only increased my love and admiration for this man. Loyalty’s Web and Illuminations of the Heart are both set during his lifetime, and although he has not yet actually appeared on the scene in any of my books, the references I make to him, small though they might be, are my own way of paying tribute to this great, underappreciated king.

What is your next project?

Right now, I’m just calling it “my troubadour book”. It’s based on a character from my second book, Illuminations of the Heart, and once again is set in medieval France.

Power round questions:

Uh-oh!

Favorite food? Chocolate chip cookies
Favorite dessert? Umm…chocolate chip cookies
Jeans and  T-shirt, or designer clothes? Both! (Well, not really “designer”, but I also like fun, “nice” clothes.)
Guilty pleasure? Chocolate. (If only I felt more guilt than pleasure from it!)
One word that describes you? Shy. Why do you think this interview is taking place on a blog?
Favorite flower? Snapdragons
Favorite sport? If I absolutely, positively MUST be forced to watch a sport, then I’ll choose figure skating.

Where can readers find a copy of Illuminations of the Heart?

Illuminations of the Heart is available in Deseret Bookstores and some Arizona Barnes & Nobles. It can be ordered directly through Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores, or ordered online at DeseretBook.com (http://deseretbook.com) Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com), BarnesandNoble.com (http://www.barnesandnoble.com), and Borders.com (http://www.borders.com).