Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ch-Ch-Changes

By Sariah S. Wilson

To warn you beforehand - I’m going on about four hours of sleep.

Yesterday ended up being a day of great transition and change for our family. Last week my husband surprised me with the announcement that his company had decided not to renew their lease on their office space and to have the workers telecommute out of their homes. In trying to keep me from hyperventilating, he talked about the prevalence of this in many IT related industries. So he spent yesterday moving all of his office equipment and computers into our bedroom. We currently have an empty room, but as we’re having this baby and since I think that if we put our 7-year-old and 4-year-old into a room together they would never sleep again, our room was the only option left. My husband knows himself well enough to know that in order to do his job he will need to be isolated, and his current computer is in our computer room (which for normal people would be a dining room but is our room where we have our four computers set up) and since the computer room is in the main traffic area of the house, he knows he’d never get anything accomplished.

Now instead of kissing my husband good-bye each morning, he’ll be here. And that seems so weird to contemplate. I am an extremely anxious person when it comes to his job situation, and I’m living with morbid fantasies of the company deciding to shut down or to hire someone to do his job out of their New York office. While I logically know nothing in life is certain, there is something comfortable and familiar about the routine of my husband going to work each day.

I don’t know how it’ll be with him home all the time. I can definitely see some benefits - it will no longer be difficult to arrange appointments and such, or if there’s ever a need for him to watch one of the boys, he’ll already be here. Or if I need him to come home early one night for something, he’ll already be here.

But on the other hand, on days when he’s worked from home in the past or been sick, it’s like my whole day/schedule has been thrown off. I suppose it’ll be time for me to work out a new schedule for my new situation.

And early Friday morning (and by early Friday morning I mean like 1:00 a.m.) my husband found our 4-year-old lying in a pool of barf in the bathroom. He was too weak and sick to get up and go back to bed. My husband cleaned him up, cleaned up the bathroom, and cleaned up his bed (where he had also thrown up, and on a side note, can you see why I love my husband so much?) where our little one promptly threw up again. I got up to help (as I basically no longer sleep and just lay in my bed with my eyes closed and pretend - it’s the funnest part of the end of my pregnancies) and we got him settled and back to sleep. The next day he was running a high fever, couldn’t keep anything down and wasn’t urinating. You parents out there know that’s not a good thing so by Friday evening we were in urgent care. For four hours.

They gave him some Zofran (which is the best drug *ever* - it makes you not throw up. I’m a big, big fan) and some Tylenol and he perked up a little bit. He spent a lot of time sleeping on his hospital bed, with his special Mickey Mouse that we got for him at Disney World. I sat there, stroking his hair and watching him sleep. There is nothing sweeter in the world than your child’s face as they sleep. And as I sat there, extremely uncomfortable in my chair, I thought of the last time he and I were in a hospital together late at night. It was when he was born.

One of the things I remember most about his birth was holding him in my arms, late at night just like last night, and feeling the spirit of our next child. It was what drove me to find this baby. Many people encouraged me to give up- after all, I already had two children. Perhaps that was all the Lord intended me to have. Obviously, if he wanted me to have more, they informed me, he would have sent them to me.

But I felt her. I felt this little spirit that I knew was supposed to be part of our family. And as I held my new baby in my arms, I thought that it wouldn’t be long until this spirit joined us.

So nearly five years later, as the three of us were together again in a hospital room, I thought gratefully of the next profound change that is coming into my life.

Not all change is bad.


Friday, March 30, 2007

WHODUNIT?

WARNING: This post contains images that some faux-amphibian lovers may find disturbing. Avert your eyes now if you are one of them!




This gruesome picture, snapped this morning just as the sun rose over the high grass of the Frog Blog Bog, shows our beloved Frog belly up and covered in a viscous, sickly-sweet smelling substance that must surely be blood. Look closely. (Assuming, of course, that you've already digested your breakfast.) You'll see that in his left . . . um . . . hand? foot? flipper? . . . is a partially-eaten chocolate chip cookie. Note the bloody candlestick, gun, rope and wrench nearby. Partially concealed beneath him is a wicked carving knife. (It didn't show up very well in the crime scene photo, so you're just going to have to take our word for it.)

Who could have committed this murder most fowl? (I mean foul. The neighboring chickens were asleep at the time and therefore not involved in any way. Forensic evidence will bear this out.)We have, of course, rounded up the usual suspects for your consideration. It's up to you to use deductive reasoning (or whatever reasoning you have at your disposal) to solve this heinous crime. Submit your best guest of a suspect, weapon and motive in the comments section of this blog.

Was it . . .

. . . A CRIME OF GREED?
Little Robbie WELLS, as you may recall, recently used his father’s wrench to crack open his piggy bank and run away to Disneyland. He’s back in the neighborhood now, delivering newspapers on his broken-down bicycle, pondering graduate school, and desperately seeking cash. Did he hear the rumors about Frog’s pot of gold? (You only think leprechauns hide pots of gold. It’s really frogs; that's how the fable about little green men got started.) Did The Frog arise tragically early this morning and surprise Robbie trying to ROB him?

. . . A CRIME OF PASSION?
Romance divas SARIAH S (the S is for Shrewd) WILSON and Julie C (the C is for Cunning) BELLON have long been vying over the Frog -- both are desperate for him to pose for the cover of their next bestseller. Perhaps Julie arrived first last night, set a tantalizing meal on a candlelit table, and then remembered she’d forgotten mosquitoes for the salad. While she was out hunting, SARIAH arrived and was overcome by the smell -- or probably even the thought -- of deep-fried flies. In a hormone-fueled delerium she grabbed the candlestick and lit into the first thing she saw.

Or perhaps JULIE was the one who came late, saw that Sariah had beat her to Frog-baiting (or Frog-beating, as the case may be) and grabbed the first weapon she saw, determined to prove that Canadians are not as nice (and pro anti-gun laws) as everyone says they are.

. . . A CRIME OF DESPERATION?
Still searching for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, did sweet STEPHANIE hear from the mean aunt of the evil HR lady’s next-door neighbor’s manicurist’s anonymous cousin (I won’t mention any names, but his initial’s are FHL) that Jennie had been exchanging recipes with The Frog and that he now had in his possession a formula for the pentultimate chocolate chip cookie? (You know, the one that is worth a fortune because it was stolen from Neiman Marcus and now is carefully guarded under lock and key and never, ever, ever passed around the Internet, no matter what.) Was our would-be baker driven mad by the smell of melted chocolate chips, causing her to BLACK out, grasp the knife from the counter, and carve "Love Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry!" into The Frog's slimy skin?

. . . A CRIME OF OPPORTUNITY BY THE PERSON YOU'D LEAST EXPECT?
Perchance a dowdy dowager of death tiptoed through the tall grass and . . . Nah. Impossible. Nobody in their right mind would suspect saintly KERRY BLAIR. (Consult Julie's blog archives if you don't believe the adjective.) We'd better move on quickly. . .

. . . SOMETHING WORSE?
Imagine, if you will, this scenario: In a secluded studio at the edge of the Frog Blog Bog, JEFFREY R (the R stands for deRanged) hunches over his latest project -- a soon-to-be-released NYT bestseller of the horror variety. He grins maniacally into the dim greenish glow of his laptop, unaware that a rope has just snapped (about the same time as his mind) and released a SAVAGE monster into the dark and stormy night to prey upon an unsuspecting amphibian who was, moments before, enjoying a midnight snack of milk and cookies.

There you have it: a crime scene photo and six probable (I mean possible) suspects. You have only two days to solve the mystery by coming up with the right suspect, weapon & motive. (Be sure to explain your thought process.) On Sunday -- when we gather for The Frog's funeral -- we'll post the solution. In the unlikely event two or more of you get it right, we'll drop your names in the casket and decide the thing by random draw. Winner receives a mystery novel of their choice!

So, my friend, The game's afoot and the answer, dear Watson, is elementary! (Possibly middle school level, but no higher.) We double-frog dare you to come up with it!


Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Master Editor

By Julie Coulter Bellon

At our StoryMaker Conference this past weekend, I bought a little plaque that said, "All my enemies become victims or incompetent villains in my novels." I loved that plaque because it’s true. I have written people into my novels that weren’t nice to me. It felt cathartic, too, in a way. I have a tender heart and I have worked long and hard on getting a tougher skin, but it’s a trial for me. If I were writing my own life, I would definitely try to make myself less sensitive and explore that story idea of something really exciting and daring happening to me and rooting out that part of my personality. Then I wouldn’t be reduced to writing novels with mean people’s names in them and laughing every time I read it to myself.

As I mentioned last week, sometimes the editor in me is a hard beast to tame. I pick and pick until it feels perfect. Then I can send it in and move forward. (I did hand in that manuscript, by the way, in case you were curious). I gave a presentation on Advanced Editing at the StoryMaker Conference and I was a little nervous about it, to tell you the truth. Lisa Mangum, an editor over at Deseret Book attended the class and I wondered if she would feel the same way about the things I had highlighted for Advanced Editing. Part of me was confident that she would, though, because when I accepted the invitation to teach the class I called an editor friend of mine on the East Coast and asked her what bugged her most about authors/editing and what I should tell people who came to my class. We brainstormed awhile and came up with a syllabus and eerily, her list of important dos and don’t for aspiring writers was almost the same as mine. So I was pretty sure that it was a universal thing among editors. Lisa did talk to me after the class and said that she had felt like saying, "Amen, sister" to everything I said, so that validated my thoughts on that.

So, anyway, I finished teaching the class and stayed after to talk to some people and answer questions, and while I was talking I thought of two things I’d wanted to hit on and hadn’t. It was tempting to try and call them all back to fix my "editing" mistake, but of course it was too late by then. But that got me thinking.

Don’t you really wish we could edit our own lives sometimes? I do. Especially when I make really dumb mistakes. Which, sadly, is quite often. Of course, if I could edit my own life, I would rewrite some stuff that has already happened (like that unfortunate karaoke incident), and things I wish I could do over (like my trip to the Greek Islands. If I could rewrite that, I would definitely make it a longer trip. Three weeks wasn’t long enough!). I’d also rewrite things I would like to skip altogether (like boring classes or morning sickness) and delete all the bad things I’ve ever done. Then I’d write myself a happy ending with my thin, svelte self, arriving in heaven with my handsome husband and six amazing children. Yep, I can see it now.

But if you want to get right down to it, we really do have that ability through the Master Editor, our Savior, Jesus Christ. He will edit our mistakes out. Because of his Atonement, we can repent and have our mistakes deleted. Of course, we can’t rewrite ourselves out of sorrow and regret, but we are building our character through experiences and hopefully learning something along the way. So sometimes, my tender heart is really an asset because it allows me to empathize and feel emotions that maybe I wouldn't otherwise. Although writing the people who have hurt me into my novels as a bunch of incompetents is probably a teensy bit naughty. I'll need to work on that. However, the happy ending I described is definitely available to everyone. (Well, I added in the thin svelte part. That's my hope though). But seriously, the whole reason we’re here in the first place is so we can return back to our Heavenly Father with our family and enjoy the blessings of exaltation. It is through our Savior, the one person who gave everything for us, that we can receive that happy ending.

So after careful thought, maybe I wouldn’t edit my life like I would a book. But I’m certainly going to try to get that happy ending and be grateful that there is a Master Editor who knows exactly what I need to achieve it and is willing to help me get there.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Pain In the Novel

by Stephanie Black

In the words of Daffy Duck, "I can't stand pain. It hurts me." When it comes to no pain, no gain, in most cases I’ll just forego the gain, thanks. For instance, I can’t for the life of me figure out why people climb Mt. Everest. I read a book about an Everest expedition, and yikes! Even if everything goes well, it’s awful. The cold. The altitude sickness. The miserable living conditions. You want to travel the world, explore new vistas of natural beauty, fill your soul with the grandeur and wildness of nature? People, that’s what the Discovery Channel is for.

But last week while filling out new patient forms at a doctor’s office, I came across the question about immunizations and realized it had been a good long while since I’d had a tetanus booster. With girls’ camp coming up this summer, I figured I’d better get that booster, but I wasn’t looking forward to the post-injection owies. Last time I got a tetanus shot, my arm was incredibly sore. Mind you, I’m very grateful for immunizations and would prefer not to die of tetanus, but all else being equal, I prefer a non-sore arm to a sore one. As it turned out, the pain wasn’t nearly as bad as last time, but my arm was still plenty tender and I got this weird knot under my skin. Nothing like this happens to my children when they get their immunizations. It must be my adult immune system doing the cha-cha. Thank heavens for ibuprofen.

When I’m in pain, I don’t forget it (“My arm is sore,” I told my family about fifty times per day, just in case someone wanted to give me sympathy) but in writing, sometimes I forget to have my characters remember when they’ve gotten bonked, bruised or bashed. In the initial draft, scenes that take place only hours or days apart might get written weeks or months apart, so it’s easy to forget that the character who just went through a touch of heck ought to still be feeling it.

Insta-healing crops up sometimes in action/thrillers—the hero gets the stuffing beat out of him in one scene and in the next is back to chasing bad guys with nary an ache in his ribs. Or the heroine gets knocked unconscious, but is soon back to puzzling out the mystery without so much as a headache. Not likely. Giving a hero or heroine a credible reaction to injuries not only adds realism to a story, but is also a terrific tool for increasing story tension. Rob does this splendidly in The Counterfeit when Rebekah’s injuries become a continuing source of difficulty as the good guys struggle to elude the bad guys, solve the mystery, and bring world peace. Sonia O’Brien also handles an injured character with compelling realism in her novel, Perfect Shot where a concussion causes the hero real problems instead of just being a Band-Aid fix.

So today’s writing advice is: when your characters are injured, let them feel it and react to it realistically. But don’t make them as whiney as I am; no one wants that much realism.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Feel Like Makin' Stories

by Robison Wells

As you’ve already heard, the LDStorymakers Writers Conference was held over the weekend. Jeff, Julie and I all gave presentations, as did a couple dozen other LDS authors. It was truly a fantastic event—better, perhaps, than last years’, which was pretty dang good itself.

If you’re not familiar with the Storymakers, here’s a brief recap, some of which I’m making up: several years ago, a smallish group of LDS authors formed a yahoo group in which they could discuss writing and the market and how much they liked to eat chocolate. This Yahoo group continued for some time until it exploded, an event of which I’ve heard only brief snippets, but one that sounds like it would have been fun to witness.

After the explosion, the group reformed—stronger, faster, and better. It was not unlike when the evil Terminator gets covered in liquid nitrogen and then shatters, and then all his little pieces come back together and you’re like “Holy crap! How do you kill this thing!” It was like that.

Nowadays, Storymakers is much bigger. Having grown from just a handful of authors, we now have somewhere close to fifty. We have the whole spectrum, too. There are several authors from the smaller presses. There are about half a dozen of us from Covenant. There are a handful published with Deseret Book. A few are published nationally.

And while were talking about it, let me just say that there are some awesome writers in the bunch. Janette Rallison publishes nationally and has been fantastically successful. James Dashner, the golden boy, has a deal with Shadow Mountain (Deseret Book’s national imprint, which led Leven Thumps and Fablehaven to some rather tremendous sales numbers). Several of the Storymakers have national agents. Many have had articles published in the Ensign and Friend, and a ton of other magazines. Between the lot of us, we have hundreds of works published: romance, suspense, adventure, fantasy, thrillers, humor, inspirational, doctrine, poetry, plays, cookbooks, self-help, and probably many more genres I can’t think remember.

So anyway, the conference was this weekend, and here are some of my observations. This list is undoubtedly going to be different from many of the attendees, since I skipped a couple of classes.

*In the opening presentation, Rachel Ann Nunes declared “I have done drugs”. Of course, this quote is grossly taken out of context. Or is it?

*Whilst fumbling for a definition of literary fiction, she said “well, they usually end bad”.

*During Nunes’s presentation, another Storymaker (non-fiction writer) leaned over to Jeff Savage and said “fiction with a message is boring”. Take that, Jeff! You and your lousy Into the Fire!

*On a more serious note, I’ve decided that I’m sick and tired of defending LDS genre fiction to people who never read it. If you want to criticize, read a stack of what’s currently available, and then we’ll talk.

*One of my favorite parts of the entire weekend was skipping classes and chatting with other authors. More than once, James Dashner, Bill Gardner, Jeff Savage and myself wound up sitting in the empty ballroom chatting while we should have been doing other things. Once, Josi Kilpack came in and started straightening chairs and not one of us got up to help. Ha ha! Chivalry’s finally dead. Took long enough.

*Speaking of Josi Kilpack, I attended her Romance class (how to write it, not, like, how to participate in romance). I came to the sad realization that I write romances. This was reinforced in Jeff’s structure class when he said that if your book ends with the romantic commitment, then ultimately your book is a romance. (Or, he said something to that effect. That’s how I interpreted it, at least.) So, I feel kinda icky.

*I sold out of all my books. Granted, I only brought five copies of each, but then I was able to say “Sorry, my books are all gone!” and create and artificial demand.

*Here’s something really neat. At the conference there was a panel of publishers and editors, including people from Deseret Book, Covenant, Spring Creek, Millenial Press, and Cedar Fort. Lisa Mangum, an editor at Deseret Book, had this to say about the conference:
“I have been to many writer's conferences during my ten years as Acquisitions Editor for Deseret Book Company and I can say without hesitation that the LDS Storymaker's Conference is one of the best I've ever attended. I was impressed by so many things about the Conference: the classes were exceptional, the presenters were stellar, the speakers were inspirational, the attendees were enthusiastic. I left the Conference thinking to myself, ‘Here are the writers who are devoted to their craft, who are willing to work hard and be persistent, who understand the business of writing and of publishing. Here are the writers who are going to revolutionize the LDS writing world.’ I was so happy to have met so many great people who are involved in such a thriving, active writer's community. I look forward to reading the work that will come as a direct result of the Conference. It truly was a privilege to attend the 2007 LDS Storymaker's Conference.”


Anyway, the conference was terrific. I must admit that when I was invited to join the Storymakers (at last year’s conference) I was a little hesitant because of various misconceptions I had about the group. But I can honestly say that I’ve never regretted the decision to join. Many of the members have become my very close friends, and the conference is a sheer delight. I encourage you all to come next year.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

States of Grace

By Sariah S. Wilson

So tonight we took the boys to go see “TMNT” (which is not easy to say when you’re trying to buy tickets - I finally told the guy the 7:10 showing of the turtle movie) or as it was known in my formative years, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (heroes in a half-shell, turtle power). The movie was okay - not as bad as some of the family movies I’ve recently attended (I’m looking in your deceptive direction “Bridge to Terabithia”) and not as good as others, but still fun nonetheless. I do like sharing things with my children that I enjoyed as a kid. The new baby will be a big fan of Hello Kitty, Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Bright, My Little Pony and the Care Bears (she just doesn’t know it yet). And yes, some of these things have been bought already.

Since I’m talking about movies, and since this is a, you know, LDS blog, I thought I’d talk about Richard Dutcher’s “States of Grace.” (You are being forewarned - if you have not seen the movie, stop reading now because I might discuss plot points and such that occur in the movie and it might spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it.) The movie finally came to Hollywood Video here in Ohio, which was why I was able to see it.

I considered not putting up this post because I was afraid of opening a can of worms. People tend to feel passionately about things like this. So please note that this is just my opinion, and as always, please feel free to totally disregard it or disagree.

I know not too long ago this movie created some big controversy in our cultural community, with people being very outspoken in their condemnation of it. I seem to remember somebody saying it was a movie that was inherently offensive to most Mormons.

I wasn’t offended.

Perhaps that says something about me, perhaps that will be upsetting to others. But I wasn’t offended.

As someone who grew up in Southern California, who was in high school there when the Rodney King race riots occurred (I still remember the image of SWAT members walking along the roofs of the buildings to keep an eye on us) much of this felt familiar to me. Not only the setting, but the people. My hometown was a very diverse community. So I enjoyed that depiction.

And some of the movie dragged for me. I thought the six plus minute dialogue of the wannabe actress was boring and I wanted to fast forward it. I didn’t think the pacing was all that great.

There were also many touches that I enjoyed - like the comparison of the people of Ammon to modern day gang members. I loved when the gang member buried his weapons in the earth.

I think one of the things that I’ve always appreciated in Dutcher movies is the realism of his characters, the normalcy, the humanness they possess. Nobody’s perfect, even when they’re trying to be.

I also like that when his characters screw up (as they do in a big way in this movie) that while there is forgiveness and redemption, there’s a whole lot of suffering that goes on first. When the elder gets sent home and his mother tells him that things will be okay, when he wails, “How?” I got chills. Sometimes it is simply impossible to see a way out, and I loved how the movie portrayed that.

But I think what was most profound for me, what moves me to call Dutcher an artist, is that he had a big impact on me and how I perceive the world.

I found that it was easy to forgive the gang member for the crimes he had committed as he found the truth. I thought it would have been easy to extend that forgiveness to the actress as well for the bad choices she had made. And yet when it came to the missionary that had sinned…I found myself feeling differently. Why? I know in part it is because he already had the truth and that his sin was a very grievous one, made worse by the fact that he knew just how wrong it was.

But the point that I think the movie was trying to make was that the elder was as entitled to forgiveness as the gang member or the actress. I thought it made a comment on the standards that we hold ourselves to that we don’t hold others to.

That sometimes it seems impossible to forgive ourselves of things we have done, things that if committed by a stranger or an investigator we would tell them that of course they could repent. Of course they could be forgiven.

I liked that the movie reminded me that the Lord’s mercy and atonement extends to all of us. Even those of us who know better.

It’s not a movie that I can see myself watching again (you know I like my movies peppy and happy), but I thought it was a powerful one.

Has anyone else seen the movie? What did you think of it?


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Picking Over the Carcass of My Manuscript

by Julie Coulter Bellon

You know how after a beautiful misty rain storm, you come outside and breathe in the fresh air, look around at the dew drops clinging to the grass and feel cleansed? Everything seems a little brighter, a little cleaner, and the air really does smell a little sweeter? Then you look down and realize you’ve just stepped on five worms who were out peacefully enjoying the rain as well? And now you have worm guts on your shoe and a big mess on your sidewalk. That’s how I’m feeling about my manuscript today.

I normally love editing. Love it. I love manipulating the words on the page to make a scene better, tighter, or just more descriptive. There’s nothing like a well-edited manuscript. Unfortunately, sometimes the editor in me doesn’t know when to stop editing and pretty soon I look down and my beautiful fresh manuscript is covered in worm guts and I’ve got a big mess on my hands.

You see, I’m at a point with my manuscript where I’ve gotten all the feedback, made changes, and smoothed it over. Logically that should be all there is to it. Unfortunately, as I was getting ready to send it off, someone said to me, "Well, make sure it’s your best work before you turn it in."

What! What does that mean? Why would they say that? Of course I immediately started second guessing myself. Is it my best work? Could I do better? So I went back and edited some more, changing scenes, taking out some peripheral story stuff, moving things around. It got messy. Very, very messy.

So now it’s like looking at the bottom of my worm gut saturated shoe and wishing I would have stopped walking when I had the chance. I am looking at my manuscript and feeling like I’ve killed it. The joy is gone, it’s all worm guts on the sidewalk now, displayed in all its gory glory. No one will want it because I’ve edited it to death. A horrible, grisly demise, that any publishing company would take a glance at and then run away screaming. All that’s left to do is pick over the carcass of it, like a bird with a worm.

Last night I was expressing these feelings to another author friend of mine and she said, "Well, then, it’s time to turn it in. When you can’t bear to look at it a second longer, turn it in." Then she offered to read it and give me her opinion. To which I said, "Okay, just let me change one more thing."

Sigh.

Maybe it’s a sickness. Or maybe editors shouldn’t be writers. Or writers shouldn’t be editors.

I know I should just turn it in. Put it in the little envelope, like a coffin, and send it on its merry way to heaven or you know where, depending on whether it’s accepted or rejected. And the tears could be happy or sad as well, depending on its fate.

Double sigh.

All right, all right, I’ll just hand it in. Sheesh. But maybe I should read it one more time . . .


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Guest Blogger: The Evil HR Lady Goes All Literary On Us

Normally found lurking in the dark recesses of the Human Resources Department of a large, unnamed company, the Evil HR Lady has stepped into the glare of the sunlight (with her identity concealed by special sunglasses) to express her views on LDS fiction. So by way of introduction--well, heck, how am I supposed to introduce her? She's anonymous. But drop by her blog if you get a chance and check out today's action shot of Offspring.

Stephanie begged me to do a guest blog for her. Yes, truly begged me. She said that she would do anything for me, if I would just write one little blog post for her.

I think, by the way, that she's lying. I told her I would do it if she would just make 6 months of my mortgage payments. Is that asking too much? I don't think so. I mean, that's the normal payment for this blogging thing, right?

She wanted me to give my thoughts on LDS fiction, but first I wanted to answer the question that is burning in all of your minds: With a name like "Evil" and a profession in HR, is entrance into an LDS bookstore even allowed?

Well, it's a good question. Fortunately, most bookstores don't ask for a temple recommend (should they?) when you enter. Fortunately, my stake president is a lawyer and my bishop is a real estate agent, so I'm actually in the more respected profession.

As for LDS fiction, there needs to be a good novel about a brilliant HR manager. Other than that, I like things with characters that aren't stupid. You all know what I mean--people who when they are put into the Witness Protection Program don't just call up their high school boyfriend to chat. If that phone call truly is essential to the plot, the author better come up with a convincing reason why a rational person would make the decision to call the ex-boyfriend rather than sit safely in the apartment in South Dakota.

And as long as we're talking stupid characters, let's talk about Fairy Tales. Sleeping Beauty's parents? Dumb as rocks. "Oh, she's been cursed that she'll sleep for 100 years if she touches a spinning wheel on or before her 16th birthday. I know, let's bring her out of hiding on her 16th birthday, rather than keeping her safe for one more day!" And don't even get me started about Ariel.

Sorry, LDS fiction. I don't want something that "pushes the envelope" which seems to be code for, "slips in bad words." If I wanted bad words, I would buy national market fiction. Because of the small print runs and high costs of LDS fiction, an LDS novel is almost always more expensive than a national market one. Why would I pay a premium for an LDS novel that is the same as the national market ones?

I don't want everyone to be baptized in the end of each story. But, if a story ends that way, it's fine, as long as it's consistent with the plot. I need to like the characters, or at least be intrigued by them. I want to be able to cheer on a heroine, not barely tolerate her.

I do like a little bit of romance, but I'm not a romance fan. I did try to convince Stephanie to have a little more love in The Believer, but she wouldn’t listen to me. I loved Kerry Blair’s This Just In, because it had believable romance even though the circumstances were a bit unbelievable.

Lastly, I’d like a good solid idea so I can write the great LDS novel and become rich and famous. Although, ironically, none of you would ever know it was me because, well, I’m anonymous. But you’d read it anyway, because it would be so good. Hmmm, maybe I could do something about the Mormon Tabernacle Choir meeting up with the Vienna Boys Choir at a choir competition. Each member of the choir could convert a member of the other choir. It could be a book of 300 short stories about each conversion!

On second thought, I'd better leave the LDS fiction writing to the experts here on the Frog Blog. I don’t even know what percentage of the Vienna Boys Choir is over eight.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Research as a Lifestyle

by Robison Wells

As previously mentioned, I’m speaking this week at the annual LDStorymakers Writers Conference. Given the nature of my writing ability, you’ll be surprised to find out that one of my duties will be sitting in on small critique groups for heretofore unpublished authors. I’ll surely mislead them in one way or another, and then when they get rejected by numerous publishers and fail to land a lucrative contract, they’ll come after me. That’s because I’ll be teaching classes on “Tell, Don’t Show” and “How to Write a Bestselling Novel in Ten Minutes a Week!”

Actually, no. I’ll be giving a small presentation on how to write effective dialogue, and then I’ll spend an hour on the topic of research.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: you’d rather spend an hour learning about comma splices and semicolons than listen to a lecture on research. Well, too bad, fatboy, because the grammar class is the day before mine—-you can attend both! Sucks to be you.

But let me tell you something, and I’m not making this up: research is really neat. And my focus—blending fact with fiction—-is loads of fun. For example, how many pictures of Hooters logos are you going to see at the grammar class? Answer: zippo. At the research class? One.

My class will be split into two major sections, the first of which is entitled Color and Culture. The thesis, to quote Ray Bradbury, is “The most improbable tales can be made real if your reader, through his senses, feels that he stands at the center of events.” And he’ll never feel that he stands at the center of events if you do all of your research on Wikipedia (or a history textbook, or some similar reference manual). Today I’m not going to go any further into what that section will discuss, because I want you to attend the class and find out. Also, there’s a rather extensive supply of visual aides that do not lend themselves easily to this blog.

The second section of the class, however, will be based on the following idea, also thieved from Ray Bradbury: “I am not one thing… My Muse has grown out of the mulch of good, bad, and indifferent.” That could be explained more clearly by Stephen King: “Can I be blunt? If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Longtime readers may remember my three rules of writing: 1. Write; 2. Learn how to write; 3. Learn something else. It’s that third rule that is the crux of research. But here is what Bradbury and King and I are really driving at: you cannot sit down to write a novel, come up with a great story, and then pull out the encyclopedia to color your writing. Not hardly. Instead, you must be always reading to fuel your muse: fiction, non-fiction, newspapers—-Bradbury adds in there comics and essays and poetry.

To illustrate all of this, let me tell you how I wrote one of my novels: When I was working on Wake Me When It’s Over, I did so for two main reasons. First, I was getting ready to graduate from the university and I had a degree that was fairly worthless in the real world. Sure, it was fascinating schoolwork—-the degree was Political Science with an International Relations emphasis. My senior research was on the efficacy of modern terrorism. It was less than two years after 9/11, and at that point the world of terrorism was shrouded in much more mystery than it is today. (I recently pulled out my senior thesis, and realized that it is completely obsolete—-less than four years after I wrote it!)

Anyway, I had all of this knowledge crammed into my head and I was desperately looking for an outlet. So, I decided to write a book about terrorists. But not just any terrorists. No, bombings had been done to death (insensitive pun intended) and I wanted something new and different. So I chose economic terrorism.

The second major reason for Wake Me was that I was in my final semester, and I was stuck taking a statistics class that I’d put off my entire college career. So every morning I’d go to stats, sit somewhere in the middle of a large auditorium, and write scenes about a guy in a stats class. Every day, I imagined, he’d arrive early so he could watch a gorgeous blonde classmate enter the room:
“All that I cared about was the event that took place at approximately 7:17am every morning. In fact, after three weeks of statistics lessons, I had been able to determine that it took place, on average seventeen minutes and sixteen seconds after seven o’clock, with a standard deviation of 1.84 minutes. Moreover, I was able to conclude at a 99% confidence interval, that it would occur between 7:16 and five seconds, and 7:18 and fifty-one seconds.

“Stats had real-world applications after all.”
So now I had a story about an infatuated romance in a stats class, and economic terrorism. What next? Well, I was watching a Discovery Channel documentary about counterfeiting, and they made the following statement: the reason that the US government pumps so much money into anti-counterfeiting techniques is not so that the crooks won’t use fake bills to buy stereos. It’s actually so that the general public won’t see a lot of fakes and lose confidence in the dollar—-our money is only worth what we believe it’s worth, and if we decide it’s not worth anything (because so many counterfeits turn up) then we’re all suddenly bankrupt.

Aha! My economic terrorists suddenly had a plan!

Years before, while taking a history class on the US Constitution, I’d bought (and never read) a textbook called Novus Ordo Seclorum. One day, while procrastinating my writing, I pulled it off the shelf to find out what it meant (this was before Dan Brown made the phrase famous). Well, long story short, it’s Latin taken from the Great Seal of the United States, and it translates to: “A New Order of The Ages”. Well, if you were a terrorist group trying to bankrupt the US via counterfeiting so that everyone would be forced to live in economic equality, could you possibly think of a better name for your organization?

So there was the framework of the story, and none of it was researched specifically for a book. Instead, it came from two classes, a documentary, and a history book I just happened to thumb through.

Of course, from there I moved on to specific research: a lot of reading about counterfeiting techniques, etc. But my point is this: for a writer, research needs to be a lifestyle. You need to be reading and processing all the time. I didn’t turn on that counterfeiting documentary because I thought it would help with this particular writing project-—I turned it on because it sounded interesting. 99.9% of the things I read won’t specifically end up in novel, but, as Bradbury said: “My Muse has grown out of the mulch of good, bad, and indifferent.”

To end, let me simply add this list. It’s by no means exhaustive, but it’s everything I could think of off the top of my head. These are things I read, watched, or studied-—all without any specific plans to use them in my writing—-that led directly to important aspects of my books: a documentary about Stalingrad; a history class on ancient civilizations; The Hunt For Red October; Tolkein; Weapons of World War Two (an encyclopedia); an anthropology class on the Southwest; In Search of the Old Ones (travel essays); Roads to Center Place (academic text); Google Earth; a survival training course; Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites; Baptists at our Barbeque; old seminary worksheets; stats class; PoliSci classes (National Security, International Security, America at War, The Creation of the Constitution); General Conference talks; a public lecture with Sen. John McCain; a public lecture with Edward Said; magazines (Time, Newsweek, and National Geographic); the documentary on counterfeiting; books (The Political Language of Islam; A Case for Nuclear Proliferation; Overstating the Arab State); various Boy Scout merit badges; a documentary on England’s midlands; a documentary on architect I.M.Pei.

And that’s just off the top of my head.

Stephen King again “It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true.”


Monday, March 19, 2007

Tipping My Hat

by Jeffrey S Savage

A little over six years ago, Covenant called to tell me they were accepting my first novel, Cutting Edge. Like most first time authors, I had a lot to learn. You mean I won’t sell fifty-thousand copies of my first book, or second, or third? I can’t retire from my day job and buy a cabin in the mountains? I won’t get to choose my cover or title? But amidst all the confusion, I found a friend who helped talk me through all the ups and downs. An extremely successful LDS author took me under his wing and explained the ins and outs of book signings, marketing, my web site, etc. His name is Chris Heimerdinger.

As a new author, it would have been easy for other more successful authors to blow me off. But I quickly learned that instead of hiding their trade secrets, the other authors (technically my competitors) were some of the nicest and most helpful people I’d ever met. They share their time and talents with others despite the fact that between writing and their “real” life, there’s not a lot of leftover time. With that in mind, I’d like to offer kudos and a comment or two about some of the people I’ve met along the way. I’ll apologize in advance now for the fact that I won’t get to everyone on tonight’s blog. But if you enjoy this one, I’ll try and do more in the future.

Chris Heimerdinger—I really have to start with Chris, since he was my first mentor. Chris has disappeared from view for awhile as he works to finish his movie, but he set the standard for LDS authors in many ways. Never one to pull any punches, he told me what to expect from the LDS publishing industry—the good, bad, and ugly. Chris has spent an immense amount of time doing good works over and above his writing. He has given advice to many others, done guided tours of the Book of Mormon lands, expanded into LDS film, and set the standard in writing books enjoyed by the entire family.

Jennie Hansen—The first time I met Jennie was at a book signing, and frankly she scared the crap out of me. She looked at me over her stack of a gazillion books and I nervously looked at my one pitiful novel. She seemed so stern and intimidating, I just about turned and ran out of the bookstore. But when she opened her mouth, everything changed. Jennie is a wonderful person and a good friend. She has been through the ups and downs of Covenant and has never wavered in her support of them. She’s written romances, historicals, westerns, and much more. Without compensation, Jennie has written one of the best LDS book review columns for years on Meridian magazine. She has been, and is still a great champion of LDS publishing.

Rachel Nunes—If Anita Stansfield is the Queen of LDS romance, Rachel is the crown princess. I’ve lost count of all the novels she’s published, but it’s well over twenty. Rachel has worked with several LDS publishers, and is currently one of DB’s top sellers. She has been instrumental in uniting LDS authors and founding an amazing LDS writing conference. By standing up for what she believes in, she has helped make the way easier for other LDS authors. When my first novel came out, Rachel invited me to join an e-mail list of other authors who taught me most of what I know. That group broke apart and reformed into LDSStorymakers. This is a group whose primary goal is educating the LDS audience about LDS fiction, helping LDS authors from all publishers to improve their craft, and teaching new and upcoming authors.

Kerry Blair—It used to be that I showed up at book signings with a pen and a smile. Usually the store manager set up a table with a poster of my book, and I was good to go.
Then one day I walked into a store and saw an incredible sight. The lady who was signing before me had turned her table into a display that would put a Relief Society teacher to shame. She had her own table cloth, cool displays, handouts, goodies. AND . . . she was the nicest person I had ever met. She was friendly to everyone, whether they purchased her book or not. She would talk and laugh with the employees. Every store manager Loved her with a capital L. She has spent countless hours turning the annual Covenant mystery dinner into a huge success. She writes books that make me laugh out loud, and she is a great friend to everyone who knows her.

Heather Moore and Annette Lyon—The first time I met Heather and Annette was my first night at a critique group. I had no idea what to expect, and I was amazed at how they could do such a good review of other’s work, while we were reading. Annette was writing a fantasy and Heather was writing kind of a mystery romance thing. Annette always handed back my work covered with red marks. Heather wasn’t entirely sure where her story was headed and we’d say things like, “Is this going to be an important clue?” And she’d answer, “I’m not sure. Maybe.” We have all improved A LOT since those early days, and much of it can be laid at the feet of the critique group (or as I like to call them, The Ladies of Wednesday Night.)

Bill Gardner (who writes as Willard Boyd Gardner)—When my first book, Cutting Edge, came out. Covenant was trying to publish more “guy” books. Bill was the perfect author. As an ex SWAT member and a writing professor he is amazing. We always go to Bill when we need to get answers to police questions. As a cop, Bill once said to himself that he’d give his right arm to be a writer. Shortly after that, his right arm was badly injured in the line of duty and he writes great books. Bill is in charge of the Boot Camp at the conference this year. He is a great teacher and a truly nice guy—even if he does give me crap about writing “girl” books.

James Dashner—As much as I hate to admit it, Dashner is a pretty fun writer. Kids love him, and he manages to make all of them feel important. And while you wouldn’t expect it from such a nerdy looking CPA, he has a truly warped imagination. Just today he sent me an e-mail about the web site of an author who shall remain unnamed, that literally made me cry, I laughed so hard. He is like the kid who sat in the back of class telling stories and flinging boogers. I just wish he would learn to use a Kleenex now. By the way, he will be the MC of the SM conference this weekend, and I guarantee he will make you laugh your rear off.

Julie Wright (aka Jules)—If you have not read “My Not So Fairytale Life,” shame on you. Go out and get it right now. Julie is the best writer I have ever met who has absolutely no confidence. She whips out these amazing books, then worries herself sick that no one will like them. She knows everything there is to know about Star Wars and Disney. Although she has suffered for years with a back that literally pained her to tears most of the time, she has been tireless in teaching classes, helping with the conference, promoting like crazy, and just being a wonderful person to be around. She and Josi Kilpack, who I interviewed earlier, have put an amazing amount of time and effort into the conference for not a single dime.

Tristi Pinkston—If you like historical novels, Tristi is your author. You will never look at the Japanese interment camps the same way. She sticks to her guns even if it means not publishing a novel she really wants to, because the publisher has a policy against polygamy in their novels. Tristi will help anyone anywhere.

Michele Holmes(Another of TLOWN)—Michele is publishing her first novel this year. It’s called Counting Stars. She has experienced all the highs and lows of getting a book from a manuscript to a finished product, and come out shining. She’ll tell you that the editing process is not for the faint of heart. She has been a big help in editing my books. And to anyone who tries to tell me you can’t get published by Covenant unless you have a book already out with them, I’ll point to her. Her new book is a great combination of drama, romance, and really funny humor. I’ve never read an LDS romance novel whose main character was as funny as hers.

There are a lot more people I’d like to blog about—especially on the editing and marketing side of things. Plus great authors like Candace Salima, Shirley Bahlmann, BJ Rowley, Matthew Buckley, Michelle Ashman Belle (aka the motorcycle babe), Betsy Green, and of course the rest of the great authors on this group. Unfortunately, I really need to get back to my latest book. But I couldn’t finish this blog without mentioning our own Sariah, who came up with the idea for this blog in the first place. I know I bug the heck out of her at times, but I really admire all the marketing work she has done to promote her excellent books. Thanks, Sariah.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Waiting for Godot (AKA Adventures in Preschool)

By Sariah S. Wilson

My four-year-old is in preschool. In our school district, we have a preschool that is THE place you want your child to go. Every year they have a waiting list. The first year I tried to get my son in there, I was 459 on that list.

Why is the school so great? Well, according to federal law, when a child with a disability reaches the age of three it is the local school district’s responsibility to educate that child in a special preschool. My oldest son went to the same school, and I can’t even tell you how much he benefited from it. The way the school is set up - each class has six children with disabilities, and six children who are considered typical. The teachers are highly trained and very well educated. Each class has two to three aides, and that’s not including the speech, occupational and physical therapists that are in and out to help the children.

What I loved about the arrangement was the amount of individual attention the children could receive. I loved that my son observed other children acting appropriately and it helped him to learn to do things quicker. I also loved that it taught those typical kids more sympathy and compassion for their classmates.

So, I wanted my younger son to attend as well. But 458 people were in front of me.

Then last year in February I got an unexpected call - the school had an opening and was I interested? I don’t know how I jumped up the list or why, but I took the spot.

My four-year-old has flourished. He started begging me to go to school when he was two because he wanted to be just like his older brother. He adores school and loves to learn. He had been attending our local YMCA program, but was more than willing to go to a new school.

He then was able to return this year as a student because he had been one last year. No waiting list for us!

Now the waiting is of a different kind. This school is approximately 20 minutes away from our house. So I drive him there, drop him off, drive home. I then repeat the process two hours later - 20 minutes there and then another 20 minutes back.

When I pick him up, I have to come inside the school to a special hallway they have designated for parents to pick their kids up. Each classroom has an assigned area where the parents wait. This school also has a very small parking lot, so if you don’t arrive early you’re left without a spot to park in and you have to wait for someone to return to their car before you can park. That annoys me, so I arrive early every day.

As I realized how much time I was devoting to this process, I decided that I needed to make better use of my time. When my son is in the car, we spend time talking and maybe doing things like memorizing our phone number or our address. But once I’m alone, I now spend that time listening to audio books. I started doing this because I won an audio version of Jane Austen's “Pride and Prejudice,” and I adored listening to it. I actually laughed out loud, which I don’t think I’ve done either watching the movie or reading the book. I don’t know why it was so different, but I loved it.

After I finished it, I had to listen to something else. So I was off to my local library to start compiling a new listening list (speaking of which, does anyone have any suggestions? I’d love to hear them!)

When I get to the school I wait in the car for a few minutes, listening to my book. Then I go inside the school to wait, and the wait can be anywhere from three to fifteen minutes. That’s a lot of time to stand around and do nothing.

So I started keeping a stack of industry magazines in my car that I never seem to have time to get to, things like Romantic Times. I read them when I’m waiting in a line in my car or if I know I’m going to be sitting in a doctor’s office I take my copy with me. I always take one in with me to read while I wait for my son to finish with preschool.

And it’s a good thing too, because the farcical things that happen while I wait make me go a little crazy.

There’s the grandmother who enters the hallway and always brushes my magazine as she walks past. I don’t know why she can’t walk in the other twelve feet of open hallway. But every single day she walks so close to me I’m afraid she’s going to trip.

There’s the conversations of the women around me that sound the same every day. I guess you do run out of things to talk about when you have to see the same acquaintances all the time. I couldn’t do it. Remember my earlier posts about what an introvert I am? Making small talk is like a death sentence for me. I can’t stand it - I don’t want to do it. If I had to talk to the other moms every day I think I would actually die. My magazines give me a safe out. Maybe the other moms think I’m a snob. I’m okay with that.

But there’s the mom who has apparently decided I’m lonely and is trying to rescue me. I don’t know if there’s a polite way to tell her I’m fine and I’d really like to read. Every day she asks me how the book is going (since she found out that I’m a writer). I tell her fine. Then I have to say fine again, because I talk very softly and always have to repeat what I’ve just said to her because she never hears me the first time (despite the fact that the answer is always the same). We do this at least four times a week. I know she’s trying to be nice. But it makes my head hurt. (Yes, I know what a grouch I am. So I guess when Rob is a grumpy old man throwing rocks at trick or treaters, I’ll be his even grumpier neighbor who supplies him with the rocks.)

What about you? How do you fill in those standing around doing nothing gaps in your day?


Happy St. Patrick's Day!



Friday, March 16, 2007

Vote for the Next Bestseller!

by Kerry Blair

Jeff told only half the story on Monday. After you’ve suffered for however-many months to write a book, the misery has just begun. Now somebody’s going to take it upon themselves to write a blurb for the back cover. You know, that descriptive paragraph that the publisher hopes will cause an otherwise sane shopper to clutch the book to her chest and knock the canes out from under little old ladies in her mad dash to the cash register. And then, as if having your 80,000-word work summed up in 80 vivid adjectives (and a couple of outright lies) is not enough, actual strangers will feel free to pick up your book, read it, and sometimes even review it. (Shudder.)

In a strange twist of fate, those two things have just happened to the nine unfortunate folk who were brave, kind, creative, and industrious enough to enter the contest I posted last Friday. I have not only “blurbed” each of their stories for your convenience, I’ve reviewed them.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: I did this to make fun of blurbs on books (other than mine) and reviewers (other than Jennie, Tristi, Melanie, Michele, and others I know and admire.) I swear! I didn’t do it to make fun of the entries—that was just an unfortunate (albeit fun) side effect. I truly thought each of the entries was terrific, and I encourage everyone to read them as they were originally written before opening the comment section on this blog and voting for your favorite. (I'm might not check last Friday's blog again, so vote here.) Remember, the winner gets a paperback bestseller of their choice, so help them out by voting. But don't help too much. You may vote only once, but you may choose your top three favorites. Feel free to post anonymously. I trust you. Mostly.

ENTRY 1: LITERARY FICTION
Native New Yorker Bob fulfills a childhood fantasy as he gazes upon the Grand Canyon. Alas, fantasizing about the falling out he had with Marge three days before causes him to thoughtlessly leave the lens cap on his camera. Thus begins his draconic descent into the depths of deepest despair.
CRITICAL REVIEW: This book has angst written all over it. Keep a box of tissue handy . . . if you’re easily bored to tears. One good thing: the alliteration is all on the part of the loon who penned the flyleaf. The book itself is nearly readable.

ENTRY 2: MYSTERY
Everybody’s favorite Ace Detective, Fred, dons another of his many ingenious disguises! This time he uses make-up putty—and misuses clothing from Goodwill—to turn himself into an octogenarian tourist. If he cracks his latest case (and doesn’t he always?) he’ll rake in a million big ones from the stunning wife of a sleazy politician on the rise. If he fails . . . Hey! Whatchatalkinabout? Fred never fails!
CRITICAL REVIEW: Classic gumshoe! Detective Fred fans will stand in line for this one! The rest of us will probably take in a movie.

ENTRY 3: EPIC POEM
Cedric Delmar Puttner, PI, captures “hanky-pank” in its many forms. Ridiculed for his shots of low-flying hubcaps and eighty-year-old shoplifters, the geek façade is really a careful disguise donned by this latter-day Odysseus.
CRITICAL REVIEW: If you’ve ever wondered if there’s a person on the planet who can (and will) rhyme “odd” with “façade” this is the book for you! I haven’t read anything this moving since “Lady of the Lake.” On the other hand, I read “Lady of the Lake” this morning as I was moving my bowels.

ENTRY 4: SUSPENSE
“Nothing good” stalks the unsuspecting tourists enjoying a day on the beach. Fortunately, Scott—The Agency’s top operative—is on a mission! (Not that kind of mission; you’ve been reading too many Cheri Crane novels. We’re talking secret mission.) Pretending to photograph sea foam, he instead keeps a sharp eye on a piece of human scum.
CRITICAL REVIEW: This book is as bright and vivid as its hero’s yellow shirt! (Meaning you’ll want to look away, but you might not be able to.)

ENTRY 5: MAINSTREAM FICTION
Grumpy, dumpy, and older than he can remember growing, Fred is at last at the vacation spot of his dreams: the Grand Canyon! Unfortunately, he’s there with his harpy of a wife, Frieda. Will Fred have enough film? Will they miss the donkeys and have to hoof it down the canyon on foot? Will Fred nudge Frieda and send her sailing over the rim? You’ll turn pages late into the night to find out!
CRITICAL REVIEW: Forget turning pages late into the night—just tear them out early in the day. (Unless, of course, you need a good sedative.)

ENTRY 6: HORROR
Frieda Finkleberg attends community college, poisons her husband Fred, stuffs and dresses his corpse, poses him creatively in the garden, and then goes after his dog.
CRITICAL REVIEW: This author defines plagiarism. (At least she might if she were smart enough to look it up in a dictionary.) Not only did she steal the plot from Psycho, she stole the character names from other contestants! Definitely disqualified!

ENTRY 7: SCIENCE FICTION
No one believes that Tom Myers is really an alien—as in from another galaxy, not another country. We have border patrol for that. Armed with a carefully disguised spectroanalyzer, Tom scans the DNA of every human he encounters, searching for likely candidates for abduction at his leisure. Fortunately for humanity, Mulder and Scully are on the case, despite being X-ed from the FBI and relegated to reruns years ago.
CRITICAL REVIEW: If the truth is out there, you won’t find it here. Great book to take stargazing though—assuming you can’t read in the dark.

ENTRY 8: ADVENTURE
Amateur photographer Ted answers an ad to undertake An Adventure of a Lifetime! Thousands of miles from home and thrilled by the grandeur of nature, Ted admires acacias and photographs zebras, blissfully unaware that the tour bus has left him—alone and unarmed on the African veldt.
CRITICAL REVIEW: This author needs to get out of Africa. Or maybe get Out of Africa. Or maybe just get out more in general. Where are hungry lions when you need them?

ENTRY 9: ROMANCE
A unique, groundbreaking, inimitable, matchlessly distinctive work that reads as a series of articles for the Milwaukee Senior Citizens Living Care Center Newsletter, this book chronicles the touching if turbulent story of aged supermodel Mabel Ann Jensen and the love of her life, photographer Phil Bransen. (And we defy you to read that sentence without taking a breath!)
CRITICAL REVIEW: I laughed! I cried! I cringed at the vivid description of scantily-clad old women. This is truly a story for the ages—those between the ages of 95 and dead, that is.

ENTRY 10: NONFICTION
Join gifted photographer Phil Bransen as he exposes the shocking lifestyles of the Poor & Wrinkled while embedded (or is that in-bedded?) in the Senior Citizens Living Care Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Celebrated for his majestic black-and-white nursing station landscapes and the always awe-inspiring death bed photographs, his work evokes certain surrealist depictions of everyday life for many geriatrics.
NOTE: Yes, this IS the same entry as #9. It could have gone either way and ten is such a nice, round number. Feel free to vote for either -- or both!

Ready, set, vote! Winner gets a book and a Fun Frog Pack. Everyone who enters gets a cool Frog Pen/Bookmark/Ruler thingie. (Please send your name and snailmail address to kerrylynnblair@aol.com to claim your prizes.)


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Top 102 LDS Fiction Books

By Julie Coulter Bellon

Josi Kilpack ((http://www.josikilpack.blogspot.com) recently put together a list of the top 102 LDS fiction books by asking several well read authors to pick their top ten. (Which was very hard for me to do!) I was really interested to see who would come out on this list and how many I have read.

I have included the list below and bolded the ones I’ve read and made comments after the ones I highly recommend. If you are so inclined, in your comments, you could list the ones you’ve read and also tell us which ones you highly recommend. I think it would be fascinating to see what our readers have read, enjoyed, and would recommend to others! (Maybe you can suggest which ones I should definitely add to my to read list.)

1) A Heartbeat Away—Rachel Ann Nunes
2) Almost Sisters—Nancy Anderson, Lael J. Littke and Carroll H. Morris
3) Angels Don't Knock—Dan Yates
4) An Old Fashioned Romance—Marcia Lynn McClure
5) A Question of Consequence—Gordon Ryan (my husband read it, does that count?)
6) Ariana: The Making of a Queen—Rachel Ann Nunes
7) As the Ward Turns—Joni Hilton
8) At the Journey’s End—Annette Lyon (Her temple books are unsurpassed in rich detail)
9) Baptists at Our Barbecue—Robert Farrell Smith
10) Charlie—Jack Weyland (I still love this one)
11) Charley’s Monument—Blaine M. Yorgason
12) Chickens in the Headlights—Matthew Buckley (on my to-read list)
13) Children of the Promise, Vol 1: Rumors of War— Dean Hughes
14) Children of the Promise, Vol 2: Since You Were Gone—Dean Hughes
15) Come Armageddon—Anne Perry
16) Daughter of a King—Rachel Ann Nunes (picture book, amazing art work)
17) Dead on Arrival--Jeffrey Savage (I absolutely loved this book. Highly recommend)
18) Double Cross--Betsy Brannon Green (Definitely Betsy’s best book to date)
19) Dusty Britches—Marcia Lynn McClure
20) Emeralds and Espionage—Lynn Gardner
21) Escaping the Shadows—Lisa J. Peck
22) Fablehaven—Brandon Mull
23) False Pretenses—Carole Thayne
24) Faraway Child—Amy Maida Wadsworth
25) Fire of the Covenant—Gerald Lund
26) First Love and Forever—Anita Stansfield
27) Flowers of the Winds--Dorothy Keddington
28) Ghost of a Chance—Kerry Blair (Best mystery I’ve read in a while!)
29) Gustavia Browne—Alene Roberts
30) Jimmy Fincher Saga Vol. 4: War of the Black Curtain—James Dashner (My daughter and son LOVED it)
31) House on the Hill—Annette Lyon (Again, loved the themes throughout her books)
32) House of Secrets—Jeff Savage (Excellent)
33) House on the Sound—Marilyn Brown
34) In a Dry Land—Elizabeth Petty Bentley
35) Lifted Up—Guy Morgan Galli
36) Love Beyond Time—Nancy Campbell Allen (This is my favorite book of hers.)
37) Mary & Elisabeth—S. Kent Brown (Non-fiction)
38) MaCady—Jennie Hansen (Jennie has a gift for romantic suspense. I own all her books and they are very dog-eared since they are favorites of mine.)
39) Molly Mormon—Tamara Norton
40) Mummy's the Word—Kerry Blair (Highly recommended)
41) My Body Fell Off—BJ Rowley
42) My Not So Fairy Tale Life—Julie Wright (Great read, and very real)
43) No Longer Strangers—Rachel Nunes (Absolutely loved this book.)
44) Nothing to Regret—Tristi Pinkston
45) On a Whim—Lisa McKendrick
46) On Second Thought—Robison Wells (I think the main character was based on Rob Hilarious!)
47) On the Edge--Julie Coulter Bellon (Well, it’s mine, so I have to recommend this one!)
48) One in Thine Hand—Gerald Lund
49) One Tattered Angel—Blaine M. Yorgason
50) Out of Jerusalem 1 (Of Goodly Parents)—H.B. Moore
51) Out of Jerusalem 2 (A Light in the Wilderness) —H. B. Moore (on my to-read list)
52) Out of Jerusalem 3 (Towards the Promised Land)—H. B. Moore (H.B. Moore’s books get a lot of critical acclaim because of the amazing research and how it brings the Book of Mormon to life. Can’t wait to read it.)
53) The Peacegiver—James L. Ferrell (I skimmed it, does that count?)
54) Pillar of Fire—David Woolley
55) Poison—Betsy Brannon Green
56) Prodigal Journey—Linda Paulson Adams
57) Pursuit of Justice—Willard Boyd Gardner
58) Return to Red Castle—Dorothy Keddington
59) Race Against Time—Willard Boyd Gardner
60) Sarah—Orson Scott Card
61) Saints—Orson Scott Card
62) Sixteen in no time—BJ Rowley
63) Spies, Lies and a Pair of Ties—Sheralyn Pratt
64) Standing on the Promises Vol 1: One More River to Cross--Margaret Young and Darius Gray
65) Strength to Endure—Tristi Pinkston
66) Surprising Marcus—Donald S. Smurthwaite
67) Tathea—Anne Perry
68) Tempest Tossed—Josi S. Kilpack (Very gritty true to life writing)
69) Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites—Chris Heimerdinger
70) The Alliance—Gerald Lund (on my to-read list)
71) The Book of Mormon—Nephi thru Moroni (non-fiction)
72) The Believer—Stephanie Black (I'm currently reading this one)
73) The Coming of Elijiah—Arianne Cope (fascinating)
74) The Counterfiet—Robison Wells (A deep intricate plot which I loved)
75) The Emerald--Jennie Hansen (Jennie is amazing in this genre)
76) The First year—Crystal Liechty
77) The Fragrance of Her Name—Marcia Lynn McClure
78) The Killing of Greybird—Eric Swedin
79) The Last Days, Vol. 1: The Gathering Storm—Kenneth R. Tarr
80) The Last Promise—Richard Paul Evans
81) The Looking Glass—Richard Paul Evans
82) The Miracle of Miss Willie—Alma J. Yates
83) The Single Heart—Melinda Jennings
84) The Visions of Ransom Lake—Marcia Lynn McClure
85) The Work and the Glory Vol 1—Gerald Lund (I loved the Work and the Glory books)
86) The Work and the Glory Vol 2—Gerald Lund
87) The Work and the Glory Vol 3—Gerald Lund
88) The Work and the Glory Vol 4—Gerald Lund
89) The Work and the Glory Vol 5—Gerald Lund
90) The Work and the Glory Vol 6—Gerald Lund
91) The Work and the Glory Vol 7—Gerald Lund
92) The Work and the Glory Vol 8—Gerald Lund
93) This Just In—Kerry Blair (A great read with lots of laughs)
94) Time Riders—Sierra St. James
95) Time Will Tell by Julie Coulter Bellon (Again, one of mine so of course I recommend it)
96) To Echo the Past—Marcia Lynn McClure
97) To Have or To Hold—Josi S. Kilpack
98) Towers of Brierley, Anita Stansfield (Of all of Anita’s books, I liked this one best)
99) Twelve Sisters—Leslie Hedley
100) Unsung Lullaby—Josi S. Kilpack (This is on my to read list, I’ve heard great things!)
101) Wake Me When it’s over—Robison Wells
102) Winter Fire—Rachel Ann Nunes (Rachel’s Huntington series is my favorite of hers.)

Contributing authors to the list: Tristi Pinkston, Julie Wright, Jeff Savage, Rachel Ann Nunes, Jewel Adams, Annette Lyon, Heather Moore, Stephanie Black, Julie Bellon and Josi S. Kilpack. Special thanks to Josi Kilpack for putting it together!


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I Reminisce about Ireland. Also, Some News.

by Stephanie Black

First, my news: my new novel has been accepted for publication! I am so excited! I rambled about it a bit on my website blog, so I won’t repeat myself here, but hooray!

Now for today’s blog topic. Saturday is St. Patrick’s Day, so it’s time to wax sentimental about Ireland. Ah, Ireland. I’m feeling warm and fuzzy inside. Or green and mossy, which would be more truly Irish.

We lived in Ireland for two years—near Limerick, for you Angela’s Ashes fans. I’m completely non-adventurous, so when we discussed moving overseas for my husband’s work (we were living in Boston at the time), I was scared to death. But I knew it would be a great opportunity for the family, so in the summer of 2002 we hopped aboard Aer Lingus and winged our way toward the Emerald Isle. We arrived on a cool, damp July day—Ireland doesn’t really have summer; just a lot of spring. We drove from Shannon Airport to the home we’d rented and discovered that—oops—my husband’s keys, including the keys to our new house, were at the airport security check in Boston.

But he sorted that problem out, we got settled in, and I discovered that driving on the left-hand side of the road wasn't nearly as scary as I’d feared. Even roundabouts weren’t too scary, and shifting gears with my left hand in our standard-transmission diesel minivan (really a micro-mini van) quickly became second-nature. Roads in Ireland are a lot narrower than I was accustomed to. On back roads, you can’t believe that two cars could actually pass each other, and you haven’t lived until you’ve driven over Conor Pass in County Kerry where you have to stay out of the way of oncoming traffic without falling off a cliff. Hint: if you suck in your stomach and hold your breath, it will make your whole car skinnier.

All road signs in the Republic of Ireland are in English and Irish. The Irish language is a core subject in school, like math, but only a small percentage of the population actually speaks it fluently, and only in some small areas on the west coast do people speak it as a primary language. My two younger children studied Irish in school and quickly came up to speed. My oldest daughter was exempt; she was old enough when entering the school system that it would have been hard for her to catch up with peers who had been studying Irish since they were five. That gave her a lot of free time during Irish class, which she didn’t mind at all. Go figure. School overall was an adjustment for the kids, but they settled in and did fine—and I loved the school uniforms. The kids looked so classy in their jumpers (sweaters), ties and wool skirts or trousers. I even learned how to tie a necktie, though I've forgotten now.

We discovered that some things are a lot more casual in Ireland. When I wanted to enroll my son in an after-school program I was waiting for official announcements or forms or what all and finally found out that it wasn’t like that. You want him in the program? Just say so and leave him there. In the U.S., you’d have to fill out forms, say which hours you wanted to leave him and fill out insurance forms and medical releases in triplicate or quadruplicate or quintuplicate with one copy for the teacher, one for the school district office, one for the school’s district’s lawyer, one for your lawyer . . . man alive, but American schools generate a lot of paper.

One thing I had to get used to was the absence of drinking fountains. In the U.S., every museum, school, theatre or mall has a drinking fountain. In Ireland, not even the church had a drinking fountain, which blew my American mind. (But . . . but . . . it’s a Mormon church!) Speaking of church, there is a wonderful branch in Limerick and when it came time to head back to the U.S., it was very difficult to say goodbye to the people who had become our family away from home.

Ireland is a spectacularly beautiful country. One of these days, I’ll post some pictures on the blog. Since we knew we’d only be there for a couple of years, we did as much sightseeing as we could. We even kissed the Blarney Stone, though, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have affected me much. Dingle, Connemara, Mizen Head in West Cork, the Giant's Causeway in Antrim . . . ah, so gorgeous. I really need to get our Ireland pictures organized. Maybe I could pay my teenager to do it . . .

I’m way behind on everything else I need to do today, so I’d better sign off. I’ve got my corned beef in the fridge, ready to celebrate on Saturday—though we didn’t actually eat corned beef very often while we lived in Ireland. Too bad we don’t have some Sean’s Brown Bread from SuperQuinn to go along with it. That reminds me—I think it’s ingenious how the Irish supermarkets make you stick a euro coin in the shopping car in order to unchain it from the queue. Then when you return the shopping cart, you get your euro back. Voila! No carts all over the lot, since every shopper wants her euro back.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all!


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

You oughta be in pictures!

by Robison Wells

(Rob remains ill today, and he's come to the conclusion that he will never be healthy again. To date, no one has brought him a casserole, nor has anyone offered to give him lots of money so that he won't have to go work. Some friends you all turned out to be.)

I've watched a couple movies recently that have each, independently, inspired me to blog about them. But when I sat down to do so, I realized that none of the topics could carry an entire blog. Instead, I'm going to give you a media review: movies I've recently watched, books I've read, TV shows I like.

Movies:


First off, let me say that a co-worker recently told me that Wild Hogs was the best movie since Without a Paddle. If you're unfamiliar with these films, RottenTomatoes (a site that collects reviews from all over the country) gave Wild Hogs an 18%--meaning that only 18% of critics across the country gave it a favorable review. Without a Paddle got 13%. So, as you can imagine, I don't take a lot of what this coworker says seriously. Frankly, I don't know why she's allowed to drive a car, or go out in public.

(Incidentally: there are a lot of people who say "If the critics hated it then it must be good! Durn critics with they're high-falutin' ways and there snooty la-di-dah." These people, if you couldn't tell, are not thought highly of in the Robison Wells household. They also use the wrong "their", even when speaking.) (Seriously, though, I find art criticism almost as interesting as art itself. I don't always agree with individual critics, but I've also come up with the following theory: People who don't like movie criticism have a greater tendency to like fart jokes than those who do.) (You know who you are!.)

But anyway, on to the reviews:

The Queen:
Ever since the advent of my children, I don't watch many movies in the theater anymore. However, my wife and I were able to see The Queen at one of those artsy theaters where they sell Pellegrino and cheesecake at the concession counter. Surprisingly, though, the theater was filled with very normal people. And the movie? Fantastic. If you're unfamiliar with it, it takes place the week after Princess Diana died, and is from the point of view of Queen Elizabeth and Tony Blair. The writing, for one thing, is phenomenal. Combined with Helen Mirren's performance, Queen Elizabeth is one of the best developed characters I've seen in a movie in a long time--years, probably.

The sets, costumes, locations, are all amazing. You really get the feeling that cameras just happened to be in Buckingham Palace that week, capturing everything as it unfolded.
I highly recommend this movie.

Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express:
Like I said, I don't get to go out to the theater very often, so we're becoming good friends with Blockbuster. I picked this one up almost by chance, but it was really quite good. And now I'm going to spoil it for you. SPOILER ALERT! The story is, a bunch of people are all on the train from Istanbul to Paris, and one of them is murdered. By chance, Hercule Poirot, world-famous genius detective, is on the train as well. Long story short, the train gets stuck behind a snow drift, and while they're all stuck waiting, Poirot solves the crime. The movie consists of nothing more than boarding the train, and then a series of interrogations--no other background. Now, (SPOILER ALERT AGAIN!) it turns out that all twelve passengers were in on the crime. Every single one.

Now the reason this got me thinking: despite the fact that there's mounting evidence that several of the passengers are interconnected, the audience continues to suspend their disbelief. "This is the quintessential whodunit," says the audience. "Sure, it looks like everyone has a motive, but only one of them is the real murderer. That's the way all these stories go." It's really a testament to the skill of Agatha Christie--she used the cliche against us, building her story on our preconceived ideas. It was really a delight.

END SPOILERS!

Stranger than Fiction:
This is another movie that is not quite what it appears. The trailers looked entertaining enough: Will Farrell is an IRS accountant, leading a very dull life, when suddenly he begins to hear a voice narrating everything he does. It becomes clear quite soon that he's a character in a book.
And while that does lend itself toward a good, simple comedy, Stranger Than Fiction delivers quite a bit more. For one thing, the situtation is not treated in the same overreacting way most movies deal with things. On the contrary, Farrell's character reacts the same way a normal person would.

Many critics complained about the film's resolution, and while I agree that it was a little lacking, it wasn't as bad as some made it sound. Overall, it was a very fun--but also thought-provoking--movie.

An Inconvenient Truth:
Okay, I'll admit it. I'm something of an environmentalist. But don't worry, I'm not one of those environmentalists. No, I just hate urban sprawl, and I vote for mass transit, and I dislike ATVS generally. In other words, I'm not an activist, just a complainer. (No surprise there.)

Anyway, you all know what Inconvenient Truth is, so I won't bother explaining it. And, likely, you already know whether or not you'll like it or hate it depending on your political persuasion. (You are SO like that.)

I must say that the evidence presented is very compelling. I went into the movie with the opinion that yes, I believe global warming is real, but I'm not that certain whether mankind is causing it (and not that certain we can do anything about it if we are). But the documentary does a pretty dang good job of making its case. Like, a really good job.

Now, I've heard that at least one of the studies cited in the film has been proven wrong. I'm not saying that the movie's evidence is perfect (but, of course, only a moron would change their scientific opinion based on a movie anyway, right?) What I am saying is that the movie's evidence has inspired me to read a little more on the subject.

HOWEVER: the majority of the movie consists of watching Al Gore give a presentation in front of an audience. That's the interesting stuff. But then they keep cutting to stories from Al Gore's life--like how his son was in a car accident. And then there's a big dumb IRRELEVANT section about the 2000 presidential election. Holy crap, it's annoying. It comes across as self-aggrandizing and self-righteous, and HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH GLOBAL WARMING. If anything, it actually hurts his argument: without that part, the film is fairly non-political and scientific; with that part, Gore has just turned off half his potential audience, because they're so annoyed with his whiny partisan crap.


This blog is getting really long, and I have other things to do, so I'm just going to give quick recaps for the rest of my media report:

Jane Eyre (2006 BBC version)
It's like a Jane Austen story, only evil. But I must say that I quite enjoyed it. Also: they sure did a good job at finding a homely actress to play Jane. She'd give that girl in Persuasion a run for her money.


Books:

The Operative by Willard Boyd Gardner
I read an advance copy several months ago, but read it again this month. Gardner is a dang good writer, particularly when he gets into the nitty-gritty of gun fights and survival. I wish I was more like him. (One complaint: Gardner's books end really suddenly. They're great books, but then they're over, and you keep looking for the last chapter.)

Without Remorse by Tom Clancy
I finally got around to reading this one, and let me sum it up in just two words: moral relativism. It's enjoyable, but then you think "wait a minute... should I be enjoying this?"


Well, I'm out of time. I wish I could write more, but this thing is horrendously long already. However, I've spouted my opinions quite a bit in this blog--go to the comments and argue with me.


Monday, March 12, 2007

The Birth of a Novel

by Jeffrey S Savage

Let me just say up front that blogging with these six others authors is like being back in high school. I’m not the funny kid. I’m not the kid everyone likes. I’m not the smart kid. I’m not the good-looking kid. I’m not even the kid from a cool different country. Is it any wonder I mostly forged notes and drove my beat-up MG to the beach?

Anyway, since I have nothing funny, smart, likeable, attractive or foreign to write about, I’ll stick to something I know pretty well. So today let’s track the birth of a novel. Ever wonder how that cool looking book on the self came to be?

Well it started out with the desire to have an idea. Not with the idea itself—that would be too easy. You see three months ago, you knew you had a due in nine months. But since you just finished writing your last book, you figured you had a little time to relax. And with that much time to go, you were bound to come up with the perfect idea for your book. In fact you had about a dozen possibilities—any of which might bloom into a full grown book.

Only now it’s three months later and the ideas didn’t pan out. The best one showed up in a CSI episode, you realized the second best one actually came from a Betsy Brannon Green novel you read a couple of years before, and the only other one that showed any promise doesn’t have an ending.

After another month passes, you start to panic. So you figure, what the heck, you’ll start writing the storyline with no ending and see where it goes. You think writing is like riding a bike, all you need to do is get back on the computer and the words will flow out of you like sweet honey from a bee.

Three hours later, you’ve checked your e-mail twelve times, done three on-line Sudokus, balanced your checkbook, cleaned under the bed, lost $535 in computer money playing solitaire, and correctly formatted your manuscript which is currently untitled and has no text. Realizing your idea just needs a little more percolating, you go downstairs and make yourself lunch. Maybe a couple of Lifetime movies will get the juices flowing.

After tapping a two arteries, you finally manage to sit down and type out two and a half pages. And actually they’re not too bad. That morning as you take your shower, you see the rest of chapter one and you quickly jump out of the shower, throw on a robe and type it up. It’s not quite as perfect as you imagined it would be, but there are a few funny lines and a great bad guy.

Finally you start to remember how you did this last time. The creative juices are flowing. Words turn into sentences, which turn into paragraphs, and low and behold you actually have written 100 pages. Everything is working perfectly—right up until the point where the storyline suddenly dies.

We’re not talking a trickle here, the idea faucet is totally off. You twist the mental knob as hard as you can and nothing happens. Okay, you think, it’ll come. This always happens. You’ll just force out a few pages and everything will fit together. Maybe you can write a chapter or two ahead. After a week and a half, panic sets in. Why did you start a story you didn’t know the end of? Do you have any idea how hard it would be to throw away a hundred pages and start over? You swear that from now on you will create a complete chapter by chapter outline before you start writing.

Maybe if you go back and read over what you’ve already written you’ll get the juices flowing again. Only when you reread your work it sounds awful. Did you really think it had any chance of success? You are an idiot. This is crap. Your editor is going to kill you. Hoping for some guidance, you ask your family to read it. After you promise a dozen back rubs and three dinners out, your spouse agrees to read what you’ve got. After silently reading all of your pages, your spouse gives you this incredibly helpful piece of advice. “It’s not done.”

“Right. I know it’s not done. That’s why I wanted to know what you thought.”

“I think it’s too short. And there’s no ending.”

“I understand. But do you like it? Do you have any ideas?”

“I won’t know if I like it until I know how it ends. Why don’t you finish writing it and I’ll read it then.”

After another fruitless week you decide to give it up and start over. That night, just as you’re falling asleep, it comes to you. The piece you were missing. What if Mr. X is really Miss Y? And what if Miss Y killed Mr. T? Which explains what his ghost is hanging around the cemetery. And you could put in a really funny part at about page 145, where you make fun of that lunatic mystery writer.

Finally everything is flowing. Only you need to write 200 pages in three weeks. Of course that’s the three weeks that include the class you forgot you are teaching, the family vacation, your dental surgery, and six book signings for a novel you can hardly even remember.

Working feverishly, you manage to get the 200 pages done. It costs you the love of your children, two years off your life, ever ounce of patience your spouse has, and the friendship of your dog. Whenever you carry a handful of paper out of your bedroom, everyone in the family runs screaming, “Don’t make me read anymore,”—including Rover.

This is when you find out who your real friends are. You see, they are all working feverishly on their novels too. And when you ask if they could read your entire manuscript in the next 24 hours and give you feedback, they actually say yes. Of course when you get their comments back, none of them agree. One thinks your bad guy is too evil, one thinks you need to make your bad guy more evil. One thinks your chapters are too long. One thinks they’re too short.

Taking all their advice into account—and promising you undying devotion and future editing—you finally move six chapters around, rewrite your beginning, change the name of the bad guy and give the landlady a southern accent. By now you are two weeks late, so you do a hurried line edit and turn your manuscript in. The day after you turn it in, you find seven typos in the first chapter.

Then you sweat blood. It doesn’t matter how many books you’ve published, you are suddenly sure the one before was the last that will ever be accepted. Every minute you don’t hear back from your editor seems like a day. You are positive your manuscript will be rejected. And why not? You’re not a real writer anyway. You’ve just been lucky until now. You call or e-mail everyone you know and whine at them until they reassure you that they have never read anything better than your books. This goes on until the editor calls you, and miraculously the committee has accepted your book.

The editor tells you everyone loves your book. Reader feedback is great. The committee is really excited. There are only a couple of very small changes they need you to make. No problem, you think. Probably they want another couple of your hilarious jokes or a different eye color for the best friend.

Then you get the manuscript. It turns out the two minor changes include three scenes that need to be completely cut. The ending doesn’t work. One scene that is too violent and one is too risqué. You need to change the point of view and combine two characters into one. And you’ve got exactly seven days to get it all done if you want to make your release date.

Seven sleepless days later, you turn in the changes. Of course, not all the changes, because one of the scenes is vital to the story, the ending sets up the next book, and the point of view is required. Unfortunately you and your editor don’t see eye to eye. But the cover is done, although you haven’t seen it yet. The title has been changed, but your editor would editor would rather not talk about that until you agree on the point of view.

Finally you hate the book and wish you’d never seen it. You and your editor are barely speaking to each other. Your kids refer to you as “that man.” You actually like the cover and you’ve almost learned to live with the new title. You look over the galleys, suggest a couple of last minute changes. Get a few of them through and finally you’re done.

Until it’s time to cut 50,000 words for the book on tape.

It wouldn’t even be worth it—except for the fact that it’s your baby, your editor was right (most of the time), your spouse and kids read the book and like it, and a couple of months later you see your books on the self of the local bookstore, where you overhear someone saying, “I just read that new book. It’s awesome!”

Thank goodness you have nine months until the next one.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Playing a Game

by Sariah S. Wilson

First, I would like to start off by saying that I think the third trimester is way too late to still be throwing up.

Second, I've been thinking all day about a potential blog idea and came up with nothing. Fortunately I have this document in Word with some blog topics - among them things I've swiped from other blogs.

I don't know where I picked this particular game, and yes, this is a cop out on my part, although it did require some brain function:

Rules: Use the 1st letter of your name to answer each of the following...They MUST be real places, names, things...NOTHING made up! If you can't think of anything, skip it. You CAN'T use your name for the boy/girl name question.

Your Name: Sariah

1. Famous Athlete: Shawn Bradley

2. 4 letter Word: Sage

3. Street Name: Sandpiper Lane

4. Color: Salmon

5. Animal: Seal

6. Vehicle: Subaru

7. Tropical Location: Saint Croix

8. College Major: Social Science

9. Junk Food: Snickers

10. Things in a Souvenir Shop: Souvenirs! :) (Or spoons.)

11. Boy Name: Scott

12. Girl Name: Savannah

13. Movie Title: Star Wars

14. Occupation: Sales Rep

15. Flower: Sunflower

16. Celebrity: Shakira

17. Magazine: Soap Opera Digest

18. U.S. City or State: South Dakota

19. Pro Sports Team: The Seventy-Sixers

20. Something Found in a Kitchen: Sink

21. Reason for Being Late: Sleepy

22. Something You Throw Away: Soot

23. Things You Shout: "Shut up!" (but not in a real shut up way, more of a disbelief way)

24. Cartoon Character: Sleeping Beauty


Please add your own list in the comment section if you're so inclined - and I invite the other bloggers here to put up their own lists this week.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Let's Play a Game!

by Kerry Blair

It's Friday afternoon. It's a gorgeous spring day. (At least it is here in Arizona.) Nobody in their right mind wants to sit at a computer reading a boring blog. (And I know very well you were almost doomed to a very boring blog because I just finished writing/polishing/dumping it.) I mean, come on. If you're stuck at a computer somewhere instead of out frolicking in a dog park with your best friend (your best friend is a dog, I hope) you deserve a little fun. One of my favorite games (after Clue) is something my son bought called Bestsellers. The game comes with four pads of paper, four pencils, an hour glass that measures three minutes of time, and a stack of cards with faux book covers. Players look at the picture and then have exactly three minutes to begin writing the "bestselling book" to go with the cover picture. When the timer runs out, you must stop writing, no matter if you're in the middle of a paragraph, a sentence, or a word. The players then share what they came up with and vote for the best effort. (Winner gets the book cover.) The person who collects the most covers by the end of the game is the winner.

Now, since were playing this in cyberspace, you must provide your own paper, pencil (or computer) and hourglass. Otherwise, the rules are the same. Look at the picture below and then take exactly three minutes to write your entry. (Who is that guy? What is he doing? Why?) You can write in any genre, of course. We'll keep the game open through . . . um . . . Thursday and vote next Friday. (This plan will come in handy if next week's blog turns out as boring as this week's.) Winner gets a bestseller of their choice!

Ready, set, GO!