Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Zero Brain Function or Details, Schmetails

By Sariah S. Wilson

So I’ve started my blog today about three times and had to scrap each one. The first because I had no idea where I was going with it and was just rambling. The second because it required far more thinking than I am currently able to supply. The third was from something I read on another blog regarding marriage in the LDS community that I wanted to discuss and realized that it was quickly devolving into an attack, so I’ve decided to steer clear of that for now.

I’ll make this short as I'm not currently operating on all cylinders, and as my bed upstairs is beckoning me to get some sleep while I still can.

I am a person who doesn’t much care for description. In books that have pages upon pages of description, I usually skip it. In fact, one of my favorite authors is Maeve Binchy, and she has entire scenes that are nothing but pure dialogue. Good stuff.

Unfortunately, there has to be some kind of setting in place, particularly when you’re dealing with historical fiction as I am. Readers want to get a feel for the time period you’re discussing. So I thought I might share a few things that I’ve learned in writing description for writers who might feel like I do about it.

1 - Be specific. In my first novel the opening paragraph has my heroine hanging upside down in a trap. When I talk about the tree she’s hanging from, it’s not just “a tree.” It’s a heartwood tree with rich red-brown bark. The more specific you are in writing, the more detailed picture you pass along to your reader.

2 - If you want to describe a room or an outdoor setting, pick three things to describe. If I wrote about a bedroom that the heroine had just entered and I told you it had pink and white striped wallpaper, a white wire framed bed with heart decorations and shaggy pink carpeting, that put a definite picture in your mind, didn’t it? Did I really need to tell you about the matching fluffy pink pillows on the bed, the white dresser with pink knobs, the pink and white valances on the windows, etc., or did you get the idea that this was a frouffy girly room from the first three things I told you? There are some authors who go into overkill and will describe every single thing in the room down to the Chantilly lace on the covers draped over the small bedside tables. That’s where five-page descriptions come in. Resist the urge. Readers actually like to use their imaginations, and don’t need every single thing laid out for them. Refrain from description overkill. I think the three-thing limit works well.

3 - Take into account your characters’ culture and setting when describing their thoughts. The example given to me was an author who had a heroine from southern Florida. Her thoughts buzzed like mosquitoes, a mess she found herself in was worse than a rain-laden swamp, a villain reminds her of a bad-tempered alligator (or crocodile or whatever it is they have down there that climbs into swimming pools. Speaking of which, and as a total aside, I stayed with a friend once in Florida who had a gorgeous lake behind her condo. She warned us not to go outside explaining that the alligator/crocodiles lived there. She knew this for a fact because one of her neighbors had been playing catch with his Labrador and accidentally threw the ball out into the water. The doggy dove down to get it and never came back up again. This is why I don’t live in Florida.) The point being, that when you’re in your character’s head, they think of things in terms of their lives. That’s why in my current book, the heroine thinks of how she feels trapped by someone’s words like a fly caught in honey (as honey was highly significant in her culture). Or when something bad happens to her, it’s like a thousand clay pots inside her breaking all at once. Again, cultural and it adequately conveys what she’s feeling. So keep in mind where your characters are coming from and what things in their native environment they would use to describe what they observe or how they feel.

If you’re an author, how do you describe a scene? When do you know enough is enough? And for readers, what do you think of narrative description? Do you usually feel like there’s too much or never quite enough?


Friday, June 29, 2007

Guest Blogger: Anna Jones

Author Anna Jones has graciously agreed to fill in for Kerry today while Kerry is occupied with family matters. Let's give a big Frog Blog welcome to Anna!

When I was a little girl, if anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would say “An Authoress”. My mother had told me that’s what lady writers were called. My life’s ambition was to get a novel published, and in 2000 I did. (This left me in need of a new life’s ambition, and I selected “Finish painting the bathroom”. As yet I have not achieved this.)

I thought writing one book would be enough, but then I found I yearned to write another. So I did. And then other ideas for novels came along, so I wrote those too. I had always assumed that if you have had one book published, or even two, as I had, then you could pretty much write anything and “they” would publish it. Not so – my next three efforts were all rejected, leaving me feeling a bit of a fraud as a writer. My books are out of print, but if you scour eBay and Amazon for long enough you might find one.

The wisdom of my childhood career plan is now extremely clear to me. What better life could there be than sitting at home watching plotlines develop under your fingertips, bringing life to characters and being master of their destiny. Not only that, but you bring entertainment and pleasure to lots of good people and some of them, if you’re very lucky, write to tell you so. It still thrills me that I have an email folder called “Fan Mail”. (I once had an email from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and this required my creating a folder called “Prophets and Apostles”. That thrills me too.)

Oh yes, and you get paid a bit. That’s quite nice too. Although I worked out that if I’m to give up my day job (trying to persuade British lawyers that drinking three bottles of wine a day is a bad idea) then I would need to write five books a year in order to make enough money to live on. Given my current track record of one book for every nineteen years of my life, I think I have some ground to make up. But I still want to be an Authoress when I grow up.

A native of Essex, Anna Jones wrote her two best-selling books, Haven and A World Away while living in Wales. She is currently living a fairy tale romance, raising three beautiful daughters, and working on a new suspense novel for Covenant.


Finally . . . my announcement

Sorry, for the long delay, but now that it is quasi-official, I can tell the world that Shadow Mountain will be publishing my YA fantasy novel, Farworld. Farworld is a five book series; each of the first four books will be named after the four elements. So the first book will be called Farworld Book 1: Water.

We are still working on dates, but it looks like it will either be late 2008 or early 2009. I am still publishing with Covenant, and both they and DB have been very supportive. In fact it looks like I may publish two books with Covenant next year: my next Shandra book and a supernatural thriller, which would be the first Mormon horror novel.

Farworld takes place both on Earth and in Farworld, a land where farm animals tell jokes, evil guys turn into snakes, and everything and everyone has magic. Except for Kyja, a girl who not only can’t cast a single spell, she’s actually immune to magic of any kind. Even her pet skyte (kind of like a mini dragon, but just don’t call him a lizard) can do more magic than her.
Meanwhile, back on earth, a boy named Marcus is having his own problems. Found by a Greek Orthodox monk as a baby, Marcus was nearly dead. Although he managed to survive, he is severely crippled and must use a wheelchair to get around. Add to that his strange abilities, and Marcus never lasts long at any boys’ school or foster home.

Together, the two of them discover that the fates of both their worlds are at stake, and the only way to save them is by creating a Drift—a doorway between the two worlds. Only that’s a lot easier said than done.

I'll keep you updated as I get more information.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Feeling the Flow

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I’ve been working on a new book and it just hasn’t been flowing for me the last few weeks. Every word seemed to have to be pulled from my toes and I was getting frustrated. That doesn’t usually happen to me very often and the joy of writing seemed to be gone. I had some deadlines coming up so that was putting even more pressure on and I was feeling it–going to the computer seemed to finally be "work."

After struggling for a few hours one afternoon, I stepped away from the computer desk and the pitifully low word count and started to prepare for my son’s birthday party. Within the hour, the guests had arrived and we went to the swimming pool first. I sat there, supervising the swimming children, but stewing about the story, and how it just didn’t seem to be coming together.

The nine year old boys kept me busy from that point on, however, and I didn’t have much time to think about anything else after that. We did all the usual birthday things, presents and games, cake and ice cream and just after I snapped a picture of my son blowing out his candles, it hit me.

There it was, as clear as day in my mind. The direction my story needed to go in and the next two chapters on how to get there. I couldn’t wait to finish serving the children their cake so I could run to the computer and write down everything that had just flashed through my mind. It amazed me that I hadn’t thought of it before, the sequence seemed so logical.

I went to the computer chair—a place that I had dreaded coming to for days—and sat down to write. The words flowed from my fingertips, effortlessly, the scene streaming onto the screen. I felt almost giddy with the thrill of it, the joy of writing that I’d had the privilege of feeling many times before. I thought I may have lost it in the shuffle of deadlines and edits, but there it was. The pure, unadulterated passion for a character and a story.

I got the two chapters written down before the last child had finished his cake and ice cream and I have to say I wore a smile on my face for the rest of the evening. I know there will have to be revisions, but the story seemed to finally have life breathed into it and that was enough for me.

Some may call that little flash I had the Writer’s Muse, others may call it inspiration, or perhaps my mind just needed to think of something else for a while before it could really "see" where I was going. It was interesting to me, however, when it came. I’ve had little flashes like that before, but at the oddest times, like after the cutting of a birthday cake, or first thing in the morning before I’m fully awake, or in the bath or on vacation playing mini-golf. I'm willing to bet other writers have this happen to them, so I'm curious---if you have had it happen to you, where were you when it did? Do you carry paper around with you just in case?

Inquiring minds want to know.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Worth a Thousand Words . . . Or Something Like That

by Stephanie Black

This photo of a very wise and tech-savvy owl represents my new triumph: I posted a picture to a blog. This is a big deal for me. I am extremely technologically inept. I've been blogging for over a year and last night was the first time I ever posted a picture to a blog. I posted a little book review with a graphic of the book cover. I asked people for help on how to post graphics (thanks, Josi, Jennifer, Heather and anyone else who's offered help!) but still struggled because I have a Mac with only one mouse button which doesn't seem to work the same way as anyone else's machine. But my husband was able to help me over that final hurdle and voila, a picture!

I realize no one is impressed, but I'm impressed because I'm the kind of person who has to ask my children how to use the remote control. I don't suppose my tech-deficiencies are due so much to innate doofus-hood as to basically a lack of curiosity. Or maybe laziness. Yep, probably laziness. I joined a blog, so I learned how to post a blog, but I didn't bother to learn to post a picture because I could get by without that bit of knowledge at the moment. But now I need to know how to do this, so I'm stretching my brain.

Here's another picture. These pictures are from a family trip to the San Francisco Zoo. My two-year-old daughter thinks zoos are the coolest places on the planet. She prays about going to the zoo. She also loves libraries. Our library has a big wooden alligator-shaped bin filled with board books. Book heaven!

Here's my last zoo picture for the day--giraffes.

I still can't figure out how to change the little picture on my Blogger profile. I tried to follow the Blogger help instructions, but something went wrong. Well, the Wise Tech-Owl says, "One step at a time."

I gotta go feed the sourdough pet. I took a picture of it so I could post it, but now I can't find where the picture downloaded. Sigh. Forget learning new things; I'm just going to hire my teenagers to do stuff like this for me.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

So, Big Gulps, huh? Well, see you later!

By Robison Wells

I'm moving this week, and I'm trying to finish a book, and I'm trying to get ready for school, and my head is about to explode. So you'll have to forgive me for the lack of one blog-length coherent thought. Instead, you'll get three short, unrelated ADD thoughts.

First, as preparation for BYU's MBA program, I've had to take a couple of online classes. The first was accounting, which is, in the words of Monty Python, "Exciting? No it's not. It's dull. Dull. Dull. My word it's dull, it's so desperately dull and tedious and stuffy and boring and des-per-ate-ly DULL." The other online class, though, is quantitative analysis (statistics). I know it'll make me sound like a nerd, but I love statistics. (I've always been kind of a math fan--once, more than ten years ago at a call center job, I built my own surveying equipment out of office supplies, and then made up trigonometry problems to map out the office. N-E-R-D.) Anyway, I find stats absolutely fascinating. Regression--and here's another nerd confession--has always struck me as somewhat magical. Simple number crunching can not only tell you whether two real-life things are related, but also how related they are and whether you should care about them. An Excel spreadsheet that tells me what I should care about? Sign me up, baby!

Second, another preparation for BYU is to take the Career Assessment tests. I'd taken tests similar to this one before, back when I was at Salt Lake Community College and had no idea what to do with my life. (As you can see, they didn't much help.) The results told me that I ought to become either paid clergy (probably because I'd just come back from my mission) or a chemical engineer (because… I have no idea). Anyway, the BYU test has been much more helpful and very eye-opening, and it told me my strengths and weaknesses. I was most pleased with one weakness in particular, because no one has ever quite captured my mindset so succinctly:
"You would fit best in an organizational culture that is a bit reserved and on the polite side. In such companies, departments, and teams, a lot of the work is done independently, behind closed doors -- or at least with some privacy and allowance for focus and concentration. Boisterousness and aggressive behavior definitely run counter to the norm in this kind of culture. People who thrive in such organizations generally view social and business 'networking' as a chore to be avoided or minimized, rather than as a fundamental part of work. Your tendency in this direction is very strong."

Third, a recent article on Meridian stirred up a little controversy this week on the blogosphere. The author cites a couple old quotes from George Q. Cannon about how novels are bad for us, and how we shouldn't read them. For example:
"Works of fiction have been sent forth like an overflowing flood, and the public taste has become so vitiated thereby that everything virtuous, truthful or heavenly is unpalatable, and is rejected with disgust."
And also:
"From the character of a man's reading, one may tell just what he is full of. Is he filled with sickly sentiment, heated imaginings, dreamy unrealities — this condition being brought about by his reading?"

A lot of people have argued about the article, but I've decided to take it to its next logical step:


I'm happy to present the Cannon Awards! Awards for the worst of LDS fiction! We would set up a website and a nomination form, but it's just a foregone conclusion that Jeff Savage will sweep all categories. So, congrats to Jeff! (No, this isn't true. James Dashner won some awards, too.)

UPDATE: I just got a surprising email. Yes, the Cannon Awards are just a joke.


The Passion of Writing

by Jeffrey S Savage


“. . . his head seems to bulge with the story; it is a little scary, the way it needs to get out. He feels that if it cannot escape by way of his racing hand that it will pop his eyes out in its urgency to escape and be concrete.”

“. . . after ten years of trying he has suddenly found the starter button on the vast dead bulldozer taking up so much space inside his head. It has started up. It is revving, revving. It is nothing pretty, this big machine. It was not made for taking pretty girls to proms. It is not a status symbol. It means business. It can knock things down. If he is not careful it will knock him down.”

From Stephen King’s “IT”

What do you think about when your write? The money you’ll make? The pressing deadline? How cool it would be to see your book in print? What you will do once you are: A published author? An author with multiple books out? An author with sales of over x? Your publisher’s top selling author? A nationally published author? A NYT bestseller?

Of course there is a time and place for those thoughts. If we didn’t have dreams and goals we would never write in the first place. Even if those dreams are just finishing what we start.

I tell people not to try and write what sells unless they want to sell what they write. I teach them to research the market, know the competition, learn what publishers, authors, and agents want, and all the stuff that helps you write a book which will sell. I also teach to have a marketing plan, create a web site, blog, promote, promote, and promote some more.

But those are the things that come before and after you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. The part Stephen King is describing above is the part that differentiates an adequate book from a pulse-racing, heart-wrenching novel you can’t put down even though it’s two in the morning and you have to get up at six.

I just finished reading a novel I won’t name here. The idea was great, the characters were cool, the setting was fun. But I didn’t care about it at all. Not only was I able to put it down any time I wanted. At times I felt I had to put it down, because it was so hard to get into the story. I kept wondering what the author was thinking about while he was writing it. Was he laughing at the funny parts? Crying at the sad parts? Did his stomach get all fluttery when he thought about people reading the exciting parts? Or was he thinking about how many copies he could sell?

If you’re going to be a painter, strive to create works people won’t be able to turn away from. If you sculpt, make your work so fascinating, so powerful, viewers will feel nearly compelled to reach out and ran their hands across the surface.

If you are a writer, don’t take the easy way out. If you create a character you care about so much she keeps you up at night, I will care about her too. If you taste the salt of her tears when she loses the most important thing in the world to her, I’ll taste it too.

If the obstacles between your protagonist and his goals are so impossible I can’t imagine how he will overcome them, I will keep turning pages even when my eyelids are dropping. If you give me ice-cold winds that whip my hair back from my brow, the musky-sweet scent of sagebrush after a rainstorm in the desert, and the butter and cinnamon taste of a fresh hot scone, I will lose myself in your world.

Of course there are times when the words seep slower than maple sap on a cold Massachusetts morning. There are times when you feel like everything you’ve written is worse than anything ever scribbled by the worst writer who ever placed a word on a sheet of paper. You’ll want to cheat. Just get onto the next chapter. Showing is too hard, so you’ll want to tell. You have a deadline to meet, so you’ll consider just putting in your word count, even though you know it’s not your best work. After all, the editor will take care of it.

Don’t do it.

Don’t cheat yourself and don’t cheat your readers.

Don’t be satisfied with a bloop single or a sacrifice bunt. Dig your cleats into the soft dirt at the plate. Pull your helmet down low and tight. Tighten your grip near the end of the handle where you’ll be able to take a full swing. Shut out the noise of the crowd. Stare out at the pitcher with a sneer on your lips. And when you see the seams of the fastball, swing for the bleachers with everything you have from your heels to the top of your head.

There are plenty of authors out there who are satisfied with good enough. They publish books that are forgotten almost as soon as they are read. But the authors that write with passion—the authors that feel like their stories will knock them down if they’re not careful—write books that live forever in their reader’s minds.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

I Am Official

I have these Google alerts that look for my name and my book titles (or, more accurately, title singular since so far I've only put out the one) and today I received notice that I was listed on ebay and Amazon. I feel as if I've arrived. ;)


Saturday, June 23, 2007

A (Late) Night in My Life

By Sariah S. Wilson

I have no secrets to reveal (or at least none that I would want to publicly share) and my only current thoughts on the Whitney Awards (besides what a great idea, and no, I’m not just sucking up to the Committee) is that I hope everyone who’s read “Secrets in Zarahemla” will go over and nominate it, because you all know that I am not above shameless self-promotion/begging.

So back to the topic at hand, I must tell you that I am one of those people who take FOREVER to fall asleep. I am deeply envious of my husband who has only to think of sleeping and can nod off wherever he is (one of those out-by-the-time-he-hits-the-pillow kind of people).

Due to recovery and sleepless nights, my inability to fall asleep hasn’t been a problem until very recently.

I should also mention that I have to stay awake when I’m feeding the baby at night. I can’t drift off while I’m feeding her, because if this child isn’t properly burped, she will puke up most of what she ate and then have hiccups that last for four or five hours or some insane amount of time.

In order to stay awake, I turn the TV on and keep the sound low. This gives me enough light to see what I’m doing and helps me to stay up.

I also have Dish Network with a gazillion channels (or maybe 150 or something like that. Most of them are sports apparently, which I don’t watch). You’d think there’d always be something on to keep me entertained. This is not always the case.

11:05 - Baby is up and wanting to eat. I typically stay up until this feeding because there’s no point in going to bed at 10:00 and pretending to sleep for a half-hour to an hour. Might as well enjoy myself. At 11:00 there is still lots of good stuff on television. All sorts of ‘90s sitcoms, game shows, any number of Law & Orders (SVU is my favorite) and late night talk shows.

The baby takes about half an hour to eat, another half an hour to fall completely asleep.

Ordered “Music and Lyrics” on Pay-Per-View, and we have it for 24 hours. I routinely flip over to rewatch the parts I like, which comprise mostly the hilarious ‘80s video and the ‘80s songs (and now must admit to liking songs by fake TV groups, such as “Calculus” by 2GETHER. Realize that I have no musical taste). Like them so much I ask my husband to download them for me. Can’t get “Pop Goes My Heart” out of my head.

1:16 - Have been asleep approximately 30 minutes when baby gets up. Pickings become slim. See that “Unborn II” is on the Sci-Fi Channel, and it stars Scott Valentine. Wonder how sad it currently is to be Scott Valentine, who was once very famous as Mallory’s boyfriend Nick on “Family Ties.” Think it must be hard to be so famous and then have third billing in movies called “Unborn II.”

Wonder if there is a Mormon famous equivalent. Do Jeff Savage and Kerry Blair get preferred seating at that fancy restaurant at the top of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake? Do they get to cut in line at the temple?

1:28 - Then pop goes my heart…pop goes my heart…

1:42 - Trailers for horror movies scare the bejeebers out of me. “1408” trailer is not scary when there’s no sound. Wonder why sound is so integral in horror movies.

Realize sound isn’t everything when I remember that I couldn’t watch even a millisecond of “The Grudge” trailers. Still get nightmares just thinking about it.

1:44 - Decide that sound is important because when the house settles, as it is right now, my adrenaline starts pumping as I’m imagining those aliens from that BMWC movie “Signs” (BMWC = Before Mel Went Crazy) running around on my roof.

2:07 - Need something funny to watch so that I don’t give myself a heart attack. Watch “Futurama” on Cartoon Network. Wonder why they can bring back that pukefest that is “Family Guy” with new shows but have neglected a show as entertaining as “Futurama.”

2:12 - You are gold and silver…

3:23 - Amazing Race 6 is on Game Show Network. I never watch this show on regular television, but for some reason at 3:00 in the morning it is fascinating to me. Last night had to watch the whole thing and then couldn’t fall asleep for thinking about those poor women who spent eight hours unrolling hay bales.

3:47 - Discover that MTV plays actual music when no one’s awake to watch it. Then realize that I do not know a single band in any of the videos. Go back to “Music and Lyrics” to watch a video that gives me comfort from its ‘80s-ness. Decide that favorite video of all time is Aha’s “Take on Me.” Realize how very uncool I have become.

Flash back to sacrament talk given just after I got married by a man with three children who seemed so old to me. He talked about how cool he was, how he was down with the music. He knew who Hootie and the Blowfish were. Wondered why man didn’t realize that by saying he was cool he negated any possibility of it. Mentioning Hootie just took away even more cool points.

Flip over to VH1 where I do recognize the musical performers. Become extremely depressed.

3:54 - Said I wasn’t going to lose my head, but then pop goes my heart

4:02 - Only thing on at this hour is local news. Wonder why there is news on at 4:00 in the morning. Wonder what time the newscasters have to go to bed in order to be on the air at 4:00 in the morning. Remember why I loathe the news when anchor announces a fascinating story on that new weight loss drug (Alli) and a special report on how to never pay full price on anything again.

4:05 - Still nothing on the drug or the sales.

4:06 - Still nothing on the drug or the sales.

4:16 - Decide I have been patient enough, and still nothing on the drug or sales.

4:29 - At last possible moment, have one “expert” talking about the drug and essentially reading the side of the box. I could go to the store and do that.

4:30 - New news show is on, and still advertising how to never pay full price, I just need to stay tuned. I decide to take my viewing elsewhere.

4:33 - Television has been completely overtaken by “Paid Programming.” Do not want to be suckered into buying crappy houses to make money, ordering workout machines I will never use or getting investment tips from someone who looks like they just murdered their mom, so flip back to dumb movie on USA. “Mission to Mars” is truly stupid. Why didn’t the Martians just live on Earth if Mars was just like Earth? Do Gary Sinise or Don Cheadle feel bad for making that movie? They should. I expect this sort of thing from Jerry O’Connell, but not from Academy Award nominees.

Remember “Catwoman” and know there is just no accounting for actors’ bad tastes in roles.

4:37 - Do men really think that “hot girls” are sitting around waiting to talk to them? Wonder if their lack of sleep has made them that stupid.

6:10 - “Angel” is on. I was Very Mad when Joss Whedon spun Angel off into his own series and then made lame Cordelia as the love interest. Lame, I say. Angel belonged with Buffy. Also hated lame Connor. Should have kept him a baby. “Angel” only got good when Spike joined. Spike makes everything good. Even that lame “Smallville.”

6:38 - Should start some crusade to get more people to watch “Buffy” DVDs, as it is one of the best shows EVER. Think about getting up to grab my Season 8 comics (in stores now!) which is written by Joss Whedon (whom I have since forgiven) and are extremely awesome. Wish show had gone on and could have watched this live. Joss rocks.

Realize that getting comics would entail me getting out of bed, so I don’t.

6:47 - I wasn’t gonna fall in love again…

Baby has gas problems and makes certain to wake up every 20 minutes or so between 5:30 and 9:00, when I finally drag myself out of bed.

At which point she promptly falls asleep for four hours.


Friday, June 22, 2007

National Take Your Dog To Work Day -- Guest Blog: Bandit


DATELINE: 22 June 2007 If you are looking for the perfect way to celebrate your pooch while positively impacting the lives of homeless dogs everywhere, you definitely want to be a part of Pet Sitters International’s Take Your Dog To Work Day® presented by PEDIGREE JUMBONE. On Friday, June 22, 2007, pet sitters, animal shelters, and businesses of all sizes will come together to recognize the great companions dogs are. Dogs go to work. Hearts are touched. And as a result, homeless dogs will be adopted. PSI’s Take Your Dog To Work Day is the day for dogs and we want YOU and your dog to be a part of it. It’s the leash you can do.

The Leash You Can Do

by Bandit Blair

Get it? The leash you can do? That, two-legged friends of non-canine variety, is play on words. I, Bandit, four-legged loyal protector, faithful friend, and all-around good dog prefer play with fuzzies. Leave words to Mom. Mom is no slacker! Good Mom. Takes Bandit to work. Takes Bandit for rides. Takes Bandit to vet for own good. (Not sure about that last one, but Mom says it is so.) Wish Mom would not play with words. One belly rub worth a thousand blogs. Two thousand blogs. Bandit, biological burglar alarm and all-purpose food disposal knows this. Mom needs only three words: doyuwannatreat, lessgo and banditeat!

I, Bandit, intrepid chicken-sniffer and people-face licker, tired of work. Can quit now, Mom? Huh? Huh? Look out window. Cat in yard. Must chase cat! Wait! Rear itches. Must gnaw tail. No! Scratch ear. No, maybe nap. All this word work makes Bandit, fearless cow-barker and grass-roller tired. Must sleep. No! Doorbell! Must bar—

Sorry, all, but we’ve lost this week’s guest blogger. She’s out negotiating with the UPS guy for possession of the latest package from Amazon. (He tends to just chuck boxes over the chainlink fence whenever she asks.) If she’d stayed on the job a little longer I know she was sure to ask Jeff if either of his mega-exciting new projects are the book with her namesake in it. I hope so because she's very excited about that canine character and you really don't want to disappoint a pit bull.


NEWS FLASH!

This space reserved for Jeff Savage's Big News. (Any time now, Jeff. The world is waiting and I'm not getting any younger . . .)


Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Fear Factor

Since I can't think of anything else to say about the Whitney Awards that hasn't already been said, today I am going to blog about fear. And possibly about how much I fear what Robison Wells will do to me when he realizes I didn't do my entire blog about his beloved Whitney Awards. In order to appease fair Robison, I have prepared an original Julie Coulter Bellon limerick about the Whitney Awards.

*Drum roll please*

The Whitney Awards are just what we need
Robison E. Wells has planted the seed
You should nominate
Books you like not hate
It would be an honor to win indeed

Now on to my blog . . .

The Fear Factor
by Julie Coulter Bellon

Last Friday was a day I won’t soon forget.

My daughter returned home from girls’ camp Friday afternoon and our family had made plans to go camping that evening with some friends of ours. My daughter didn’t want to camp anymore, since she’d been camping all week, so she agreed to come to dinner, then I would drive her home from the campsite. All seemed well, the plan was in place.

After dinner, I started down the mountain with my daughter. Since we had crossed up and over the other side of the mountain, I hadn’t realized how steep and narrow the road was going down the other side until I was actually driving it. It didn’t seem too bad, though, and within twenty minutes we were home. But then it was time to go back. By myself. All alone.

I got to the mouth of the canyon and started up the road, but what I didn’t realize is how incredibly dark it becomes when it’s twilight and you’re in a forest. The paved road soon turned to the graveled road and I started up the steep climb that I had so easily come down. Only this time it was dark and the road seemed narrower and narrower the higher up I got.

From previous blogs, you know that I am afraid of heights so to have a steep dropoff be on one side of me was completely freaking me out. I had visions of going a little too far to the right and rolling off the embankment to my death. It wasn’t pretty.

To top it off, I had a car come roaring up behind me and the driver crept so close to me I wondered if he could see any rust on my tailpipe, even with how dark it was. He proceeded to tailgate me all the way up the mountain, which made me even more nervous, yet at the same time it was strangely comforting because since there wasn’t anyone else on this little road, I knew that if I did go over the embankment, at least someone would know I had. Even if he was an idiot who apparently didn’t know how to drive. (But knowing my luck he would probably just be grateful I wasn’t in front of him anymore and speed off!)

I crept higher and higher up the mountain, until the one thing I dreaded happened. Someone was coming the other way. It was a large horse trailer and I honestly didn’t know how both of us were going to fit on this tiny narrow road. I scooted over to the edge as far as I possibly could, my heart doing double time beats as I tried very hard not to look down into the canyon. The horse trailer driver was trying his best to squeeze around my van, but his rather large rearview mirror looked like it was going to hit mine, so I scooted over a tiny bit more until I felt the tires on my car start to slip a little on the dirt and gravel that only led to one place. Down into the canyon. Down the mountain. To my death.

I think my heart must have stopped beating for a second as I scrambled to get the car back on the road without hitting either the horse trailer or the guy who was still doggedly checking out my tailpipe behind me. But once I was firmly back on the road, I felt strangely calm. I had done it. I was able to keep my wits about me and methodically do what needed to be done. I didn’t dissolve into hysterics. I didn’t let the tail-gater or the darkness or the fact that we were very high up on a mountain with no barriers to save me if I fell completely overwhelm me. I hadn’t given in to the fear.

It was a good feeling to have faced that once it was over. Even though it took me quite a while to get back to camp and my husband was actually preparing to come and look for me, I still felt like I had faced a fear and come out a little stronger for it.

Have you ever faced a fear? What was the outcome? Is it important to overcome fears? I would be interested to hear your thoughts and experiences.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Whitney Fever

by Stephanie Black

Yep, I’m going to blog about the Whitney Awards. It’s Whitney Week! It’s also Jeff Savage Keeps a Secret Week, but I can’t blog about that because I don’t know the secret . . . though I have my suspicions.

I’m excited about the Whitneys, and not because I’m paid to be excited. Yeah, I’m on the Awards Committee, but sadly, President Robison E. Wells (despite massive personal wealth, including a valuable collection of Choose Your Own Adventure novels and a George Clooney bobble-head doll he inherited from Miss Snark when she dropped out of sight) does not deign to give us salaries for our labors.

I’m excited about the Whitneys because this awards program is a super-cool thing for authors, readers and the LDS market as a whole, and as we blend our enthusiasm and hard work in a unified--oh, never mind all that blather; I'm excited because I'm indulging in dreams of maybe, someday taking home a Whitney trophy. Can't happen anytime soon, though--first of all, I don't have a new release this year, and even if I did, Awards Committee members aren't eligible for awards. And even when I do have an eligible release, it will probably come out the same year as Jeff Savage's newest mystery, in which case I won't have a prayer of winning. But I can dream, can't I?

Anyway, trophy or no trophy, here are a few reasons why I'm still excited for the Whitneys:

*The Whitneys can generate excitement and publicity for LDS fiction. We want the whole LDS market to snap, crackle and pop with interest over these awards. Word of mouth is vital to the success of books, and if the Whitneys get more people talking about and reading works by LDS authors, we all benefit. Wouldn’t it be great to have bookstore employees buzzing about potential Whitney nominees and encouraging customers to nominate books? Wouldn’t it be awesome to have people blogging about their favorite picks, or reviewers saying, “Julie Bellon’s latest release will definitely be a front-runner for this year’s Whitneys”? The more people talk about new releases, the more people will read them. The more people who read them, the more sales that word of mouth will generate. The more sales, the more books publishers can support and the more the market grows.

*The Whitneys honor and encourage excellence in fiction. Sometimes superb books have terrific sales numbers. Sometimes superb books have low sales numbers, for a variety of reasons. Without the sales to support it, an excellent book can fade into obscurity. The Whitneys can help give an undiscovered gem of a novel a boost. It only takes five nominations for a book to become an official nominee, at which point the book will be evaluated by the Awards Committee. We don’t care how many copies a book sold, or who wrote it or how well-known the author is—we only care how good the book is. And if one of those undiscovered gems wins a Whitney, the “Whitney Award winner” sticker on the cover of the book will become a signal to bookstore browsers that this book is awesome. We want that Whitney sticker to be the LDS market equivalent of the Newbery Medal—a sign to readers that this book was deemed excellent, above the crowd, worth your while.

We also have an award category specifically for new authors. It’s not easy to start out as an unknown and get readers to drop twelve or fifteen dollars in a bookstore on the chance that they’ll like a book written by an author whose name they’ve never heard. But what if that book has a sticker on the cover declaring it a Whitney Award Winner—Best Novel by a New Author? We want that sticker to catch a potential reader’s eye and give the career of a new author a boost.

*The Whitneys aim to honor a wide variety of LDS fiction. We have five genre categories, as follows:

Romance/Women’s Fiction
Mystery/Suspense
Historical
Speculative Fiction
YA/ Children’s Literature

We also have two overall winner categories:

Novel of the Year
Best Novel by a New Author

So, if you think these awards are a good thing for the market, help us get the buzz buzzing. Announce the Whitneys on your website or blog and provide a link so readers can go nominate books. Tell your friends! Tell your family! Tell your book club or critique group! If you’re an author with a new release, encourage your readers to nominate your book. Don’t be shy!

The Whitney Awards have fantastic potential, but they’ll only be as big as we make them. So head over to the Whitney site now and nominate a book. Then tell a friend!


Whitney Awards to include YA/Children's Lit



After strong public support over the last few days, two rules changes were ratified this morning:

1) The award "Science Fiction/Fantasy" will be changed to "Speculative Fiction".
2) The new genre category "YA/Children's Literature" has been added. (As YA/Children's Lit is a genre category, a novel cannot win for both YA/Children's Lit and Speculative Fiction.)

Again, this isn't a perfect solution--putting Fablehaven and A Teddy Bear, a Blankie, and a Prayer into the same category is obviously awkward--but at least it allows those books a place.

And after I wrote yesterday I fixed the nomination form, so hurry over and submit!


Announcement coming

I have a pretty exciting announcement to make too, on more of a personal writing nature. (Okay it's not the Whitney Awards . . . but then again what is?) The problem is I can't make it just yet, as we are getting some details worked out. So hopefully I will be posting later this week.

In the mean time, congratulations again to Rob and company for putting together such a great program. You rock dude!


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Whitney Awards Q&A



by Robison Wells
Jeff is going to be blogging for real today. But this week I'll probably post here several times, answering questions and concerns about the Whitney Awards.

The Whitney Awards were announced to the public yesterday, and there has already been an overwhelming flood of support. Several questions have popped up in several places, so I'm going to try to address some of them today. I'll probably answer more tomorrow.

What are the six categories?

Currently, we plan for the 2007 awards to include the following:
Romance/Women's Fiction
Mystery/Suspense
Science Fiction/Fantasy
Historical
Novel of the Year
Best Novel by a New Author

What about YA?

Very good question. Admittedly, it's still being hotly debated within the Whitney Awards Committee. At this point, it could still go either way.

The reasoning for leaving it out is this: most YA books can fit into another category, be it romance or fantasy or whatever. But more importantly, the number of titles released in the LDS market has taken a significant plunge since two or three years ago. (I don't have the exact figure in front of me, but I seem to recall it was about 76 titles last year, compared to 110 or so three years ago.) We in the Whitney Committee have to walk a fine line between giving too many awards (making the awards less-meaningful) and omitting important awards (making the awards less-effective).

This is the same reason that seemingly disparate genres--such as Romance and Women's Fiction--have been combined into a single category. It's definitely not a perfect system. The whole purpose of the awards are to increase the quality and quantity of LDS authors--I would love nothing more than to give away an award in every single genre, if that meant that there were enough terrific books in every genre to support individual awards.

I can't get the nomination form to work. What's wrong?

Good question. When we tested the forms, they were working fine. Even now, some of the nominations have been coming through. But I know that some aren't. I'm going to spend all evening fixing the dang thing, and making sure that it doesn't happen again. As part of that, I'll include our general nomination email address, so that even if you can't make the form work (at the moment it's seeming to require that you have Outlook set up on your computer) then you can just email your nominations directly.

Sorry. I'll get it fixed today.

If this is an awards program sponsored by the LDStorymakers, and all the members of the committee are LDStorymakers, won't there be favortism shown to other LDStorymakers? Will they show favortism to authors from their same publisher? Same genre?

Nope. Or, at least, we're doing our darnedest to ensure that will not happen. There are two checks in place:

First of all, the committee. As president, I tried to select a committee with varying backgrounds, and a committee that was well-read and respected. Here's the list of committee members, along with their publishers and their genres:

Rob Wells: Covenant; Humor, Suspense
Crystal Liechty: Cedar Fort; Romance
Kerry Blair: Covenant; Humor, Suspense, Mystery, Romance
BJ Rowley: Golden Wings Enterprises, LDStorymakers Publishing, Covenant; YA, Fantasy, Non-Fiction, General Fiction
James Dashner: Cedar Fort, Shadow Mountain; YA Fantasy
Stephanie Black: Covenant; Science Fiction, Suspense/Thriller
Julie Wright: Deseret Book, Bonneville; YA, Women's Fiction, Romance

(Authors are notoriously sensitive about their genres, so if I've miscategorized you, please forgive me.)

Anyway, the point is that we write different kinds of books, and we're from different publishers. We've already discussed the bias issue at length, and we've all committed to vote as objectively as possible.

As for LDStorymakers, two of the committee members weren't Storymakers when they were invited to join the committee--that's not a requirement. They have both since joined, however.

But second, and more important: we on the committee only whittle down the vast number of nominees to a group of five finalists. The voters who make the real decision will be authors, bookstore owners, publishers, critics, distributors, and other industry professionals. The LDStorymakers will be in the minority there.

(Besides, I've been a Storymaker for over a year now, and can honestly say that we never agree on anything! It's not we'd vote as a block anyway.) :)

Of course, our hope is that ALL LDS writers will join Storymakers, so I'd love to have a day when all the award winners were Storymakers. But membership certainly WILL NOT affect results.

Authors can't nominate their own books, but can they encourage others to do so?

Absolutely. Campaign all you'd like.


Monday, June 18, 2007

The Whitney Awards


PROVO, UT—JUNE 18, 2007

WRITING GROUP ANNOUNCES PRESTIGIOUS NEW LDS FICTION AWARD

“We shall yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own. . . . In God’s name and by His help we will build up a literature whose tops will touch the heaven, though its foundation may now be low on the earth.”

When Latter-day Saint Apostle Orson F. Whitney first spoke these words, the literary canon of his people didn’t contain many works. Fast forward over a hundred years, and literally thousands of novels are published, enjoyed by readers each year.

The quality of fiction has significantly increased in recent times. New writers are finding it harder to break into the industry each year. This is hard for upstart writers, but great for readers.

While LDStorymakers began several years ago to serve only as a support group and opportunity for networking for LDS writers, it has morphed into a powerful force into LDS market.

Today they unveil their newest project, the brainchild of LDStorymaker and novelist Robison Wells: an annual fiction award named after Orson F. Whitney, honoring his vision of having LDS “Miltons and Shakespeares.”

“The Whitney Award will be given annually in conjunction with the LDStorymaker writing conference each March,” Wells, the author of three novels published through Covenant, explains. “This is an exciting time to be part of the LDS fiction industry, and we hope the Whitney will become a prestigious and sought-after award.”

Anyone can nominate a novel published during the previous calendar year in any of six categories, and a final academy of industry professionals will vote on the final ballot. Nominations are being taken for books published in 2007 by LDS authors at the Whitney Awards website: www.whitneyawards.com


(I'll blog more about this tomorrow, but for now, go check the site out!)


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day Bonus Feature -- Guest Blog: Marlene Austin

In honor of Father's Day, I thought we'd treat you to an extra blog this week. (You know, read six, get one free. What other blog offers that deal, hmmm?) Besides, soon-to-be-published author Marlene Austin sent me this post last week and it was just too good not to share. Marlene's first book, Grave Secrets, will be released July 1, but she's promised to blog about that later. In the meantime, Happy Father's Day, all!

MY ORDINARY FATHER


By Marlene Austin

I thoroughly enjoyed Jennie Hanson’s memoirs of her father, and like everyone else, I’m sure, it brought back memories of my own. Thank you Jennie, for reminding me and thank you, Kerry, for letting me share them.

My father was a man of silent (and not so silent, at times) courage. He was the common man, the ordinary, typical father in an uncommon, anything but typical way. He worked for his living. He was a physical laborer, but he worked with vitality and a heartfelt intensity that is seldom seen now days. He was a dairy farmer most of his life with cows to feed and milk every morning and night. Vacations were short and far between, and even at that, he worked full time at a nearby lumber yard to support his family and send five children on missions and all seven of us to college. Farming was his joy and I will always remember walking through the barn on cold nights to see the cows tethered in their places, contentedly chewing their hay as the wind whipped snow outside. He could never stand to see an animal or a human being suffer.

He was not a large man never weighing more than 140 pounds, but he was never afraid to try tasks that many heftier men might avoid. Still, he jokingly said, “I’m not afraid of work. I can lay down beside it and sleep anytime!” He had a great sense of humor.

As well he should have. He was the oldest son in a household of ten sisters and four brothers, three of whom died as children. He often sung “Love at Home” when there were disagreements in the household. (See, I said he had courage!) He was born in an isolated town in northeastern Utah and loved to tell of his first experience on a train and of asking his mother to put more “beans” on his first cob of corn. He helped his father dig on the Burley, Idaho canal. As a young man he wanted to go on a mission, but his father objected. He waited patiently until the time was right then spent six months on a mission in New England.

He was old fashioned, respected his own father nearly to the point of worship, and took over much of the responsibility of the family farm and finances when his father died of cancer. He never finished high school but he was as knowledgeable as anyone I know and had a lot more wisdom than several of the Harvard professors I did secretarial work for. He kept meticulous records of his finances and proudly showed them to me the summer before he died.

He married when he was thirty. I was the next to youngest child, born when he was forty-eight. But of course I don’t remember that. He left us over ten years ago at the age of ninety-five, but he left with the garden dug and ready to be planted in the spring.

Family reunions have been all about memories for our family and it has been very interesting for me to listen to the evolution of our relationships. It became evident early on that my father was a different father to me than to my oldest brother…and my oldest sister…and the rest. We each have different memories and different takes on those memories. Where one sibling might see him as a constant, comforting father, another might see him as a stern, preaching figure. Where one might remember working hand in hand with him in the fields, another might grimace at the thoughts of his teasing reprimands as he tried to hurry us through our tasks. Some are totally confident in his love while others still shy away from his guilt-producing poetry.

I have often wonder who he really was, my sensitive father who pained at his children’s sorrows and fretted at their weaknesses. What would he have been like if he’d been born twenty years later as the last, rather than nearly the first child in his family? How would he have reacted to the modern lifestyles of today if he had been born at another time and a different place? How would I react to him if I’d been there with him to see and understand his world.

The last time I talked to my father was just before he was moved to a nursing home. His mind, increasingly frail over the past months, had produced an unreal world for him as he explained to me that he was being taken to fight in Kuwait for reasons that he didn’t understand. Knowing that I could not clarify his thoughts, I told him a truth that he could understand: that I knew whatever battle he was sent to fight he would stand for right and good. He had done that all of his life. That was his way.

He gave me a lot of memories, a lot of teachings, and a remarkable example of strength, wisdom and loyalty.

Looking back now, I’m grateful for one of the lessons he didn’t know he was teaching me: there are no “common” people and there are no ordinary fathers. We, like him, are all uniquely wonderful.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

That’s What They Call Closure

By Sariah S. Wilson

I’ve never seen an episode of “The Sopranos.” But as I am a pop culture junkie, I do know what the show’s about – that it centers around the head of a Mafia crime family, and that he’s in therapy and that it’s a fairly violent show.

What I also know is that the show recently came to an end, and that it ended by cutting to black mid-scene. Many viewers thought their Tivos had gone out or that the power had been cut. The show’s writer/creator has publicly stated that he refuses to do any interviews about what the scene cutout means, thus leaving viewers to draw their own conclusions.

So while theories abound on what it means (with the most popular being that the main character was whacked and that’s why everything suddenly went to black), the sense I get is that many viewers feel dissatisfied and upset about that sort of ending.

Dramatic structure dictates that a story has a beginning, a middle, and an ending. While there are those writers who experiment with shaking the form up, the reality is that a typical reader expects at least that very basic formula. If you read a murder mystery, you expect the protagonist to have solved the crime by the end of the book. And if you read a romance, you expect a happily ever after (which I have decided is probably my primary reason for writing in this genre—the knowledge that no matter what, everything will work out in the end).

Authors can take whatever paths they want to, but in the end they have to reach a conclusion or risk alienating an audience.

Has a movie or book’s ending every left you feeling dissatisfied?


Friday, June 15, 2007

The Day I Didn't Learn to Tat -- Guest Blog: Cheri Crane

By Cheri Crane


As numerous friends and family members will attest, I’ve inherited the family klutz gene. I will spare you graphic details; suffice it to say that I’ve spent more than my fair share of time in ER throughout my life.


I come by this gift naturally. All I have to do is peruse the Family Tree for verification. One of my 3rd great-grandfathers, William Alpheus Simmons, happened to be the only member of the Mormon Battalion to expire. Long story short, he got into an argument with a friend over how far a gun would shoot. He climbed up to a canyon ledge to prove his point and caught the bullet upside his head. (See pgs. 99-102 of "In Search of Steenie Bergman" by Blaine & Brenton Yorgason for further details. Incidentally, my mother was mortified that our family shame was on display in this public format.)


Grandpa Simmons’ great grandfather back there a ways, is a man named John Howland. John is my 10th great-grandfather. Among his claims to fame would be the fact that he fell off the Mayflower. Governor William Bradford recorded this sad state of affairs, also much to my mother’s dismay: "...in a mighty storme, a lustie yonge man called John Howland, coming upon some occasion above ye grattings, was, with a seele of ye shipe throwne into ye sea; but it pleased God he caught hould of ye tope-saile halliards, which hunge over board...he held his hould though he was sundrie fathomes under water till he was hald up by ye same rope to ye brime of ye water...his life saved..."


Thankfully, Grandpa John lived to tell about that adventure. We refer to him as the first water skier of the family. He later married my 10th great-grandmother and the rest, as they say, is history.


Light-speeding to 1970: I was 9 years old, and my grandmother Jackson decided to spend one day teaching me how to tat. To her credit, she never once lost her temper as she patiently untangled me from the thread, over and over again. When she finally realized I did not possess the required coordination for this project, she smiled and said, "Let’s try poetry." We spent a fascinating afternoon together as my grandmother taught me the basics of writing poetry. Gifted in this department herself, she quickly inspired enthusiasm as I learned how to rhyme words together. She also taught me about rhythm and counting syllables. This was no small feat, considering I couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time.


However, the klutz gene wasn’t the only thing I inherited. I’ve always possessed a love of words, and an ability to play musical instruments by ear. This helped immensely as I learned the rhythm of poetry. (Too bad it didn’t translate over into items like drill team try-outs, but I digress).


By the time I was twelve, I had written several poems. Nothing too spectacular, but it gave my grandmother hope. She had a granddaughter who tended to face plant it on a frequent basis, but that granddaughter could write poetry! The woman practically beamed over those first meager attempts. Another exciting moment took place that same year; I taught myself to play the guitar. In time I united these new skills and began writing songs. My first song was about a caterpillar, and no, I won’t share. Bear in mind I was only twelve.


So, while I was a complete and total failure at items like P.E. (Yes, I was the type of kid who managed to come down head first into the springs while jumping on the trampoline, and we won’t discuss the time I bowled myself down the alley one humiliating afternoon) I became known as someone who possessed a smidgeon of talent. This boosted my morale on days when I walked into doors, tripped over my own feet, etc.


In high school, friends would beg me to write songs about their current romances and heartaches. I wrote theme songs for school dances and was asked to write a song for my high school graduation. I also wrote several humorous poems for the high school newspaper just for fun. Here’s a sample:


Ode to Meetings (1979)
Here I sit upon my chair
This really isn’t very fair
I could be home, having fun,
But here I sit until they’re done.
My legs are tired, I have T.B.
When will they finish boring me?
What’s this? They’ve finished? Happy Day!
I’m finally free to go my way.


For some strange reason, my grandmother asked me to send her copies of my poetry and songs. No matter how sappy some of those items were, she always told me they were wonderful. (Grandmothers are thoughtful like that.) I credit this grandmother a great deal for opening a world of possibilities for me. I grieved when she passed from this mortal sphere, but I was deeply touched by a discovery we made after her death. She had saved all of my pathetic attempts at being creative in a special binder. This binder also contains her own poetry. I inherited it and as you can imagine, it’s one of my treasures.


I still dabble from time to time with writing poetry. My poems range from silly to silly, with an occasional serious thought thrown in. Here’s one I wrote last week after surviving a couple of camping adventures:


The Joy of Camping (June 2007)
How can one explain
Camping in the rain
Camping when the weather takes a dive
Trapped inside a trailer
Warm weather was a failure
One must use creativity to survive.
I’d not be complaining
If it would just stop raining
I would frolic in the sun, and yes, cavort
But it continues to pour down
Mud puddles do abound
In this kind of storm I’m not a sport.
Running out of propane
Causes one to profane
As temperatures plummet to record lows
Still the rain keeps falling
As my husband continues stalling
Certain the fish will bite, and so it goes.
Huddled in a blankie
About to need a hanky
As a major cold settles in my nose
It drips much like the weather
Which isn’t getting better
I think I’ve lost the feeling in my toes.
At last the trial is over
As snow falls upon the clover
My husband’s had enough, it’s time to go
The truck hooks to the trailer
And I feel just like a sailor
As we make our way cross river overflow.
When asked about that vacation
In the trailer torture station
I decline to comment about the snow or rain
My husband makes it sound grand
He dwells inside a special land
Where reason can’t be touched by those insane.
The moral of the story
Touches not on glory
But highlights the true difference of the species
To men camping is quite thrilling
Though the weather may be chilling
As long as they come home with bounteous fishies.


We’ve all been influenced by wonderful family members, friends, and teachers, people who believe in us when we don’t believe in ourselves. Thank heavens for their input, kindness and their ability to recognize potential when it’s buried. Where would we be without them?



I don't know where I'd be without dear friends like Cheri . . . and I hope to never find out! Poet, philosopher, comedienne, photographer, and best-selling author of young adult fiction for the last decade, Cheri Crane is the most amazing person I know! When she heard how difficult this week would be for me she had two blogs in my inbox by the end of the afternoon. If you're all really nice, I'll share the second one in weeks to come. Thanks, Cheri! You're my hero!


Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Good Novel vs. the Great Novel: Guest Blog--Meredith L. Dias

I am very excited to introduce our guest blogger today. Meredith Dias is a close friend of mine, and I am grateful for the privilege of knowing her. She is an editor for Sourcebooks, Inc., a major independent publisher based in Naperville, Illinois, but, in addition to being an exceptional editor, Meredith is also a fabulous writer. She has had three of her articles published in Random Acts of Malice: The Best of Happy Woman Magazine, a trade paperback anthology of articles satirizing women's magazines and she also wrote the 2007 and 2008 "On This Day" desk calendar for the History Channel and A&E, respectively. However, with her talent and insight I expect to see much more from her in the future. Meredith graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English from Quinnipiac University in 2003, she is married and has two adorable cats. In her free time she loves reading, promoting cult awareness, hiking, Asian cinema and the Boston Red Sox.

Her first e-book, Periphery, is set to be launched next month and after reading a sneak peek of it, I know that all of you are going to want to read it as well. Her story will emotionally draw you in right from the start, with characters that you won’t soon forget, and I’ll be sure to announce it when the book is available. You won't want to miss it!

The Good Novel vs. the Great Novel
by Meredith L. Dias

When Julie asked me to make a cameo on the Six LDS Writers blog, I was both honored and intimidated. After all, I am neither Mormon nor much of a professional writer yet. However, when my mentor asked me to flash my literary wares on this blog, I decided to go out on a limb and hope for the best!

While discussing the craft of writing with other writers, the question as to what separates a good manuscript from a great one often arises. Millions of us aspire to be America’s next literary legend—the pipe dream is such a common one that I sometimes wonder if The Great American Novel will be the next hot talent show craze on Fox. I try to examine the question from the standpoint of a reader, not a writer: what is it that distinguishes my favorite novels from the ones that bounce painlessly off my grey matter, leaving nothing but a bad taste in my mouth?

For me, the answer lies in how deeply a writer is willing to probe into his characters’ respective psyches. Is the writer presenting a lazy, half-hearted cardboard cutout of a human being, or is he introducing us to someone within whom we see flashes of ourselves? As a reader, I want to feel a character’s ache in her chest as if it were my own, to fall in love with her love interest as deeply as she does. A good writer is able to tell a story about a given dramatis personae, but a great writer weaves an intricate psychological and emotional tapestry that makes us not only empathize with the character, but also care what happens to her.

A good novel adheres to the classical guidelines: continuity, pacing, character development, and smooth transitions. The story is compelling enough to keep the pages turning, and the story is punctuated with enough climactic events to make the ride exciting. However, the great novel appeals to us on a visceral level, calling upon the rawest of emotions and alternately dredging up pain and joy from the deepest hollows of a character’s soul. We feel the pivotal scenes of the story as knots in our stomachs or quickening heartbeats, rather than on a strictly cerebral level. Beyond that, we look up from the page and half expect the character to be sitting there in the room with us, watching with something resembling bemusement as we dive into their most private depths.

I suppose that, at the end of the day, a great novelist is willing to become more emotionally involved with the characters and story. Plot-driven novels will sell copies, and most of us revel in reading them—sometimes in one or two sittings. However, it is the character-driven story that remains with us long after we close the book for the last time. We remember Anna Karenina for her brazen, entitled persona and Eugene Onegin for being the quintessential “superfluous man” in Russian literature. Long after we forget the details of the storyline, we can still feel these characters within us. In some respects, they become part of our own identities, and we find ourselves reciting their noteworthy lines in everyday conversation.

What distinguishes between a good novel and great novel for you? I would love to hear everyone’s input on this.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Got Words?

by Stephanie Black

I am happy to announce that I have written some honest-to-goodness words on my new novel. Yep, I am now the proud owner of approximately 2200 words of story. Granted, those words aren’t all actual story, because in my first draft I like to write a mini-scene-structure outline at the top of a scene: scene goal, conflict, hook. I’ll delete those notes in the second draft. But for now, I can include them in my word count, can’t I?

Starting this novel was a bit daunting for me because when I finished my last project I had absolutely no idea what my next novel would be about. No idea. Zip. I knew I wanted to do another contemporary suspense novel like Fool Me Twice, my novel scheduled for release next spring. But as far as a story? Umm . . .

This was a new experience. Previously, when I’d set out to write a novel, I'd I worked off ideas that had been percolating for a long time. This time . . . nothing was percolating. I did have some scenes in mind and enjoyed playing with them mentally, but unfortunately these scenes belonged to a sci fi story that I knew I didn’t want to write as my next book.

I am awed and amazed by writers—and this is probably every writer in the world except me—who have so many plot ideas that their motto is “I’ll never have time to write all of them!” Some people have dozens of projects in the works. Not me. I tend to immerse myself in one story. The ideas for my first novel percolated for years. An offshoot idea from that first book led eventually to my recently completed novel, though the books are completely unrelated.

For this newest project, I was starting from scratch. So I brainstormed. I filled page after page with random thoughts. Finally, ideas started to stick and form and take shape and now—hooray! A story! After creating a VERY rough outline, I’m through the starting gate and on the track. The plot is still riddled with more holes than Jeff Savage’s socks, the characters are stick figures, and for Pete’s sake, who did commit those murders that took place five years before the book opens? I'll figure it all out eventually. I like Anne Lamott’s advice—I’ll have to paraphrase it here—that authors should give themselves permission to write lousy first drafts. I know my first draft is going to be an utter mess, and that’s fine. Giving myself permission to write a lousy draft means I can get those words down and find the story. I then rewrite like crazy as I clean up the story, expand it, deepen it, and layer it. It will take me longer to rewrite the book than it will to draft it in the first place, and that’s the way I like to work.

So my goal this afternoon is to add a few hundred more words to the story. Forward march!


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

'Cause I hate you, and I berate you

by Robison Wells

So far in my career as an author, I haven't received a lot of angry letters. Of course, I don't get an overwhelming amount of fan mail either. I think that's because my books are bland and innocuous--literary mashed potatoes--and don't inspire the kind of passionate feelings associated with letter writing. Or maybe just no one has my email address.

One memorable angry email was titled "Enjoyed Your Book". You can imagine how pleased I was to see that appear in my in-box, taunting me with its promises of compliments and praise. But when I opened it up, it was not nearly as pleasant as advertised.

The main complaint was that the main character in On Second Thought, my first book, was too indecisive and non-committal. In the book--as you no doubt recall because you've read it thirteen times--the protagonist, Walt, is a guy in his late twenties who is unmarried and doesn't like his job. By the end of the book, however, he's married and happy. (I suppose that I should have put some kind of Spoiler Alert right there, if you're the type of person who finds the endings of romantic comedies surprising.) The letter writer's complaint was with Walt's initial flaws, and seemed to ignore the fact that he eventually changes. That, I think, is akin to not liking Luke Skywalker because he's forever trapped on that distant planet, farming for his uncle.

Anyway, the letter writer continued and got even angrier. Taking the stance that Walt was a symbol for all American men, she (the writer was a she) complained that he's illustrative of all that's wrong with society. Men aren't committal, and they're more than willing to let women make all the first moves, and blah blah blah. Were I the type of person to speculate about the lives of letter writers, I'd assume her boyfriend simply wouldn't ever pop the question. Or, possibly, she didn't have a boyfriend at all--probably because she's a whiny grouch--and was annoyed that no one was asking her out. But of course, I'm not like that, so I'm not even going to mention it.

Last week I got another angry letter--a much longer one about The Counterfeit, my third book, and one that was more insightful. Many of the comments were indeed valid and thought-provoking. (So valid and thought-provoking that they finally made me realize what a crappy writer I am, and that I ought to give it all up.)

But the letter also included this line: "Oh, and your anti-gun diatribes were a little over the top." In other words, after reading my book, the letter-writer believed that I had an anti-gun political agenda.

While I've tried to make it a rule that readers are always right--that if they didn't "get it", it was probably because of weakness in the writing, not the reading--I have to simply say this:

First, just because a certain character says something, that doesn't mean they're correct--or even that they mean what they say. In this book, I never intended at all for that character to be making a political statement. Her reaction to the gun was based on something else entirely.

But second, and more importantly: it's freaking fiction, people! Even if I wrote a scene where my character stood up on a soapbox and quoted Karl Marx, that wouldn't ever imply that I personally believe that stuff. It's a character in a book, nothing more.

I remember when On Second Thought came out, and readers began to ask me questions about it. An aquantaince approached, complimented me on the book, and then said: "I didn't know your wife was from California."

"California?" I said. "She's not. Why do you say that?"

He looked confused, and thought for a moment. "Well the girl in the book--she was from California! Is that not your wife?"

No, moron. It's fiction. Notice how my name is "Rob", not "Walt".

Anyway, pardon my ranting. Even in spite of the occassional weird comment, I like getting angry letters--I almost always come away from them with an idea of how to become a better writer.

Then again, it's weird to realize that complete strangers are thinking about me, and upset enough to let me know. Man, I wish it was illegal for these wackos to own guns.


Monday, June 11, 2007

All Things Considered: Guest Blog--Michele Holmes

Nearly six years ago, I moved from San Jose, CA to Spanish Fork, UT. As we were moving in, a wonderful lady across the street invited me to her weekly critique group. Not having attended a critique group before, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Turns out I had stumbled onto a brilliant group of women that have helped me immensely over the years with my writing as well as becoming good friends. (In my acknowledgments over the years, I have affectionately referred to them as The Women of Wednesday Night.) Since that time, two members of the group have been published by Covenant, and everyone has published either books or articles or both.

One of the women in the group was a fantastic writer by the name of Michele Holmes. Michele writes romances. She sees if she can make me blush and I see if I can gross her out with the strange things I write. (We both succeed on occasion.) Michele's focus had always been on the national market, but we finally convinced her to give the LDS market a shot with a novel she had written titled, "Counting Stars."

Several months went by after she submitted it, and I happened to find out it was about to be accepted. I thought it would be way cool to have the whole group on the phone when she got the call. So we arranged a little get together at a LUW event, where Covenant's managing editor would call Michelle and give her the news. It all worked out just the way I'd planned, except that the editor ended up not being available, Michele couldn't come to the event, and I accidentally included her on an e-mail planning everything.

Well I guess I better stick to writing, and leave the event planning to someone else. But the good news in "Counting Stars" is now on the shelves. I asked Michele to write a little bit about what the last week has been like. As always, Michele sent more than I expected, which (also as always) was perfect. Please help me welcome Michele to the world of published authors--again.

Jeffrey S Savage
********************

Michele Holmes

Let me begin by saying how excited I was when Jeff invited me to guest blog with the froggers. I've been a fan of the frog blog for some time now, and it has gotten to the point of addiction so that when someone misses his/her turn, it completely throws off my day.

Because of its vast popularity, myself and a few other LDS writers decided to get our own planet going. Since the cute frog was already taken and we couldn't think of any animal we particularly wanted to represent us, we decided to go with shoes. With Annette Lyon and her brilliant husband leading the way, Writers in Heels was formed.

So far it has been a lot of fun. Annette Lyon, Heather B. Moore, Janette Rallison, Josi Kilpack, Julie Wright, LuAnn Brobst Staheli, Tristi Pinkston, and Precision Editing Group are contributors. We're not as organized as the froggers---no one has an assigned day; we all kind of blog at will---but you'll find great writing advice as well as a lot of humor. For someone visiting the first time, may I suggest reading Janette Rallison's post about headless ducks and kissing scenes, or Josi Kilpack's post titled, "Beer Run." Just make sure you've used the bathroom recently before you start reading.

Today Jeff asked if I would write a bit about my experience with my first-ever booksigning this past Saturday. My novel, Counting Stars, hit bookstores last Monday, and last week should have been a crazy frenzy of marketing. It wasn't. As huge a deal as getting my first book published was and is, a few other things happened that put everything completely into perspective.


Last week, somewhere between taking my two oldest children to have oral surgery and caring for them afterward, and getting in a car accident that totaled our Honda, I had a chance to finally open a couple of days worth of mail. Nestled among the usual bills was a report from radiology at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. It seemed the mammogram I'd had a week earlier didn't look so good, and I needed to come back for additional testing.

Upon reading this, I did not immediately panic. After all, I'd been down this road before. I've been having mammograms since I was in my early twenties, and I've been referred for ultrasounds before and even had a lump removed. Each time all was well. As it would be this time, I reassured myself. But silently, I was worried. I'm not in my twenties anymore but am very close to the age my maternal grandmother was when she discovered she had breast cancer.

I tried to put that thought out of my mind as I visited bookstores, signed books and met with store managers last week. All of those were things I'd dreamed of doing for a very long time, but instead of completely enjoying the experience, I kept wondering if I'd be around to do it again in a year or so.

Friday came, and the butterflies I had about Saturday's book signing were significantly overshadowed by the nervousness I felt as I sat in the waiting room at the Women's Center at UVRMC. When you go in for a routine mammogram, you are in and out rather quickly. The radiology report comes to you in the mail, and other than the discomfort of the actual procedure, it is really no big deal. When you come in for a follow up, it is a bit different.

I was sitting in a tiny waiting room with a few other women, all of us clutching our hospital gowns closed as we awaited our turn and the results that would either send us on for an ultrasound or biopsy or send us home relieved. I am not usually the type to chat with strangers, but something about the vulnerability of our situation made me feel an instant bond with these other women. While waiting I spent several minutes talking with one lady who was there to get an ultrasound---she'd already had a follow up mammogram that didn't look good.

Eventually she was called back to ultrasound, and I went in for my repeat mammogram. When I was back in the waiting room, again waiting, the woman I'd talked with earlier walked quickly by, hurrying to the dressing room area. The stricken look on her face said everything. And though I'd only spoken with her a few minutes, I thought of the children she'd told me about, the grandchildren she had, her husband who was waiting outside. Though I didn't really know her that well, I wanted to jump up and give her a hug and tell her that everything would be okay---even though it might not.

Instead, I sat frozen in my chair wondering what my own fate was going to be. A few minutes later I found out that all was indeed well again---in my world anyway. I was free to go home, free from the threat of breast cancer once more. Relieved as I was, I couldn't help thinking about the other woman I'd met. I saw her husband outside, and I wondered what she was going to say to him. What would I say to my husband if I had terrible news like that to deliver?

A few years ago, a friend of mine passed away from breast cancer, leaving behind a husband and four young children. She was my age. Two of my grandmothers had this terrible disease; one of them died from it. My neighbor---a woman younger than me---has had breast cancer for six years. She gets chemotherapy every Monday and is then very ill until the middle of the week. Just when she feels better, it's time to go in for another treatment. There are no other options if she wants to continue to be around to take care of her two little boys.

Thinking about all of this as I walked to my car, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. The sky was suddenly bluer, the mountains greener, the world an exquisite, wonderful place that I was privileged to remain in. At home the fact that my children's rooms were all disasters didn't really matter. I'd be around---and healthy---to help clean them up next week.

On Saturday, as I signed books and greeted customers, my discomfort in such a situation seemed like no big deal at all. I tried to enjoy the experience as much as possible. I followed Jeff's advice and stayed out of the chair and walked around the store. I sold a couple of other people's books, and I even sold a few of mine. Family, friends and neighbors showed up to support me. I passed out chocolate bars to thank them and struggled to figure out what to write in books that I signed. The store manager made my day when she told me she'd read Counting Stars and loved it. Again, I was flooded with gratitude that my book was published, people seemed to be liking it, and I was going to be around to read the reviews and write the sequel. All things considered---and I'd spent a lot of time considering many things over the past week---it was a great experience.

I don't know why I was the one spared a cancer diagnosis last week; I don't know why I walked away from the car accident with only a kink in my neck. I don't know why exactly I've received a lot of the blessings that I have in my life. But I am grateful for them, and included in that, I am grateful for my ability to write. It has been a long, difficult, and frustrating road, but from here on out, I intend to try and enjoy every minute of it.

Life is too short and too fragile to do otherwise.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Observations on Time -- Special Guest Blog

by Jennie Hansen


Stephanie made some observations about time on Wednesday. I read her blog just after getting a note from my sister telling me how difficult it is for my father to fill his time and how he hates feeling “useless.” Stephanie pointed out that time goes slowly for children who have no concept of time and speeds up for adults with all of their responsibilities. I think it slows down again and is hard to understand when you're old.

During all those adult years when we're healthy and strong, have a career or job with its demands, a family to raise, grandchildren to spoil, Church callings to fill, vacations to plan and experience, and goals to achieve, time zips by. So many plans are made for each future stage of life and we dream of the time when we'll have time to travel, read, or get the garden in shape, but the time really does come when those things are done, bodies lose their ability to move properly, eyes dim, and hearing aids hurt delicate tissue. Then time drags again.

My father will be 100 on his next birthday, his mind is sharp, but his physical abilities are rapidly disappearing. He can no longer drag a hose across the lawn, read for more than five minutes at a time, or stand without assistance. It delivered a major blow to his pride to have to accept a walker, but he absolutely refuses to consider using a wheelchair.

He always used to say there just weren’t enough hours in the day, yet he squeezed more into his days than most. Arising at four in the morning to “turn the water” before milking a dozen cows by hand was the way he started spring, summer, and fall mornings when I was a child, yet in the evening after spending all day plowing, harrowing, planting, mowing, raking, harvesting or whatever the demands of the day were, days that usually included repairing a tractor or other piece of machinery, he milked cows again and still found time to take me fishing until dark and listen to me read a story before sending me to bed. During the winter he drove the school bus and sorted potatoes in addition to milking and caring for stock.

Daddy was the kind of man who allowed a little girl to put doll curlers in his hair, sang to the cows, and always had a story to tell of the days when he was a “Mounty”, drove a dog team along the Lesser Slave Lake for the Hudson Bay Company, rode broncs on the rodeo circuit, and trailed herds of cattle or horses across the Canadian prairie. He loved horses and dogs, straight furrows, and starry nights. He and my mother raised eight kids and we each thought we were his favorite.

Service has always been an integral part of his life. As a boy of just seven, his father worked away from the homestead, leaving him to do chores and help his mother and two younger siblings. At ten he and his mother were the only two people in the small town where they lived who didn’t have the flu. He chopped wood, carried broth, washed sheets, cared for stock, and helped his mother nurse all those who were too sick to help themselves. In Canada his mother was the only midwife for miles around and he drove her buggy and slept in strange barns while she delivered babies. As a Mounty he delivered small pox serum to the northern Indian tribes via dog sled. He was the first to volunteer when sand bags were needed, an injured neighbor needed his hay put up, and on those occasions when my mother was ill he made pancakes shaped like wild horses, bears, or trout.

Here's a man who always wanted more time to read, took pride in beautiful crops, was still participating in roundups on horseback until he was eighty, never had any use for television, and who must spend his days now primarily in the company of people who are senile and twenty years younger than he is. He spent nearly a century taking care of others, of the land, and of animals. For him, time passes slowly and he wonders why he must wait so long to rejoin my mother and other friends and loved ones. He wants to be busy doing things, meeting people, and showing some kid just the right way to do something. Unlike the children who don’t have an understanding of time, he knows all about it, and finds resting isn’t as pleasant as he once thought it would be. He’d rather have more to do than time to do it in.



Although she needs no introduction, Jennie Hansen is the best-selling author of more books than I can count on my fingers and toes, the most recent of which is Emerald. (Watch for the next book in the series coming soon!) She is also a book reviewer for Meridian Magazine . . . and pretty much the dearest friend I have in the world. (Thanks so much for bailing me out, Jennie!) Check out her website at www.jennielhansen.com


Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Day I Almost Killed My Mother-in-law

by Julie Coulter Bellon

It started out innocently enough. It really did. We invited my in-laws over to have a birthday dinner for my oldest son. Harmless, right? I was busy making a nice homemade lasagna and decorating the cake that I’d baked. Everything was almost done when they arrived and I was relieved. You see, my mother in law is the epitome of homemaking and somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m always trying to impress her a little bit. I know, it doesn’t make sense, but that’s me. My mother-in-law had seven children and ran a daycare and her house was impeccably clean. Always. She is a gifted quilter and seamstress, she cans food just beautifully, and always seems organized and put together. I know, I know, I have my own talents, (though I admit that I can’t lay claim to any of hers that I listed above) and I definitely do value my own talents, but this particular day I was feeling a little smug because I had done it. Everything was perfect. The house was sparkling clean, the dinner was on time and smelling good, and the children seemed to be on their best behavior. I just knew it was going to be a great evening. Memorable, even, because it was just so perfect.

I put out the best china and crystal on the table, the French bread, the vegetables, the salad and the piece de resistance, the lasagna. We sat down, blessed the food, and started the meal. Conversation was flowing and everyone was having a great time. Then, my mother in law excused herself and went to the bathroom. We didn’t think anything of it at first, but when she was in there for fifteen minutes, we began to worry. We knocked on the door and heard a weak voice declare, "I don’t feel very good."

We opened the door and she was standing in front of the sink looking as white as a ghost. Her breath was coming fast, like she was having trouble breathing, so we sat her down as quickly as possible. Her eyes were glassy and she seemed to be having a hard time focusing. Then she lost consciousness.

We rushed her to the hospital which, thankfully, is only a few blocks away. My husband and father-in-law ran inside with her, and I parked the car. When I got inside, the doors were locked to the treatment rooms, so I had to wait. By the time I was finally allowed back, it didn’t look good. My mother in law’s blood pressure was dangerously low, like 60 over 40 type low and her airway was closing off. She was allergic to something she’d eaten. That I’d made in my perfect dinner.

Well, I had been right about one thing. It was a memorable evening.

The doctors were able to successfully treat my mother in law and kept her overnight to make sure she didn’t relapse or anything. They were able to figure out eventually that she is allergic to lima beans. Which had been in the mixed vegetables I’d served that evening.

I hadn’t tried to kill her. But I almost had.

Interestingly enough, at a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner I’d served her the year before she had sort of a similar reaction, but not as severe. They went home early that evening since she wasn’t feeling well and the kids stood in the driveway waving to them and singing the Canadian National Anthem as they drove away. (Which was very cute by the way.) But we didn’t know then that it was the lima beans that had caused it. We know it now, though. Mixed vegetables can be dangerous! Well, for my mother in law anyway.

Since then, we mostly eat out for birthday dinners. And I never serve her lima beans if she does come to the house. I don’t want anyone to accuse me.

It was an accident. I swear.

(Love you, Mom!)


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Fast Forward

by Stephanie Black

I can’t believe it’s June. My kids still have another week and a half of school, so the party hasn’t started yet, but holy cow, it’s June. Where did the time go? Didn’t we just start a new school year?

Of course, if I were to suggest to my children that wow, the school year just whooshed right by, they’d probably look at me like I’m a lunatic. Somehow I think the year went faster for me than for them. I think time goes faster the older you get. Someone explained this to me by pointing out that the older you are, the less a percentage of your life a block of time represents. For instance, if you are three years old, one year represents one-third of your life. If you’re sixty, one year is only one-sixtieth of your life, so of course it seems to go by faster. Okay, I’m not sure this actually makes any sense, but I do know that when you’re a kid, December lasts about eighty-five weeks. When you are an adult, the distance between Thanksgiving and Christmas passes in about the time it takes to sneeze. Hmm, maybe this time warp phenomenon has something to do with responsibility and how busy you are.

Time is a squirrelly concept for a youngster. My two-year-old is talking about Halloween, but she doesn’t have a clue when October is or even what it is. For all she knows, trick or treating is coming up next week (it will probably feel like net week to me, anyway). She wants to be a witch again (a nice witch, she specified). She didn’t actually want to go trick or treating last year, but she’s already gearing up for it this year. It’s hard to explain time to little kids, let alone a calendar.

It’s weird when you get old enough that you are the age you remember your parents being when you were a kid. But I like the stage we’re at in life. I have no desire to go back to being a teenager, fun as it was, or even to go back to being a twenty-something punk like some blogger I could mention. I wouldn’t mind having my youthful metabolism back, but other than that, I’d rather stay as old as I am. I have built-in babysitters in my house now! It doesn’t get any better than that.

I do think it would be fun to be able to take day trips back in time—to pick particularly fun or significant days in your life and go back and re-live them. In my time machine, you’d have kind of a dual brain for the event—you’d remember and know all the things you knew at the time of the event, but you’d also have your future brain and knowledge to give you perspective. That would be groovy. Then again, people would probably get addicted to playing in the past and their present would get all messed up and in the end, we’d have to destroy the time machine to save mankind. Someone should write a story about that.