Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year's Eve!

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Wow. It’s the last day of 2009. Can you believe it?

New Year’s Eve can definitely be a time for reflection on the year that has just past. For example, I was just now reflecting on my six LDS writer friends and remembering how Rob made fun of me on Twitter just before Christmas because I’m not the expert twit that he is. And how Stephanie’s book, Methods of Madness, totally creeped me out. I thought about how excited I was for Jeff in landing the agent that he did and how I can’t wait to read any of his new books that are coming out. (Although I’m still waiting for my Shandra email he promised. Just waiting and waiting and waiting. *sigh*) I also thought about poor Sariah and how I hope 2010 is a much better year for her, and when my thoughts came to sweet Kerry I imagined her with her little zoo at home, lovingly stalking her and keeping her warm. (Because we know how cold it gets where Kerry lives.) I have some amazing colleagues on this blog and (almost all of the time), I’m proud to be part of this group.

New Year’s Eve can also be a time to set new goals for the coming year. I have many goals, and some of them are even different from last year! I’m sure Rob’s goal will be to be nicer to me in 2010, and Stephanie’s will be to stop skulking around and scaring people, Jeff’s will be to get me the promised manuscript, Sariah’s will be to find more time for rest, and Kerry’s will be to come visit me in 2010 (or move to Utah so I can see her more!) because I don’t want to miss our annual fun and laugh-fest that always happens when we’re together.

New Year’s Eve is also a big party time at our house and one of my kids’ favorite thing is the chocolate fountain. We dip everything in there and it’s messy, but very, very fun. We also play games all night and at midnight raise a glass (with sparkling cider) and ring in the new year together. The kids are already choosing what games we’re going to play and I’m off to the store to get a few more dipping items. (I forgot marshmallows and pretzels. I did remember cinnamon bears, bananas, and strawberries, though.)

So, from me to you: HAPPY NEW YEAR’S EVE! I hope you have a great time tonight and that the start of 2010 tomorrow will be the beginning of a year of health and happiness---so you can make a lot of great new memories to think about for next New Year's Eve.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Break

I threw my back out this weekend.

This isn't the first time it's happened (my former chiropractor once told me I had the back of a 60-year-old) and I'm sure it won't be the last. But I have spent the last three days laying flat on said back trying not to move.

I don't know how it happened - but I suspect that carrying around two children that weigh a little over 30 pounds each probably had something to do with it.

And of course, I couldn't have picked a better time to be laid up than just before Christmas when there are 101 things that need doing.

Speaking of which, this is the time of year when we here at the blog take a break - so we'll be going dark until after Christmas.

Please enjoy your holidays and have a very Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blog Tour Winner -- From L.C. Lewis

Lora Dawn, you're a winner on my Blog Tour! Your prize is an autographed copy of "Dawn's Early Light." Please contact me at with shipping info. Thanks, and congratulations!

Note from Kerry: Lucky! I'm very jealous! Merry Christmas to you!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Desperately Seeking Sanity

by Kerry Blair

It’s 6 AM—22 degrees outside—and I’ve already been up for more than an hour. My mother has the flu. My checking account has about $1.28. My dog has “returned” the plate of sugar cookies she snarfed last night. Verily, it must be Christmastide.

Each year I envision my holiday springing forth like a picture-print from Currier & Ives. Every year I invariably find myself in a production that has clearly been written and produced by Tim Burton. My favorite aunt—she of the double doctorate in deviant psychologies—explained this phenomena to me yesterday in great detail. I would enlighten you masses in turn, but after the first thirty seconds or so, she began to sound very much like an adult voice from Charlie Brown’s wonderful life.

I do, however, remember how the lecture ended. She said, “With all you have to do for so many, it is no wonder you dislike Christmas.”

Dislike Christmas? Me? Not a chance! Being a card-carrying whiner by nature, it is my sworn duty to Grinch around a little, but my heart isn’t in it. Sure, I should be dismayed to have more tinsel on the carpet—and the cats!—than on the tree, but I can’t help but find it rather festive. Perhaps I should be embarrassed to have a kitchen countertop stacked mile-high with ingredients, and yet nothing to take the neighbors. But I’m thinking that if I pick up half a dozen wooden spoons, I can take everybody on the block festive little bags with jars of marshmallow cream and bags of chocolate chips—family memories in the making! (Besides, nobody can deny that fudge tastes best warm from the pan, right? Cut out the middle man, I say!)

Also, I am always better educated after Christmas. If not for my little niece, I would never have known that there are more varieties of Baby Alive in the world than there are actual babies. And I’m not the only one who is wiser. My brother learned just last night that it takes two hours (minimum,) a top-of-the-line computer system, and a degree from MIT to download and install the software required to operate the Dora doll his second daughter covets. Talk about a tender mercy! Give me Baby Alive, any day! I’ll even wipe the chemical “whoopsie doo” off her little plastic bottom before I’ll undertake computer programming. (Side note: I know the kind of people who market these things, but who in the heck thinks them up? And why?)

I sincerely wish I had a great segue here into the “true meaning of Christmas.” Something that would warm the cockles of your heart, if not edify your very soul. But I don’t. That’s what Christmas itself is for. Let its spirit sneak up on you on little cat feet . . . okay, you’re thinking I’m hitting the ol’ eggnog, but what I really am is totally distracted. I’m sincerely trying to blog here, but from the corner of my eye I’m watching a cat stalk the little needlepoint baby Jesus for the six hundredth time this season. Jesus never puts up much of a scuffle, but the cat lives for the game that ensues when I attempt to get the doll back. I enjoy the chase, but even more I like to let him get away. Then, a little later in the day, I am sure to be surprised when I come across the Christ Child replica hidden in the wrapping paper bag, deep in the tree, or behind the cat bowl. (If you think our game is sacrilegious, please accept my apology in advance and know I’ll repent just as soon as I believe it’s warranted.)

You know what? Think about it. Isn’t Christmas very much like the game I play with the cat? Don’t we all get buried under cookies-andwrappingpaper-and tinsel-andprograms-andparties-andbills-andservice-andmovies-andtrees-andprojects-andpresents-andlights-andSantas-and all the rest? But then—often when we least expect it—don’t we come upon a little glimmer of meaning in there somewhere? As dedicated as I am to whining about all there is to do in the next week, I am even more dedicated to the belief that we really can find Christ in everything to do with Christmas. Always. We just need to look.

What is your favorite secular part of Christmas? Since pageants aren't secular, mine would have to be Santa Claus. Or maybe all the lights. (Prescott is Arizona's Christmas City, you know. Everybody come visit!) Or maybe it's shopping for toys. I do love to shop for toys. Or maybe it's the carolers. Or all the cheesy Christmas movies. Or. . . never mind. You tell me yours and maybe I'll shut up!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dickens of a Christmas

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I am a Young Women leader for Special Needs Mutual in my region. That means that I have six special needs girls in my class, and all their “buddies” who help them as we go through the Young Women program with activities, lessons, and a lot of fun. I’ve been in Special Needs mutual for almost three years and it has been one of the most rewarding callings I’ve ever had. Two weeks ago, I walked into the church library to drop off my class rolls and nametags before I left. Some of the Young Men presidency were in there discussing the Special Needs Christmas party we were going to be doing. The Young Men president turned as I walked in and said, “Aren’t you a writer?”

I looked at him with a bit of bewilderment, but said yes. And he smiled a really big smile, the kind of smile that makes you nervous because you know that person is going to ask you something. And I was right. He said, “Hey, do you think you could write a Christmas Carol play with all the important stuff, but cut down to ten minutes?”

My mind raced over the Christmas Carol story---Scrooge, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, and thought no way. But I looked at the expression on these men’s faces, obviously thinking that since I was a writer I should be able to do that, and so I nodded yes. They were very excited and asked me for the script the next week so they could start rehearsing after that. Oh, and they added, could you throw in a few jokes to make it funny for the kids?

I know you're thinking what I'm thinking at this point. But they were serious.

So I came home and started looking at The Christmas Carol. I knew Dickens would be turning over in his grave at what I was about to do. A Ten Minute Christmas Carol. With jokes thrown in for the Special Needs kids. I hoped Dickens would understand that it was for a good cause.

I started writing the next day. Scrooge was still, of course, the main character, and he had ghostly visitations in the night. But I decided that the ghosts were also comedians that tried to break the ice a little before they got down to business. I asked my kids for Christmas jokes (what did the cow say on Christmas morning? Mooey Christmas!) and carefully threw in a few here and there. For instance, the first ghost joke goes like this:

Knock, knock
Who’s there?
Boo who?
Don’t cry, it’s just me, the Ghost of Christmas past!

The second ghost joke goes like this:
Knock, knock
Who’s there?
Justin who?
Justin time to meet me, the Ghost of Christmas present!

I’m sure you get the picture. (Hey, I did my best! It's probably funnier in context.) Anyway, I hatcheted the original Christmas Carol down to a ten minute play, and I think I was still able to keep in the message that Dickens intended, albeit with a few added in jokes. (I hope that if I meet Dickens in heaven someday he’ll just pat me on the shoulder, nod, and smile. In a nice way.)

Tonight is opening night and I’m a teeny bit nervous. I hope the kids laugh and have a good time, and maybe, just maybe, it will give them a little taste of remembering what Christmas is truly about. If nothing else, I hope they’ll have fun watching Scrooge’s change of heart, the love inherent in a true Christmas, and the power of a knock, knock joke. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Few Random Thoughts

by Stephanie Black

*Congrats to Rob on his new job! That’s an awesome Christmas present.

*I think someone needs to start a Facebook group entitled “People who are morally opposed to joining any Facebook group that has misspellings, grammatical errors, or punctuation errors in the title of the group.” I vote for Annette Lyon to start this group. This world needs more proofreading.

*Now I’m paranoid, worrying about making an error in the previous paragraph. That’s just the kind of perverse thing that can happen when you start picking on other people’s grammar. It’s like writing “I am very intelligent.” That’s just asking for trouble. You’re sure to—for the first time in your life—misspell “intelligent.” This reminds me of when my husband and I were dating and he said, “I’m glad you’re not a dizz-brain,” and I responded, “Huh?”

*When I handwrite things, I frequently leave letters out of words or nearly leave letters out of words and have to try to squeeze them in, or reshape the lines to somehow make the word look right. Why do I do that? A graphologist would have a field day with me. It’s probably a function of the same gene that leads to overdue library books.

*I’m not writing a Christmas letter this year (proof positive that Julie is a better person than I am). I’m too stinkin’ lazy. The thought of sitting down and trying to describe my family’s year in an entertaining way sounds so much like . . . blogging. Aiyeeeeeee!!!!!! One blog a week is almost more than I can handle. I would have liked to do a family photo for the Christmas cards, but realized that wouldn’t work, seeing as how my oldest daughter is in Utah and the rest of us are not. And no way am I the kind of organized person who would have thought, in August, “Amy will be at BYU in December, so if we want a family photo for the Christmas cards, we’d better take it now.” As if. So my husband created a cute photo collage with pictures of the kids.

*I asked Amy what she wants for dinner on her first night home from college for Christmas break. She requested something that does not involve Pasta Roni or meat that was previously ground. Maybe I’ll throw something on the barbecue, just to welcome her back to California and annoy everyone who has snow up to their armpits at the moment (I’m not saying it’s easy to grill year-round here. Sometimes you have to take a flashlight out to the barbecue, or even put on your shoes).

*When you’re naming villains, or even non-villains who might have some issues in their lives, do you ever say things like, “I can’t name her Sarah; I have a niece named Sarah” and so on, which ends up eliminating a lot of names? Have any of you writers out there ever offended someone with one of your character names?

*Question for Jeff: when does your next Shandra book come out?

*Note to my Primary presidency: it's probably better if my son isn't cast as Joseph in the Nativity play next year. This will reduce the probability that Mary will have to swat Joseph's hand away to get him to quit poking the baby.

The End of Seven Months

I didn’t blog again yesterday, as is my way. Normally when I don’t blog, it’s because I’m doing something really important, like playing video games or watching TV. But yesterday, I didn’t blog because . . . wait for it . . . I WAS AT WORK.

Yes, it’s true. I have a job. It all happened very suddenly. They called me last Monday, we went through a whirlwind of interviews, and they offered me the job on Friday. And I started Monday. Merry Christmas to me!

The details are basically these: I am a Senior Marketing Specialist at a smallish healthcare-related company in Salt Lake. The work is exactly what I wanted to be doing, and I honestly couldn’t be happier with the arrangements.

Monday, December 14, 2009


For those of you who noticed I didn’t blog last week, I had quite an adventure. I was up in the mountains celebrating the completion of my newest novel. Driving back toward home, I ran into a terrible snow storm. My car slid off the road and when I woke up, I was in Florida. The good news is that I was alive—and warm. The bad news is that I discovered I’d been kidnapped by a crazy giant female mouse. She demanded I write her another Shandra Covington mystery novel. When I tried to escape, she put me through sheer torture. I had to climb a mountain and face a Yeti. I was thrown over a waterfall and into a briar patch. I was shot into space, launched through dizzying loops, nearly killed in a malfunctioning elevator, and fed to dinosaurs. I barely escaped with my life.

For those of you who didn’t notice—you go on the bad children list.

But I’m back and trying to reacquaint myself with all this cold white stuff. As I was being shaken, rattled, and rolled last week, I thought about how much our industry has changed and is continuing to change. For example:

1) When I started publishing, one of my biggest complaints was the SASE. I didn’t have a problem with paying the price of a stamp. That’s a cheap cost for having a quality agent look at your work. I just didn’t like the idea of including a self-paid rejection envelope. Now most agents accept e-mail queries and many don’t even send out rejection forms. If you haven’t heard from them by a certain date, consider yourself rejected.

2) About ten years ago, I attended an internet CEO conference. The two main speakers were a representative of the music publishing industry and the CEO of a hot startup called Napster. The CEO argued that music file sharing would happen no matter what the music industry did. He was right. Now the same thing is coming for authors. Will the book publishers be any wiser than the music industry? Will it make any difference?
3) My newest Covenant contract included an e-book section. When I started with them, they were just moving from cassettes to CDs.

4) Ten years ago, self-publishing was so cost prohibitive that people who published their own books could get them into many stores. Now you can e-publish your book for free and sell it on the Internet. Talk about cutting out the middleman.

5) When I started publishing, people were just starting to hear about this new YA fantasy series about a kid who goes to magic school. Almost no one was reading vampire books, dystopian, or fairies/zombies/werewolves. Steam punk was homeless kids who hung around the sewers of New York. The New York Times bestseller list was even broken out by adult and children’s hard cover. Edward was just the name of your great uncle.

6) Very few authors had web sites. Social networking meant hanging out at a bar. Tweeting was what birds did. Blogging was for geeks. Now we have blog tours and if you don’t twitter, you are out of date. Kids assume you have a blog and want to know what kids of games it has.

7) The big question was whether you would buy your books on Amazon (which was still trying to get its legs) or a brick and mortar store. Not whether you buy your book in print or electronically. Kindle? Nook? Never heard of them.

8) Goodreads? Shelfari? Librarything? If you wanted to hear what people thought of books, you went to the library. Now you can actually have an author come to your school or book club all done over the internet.
9) Google had not only NOT started scanning books, but most people didn’t even know who they were. The top search engines were Yahoo!, Lycos, and MSN. Now Google is actually a verb.

Yeah, okay, so I’ve probably spent too much time in the carousel of progress. (Which by the way used to be in Disneyland, not across the country in Florida.) And I really have no conclusions to make, other than that things have changed in ways author couldn’t have imagined. I expect they will continue to change. As authors, we may feel out of control or left behind. You may find yourself wondering, “Do I twitter or facebook? Should I write about zombies or are they out of style? Will people buy audio books or e-books?”

I’m sure publishers are worrying about all these things. But somehow I’m sure they’ll continue to find ways to make money. And if they do, authors will as well. We definitely need to try and keep up with technology. Even if we don’t twitter, our readers do. We may feel weird about accepting “friends” on facebook that we don’t know. But our readers are all over it. But don’t let all this change scare you. Long before any of us were born, the story was what mattered. And it will long after we’re gone. A great web site will not make a lousy novel into a bestseller. But if you write a great enough story, your publisher will be help you get all the tweets, blogs, blurbs, and friends worked out.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Surviving the Apocalypse

by Sariah S. Wilson

I was all set to write a blog on the perils of having an extremely large baby (which include packages that no longer have enough diapers in them, clothes that are no longer cute and babyish, infant seats that won't contain him, swings that won't push him, constant arm and back pain, etc.) as my 9-month-old is the same approximate size as an average 17-month-old. But then I figured it would be one long whine from me about having to repeatedly explain to people that no, he's not delayed, he's only ____ months old (which I've been having to do since he was born) and then I worried that it might offend someone who would give anything for their baby to be an average size let alone a large one, so I decided to skip it.

One of my current shows that I am enjoying on TV is called "Surviving Disaster." It tells you, obviously enough, how to survive horrendous circumstances (or, as they are also known, disasters).

I have always worried over the end of days. I think I've been laboring under the assumption that the apocalypse would happen, world gets destroyed and ends and then the Second Coming occurs immediately after.

It wasn't until recently as I read "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy that I began to wonder - what if things didn't happen quickly? What if the world/civilization effectively ended and then...nothing? What would I do when ten years had passed and there was no food and no way to survive and people were cannibals and everything was unimaginably bad? I know that Christ would return as was promised, but it made me realize that there may be some post-apocalyptic surviving that could go on for years before the good stuff happens.

I'm also a kid that grew up on "The Day After," which I was required to watch in seventh grade Social Studies. I pretty much accepted the fact that if there was a nuclear bomb 1) I was sure to die immediately or 2) I would die a horrible death in the few days after the bomb dropped. Either way, it sounded like good night, Nancy.

But then I discovered from "Surviving Disaster" that if you're far enough outside the blast radius (hello, suburbs!) and you know enough about a nuclear bomb and what about it will actually kill you, you might have a chance of surviving.

Which made me ponder even further the wisdom of being prepared so that we will not fear.

Preparation doesn't only mean in a physical sense, i.e., food, water, medicines; I think it also means knowing what to do and when to do it when disaster strikes.

I don't want to be paranoid or living in a state of constant stress about what could happen at any given moment, but I like knowing things like if there's a nerve gas attack on a subway and you manage to get out of a stopped train, never go behind the train to escape - always head in front of the train (something about an air vortex being created behind the train that captures nerve gas and holds it there. I don't understand it - I just know I shouldn't do it). Or how important it is to duct tape any air ventilation in case of a nuclear attack or pandemic (around the windows, air conditioner vents, etc.)

I'm not building concrete bunkers in my basement or anything, but it definitely does make me consider things like - if the government did a total lockdown and ordered everyone to stay in their homes for a long period of time (say three months) could we survive? I'm pretty sure that if we rationed our food storage we'd be able to survive for three months. (Even if we had to chew on our uncooked wheat.) I like the feeling of security that it gives me to know that I'm somewhat prepared. (Of course, if our natural disaster is some sort of monsoon here in Ohio that floods my basement, there goes my food.)

As a writer, I also appreciate learning things like how to create a smoke flare using a newspaper, water and a cold compress from a first aid kit, how to hot wire a car, how to make a homemade silencer on a semi-automatic weapon (in case I'm ever trapped in a mall with terrorists) - things I could use for a very cool military type hero or in case I want to write a Son of MacGyver novel.

I've always been interested in the abstract idea of the apocalypse and the breakdown of society (though not personally all that comfortable with the idea of having to live through it), and will confess that some of my favorite books have been dystopian/post-apocalypse (like "The Hunger Games"). Recently I learned that LDS author Ally Condie just got a seven-figure (yes, seven figures as in at least one million dollars) book deal with her dystopian novel "Matched" which I now really want to read, so dear Ally, if you see this, I am shamelessly begging for an ARC and would tell everyone about your book (unlike Savage over there who had an ARC of "Catching Fire" and did not tell me. And which you can see that I'm still not over).

Do you like end of the world/post-apocalyptic fiction? Or do you find it too depressing and tend to stay away from it?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tidings of Craziness . . . and Joy

May I please be excused from blogging today?

No, I'm not downloading coupons and amassing enough food for a small, third-world country for $25.32 -- like Sariah. I'm not celebrating my fame and fortune at Walt Disney World -- like Jeff. I'm not working feverishly toward a book deadline -- like Julie. And -- unlike Rob's -- my heart is working just fine, thank you very much. (Feel better, Rob!) Rather -- like Stephanie -- I am eyebrow-deep in celebrating a birthday. Jesus's birthday. (Which, they told me only after I joined the Church, tends to come about three months early in these latter days.)

I'm celebrating the old-fashioned way, of course, by throwing a party for more than a hundred of my closest friends here in Chino Valley. Everybody (and their sheep) come to our ward Christmas party. It's tomorrow night . . . and I'm trying frantically to check off everything on my three-foot-long to-do list. Twice.

No, the party's arrival is not a surprise, exactly. I was called to the activities committee back in May -- and given a calendar by July or so -- but December snuck up on me while I was pondering how to celebrate Columbus Day. But, hey, I have a tree! And, if you peek around the corner of our house, you will see that I also have six scarecrows leaning against the wall. (Their sunflowers are covered with an inch of snow and they look beyond bewildered.) Worse, if you look up in the lattice work around the porch, you'll see a large, rubber spider still hanging around from Halloween. If I can find the step ladder, I'm going to put a Santa hat on his head and a sprig of mistletoe between his teeth. It would be rude of you to notice the shredded hammock swinging from the bare apple tree, and/or the brightly-colored croquet balls frozen into the tundra that used to be our front lawn. -- so I know you won't.

I'm a little behind. Unfortunately, like the Grinch, I couldn't stop Christmas from coming; it came. And now that it's here, I have two Marys, one Joseph, three angels, four shepherds, and five wise persons to costume before tomorrow night. Yes, you read that right: five wise persons. Apparently, Lucy Van Pelt was not the only girl envisioned herself as a Christmas Queen. Every little girl in our Primary who didn't get to be Mary -- and I have two of those! -- wanted to be one of the three wisemen. Before I could protest I thought, why not? Nowhere in scripture did anybody ever deliniate the number of visitors that arrived after the holy birth. There may have been three, or four, or ten. I happen to have five. As for the gender thing that so concerned my daughter, well, who's to say all the wise people of the time were male? "Men" is generic in scripture. Right? I mean, "men are that they might have joy" is not meant to exclude half the human race. At least I hope it isn't. Some days -- like the ones I spend sewing costumes, baking cookies, stuffing 96 name-embroidered stockings, typing up a program, pressing tablecloths, testing strings of lights, constructing a stable from cardboard, and decking the cultural hall with boughs of faux holly -- make me wonder.)

So, you can see why I can't blog. What I haven't really gotten around to mentioning is the absolute . . . joy . . . this all is to me! I'm putting on my 20th Christmas pageant tomorrow night. (This is not counting the 15 community extravaganzas my mother involved me in during childhood.) Every single play has been a disaster waiting to happen. In rehearsals I've endured fierce stuffed sheep fights, wisemen who wandered off into the halls, Josephs and Marys who refused to stand within ten feet of one another for fear of Christmas Cooties, and the "baby Jesus" being hiked across the room like a swaddling-wrapped football. I've worked with kids dressed as camels, kids so high on sugar and dreams of Santa that you practically had to nail their feet to the floor, and angels who had clearly escaped from . . . that other place.

But in every performance I've seen miracles. A decree goes forth from Caesar Augustus and all the room is transformed. Never does the spirit of Christmas -- the Spirit of Christ -- shine more brightly than in the faces of children in a Christmas pageant. It is the highlight of my year. I won't be surprised if someday it proves to be the highlight of my whole life.

Of course, somebody has to get those kids into costume first. I'd really better go see to that. Also, I have other Christmas-related challenges, as you can see from the picture below. My daughter worked hours on this gingerbread scene. (Don't you love the wolf pack in the forest? It's my favorite part.) Alas, it is my responsibility while she is away to keep our three wildcats from "drinking" from the river, biting the coconut from the trees, batting the candies from the pathways, and generally re-enacting one of the final scenes from Kat Kong by crunching the storybook cottage.
Wish me luck.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Good News and Bad News

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Well, I have some good news and some bad news about my book that is being released next year.

What shall we start with? The good news or the bad news?

I think we should start with the good news. The “sort of” good news is that I get the final proofs next week. So I have a week or two to read over the final document and give my final approval and give it back. Right before Christmas. Someone asked me if that would be hard right before Christmas, but for me, it isn’t, because this book being done is sort of like my Christmas present to myself and it will be a huge celebration. But that’s not all the good news. The really really good news is that they’ve moved up my release date by a month. So Dangerous Connections will go to press in February and should be out in March. So YAY! (Of course everything is tentative for publishing companies, but I’m choosing to believe what I'm told. It’s the season of miracles, right?) :)

But now for the bad news.

My cover was chosen. I was excited for the cover and hoping it would really match the book, but as it was described to me over the phone, I think my stomach sank two floors to my basement. This book is totally set in France, with French counter-intelligence agents, American agents, terrorists, and a lot of suspense. I mean, who could go wrong with that? There are thousands of things to put on the front of a French spy novel. But as it was described to me, I thought to myself, really? REALLY?

In the cover design team’s defense, I haven’t actually seen it. Maybe it will look a lot better to me than what was described over the phone. That happened to me with my first book, Through Love’s Trials. My editor described it to me over the phone as a lady and her daughter, sitting on a couch. And I was thinking, but this is a novel about terrorists and lawyers and Canadian and American agents working together. And you put a woman and her daughter on the cover? (The book had a single mother in it.) But when I saw the cover, I really liked it. The colors were good, the mother and her daughter actually did look like what I had imagined the mother and her daughter from the book to look like, so it worked for me. But I’m really not sure about the cover for Dangerous Connections. I mean, from what I was told, my cover has water bubbles with a poison sign watermarked in the background.


I still can’t wrap my head around that. But, like I said, maybe it will look better once I see it and I’ll have a Through Love’s Trials moment. And the cover design team did a great job with my last book, All’s Fair. I LOVED my All’s Fair cover and so did everyone else I know. So the team has a great record so far. Maybe I just need to trust them a little more.

As I was thinking about this, though, I wondered what attracts me to a cover. Is it what’s on it? The colors? Or just the author’s name? Does it really matter what’s on the cover? For me, it’s mostly the author’s name. If it’s an author I’ve liked in the past, I’ll buy the book regardless of what the cover looks like. What do you think it is for you?

I think I should stop thinking about the cover and just concentrate on the fact that I loved the font they chose for the inside of the book. I also love the story inside of whatever cover is chosen and maybe with something wonderful inside the cover, what’s on the outside won’t matter so much. I mean, isn’t the old adage, don’t judge a book by its cover? Maybe if the cover is truly hideous I can make that my theme for booksignings, blog tours and such. Make a little sign to carry around or put on bookmarks. “Don’t judge a book by its cover---the inside is a must-see!”

But, on the other hand, if it looks wonderful, I’ll be glad to eat my words and throw myself at the feet of the cover design team and thank them profusely.

So, with that visual in your head, I have some good news and some bad news to end this blog as well. The good news is, you guys will be the first to see my cover when they send me a pic of it (after my husband and family of course). The bad news is, it probably won’t be for another month or so.

So there you have it.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Memory Lane

by Stephanie Black

Today is my birthday. And, like Julie, I have a Milestone Birthday this year. Free book to the first person who guesses how old I am! Just kidding. No free books today, but if someone wants to send me a book for my birthday, I’m cool with that (hint: I want The Maze Runner, by James Dashner. Or Murder By the Book, by Betsy Brannon Green).

So it seems like a good day to ponder age, or maturity, or something. If I ever get mature, I’ll let you know what it’s like, but for now, I’ll discuss my amazing memory.

We decided to watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional online this year. They have REALLY upgraded the whatever-it-is that makes online broadcasts work at—wow, what a clear picture. We plugged my computer into the stereo and had great sound too—none of that alien bell choir background sound that we used to get with the choir numbers when we’d listen to General Conference online (my engineer husband calls it aliasing, which I’d explain to you, except that I don’t understand it. Something to do with bandwidth, whatever that is, and little bits of data, and magic). So we sat around the table and drank hot chocolate and ate popcorn and peanut M&Ms and watched the broadcast, and President Uchtdorf was speaking, and my sixteen-year-old daughter said, “I’ve heard this before.” We didn’t pay much attention to her. “I’ve HEARD this before,” she kept insisting, and finally my husband checked, and what do you know—we were watching last year’s broadcast. Oops. So we switched to this year’s broadcast, and how embarrassing is that that it took my daughter pointing it out before we realized the error? I could probably have listened to the whole broadcast and thought I was hearing it for the first time. My sister remarked that she would have been the same—only if it had been the wrong prophet would it have tipped her off that she was watching an old broadcast.

I should go re-read the Agatha Christie mysteries that I read when my oldest daughter was a baby. It would all be fresh and new--no way would I remember whodunit. Well, except for the murderer in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. And Murder on the Orient Express.

So my memory is a wonder to behold, but I think this has little to do with age and more to do with being a space cadet. I remember attending a seminary council reunion party about four years after graduating from high school, and my friends were talking about things we’d done, and already there was so much that I’d forgotten. I figure if I ever became a suspect in a crime, I’d be doomed. The police would say, “Where were you on the night of December 1st from 7-9, and I’d be, like, I have no idea. (I’m sitting here right now trying to think what I was doing on December 1st. That would be a Tuesday night . . . um . . . nope. I haven’t a clue. I assume I was just at home trying to get my nine-year-old to do his homework, but I’m not sure that will hold up in court).

I'm thinking I'd better not hide the Christmas presents too well.

My Heart is Breaking

by Robison Wells

Last Saturday I came home from work and settled in to watch the BYU-Utah game. No, I'm not going to talk about that game, because I've talked about it a lot elsewhere and because, whatever your opinion is, you're wrong and I don't care.

What actually happened during that game is that I started getting lightheaded and fuzzy-brained (more so than usual), and my chest started to hurt.

Now, I've seen the Public Service Announcements that say what you're supposed to do if your chest starts to hurt, and I assure you that their advice did not go unheeded. Approximately five hours after it started to hurt really bad--really bad--I finally told my wife. (See, the thing about my wife is that if I were to tell her that I was dizzy and suffering from severe chest pain then she would want me to see a doctor.) (Women!)

The problem with me seeing a doctor is that I have no insurance. You know that "work" I mentioned in the first paragraph? It's work in the sense that I go to an office and do things, but it's not work in the sense that I'm employed, or that I have any income whatsoever, or that I have a dime to pay an insurance premium. So, having chest pain, what's an uninsured boy to do? Answer: assume that, since five hours have passed and I haven't died yet, then it's not a heart attack. Then eat something slathered in butter.

Well, the next morning wasn't much better. It was worse, in fact, only with less dizzy and more pain. So, I decided to bite the proverbial bullet--not the literal bullet; I don't have life insurance, either--and go to the hospital.

The hospital was quite concerned, insurance or not, and they plopped me in a wheelchair and gave me oxygen and stabbed me with an IV. They put electrodes on me and then took them off and gave me new electrodes. It was quite fun.

The verdict was, of course, that I have an allergy to wheat and that I need to keep a magnet in my pocket. Ha ha! No, these were real doctors. The verdict was that I have pericarditis, which is an inflammation of the pericardium, the fluid-filled sac around the heart. The cause: some little bit of leftover flu--I had the swine flu (hamthrax) in October--wound its way over to my heart and organized a rebellion. The doctor didn't say as much (because he's part of the Big Pharma conspiracy) but I figure that this is all somehow attributable to aspartame.

Anyway, the treatment of pericarditis is simple: rest and take drugs. I've spent a lot of time in bed lately, a heating pad on my chest and Lortab in my veins. It's been pretty great, all things considered.

But it was not all lazy lying down in bed. Sometimes I had to sit up and hunch over in pain. At other times, I had to make sad faces and cry like a baby. In other words, this is so way worse than cancer! Kerry's got nothin' on me!

So what I'm trying to say is that there's a very good reason I didn't reply to your emails last week, or do that thing that you asked me to do, or write a blog on time. Because if there's one thing you can't do while lying in bed, it's type on a laptop.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Run to Your Local Smith's Store and Save a Ton of Money!

by Sariah S. Wilson

So, I have a pretty good excuse for missing last week (don't I always?). First, there was the stress of making my first Thanksgiving dinner for my family, then being called to be the new Primary secretary (right at the end of the year when everything has to be created and updated) and then there was the almost brain aneurysm.

Around midnight, my husband came downstairs, white as a sheet, telling me he had the worst headache of his entire life. He was in so much pain that he started vomiting and said his neck felt really stiff. I did an internet search, and if you put in those symptoms, you will see that while they could be indicative of a great many things, they could be a brain aneurysm.

I wasn't taking any chances (especially when all those online doctors said if those were your symptoms you should rush to the ER ASAP) so we woke up all the children, bundled them up and went to the hospital. Not knowing how long it would last, I stuck around in the waiting room. I had also suffered under the delusion that my children might be tired enough to fall asleep. Nope. They were all up for two hours until I texted my husband to find out what was going on, and he'd told me that they'd done a CT and a spinal tap and needed to wait for the results - he had no idea how long he'd be. I took the kids back home, where my husband woke me up at 4:00 a.m. to go back and get him.

All the tests were normal, he's fine. And he hasn't had any symptoms like that since.

But on to the real reason you stopped to read this post - since I'm on a two-hour time difference from our MST readers, I wanted to let you know (if you didn't know already) that your local Smith's is (probably) having a fantastic one-day sale today.

It is primarily for Kellogg's brands, which includes Keebler, Kellogg's, Kashi and Sunshine (Cheez-Its) - they're 50% off.

Here are the participating items:

Keebler Chips Deluxe Cookies
Keebler Club Crackers
Keebler Fudge Shoppe Cookies
Keebler Graham Crackers
Keebler Multi-Pack Tray Cookies
Keebler Sandies Cookies
Keebler Vanilla Wafers
Keebler Zesta Saltine Crackers
Keebler Town House Crackers

Kellogg's Cereals - Raisin Bran, Special K, Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, Corn Pops, Apple Jacks, Rice Krispies, Crispix, Frosted Mini Wheats and Bite-Size Mini Wheats

Kashi Heart to Heart Cereal
Kashi TLC or Heart to Heart Crackers
Kellogg's Fruit Snacks or Yogos
Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Bars
Kellogg's Pop Tarts
Kellogg's Rice Krispie Treats
Kellogg's Special K Bars
Sunshine Cheez-It or Party Mix


All of these items are FIFTY PERCENT OFF. Which is awesome in and of itself.

In addition to it being 50% off, there's also a ton of coupons out there that you can use to save even more money.

First, you're going to print out a whole bunch of coupons. - At this site you're going to find coupons for Keebler cookies (sandwich and Fudge Shoppe), Rice Krispie Treats, Keebler Town House Flip Sides, Special K cereal, Special K Bars. If you will type in your ZIP code when you get to the site, you Utah/Idaho residents will get coupons for cheese and yogurt that I'm very jealous of. - This site should have a Yogo's coupon, and it has Kellogg's Mini Wheats. - You will have to register on this site. Click on the "Great Holiday Savings Coupons" on the right side. This is one of Kellogg's sites, and it has multiple cookie and cracker coupons.

Keebler Cookie Coupon - This should let you print out a Keebler cookie coupon, and print out a Sandies coupon at the same time.

Kellogg's Cereals - This is a huge bunch of Kellogg's cereal coupons.

Pop-Tarts- The coupon is on the top left corner of the page.

Save-A-Lot - This has a $1.00 off any Kellogg or Keebler, and the coupon says "at Save-A-Lot," but it is a manufacturer's coupon, which means any store SHOULD take it. You can tell by looking at the UPC code - a manufacturer's coupon will always start with a 5.


And if you normally clip Sunday paper coupons, you may want to check and see if you have anything that could be used for the sale.

And, if you haven't already, sign up your Smith's card at these sites:




Soft Coin

I also thought I'd make mention of a couple of other deals Smith's is currently running that have printable or electronic coupons (and these deals will last until Tuesday, 12/8/09):

$2 Healthy Choice or Marie Callendar Entrees
$1 Healthy Choice coupon here
.75 Marie Callendar coupon here
Price: $1.00 or $1.25

$2.99 Kraft Natural Cheese 16 oz, bar or shredded
$1.00/2 Kraft coupon here
Price $2.49 each

Progresso Soup (18.5-19 oz)
$1.10 off 3 at
.50 on 2 via
.50 on 2 via
Price: .17 or .50 each

$1.89 Hot, Lean or Croissant Pockets (6.5-9 oz)
.55 via
Price: 1.39

$5.99 Bertolli Skillet Meal (21.7-24 oz)
$2 Bertolli coupon here
Price: $3.99

$5.99 Charmin 6 Mega or 12 Big Rolls
$1.00 P&G eSAVER
Price: $4.99

$3.29 Breyers Ice Cream
$1.00/2 Breyers coupon
Buy 3 - get $3.00 off at checkout with your Smith's card
Price: $2.79, or $1.79 if you buy three (have to buy all three in one transaction)

Smith's also has a lot of things on sale 5 for $5 - Chef Boyardee, Hunt's, Manwich, (and Reddi-Wip for $2). There is a site that has coupons that would allow you to get a lot of those things for .50 each. To get them you have to play this game, and it will only let you print out one coupon at a time, so it's time consuming. And as a side note - you do NOT have to buy five of an item to get the deal - they're all $1.00 each on sale (marketing ploy).

I made up this list for my mom (and it doesn't include any of the Sunday type coupons that would make lots more deals - I thought this would be a good starting off point for someone who just wanted to print and go).

If anyone makes use of it - please let me know. I'd love to know how it turns out for you!

Friday, December 04, 2009


Christopher Robin
Had wheezles
And sneezles,
They bundled him
Into His bed.
They gave him what goes
With a cold in the nose,
And some more for a cold
In the head.
They wondered
If wheezles
Could turn
Into measles,
If sneezles
Would turn
Into mumps;
They examined his chest
For a rash,
And the rest
Of his body for swellings and lumps.
They sent for some doctors
In sneezles
And wheezles
To tell them what ought
To be done.
All sorts and conditions
Of famous physicians
Came hurrying round
At a run.
They all made a note
Of the state of his throat,
They asked if he suffered from thirst;
They asked if the sneezles
Came after the wheezles,
Or if the first sneezle
Came first.
They said, "If you teazle
A sneezle
Or wheezle,
A measle
May easily grow.
But humour or pleazle
The wheezle
Or sneezle,
The measle
Will certainly go.
They expounded the reazles
For sneezles
And wheezles,
The manner of measles
When new.
They said "If he freezles
In draughts and in breezles,
May even ensue" . . .

~A.A. Milne, "Sneezles," Now I am Six, 1927

The reazle I can't blog today is because my wheezles and sneezles have turned into PHTHEEZLES -- at least. In fact, if I were you, I'd lean away from the monitor and spray a little Lysol on the keyboard, just in case.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Please Mr. Postman

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I think Christmas is the time of year for writers. We can get the mail and know that generally something wonderful will be in the mailbox. We may still get rejections (or acceptances!) in that mailbox, but for almost every day in December, happy Christmas cards should greet us in the mail. I love getting Christmas cards in the mail. It’s like a little bit of the Christmas spirit delivered right to your home. You can pick it up and hold it and know that someone was thinking of you.

Part of my Christmas card tradition is making a one page Christmas letter about what our family has been up to this year. Since we have nine people in our family, each person just gets a few lines to say what the highlight of their year was and things like that. For example, my eleven year old’s part of the Christmas letter this year says that his favorite part of the year was going to the Space Center for his birthday, but he liked our family vacation to Mesa Verde, too. He became a boy scout and thinks sixth grade is totally lame. (And watching him go through it reminds me of some of my grade school experiences and boy, am I glad I never have to relive any of that.) I slip the letter and sometimes a picture (generally of the kids, but sometimes a family pic) in the Christmas cards that I send to my family and friends. A lot of my family and friends still live in Canada, and they only see us once every year or two, so I think the letters are a fun way to catch up. Of course, I have friends in other states and even here in Utah that I also send the cards with letters in.

However, recently I heard two conversations and a presentation at Time Out for Women that talked about how much these people hated letters in Christmas cards. They said that reading those letters made them feel like those people had the perfect families and were more like brag letters. One woman said reading those letters made her feel guilty that she didn’t have anything to brag about in her family and doubled the guilt because she didn’t even get organized enough to send out Christmas cards. Another woman said she wanted to write down a line in her Christmas cards about just getting by and people not being puffed up with themselves and their families.

Frankly, none of that had ever occurred to me. I love getting and reading Christmas letters about my friends and family. I like to see what everyone has been up to, especially the people that I rarely see. It’s a way to keep in touch. I don’t see them as brag letters at all. We include struggles and blessings in our letters. It’s more of just a tiny snapshot of hey, here’s a little about our family this year. And on a personal note, when I'm putting it together, I like seeing what my kids liked best about this year and what they think is important enough to put in their part of the letter. It’s sort of like a little yearbook for me when I read them, and I think, oh yeah, that was fun! Or, yeah, I can see how he/she would think that.

But now, after hearing those comments from other people, I’m wondering if I should do a Christmas letter. What if people have thought all along that these letters are nothing more than bragging to them that I’m organized enough to send out Christmas cards? (They know already that my family is far from perfect. No one would ever think that, I’m afraid.)

So, the bottom line is, I think I need some more opinions. Do you love getting Christmas letters or do you think they’re lame? Should I send my Christmas spirit with a letter or embrace the Christmas scrooge with just a card that is letter-less? Maybe it all comes down to the eye of the receiver. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

'Tis the Season

by Stephanie Black

A few weeks ago, I got a call from my daughter at BYU. “I’ve done something bad,” she confessed. “You didn’t buy something, did you?” I said. “No,” she said. She explained that she’d been working on an essay for her Spanish class. The essay was about her favorite holiday, or some such topic, and she was writing about Christmas. As she wrote about our Christmas traditions, she started feeling Christmasy and . . . well, you know what can happen once you start wallowing in temptation. She cracked.

She listened to Christmas music.

Before Thanksgiving.


Not that there’s any law on the books decreeing that you can’t listen to Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving, but that’s the rule I grew up with, and I’ve apparently instilled it my children, if my daughter’s guilt is any indication. Later, my second daughter cracked as well and there she was in her room, listening to Christmas music on my computer. I had her turn it off because I didn't want to hear it yet. Don’t get me wrong—I really don’t think there’s any crime involved in listening to Christmas music early, and I've been known to do it myself. But I wanted to wait because it’s fun—it builds up the excitement to the big moment, the official start of the Christmas season. It makes it seem more special.

So, despite sore temptation, and setting aside a snatch of Christmas music that I listened to while creating playlists on iTunes, I held off. Granted, I was singing a particular song for weeks, which the less charitable might call cheating, (and my husband thought it was cheating when I listened to Handel’s Messiah, but come on, that’s not just Christmas music and shouldn't be limited to Christmas). But other than that, I refrained from putting Christmas music on the stereo until the morning after Thanksgiving. So what was the first song of the year? It was, of course, The Boar’s Head, from the Chieftains’ Christmas album, The Bells of Dublin. It’s an English Christmas carol from the 15th century, and the Chieftains do it really well. For the first couple of years that we had the album, I couldn’t understand some of the lyrics to that song, but I thought it was just how, you know, sometimes you just can’t understand some of the lyrics of a song, like in an old John Denver song where he sings the words “rocky cathedrals” and we could not figure out what he was saying, and we finally looked it up in a songbook—this was in the days before Google. Anyway, when my daughter printed out the lyrics last year, it all became clear—some phrases from The Boar’s Head are in Latin, which would not have been an impediment to Kerry, but was a bit incomprehensible to me. Quot estis in convivio, and all that.

In keeping with the lyrics-I-need-help-translating theme, this year we’ve adopted a new song into our Christmas lineup, a very catchy traditional song called El Burrito de Belen, performed by Colombian singer Juanes, of whom my daughters are extremely fond. Belen means Bethlehem; burrito, apparently, means young donkey, which I didn’t know. All this time, I thought a burrito was something involving beans and tortillas and, for the lucky few, Café Rio. By the way, if anyone wants to trade, I’ll trade you an In-N-Out for a Café Rio. I like In-N-Out, mind you, but mmm . . . Café Rio.

Another of my favorites in the Christmas music lineup this year is the Christmas Songs album by Celtic ensemble Anuna. Clear, ethereal voices, gorgeous harmonies.

So when do you start listening to Christmas music? Do you wait until after Thanksgiving or do you, like stores, have it playing in October, or possibly while you set off fireworks on the Fourth of July? And do you have any recommendations for awesome Christmas songs that I should add to my list?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Great, Now I Have Guilt

Well I missed my turn yesterday, but since Sariah slid her poopy diaper stories to Monday last week, I figure I get some slack. Besides, who knows if Mr. Rob-I’m-so-cool-I-can-skip-four-weeks-and-still-get-more-comments-than-anyone-when-I-come-back-Wells will post today or not? So, yeah, you came looking for laughs from Rob or potty stories from Sariah, but you’ve got me.

With a build-up like that, you know this is a going to be a good post. But you might be wrong. So don’t get your hopes up. What I wanted to talk about today is writing the stories we want to without guilt. This is a tough topic because as Mormons we think we should feel guilty about something, anything. If we don’t feel guilty, it means we haven’t done anything wrong, which means we think we are perfect, which clearly we are not, which is a sin, which . . . makes us feel guilty. So we might as well just feel guilty in the first place.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a horror novel. I already felt a little guilty about that, because (aside from the fact that it’s what you’re supposed to do) Mormons shouldn’t write horror. We should write stories of conversion, or faith, or—failing that—women who take time out from teaching Primary to catch international crime rings, while falling in love with handsome spies. (Who hopefully discover faith and convert.)

As I was out working on a ward service project, (Yeah, I did that once.) a woman in the ward asked what I was writing. I told her it was a horror novel. She rolled her eyes and said, “Well, I guess that’s what sells.” Which, of course, made me feel guilty. I mean how could you not? People all around you are writing about pioneers, crime-fighting Primary teachers, and faith-promoting stories, and you’re writing about the ghost of a dead boy that is hitting people in the head with an axe. I know! You feel guilty just reading that last sentence when you could have been studying your Gospel Doctrine lesson, right?

So here I am finishing up a story called, The Fourth Nephite. I love this story. It’s a fun mix of fantasy, action, and Church History. I like the character. I like the bad guy. And I get to use some great lines that Joseph Smith actually said, like, “Trying to teach people the gospel is like trying to split a hickory knot with a corn dodger for a wedge and a pumpkin for a mallet.” This is a really fun story that I think will get a lot of kids interested in learning more about Church history. Yay for me right? Right. I am having a ball researching and writing this story.

But then there is this other story I am working on that takes place in Hell. That alone inspires guilt because you’re saying a four letter word every time you tell someone about your book. And then you get to the part where humans have been damned. Now you feel like you have to go wash out your mouth with soap. And just wait until people find out the demons are the good guys!

So the key is to just write LDS books. Except then you get accused of priestcraft. I’m sorry I have to laugh a little bit here. But this is true. I have actually heard people complain that anyone who takes money for writing a book with LDS themes or messages is guilty of priestcraft. The good news is everyone who I’ve heard make this suggestion is a) a wanna be writer, b) cranky by nature, c) slightly or more crazy. But yeah, there are people who think we should never take money for writing books with LDS themes. So there’s something else to feel guilty about.

But here’s the thing. Think of the best novels you have read. The ones that really stayed with you afterward and made you think. Remember those books that touched you in a way no other work of fiction had. Some of those are probably LDS. But I’ll bet many of them are not. Some of them might be clear stories of faith and the gospel. Others could have these same elements woven more subtly into the story. If you are a good person, (and I know you are, even though admitting it might make you feel a little guilty) your stories are going to have strong moral messages even though you didn’t set out to put them there. Your values, your beliefs, your moral compass, will shine through no matter what stories you tell.

Your horror novel might feature a police chief who failed to save his own wife and who is struggling with a belief in the afterlife. Your story about demons might actually be shining a light on the problems with putting ourselves above others, or judging unrighteously. Your romance may point out the hard decisions we have to make when we are faced with what the world thinks we want compared to what we really need. Your fantasy might show how we can turn our weaknesses into strengths.

Think about the best lessons you’ve taught your children. Were they all in church or family home evening? Or did some of them come when you were taking out the trash, or going to a movie, or struggling with a son or daughter’s mistake? Write the stories you love. Write the stories that catch you and call to you as you drift off to sleep. Write the stories that resonate inside you.

Yes there will be decisions to make. Do you include bad language? How much violence is too much? When does a romance scene cross the line? But don’t base those decisions on what someone else might say. People will judge you no matter what your write, and some of them will find you lacking. But if you remain true to yourself, and write the books that touch your heart, for every person who thinks you’ve failed, there will be a dozen who are touched by your words.

There are plenty of reasons to feel guilty. (Like skipping four weeks of posts, Rob!) Don’t let your writing become one of them.