Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Spreading the Good Word

by Sariah S. Wilson

I read a few writer/editor/agent/bookseller blogs on a daily basis. Publicity has been an ongoing theme lately.

There seems to be a general consensus that publicity must be done. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, not one person has any idea of what works and what doesn't. The publishers themselves are often at a loss to explain why a Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling happens. Trust me, if they could figure out how to bottle that particular type of phenomenon, they'd do it in a New York minute.

Authors that I know print up bookmarks, postcards, give away fun little knickknacks at signings, take out ads in magazines and newspapers, send out press releases to everyone they can think of, etc. And those are just things the author does. Hopefully, the publisher will also be kicking in and doing all they can to publicize the book.

And sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.

Sometimes (as HelenKay Dimon pointed out on her blog) you can have a situation like one the author Shannon McKenna finds herself in. Shannon lives in Italy. She doesn't do publicity or promotional stuff. She doesn't go to conferences. She doesn't update her website. And yet she's consistently on best seller lists. Obviously she writes well. But there are lots of NYT best selling authors who write poorly. And even more authors who write exceptionally well but don't sell many books. How can anyone explain such an anomaly?

Because for every Shannon McKenna I'd bet there's an untold number of authors who will never make those best seller lists regardless of what they do or don't do publicity-wise.

What we do know works is word of mouth. Most readers cite it as the number one reason for buying new authors. Unfortunately, buzz and word of mouth can't be manufactured.

So what is it that makes you give a new author a chance? How do you find what books you read? Is it from reading reviews? If so, what kinds of reviews (i.e., magazine, newspaper, online, Amazon, etc.)? From browsing in a bookstore? Recommendations from friends or family members or bookstore employees? Because the book has a pretty cover? Because it's on best seller lists?

What was it that made you find that new author in the first place?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Please Pass the Geritol

by Kerry Blair

It has recently come to my attention that I am old. Not older than the hills or older than some of Rob’s jokes, but old just the same. I might never have noticed if a childhood friend hadn't called to invite me to lunch yesterday. I hadn’t seen Tamra since high school graduation and I didn’t recognize the 21st century version of her. In fact I thought she was her mother. No wonder at first gasp I thought, “My gosh, she’s ancient!” My next thought was, “My gosh, we chased grasshoppers—and boys—together. I must be ancient too!”

Tonight’s gathering of Future Crypt Keepers of America is sure to confirm my worst fears. In other words, this weekend is my 30-year high school reunion. (Thirty years?! I can't even type it without shuddering and I've tried twice now.) For the many readers who were toddling around the pre-existence when I graduated, 1976 was America’s bicentennial. Gerald Ford was president, but not for long. It was an unremarkable era. We’d been born a little too late for the Beatles and Vietnam, but a little too early for disco and Desert Storm. The Grammy-winning song in 1976 was Love Will Keep Us Together by Captain and Tennille, and the Emmy for best actress went to Lindsay Wagner for her role in The Bionic Woman. (I feel another shudder coming on.) Believe it or not, we survived adolescence without microwave ovens, personal computers, Internet, iPods, cell phones, CDs, DVRs, DVDs, and even—gasp—VHS. (We thought 8-track tapes and PacMan were the coolest things ever invented.) It was still a Brady kind of world (I’m the same age as Jan), notable mostly for its truly awful fashion. We girls wore Gunny Sax to prom, escorted by boys in pastel-hued tuxedos. (I am not making this up, but neither do I have pictures to prove it. I destroyed all the prom photos – and the wedding album - when I put in contacts and/or came to my senses in the 1980s.) Male or female, we had big hair, big glasses, and big plans to change the world.

The world has changed a lot since 1976, but I'm not responsible.

I am, however, wondering about those changes. This morning I read an article by LDS author Janette Rallison in which she quotes James Fleck: “If religious-minded people can’t use the media effectively then a-religious and antireligious people will form the value systems of the world.” Janette adds, “I take that statement very seriously because I’ve seen it happen in my lifetime. I grew up watching The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mayberry, and The Brady Bunch. Do any of you remember when the Love Boat was shocking?...Well, TV has come a long way; so have books. This has sparked a debate: does media influence behavior, or does behavior influence media?”

I don’t know where that debate was sparked, but I’d be interested in pursuing it here. Many people who visit this blog are writers, and more than a few of you are professional writers, editors, publishers, bloggers, etc. My question then: Are we helping to form the value system of the world? Are we trying to? If we’re not trying to influence it, should we be? If we are trying, how are the best of us going about it?

I ask because even though I am old, I may have a few good years left. After all, President Hinckley is almost twice my age and he’s still doing his part to build and bless and save the world. What if I have a virtual “lifetime” left to devote to the cause—a life mostly free of diapers, PTA carnivals, and cub scouts this time around? How do I best invest it? As a writer, an American, a Latter-day Saint what should I…what should we…be doing in the next thirty or fifty or ten or two or however many years we have left in our turns on earth?

I know they’re hard questions, but don’t leave the frog blog bog without at least thinking about them, okay? I’m having a midlife crisis here, people. Help me out.

And if you really can’t comment on any of that, could you at least recommend a good wrinkle cream and/or homeopathic remedy for hot flashes? Hurry. I'm getting older every minute.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

O Pioneers!

by Julie Coulter Bellon

On Monday, July 24th, Pioneer Day in Utah, my two oldest children left to go on a Pioneer Trek in Wyoming, on the original trail that the pioneers took. Well, as you can imagine, we've spent the last few weeks getting them ready for this trek, including several hikes, and making pioneer clothes. I'm proud to say I made my daughter two pair of bloomers and two long skirts–which, if you knew me, you would know this is a huge accomplishment.

They went to meet their "ma and pa" and the rest of the ten children who would be in their family, as well as the "baby" they would be lugging around, which was really made of rice. My daughter said her "ma" thought the baby was rather ugly in a plaid outfit and feet as big as its legs, but that she planned to make it a cuter outfit since no one could love something that ugly. We packed all of their things in a five gallon bucket–which was not easy for my son who is six foot three and doesn't have small clothing items that easily fit in a bucket. As they dressed in their pioneer gear and we got up at three in the morning to see them off, I sat there in the dark parking lot, looking at the four hundred other people in pioneer clothing and thought to myself, I would have made a horrible pioneer. While we waited for the "families" to get organized and loaded on the buses, I made a list of ten reasons why I would have made a horrible pioneer.

1. I love air conditioning
2. I love modern medicine, especially during labor and delivery. I also like modern dentistry. Have you ever seen what pioneer dentists used?
3. I don't think I'd look good in bonnets. I'd have horrible flat hat hair all the time. I also like to wear jeans or short-sleeved shirts.
4. If I don't feel like making dinner, I can run to KFC, Wendy's, or Subway. Pioneers had to make their own KFC from whatever their husband shot and brought back for dinner. Ew.
5. I love computers and writing my books on them. No quill pens, or parchment, or runny ink, or having to scribble out whole sections if I make a mistake. Also, a pioneer woman probably wouldn't have much time to be writing books.
6. I hate spiders, rodents, and creepy crawly things. If I found one in my tent or wagon I probably would have deafened anyone within a twelve mile radius of my screaming voice.
7. I have a black thumb and kill every plant I've ever owned. No matter what I do, watering, talking to it, the plant just seems to instinctively know it's me and dies. Thankfully my husband is an excellent gardener, or our family probably would have starved on the pioneer trail.
8. I love having a video camera and lots of pictures of my kids when they were little. Although I realize that cameras and video probably hadn't been invented in pioneer times because everyone had horrible flat hat hair and no one wanted a picture of that. Or maybe it was the bad teeth from pioneer dentistry. Have you ever seen pioneer pictures? No one is smiling. I'll wager there's a reason for that.
9. I'm not really a great seamstress or quilter. I would have been the one at all the quilting bees with a bandage on every finger from pricking myself with the needle.
10. I love my stove and my microwave. Cooking over an open fire? Well, I guess it might have worked if my family could have gotten used to eating burnt offerings every day.

So you can see why I was "held back" for this dispensation and not the pioneer one. Someone obviously had mercy upon me and my family.

The "families" of my children also had to come up with a family motto for the trek. Some families did spiritual mottos, like "FAITH–Fun, Attitude, Integrity, Truth and Honor" or "Many hands make light work." Other families went with fun mottos like, "Keep to the Code,"or "Never Give Up, Never Surrender." My personal favorite however, was "Keep the Strong, Eat the Weak." (No, they weren't the Donner party). I would have loved to hear them shouting their family motto across the plains.

My children get home today and I'm really excited to hear how it all went. I was telling my mother in Canada about the trek, and how spiritual and memorable it would hopefully be for my children, and she said, "Of course it will be memorable. You always remember when you've been tortured."

For me, I hope they remember more than the torture, and that this experience will be something they can reflect on and remember as a good thing—a reminder of the perseverance, hard work and strength that our ancestors had to draw upon so that we could have the comforts we enjoy today. I know I, for one, am extremely grateful as I sit here at my computer, in my air-conditioned home, wearing jeans and a short-sleeved shirt, with no bonnet in sight and many fast food choices just down the road.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Winner!

It's time to announce the winner to our first ever Frog Blog Haiku Contest. This morning the slip of paper drawn at random from our patented blog-contest-name-mixer-upper (a paper bag, shaken vigorously) contained the name of the following haiku writer:

William Morris

So, William Morris, if you will post a reply here telling us which autographed book by one of our illustrious bloggers that you would like for a prize, the author named will get in touch with you to arrange delivery of the prize. Select any work by:

Sariah S. Wilson
Robison Wells
Jeffrey S. Savage
Kerry Blair
Stephanie Black
Julie Coulter Bellon


And a big thank you to everyone who entered the haiku contest. The entries were great and a good time was had by all. Especially Rob. I hear rumors that he's planning to use the many haiku written about him in his next book: Robison Wells, the Early Years: A Poetic Tribute, subtitled I Am Felix: My Life in Haiku. Requests to reprint your poems and royalty information are forthcoming, as soon as Rob finishes his current project--a spy-thriller rewrite of The Grapes of Wrath, featuring Tom "Jack" Joad.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Your Honor, I'd like permission to treat the witness as hostile.

So, I've been staring at this computer screen since, I think, last Friday, and I have no idea what to write for this blog. So, taking a page from Stephanie Black's playbook, I'm going to make you, the readers, do all my work for me.

I'm going to post some questions, and you're going to answer them. You'll do this not because I'm offering some kind of incentive, but because I told you to, and you're powerless to resist.

The questions are all about your likes and dislikes. However, here's the thing about today's questionnaire: I don't want any of those crappy "Oh, I could never pick just one favorite!" answers. I don't want sarcastic misinterpretation of the question. I don't want dancing around the issue. Just answer the questions, and if your answers aren't perfect and painstakingly flawless, then who cares? It's just a blog.

I'll try to qualify the questions enough that you can give a good answer, and we won't have to argue semantics. But again, if we're not perfectly precise, who cares? All I ask is that you answer the questions.

1. What was the best LDS book you've read lately?

2. What was the best nationally-published book you've read lately?

3. What movie have you seen lately that was surprisingly good?

4. What movie have you seen lately that was surprisingly bad?

5. What book do you just really really hate? (I'm talking, irrational, emotional dislike.)

6. What movie do you really really hate?

7. Your top-five movies of all time.

8. What public figure annoys the heck out of you? (I know most of you will say Julie "Coulter" Bellon, but I'll ask the question anyway.)

9. Three favorite TV shows, which are currently in-production.

10. What actor's (or author's) work will you always see (or read) just because you like them?

Monday, July 24, 2006


Tell me this is not the beginning of a story.

ROSEVILLE - A tire flew off a eastbound big rig Monday afternoon on Interstate 80 rolled and bounced for a quarter-mile before smashing through the glass door of a vacant office and ending up in a toilet, the California Highway Patrol reported.

Happy 24th

Here in Utah we are celebrating the 24th of July, in which we shoot off all the illegal fireworks we bought from Wyoming or Nevada and failed to shoot off twenty days ago. We also have parades in which people tie lawn chairs together the night before so they can get the best spot to sweat in the July heat and watch their children sweat in the July heat as they march down the middle of Main Street.

Of course this whole holiday thing is a little confusing, because it is a state holiday but not a federal holiday. So are the banks open and the mail closed or is it the other way around? And is the trash getting picked up? Can I get a haircut, or is Supercuts driving a giant razor in the parade? Also, some companies have the day off and others don’t. Of course my company doesn’t, but I think my publisher does. Very confusing.

Anyway, the whole point of Pioneer Day is to honor our forefathers and foremothers. Or if our great, great, grandparents, didn’t cross the plains, to honor someone else’s foreparents (is that a real word?), while wishing we could claim direct decendencey (another made up word I fear) from Brigham Young or at least Joseph Fielding Smith.

As it turns out I’m 50/50. My maternal line was in the Martin handcart company while my paternal (This is a real word I believe) line are more recent converts. But I don’t believe your descendants (way too many hard words here for a guy who lives and dies with spellchecker) must be pioneers in order to celebrate pioneer day. In fact, may I suggest that this is a great day to honor anyone who came before you who influenced your life in a positive way. Of course those might be pioneers who crossed the planes, but they might be pioneers of another type.

Two people who come immediately to my mind are my high school creative writing teacher and my maternal grandfather.

My writing teacher, Bill Sheehy was the kind of guy who for the twenty plus years he taught was constantly nominated for teacher of the year. He filled his classroom with couches and filled our heads with ideas. He’d sit up on the table at the front of the classroom with his legs crossed and his Mickey Mouse socks not quite covering his hairy shins, and he would open his students’ eyes to the world of English.

He pointed out to me how a dab of shaving cream in a scene from the Great Gatsby could sum up the entire book. One day he asked several of us to leave the classroom while the rest of the class discussed a plot idea for a novel. When we came back in we had to ask yes or no questions to figure out the plot. Only after we had uncovered a really fun story idea, did we learn that there had been no plot at all. The class members had simply answered yes or no based on the last letter of the question—proving that anyone can come up with a great storyline if they ask enough questions.

Interestingly enough, even though I felt like I was goofing around in his class most of the time, more of what he taught has stayed with me than any other HS teacher. I have committed to have him as a character in my first published national.

My grandfather was another kind of guy entirely, but equally admirable. After his wedding reception, as he and his wife were making their way through crowds of rice throwing friends and family, he told my grandmother that he would get the car and meet her on the corner. When she showed up and he wasn’t there, she began to worry. Wondering if she was at the wrong corner, she circled the block. Finally he pulled up just as she returned to the original corner. Turns out he’d stopped for a hamburger on the way. You gotta admire a guy who would even think of that.

Okay so maybe it wasn’t his marital skills I picked up, but he was the greatest salesman I have ever known bar none. When my mother was born, he was in the jewelry sales business. He showed up at my grandmother’s hospital room and told her, “Well you can stay another week. I sold a bracelet.” Later he would cross the country selling homemade oven cleaner to restaurants. He would rent a hotel room. Mix up a batch in the bath tub. Label some plastic jugs and set out across the city selling the cleaner. Wonder what the EPA would think of that now-a-days? One time he called my grandmother in Oakland and she asked him, “Where are you Wendell?” He said, “Okalahoma.” She told him to turn around and start for home.

Although he never graduated from college and never worked for anyone else, he always provided a good living for his family.

Once when I was in my early twenties, he offered to let me in on a business venture. Although he was in his late seventies, he was still selling. He’d offer a local eatery free placemats and then sell ads around the outside. I worked this small town up and down for three days and was proud to have sold 3/4s of the latest mat. Of course he wasn’t satisfied with that.

“Try again,” he told me.

I was stunned. “I’ve been to every business.”

“Well try again. How about that paint store?” he asked, pointing to a building down the street.

“They’ve already spent their ad budget. I talked to the owner”

“Come on.” He led me by the arm into the shop. Knowing I was a very good salesman, I felt smug that he’d learn a little something from his oldest grandson.

As soon as we entered the store, the owner said, “I already told your salesman I’m not interested.”

Grandpa smiled. “This isn’t my salesman. He’s my grandson. Now tell me about your business.”

Thirty minutes of chitchat later, the owner of the store said, “So tell me about those ads again.” He bought a double ad. Three hours later the mat was sold out, and I was the one who had learned something.

Appropriately enough, I heard that my grandfather had died while I was on a trip to Disney World with my family. A trip I had won through high sales at the company where I worked. At the funeral, I sat in the stand at the front of the chapel and looked down on the many friends and family gathered there. Suddenly I realized something. There were many grandchildren and “adopted” grandchildren in the audience. And while almost none of us had college degrees, we were all providing good livings for our families just as he had done. He taught me, along with a lot of others, the value of perseverance and good personal relationships.

So on this 24th, who can you look back to and thank?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Vampires, Princesses and Wizards

by Sariah S. Wilson

I just joined a new Yahoo group, LDS Book Club, and the first thing they asked me is what I'd read last week. Well, truth be told, I tend to read really fast and get through books quickly. And since I am completely procrastinating writing my next book, I've been reading a lot these days - writerly-type advice magazines, writing craft books, and lots and lots of fiction.

I'm not going to mention the books I didn't like. I prescribe to Jennie Hansen's philosophy here and if I can't say anything nice, I'm not going to say anything at all.

I've also decided to make an attempt to read more LDS writers. I'm very interested in those that have published nationally. So my selections this week will reflect that.

Once Upon StilettosHowever, the first book is by a non-LDS writer. It's called "Once Upon Stilettos" by Shanna Swendson. This a second book in a series, and I definitely think that if you want to read it you should pick up the first book, "Enchanted, Inc." and then go on to "Stilettos." When the author pitched this book to her agent, she described it as "Bridget Jones meets Harry Potter." So it's a chick lit (although, thankfully, the heroine is not particularly obsessed with shoes, men or her weight) set in an urban fantasy. The premise is that the heroine is from Texas and moved to New York, so you have the fish-out-of-water element. She knows that New Yorkers are supposed to be weird, but she keeps wondering why she sees people with wings who look like they're flying, and why the stone gargoyles move. Before she can doubt her sanity too much, she discovers that a magical world does exist, but it shields itself from the regular world. The heroine is able to see through the illusions because she doesn’t have a single spark of magic in her, which makes her immensely valuable to a spell producing Microsoft-type corporation (because those magic guys are always trying to put one over on each other in their contracts and such, so someone who is immune to magic is vital to their business). Of course there’s a bad guy and a very hunky all-powerful wizard who, to the heroine’s frustration, is extraordinarily shy. “Enchanted, Inc.” was one of the first books I experienced serious author envy over. The heroine’s superpower is that she has no powers? Brilliant!

Princess AcademyNow for LDS authors (and both books are considered YA, but I found them very readable for adults) - I read Shannon Hale’s “Princess Academy.” For those who haven’t read it, it takes place in a far off kingdom without any known magic but those possessed by the heroine’s people. (They call it “quarry speak” and they don’t even consider it magic.) The heroine, Miri, lives in a mountain top village where her people mine a stone called linder (like marble, but much more valuable). Miri has a growing crush on her childhood friend, Peder, and wants to feel accepted and loved by her father and her people. But in this kingdom, whenever a new prince is born, the priests predict where his princess will be born. The current prince’s future bride will be from Miri’s village, and a princess academy is arranged to teach these illiterate, backwoods girls to be like princesses. Miri is torn - she would like to be a princess and help her family, but she loves her mountain and there's Peder to think about... This book didn’t hold any real surprises or twists (I knew who the prince was going to pick once the narrator had introduced all the girls) but the language is powerful and the author, with only a few well-chosen words, was able to evoke very strong emotions. I loved the ingenuity and originality of this book.

TwilightI also read another LDS author, and I have to admit that I’ve become a bit obsessed with this book. It’s “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer. Now, I know some LDS readers might be offended by the content. I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to reveal that the hero is a vampire, and I know some people might have a problem with that (I do not, which you knew already since you know that I own the special edition complete seven seasons of Buffy). But he’s a moral vampire who doesn’t want to be a monster, which is part of what I loved. The author admits to not being very up on current vampire lore, so she’s created a vampire realm that turns all the old myths on their heads, which results in her totally unique take. The author’s ability to withhold information (so that when you’re reading you’re thinking, “Why is he doing that? What’s wrong with him?”) keeps you turning pages to find out why the characters do what they do and just what the heroine’s reaction will be when she discovers that the boy she’s falling in love with is a vampire. I love their conflicts and motivations, and the conundrum that the vampire finds himself in - loving a girl he really wants to bite. This is how much I liked this book - I’ve already read it once and I’m in the process of reading it again because I rushed through it to get to the end and now I’d like to enjoy it. I almost never do that with books, once is usually enough for me.

If you’ve read or get a chance to read any of these books, please post about them in the comments section. I’d love to hear other people’s perspectives. Or please post about something you’ve read recently that you’ve really enjoyed. I’m always on the lookout for a great read.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Guest blogging:

I don't know what happened to Kerry's blog today, but I thought I'd fill in during her absence. Normally, Friday's blogs are reserved for the best of the best: spiritual insight, literary electricity, and philosophical poignance. It'll be hard to match up, but I'll try.

Yesterday, I received the following email from Stephanie Black:

I found mouse crap in my bathroom cupboards today. I thought of you.

Now back to our regularly-scheduled programming.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

There Must Be Opposition in All Things

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I've sensed some negative vibes in the publishing community lately, with the Deseret Book/Seagull controversy and the Rob Wells' bashing (even though he doesn't include me in his teasing banter I still felt sorry for him.) So today I thought I'd share with you an informal poll I took from my author friends of what kind of moments in their lives brought them joy—the tender mercies that get them through. Maybe these moments can provide some balance to the LDS writing universe through positive reinforcement. (Thank you to everyone who shared. I wish I could have included them all!)

A Selection of Joyful Moments from my Author Friends (names are not included for privacy reasons)
• The moment my husband first kissed me.
• The moment I knew that my husband loved me back.
• The moment I got engaged.
• My wedding day.
• After eighteen hours of hard labor, looking into the eyes of my newborn baby and at that moment knowing he was worth any pain because I loved him so much.
• Just laughing and talking around the dinner table with my family.
• The day I was sealed to my family.
• The day we knew we were out of debt.
• I was teaching a family that I loved on my mission and the day they decided to get baptized was a moment I'll never forget.
• Just climbing in between clean sheets at the end of the day and realizing what a blessing I have to have air conditioning and a soft bed to sleep in, sometimes just blows me away. Especially when you consider what is going on in the world today and how many people don't have a roof over their head.
• The moment I got my acceptance that my first book was about to be published.
• The day I got my first royalty check.
• When I shredded a pair of nylons while talking to my roommate realizing my now husband could be "the one." YES, my roommate still remembers, and still laughs at me.
• Receiving a fan letter that told me about a teenage daughter who hated to read until she got my book, read it faster than lightning, and went on to *continue* reading more books–I liked that moment because it was humbling to think I'd influenced someone and helped a kid clue in to the amazing world of reading
• When my almost-16 yr old daughter came home from EFY to report she'd finished the Book of Mormon and told us she'd had a feeling, and she knew it was true for herself. And the following Fast Sunday when she bore her testimony, and the Spirit bore witness to me as she spoke, that this testimony was now truly her own.
• When I helped co-write a roadshow. I was sitting in the audience during the performance, and hearing the audience laugh at the jokes I'd written. (They were well-performed--yay--and no one there knew I'd written those particular lines) That was a *swell* feeling I've never quite had since. Odd that that moment stands out.
• The best was an 8th grade graduation for our oldest girl. We were sitting in bleachers in the hot sun looking down on a football field with our other five kids between us and when they called our daughter's name. For a split second my husband and I looked over at each other to share the experience. That has remained the tenderest moment of my marriage.
• A few years ago I got to sign at BYU Education Week and they hung a sign with my name from the ceiling. Then I glanced over and saw that Brenton Yorgason's sign was right next to mine. He and I shared a table for that signing. He had a long line and the only people I talked to were the ones waiting for him, but he made a point to introduce me to every single person he signed for.
• The first time I "got" what it meant to teach by the Spirit and taught a gospel doctrine class straight from the scriptures without notes or an outline.
• My first LDS Booksellers Convention - loads of fun.
• Any romantic getaway with my husband because I fall in love with him all over again.
• The day I went through the temple to get my endowments. I was so ready to be there and loved every minute of it. I left feeling like I could fly.
• The day my son asked his sister to share her drink and she said no and he said, "But I would share with you . . ." and we all knew it was true. He wasn't making that up to whine or get his way; he was stating a fact that he would share anything he had with his siblings, because his heart is just that good.
• Any day I'm in Disneyland
• Every time I hit the end of a manuscript
• Finally, a Sunday when I was about 7 months pregnant with #3, exhausted and roller coaster emotional. My two-year-old had just wet herself on purpose to tick me off in one of those power struggle things. Other Sunday morning joys were going on, and I finally collapsed on the stairs in tears. Out of the blue my son (then almost 4) took his breakfast dishes to the dishwasher without being told--for the first time in his life. It made me feel like maybe I wasn't such a schmuck as a mother afterall. Then we go to church, where the opening hymn was "Home Can Be a Heaven on Earth," and I just knew someone was mocking me. In one of the talks, a sister kept repeating a phrase her inactive brother had used over and over again, "How can there be a God if . . ." Suddenly my little guy looks up from his coloring and says, "Mom, WE know there's a God."
• I grew up on a farm, dreaming big dreams while I herded cows and worked in the hayfields. Ever since I'd learned to read, I'd wanted to be a writer. I figured that I needed college to achieve that goal, but there was no money for such things. But I applied anyway, for admission and for a job to support myself. The day the letter came saying I had both was the pivotal point in my life. I stood there by the mailbox, holding the letter and thinking that the whole world had just opened up to me. There it was, laid out before me, and from then on it would be up to me and the choices I made to get to where I wanted to go. I sold my first story several years later while my husband and I were living in New York City while he got his Ph.D. at New York University. I looked at the check, thought about where I was (I'd always wanted to live in New York City), and thought, Dang! Dreams do come true

Someone once said to me that God gives us happy moments to store away in our memories to get us through the hard times. And I am very grateful for that. Have you had any moments in your life that brought you joy? What were they?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Joint Seagull Deseret Book Press Release

Seagull Book Issues Statement About its Relationship with Deseret Book

American Fork, Utah – July 19, 2006 – Seagull Book today issued the following statement about its relationship with Deseret Book:

“Seagull Book and Deseret Book have begun discussions to explore options for addressing the differences that have existed between our two companies,” said Jon Kofford, executive vice president of Seagull Book. “In the meantime, Deseret Book has extended Seagull Book’s ability to purchase Deseret Book products through the end of August 2006.”

No additional details about the relationship between Seagull Book and Deseret Book will be forthcoming at this time.

About Seagull Book
Seagull Book & Tape, Inc. ( was founded in 1987 by V. Lewis Kofford as a new distribution source for books and media targeting members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), as well as for products from Covenant Communications, Inc. — a sister company owned by Kofford. The first Seagull Book store was located at 1720 S. Redwood Road, a store that is still in operation and is the largest retail outlet for Seagull Book with approximately 6,000 square feet of retail space. Seagull Book provides great service and discounted prices to consumers of LDS books and media.

About Deseret Book
Deseret Book Company, founded in 1866, is a leader in the publishing, distribution and retailing of religious books, music and other products serving members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Deseret Book is committed to providing quality products that build faith, strengthen personal values, and offer practical advice to religious and non-religious alike. It now operates 43 full-line bookstores in the western half of the U.S., plus its Mormon Handicraft retail store. For more information about Deseret Book Company, visit

Announcing the Frog Blog Haiku Contest

by Stephanie Black

‘Tis summer, season of sun, sand, sunscreen and snits (my children’s, when I tell them we have to clean up the house today too). Summer, the season when hearts turn to poetry.

Well, maybe not. But we can change that. Warm up that keyboard and get ready to write.

Remember haiku? You learned haiku form in high school. It was that unit lodged between dangling participles and iambic pentameter. Five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, five in the third. Ah yes, it’s all coming back to you.

Welcome to our Frog Blog Haiku Contest. It's time to put your haiku abilities to use. But we aren’t seeking graceful poems about nature and seasons. We want haiku about LDS fiction. Hey, what did you expect?

Your haiku must have something to do with any LDS novel, series of novels, or a character from an LDS novel. For example, you could take the main character from Jeff Savage’s House of Secrets and write:

Shandra Covington
Pigs out and never gains weight
I want to kill her

Or suppose you’re a big Robison Wells fan (his mother). You could write:

I read Counterfeit
I spewed Sprite out of my nose
It was worth the pain

The Rules:

*The haiku must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format.

*The topic of the haiku must have something to do with an LDS novel or character from a novel. Or it can be about several novels--for instance, you could write a haiku about why you enjoy the style of a particular author.

*The haiku can be funny, serious, dumb or startlingly brilliant. But it cannot be rude, crude or insulting or it will be disqualified.

*You can enter as many times as you want.

*The contest ends next Wednesday morning, July 26th, at 8:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time. All qualifying entries will then be entered into a drawing and a winner selected. Okay, I guess that, strictly speaking, it's not a contest, since the winner will be chosen randomly. But all the entries are sure to be marvelous, so how could we ever choose one?

The Prize:

The winner will receive his or her choice of an autographed copy of a novel written by one of our froggie bloggers. Latest releases are:

Julie Coulter Bellon, Time Will Tell
Stephanie Black, The Believer
Kerry Blair, Mummy’s the Word
Jeffrey S. Savage, House of Secrets
Robison Wells, The Counterfeit
Sariah S. Wilson, Secrets in Zarahemla. A note here--Sariah’s book will be released in Feb. 2007. So if the winner chooses Sariah’s book, Sariah will send him/her a little sneak preview plus an IOU for the book when it’s released.

Hey, that inspires me. I feel another haiku coming on:

Fans chew fingernails
Waiting for Sariah’s book
Nephite intrigue rocks

Let the festivities commence! Get in touch with your inner poet and get writing. Fame and maybe even a free book await you in the Frog Blog Haiku Fest!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

And now a word from our sponsors

by Robison Wells®

There are two important things I’d like to talk about today. The first, of course, is related to the recent bookstore brouhaha of which much has been written. I hope that through my well-chosen words and peacemaking abilities this literary divide will be healed just as effectively as was the Israeli/Palestinian debate.

My second topic for today’s post, something that is much more important in the eternal scheme of things, will be very similar to Kerry Blair’s article last week. As she pointed out, in that sophomoric writing “style” she uses, there are a great many issues that are more important than something as trivial as LDS books. Offhand, I can’t remember what she talked about, but I’m sure it was extremely important. Like American Idol, or something.

My second topic, then, will be about people who go to movie theaters and, in one way or another, are stupid.

But, back to the first topic: it has come to my attention that Jeff Savage may stop posting his weekly blogs to this site because he feels that his writings aren’t receiving the kind of merchandising and promotion he would have liked. Granted, he’s a bit of a primadonna, and I’m not about to hang his Shandra is Shantastic! posters in the window. But it got me thinking: what about the other products we mention here on the blog? Are their respective marketing departments happy with the way we’ve been discussing them?

Well, say no more, my corporate friends, because from now on this blog will contain 50% more product placement, be 85% more shameless, and as of this moment we’re all in contract negotiations with the devil to sell our souls.

Speaking of selling souls to the devil, I recently went to see Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man’s Chest. (That segue changed topics as effortlessly as the 2007 Chrysler Sebring LX changes gears!)

With all the usual flair and aplomb we’ve come to expect from the good folks at Disney, Dead Man’s Chest tells the story of Covergirl Keira Knightly, GQ hipster Johnny Depp, and pretty boy Legolas as they battle the forces of watery evil. Well, sorry for the spoiler, but evil goes down the drain faster than a Drano-soaked clog. The effects are as eye-popping as Old Navy’s new autumn lineup, the plot is so tight it reminded me of the sweet German engineering of a finely tuned Volkswagen, and the romance is hotter than the new, cheesier Hot Pockets.

But there was a problem. Certainly not a problem with producer Jerry Bruckheimer (who has brought us other ridiculously wonderful Oscar contenders like Armageddon and Kangaroo Jack). Nor was it a problem with the Megaplex 12 at the Gateway Cinemas (try the Chicago dog at the concession stand –-- two words: LOVE IT!) No, this problem was with the idiot parents who sat in front of me, bringing with them at least six kids, all of whom were under seven, and most of whom were under four. (Sounds like a job for Dr. Phil!!!) (Or, alternately, Ortho Tri-Cyclen.)

Well, without giving away anything in the movie, let me tell what these youngsters were subjected to: cannibalism, lots of skeletal remains, big scary monsters, little scary monsters, a decaying leg being used as an oar, decapitation, swords through the bellies, throats getting slit, a still-beating heart in a box, and a crow eating the swollen eye out of a man who is still alive and is being starved to death. Now, I’m not saying that these things aren’t kinda fun and don’t have their appropriate place in modern society. But what I am saying is that kids under three don’t really need to see that kind of thing. (What they need to see, though, is the new LeapPad!)

New story: we recently went to see Superman Returns. Why? Was it because his super-strength reminds me of Hefty trash bags? Because his superbreath is clean and minty, thanks to Orbit gum? Because that forehead curl stays in place due to a heaping handful of TRESemme styling gel? On the contrary, it was because the packaging of Burger King's Angus Steak Burger told me to, and I must obey.

So, we were sitting in the theater for a while, because we got there early (thanks Timex!) and some family came in behind us and sat down, and then the mom freaked out because someone had, shall we say, violently vomited on the floor during the previous showing and no one had cleaned it up. Well, they switched seats to a less-pukey section, and they told the manager, and someone came in and decided that it wasn’t worth caring about because it wasn’t vomit after all, but it was actually someone’s spilled drink. (Coke, no doubt. Catch the wave!)

So, all was well, except that this lady kept getting up whenever anybody came into the theater and telling them to not sit in the barfy seat. But, this was all going on behind me, and I tried not to care. (And I could have, if only I’d remembered to bring my Valium!) Anyway, sometime during the first scene, four idiot teenagers entered the theater and sat directly behind me, and began talking in loud voices about all the dirty words they knew. It was as maddening as Madden 2007.

I gave them the standard Half-Turn, then the Full-Turn, and then, sometime during some stunning scene (wherein images were generated on computers – probably computers with Intel inside), I turned around and told them to be quiet.

This is a big deal for me. If the Full Turn were a Cheeseburger Combo Meal at Wendy’s then what I did was more on the scale of a Triple Quarter-Pounder with Cheese, upgraded to Biggie Fries and a Frosty instead of a soda. I don’t tell people off during movies, but in this one I did. I’m a brave little toaster.

So, they shut up for about twenty minutes, after which they resumed their idiocy, and I thought a great deal about the fabulous new Glock handguns.

The moral of the story: if you go to a movie theater (and you should, considering the fabulous new films which Hollywood has lovingly prepared for us), then (1) shut up, and (2) don’t let your little kids watch violent, youth-scarring, crows-eating-swollen-eyeballs shows. Let them stay home and watch Barney and Sesame Street, and get a fricking baby-sitter.

You: “Gee Rob, I didn’t know that I was behaving in such a silly, moronic fashion. Now I know.”

Jeff Savage: “And knowing is half the battle.”

Rob: “Don’t forget to drink your Ovaltine!”

Late night musings or (Is it midnight yet?)

by Jeffrey S Savage

If you can't tell by the late posting, this has been a loonnnggg day. Wish it was because I got so much writing done, but no such luck. Started by flying from SLC to Tulsa, OK, late Sunday night. Didn't get to bed until nearly one and was up at 6:00. Seven business meetings and 350 miles later, it is 11:30 and I am in Tupelo, KS (I think.) So, I'll just throw out a couple of thoughts tonight. If they make no sense, blame it on sleep deprivation.

1) Kerry comment's do place things in perspective. But I have to say that often perspective is in the eye of the beholder. If I had spent 20 years building up a successful LDS bookstore chain and an LDS publisher was trying to destroy everything I'd worked for (after twenty years of selling their books.) I'd probably think that it was every bit as important as any world news. Obviously Iraq would be much more than news stories to me if a close relative of mine was serving there. If it was Kerry's favorite little bookstore (or mine for that matter) that was being attacked by DB, I think we'd both be outraged. I guess what I am trying to say is that something which is ho-hum to one person can be a big deal to another, and both can be right.

2) If you haven't checked out his site, go to and check out his blog. You don't know what real author marketing is until you view his 60 day 500 bookstore car trip he is currently on. His mysteries are a little gory, but no body works harder to be a success than this guy.

3) A new bookstore is opening in Tooele on the 29th. It's about time, they have to drive all the way into Salt Lake to buy LDS books. And it's an independent actually opening instead of closing. Hurray! I'll be signing HOS at the opening.

4) My family and I often get really silly late at night, and often puns start flying. The latest episode started with my eight year-old son asking what the difference was between a motel and a hotel. My sixteen year-old said that motels were filled with people named Mo. After a brief pause, everyone in the car above the age of eight realized what that would make a hotel. After several jokes along the lines of that's why there are so many hotels in Las Vegas, we began coming up with other kinds of -otels. For example

Hotels that are not really what they seem: Faux-tels

Hotels that are always expanding: Grow-tels

The hotel where Ben Wallace stays. (The b-ball player. Note he has two hairstyles he constantly switches between) : Fro-tel or Corn row-tel depending on the day.

Hotels for tattle-tales: Go-tels

Hotels that constantly raises rates and decreases service: HMO-tels

Santa's hotel: Ho, ho, ho,-tels.

Now it's your turn. Goodnight and good luck. The winner gets a snip of Rob's hair and some of Julie's Canadian chocolate. Okay, not really. But Kerry will kill you in her next book. Okay not really but . . . zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Dream Predators

By Sariah S. Wilson

When I got the official news in December 2005 that my book was going to be published, a lot of people simply said congratulations. But there were many who said instead, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

A lot of people have that dream. Few actually do anything about it. And from those that try, even fewer actually finish their manuscript and an even smaller percentage mail it into a publisher.

When I imagined myself getting published, I envisioned frenzied editors fighting over who would have the privilege of publishing my book. Scads of money would be thrown at me. Hollywood would beg for the movie rights. I would write one book, make millions of dollars, and retire. I learned, as we all do, that it doesn’t quite happen that way.

The problem is that the people with the dream usually fail to realize how hard it is to get published, unless they know someone who has gone through the publishing process. The LDS market is different from the national market in that there are no agents and it takes less time. When I first submitted to my publisher, I just sent the entire manuscript because at the time that was the direction on their website. Now they want query letters first.

If you’re trying to publish in the national market, it can take years. First you have to send a one-page query letter. If that grabs their attention, the agent or editor will then ask to see what they call a partial. That’s usually the first few chapters and what’s called a synopsis, which is sort of like an outline and the bane of all writers’ existences. Then if they like that, they’ll ask to see a full manuscript. Keep in mind that each of these stages can often take anywhere from a few weeks to a year. Also keep in mind that at any one of those stages the agent or editor can say thanks, but no thanks. A request for a full is not a guarantee that you’ll get published.

When people with book dreams begin to understand the enormity of trying to get published and the long, long wait in front of them, many start to look for shortcuts. They want the “secret” of how to get published quickly.

Enter the con artists.

The publishing industry certainly has their share of snake oil salesmen, scammers who want to prey on your dreams. Print on demand publishers tell you that they can get you on the shelves on Barnes & Noble. No they can’t, no matter how much money you spend.

The worst are those that pretend to be agents. Anyone can hang a shingle and say, “I’m an agent.” There’s no licensing for agents (they can join the AAR, which subscribes to a code of ethics, so it’s a good way to weed people out). It’s why you absolutely must do your homework when you send your query letters out into the world.

Writer Beware is a writer-centric site that has the goal of helping writers navigate the publishing industry. They have a list of the top 20 worst “agents” out there:

Top 20 Worst Agents

These are agents that charge you “reading fees” or recommend that you take your work to a “professional editor” who then sends the “agent” a kickback. The “agents” charge an assortment of fees that often end up in the thousands, and then make a token effort to send your manuscript out in a mass mailing to editors (so that they won’t be guilty of committing fraud) (which you could do yourself, thus saving thousands of dollars and you’d probably get a better chance of having your work looked at because editors know who those scam agents are and don’t read their stuff). Real agents should NEVER take a dime from you until you have sold. Ethical agents will never charge you any sort of fee before they sell your work. They won’t make money until you make money.

The money ALWAYS flows to the writer. ALWAYS. There is no shortcut to finding an agent or to being published. Don’t let anyone take all your money while they’re telling you otherwise. There is no shortage of writer websites out there where you can ask questions about agents. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Friday, July 14, 2006

May Truth Reflect Upon Our Senses

by Kerry Blair

I have as much interest as anybody in the articles, posts, comments, tirades and speculation about Deseret Book’s decision to stop selling their merchandise to Seagull Books.

Okay, maybe I don’t. Frankly, I live in a small town in Arizona where there is no Deseret Book or Seagull Book & Tape. Twenty miles down the road there is an independent bookseller who has about 100 square feet of retail space. He has crammed a wondrous number of books, CDs, and other items essential to LDS culture into physics-defying arrangements that the Chinese send their acrobats to study. Only one person can shop there at a time and even then you have to suck it in a little and walk sideways. Because of the elderly proprietor’s ill-health, you can never be sure what time, or even which day—or week—the store will open for business. When the door is open, the only books you’ll be certain to find in stock will be novels by Kerry Blair. (Oh, and maybe a leather quad, a few “I Can be Baptized” booklets, and something by a prophet. Not necessarily the current prophet. I think David O. McKay was president of the Church when Brother Johnson opened his shop, but it might have been Lorenzo Snow.) For obvious reasons, this will forever and always be my favorite LDS bookstore. As long as the big dogs don’t mess around on Brother Johnson’s porch, I probably won’t be pitching any rocks at them.

Besides, call me clueless (nothing worse, okay?—I have tender feelings), but this thing between DB and Seagull hasn’t made the top ten on my List of Things to Worry About This Week. For one thing, I truly believe that “right will out” in the end. For another, there are other controversies going on in the big, wide world. A few examples--in case the hamster keeps swiping the front page for his Habitrail before you can read a headline--

Phoenicians of late have been waking up to incredible pictographs in the sky: airstreams caused by our our military once again testing its ability to shoot down nuclear-type missiles before they can strike American soil or our installations. The sight is beautiful. And chilling. I wish it didn’t make me think of my oldest son who lives on an Army base in South Korea, but it does.

The “big picture” coming off the AP today is a photo of one of the many firestorms unleashed on Lebanon. I wish the escalating conflict in the Middle East didn’t make me think of the writings of Isaiah and John the Revelator, but it does.

Down in Yuma, my youngest son is gearing up to go back to Iraq to help disarm roadside bombs. I wish I didn’t have to think about that at all.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not sitting in my doorway wringing my hands and wailing, “Woe is us!” Nor have I made a “World Ends Tomorrow—You Saw It Here First” placard to carry around the courthouse square downtown. (Somebody beat me to it anyway. We’ve had a man lugging around variations of that warning since I was in high school. You’ve just got to admire the old guy's pessimism in the face of the world’s stubborn determination to keep turning.)

Truly, I’m living life as usual. Usual, for me, means buying books. I’m sure I’ll continue to buy them for years to come—at Seagull, at Deseret Book, but mostly at Brother Johnson’s—but I think I’ll check my pantry and count my cans of wheat and powdered milk first. I hope and pray for all to be well in Zion, but all I can think to do personally to make it so is to follow the prophet so there will be oil in my stores when I need it and--especially--to follow the Savior so there will be oil in my lamp when I need that.

One of my favorite hymns begins, “Truth reflects upon our senses.” This poem of repentence and gentle counsel was written by Eliza R. Snow at a time when her world seemed to be in shambles. Nevertheless, in the last stanza she wrote: Charity and love are healing; These will give the clearest sight; When I saw my brother’s failing, I was not exactly right. Now I’ll take no further trouble; Jesus’ love is all my theme; Little motes are but a bubble When I think upon the beam.

It works for me.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Breaking Points and Beyond

by Julie Coulter Bellon

When I was a teenager, I got it into my head that when someone asked me to marry them, I would go skydiving and if I survived, my answer would be yes, and if I died, well, it would be no. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) I'm afraid of heights, so when someone did ask me to marry them, I just said yes. I also thought surfing looked really fun, but since I lived in a landlocked area, there weren't a lot of opportunities. I did learn, however, what a point break was. (Remember Keanu Reeves? He's a fellow Canadian who starred in a movie of the same name). Anyway, a point break is where a wave breaks as it hits a point of land jutting out from the coastline. Apparently, these waves are very challenging, but are the most rewarding to ride. To do it well a surfer needs to be determined, focused, and prepared to take calculated risks. I'm obviously not a surfer, riding the point breaks, but I liked the description of what it took to ride that particular wave. Mostly because in trying to live my life I feel like I have to be focused, determined, and prepared to take calculated risks since life is challenging, yet usually rewarding at the same time.

So even though I haven't gone skydiving or surfing, I still consider myself daring and willing to take risks. (Why else would I have six children?) As a child I took every dare I was given, once eating a rose, thorns and all, just because a boy triple dog dared me to—and that was before anyone had even heard of Fear Factor. But I did one daring thing in high school (if you don't count that senior dance prank) that I've always been grateful I had the courage to do. There was this girl who was very confident in herself and didn't really care what other people thought of her, which is atypical in high school. She dressed the way she wanted, she hung out with the people she liked, and that was just her. A large group of girls didn't like her and cautioned me against becoming friends with her, but I did it anyway. And because of that daring, I earned myself an eternal friend in the process. She's now an actress, and since I'm an author, we've had a lot of the same experiences. (Okay, so she's met and worked with famous people, but I blog with Kerry and Jeff, does that count?)

Anyway, earlier in the week I talked to her on the phone and poured out my life stresses to her. This week alone I was trying to deal with some health issues and several unexpected problems while sending one son off to Scout camp for the first time, another son heading off to Especially for Youth at BYU and I am currently preparing my daughter for a Pioneer Trek. Not to mention that I've co-chaired a three day family reunion for 160 people, attended another reunion, had a son get baptized (which means I did a talk and a musical number), as well as running kids to swimming lessons and piano lessons in addition to all my regular duties as someone who runs a household for eight people and writes. (I did make my deadline and finish my fourth book, though, which still amazes me.) I'm tired just saying it. You can see how focused I had to be, determined to get my to-do list done, and willing to take a calculated risk that I would get it all done without ending up in a tiny rubber room with a new white jacket. I was riding the point break waves of my life, but unfortunately, I was also physically and emotionally drained. My daring self just wanted to curl up in bed with some chocolate and the DVD remote and never leave.

Well, as this week continued on it didn't get any better. Yet, one by one all of my closest friends contacted me in person, by phone and by e-mail. It's amazing really, because that doesn't usually happen. They all just seemed to instinctively know I needed them. They commiserated with me and offered their love and support, each lifting me in the way that only they can. That's when I knew.

It really came to me after my prayers, when I was lying in bed, thinking about the events of the week. It was so clear to me that Heavenly Father was sending me His peace and love in the form of friends. In riding the point break I had found my breaking point, and He knew I needed my close knit little group of friends to keep my head above water. They are my shelter from the storm. These people all know my tender heart, know all my idiosyncracies, and they love me anyway. I am so grateful for this small circle of friends. Not only that, I began to feel more balanced and peaceful, the Spirit settling over me and testifying that the one constant friend that I always can count on, no matter what mess I get myself into, is my Savior. I think He sends us earthly friends who can mirror his unconditional love and acceptance, but He is the ultimate friend to fill our hearts with peace, love, understanding and patience. He balances out this crazy world we live in, and He's only a prayer away.

So if you have best friends who love you like the Savior loves you, who know what a special person you are, call, e-mail or get in touch with them and thank them today. I triple dog dare you. That kind of friendship is rare—a priceless treasure. So, to all my friends, (you know who you are) thank you.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Deseret Book / Seagull Book Update

Matthew Buckley, author of Chickens in the Headlights, emailed Deseret Book directly and received the following reply. I am posting it here with his permission:

Thank you for taking the time to inquire with us directly in this matter.

Deseret Book, as a publisher and wholesaler, has determined to no longer sell products to Seagull Book and Tape. Deseret Book and Seagull have a long-standing difference in views regarding how Deseret Book products should be merchandised, promoted, and treated.

Deseret Book products will continue to be available through thousands of other outlets including Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Costco, Smiths, Walgreens, Barnes and Noble, Borders, FYE Stores,, hundreds of independent LDS and general bookstores, Deseret Book stores, and

Thank you again for your interest. We genuinely hope that this decision will not cause you personal concern or inconvenience.

-Keith Hunter
VP, Sales and Development

If Nautical Nonsense Be Something You Wish

by Stephanie Black

The 4th of July holiday seemed like the perfect day to get out and have some summer fun. Instead, we decided to go sailing.

It all began a few months back when we became the co-owners of a rather large and very neglected sailboat, on the theory that as long as we’re spending horrific amounts of money in an effort to live in the Bay Area, we might as well do something fun that we couldn’t do in, say, Kansas (where we could afford to live).

In theory, the July 4th festivities seemed like a good plan. We would spend the day sailing on San Francisco Bay and exploring Angel Island. Then when dusk fell, we would anchor and watch the fireworks. The fireworks are blasted off a barge in the estuary, so we’d have front row seats. Awesome. With our family and our co-owner’s family on the boat there are four adults and ten children, but we’re fond of each other, and so far no one has pushed anyone else overboard.

Truth be told, I’m clueless about sailing and somewhat edgy about the concept. The other adults on the boat bustle around hoisting the mainsail and sheeting in the jib and giving each other nautical-sounding orders (“Ramming speed, helmsman.”) I sit there clutching my toddler and generally getting in everyone’s way. Part of my brain—the crazy part—would like to learn how to sail, but I have a sort of phobia about large, weighty objects that are slow to respond to my commands. I have bad dreams about driving a car and pushing on the brakes and the car not stopping. Sailboats are like the minivans of my nightmares, except there are no brakes to push on. But I do intend to learn something about sailing, and I suspect I have a stellar career ahead of me as the Gilligan of the crew.

So back to Tuesday’s festivities. In San Francisco Bay, there is an area called “the slot” where a break in the Pacific coastal mountains lets the wind come rushing in. Things can get rather choppy in the slot. It’s perfectly normal for sailboats to do a lot of tipping around, but it can be freaky if you’re not used to sailboats (I’m not) and prefer your mast to remain perpendicular to the water (I do). But our boat has a keel as heavy as a minivan and can tip nearly horizontally before we’d have to call the Coast Guard, so yeah, we’re getting smacked by the wind and the boat is heeling and it’s a dang shame I haven’t made a will yet, but all is well in Zion, yea, Zion prospereth, and then we wanted to start the engine—I can’t remember why—and it wouldn’t start.

You really need an engine in a sailboat that size. You’d have a heck of a time trying to dock it under sail, and an engine occasionally comes in handy if you need to get out of the way of something (like a freighter) in a big hurry. The mechanically-minded among us tried to fix the engine problem, with no success. Tension rose. The boat was getting hit broadside by waves. My six-year old started bawling, terrified by the way the boat was heeling. Bawling, frankly, didn’t strike me as a half bad idea, but I’m just sitting there holding my sleeping toddler and feigning calm (calm being defined as “not actually screaming”). We sailed into the wind shadow of the island so the mechanics could work on the engine problem without the boat’s bouncing around. The wind shadow is good in that the water is calm, but if a tanker had started toward us, we had no wind and no engine and couldn’t have moved out of the way. By now, I’ve decided that I hate sailing with a fiery passion.

To our intense gratitude, prayers were answered and my husband managed to hotwire the engine. We heaved a huge sigh of relief and the day was back on track. We partied on the island and ate pie and played on the beach. We sat on the boat and watched the fireworks. They were gorgeous, I was freezing, I had a nervous twitch from the events of the day and would jolly well rather have been home watching the Boston Pops on TV.

I’ve decided that I prefer vicarious adventure. No wonder I like reading and writing fiction.

By the way, the boat doesn’t have a name yet. Ideas on the table currently include the Itchy Shark and the Sea Weasel. If anyone has any good name suggestions, send them along. Right now I’m favoring the Decommissioned. Okay, that’s not true. I’m not quite ready to give up on sailing. Get me a Gilligan hat and I’ll be good to go. Though come to think of it, the S.S. Minnow wasn't a sailboat. Gilligan had it easy.

The Lily Pad of Comfort

I have made a number of changes in my life recently. The one pressing on me most at this time is the acquisition of a new home. To be honest, it all happened much quicker than I had anticipated. I had thought to give myself some time before I needed to be in the new pad, but within two days of beginning the search, we were putting down an offer which was countered which was accepted which led to securing monies and appraisals and inspections and a whole lot o' stress.

But we moved in a couple weeks ago. And that's been nice. Now we get to figure out how to make the pad Ours. This, of course, leads to a little bickering here and there as we discuss colors furniture placement and whose job it is to mow the lawn. But we're settling in and making it home.

However, it has been more apparent to me this time than any of the previous times I've moved how important my books are to me. I know I often joke about it, but it really is true. This past weekend, we finally got the bookshelves put up in my office, which meant I was able to liberate my books from their boxes in the garage. And having those books on the shelves is what makes this place Home. I'm at peace and balanced.

So, in honor of my books that are happily sitting on their shelves, I thought I'd post about my more-liked books in the LDS market. Well, the ones I have on my shelves, anyway.

Now, lest Kristy rail on me for not revealing my biases and what not, I will openly acknowledge that I prefer fiction, especially in the LDS market. Nonfiction in this market has a tendency to lean toward the I Hope They Call Me as a General Authority tone. Totally inaccessible. But seeing as how I prefer fiction, that means that most of my titles are going to be Covenant titles.

Kerry Blair. This Just In. Covenant Communications, 2004. If you read this blog regularly, then you know that you can't help but love anything Kerry writes. I bet I would love to read her grocery list. What I like about this book is she writes in such a way that you truly care for a character whose stereotyped characteristics (former beauty pageant contestant who now makes her living delivering fluff pieces on the news) we have been taught as a society to hate.

Jerry Borrowman. 'Til the Boys Come Home. Covenant Communications, 2005. Yes, this novel has a very slow start; however, Borrowman effectively uses the slow start to bring you into the characters' heads so you truly care for them. And his battle scenes, when he gets to them, are good. There is an advantage in penning a few biographies of war veterans. I also must commend an author who is brave enough to do what Borrowman does partway through the book, which I don't really want to reveal since I would have to give a spoiler alert.

Orson Scott Card. Sarah. Bookcraft, 2000. I think Card did a phenomenal job of bringing Sarah to life in a way that hasn't been done before, particularly in the LDS market. I don't think he followed through as well with through the remainder of the series, but such is often the case with series.

Guy Morgan Galli. Lifted Up. Covenant Communications, 2003. This book is, most unfortunately, out of print. And I'm upset that it's not on my shelf because a friend is borrowing it. In fact, I always have friends borrowing this book. Yes, it has a horrendous cover--mullets went out of fashion for a reason--but the content is good. It narrates the story of a Simon who was alive during the time of Christ's life and ministry. You see how the social circumstances of time affected Simon's life and how the brief contact he has with the Savior alters it. Such a good book. I may have to stop lending mine out since I can't replace it.

Jennie Hansen. High Stakes. Covenant Communications, 2004. Hansen is quite prolific, but it's High Stakes where I feel she is most at home in terms of her writing style. If there were to be a true LDS western genre, Hansen would be the one to head it up.

Dean Hughes. Children of the Promise. Deseret Book, 1997-2000. Hughes must be praised if for no other reason than he saved us from Lund. He showed that an author can tell a good story that contextualizes the Mormon experience without turning it into a somewhat trite narrative whose sole purpose is to teach Church history. It helps that Hughes is a darned good writer.

Robert Marcum. Land Divided. Covenant Communications, 2003. Though I liked Marcum's entire House of Israel series, I feel the second was his best. I think he managed to get a pulse on character and story and reveal somewhat of the underlying tensions that have carried through the Middle East to today.

H. B. Moore. Of Goodly Parents. Covenant Communications, 2004-2005. I know a number of people don't like Moore's writing, but I do. I think she has a pleasant, easy-going style and a fairly good pen for story narrative. I will say that I think it's nice to see a female author venture into writing about Book of Mormon times in a serious and academic nature. There is just a different perspective and feel for the people that she brings out. (I'm hoping to see the same thing in Sariah's forthcoming novel.)

Kristen D. Randle. Slumming. HarperTempest, 2003. If there were to be a true LDS young adult market, this novel would be the model. It's unafraid to actually deal with issues, whereas most other LDS books aimed at teens seem to think that all teens are Mia-Maids and deacons who are not "ready" for any real meat or hard situations. Of course, some of this is driven by the ways in which YA lit conflicts with LDS parenting, namely in that YA lit is about discovering who you are, and since LDS teens are raised being told who they are, they don't generally search for themselves until they're college kids. That's unfortunate. What's more unfortunate is that this book would have never been picked up by one of the major LDS publishers.

Pamela Carrington Reid. Coffin House. Covenant Communications, 2005. There has recently been an onslaught of LDS middle grade novels. I'm pleased to see that. I will confess to some disappointment at the homogeneity of the characters--too many blond-haired, blue-eyed kids from the Wasatch front for my taste. Which is one of the reasons I liked this novel. Sure, the main character is pretty Utah Mormon, despite being from Australia, at least her supporting characters begin to represent the cultural diversity we actually have in Mormondom.

James E. Talmage. Jesus the Christ. Umm. Need I say more?

John Taylor. Witness to the Martyrdom: John Taylor's Personal Account of the Last Days of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Deseret Book, 1999. The greatest value, in my opinion, in LDS nonfiction is in narratives. This is one of my favorites.

Patricia Wiles. Kevin Kirk Chronicles. Covenant Communications, 2004-2006. Of the recent spat of middle grades, this series is very much my favorite. I love the voice and the story. I love that it doesn't take place in Utah. I hope there's a fourth novel.

David G. Woolley. Pillar of Fire. Covenant Communications, 2000. Woolley's first book was phenomenal. He told a superb story with great characters. Then something weird happened with his second and third books, I'm not even sure what.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Defacing Literature

Well, The Counterfeit is out. I had a big release party on Friday, and three booksignings on Saturday. I met a great many readers who were interested in buying the book, most of whom were either relatives or people who owed me favors. Had I been Robin Hood, and Morgan Freeman had sworn devoted allegiance to me for a lifedebt, he would have probably repaid it via buying a copy of my book. (Well, he’d buy a copy of my previous book, because it’s on sale. You know how he is.)

Following the sagely advice of Mr. Jeff Savage, I’ve tried to stretch myself a little more at booksignings, going from the sitting-behind-the-table approach to a more outgoing, accost-the-public method. Recently Jeff posted some rules for booksignings, which I can’t remember and can’t be bothered to look up, but here’s what I think they are:

1) Have a good, solid name that implies violence (like Savage). I changed mine to Robison Howitzer.

2) Be Betsy Brannon Green. Because seriously, she’s all anyone wanted to talk about. “My book is a conspiracy suspense thriller,” I’d say, and they’d reply “Really? So are Betsy Brannon Greens’, but hers include casserole recipes. Do your books include casserole recipes, Robison Howitzer?”

Really, that’s all I can think of. Here’s one interesting thing I noticed, though. (It will soon be the subject of my doctoral dissertation on social psychology.) If someone is talking to you about your books, then other people will come up and listen. If no one is talking to about your books, then everyone else will avoid you like the plague. My theory? If I’m not talking to anyone, then people will assume I’m an unpopular loser who writes crappy books. And they’d be right. But if I’m talking to other people, then perhaps my books don’t make me worthy of the blackball quite yet. My solution? Hire groupies to hang around and talk about the books. If you’d like to apply, send your resume and a ten-dollar processing fee to Robison Wells, Inc.

The highlights of the signings:

1) The manager at the Taylorsville Seagull Book is named Randi. Her husband is named Dallas, and her new kid is named London. You see, they had a bit of a name-the-kids-after-cities theme going on. Consequently, I’ve decided to call her Randolph. I spent the entire hour I was supposed to be signing books coming up with funny kid names. For example: Panguitch. Also, a set of twin boys, Murray and Roy.

2) Susie, who works at the Redwood store, recently returned from a mission in scenic Lubbock Texas. I knew her from back when I was signing my first book at that store. The moral: in the last 18 months, she baptized, like, seven hundred people and I baptized no one. Seriously, I suck.

3) I only had fifteen minutes to get from the Redwood Road store to the West Jordan store, and I was quite late. I drove really really fast, but it didn’t help. Fortunately, the general public seemed to think that the West Jordan store had gone out of business, or something. Perhaps they’d seen the sign that I was there, and decided to shop another day.

4) “Best wishes and happy reading.” Seriously, I’ve been signing books for two and a half years now, and that’s the best I can come up with. What if someone wants to buy all three books? Do I write the same inscription in each? Do I think up something clever off the cuff? Do I come up with some crappy pun? “Dear Kerry-- I’ll tell you one thing that isn’t Counterfeit: this book is so spine-tingling and intense that no one will have to Wake You When It’s Over! (On Second Thought, bring a pillow just in case…) Many happy regards, Robison Howitzer.”

Monday, July 10, 2006


just got off the phone with Covenant and they will NOT be withholding their books from DB. Yeah, Covenant. Seagull's management is as baffled as everyone else and is trying to get to the bottom of things. We'll keep our fingers crossed.

Bad News in the LDS Book Market

I learned some news over the weekend that should be a major disappointment to every LDS reader, author, and publisher. It sounded ludicrous enough that when I first heard it I didn’t believe it could be true, but now I have heard it from enough sources that I have to accept it. I will say that it is alleged here so that in the event anyone has any issues with my talking about it I am covered, but I believe it is solid information.

As of August first, Deseret Book Publishing will no longer allow Seagull Books to carry any of their products.

Let me say that I am not privy to Deseret Book’s management. I do not know their exact thinking behind this decision. However, it is easy enough to surmise that Deseret Book’s retail division is hurting and they have decided that by cutting Seagull out of the mix, they can return to charging full price for their products. (Although it is interesting that they are still selling through Wal-Mart and other big box distributors.) Basically, the publisher is propping up the retailer by striking at the competition.

Now you might ask yourself, “What’s so bad about that? Sounds like business as usual in the big bad world of competition.” But what you would be missing is the potential long term implications of this.

First, DB has never carried or published a great deal of fiction, at least not in recent years. They make the lion’s share of their money from the big name non-fiction titles by General Authorities and the like. Walk into a typical DB bookstore and you will see a bigger cookbook section than adult LDS fiction. Likewise, without the big non-fiction titles, Seagull will be primarily fiction. So now you have an either or situation. Only have a Seagull bookstore nearby (like the good folks who live in the north Bay Area) guess you can only buy fiction. Only have DB stores, like the folks in Las Vegas? Hey you didn’t really want fiction anyway did you?

Additionally, without Seagull to keep prices in check, you can look forward to paying full price for your DB titles. Nothing like shelling out $16 for a paperback novel or $40 or more for non-fiction. That should definitely help increase the number of people buying LDS books, right?

What does this mean for LDS authors? It means that you can be published by DB and carried in their stores, be published by Covenant and carried in Seagull, or be published by a third party and possibly get into neither one, since they are going to have to focus on their own titles to make up for lost revenue. It means that the chances of increasing the LDS reader base have decreased dramatically since most people will not have a clue why certain authors are not in certain stores. Your average LDS reader thinks that an LDS bookstore is an LDS book store.

Now some people are saying, “Don’t worry, it won’t last for long.” And maybe they are right. Maybe this will all blow over in a few months. But the thing that should scare you is that a large LDS publisher would be willing to use tactics that sound a lot like Bill Gates putting the competition out of business. Imagine someone like Penguin saying, “You know, I’m really not fond of XYZ book chain, so I’ll just without all of my books from them and see if I can drive them under.” The national market wouldn’t stand for it.

Hopefully it will blow over as I have a great deal of respect for both parties involved in the dispute. Hopefully things will be worked out between them. But if not, it will have a trickle down effect on everyone who reads LDS books, and it won’t be a good one.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Perils of Purse Ownage

By Sariah S. Wilson

So, last week I got a purse.

I know, no big deal, right?

Except...I haven't owned a purse since high school. Back then all the girls at school had purses. I'm not really sure why. All I ever kept in my purse was my keys (I also couldn't drive so again, I'm not really not sure why I say "keys" when it was actually only one key and about 36 keychains). I found purses annoying. All that carrying and remembering just wasted too much effort. It was distracting.

When I got to college I had no purse. I had a backpack. The backpack kept my entire life in it quite well. If I was going dancing with my friends, I stuck my money in my pocket and was usually the only one on the dance floor not wearing a purse while I danced. I liked my freedom. I liked not having a purse appendage.

So when I got out of college, I stayed purse-free. I kept my keys and sunglasses in my desk at work. I would leave my wallet in the car, where the mess on the floor safely camouflaged it. It worked.

When I had children, I did use a diaper bag and I would just stow my stuff in along with the baby's stuff. Less hassle, less bags to remember. I would also carry cash and credit cards in my jeans pocket. Easy to get to, and since I'm always wearing my pants, I'm not going to inadvertently leave my credit cards at a restaurant or something.

But then my husband got me a Palm Pilot for Christmas. Then he got me a keyboard to go with it. Now, presumably, I can write wherever I want to. But the Palm Pilot does not fit in my pockets. Nor does the foldable cute keyboard. I wanted to use them. I wanted to be able to work on my story whenever I felt like it. Drastic measures had to be taken.

Thus, I got a purse. I now have to remind myself to carry it everywhere with me. I'm very worried about forgetting it and find that I am much more easily distracted.

The proof? Last week after I bought my purse I also received a sunburn so bad I couldn't move my arms (while I remembered to put sunscreen on all the parts of me I could see, I failed to put it on my shoulders or back. Ouch.). While driving a few days later, my 4-year-old pointed out a cow to me and I turned my head to look. I had this fleeting thought about the many yellow fire hydrants lining the road before looking at said cow. When I turned my attention back to driving I noticed that the car in front of me had come to a dead stop. I slammed on my brakes and had to swerve off the road into the grass and managed to maneuver my way around one of the yellow fire hydrants without hitting the fence that kept the cows in (meanwhile I'm thinking that if I was going to get a warning from the Spirit, instead of "Watch out for the yellow fire hydrant" a "Hey, stupid, keep your eyes on the road or else you'll get in an accident" might have been more effective for me).

A terribly bad sunburn and an almost bad car crash the same week I get my purse. Coincidence?

I think I should go back to pockets.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Party at Rob's House!

Oh, wait! I remember now. Erin won’t let Rob have any more parties at their house. The gala extravaganza to celebrate the much-anticipated release of The Counterfeit will be at the West Jordan Seagull Book at 1650 W 9000 S from 5 to 7 TONIGHT! You’re promised free food, fun giveaways, and witty conversation. (The latter being if you talk to somebody besides Rob, I presume.) Everybody go! Take pictures. (Maybe we’ll get something on Wells we can use later.)

And if anybody is willing to pick up an autographed book for me, let me know. After reading Wake Me When It's Over thrice, waiting a year and a half for the next novel, and pouring over the websites, I really want to read that book! I’ll pay cover price, postage, and throw in a free something-or-other for your trouble! A nice something-or-other. Really. But make sure Rob spells my name right in the inscription. While you’re at it, make sure he spells his name right.

The Bifurcating BADGER Tree

by Kerry Blair

I’ve been telling stories since I was old enough to lisp, “I saw a wabbit on Wocking Chaiw Woad!” but I learned to write stories by accident.

Rather, I learned to write because the counselors at my high school filled class schedules alphabetically. By the time they got to me, Blacks, Bellons, and Blairs occupied all the desks in the good classes, leaving us Wolfes, Wilsons, and Wellses with a choice of Journalism or Home Ec. I didn’t want to learn to report any more than I wanted to learn to rip seams or whip eggs. (I like to make up stories, remember? Even then I knew that fiction is frowned upon in journalism -- unless, of course, you’re a Pulitzer prize-winning columnist or presidential press secretary.) But since sewing machines are scarier than typewriters (have you seen those needles?) I took Journalism.

This put me in Room 402 where the BADGER was produced. The staff of the school newspaper was instructed and advised by first-year teacher Marv Abrams, an enthusiastic, idealistic, left-wing liberal. (This in comparison to the rest of the population of Smallville, Arizona where we lived.) The man didn’t even speak English as we knew it. “This,” he said, pointing to a diagram on the chalkboard, “is a bifurcating BADGER tree.” I looked down at my spiral notebook but didn’t take notes. I didn’t know what “bifurcating” meant, but it sounded distasteful if not obscene. “You will develop political efficacy!” he declared. I closed the notebook. I already had zits, I didn’t need a bad case of efficawho on top of them. As soon as class ended I ran to the counselor’s office. Basting seams and/or turkey carcasses was preferable to bifurcating efficacy everywhere.

But I never made the transition from Lois Lane to Suzie Homemaker. (If you don’t believe me, ask my husband. He saw me at a computer just this morning, but he probably can’t remember the last time he saw me at a stove.) I stayed in journalism because A) As I waited to see the counselor I remembered that I love words, and that the man whose class I’d just fled seemed to know an impressively excessive number of them, and B) Home Ec was full. I went back to my seat in Room 402...and stayed there three years.

Turns out I learned a lot of useful stuff along the way to graduation. In the word “fulfill” the fill is full. Philip pines for the Philippines. Get it? I could spell and pronounce “Caribbean” decades before “Pirates” came along to educate the rest of you. I can also pronounce “ayatollah,” but its spelling is a little iffy to me. (Or not. According to my spell check I nailed it on the first try!) Admittedly, the Philippines, the Caribbean, and ayatollahs were as difficult to work into a high school newspaper as they have been into LDS romance novels set in Arizona, so maybe learning to proofread backwards was more efficacious. (My mystery series will make less sense, but it might have fewer typos than Jeff’s.)

The point is that everything I needed to know I learned in high school journalism. And what I really needed to know (aside from how wrong it is to begin a sentence with a conjunction) is that enthusiasm and idealism are contagious. Tree-hugging aside, MEA was the first person I’d ever met who really cared -- cared about his work, cared about the world, cared about “his” kids. By graduation, I still didn’t want to become a journalist, but I did want to become a passionate, devoted world-mover like Mr. Abrams.

If there is a more Herculean or heroic job in the world than teaching, I don’t know what it is. Thank goodness for those who undertake the education of America every day. Thank God (daily, in your prayers) for the gifted, gutsy few who do it with talent, passion, and devotion. They -- more than the politicians, celebrities, and even religious leaders of our time -- shape our future.

So, how does one pay tribute to a loquacious, luminous pedagogue like MEA? I haven’t figured that out yet, but that’s not what this post is about. This is merely a rumination about one of the roads of my youth bifurcating toward a BADGER tree. I took that road and, as Robert Frost will tell you, it has made all the difference

Thursday, July 06, 2006

If You Were LDS on TV, How Would It Be?

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Well one thing I've learned from last week's blog is that you don't mess with literature abusers . . .er. . .enthusiasts . . .um . . . book lovers . . . gulp . . . book-a-holics. I was afraid I'd get beaten over the head with a book or something! You guys are brutal!

I did think of one thing on that list though, and I'd like to discuss it today. That is #7–Sometimes I re-write television dialogue. That reminded me of the fast-growing phenomenon of fanfic which is really hot in the summertime when most TV shows are on hiatus. For those of you who don't know what fanfic is, it's when fans of a television series write scenes or stories using the characters from the show. I actually found out about this when re-runs of one of my favorite television shows started, "Scarecrow and Mrs. King." I loved that show! It only ran for five years, though, and then Kate Jackson got cancer and it didn't continue. The show didn't really end with a satisfying ending, and that's when I found fanfic. Several people had written wonderful endings to the show and I really liked that. I often thought about writing a fanfic myself, but at that time, I wasn't a published author so I was concentrating on my novel.

Well, after last week, I started wondering what it would be like if we did a fanfic that transferred some of our favorite television shows growing up into an LDS show, especially one that was as stereotypical as some people seem to think all LDS fiction is. Here's what I came up with.

I'm going to date myself here, but what if the Love Boat were suddenly taken over by terrorists, a biological weapon released on board that exposed Julie the Cruise Director (I loved her!) and Captain Stubing. Then Gopher and Doc could work frantically to find an antidote to save everyone before they dock. Conveniently, two LDS couples are on board with superior sleuthing skills and many copies of the Book of Mormon, and by the end of the episode the crew is saved—both physically and spiritually.

Or what if Fonzie from Happy Days had to actually work to win the girl's affections, his snapping fingers put to rest while he romances her. She is a mysterious girl, reluctant to talk about herself, but seems very interested in Arnold's and loves it when Fonzie takes her there. Arnold is acting strangely when she's around, and confesses to Potsie that he's actually in the witness protection program so he can testify against powerful money launderers in the mob. He also met two LDS missionaries while he's been in hiding and has been baptized. The only other people who know about his past are his Mormon bishop and Ralph Malph because he was Arnold's partner in crime. They've had to move several times because Ralph can't keep his mouth shut and is paranoid about being followed. They finally put him in undercover as high school student so everyone would believe he's just a naive, insecure teenager and not pay any attention to his wild stories. However, it's almost time for them to testify at the trial and even Arnold is getting nervous. Unfortunately, Fonzie's new girlfriend is really the daughter of the mob boss they're going to testify against, and she's bent on revenge until she falls in love with Fonzie. Of course, the LDS bishop---who's also an FBI agent---saves Ralph's life during a shoot out at Arnold's and everyone is grateful when the mob boss is brought down and the Arnold's gang—-Potsie, Ralph, Fonzie and his new girlfriend---are investigating the church. (The Cunningham's always seemed Mormon to me, so I didn't count them.)

(The story I had about Mork and Mindy was so wild, I didn't dare print it here. I'm sure you can fill in the blanks. Just imagine an LDS fanfic of Mork taking his new religion back to Ork. I'm laughing just thinking about it.)

Even in today's popular television shows, like 24, CSI, Grey's Anatomy, Alias, or ER, how would they be different if a main character on there was a Mormon? And not a cheesy, stereotypical Mormon, but a real LDS person? The LDS people I've seen on reality television like Louis on Dancing With the Stars, and the two dancers on So You Think You Can Dance, or even the two Jensen girls on The Amazing Race (hey they were in my ward!), have all represented themselves well. The host of The Amazing Race came to Utah and told the Jensen girls' parents that he'd never seen anyone so friendly and polite to everyone around them.

So if I could write a fanfic, I would hope to write it without the stereotypes, and have it be more of a real representation of who we are as LDS people. It can be done and there is some LDS literature out there that is hitting that mark. But I must admit, it was fun thinking about how I could wrap up Happy Days, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Mork and Mindy, and the Love Boat with a happy LDS ending for everyone. What can I say? I'm a happy ending type of person and it IS a TV show. I am curious, though. What show would you re-write and how would it be different?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

LDS Women's Book Review Contest

by Stephanie Black

Some days just weren’t meant to be blogging days. We just got back from vacation on Monday night, were gone all day yesterday risking our lives on San Francisco Bay, and are now facing, among other things, a disaster of a house and a fridge that we’ll never be able to clean. Because of the life flourishing in there, it has been declared a protected ecosystem and therefore we can’t legally mess with it. Maybe we should just move out.

Being thus pressed for time, I shall forthwith fill up my slot with someone else’s words. The LDS Women’s Book Review is a group of three reviewers who discuss fiction in a monthly podcast and run an online forum at My book, The Believer, was a featured title in May’s podcast discussion. It was a terrific discussion. You should go listen to it and then buy several copies of my book, read one, and give the rest away as gifts. Pretty please? The book comes highly recommended by my mother, and she’s a very honest woman.

The LDSWBR is running a contest to help introduce people to their forum. This is the announcement of the contest, as sent to me by Shanda, the moderator. And I swear, I didn’t slip any extra words in there (that’s for Rob’s benefit—I sensed he was going to accuse me of adding the word “wonderful”. I didn’t, and I also deny bribing Shanda. The witness who saw me slipping her that envelope was completely unreliable.)

Win an autographed copy of The Believer by Stephanie Black!

Contest Information

There are 3 ways to get your name entered into the drawing for this
wonderful book-

* Join our mailing list by logging into the website. Look for the login
form on the lower left section of the website. If you have already
joined the mailing list previous to this announcement you are
automatically entered. If you do not wish to participate in the
contest, please send an email with your request to

* Tell someone about LDSWBR. When they join the mailing list, tell them
to send us an email with the name of who referred them to our site, and
you will each earn another entry into the drawing.

* Your name will be entered for each qualifying post you post on our
message board. For a post to qualify, it needs to be at least 2
sentences long, either a comment or a question adding to the discussion
thread. Ultimate decision on whether a post qualifies will be at the
discretion of the LDSWBR team.

* The contest ends August 18, 2006 at 11:59 PM MST.

* Contest is limited to residents of the continental United States.

We hope you are as excited about this as we are, and we don't even have
a chance at winning! Good luck, everyone. See you on the boards!

There you have it. If you enjoy discussing LDS fiction, pop on over to the LDS Women's Book Review and say hello. You might win a free book.