Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Top Ten Things You Don't Want to Hear About Your Book

I have been having a hard time this week deciding what to blog on. As a BYU alumni there was an amazing "holy war" football game this week between the University of Utah and BYU and BYU pulled out with a win with only three seconds left to go in the game. It was awesome. Then there's Christmas coming up, and a million other possible things I could have blogged about, but nothing was really jumping out at me. Until this morning. I was talking with my good friend Marnie Pehrson, (whose new book Angel and the Enemy is now available and it's easily her best book to date, by the way) but I was telling her of my dilemma and she suggested a top ten list. Then we just started brainstorming all the things that authors would never like to hear about their books. It was getting a little crazy, (I was laughing so hard) but I narrowed down the list for you. Feel free to add your own.

The Top Ten Things You Don't Want to Hear About Your Book

10. It makes a great coaster

9. I set it down and got engrossed in the shopping network

8. The retirement home reads it every night! It makes a great sleep aid.

7. It was the best white elephant gift at the party.

6. That was your book? I'm sorry.

5. I plan to read it as soon as we get a new couch. You see we lost one of the couch legs in the move and your book was the perfect size to prop it up.

4. I found a lot of errors. If I show them to you, could you put in a good word for me at your company? I'd love to be your editor.

3. Your characters reminded me of Gumby, sort of flat and one dimensional, but other than that it was good.

2. Your hero reminded me of this guy I hate.

And the number one thing you don't want to hear about your book is . . . drum roll . . .

1. I didn't care for it, but my cousin Earl and the other inmates just raved about it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Calling in Sick

by Stephanie Black

I got a migraine first thing this morning and I feel yucky. I'll try to blog later, but for now, here are a couple of links.

Part Two of my interview with Cindy Bezas is now posted here.

Here is a groovy picture of the sunset on San Franscisco Bay. I hope the colors show up better on your computer screen than they do on mine; it was really a spectacular sunset.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Unexamined Life --or-- How Many Libertarians Does It Take To Screw In a Lightbulb?

As you may recall, I posted a blog on Election Day, all about how local elections are silly, and about how libertarians are idiots. Well, a good friend of mine (a lawyer) emailed me, asking me exactly why I thought libertarians were idiots, and I replied with something along the lines of "because they're heartless, selfish plagues upon humanity, who kick the homeless and laugh at hungry children". Or something to that effect.

Well, my lawyer friend lives in scenic Fairbanks, Alaska (motto: "Where lack of sunlight has gone to our brains!"), and he and I communicate exclusively via email. Since that fateful day at the beginning of November, we've exchanged dozens of emails on the subjects of law and politics and religion. In fact, I just checked the email threads, and it looks like we've written almost thirty thousand words on the topic.

I've referred to him as a crazy Northern Idahoan and he's called me a socialist who hates freedom. We've quoted from the Constitution and we've quoted from General Conference. He thinks I'm wrong, and I think he's wrong, and neither one of us is likely to change the other's mind. But here's the neat thing: we're okay with that.

I love to argue and debate. I love to go to movies, and then pick them apart. There are two major newspapers here in Salt Lake, one of which has a fairly pro-LDS bend to it--and I always read the other one. The reason? I already know what I think, and I want to know what other people think.

In our email discussion, my friend made an interesting comment: he said he enjoyed the argument because, by forcing him to put his opinions into a concrete statement, he was able to solidfy his own beliefs.

Socrates said that "the unexamined life isn't worth living". In other words, if we are afraid to take a close look at why we believe what we believe, and why we act the way we act, then what good are our opinions?

I went to school and got a degree in political science (actually taking many of my classes with this same lawyer friend of mine). Quite often, we were required to discuss a political issue, taking a different viewpoint than the one we personally held. I once won a debate handily, devastating my opponent--and I was arguing for the legalization of marijuana! But the thing is, despite having to argue for many things with which I disagreed, I left school very confident in my own political beliefs. So did my friend, even though he and I have very different views. In other words, having to examine our own opinions made us stronger, not weaker.

My boss recently moved to Utah from Mississippi, and he's an active Southern Baptist. The other day I asked him what exactly differentiated a Baptist from other Protestant religions. After he explained the difference, he commented that no one would ask that kind of question down in the south--politics and religion are taboo in casual conversation--and he said he loves that about being in Utah. People are willing to talk about their beliefs, to discuss and debate. Granted, most people won't change their minds, but the important thing is that they're thinking.

That's what's great about arguing with my lawyer friend. Neither of us takes it personally, and neither of us is losing respect for the other (we didn't have all that much to begin with!) and it's just refreshing to talk about our beliefs.

But seriously: libertarians? I mean, honestly! Talk about a life not worth living!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Jen Steps In

In the best tradition of Tom Sawyer I have swapped my wife chicken strip cooking for blog writing. I am getting the best of this deal, right. Ouch, the hot oil is splattering! Right? How do you turn this thing down?! Right?!!! Lookout I think the fryers going to blow!!!!!

I’m Dreaming of a DECEMBER Christmas
By Jennifer Savage

Isn’t he funny, folks? Give him a big hand. He’ll be here til Thursday. Try the veal! (Probably safer than the chicken strips.)

So this is probably going to be less of a blog and more of a gripe. But since when is Christmas a three month holiday?

Am I the only one left who remembers Thanksgiving decorations in stores? Thanksgiving pageants? Dressing up as a pilgrim? Am I the only person in America who thinks listening to Christmas music on Halloween is blasphemous?

Seriously, a local radio station, the one that traditionally starts playing carols on November 1, which is wrong on so many levels, decided to get a jump on the season and started a day early.

Picture the scene if you will. I load my boys into the trusty dusty minivan, all dressed in their spiffy Halloween costumes, which at our school have to be historical according to grade (the first grader was an Egyptian prince, the third grader a Viking). We’re on our way to school, talking about who is going to take the guys trick-or-treating, and do we have sacks big enough to hold all the loot, when I innocently change radio stations and hear Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

I almost threw up.

Even school kids are kind of relieved to go back to school after three months of summer. But three months of Christmas sales, Christmas songs, and attempts at achieving Christmas perfection? No thanks!

Christmas to me isn’t about materialism, it’s about moments. Decorating cookies. Hanging stockings. Putting out carrots for the reindeer. Taking goodies to family and friends. Writing cards, wrapping gifts, making those once-a-year goodies (like Jeff’s Russian Teacakes) and, yes, Christmas carols.

I’m not a grinch. I love Christmas. But it seems to me that if you start singing carols, decorating, and shopping that early, Christmas loses some of its magic.

Maybe if it takes us three months to prepare for Christmas, we’re doing it wrong. Maybe we’re substituting trimmings and tinsel for the things that really matter.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The One Wherein I Am Irresponsible

by Sariah S. Wilson

Usually I yell at the other writers when they forget to blog (well, not technically yell since I am confined to email). I have no excuse other than that with this holiday weekend one day has bled into another and I lost track of time. I fully acknowledge my shortcomings and confess that I am a bad blogger.

That being said, I wanted to solicit some readers opinions today. As I've mentioned before, my younger brother has just entered the MTC to prepare for a mission to Moscow, Russia. He had to spend Thanksgiving there, and will be at the MTC for Christmas as well.

Christmas is THE holiday at my mom's house. She starts listening to Christmas music in October (she actually starts listening to it in July, but doesn't make anyone else listen to it until October). Christmas was always a huge deal growing up, and this will be my brother's first Christmas away from home. We'd all like to do what we can to make it a little easier for him.

But as we started brainstorming Christmas gift ideas, we realized that we weren't sure what is a good missionary gift. Obviously, we don't want to give him anything that wouldn't be useful to him in some way. (Although I suppose we could get him un-useful gifts and take pictures of them and say, "Those will be waiting for you when you get back.")

My husband suggested sending my brother a bunch of junk food - while making certain that there's enough for him to share with his batch mates. I thought of things like socks or ear muffs, but that would be pretty boring to open. My mom is planning on getting him some T-shirts for P-days.

As you can see, we're fairly desperate for ideas. If you served a mission, what would you have loved to receive for Christmas? If you had sons or daughters who served missions, what sorts of things did you send them for the holidays?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Yet Another Guest Blog

It's Thanksgiving Night. I've been up since 6 AM, prepared enough food to feed a small third-world country, and polished 700 pieces of china, crystal, and silver that haven't seen sunlight for the last 12 months. In another eight hours it will be pitch dark, two hours before sunrise, below freezing -- and time to go Christmas shopping. I tried to beg off (and thus gain a little more sleep) by reminding my daughter (the leader of the shopping expedition) of my sacred obligation to post a Friday blog. It almost worked. She wrote the blog for me.


by Hilary Blair

Well, today was Thanksgiving. Miraculously enough, my mother did not burn anything, the turkey cooked in less than 11 hours, and the pit bull did not eat the turkey carcass – all big improvements over past years.

We played the Blair Family Traditional Monopoly game. We’ve played this every year for as long as I can remember, and every single year my brother, Matt, wins. I was bankrupt within the first half-hour today, but that was okay with me. I really hate playing games, but I do grace my family with my presence around the game-playing table once a year or so. Anyway, three hours and about 72 million dollars later (it was that new version of Monopoly where they put all the money in millions to confuse people) my mom became the new Thanksgiving Day Monopoly champion. This just proves that miracles really DO happen during the holidays, even miles away from 34th Street.

When the grandmothers had finally arrived and we had all gathered around the table, the feast began. We did have one fewer person dining at our table this year. Scott, my oldest brother, is serving our country in South Korea and will also be gone for Christmas. We missed him, but we don’t worry too much. He told us just last night that he’d been invited to two Thanksgiving parties — one at church and the other at the prison where he works as a medic. Personally, I thought the prison party would be better – or at least more exciting – but knowing him I bet he went to church.

We all stuffed ourselves full of delicious food and homemade pumpkin pie and then watched “Christmas with the Kranks” and played another game – Pirates of the Caribbean Life. (I didn’t win that one, either.) We are now all preparing to go to bed so we will be ready to go out before six tomorrow morning to shop.

We have a lot to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving and Mac and Cheese

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Last year at Thanksgiving, we traveled down to Arizona so I could be at a booksigning the next day. A friend of ours had graciously lent us her apartment in Mesa for the weekend, and we thought it would be fun to bring the kids and visit the Grand Canyon on our way. We spent Thanksgiving afternoon marveling at the amazing canyon, then went on our way. Our plan was to find a restaurant open for dinner, and celebrate a Thanksgiving that someone else had cooked.

Unfortunately, by the time we got to Mesa, we couldn't find even one restaurant that was open. We drove around for several miles, then finally turned into the trusty 7-11. Mustering up a smile for the kids, we went into the convenience store and chose our Thanksgiving fare from their shelves. Macaroni and cheese with Oreos for dessert. The kids seemed pretty happy with it (the younger ones anyway) and we headed for our borrowed apartment. It was there, in the confines of those four walls, eating cheesy macaroni for our Thanksgiving dinner, that I had one of those perfect moments. We were all laughing and we were all together. I had my children around me, food on the table, a warm place to sleep, and the safety and security of the gospel in our lives. It wasn't the meal we had in front of us, it was the blessings we shared, it was being together, of loving and being loved. It was the perfect moment.

So, today, while I am making the grand Thanksgiving feast, the kids are fondly remembering our mac and cheese Thanksgiving last year. I can just tell it's going to be one of those stories that comes up every Thanksgiving. But I can just smile and laugh along with them because that was a moment in time that I cherish and am very grateful for because it brought home the true meaning of Thanksgiving for me. So as we're sitting around our table today, with turkey and all the trimmings, I'm going to be humbly and gratefully counting my blessings and remembering a sweet Thanksgiving of mac and cheese.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


by Stephanie Black

Why did I do it? Maybe it was the unaccustomed thrill of being in Relief Society. I don’t do RS very often—I’m pretty much on permanent Primary status. Don’t get me wrong; Primary is great. But it was nice to have a break from Sunbeam wrestling, especially since it was Fast Sunday when the blood sugar is low, and we have—heaven help us—afternoon church. The RS held a visiting teaching conference during the third hour and the Priesthood covered all our classes so the Primary workers could attend. So there I am, relaxing in RS, responsible only to keep my hands to myself and stay on my own chair—what a concept!—and they make the announcements and pass around the sign-up sheets.

Ah. Looking for volunteers. Our mission home gives each missionary a blanket when he or she arrives in the field, and supplies are low. The most desired of the blankets are those hand-tied fleece blankets. Thus, they are asking for volunteers to either make a blanket, donate money to buy the goods, or donate a gently used blanket. Feeling that I’m due to volunteer for something, I sign up. And by gum, I’ll not only get the fleece, I’ll make the blanket! Fleece is on sale at a nearby fabric store, they tell us, so get it before the sale ends.

Now, if this had involved actual sewing, I would have fled in fear. I heartily dislike sewing. I’m not good with anything that involves matching seams and making things come out evenly. Once in our youthful, idealistic years, my husband wanted me to make him a pair of pajamas. My mother-in-law, who is an expert seamstress, helped me find an easy pattern. I sewed the pajamas. And there, in the back of the shirt, the pieces of fabric just didn’t match up. Why, I don’t know. So, being resourceful and sloppy, I folded the fabric and sewed a pleat in what looked like the middle. Maybe it would look like I’d made pleated flannel pajamas on purpose. Well, it turns out the pleat wasn’t in the middle, so my husband’s PJs had this odd fold of fabric off to one side. But he didn’t mind, and he wore them anyway. He’s a very nice man. I’ve never made him another pair of pajamas, but I do cut his hair . . .

Anyway, the fleece blanket didn’t involve sewing, but it was in the species fabricus homemakingskillsicus, and I started to have volunteer regrets. And when I was at Wal-Mart and saw how affordable blankets are, I’m thinking whoa, why didn’t I volunteer to donate a pre-fab blanket instead? Granted the fleece blankets are much nicer, but how about if I buy two Wal-Mart blankets and call it good? But the real reason for my grumbling is that deep in my dark little heart, I just didn’t want to take the time to do the blanket.

So I procrastinated until the day before the blanket was due. With deadline looming, I bit the bullet, spread out two layers of fleece on the living room floor, snapped at my children to get away before they messed it up, got advice from my oldest daughter (who’s made a blanket like this before) and got to work.

And I finished. Promptly. I wasn’t watching the clock, but it couldn’t have taken more than an hour. Vroom, and it was done. And it looked good. The ties don’t even have to be all the exact same width or perfectly the same length for it to look good! Approximately is good enough! It's the ideal project for me! How embarrassing that I’d done so much complaining over a project so easy. Now my son wants me to make him one of these blankets for Christmas—and I’m thinking I’ll actually do it. Whoa. Me, making something out of fabric for a gift! Who’d have thought?

I had such a bad attitude about the service project that I don’t think I deserve any blessings for it—a gift given grudgingly, and all that, as Mormon would say. But I got blessed anyway—I was able to help out a missionary and now I have a Skill. Awesome. Isn’t Relief Society great? Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Screwing Up My Kids

by Robison Wells

Holly, my four-year-old daughter, has always been taller than average, topping the charts at the doctor's office. So, despite the fact that she's only four, I've been trying to get her interested in basketball. My wife, who played volleyball in high school, has been trying to influence Holly in that direction. But whenever we ask her what she'd prefer, basketball or volleyball, Holly excitedly shrieks "I'm gonna be a cheerleader!"

She's a girly girl, in spite of everything I do.

Holly’s very interested in My Little Ponies and she very much enjoys it when we play together, which I probably don’t need to tell you is not a particularly masculine activity. And when we play, she always claims the more macho ponies—-Minty and Kimono-—and leaves me with Sparkleworks and Rainbow Dash. And then we brush their hair. My wife thinks it’s hilarious. (I do get some degree of revenge, though: When Holly wants to act out her favorite Disney movies, she’s always the princess, and I’m the prince, and my wife’s either Maleficent or Ursula the Sea Witch.)

But I can’t even get Holly to watch cool cartoons. When there’s a choice between Transformers and Secret Slumber Party, we’ll inevitably go for the latter. I once rented Disney’s The Black Cauldron, just to offset the number of princess-related movies in the house, and Holly hid behind the couch, afraid to watch.

But I’m starting to find common ground where we can both have fun, or in other words, I’m corrupting her.

One of my video games has an Army Painter feature. Before you start the game, you can customize the look of your troops, changing their insignias and camouflage. Trying to get Holly involved I let her paint her own army, and I’m sure the enemy had never before witnessed such a fearsome foe: hot pink Space Marines, with purple guns. Their helmets were red, Holly told me, because that’s the color of Ariel’s hair.

Likewise, I’ve tried to get her to play Madden Football with me on the Nintendo, but she’s only interested in choosing teams over and over and over, never playing—she likes to compare the mascots and the colors of the uniforms.

However, I recently scored a major victory. I get really sick of Holly's music (mostly Disney soundtracks and--thanks to my wife--Celine Freaking Dion). I often try to introduce Holly to some really high quality music, usually with mediocre results: the only Beatles song she likes is Octopus's Garden (because it talks about an octopus); she kinda likes Bob Marley's Buffalo Soldier. But nothing compares with my new attempt: she can't get enough of Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit. She loves it. And there exists no weirder sixties drug song anywhere. All I had to do was explain the Alice in Wonderland connection, and she was hooked. Addicted, you might say.

Poor parenting? Maybe. Maybe I shouldn't push her into so quickly into pop culture. Then again, maybe she shouldn't have gotten me so addicted to My Little Ponies. If you'll excuse me, I have hair to brush.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Angry Readers Hang Author in Effigy

I received this e-mail the other day regarding my latest book, Dead on Arrival.

Why did you end that book like that? When are you going to finish it? I liked the book very much until the last paragraph.

Now, mind you, this is not the first person who made this comment, nor do I expect her to be the last. In fact I’d say I heard the same thing at least six times during my two book signings over the weekend. But truth be told, that is exactly the response I was hoping for. Let me explain.

I absolutely hated the 2nd Pirates of the Caribbean movie. In fact I nearly loathed it. Two reasons. The biggest reason by far, is that I thought the script was incredibly weak and choppy considering that the writers had so much to work with. I’ll go see the next one on the strength of the first movie alone. Had this been the first POC, I would never have bothered to come back.

The second reason is that—in my mind at least—there is a big difference between ending with a cliff hanger and stopping the movie/book halfway through. What was actually wrapped up in the movie? Nothing as far as I can see. The director basically took a five hour movie and stopped it halfway through. Chris Heimerdinger did the same thing with one of his Tennis Shoes books, and I, along with many others was ticked.

I enjoy a multi-part story or a series that carries from one book to another. But I think it is a rip-off to stop a story halfway through and then say, “Wait a year and you can pay to finish.”

I don’t think that’s what I did in my book. At least that wasn’t the intent. I have a specific formula that I am trying to adhere to in my Shandra books.

a) Locked room type of beginning where the reader goes, “How can that possibly be. I sure want to see how the author manages to pull this off.
b) Aha moments where the reader figures some key point just before the author reveals it.
c) Lots of twists and turns.
d) Edge of your seat ending with people in peril.
e) Mystery is wrapped up.
f) Cliffhanger that leads into the next book.

So when people say, “I hate series books because I don’t to be left hanging,” I can say, “Not a problem. Each mystery stands on its own and is a complete story.” However, I want people to have a pressing reason to read the next book. The cliffhangers may not always be as big as the one in this book. But the goal is to have the reader respond exactly as the above reader did. “I loved the book. I wanted more when it stopped. When is the next one coming out?”

To me that is a success. In essence, it is what I try to do with every chapter. And in this case, the story had to end there. I raised a major story line in DOA that can not be resolved satisfactorily in one book. I could have left it hanging or I could have tied it in a neat bow. But to me those are rip-offs. What happens in the last chapter happens because it must.

And the good news for all those angry readers is that Covenant is going to do an early release of the next book. Hopefully late Spring early Summer. The bad news is, expect another cliffhanger.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Traumatizing Your Children

by Sariah S. Wilson

My 4-year-old woke me up at 4:00 in the morning last night to tell me that he was scared (or “I skeered” as he said it). I turned on the bathroom light for him and that seemed to be enough. He went back to bed and back to sleep.

I did not.

I had to deal with the parental guilt over the fact that I’m the reason my 4-year-old has nightmares.

It all started at Disney World - a place that, I might add, deliberately advertises itself as a place where dreams come true. They don’t tell you about the nightmares part.

So we’re in the Animal Kingdom, and we’re at the enormous fake tree in the middle, because we’ve heard good things about the 3D show based on “A Bug’s Life.” Have you seen it?

Because if you’ve seen it, you know what’s coming next.

It starts out harmless enough - Flick (the hero ant) meets a variety of bugs that have special skills. One bug shoots acid to kill enemies - the audience gets sprayed with water. Another shoots quills and you feel puffs of air. But then a six foot tall Hopper (the bad grasshopper) comes out of the wall and commands bad bugs to attack. He sprays the audience with bug spray (mist everywhere), tells the spiders to get us (as they descend from a darkened ceiling) and has the hornets use their stingers (you get poked in the back).

It was at this point that my poor little boy turned to me and said in a frantic voice, “I want to leave!”

So I immediately took him out (not easy to do in that very dim room) and they had ushers standing at each of the exits. I found out this is something that regularly occurs, particularly when no less than 20 kids came out not long after we did.

This was on the second day of our vacation, and it nearly ruined the rest of our trip. That night after we had gone to sleep, he sat up in his bed and said, “Mommy, I want to go home.” I came over and comforted him, telling him that his dad and I were right there, and so was his brother, and that he didn’t have to be afraid. He laid back down, and a few minutes later he sat up and cried, “I want to go home right now!” He couldn’t even fall asleep without being scared, and I brought him to bed with me so that he could get some sleep. We were able to fix the sleeping problem - the next day we bought him a large stuffed Mickey Mouse and told him it was a special Mickey who would give him good dreams. He has slept with it every night since then.

The 4-year-old refused to go on any ride that was inside (even something as harmless as Peter Pan) or anything that was dark. We tried the Muppets 3D because it wasn’t supposed to be scary and while he did fine in the waiting room, he freaked out when the movie started. Obviously, the Haunted House was completely out of the question. We did manage to coax him onto rides like the Pooh one and Small World, but I could see his tension and worry as he went on each ride. He ended up loving Buzz Lightyear, but only got on the ride because we told him he could shoot all the bad guys.

I worry about having permanently scarred my baby. Will he now watch “A Bug’s Life” and have posttraumatic flashbacks?

My own mother unintentionally traumatized us. One way was by letting us watch a movie called “Mr. Boogedy.” As an adult, it is a very lame movie and not at all scary. As a kid, it was terrifying. We’ve all told her about the nightmares we had over Mr. Boogedy, and she’s just shocked. She feels really bad about it - she didn’t think it would frighten us at all.

So have you ever done something as a parent to permanently traumatize your child? Or did your parents do something to traumatize you?

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Most Important Thing I've Learned

by Kerry Blair

I’m glad nobody’s ever asked me to name the most important thing I’ve learned in life. I’m terrible at quizzes. I’ve been shifting through superpowers all week and still can't pick one. I'm leaning toward Shandra Covington’s, however. I’d really like to scarf down everything in sight over the holidays (after drowning it in maple syrup and adding a side of noodles) without getting fat. Fatter.

But some people are brilliant under pressure. Betsy Green is one of them. This is evident from her author bio. She’s the wife of a bishop, mother of eight, grandmother of one adorable little girl, ward YW president, and author of – count them – eight chart-topping novels. Her Miss Eugenia won the “Favorite Character” award at the mystery dinner hands down. (We had to give Betsy both trophies because she’d created and portrayed Miss Eugenia.) Truly, this woman is a phenomenon in the world of LDS publishing -- and the world at large. She is also one of the most genuine, funny, Christlike people I have ever known. I don’t know what to call the superpower Betsy emanates, but it’s the one to have.

Here is one of her recent musings.


by Betsy Brannon Green

I was asked to represent my decade, the fifties, at a recent RS activity, and to describe the most important thing I’ve learned (so far) in my life. Since I have obviously learned many, many things, it was hard to identify the most important. But after some consideration this is what I’ve come up with.

We’ve all heard the phrase “this, too, shall pass.” I believe that within those words we can find a wealth of wisdom. My mother kept a journal for a few years while my father was in medical school and it is a treasure to me. My mother died young and I love to read about the happy, healthy times of her life. Following her example, I’ve kept a journal for many years and I hope that my children will enjoy reading it when I am gone.

It was while I was reading through an old journal that I found my most important lesson. I read about cars that wouldn’t start, bills that seemed impossible to pay, laundry that never got “finished” and children with constant ear infections. But now the cars I was worried about are in junkyards, the bills got paid somehow, the laundry still isn’t done, and the children can all hear. Time passes. The bad times won’t last forever and there are always good times to look forward to ahead. That’s an important thing to know and cling to during hard times. But there’s another, more subtle lesson that is even more important. That lesson is -- the good times pass too.

I read in my journal about my first date with the man who would eventually be my husband. I read about the birth of each baby, their first days of school. The Easter dresses and Halloween costumes I made. The Christmases and birthdays we shared. I read about ballgames and baptisms and graduations and weddings. Like the bad times, these wonderful moments in my life have gone and endure only in memory.

So the most important thing I’ve learned is that we must live each moment to the fullest. Endure the bad times well and remember that they won’t last forever. But don’t take the good times for granted. They won’t last forever either.

For more insightful excerpts from Betsy’s journal -- plus recipes, pictures, book reviews, goodies and much, much more, visit her website. Betsy Brannon

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Drawing From the Wells of Truth and Superstition

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Well, I'm almost finished with The Counterfeit by Rob Wells. But I'm frightened to finish it. Really, I am. Let me tell you why.

I was reading the book on my porch swing and I was at the part where we meet the Catacyclist. I'm not kidding you, at that moment, a kid rode by on his bike and turfed it. Big time. It was horrible. I felt a little responsible because of the book. Maybe if I hadn't been reading that, it wouldn't have happened. (I didn't tell the kid that though and I haven't stopped reading it even with the obvious inherent danger. I'm strangely drawn to it, but I've limited my reading to inside the house now).

The Counterfeit draws me in because of its clever way of coming across as simplistic when in reality it's complex and layered. It's a very interesting book. You have this plot which is straightforward but complicated with emotions and feelings and strange people and events. It's a tangled mess that makes it fun for the reader to unravel. And Eric, what can I say about Eric? He's so everyman that you love him and his clumsiness and insecurity and you're cheering for him all at the same time you're laughing at/with him. Wells did an amazing job with his character.

One other thing I really have loved about the book was reading about France and remembering all the fun memories I have of my time there. The romance of the city of Paris in itself, not to mention the Champs Elysee, the Arc de Triomphe, and even reading all the French again and realizing I can still understand it. It was a little joie de vivre and it was reassuring and fun after all the crazy things that have happened since I started Rob Wells' books.

But then the frightening thing happened. (There is an eww factor here so be warned). I had a few minutes to myself so I could read and I took The Counterfeit out. I'd only read a few pages and I heard a loud smack. My dog started barking and I ran to the window to see what it was. It was awful. A little bird had flown right into my dining room picture window and his guts were all over the glass (that we'd just cleaned, by the way).

Now I have to give you a little background here. When I was a little girl I was told that if a bird hits your window that means someone in your family is going to die. I didn't believe it at first, but one day when I was really young, a bird flew into our kitchen window and my aunt died a few days later. It was awful. So ever since that day, deep down in my consciousness I believed that if a bird smacks into your window, someone in your family is going to die. And if anything happens to anyone in my family in the near future I'm going to blame Rob Wells and his bad luck book. Just so you know. And it won't be pretty.

I've often heard of strange traditions and superstitions. My grandmother believes that if all the cows in the field are laying down, it's going to rain that day. I've also heard that if there's sunshine while it's raining it means another rain is coming right after. Or if there's a double rainbow and you can see both of them at the same time, something extra good is going to happen to you. Or if you find a penny and pick it up all day long you'll have good luck. But if you pass it by you'll later cry. Or walking under a ladder brings bad luck, like breaking a mirror. What traditions or superstitions have you heard of? Do you believe them? What makes us superstitious? Do we make up reasons for good or bad luck in our lives? Is there such a thing as luck?

Josh Groban once said that luck is preparation meeting opportunity. Do you believe that? I know the publishing world talks a lot about luck and timing being the key to getting published. But if we found a penny and picked it up does that mean our manuscript will be published? If a few cows are standing and some are laying down, does that mean it will only be cloudy? Is there any truth to superstition?

Whether any of it's true or not, I'm trying really hard not to think about/believe the superstition about the bird, though. I'm just going to tell myself it's all in my head, just like all the crazy things that have happened since I started Rob's books. It's all coincidence. Right?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My New Website

by Stephanie Black

I’m excited to announce that I have a website. A website has been on my ought-to-be-done list for a long time (that’s a step down from a to-do list). I don’t know the first thing about creating a website and figured I wouldn’t have time to think about it until I finish the novel I’m working on. Then my sweet husband surprised me by creating a website for me. The template on this website is easy enough that even I—the biggest techno-doofus on the planet—have learned how to do some editing. But I still haven’t learned how to work with pictures. For the record, that giant eyeball picture wasn’t one that I added. One of these days I'll learn how to swap it for something else--though it does kind of fit the Orwellian ambience of my first book. I’m not sure how the peacock applies, but man, it’s a cool peacock.

In additional to a giant eyeball and wildlife, my website also offers original poetry, composed by our own poet-in-residence. No, the poet isn't me. I specialize in creepy, not poetic.

If you get a chance, drop by my website and let me know what you think. What do you enjoy seeing on author websites? What makes you want to come back?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Faster than a speeding bullet

by Robison Wells

I once heard an interview with an author, John Hodgeman, who began almost all conversations with the question: "Flight or Invisibilty?" It's an age-old superhero debate--if you could have only one, which would it be? What Hodgeman found interesting about the question was that almost everybody would answer immediately, and they would almost all answer Invisibility. However, as they'd talk about it for a while, people would consider the reasoning for their decision--almost all of the reasons would be somewhat dishonest: sneaking into movies, getting free subway rides, evesdropping, and worse--and then nearly everyone would revise their decision and take flight instead.

It's interesting to think about, but he made another interesting observation: almost no one thought they'd become a superhero if they gained superpowers. People who chose flight would fly to work instead of driving, and people who chose invisibility would go to free movies. That was about it.

Last night I was watching Heroes, a new show on NBC which is fast becoming my favorite. It's the kind of show that makes me mad that I didn't think of it first, because it'd be so much fun to write. The basic gist of it, for those of you who don't watch, is similar to the X-Men movies--people, seemingly at random, being to manifest superpowers--but it differs from the X-Men in that it trades outrageous jets and matching outfits for realism.

Anyway, last night my wife asked me which superpower I'd pick (selecting from those featured in the show) and I found myself picking one of the more mundane powers, for the same reasons Hodgeman mentions: I don't really think I'd be a superhero, just a guy with a really handy ability. Maybe I need to have nobler goals.

So, here's the list of powers in Heroes (as far as I can tell so far). Pick which one you'd most like to have, explain why you want it and what you'd use it for.

*Stopping time (as in, you could freeze everything, then do something, then unfreeze time again)
*Clairvoyance (you can see the future, in a limited kind of way)
*Super-healing (you can get really hurt--almost dead--and then heal right back up)
*Mechanical Magic (I'm not sure what to call this one. It's the ability to "magically" fix mechanical things.)
*Intangibility (being able to walk through walls)
*Photographic Memory (being able to instantly remember anything you've read or seen)
*Persuasion (the ability to endure crappy Jane Austen movies! Har! No, it's actually the ability to control people's will.)
*Radioactivity (the ability to control radiation, to heat stuff up)
*Reading people's thoughts

I think that I'd probably pick the photographic memory. Since I don't really plan on saving the world, it seems the most useful in everyday life. But that's just me. What would you pick?


Sorry guys. I am really involved in my book right now and completely lost track of time. One minute it was 6:30 and the next minute my wife is telling me to turn off the lights and come to bed because it is almost midnight. It's funny how sometimes writing is the hardest work I know and other times I write 3,000 words and feel like I could keep going all night. My sincere apologies. I blame it all on Julie. Or laptops. Or maybe the return of swing music.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

In Search of the Elusive Author Quote

by Sariah S. Wilson

This last week I hit another milestone in my getting published journey - I was asked to get author endorsements or quotes to go on my cover.

After some lengthy discussions, it seemed my best bet was to try and find authors who write romance and/or historical fiction. So that’s the direction I went in. It seems as if it turned out successfully, and I’m now waiting for those quotes.

I also took a little bit of a different route - two authors from my RWA chapter have also agreed to take a look (one writes historical romance, the other writes inspirational fiction). My editor thought it might be interesting in addition to having quotes from LDS authors, having quotes from some nationally published authors as well.

Because I’ve been working on this so diligently, it got me to thinking about endorsements. I realized that I have never once bought a book because of an author quote on the cover. Now, I’ve bought many, many books based on reviews or recommendations, but I’ve never picked up a book, saw a quote on the cover and thought, “Nora Roberts said this is fabulous. I have to buy it!”

I buy books based on reviews, based on my friends’ recommendations, based on the cover and/or title, and based on the back copy. I have been pleasantly surprised after I’ve already purchased a book to see a quote from one of my favorite authors, like Julia Quinn, on the cover. But that just makes me feel like a smart consumer - it never factored in to my decision to buy it.

I’m curious as to whether I’m alone in this. Has anyone here ever bought a new author because an author you already love gave a quote on the cover?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Proud & Petrified, But No Longer Puzzled

by Kerry Blair

I have a sticker on the back of my car that says Proud Parent of a US Marine. I stuck it there myself when my youngest son entered boot camp. For a long time I drove around town feeling like a liar. What I needed was a sticker that said Puzzled Parent of a US Marine. Here was a kid who had every opportunity to go to college without the GI Bill. Plus he had a car, a comfortable room, a big-screen TV, and a surround-sound system that would do credit to a CineMark theater. (All of which he bought himself working as an assistant manager at Sears.) More importantly, he had a fairly functional family and terrific friends -- a couple of whom were of the beautiful female variety. This he traded for a motto that went Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body, a platoon of smelly fellow-recruits, and a drill instructor with pointy teeth who could have taken etiquette lessons from the Terminator. Most puzzling, he did it at a time when one or two or ten young Americans die each week on foreign soil. You know what? Forget puzzled. What I really needed was a sticker that said Petrified Parent of a US Marine.

In Matt’s second week of training, we received a letter from Robert C. Oaks that shifted my paradigm, at least a little. A former four-star general, Oaks is now a general authority in the LDS Church. He wrote: In these troubled times, it is heartwarming to see sons and daughters courageously step forward to help preserve our freedom and way of life. You can be proud of the part you played in molding Matt’s character. Courage and patriotism do not come automatically; they are planted in the hearts of children by their parents.

Excuse me? As much as I hate to argue with a general authority, the fact that I now have two sons serving in the military is not my fault. In fact, I suspect they have a genetic defect.

In the Spring of 1777, their ancestor, Philip Bonesteel, turned his back on his nobleman heritage in England to enlist as a Minuteman in fledgling New York. When the War of Independence drew to a close, he was twenty-two years old, homeless and penniless, but he was an American.

Fourscore and five years later, John Manche, an Indiana farmer, left his wife and two small children behind to serve in the Civil War. Later, desperately poor and still suffering from wounds received at Gettysburg, John received his first pension payment, along with a letter praising him for his courage on the field of battle. He sent the money back to Washington with a letter of his own that said: A man does not offer his life for the honor of other men. A Christian does not take the life of a brother for silver or gold. I fought, sirs, to preserve my country. That she still stands united is payment enough for me and mine.

My dad was an ordinary high school kid when Pearl Harbor was bombed and America entered its second World War. He coerced his widowed mother to sign papers allowing him to enlist before he graduated from high school or neared 18. He fought in Guam and the Philippines and was aboard a carrier when it was torpedoed on the open sea. He served through the end of WW II and then fought in Korea. (Very near where my oldest son serves today.) He was in the Navy for twenty-five years.

So, with all due respect to Elder Oaks, I blame those guys and men like them. Courage and patriotism do reside deep in my sons’ hearts -- as deep as they did in the hearts of their forefathers. Like Philip Bonesteel, they were determined to ignore the well-intentioned advice of parents and leave a comfortable home to enlist as freedom fighters. Like John Manche, they serve for the right reasons. (Although I do believe they cash their meager paychecks.) Like my father, they do their jobs wherever they are sent, knowing they could die in defense of their beliefs.

I’ve had that sticker I told you about on my car for a couple of years now. While I’m still petrified, I’m no longer puzzled. (Heck, I might even be proud.) There have been a lot of veterans in my family, patriotic men who stepped forward during the worst of times in our country’s history. How surprising should it be that there are yet two more in this generation?

Tomorrow is Veterans Day. They deserve a day -- and a whole lot more.

America Supports You

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Strange Things Have Happened Since I Started Reading Rob Wells

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Strange things have been happening since I started reading Rob Wells' books. Before I tell you about them however, I have to give you a little review of Wake Me When It's Over.

Wake Me When It's Over is the story of Eric, a normal guy, who sees his sorta, kinda, girlfriend maybe kidnapped. That event starts an incredible mystery that includes college friends and shady characters---most of whom seem straightforward, but some that seem trustworthy aren't---and the reader can never be sure who can really be trusted or not. It's amazing plotting and an original storyline that is really hard to put down and kept me guessing until the end. I also liked how real the main characters were. They're just ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events and they bumble through. Wells' humor shines through and I found myself laughing out loud at some of the one-liners. I also liked that the religious element was there, but it wasn't obvious, and the main characters were so layered and flawed, it was just like you were going through the whole thing with old friends. If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it. I've just started reading The Counterfeit and I am loving this one even better than Wake Me. But I have to put a little warning on it, because here's what happened to me when I started reading these books.

I was on the last page of Wake Me When It's Over, feeling happy with the resolution we got, sadness that it was over, relief that it was a happy ending sort of, and well, kind of mad at the cliffhanger, when all of the sudden a little black bug landed on the page. Not only landed there, but promptly died. It was the strangest thing I've ever seen. I didn't know what to do. Do I scrape the little dead carcass off the beautiful white page? Pretend it's an extra period? Shut the book and entomb him forever in this fine LDS literature? Why would he choose that moment to die? Is the book really to die for? Did he have any last thoughts?

Then, when I started reading The Counterfeit (which has an amazing setting so far by the way. I love Washington). There was a car explosion in the book (I don't know how exactly to explain Maurice so I'll just say car) and that very day I dropped my daughter off at school and a teacher's car mysteriously exploded in the parking lot. Not a movie-type car explosion, but a small explosion and fire that caused the police department to come out, evacuate buildings, students, and generally cause a lot of excitement over the fire.

That same day, I found a few more moments to read The Counterfeit and I got to the part in the book that has a description of a door that had a big fat owl on it. Just as I was reading that line, the phone rang and it was a friend of mine. She wanted to share a story with me. (Before I continue I have to warn you that there is some gore and eww factor here so you may not want to go on). She was driving down the road at 4:00 a.m. and an owl crashed into the grill of her truck. Her and her husband got out to look at it and there was blood everywhere. She looked at the poor little owl and asked her husband if they could take him home and have him stuffed, but her husband reminded her that was against the law. Before they could think too much about it however, the owl flapped back to life, scared the living tar out of them, and flew away. The blood all over the truck was from the mouse that had been in the mouth of the owl.

I'm almost frightened at the things that have been happening since I started reading Rob Wells' books, but I can't resist it. I have to know what happens. Just because Rob Wells is that good of a writer, I will risk any future danger (to a point) to finish the book. But if you don't hear from me for a while or if you dare to read the books yourselves, don't say I didn't warn you.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


by Stephanie Black

Surprisingly enough, our Halloween decorations are down—and it isn’t even December yet!—and our Thanksgiving decorations are up. It didn’t take long to decorate. We only have three Thanksgiving decorations.

1—Two wooden pilgrims, created during a long-ago Relief Society Homemaking extravaganza.

2—One turkey constructed out of a pinecone, lace and a mason jar lid, created by one of my children at some point in his or her elementary education.

3—One set of painted wooden blocks (from the same source as number 1) spelling out “GIVE THANKS.” A little painted wooden turkey completes the festive effect.

By far, the most popular decoration in the household is number 3. The blocks are really quite cute. I’m not very craftsy and I greatly admire people who are, so I’m proud that these blocks turned out so well. They look lovely on the piano--very appropriate and seasonal, encouraging us to give thanks for our blessings.

Or they would work that way, except that my family regards these blocks not as a Thanksgiving reminder or a decoration but as a word puzzle challenge. Anagram City. Each day I put the blocks back in order, and sooner or later, some jokester rearranges them to spell something like “THINK VEGAS”.

We do have fun with language around here, so I suppose it would be ludicrous to imagine that the blocks could remain in their correct festive order for any length of time. I’ve always been prone to making up words, and I come up with nonsensical nicknames for my children. My oldest daughter specializes in personalized faux-swearing. There's the“Bo” family of words used to vent frustration--Bo-heckin’. Bo-darnit. Bo-higgins (wasn’t he on the Dukes of Hazard?). Bo-hemian. Being familiar with the police radio codes, she's also been known to threaten a sibling numerically ("If you don't stop that this instant, it will be a 10-55"). And my husband plans to contribute a bad poem a week to my soon-to-be finished website. He's written three so far. Furthermore, I think the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is a hoot.

I’ve got to go clean up the house now, but let me close by reminding you that this Thanksgiving season is a special time to SAVE KNIGHT. Or maybe AH VEG STINK.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Get Out The Vote

by Robison Wells

(Warning: I’m going to attempt to write an article about election day and politics without ever saying what issues or candidates I agree with. Why? Because if I were to say: “I’m voting for candidate X!” and you were to be voting for candidate Y, then you’d never buy my books. You are so petty that way.)

Today is Election Day, which I am doing my darn hardest to get excited about.

For those of you who don’t know my background, let me tell you a little about myself. I was a political science major. I love the stuff. When people ask me what my favorite non-fiction book is, I often answer Political Ideologies and The Democratic Ideal, by Terence Ball and Richard Dagger. One of the reasons I began writing my first book was because it was endless fun for me to imagine a fantasy political system. When I was in the third grade I wrote a letter to Ronald Reagan, and he wrote me back (well, one of his form-letter secretaries did). In other words, I like politics.

But for the life of me, I just cannot get worked up about local elections. Yes, I’m interested in the Senate race, and there are a couple initiatives that are intriguing, but when it comes to crap like County Recorder and County Clerk, I so very much don’t care. Because of this, I emailed Micah, a friend of mine who is very involved in local politics, and I asked him who I should vote for. He emailed back a long impassioned letter about who was corrupt and who was partisan and who was looking out for the little guy, and it sounded like it would make for a very compelling political thriller if, I don’t know, it wasn’t about the County Recorder!

My wife and I have recently acquired the first season of The A-Team on DVD, and we spend our evenings watching Mr. T build cabbage launchers. But one of the funniest things about The A-Team is that they’re a group of highly-trained Vietnam vets, and yet the only bad guys they ever fight are good-old-boys and crooked sheriffs. I could totally see The A-Team battling the County Recorder. Man, it’s getting me all giddy just to think of it. Maybe if the local candidates spent more time dressing up like Chinese launderers and welding stuff I’d care more. Attention fanfic writers: you have your next assignment!

But think of all the great political films out there: Dr. Strangelove, The Manchurian Candidate, Wag the Dog, All the President’s Men, The Candidate. Heck, even Dave. They all have one thing in common: they have nothing to do with the County Recorder. That’s just it. The senate race I can get interested in, because you can really imagine crooked senators in a serious, Oscar-worthy film. County Recorders are just silly.

Now, granted, I realize that the local politicians have a great deal of effect on my life, and the decisions they make should be important to me. I mean, I complain all the time about traffic, yet here I am mocking the local officials who could fix it. Even so, when you boil the issues down to The War (on the national politics side) versus Speed Bumps (on the local side) it’s just not much of a comparison.

Anyway, I think I’ve done a fairly good job of writing an entire blog about politics in which I never once state what I think politically. Well, all except for this last part:

In conclusion: Libertarians are idiots.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sweet or Sour

I am reading two books right now. Lisa Gardner’s “Alone” and Peter Straub’s “Shadowland.” Both are very good books. The Gardner book I am reading for the first time, the Straub book I am reading for probably the tenth time at least.

Alone is action-packed. It starts with a sniper who may have been tricked into killing a woman’s husband and continues from there. The writing is adequate. The beginning is exciting but it slows down a little in the middle.

Shadowland is a painting in language. The main story doesn’t start until over a hundred pages into the book, but it carefully pulls you into its web. The characters are extremely deep and the setting is unbelievable. I often read it for inspiration.

Two different books that both succeed, but take completely different paths. So I thought I’d get opinions on what you prefer.

If you could only choose one or the other, would you prefer:

1 A story that immediately drops you into the action or one that slowly spins a web?

2 A story with strong characters or a fascinating plot?

3 A story that makes you laugh or one that frightens you?

4 A series or a different set of characters in every book?

5 A story with a great beginning or a great ending?

6 A setting you are familiar with or one you have never seen?

7 First person or third person?

8 One main character or several?

9 An ending that wraps everything up neatly or one that lets you guess about a few things?

10 A new book by a favorite author or discovering a new favorite?

11 A main character like you or unlike you?

12 An ordinary character thrust into extraordinary circumstances or an extraordinary person?

13 Fantasy or mystery?

14 Romance or thriller?

15 A great story or great writing?

Feel free to give examples.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


by Sariah S. Wilson

I see that Kerry has already done a post addressing this topic, but it is late and I just got back from the temple for my younger brother's endowment session (and I still find it hard to believe that he's leaving for the MTC in 11 days), which is much harder than it sounds. The temple is two hours away, the session is two hours, and, not surprisingly, the drive back is also two hours. When we went to pick up our children, my 7-year-old asked us where we went and what took us so long. I reminded him that we went to the temple, and then he said, "Where was it? On the other side of the world?"

Perspective is everything. Six hours to a 7-year-old means traveling to the other side of the world. For some people, the idea of writing a novel is also like traveling the globe. The nice thing about NaNoWriMo is it gives you the chance to see that the best way to scale a mountain is one step at a time.

I have signed up over at, and I like having the accountability and having to own up to my daily word count. Many people make resolutions in January. If you're looking to write your own book, this is the month to make that resolution. Give yourself a goal. Even if it's 50 words a day or 15 minutes of writing, resolve that you'll just do it. Start now.

Today's word count - 264 words (which is the length of this blog.)

Friday, November 03, 2006

A sigh of relief...

“I didn't fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong”
-Benjamin Franklin

For those of you who have been unable to reach me the last few days (or weeks) it's because I've been shunning all interpersonal communication, literally(!) shutting myself in the walk-in closet to study.

Study for what, you ask? The GMAT. Remember a couple weeks ago when I said I was going back to school? Well, the GMAT is the first big step.

And the good, awesome, divine news: 730, baby!

I'm so incredibly relieved to have that thing over with.

How Long Does it Take to Write a Novel?

by Kerry Blair
(With a whole lot of help from a friend.)

For the benefit of the six or eight of you who may not yet have heard, November is National Novel Writing Month. Believe it or not, tens of thousands people who might otherwise be perfectly sane have committed to write 50,000 words of new fiction. Each. And they’ll do it before they carve a turkey—or at least soon afterwards. A similar Book-in-a-Month (BIAM) event is going on over at Latterdayauthors.

I planned to participate this year. I even bought a poster to motivate myself. (Well, that and I loved the artwork.) But here it is already the 3rd and I haven’t written a paragraph. Sentence. Okay, not even a lousy adjective. (And I’m practically famous for lousy adjectives.) This puts me 5,000 words behind, and falling fast. Ack! There is something about a timer—be it stopwatch, hour glass or calendar—that causes me to freeze in terror. I blame my 3rd Grade teacher. Every day she held a timed test on the multiplication tables. Every day I failed it. I knew what 3x5 equaled at 9:45, but by 10 I couldn't remember my name. Some people don’t work well under pressure. I don't work at all.

But for those of you who are participating in a BIAM—or know somebody who is—one of my favorite authors/editors/people, Jennifer Leigh, has a few words of wisdom.

The Time it Takes to Write a Novel
By Jennifer Leigh

I have had children, I have been a homemaker, as well as many other endeavors and jobs in my life. In every one, except writing, I am the antithesis of a perfectionist. However, when it comes to writing, I never think, “I’m done.” This has made for some long stints writing certain novels. Some of them have taken me years. Here’s what I’ve learned about writing novels.

Anyone who says you can write a book in a month, or in 100 days, or even six months, is nuts. Though you may be able to get a halfway decent first draft (if you’re Maya Angelou, say) there is no way you’ll get a perfected novel in a short amount of time unless you are a true savant, and they don’t happen too often.

Writing a book -- your first draft -- is the first step in many steps. It isn’t so much writing as it is REwriting that defines whether you are a writer or a hack. I don’t mean to be blunt, but this is a delicate thing, writing, and you must approach it with tempered gusto, finesse, patience, courage, and more than anything, time.
Books take time to ‘age’, like fine wine or expensive cheese. If you try to get your book to a publisher or agent before the book is ready, it will stink like cheap wine or lackluster cheese. Some of novel writing means taking time away from that project and letting it sit. You can use this free time to do lots of other fruitful and worthy projects, like clean your house, work your day job, say hello to your spouse and children, maybe even eat a meal with them—the list is endless. Even start another novel! But the time you spend away from your novel is as valuable, if not more so, than the time you spend poring over it AGAIN.

If you submit your novel before it’s ready, all your hard work will be in vain. YOU ONLY HAVE ONE CRACK WITH A PARTICULAR AGENT OR PUBLISHER. So you don’t want to blow it. You can take this particular point of knowledge to the bank. There are no second chances, so your one chance must be perfect.

I submit that the more eager you are to get your book in the hands of an agent or a publisher, the less chance you’ll have to get it published. Books are labors of love, part of your heart and soul, and writing for writing’s sake must be part of your process, or you will rush it, wreck it, and then you’ll HAVE to stick to your day job. I’ve heard from numerous clients of late that they just can’t wait to get their work "out there." Boy, I remember the first time a publisher expressed interest in my first novel, Riding Magic. Sadly, I sent it too soon and so far, that book is still in need of another extensive rewrite, and obviously didn’t generate the publishing contract I was seeking. I’ll get to the rewrite. Right now it’s percolating in my back burner computer files. I wish I’d waited and gotten it right the first time.

Remember, even if you have an agent, or a publisher has said, send me something, they have lots of other clients, and unless your work shines above the rest (and it won’t if you send it too soon) you won’t ever see your name in print, unless you self-publish, and that’s not really what you want or you wouldn’t be eager to submit it to a professional in the first place, right?

Finally, and this is a biggie -- nobody, not your spouse, your writing partners, your professional editor, NOBODY cares about your book the way you do. You can pay someone to edit your work, which is a valuable and worthy and maybe even a required step in your novel’s maturing, but unless you actually want someone to rewrite or ghostwrite your book, you will have to do the hard work of rewriting and rewriting again, because, as I’ve said, nobody really cares about your book the way you do. This is your baby, your passion, and a piece of your soul. The characters are part of your daily life, in one way or another, and nobody is going to have that kind of intimacy with your work the way you do. So, get ready to do the hard work of rewriting, no matter what other professional help you get.

Jennifer Leigh is an author and editor. In her free time she raises registered Quarter Horses and Siberian Huskies. Visit her websites at and

Thanks, Jen! Now what say the rest of you? Do you agree with Jen? On a related topic, does anybody else fear BIAM events like I do?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Trick or Treat?

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Two days ago was a very busy day in our household. We had school Halloween parties, a work Halloween party, and a ward Trunk or Treat party. Shepherding my little ghosts and goblins through the candy haze was a Halloween nightmare in itself. By the time we got home, I was exhausted. We took a few more pictures, answered the door for the straggling trick or treaters, and then I put my little ones to bed while I waited up for my oldest son to come home from his date. I finally crawled into my own bed just after midnight, the house quiet, the ticking clocks easily heard with the household in slumber.

I didn't have any trouble at all falling asleep that night. I was in a deep sleep, the kind that doctors call the most restful sleep. The kind that mothers rarely get enough of. It seemed like only a few moments had passed, when from the edge of my consciousness, I could hear a doorbell ringing. It oddly became part of the dream I was having, though, so I ignored it. But then it came again. I struggled to get myself fully awake, and rolled over to look at the clock. 1:36 a.m. You've got to be kidding me, I thought. Trick or treaters? Doorbell ditchers?

By this time, my husband was also awake. "Doorbell ditchers," he whispered, his thoughts obviously mirroring mine. I nodded, rubbing my eyes and trying to clear my head that was still fuzzy from sleep. He got up and went to the balcony overlooking our front entryway. "He's still out there," my husband whispered back to me. "I can see the guy." I joined him on the balcony and he was right. There was a vague shadow to the right of our door. We watched him move away, as if he was going to leave, but then he changed his mind and moved back toward the door.

My husband didn't hesitate. He didn't grab a weapon or even his robe, I imagine because he didn't want to lose the opportunity to catch this guy. He crept down the stairs in his pajamas, soundlessly moving across the carpet. He got to the front door and even though it was dark, I watched him get into position. The shadow was still there. Both of us saw the hand reach for the doorbell at the same second and my husband wrenched open the door. It almost sounded like he was about to say, "Gotcha" but the words strangled in his throat.

There, standing at our door at 1:40 in the morning, was a policeman.

"Hello, officer," my surprised husband managed to get out.

I wish I could have seen the officer's face, but it was too dark. "Do you own that fence on the north side of your property?" he said gruffly.

When his words registered in my brain, my first thought was that someone had painted graffiti on our fence or something so I went into one of the kids' rooms and pulled open the curtains. Nope, no graffiti. I came downstairs and watched through the window as my husband followed the policeman to our front sidewalk in his pajamas and bare feet, while the policeman was pointing at something. I ran and put on my coat unable to stand not knowing any longer.

With my coat on, I poked my head outside. "Is everything okay?" I asked.

"One of your neighbors had a problem," the policeman said, not even giving me a second glance. "Their truck careened through your neighbor's yard, and crashed into your fence." He said it so matter-of-factly, while writing on a little pad of paper. All I could think of to say was, "Are they all right?" And he nodded. He kept my husband outside in the freezing cold for several minutes longer while he gave him the case number and such. It was hard not to laugh at my husband's face when he came back inside, frozen and rueful at his thwarted attempt to catch a doorbell ditcher.

We found out later that the neighbor who lives uphill from us forgot to put on his parking brake and his truck rolled downhill, wreaking havoc. The blessing for us was that when my son came home, he parked our car in the garage that evening instead of under the tree where he normally parks it, because if he hadn't, it would have been hit in the accident.

So it was a busy Halloween for us, but fairly uneventful. No graffiti, no pumpkin smashing mischief, just a runaway truck. Thank goodness no one was hurt. The fence isn't looking so hot though.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Day of Mess and Chocolate

by Stephanie Black

I’m knee deep in candy wrappers, discarded costumes, trick-or-treat bags too heavy to lift, unfolded laundry and popcorn. Breakfast was a bowl of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups with milk. Lunch will be melted Milky Ways on a tortilla. Dinner will be a Tootsie Pop stuck in a potato with a side of Nerds.

Post-Halloween Thoughts:

*If I were a school teacher, I would petition to make Halloween the last Friday in October so the kids would have the weekend to recover. Would you want to deal with a classroom full of kids who were up late the night before running around the neighborhood and eating their body weight in sugar? Me neither.

*We vacuum packed most of the kids’ loot from the church trunk or treat and stuck it on the food storage shelves. This was a measure undertaken to assuage my conscience at attending the trunk or treat when, really, the kids don’t need a double dose of trick or treating. But I love Halloween so much that I couldn’t bring myself to boycott the event. My visiting teacher suggested storing the candy, so I did. What do you bet it won’t outlast the pinto beans?

*When we save the seeds from our pumpkins, it’s traditional to let them rot in the fridge instead of actually toasting them and eating them.

*If you do crunches while balancing a bowl of leftover candy on your abdomen, does it count double?

*Do you realize that Darth Vader has been a popular Halloween costume for nearly thirty years? We’ve never had a Darth Vader. Just a Princess Leia.

*Speaking of a galaxy far, far away I messed up at the trunk or treat and called a young Jedi “Obi-Wan”. “I’m Luke,” he said indignantly. Whoops. A costume faux pas.

*I actually got a bit of revision done on my book last night between rings of the doorbell. I’m delighted to find that as I read back through the story it seems, well, creepy. Wahoo! My daughter came home from school once and reported on a friend who was reading a manuscript of mine. “Mom, he’s scared of you,” she reported. This makes me feel gleeful. Do you think I could share this experience during the Good News Minute in Relief Society?

*Kevin Conneff is a great singer. That has nothing to do with Halloween, but I’ve been listening to Irish music this morning.

Happy November! I gotta go inventory the candy.