Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, December 29, 2006

Bowl Contest Countdown Day Four

Cal wins. Rob is 3-1.

The next three games are on Monday...

Thursday, December 28, 2006


This was posted today on I wish I had some interesting insight, but I just found out.

(KSL News) Deseret Book has bought Seagull Book and Tape and Covenant Communications. The merger became final just before 5 o'clock.

A news release states that Lew Kofford, founder of both Seagull and Covenant initiated the deal and will no longer be part of the management team.

Deseret Book has no plans to close any Seagull Book stores and says all existing relationships with authors of both companies will remain.

CEO Sheri Dew says Seagull Book will remain an LDS discount book retailer and Covenant will continue as one of the largest publishers of Latter Day Saint nonfiction, fiction, games, and gifts.

Bowl Contest Countdown Day Three

FSU wins...

Rob is now 2-1. Crap.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas to All...

I hope everyone is enjoying their Christmas this morning. We just finished ours up and the boys are intent on opening and playing with every single present.

I just wanted to stop in and let the readers know that this week the Six LDS Writers will be taking a break to celebrate time with our families and to recover from the holidays (although it is entirely possible that Rob will continue to post entries about football teams winning or whatever it is he's posting about).

So look for new posts from us starting in January.

See you next year!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Bowl Contest Countdown Day Two

Rob is 2-0!

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Unto Us a Cover is Born

by Sariah S. Wilson

So here it is. Finally. The cover you've all been waiting for (well, at least the cover I've been waiting for):

Click to see larget picture

I think it's interesting to see the artist's rendition of my hero and heroine - they're not how I pictured them in my head. It made me realize that everyone will picture them differently. Let me know once you buy the book (which I know all of you will, right?) whether the cover art matches the visual picture you get in your head.

Also, I have another announcement.

As I've mentioned in a previous post, I've been dealing with secondary infertility. It's been a very long, hard road. No medical specialist can tell me why this happened, and it's been disheartening that there wasn't some sort of fix - like a medicine or a procedure - something that would make this better. Our doctors gave us options, but those options did not have the greatest success rates and were out of our league financially.

But before I continue with that story, I have to explain something else. For those of you have been acquainted with me for a while, you might remember that one of my brothers got run over at work. It made the news in Utah for several days in a row - the accident was extremely bad. My brother was speaking to a mechanic at a garage (my brother worked for Enterprise Rent-A-Car and would rent cars to people who dropped their vehicles off to be worked on) and while walking back to his office, a man in an SUV outside of the closed garage door slammed on his gas instead of his brakes. The SUV crashed through the door and ran over the mechanic and pinned my brother to the wall. It took the rescue team nearly 45 minutes to get my brother free - and he was conscious and in pain that entire time. He was airlifted out to a hospital and rushed to surgery. His leg bones were broken in several spots and he suffered other multiple, massive internal injuries and breaks that should have been much worse than they were.

He pulled through, but had a very long rehabilitation. Pins and rods were inserted in his legs and every time he walked, he was in pain. As you can imagine, it was a very difficult time for him. He got angry at his situation - it was hard to suffer that much. So he asked his best friend (a friend my brother's son is named after) to give him a blessing.

My brother got his blessing, and in it the Lord told him that great miracles would come from this situation.

Time went on, and my brother seems completely fine now. He's back working (at a new company) and providing for his family. I saw him in December and he moved and walked as if nothing had ever happened to him.

My brother has kept an eye out for those miracles. His recovery certainly feels like one of them.

A second one came thanks to my mother. She told him how badly my husband and I wanted another baby, how we all prayed and fasted for it on a regular basis, and that our only hope were medical procedures that were far beyond our financial capability (and not covered by insurance).

Without hesitation, my brother offered to lend me the money out of the settlement that he received.

And now, in this season of miracles, I am 16 weeks pregnant.

I'm due in June.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Bless Us One and All

As Sariah, Stephanie, and Julie have so eloquently pointed out, Christmas is a time when we surround ourselves with family and friends. Naturally, then, I’m worried about the Frog.

I hate to suggest fowl play (seen any hungry birds around the blog bog?) or say I toad you so, but I do worry. Frog hasn’t posted for months. He hasn’t commented for weeks. Saddest of all, he didn’t even send a Christmas card. (At least he didn’t send one to me.)

Fortunately, I still have Kermit. Every year we watch Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life and Kermit the Frog in The Muppet Christmas Carol. I simply can’t “do” Christmas without Jimmy, Kermit, and at least one story from President Monson. My favorite song from the The Muppet Christmas Carol is the prayer the Cratchit family sings around their humble table. I’ve heard it at least a hundred times (my daughter has the CD) but every time it makes me cry.

So here -- in the words of my second favorite Frog -- is my Christmas wish for everyone who’s dropped by Six LDS Writers & a Frog this year:

Bless us all, that as we live,
We always comfort and forgive
We have so much that we can share
With those in need we see around us everywhere.

Let us always love each other.
Lead us to the Light.
Let us hear the voice of reason, singing in the night.
Let us run from anger, and catch us when we fall.
Teach us in our dreams and please, yes please,
Bless us one and all

Muppets Christmas Carol,
Lyrics by Paul Williams

Bowl Contest Countdown Day 1

Rob is 1-0. Go Cougars!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Feelin' the Christmas love . . .

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I love the Christmas season. These are the six things I love the best, though.

I love to get Christmas letters. I love getting updates on what's going on with my friends and their families. A lot of my friends live in different parts of the U.S., and many still live in Canada so I don't see them often, and those letters are fun for me to be able to have a little year in review for their family.

I love Christmas pageants, programs, and concerts. Since I have a lot of children, I go to a lot of these. I hear Christmas songs with bands, orchestras, and singing. I can't help it, I always tear up to see all those earnest little kids singing their hearts out, or the one who's playing the violin, flute, or clarinet with everything they've got. And my job is just to sit there and enjoy them, their hard work, and the music and progress they've made. I love that.

I also love the Christmas tradition of going to Grandma and Grandpa's house for Christmas Eve every year for a dinner and the traditional game of gifts in the toilet paper roll. Toilet paper roll, you say? Yep. Let me tell you about this one. Everyone sits in a circle and a large toilet paper roll that has been stuffed with things like gift certificates, jewelry, hair ornaments, toys, trinkets, etc., have all been rolled into the toilet paper roll until it's a massive ball. The ball is unrolled and whatever is unrolled in front of your place in the circle is yours to keep. I love that and, of course, being with family on a special day.

I love to visit every member of my ward with a Christmas gift. My husband and I make a 8 ½ x 11 inch ward list that has the names, addresses, and phone numbers of our ward members on the front of the page, and a ward map with everyone's houses on the back, laminated with magnets so it can hang on the fridge for easy use. We make one for everyone in our ward and our whole family has a lot of fun visiting each house with our gift to them.

I love to go look at lights and see how people have decorated their homes for the season. So many people take a lot of time to really show off their creative decorating skills. It just brings something extra to the season I think. I also love going to Salt Lake and looking at the lights of Temple Square. There's just something special in the air as you look at the lights and other displays on the grounds there.

I love Christmas morning best of all. We all gather in the master bedroom on the bed and read the story of the birth of our Savior and share our feelings before we go downstairs to open presents. I love seeing the wonder on my children's faces. Really, that's probably the best part. The joy and wonder of the miracle of our Savior's birth and the small opportunities we get to give to others as he's given to us.

I hope you're enjoying this Christmas season and all that it brings.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Five Days and Counting

by Stephanie Black

Aarrgh! Can it really be only five days until Christmas? It’s amazing how when you’re a kid, December lasts about a year and a half. When you’re Santa, December lasts about twenty minutes.

So this is going to be a short blog.

I’m almost done with the Christmas shopping. Every year I think hey, I should start Christmas shopping early, but I never do. I guess it’s tradition for me to be finishing up in those last few days before Christmas. I’ve got my handy dandy six-column list (for the five kids and my husband). That way I can see which items I’ve purchased and which ones I haven’t. If that list ever falls into the wrong hands, it will be a sad day for Santa.

I tried taking my two-year-old to the mall yesterday. This turned out to be a dumb idea. She would have been fine if it had been a rush in-rush out sort of trip, but I was browsing, which totally doesn’t fly when you’re trying to contain a toddler. She was looking particularly, um, darling that day because in the morning she’d gotten hold of two jars of Vaseline and smeared a bunch of it in her hair. I washed her hair several times (and she hates getting her hair washed now, after some traumatic soap-in-the-eyes episodes), but her hair was still horribly greasy. I wanted to explain to everyone around me that yes, I actually wash my daughter’s hair more than once a year, but see, there was this petroleum jelly issue . . . A mother of my son’s classmate suggested trying dish soap on her hair, which I thought was a good idea—grease-cutting power, you know. I tried that this morning and her hair is looking quite a bit better.

I promised the kids we could go out shopping this afternoon. They’ve got a few things left to purchase as well, so we’ll hope for some rapid success, since we’ve got a narrow shopping window open between all the other commitments for the day—school, visiting teaching, caroling (my thirteen-year-old) and eating dinner with the cops (my fifteen-year old). Then there are those unfinished Christmas projects, the unsent Christmas cards, the unsent present—whoops—better go put the present in the mail quickly—but when all is said and done, everything will work out just fine. And with Christmas Eve on a Sunday this year, that will force me to finish the running around a day earlier than usual so on Sunday we can just relax and focus on the spirit of Christmas. No stores, no lines, no lists--just time to celebrate the birth of the Savior and to enjoy being with my family.

Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Another Red-Letter Day for the Baileys

by Robison Wells

Well folks, this is why I'm going back to school.

It's December, a time when want is keenly felt and abundance rejoices, and we're dealing more with the former. In late November, we had a bit of financial difficulty--some unexpected expenses--but things were okay. Then, about two weeks ago, another unexpected expense popped up, this time a much bigger expense, with a much more pressing deadline. And then yesterday--less than two hours after I thought I'd found a decent solution to my financial woes--I got the word that my monthly income is going to be taking a significant dive. They call it cutting expenses. I call it a rather poorly-timed anti-Christmas bonus. And my wife and I are to the point where it's easier to laugh than cry, so we laugh. A lot.

Attention aspiring writers: don't plan on a mansion and a Ferrari. (You'll have to make do with a crappy Lake House and an Aston-Martin. It's a tough life.)

So anyway, if any of you want to buy my book, today's the day.

In other news, here are some interesting tidbits from my life:

*I had a dream two nights ago that a bunch of cowboys were building a steel suspension bridge. And then, as I watched, a bunch of guys with ski masks and guns attacked! And then they took off the ski masks to reveal: they were Stormtroopers! Aaah!

*Last night on the History Channel, a Catholic priest suggested that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by aliens with nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, that was in the last five minutes of the show, and I'd missed the rest. I bet it was awesome.

*More importantly, college football is reaching its zenith, and the bowl games are about to start. So, because I love it, I'm initiating the following contest. I'm going to list my picks for ten of the bowl games. If you post your picks, and you do better than me, then you get a free copy of one of my books! Bing!

Fine print: it'll either be On Second Thought or The Counterfeit, because I'm currently out of Wake Me When It's Over. I win ties--you have to actually do better than me. Post your picks in the comments. (In the event that I totally blow this, I'm limiting the prizes to the first five winners. It's my contest, so there.)

My picks are in italics:

Vegas Bowl
BYU vs Oregon

Armed Forces Bowl
Utah vs Tulsa

Emerald Bowl
Florida St. vs UCLA

Holiday Bowl
California vs Texas A&M

Cotton Bowl

Auburn vs Nebraska

Fiesta Bowl
Boise St vs Oklahoma

Rose Bowl
USC vs Michigan

Orange Bowl
Wake Forest vs Louisville

Sugar Bowl
LSU vs Notre Dame

BSC Championship Game
Ohio State vs Florida

You may ask: if you're complaining so much about your poverty, why are you giving away books? Because that's about all I've got. Attention all relatives and friends: you're getting a book for Christmas. I hope you like it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tis the Season to Be Offended

I received a link to a really fun little movie which will soon be entered in the LDS film festival. It reminded me that once again we are smack dab in the middle of the offend-me season. You know the one where the HOA members are offended by the peace sign in the middle of the woman’s Christmas wreath. The one where every other night you can see a news story about someone putting up a public nativity scene and someone complaining about it. The one where Christians are planning on picketing stores which say happy holidays and non-Christians are picketing the ones that say Merry Christmas. I learned recently that lots of people are offended by the Happy Feet movie. I want to be offended by it, but I don't seem to get out to many movies lately. But I AM offended by another Rocky movie coming out. I can just see all these poor little kids going, "Mommy, why is that man throwing body blows at Grandpa."

This is also the time of year when Newsweek names its person of the year. Which always manages to offend someone. It turns out that I am the 2006 Time person of the year. Of course this offends me no end. Why 2006? I’ve gained about ten pounds. I haven’t published anything in the national market yet. I’m really out of shape and my office is a mess. Why couldn’t they have picked me back in 2002 when I was svelte and running regularly? Or waited till next year, when I see big things happening. I’m just fuming.

This happens with books too. I’ve had several readers tell me how unrealistic it is to have Shandra eat everything and not gain any weight. I can tell it really bothers them. They were probably bothered by Barbie when they were younger too. It really stinks when your doll/action figure gets more dates than you. I’m still not on speaking terms with Aquaman. Lots of writers I know go through the same thing, whether it’s because of what they write, how they write, or even where they write. A recent blogger lambasted my friend Josi Kilpack because of a picture showing her writing on a tropical beach. Too bad the blogger didn’t know that Josi does almost all of her writing while juggling a house-full of kids.

Then we can get offended because some author or another got a perk we didn’t. (Like that unabridged book on tape Rob grrrr.) It’s easy to see that our books would sell MUCH better if only we got the radio ad or the prime catalog spot or the better signings.

Of course offending people can have positive benefits too. Lots of people who would never read Anita Stansfield rushed out to buy one of her previous books when Deseret Book refused to carry it. And how many copies of Da Vinci Code would Dan Brown have sold if it wasn’t for all the controversy around that book? Heaven forbid we all realize it’s fiction.

But see the thing is—people almost never set out to personally offend someone else. Anita didn’t write a book thinking it would get kicked out of DB. I can’t imagine anyone setting out a nativity scene with the idea of getting back at the Muslims. When a Jewish friend wishes me a Happy Hanukah it’s not because he’d mad he doesn’t have a Christmas tree. I want to have a happy Hanukah, and a happy Ramadan. I want Rob to get an unabridged book. I want Sariah to get radio ads. I want Kerry to write by the side of her pool while I have to shovel ten freaking inches of . . . okay, no, that’s just going too far.

So how about we all have a Merry Christmas and a Non-offended New Year. By the way, here is the link to the film.

The atheist is played by LDS playwright Thom Duncan—which is funny considering that he takes great delight in offending people. Good job, Thom.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Hi from Utah

by Sariah S. Wilson

So I'm posting this from the lobby of the Orem Hampton Inn as I'm on the way out the door to go to my mother-in-law's house for breakfast and present opening. I know it's not that exciting for anyone else that I'm posting from Utah, but since I don't live here, it's fairly exciting for me.

I've had a chance to meet my editor and get a brief tour of my publisher, and I got to finally see the completed version of my cover! I can't wait to get back to Ohio and get that posted.

This will be a short post because of time constraints, but I wanted to ask - what is up with the apparent allergy to the speed limit here? I've never seen people drive as fast as they do here. It is some kind of reverse pioneer thing? It took such a long time for them to get to Utah so now their descendants have to make up for it by driving as quickly as possible? I've been driving 10 to 15 over the limit just to keep up with traffic, and people pass me so quickly it's like I'm holding still. Is the I-15 always like that? Or is it some sort of Christmas madness?

Other than that, I forgot how beautiful the mountains are. I love the greenery of Ohio, but the mountains here always take my breath away.

And today it snowed! What more could you ask for in a trip to Utah?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Guest Blog -- Why Do We Edit?

As a reader, I loved Julie's post yesterday about a few of her favorite books of 2006. As a writer, it made me ponder again the steps one must take to craft a novel worthy of one of Julie's future lists. Fortunately, I knew where to go for advice. An author I admire, Tristi Pinkston, has a blog with 350,938 tips for people like me. (Okay, maybe not that many, but it IS a very impressive collection!) One of my favorites is this piece on editing.

Why Do We Edit?
by Tristi Pinkston

If I had my way, I would write perfectly from the very start of the manuscript and I would never have to edit. I don’t like to edit. After about the fourth pass, I get a very “been there, done that, want to throw it under a train” feeling and I start to get sick and tired of the story. That’s always a good time to take a break, but I know that I have to come back and edit it again. Why?

I was explaining the “why” to a friend the other day, and in the back of my mind I heard a little voice that sounded surprisingly like me saying, “This would make a great blog.” So, folks, here’s the why.

When you write a book, your job as the author is to create a world for your reader. You pull them into it from the first pages, wrap them in cords of suspense or in warm fluffy blankets of romance, and you keep them there. You feed them with plot and dialogue. You entice them with twists and turns. You make your book a place they want to be, and they hate to pull themselves away for any reason. You want to keep their attention riveted on your words, on the spell that you have cast. You don’t want anything to interrupt that hypnotic state you’ve so carefully crafted.

Nothing throws a reader out of a hypnotic state like bad grammar, a poorly constructed sentence, or a mislaid historical fact. Your reader is floating along on a blissful sea of literary loveliness, and suddenly BAM! Smack up against a poorly constructed sentence. The spell is broken as the reader tries to figure out what you meant. It will take at least two pages to get them back under your spell, and in the space of time that takes, they may get up to make a sandwich, answer the phone, or run an errand, and you might not get them back for days.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the most important reason to edit. Yes, it pleases the editor. Yes, it makes your manuscript more presentable. Yes, it’s the professional thing to do. But what it all boils down to is this: if you so successfully entrance your reader that they feel they have escaped to your world for a blissful three hours, they will want you to entrance them again and again. They will come back for more. They will recommend your books. They will buy your new releases. They will rant and rave about you to everyone they meet. Best of all, for those precious three hours, you will have granted them the gift of relaxation and you send them back out into the world better able to face their day. That’s powerful. That’s worth all the angst of editing, isn’t it?

You can check out the rest of Tristi's writerly advice here. And if you're looking for books that will be sure to make your list of all-time favorites (they're certainly on mine!) look at Tristi's books here.

Now I want to hear YOUR editing advice. Do you edit as you go along? At the very end? Leave it to professionals? What?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

My Picks for 2006

by Julie Coulter Bellon

There has been some wonderful LDS fiction come out in 2006 and I thought in the spirit of Christmas giving, I would tell you my favorite new books from this past year that I would heartily recommend for any book lovers on your list.

Romantic Suspense

I LOVE romantic suspense and there were some really good ones that came out (in addition to my own, Time Will Tell, of course!)

My favorite was Double Cross by Betsy Brannon Green because it revisits characters that were introduced in her first book Hearts in Hiding, and one of my favorite characters, Mark Iverson, truly shines in this book. He is an FBI agent sent on a covert operation in Colombia, but when he gets there, he realizes that he hasn't been told the complete truth about the mission, and his family may be in danger from the one person they never thought would bother them again. The dynamic between Mark and his wife Kate is easy to relate to and very believable, and I enjoy their interactions. It is so interesting to me how Betsy Brannon Green really explores the gray areas in human nature in this book, and shows us how people are not necessarily completely good or completely evil. The plot is fast-paced and the setting in Colombia adds a little extra spice to the mystery. I thought I had predicted the ending, but as usual, Betsy put in a twist that was very unexpected. My imagination had run away with me as I thought of possible endings, but I understand why Green ended it the way she did, and it was a satisfying ending for me.

My Christmas wish list also includes Betsy's new one Christmas in Haggerty. I've heard it's wonderful and I can't wait to read it.


Dead on Arrival by Jeffrey Savage has more twists and turns and ups and downs than a roller coaster ride. He snatches you in from the very beginning with a mysterious visitor who claims that his wife is trying to kill him----only he's already dead. And thus begins the adventure. Shandra is suddenly thrust into a series of events that are like a whirlpool—sucking her deeper and deeper into this mystery of who this guy is or was. Is he alive or dead? Is she imagining things or is her life really in danger? The story gave me chills, and at the same time I was so fascinated by the mystery and final reveal that it was almost impossible to put down once I'd started.

The Counterfeit by Robison Wells---I really surprised myself in how much I loved Robison Wells' book, The Counterfeit. Since I've already dedicated a blog to this one, I won't say any more except that it has become a favorite of mine and I've recommended it to everyone I know. And I mean everyone!

Historical Fiction

The Emerald by Jennie Hansen is the second in Jennie Hansen's "The Bracelet" series and in my opinion it is one of the best books she has written. It is a continuation of where the Bracelet left off, in a way, but you don't have to read the first one to understand the second. Margarette is fleeing Denmark with her two children to escape the abusive father-in-law who rules over them with an iron hand. On the way to America, she finds a jeweled bracelet hidden in her infant daughter's diaper and the discovery becomes both a blessing and a trial. Margarette's struggles to join the Saints and make a life for herself and her family are filled with genuine conflict and life choices that seem so real you will laugh and cry along with the characters.

At the Journey's End by Annette Lyon is a wonderful addition to her historical fiction series that highlights the building of a particular temple. This one is the story of Abe, who is looked at as an outcast in his community because of the color of his skin and his religious status. He goes on a journey to find a home for his mother, and in the process finds himself. The author does an amazing job with the setting and history, effortlessly weaving obscure facts into the story and making the reader a part of it all. The romance and religion were understated, but followed the theme of the book well, and I enjoyed this one immensely.

Angel and the Enemy by Marnie Pehrson is a sweeping historical romance set amidst the end of the Civil War. Angelina Stone knows only too well that a moment in time can change your life forever. Her father, a Confederate soldier, lies rotting in a Union prison, and the Yankees have invaded her home. The author does an excellent job of balancing the Southern setting with the outcome of the Civil War. She stays true to the fact that this was an era where men fought for freedom, independence, and unity. Yet, when the dust settled and the war was over the real battle raged on within the hearts of individuals. Angel and the Enemy is a wonderful book that captures the strength of the human spirit in overcoming adversity in a sweeping tale of love, honor, and betrayal. This one is a little different in that there is no overt LDS mentions in it, but it stays true to LDS standards and is well worth reading.

So if you have any book lovers on your Christmas list, here are some books that they are sure to love and really should be in every LDS fiction library. I know these all have a special place on my shelf at home.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hark How the Bells

by Stephanie Black

Our ward Christmas choir is tiny this year. Usually Christmas music brings an infusion of people into the choir, many of whom disappear come January, but this year the infusion never happened. As things stand, we’re pretty much a quartet with delusions of grandeur: one tenor, one alto (me), two sopranos (plus the choir director’s eleven-year-old daughter), two basses. But with a little angelic help, all will be well. For the congregation’s sake, we hope so.

It’s been a musical Christmas season. Rehearsals started in late October, and the day of rest has become more of a day when I barely have time to catch my breath. In addition to regular choir practice, church w/Sunbeams, and ferrying my daughters to the Stake Youth Choir practice, I’m playing in a handbell choir. A sister in our stake owns a set of handbells and every year for Christmas the two wards that share our building combine to form a handbell choir to play for the Christmas programs. I love listening to the handbell choir—the bells ring with such a gorgeous, clear, silvery sound—plus it’s just unbelievably cool to watch all these people lined up in the front of the chapel ringing bells at exactly the right time and in the right order to create the music to “Silent Night” or “O Come All Ye Faithful.” I’ve never played handbells before, and this year when the sister organizing the choir asked me if I’d like to join them, I was thrilled.

First thing I leaned about handbells: you always wear gloves when you handle them, since the oil from your hands can damage the brass bells. I had no idea—I thought bell choir members just wore gloves for the style factor. Also, you don’t just jingle the bell like you’re auditioning for the one horse open sleigh—you ring them with a smooth, circular motion, the bell held nearly vertical. After you ring a note for the proper number of counts, you have to damp the bell by pressing it against your shoulder so the sound doesn’t keep on ringing, interfering with the harmony.

And then there’s the Big Two: 1-Count 2-Make sure to pick up the right bell.

When I play in the first violin section of our community orchestra, I’m surrounded by another bunch of violinists playing the same music. If I miss an entrance, I might look dorky if anyone is watching me, but there’s plenty of noise to cover up my lapse. If I lose count, I can watch the concertmaster’s bow and see when she starts playing, and voila, it must be time. If I really get scrambled, I can air-bow until I catch up to what’s happening (and then there are those high, fast notes that I just plan to air-bow--hey, with the brass blaring, no one will notice anyway).

Handbells don’t have nearly as much room for error. As our conductor explained it, we’re each a soloist. I’ve got the high B, B flat and C bells, plus two C sharp bells for our final number. No one else is playing those notes. If I miss ringing, those notes are gone. But better to miss a note than to ring the wrong bell. Nothing shrivels people’s earwax like picking up the B flat bell when you really want the B and letting that sour note ring high and clear. Ouch. I mark a lot of reminders in my music about which bells to start with, when to set one bell down and pick up another, and so on.

Our conductor is great—he pushes us and encourages us and demands the best. Of course, there was that one week when he was conducting with a knife . . . okay, it was Fast Sunday, he'd had a busy day at church and bell choir practice starts at six, so dinner for him was a plate his wife brought him at the church. But however legitimate the reason for his having a steel blade in hand, it was still a little different to have him banging out the rhythm of “The First Noel” with the handle of a knife. Kind of made you wonder what would happen if you picked up that B flat bell by mistake . . .

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The, One, the Only, The Amazing, Annette Lyon

Thanks so much to Annette Lyon who agreed to fill-in while I am enjoying the sunny SO-CAl weather. (Tomorrow, I am going to fulfill a dream by the way and take my laptop into Disneyland and just write while the rest of the fam plays. We have annual passes this year, so no cost, and I even found a plug bear a table at New Orleans Square.)

Annette Lyon is a wonder romance author and also a great friend. She and I have been part the same crtique group for over five years. Annette's two ltest books and her next one coming out all are historical romances tied to the building of Utah Temples. The most recent is At the Journey's End. If you haven't read it, you have a great surprise in store. She does an amazing job of combining humor and with emotional interplay as you'll see from her blog.

For those of you that would like to read more by Annette, her blog address is:

Thanks, Annette

What Me Worry?
by Annette Lyon

The other day a neighbor mother announced a recent study saying that infants who sleep in baby carrier car seats are at risk for not breathing—and DEATH.

My first thought: “It’s so nice that I’m past the baby stage and don’t have to worry about that!”

But the next moment, I recalled that all of my children slept in their baby carriers. On cue, a blanket of guilt descended. Not only did my babies nap in their carriers, but (GASP!) some of them even spent the night in one for the first few days home from the hospital.

Then, at just a few days old, my daughter was at risk for jaundice. I was instructed by my doctor on a way (we hoped) to avoid having her under the bilirubin lights. She was to wear nothing but a diaper and sit in her baby carrier next to a window where she could get lots of sun. Now I know it could have killed her.


The sources for parental guilt are never-ending. Child proof your house and your child will still find a way to smack her face against a (blunt) piece of furniture and have a black eye in her birthday pictures (See May 25, 1999.) I could beat myself up all day about that one, but short of smothering my kids in bubble wrap, they’re going to get hurt no matter how many outlets are covered. (Heck, they’d probably trip on the bubble wrap.)

But assuming I can assuage the parental guilt over basic safety (which I doubt, because I’m still fretting about whether my 9-year-old should still be in a booster seat), I can find plenty of other things to feel guilty about.

Food. Ah, that’s a fun one. Because if my children end up as fat adults, it will be my fault. If they don’t eat enough vegetables and whole grains and end up with cancer, it’ll be my fault. If I don’t take the proper precautions introducing foods to my babies, they’ll end up with allergies. If I didn’t nurse them long enough, they won’t have a high IQ. For that matter, the choices I made during each pregnancy affected my babies—for good or ill. Which means that if chocolate is damaging to a fetus, I’m majorly guilty of something. I think at least one child came out addicted.

Then there’s the fact that each of my kids have gotten things the others haven’t. As a toddler, my oldest got at least twelve books read to him each day (four books before each of two naps, plus bedtime). Today, my four-year-old is lucky to get more than one book a day.

On the flip side, I also feel guilty for how much I enjoy said four-year-old. This is the only time I’ve had a child her age with no other kiddie distractions—the others are now at school. And she’s an absolute delight. I figure my older three were also delightful at this age, but I was in too much of a sleep-deprived haze, spinning with trying to keep the other kids from falling down the stairs or poking a fork into an outlet to notice or enjoy it.

Guilt, guilt.

Between books, magazines, the media, “studies,” and a hundred other sources (like mothers competing amongst themselves—“My Johnny walked at seven months and taught himself to read at eighteen months. Oh, and he potty-trained himself last week.”), parents live a life driven by little other than guilt and fear.

Questions keep us up at night like, “Am I doing it right?” (probably not, but every other year “experts” disagree on what “right” is anyway), “Have I messed up?” (probably, but you’re doing your best, and hopefully that’s enough), and "Is this normal?" (your guess is as good as anyone's).

The endless list of things to feel guilty for could bury me alive if I let it. Instead, I’m sending the list to the mental paper shredder, because if I let myself think too far ahead, I’ll start imagining more to fear and feel guilty about looming in the future, like giving dating and college advice and navigating the waters of teen social life, extra curricular activities, and spiritual issues. ACK! I’ll start losing sleep now, just knowing that I’ll manage to mess up my kids (including my three girls—mothers are known for scarring their daughters) somehow along the way.

What’s the reason I’m so sure I’ll mess up? Because teenage issues aren’t as black and white as the baby ones: Either I put my babies to sleep on their backs, or I didn’t. (I did. Or at least, on their sides.) Either I introduced my son to peanuts too early or I didn’t. (I did. He got hives and swelled up so much he looked like Quasimodo. At least I didn’t kill him.)

I’m already entering uncertain waters, and in a few years, I’ll be dealing with issues that each have eighty-two possible answers. And worse, these questions will be far more important to my children’s future than what age they were potty-trained.

How can I possibly choose the right thing for them all the time?

I know I won’t. So instead of feeling premature guilt for the mistakes I know I’ll be making as a parent, I’ll focus on today. I’ll do my best—today. And I’ll enjoy my children—today, forgetting about past or future mistakes.

Then I’ll pop a piece of chocolate. And I won’t even feel guilty about the calories. Now that’s progress.

Get Rich Quick!

by Robison Wells

My personal website, which is awesome and brightly-colored, keeps track of all sorts statistical information, including which keywords search engines use to find it. For example, if you went to Google, and typed in "Robison Wells, The Counterfeit", and Google led you to me, then my site would record "Robison Wells, The Counterfeit."

By far, the most common searches are for things like "Robison Wells" or "Robison E Wells" or "LDS Fiction". But I also get lots of stray searches: people looking for weird things, and somehow ending up on my site. A while ago, someone kept Googling "Carrie Underwood Mormon" and winding up on my site--at the time, Carrie Underwood was my favorite on American Idol (which is like, rad to the max) so I talked about her all the time. Once I started getting all these stray searches, I made the official declaration that Carrie Underwood was both a Mormon and attending BYU. After that, the hits started rolling in.

A lot of website marketers like to engage in something called Search Engine Optimization. Basically, they put a lot of meaningless content on their site, full of keywords they want search engines to pick up on. Example: "Six LDS Writers is a great LDS fiction blog for LDS fiction enthusiasts. If LDS fiction is the type of fiction you love, then Six LDS Writers (all six of whom write LDS fiction) is the site for all your LDS fiction needs."

This is all a bit shameless, of course, and certainly not the kind of behavior that you'll ever find on this site. We really only want people to find this site because of the great content, not because we've virtually tricked them into visiting. At no point are we ever going to use common phrases and keywords just so that search engines will direct people here. There will be no "Free pictures of Britney Spears!" here, thank you very much.

For that matter, there will be no references to celebrities of any kind. No Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes and their baby. No Angelina Jolie at all, with or without photos. No Paris Hilton. No Johnny Depp. No Brad Pitt. No Nicole Kidman... well, in her case, I'll make an exception, expecially if polygamy ever becomes a commandment again (and, you know, if she joins the church and repents for Eyes Wide Shut).

But there will be no mention of Playstations or Nintendos, nor free giveaways and cheat codes. No Spider-Man 3 trailers. No Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End spoilers. No nude pictures of Jeff Savage (thank freaking goodness).

What will there be? LDS fiction, and lots of it. LDS books, certainly, and LDS authors (as well as Mormon Books and Mormon Authors). No Anita Stansfield, sadly, or Gerald Lund, but plenty of good clean fiction and family-friendly blogging. Occasionally, we might even have something along the lines of LDS doctrinal discussion or even casserole recipes. Maybe even together.

For now, though, all you get is spamdexing. And maybe next time I can think of something interesting to blog about. Doubtful, but possible. Until then: Carrie Underwood is a Mormon; Nicole Kidman is hot; and Jeff Savage is fully clothed.

Year of a million dreams

Yes, for the 3rd time this year we are in Disneyland. It's not a vacation it's a sickness. Anyway, we went to the haunted mansion on our second ride of the day and all won the Dream Fastpass, which is essentially a lanyard with a free fastpass for everything that has a fastpass line in D-land and DCA. (It's part of the year of a million dreams promotion.)

Let's just say it's been a long day. Annette Lyon volunteered to blog for me, but I asked a little late, so I'll post it when she sends it. In the mean time, M-I-C . . . K-E-Y . . .

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Here a Book, There a Book

By Sariah S. Wilson

So today I did some Christmas shopping and ended up spending a good deal more than I intended to.

I couldn’t help it. I bought books.

Not just books, but books from my local Scholastic warehouse. Scholastic is the company that sends home those book flyers with your kids at school. Many schools also host Scholastic book fairs as a way to raise money.

Apparently at least once a year (if not more) the warehouses empty out their leftover inventory and you can find out about these sorts of clearance sales here:

Scholastic Fairs

Fortunately for me, there is a warehouse not ten minutes from my house and that’s where I spent most of my morning. They have a little bit of everything - books for adults, cookbooks, board books for babies and toddlers, but the majority of their inventory is for kids in elementary, junior and high school. While I stocked up for my two boys, I noticed all the Young Adult books available. I called my mom to have her come join in on the fun so that she could buy books for my teenage siblings.

After my own shopping was finished, my mom and dad showed up and I took them through the various aisles. I think she quite possibly bought more books than I did (which I should let you know means she bought A LOT of books). It was my own “kid in a candy shop" moment. There are few things I love more than buying new books. I love giving away books as gifts. I love the thought of teaching my kids that books are the best kinds of presents to get (since they will be getting so very many of them of this year).

And the best thing of all? Nearly all the books were fifty percent (50%) off! You read that right, the inventory was HALF OFF. And it wasn’t just books that they had for sale. They had things like a robotic T-rex you put together yourself that walks. And a robo-bug. They had tons of educational and fun software and video games. All sorts of neat pens and pencils and stickers and books, books, and more books. Do you understand my giddiness now?

Take a look. See if you have a fair near you (for the Utah residents, I note that there is such a fair going on in Draper from now until 12/19). Not only do books make fantastic gifts for your kids, but they’re great to donate to charities as Christmas gifts, and make wonderful presents for teachers to add to their own class libraries.

Happy shopping!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Just a Reminder

TONIGHT from 8 PM to midnight The Book Table is hosting a "crazy event" that will force Rob, Jeff, Matthew, and seven of their closest friends (few of whom Rob could actually name) to stay up too late signing books. The address is 29 S Main Street in Logan, Utah. Everybody's invited.

Oh, one more thing! Somebody's supposed to take Rob a Coke -- or poke him with a stick -- to keep him awake. (The Coke was his idea; I thought of the stick myself.)

Have fun, all!

Wise Men, Bearing Gifts

by Kerry Blair

After reading Rob’s last blog I worry that I don’t have a “ghost of a chance” of selling my new book when it comes out in January. Not only does it have “ghost” in the title – something Rob fears doesn’t “seem to jive with our understanding of the spirit world,” it’s also the second book in a series. (A serial, in other words.) While I did manage to convince my perfectly marvelous publisher to take a chance on it, Rob’s observation that this kind of book “just ain’t sellin’” in our market is probably dead-on. (Forgive the pun. I’m trying to laugh so I don’t cry.) What to do? Well, if I can’t sell my books, maybe I can give them away.

I’m not kidding. A friend recently forwarded an article by a bestselling science fiction author who does exactly that – gives his books away, I mean. The guy’s name is Cory Doctorow and he started doing this when his first book was published by Tor in 2003. Really. He not only made the entire text available electronically, he encouraged people to run it off and pass it around. So far, 700,000 people have taken him up on the offer. He writes in Forbes, “Most people who download the book don’t end up buying it, but they wouldn’t have bought it in any event, so I haven’t lost any sales, I’ve just won an audience.”

And does that new audience do him any good from a financial standpoint? Doctorow thinks so. He continues, “. . . giving away e-books sells printed books. What’s more, having my books more widely read opens many other opportunities for me to earn a living from activities around my writing . . . My fans’ tireless evangelism for my work doesn’t just sell books – it sells me.”

Well, I’m sold. And I’m not above imitation, either. By this time next week I’ll have a novel up on my site that is ready to download and 100% free. If you don’t agree with me that Doctorow’s ploy may be brilliant, then think of this e-book as an early Christmas gift.

Speaking of brilliant -- and people who come bearing gifts -- the same friend who sent me the link to Forbes originally wrote to tell me of a new venture he has undertaken. I think you'll be as intrigued by the idea as I am. In his words (well, mostly):

The site is called Choose The Right Stories and it’s free to everyone. is open for stories of every genre written for every age group. The stories share a consistent adherence to the standards set forth in the pamphlet For the Strength of Youth. The name is a double-entendre. You’re choosing stories that have the right standards . . . and you’re choosing stories that are right for you. The concept is that authors can post the chapters of their stories on this site as they complete them. Family and friends (and anybody else with an Internet connection) can then read as they go and provide valuable feedback. The authors get to see how good their story is, receive ideas for how to improve it, and build a following that could help them get published. (Or more widely read if they are already published.) The readers get to read books “hot off the keyboard” and it costs them nothing! The web site encourages readers to sign up to be notified any time a new chapter is posted. It’s also configured so that you can forward what you’re reading to family and friends.

Isn’t that a stunning idea? And there’s no catch for readers or writers. Joe Free, the founder, is simply one of the truly inspired, genuinely giving people with whom we share this planet. Check out his brainchild HERE.

And never say I didn’t give you anything for Christmas this year.

NOTE: If you'd like the link to Doctorow's article, write to me and I'll forward it. I'm not including it here because while I thought the article itself was great, when I followed the accompanying link to his web site I found content that many of this site's readers would find offensive. (Like me, for instance.) Therefore, I'm in no way endorsing this guy; I'm just saying that I found his idea for self-promotion compelling. On the other hand, I will endorse, recommend, and money-back-guarantee Joe's CTR site. Check it out!

Long Lines and Cranky People

by Julie Coulter Bellon

You can tell a lot about people when they've been waiting in line for a long time. I stood in a lot of lines today and witnessed a lot of cranky people. It was sort of funny in the fact that Christmas music was playing almost everywhere I went, but there didn't seem to be much Christmas spirit.

While I stood in line at Parent/Teacher Conferences this evening, I struck up a conversation with the woman next to me. We made small talk and I found out that she worked as a hospice nurse. I asked her if that was a depressing job, working with people who were dying, and she said, "You know, as a nurse, there is such a special spirit in the room when these people are passing from this life. I've only felt it one other time and that's when I was doing an obstetrical rotation and the same spirit is present when a baby is born. It's just that moment in time when we're entering or leaving this earth that is so incredibly special."

We talked a little longer, waiting for the teacher (who seemed content to chat with each and every parent for fifteen minutes), and my new friend admitted she'd had a long day. She had been called out to attend to a death, and when she got there, she went immediately to the bedroom. The husband was in the bed that he'd shared with his wife for 65 years, and he was cradling her body in his arms. Their children and grandchildren were surrounding the bed and the spirit was so strong. It was almost too sacred a moment to talk about, and her voice caught.

Needless to say, she loves her job. She gets to share these moments of grief, love, joy, and pain, and it lifts her, reminding her of what's truly important in life.

She told me something else I didn't know, and that's that harp music is made available to those who are dying. She compared it to David playing his harp to soothe the tortured mind of King Saul and said that there's just something about harp music that is comforting. No one seems to understand it, but it has been proven to work.

At this point, it was finally her turn to go in and speak with the teacher, but I thought a lot about what she said and the scenes she'd described to me. I decided that she had described to me what Christmas should really be about. Having your family surrounding you, with a comforting, soothing spirit so strong that you can feel those sacred moments and memories enfolding you. And of course, I am very grateful for the birth of a Savior that made having that family for eternity a reality. The harp music would be a bonus for me.

So at the end of a very long day, I am truly grateful that I stood in line and made a new friend who was able to remind me that Christmas is a time for loving—-that our time on this earth is limited so we should never limit our love and kindness, and we should be sharing our "Christmas spirit" all year round. Even in long lines with cranky people.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful . . . Or Maybe Not

by Stephanie Black

For all the lyrical dreaming of a white Christmas, the sleigh bells, and Frosty the Snowman, I don’t feel the least bit deprived that I won’t have snow for Christmas. Snow makes for beautiful Clement Moore-esque imagery, but it’s a royal pain in the boots when you have to load up the family sleigh and actually go somewhere. I’ll bet Santa would retire to Hawaii if he could. Snow, like Black Friday shopping, is best experienced only in the imagination.

If I were a winter sports fan, I might feel mildly regretful about living in a place where the nearest snow is a long car ride away, but I’ve only been skiing once in my life and it was horrible. My innate athletic ability is nil, and strapping slick pieces of plastic to my feet and careening down a hill in search of trees to hit just didn’t appeal to me. But I did enjoy playing in the snow as a kid, making snowmen and having snowball fights and all that. It was especially delightful if school got canceled (which happened a lot more when we lived in Arkansas than it did when we lived in Utah. In Utah, if you can tunnel to school, school’s on).

Tubing was fun as a teenager. A youth snowmobiling trip to West Yellowstone was fun, at least until our snowmobile veered off the path and onto a steep hill and we rolled the snowmobile (no, I wasn’t driving at the time—I was the hapless passenger on the back. We didn’t get hurt, but boy was I nervous after that when my partner was driving.). Snow can be fun and certainly it's beautiful; I’m not Mr. Heat Miser. But I don’t miss driving in a snowstorm. When I was a teenager with a newly minted driver’s license, my first solo venture in the Blue Beast (a 1976 Gran Torino) was to an early morning orchestra rehearsal. While we waxed musical within, an April storm did its deeds without. When the rehearsal ended, there I was, a novice driver, faced with driving home in lots of snow. I drove home so slowly that the drivers behind me were probably chewing through their mittens in frustration.

I'm so out of practice with white Christmases that it seems perfectly normal to have the only snowflakes on the premises be those that my son cuts out of paper. Even when we lived in Boston, we didn’t usually get a white Christmas. Nothing much happened there with snow in December; we were a lot more likely to get snowstorms in March. No white Christmases for us in Ireland either; the most snow we saw there was an inch or two of accumulation when we were vacationing in Dublin over the holidays. Being used to the relatively mild winter weather, we hadn’t brought much in the way of cold weather gear along with us (for instance, one daughter just had a raincoat). We nearly got frostbite wandering around the Dublin Zoo and envying the meerkats huddled around a warming light.

And now, four years removed from snowball fights (okay, I did see a bit of snow in Yosemite and it's possible someone threw some of it at someone--but I'm not sure it counts in June) I have reached the nadir of winter wimpiness. If it’s forty degrees, it's freezing. Polar bears exposed to such a raw climate would run for cover. But we hope Santa will brave the weather here and pop down the chimney anyway.

Pop Quiz:

Question: What town in Utah boasts frigid temperatures, a horibble football team, and a bevy of LDS authors?

Answer: Logan, Utah, this Friday.

This Friday, from 8:00pm to Midnight, The Book Table (a Logan bookstore) will host some crazy event that will force me to stay up too late. This large-scale book signing will feature approximately ten LDS authors, including Jeff Savage, Matthew Buckley, and me. (Others: Matthew Brown and Gale Sears, and five others I'm not sure of.)

Come one and all.

Address: The Book Table, 29 S. Main St. Logan

And if you plan on coming, bring me a Coke or something, because I'll be falling asleep.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Three Wishes

by Robison Wells

I've been trying to get into my new writing project, which is always more troublesome than I expect it to be. Once I get going, I can write pretty quick, but it's that initial stuff--getting to know the characters, figuring out the plot--that really bogs me down. I end up spending a lot of my writing time procrastinating: updating my website, reading research books, and wishing I was working on something else.

Ideas come to me pretty easy. Readers often ask me where I get my ideas, and I must say that that's usually the simplest part of writing a book--it's the outlining and editing and revising that really kill me. So, with all these ideas floating around, I always have a dozen projects on the back burner. Some of them will eventually see the light of day, and many of them won't. And unfortunately, the reason why several of them won't ever go anywhere is because there's just no marketable direction to take them.

Here are three examples of things I really would love to work on, but I don't know how I'd make them work. If any of you have solutions, I'd love to hear them:


I've been kicking around the idea of a screenplay for a couple years now, ever since I realized that a book I was writing would work infinitely better as a movie. I've mentioned the story on the blog here before, but the basic gist is that it's a romantic comedy where the leads don't meet until the final moments--in the book version, they didn't meet until the last paragraph. The point of the story is that both romantic leads are kind of screwed up, and were they to meet earlier in the story, you know that it'd never work. So, as the story progresses, they change and get to the point where they're perfect for each other, and then they meet.

The reason it would work better as a movie, though, is that the evidence that the leads are changing is shown via daydreams: they picture themselves in various situtations (the girl inserts herself into movies she's watching, for example) and we see their personalities alter and their flaws improve. Anyway, that probably sounds weird.

But there just ain't much to do with an LDS-based screenplay these days. LDS cinema, which appeared to have a lot of potential for a couple years, has been dwindling. And while I fervently believe that it will make an eventual comeback, I just don't see much opportunity in the current market. Heck, even if I wrote an LDS Citizen Kane, a shimmering star in the cinema firmament, there's just no worthwhile place to take it right now. Sure, there are a couple of screenplay contests here and there, but the winners of those contests don't appear to be making any appearances on the silver screen.

Ultimately, it boils down to this: I know, with a fair degree of certainty, that any good books I write will eventually get published. And since my writing time is finite, and the possibility of selling a screenplay so remote, it seems like a colossal waste of time.

Speculative Fiction:

Mormons read more speculative fiction per capita than mainstream audiences. And yet the majority of speculative fiction bombs in LDS fiction. Why is that? I think it's because if you put speculative elements into an LDS world, readers immediately try to reconcile the two--and they don't reconcile well.

Magic flies in the face of Priesthood and miracles; sci-fi set in the distant future seems to conflict with the Doctrine and Covenants (77:6); horror calls into question the power of Satan; ghosts don't seem to jive with our understanding of the spirit world. And while most of these problems could be solved in the hands of a skilled writer, LDS publishers are extremely reluctant to publish them (and rightly so, because they just ain't sellin').

And yet speculative fiction appeals to me in so many different ways. I wish I could figure out how to make it work.


I'm in love with the current television renaissance. As I mentioned here several months ago, the quality of TV programs has skyrocketed in the last couple years, both in writing and production values.

Look at Lost or 24 or Prisonbreak or--best of all--Heroes. The stories are entertaining and wild--as good or better than most action/adventure movies--plus you get a new installment every single week!

Or, look at House, MD: the plot is basically the same template every week, but the show is an amazing character study, watching several quirky people (and one completely misanthropic trainwreck) change over time.

It's the kid of long-term storytelling that movies (and novels, really) can never match. To date, there have been fifty four episodes of Lost. That equates to about twenty five full-length feature films. The idea that I could follow a group of characters for such an extended storyline makes my mouth water and my typing fingers itch. (Perhaps I have a rash?)

But how would a serial translate into books? Sure, there are series, but to write enough books that they'd equate to twenty seven movies would take the better part of a career. (Which, I guess, is why TV shows have lots of writers.) Even so, man that'd be fun.

Now really, I'm not saying that any of these three things are impossible, and I really think that I could probably make them work if I had the drive and the time. Do you guys have any suggestions? Or, alternately, are there any huge obstacles that you've found--writing wishes that are going unfulfilled--particularly within the LDS market?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Sweet and Sour in Writing

When I wrote my first book, one of the complaints I received—and rightly so—was that it only had one storyline. I believe that the reviewer said that it was actually a tale as opposed to a novel. Since then, I’ve tried to make sure that I weave different elements together to enhance the overall story, much the way that one seasoning can bring out the flavor of another.

Recently I read and reread the Counterfeit and Mummy’s the Word, and loved the way both Rob and Kerry used humor to enhance tension. Perfect sweet and sour combination. Here’s a snippet from the book that got me my national agent, using humor to make a scary situation a little more intense. (At least that was the idea.)

“I don’t know if I can make it.” He couldn’t see Two Bears’ light and his own headlamp glowed weakly in the tight confines.

“You’ll be fine. Take off your pack and tell me a joke.”

Inhaling deeply, Cal removed his pack and began to edge sideways down the passage. “I don’t know any jokes.”

“Everyone knows a joke.” Two Bears’ voice seemed inexplicably far away. “And no knock-knocks.”

Cal’s headlamp shot awkwardly toward the ceiling and to his left, leaving him unable to see what was ahead. The air down here was considerably colder than it had been on the surface, and he found himself shivering despite the sweat that ran down his back and sides.

“I don’t—” He began to tell Two Bears that he really didn’t know any jokes, when he remembered a dumb story Craig had told him one night while they were on a stake out.

“Okay,” he said, feeling extremely stupid and scared to death all at the same time.

“There’s these three asparagus kids, right.”

“Asparagus?” Two Bears voice sounded a little closer.

“Yeah, asparagus. So they’re screwing around by the railroad tracks. You know, trying to prove which is the bravest. The first one stands on the left rail as a train comes, and jumps off just before it gets there. Then the second one stands in the middle of the tracks. And he jumps off when the next train comes.”

Cal’s face brushed against the wall, smearing his cheek and lips with a foul, powdery soil. He spat, trying to get rid of the sour, mildewed taste in his mouth, but it didn’t help.

“Go on,” Two Bears called back.

“Well,” Cal tried to draw in a deep breath but his chest wouldn’t seem to expand, “the last kid really wants to impress the other two so he stands on the right track and just as the train gets there, he jumps over the left track. But the train clips him see and he goes flying down the side of the hill.”

Three more sidling steps and he could feel the walls brushing against both his chest and back. “Two Bears,” he called, his heart pounding.

There was no answer.

As he pushed farther into the passage, a sharp chunk of rock, embedded in the earth behind him, dug into his back. Twisting his shoulders, he attempted to readjust his position.

“They, uh, call the asparagus ambulance and these asparagus EMTs start CPR while they rush him to the asparagus hospital.” Cal tried to concentrate on the story, struggling to keep himself from panicking. But he could feel his mind starting to waver.

“And this, uh, asparagus doctor rushes him into surgery, but . . .”

Dirt crumbled from the wall in front of him, falling into his eyes. He couldn’t get his hand up to brush it out. The passage was too tight. He wasn’t going to be able to make it through.

He tried to back out, but somehow he had managed to slide past the edge of the rock and now it blocked his retreat. He was stuck.

“Two Bears, where are you?” he shouted. He tugged on the rope, but it seemed to be jammed as well. Two Bears couldn’t have gone far. When he realized that Cal wasn’t following him, he would come back. Closing his eyes Cal took several long slow breaths, but the cold, dank air felt heavy and lacking in oxygen.

He could feel his heart racing. He needed to relax; getting excited would only make matters worse. Something brushed against the back of his neck, skittered across his skin, and dropping down the collar of his shirt. It felt like a thick, hairy spider, he slammed his head against the wall, and a shower of rocks and dirt cascaded onto him.

It was coming down. This part of the shaft had collapsed before and now it was caving in completely. Panic raced through his body like a wildfire. He slammed his shoulders to the left and right, trying to break free. The walls no longer felt like dirt and rock at all, but rather fingers clutching at him—holding him in place while they buried him alive.

He couldn’t breathe. Hands pressed on his chest and back, keeping his lungs from expanding. A whisper of childish laughter blew across his ear. He stretched his hand out, reaching for any kind of purchase.

Something cold and clammy closed on his fingers, and he screamed.
Chapter 30

“You’re all right.”

Cal gasped, sucking the cold air into his burning lungs. He was standing on the floor of the mine, Two Bears gripping his hand firmly.

“Thought I was a goner. How’d you—”

He turned to look at the shaft, sure that it had caved in completely, and was shocked to see that other than a few rocks scattered across the floor it was unchanged. His backpack and rope lay abandoned on the ground.

“Heard you calling and thought maybe you were stuck,” the old man said, his eyes darting toward the passage.

Realizing that he still held Two Bears’ hand locked in a death grip, Cal unclasped his fingers and stepped warily to the opening. It was narrow, but nothing like the vice that had squeezed the air from his lungs only seconds earlier. Edging over to retrieve his pack, ready to bolt at the first sign of anything out of the ordinary, he crouched and hooked a shoulder strap with one hand. Slowly he stood.

“Guess maybe I caught myself on something,” he said.

“Guess so,” Two Bears agreed, but he didn’t look any more convinced than Cal felt.

“I must have panicked. I thought that . . .” Cal stepped into the mineshaft, letting his words fade away. He was unsure of exactly what he had just experienced.

“It can happen.”

“What can happen?” Cal glanced uneasily back toward the opening.

“Claustrophobia,” Two Bears answered. “Mine fever. Seen fellows enter a shaft for the first time and just run headlong into the walls. Knock themselves clean out.”

Cal had never had problems with closed spaces before, but whatever it was seemed to have passed.

“What happened?” Two Bears asked.

“Guess I just panicked, like you said.”

“Not to you,” said Two Bears, completely serious. “What happened to the asparagus? Did he live?”

“Yeah. But he was a vegetable.”

Saturday, December 02, 2006

O Tannenbaum

By Sariah S. Wilson

Today we went to a Christmas tree farm and cut down our own Christmas tree. My boys saw real reindeer, a fake Santa and went on a “sleigh” ride (more like a hayride including tractor and hay bales).

In so many ways, it was a wonderful day. Our tree is on the Charlie Brown side (we actually stopped going to this particular farm for a while because its selection had become so poor), but my family had so much fun. I think of the memories that we made today, memories that remind me of my own childhood when my parents somehow managed to find Christmas tree farms in Southern California. I loved that we spent hours looking for my mom’s perfect tree, and that said tree never, ever fit in the house and my dad would have to spend time cutting off branches and lopping off a good two feet from the top of the tree (as he had to do again this year).

As I looked at the chocolate moustache from the free hot chocolate on my 4-year-old’s face and watched my 7-year-old tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas, I felt an indescribable joy that only comes from spending time with your family. I can’t begin to explain the gratitude I feel to the Lord for little boys who suffered from all kinds of developmental delays behaving and speaking just like every other normal little kid. To hear my oldest tell Santa that he wanted “a Star Wars Lego ship” because he collects them, I almost started crying. This is a boy that we were told might never talk. I remember when he was three years old and didn’t speak, and how precious each and every word he says now is to me. I treasure their expressions of love in a way that I think is hard to understand unless you’ve been through a similar experience.

I am so grateful for these miracle children, and so grateful that I can share the experience of walking through green tree mazes looking for the perfect tree, taking in the pine scent, being warmed by hot chocolate, spending time watching the train display, poking around the gift shop and explaining to my boys what the life-sized Nativity set means, and how much Jesus loved them to lay down His own life for them.

I am thankful for compensatory blessings that I believe the Lord bestows when life gets rough. I might never have the experience of raising a child that the world considers normal. I will not know what it’s like to take development and progress for granted, to have a toddler that doesn’t have to spend hours a day in therapy and therapeutic play groups and working with specialists. But I do know the rapture of watching a child alternate his feet as he goes down the stairs. I know the thrill of having a child point to something (showing joint attention). I remember the first time that oldest called for me when he was little. I never take a word or a milestone for granted. Each and every moment with them is beyond rare, beyond precious. Their “I love yous” are literally etched on my heart.

As we start to prepare our home for Christmas, I've been thinking a lot about how Christ feels about my boys. I think of the overwhelming love He has for these special kids, and I thank Him every day that He decided to share a little bit of that with me.

P.S. - On a totally unrelated note I think Marnie Pehrson is a genius (anyone who can get a mailing list of 512,000 people is a genius) and while her launch may not have had all the success she wished for, I noticed that it did get her up as high as #60 on B&N bestseller lists. That is very, very impressive. Congrats to Marnie!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Free Stuff! (So, Do I Have Your Attention Now?)

by Kerry Blair

This becoming-an-author thing hasn’t turned out the way I expected.

Little girls become ballerinas because they love to pirouette before adoring audiences. Little boys become pro baseball players because they crave the roar of the crowd. (The multi-million-dollar contracts probably aren’t a deterrent.) But little people become writers because they like to hide out in small, dark rooms and talk to people who don’t talk back.

At least that’s why I became a writer.

Writing is perhaps the most insular, heady process in the world. Not only can you go to work in your pajamas (or in a bear suit, if you want to) but everyone in the world you create must do exactly as you dictate. It’s nirvana for self-conscious, introverted, control freaks like me. At least it is until some crazed publisher wrests the creation from your gnarled, writer’s-cramped fingers. All at once you have a novel instead of a manuscript—and an obligation to shed the bear suit, leave hibernation, and morph into a bookselling diva without the aid of a magic cloak or fairy godmother.

I know it’s a rather Grimm fairy tale, but it's my story. (Everything except the bear suit, that is.)

I’ll never forget one of my first book signings. Unfortunately. I showed up early and scooted my table over when the store manager wasn’t looking. That way I could partially conceal myself behind a towering stack of somebody else’s books. Minutes later, a well-established author breezed in. She scooted her table front and center, whisked off the plain tablecloth, and replaced it with something jewel-toned and satiny. She added flowers (probably home-grown orchids) and rearranged her books artfully behind a crystal bowl of imported Belgian chocolates. As a finale she looped a silver lanyard around her swan-like neck. Attached to the cord was a badge that proclaimed: Princess Perfection, BESTSELLING AUTHOR in four-inch, glittery letters.

I crawled under my table.

I have since come back out. I’ve even learned to play the game. (Ask Stephanie. You should have seen her jaw drop at our first signing together when I whipped out a lime-green tablecloth, string of twinkle-lights, and genuine stuffed raven.) Alas, although I now love book signings and can decorate a table with the best of them, that’s pretty much all I’m good at. (I’d probably only hang myself with a lanyard.) But I’m trying. I blog on Fridays and have worked hard to update my web site. Besides a creepy new look and a quirky Curiosity Shop, I’m adding twice-weekly blogs and even have a holiday contest up and running. (Everybody go enter, okay?) But that’s about as far as I foray into self-promotion without developing brain freeze, panic attacks, and/or a nasty case of hives.

Which (450 words later) brings me to the thesis of this blog. I simply love it when other people come up with creative, inspired ideas to promote their books. I followed Rob’s prequel with fascination. I think Jeff is brilliant. Another of the greats is Marnie Pehrson. On this very day (December 1) she’s doing something innovative and absolutely stunning. It’s called a Launch. Everyone who orders a copy of her new book Angel and the Enemy from Barnes & Noble online today will get a free cyber shopping bag full of goodies worth more than $700. (One of the more modest gifts is a download of Digging Up the Past, a book I co-authored with my sister-in-law, Christine Wolfe.)

To make this happen Marnie has recruited friends and associates across the Web. She has – at last count – more than 512,000 individual mailings going out simultaneously. (Yes, you read that right. A half-million people will hear about her book today.) If a miniscule fraction of them buy the book, she will be catapulted onto B&N’s Top Ten Best Seller List, probably ahead of John Grisham – who only wishes he’d thought of it himself. This will be an incredible achievement that she can list on every forthcoming book cover and/or brag about forever.

Brilliant, huh? Undoubtedly you’ll want to be part of literary history-in-the-making by buying one, two or ten copies for yourself and everyone on your Christmas list! Check out the book (and the promotion) here. Or here. Or here. Each page was targeted toward a different market, depending on the mailing. Impressed? Me, too.

While you go order the book I’ll get out the glitter and make Marnie one of those badges I told you about. I just hope she has a flashy lanyard to put it on.