Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

My Two Cents on Character Flaws

by Stephanie Black

I’m intrigued by the discussion Rob started on flawed characters in LDS fiction, so here’s my two cents on the topic.

I think LDS publishers and readers are open to flawed main characters. In fact, I think they want characters to have flaws and quirks. Dudley Do-Right is a cartoon, not meant to be realistic, and unless we’re trying to be funny, none of us writers are laboring to create the literary equivalent of Dudley. Realistic heroes and heroines have flaws.

I remember getting evaluations back on a manuscript I’d submitted and being pleased when I saw comments about the main character’s shortcomings. I’d worried about making him too white-hat good guy-ish, and was glad he’d come across as imperfect. When you combine realistic flaws with courage and determination in the face of adversity, you end up with a character readers can relate to and root for.

Are writers who choose to write for the LDS market limited in the kinds of flaws they can give their characters and how the characters deal with those flaws? Um, yeah. Of course. How in the world could it be otherwise? If LDS fiction didn’t have anything that set it apart from mainstream fiction, then why bother to write it or read it? One thing a reader knows when picking up a novel from a mainstream LDS publisher is that the story will not glorify evil. Evil things may happen. People may make bad choices. But evil will not be made to look appealing, glamorous, or consequence-free.

From FHL in the comment trail on Rob's blog:
How flawed is acceptable? Tough call. I suppose the guideline I'd set for myself is : will my protagonist tempt the reader to try out his flaws? Does he accept / embrace his flaws, or try to improve?

Good comment, FHL. I think the main character in an LDS novel needs to make positive progress. I’m not saying every LDS novel needs to be a conversion story, but a flawed protagonist ought to be better at the end than he was at the beginning. Why? A character needs to change over the course of a novel. If you’re writing LDS fiction, the character arc needs to move toward positive change. As Keith Fisher said in the comment trail:
I think that LDS fiction (because it is LDS fiction) should show the characters becoming better. After all, that is the message of the Savior and should be the purpose of our writing.

Some people would complain that saying a flawed character in an LDS novel needs to improve isn’t “realistic.” I disagree. Sure, change for the better can be portrayed in an unrealistic manner, but ANY type of character development can be done badly. And when I say I think positive change needs to happen, I'm not saying LDS authors should be writing just one kind of story. Character change can be subtle or overt. Maybe the flawed character undergoes a life-changing conversion. Maybe he/she just ends up a little braver, a little stronger, a little more seasoned and refined, a little more knowledgeable, a little more compassionate, a little more patient—the possibilities are endless.

Here are two examples of flawed protagonists from recent LDS novels:

In The Operative, by Willard Boyd Gardner, Kam Daniels is a boozing ex-cop who ran out on his wife, Rhiana, when he couldn’t cope with his guilt over his inadvertent role in a tragic accident. At the opening of the novel, Kam gets drawn into helping Rhiana rescue a kidnapped operative in Yemen. Kam wants to reconcile with Rhiana, but he struggles to reach out and respond to her, he does and says dumb things, he hides behind jokes. But he’s determined, courageous and compassionate. At the end of the book, he isn’t converted or flaw-free, but he’s a better man than he was and he’s on the right path.

In Redemption Road, by Toni Sorenson Brown, Lana Carter has damaged her life with a string of poor decisions. Inactive in the church and with two failed marriages behind her, Lana tries to hide from her painful past and problems, but throughout the course of the book, she moves gradually toward redemption and peace as she loves and serves the people of Kenya—particularly one little boy.

Lana and Kam are both interesting, flawed, multi-layered protagonists.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Good Plots Make for Good Books

by Jeffrey S Savage

Sorry for posting late, but once again I am on the road and my internet access has been terrible. For the next six weeks I am teaching a creative writing class for the city of Spanish Fork. So I thought I would share some of the things I am covering in my class.

This week we talked about creating a solid plot line. One of the biggest reasons new writers have for not completing their novels is that they begin without a strong plot. Here are the points I asked my class to consider before starting page one. I’d love feedback from you on how these points these points affect what you read and write. Share your thoughts and I’ll take them back to the class.


Does your main character have a noble quest?

Will the reader empathize with that quest?

What are the obstacles to the quest?

Do you have more than one story line to carry the plot?

Are the smaller climaxes leading up to the final climax?

Did I start the story at the right point?

Is your storyline broad enough? Is it too broad, so it loses focus?


Do you have a clear main character?

Do you like that character?

Do they have flaws?

What are they going to learn during the course of the story?

Who are the subordinate characters?

Is the main character in jeopardy? Of what?

What are the consequences of failure? Of success?

Are the obstacles to success difficult enough?

Is the character acting or reacting. Readers want a hero/heroine that is actively trying to fix things.


Why did you choose the setting you have?

Does it add to the story?


Time Period

Why did you choose the time period?

What would happen if you changed it?

Are there any key events that could be tied in?

Nobody's Perfect

by Robison Wells

In my first book, the main character, Walt Stewart, is infatuated with the new girl in town. So when she shows up to church on Sunday, he naturally can't keep his eyes (and mind) off of her. Or, at least, he couldn't keep his mind off her until my publisher told him to pay attention and sit up straight. LDS novels, they told me, are very often read by youth, and the novels' main characters become role models. And, since the last thing we want is for our youth to think about girls during sacrament meeting, then Walt couldn't either. So, I changed a couple sentences to make him a little more upstanding, and thus the youth were saved!

Now, I don't want to get into a discussion about the conservativism of LDS publishers/bookstores/readers. For one thing, I've talked about it a lot before and it's just not that interesting to me. For another, it's getting better. For example, Matthew Buckley recently emailed me to let me know that he got permission to use "hell" in his book. (By comparison, my second book tried to use the word "hell", in the context of quoting a scripture, and after giving the scripture reference, and yet all I got was a lousy ". . ."). So, to make up for it: hell hell hell.

Anyway, back to the point: one of my very favorite TV shows is House, M.D.. The plot of every episode is pretty much the same: somebody comes in to the hospital with weird symptoms, Dr. House and his team treat the patient, the problems get worse instead of better, the patient almost dies, and then House solves the mystery! It's about as formula as formula can get. But the reason the show is so compelling is that Dr. House is one colossally screwed-up guy. He appears to have nothing but contempt for everyone, he viciously ridicules the few people who try to be nice to him, and has the bedside manner of Steve Martin in Little Shop of Horrors. And yet, in spite--and because--of it all, he remains one of the most exciting and interesting characters on television. Why? Character flaws. Aside from his medical brilliance, there's nothing about him that isn't flawed. It makes for dang good TV.

On Saturday, Catch Me If You Can was on TV. If you missed it, it's about a thieving con man, and it's fantastically good entertainment. What about Ocean's Eleven? Thieves, all of them, and yet very much the protagonists. James Bond is a womanizing assassin--but he womanizes and assassinates to save the world!

In my books, I've always tried to give my characters flaws, but I've always felt a little restricted. Maybe it's because of the sacrament meeting incident in my first book. I just can't shake the feeling that in an LDS book, the main characters have to fine upstanding people, virtually flaw free--and if they have problems, the problems are relatively minor, like having wavering faith or not praying enough.

So I ask you, gentle reader: In LDS fiction, how much flaw is too much flaw? And, the second question: do they have to be redeemed?

For example, Jennie Hansen's Wild Card: the main character is very flawed, turning to a life of crime for a while, but he eventually gets back on the right path, making amends for his past. But could an LDS novel be written about a similar cattle rustlin' cowboy, and not have him give up crime by the end? I'm certainly not saying that that's how Jennie's book should have ended; I'm just wondering if such a book could be written, and how the LDS market would receive it.

I have an ulterior motive, of course. My upcoming book has some awfully flawed characters (or, at least, it does in its current, unfinished form), and I'm nervous about how they'll be received.

So, what do you think about screwed-up protagonists?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Accountability Time - End of 21-Day Challenge

Today is January 29 - which is 21 days after we started our challenge (January 8 for those mathematically challenged). How did you do?

I didn't hit my goal every day, although I did make an attempt. I might have fallen a bit short on some days but I did manage to accomplish something almost every day just in making the effort to reach the goal. For me the experiment was a success, and I think got me back into the habit of doing something I really needed to be doing every day. Hopefully it'll stick.

What about the rest of you? I'm going to name names here from those that posted in the comments section that they would participate in the 21-day challenge, and I hope that you'll leave a comment and let us know how you did, and whether or not you think you'll be able to keep up your newly formed habit.

So I'm looking to hear from: chillygator, Jennie, Rob, sabrina2u, Kerry, Julie, Marcia Mickelson, Marnie Pehrson, KB, Karen Hoover, Evil HR Lady and FHL. (Maybe some of the 6LDSWriters participants can write about how they did in their challenges as posts this week.)

Frog Schmoozes at Gala Gathering!

The Frog greets Mean Aunt and Totally Awesome Cousin at the Mesa launch party for Ghost of a Chance. Despite his brave smile and repeated claims that "he ain't afraid of no ghost," Frog stuck pretty close to Mean Aunt throughout the evening. (Not that she was much protection. It just so happens that "Mean" Aunt is one of the nicest people on the planet!)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

To Whet Your Appetite

by Sariah S. Wilson

Word on the streets is that SECRETS IN ZARAHEMLA is currently sitting in my publisher's warehouse and should be distributed sometime this week. That means as early as February 4 and 5 SECRETS may be on Seagull's shelves (it apparently takes a bit longer for it to reach Deseret and the independents).

Look for me to make an announcement soon about my website being up, and about the three (yes, three!) contests I'll be running in February. Once the site is up, I'll have the first chapter posted for everyone to peruse (which I just know will send you into a buying frenzy and make you run for your nearest bookstore demanding that they sell you a copy. No? Just me? Okay.)

But to tide you over until then, I wanted to post the author endorsements that I got for this book:

“Secrets in Zarahemla is a wild ride of sword fights, political intrigue, love and betrayal. This book manages to maintain scriptural integrity while providing readers with a highly-entertaining experience. It will appeal to readers of all ages and leave them wishing for more.” -- Betsy Brannon Green, author of the Haggerty mystery series

“A captivating adventure--romance, intrigue, and history all rolled into one delightfully rich tale. I highly recommend Secrets in Zarahemla to all lovers of historical fiction.” -- H.B. Moore, author of the Out of Jerusalem series

“A fast-paced tale of love, honor, and faith set against the beautifully painted backdrop of an ancient culture. A unique and inspiring debut.” -- Heather Grothaus, author of The Warrior and The Champion

And for those that haven't checked out my back cover blurb, here ya go:

As she hangs upside-down in a hunter’s snare, Kiah feels a wave of fear as her captor comes into view. By his looks, as appealing as they are, the tall Lamanite is the mortal enemy of Kiah and her people. She can’t hope that her father, Captain Moroni, and his Nephite soldiers will rescue her—the strong-willed young woman has wandered well beyond the safe borders of Zarahemla. However, she is determined to use her warrior training to fight the Lamanite called Jeran until the end, no matter how hopeless the odds.

The land of Zarahemla has long been under serious threat from its enemies. But recently, its worst foes come from within—including Corahan, a man who would stop at nothing to fulfill his desires. One of the things Corahan most wants is Kiah as his wife. Now Kiah and her new unlikely ally must call on all their faith and courage to save Zarahemla in a struggle that will bring either deliverance or death—to both of them.

Journey to 62 BC and discover adventure, intrigue, and romance in a story where evil must be fought against, no matter how high the cost.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

It's Not if You Win or Lose, It's How You Play the Game

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I love playing sports. I was on a championship volleyball team, I played on the high school basketball team, and I did track and field with the shot put as my specialty. I love a good game of hockey and I ripped all the ligaments in my knee once playing football with the boys. Naturally I was excited to have children and I wanted them to find a sport they loved.

They did.

This basketball season we have five children that are playing basketball, with two of those children playing church ball as well as in the city league. This means that I attend a lot of basketball games every week. At least six every Saturday. It is so interesting to me to see the difference between my eight year old's team and my seventeen year old's team and think that once upon a time, my seventeen year old was just like my eight year old. For my eight year old, it's all about fun and I sit back and cheer and encourage. For my seventeen year old, it's still fun, but it's a pretty intense competition where every foul shot counts. I still cheer and encourage him, but I have to do it a little more quietly or I'll embarrass him. I'm generally a good fan, I've never been ejected or had any problems like that, but I came close recently.

The coach of my daughter's basketball team called me and asked if I'd coach for her that day because she had to go to a funeral. I said sure, no problem, and I didn't think there would be. I'd been to a lot of ball games and my daughter's games seemed the least intense to me. We arrived at the gym, did some warm-ups, I gave the girls their starting line up and we were off to a great start.

We took an early lead, so I made some substitutions. The other team caught up and tied the game. We were back and forth for the rest of the half, but unfortunately, we only had one referee and he seemed allergic to calling the game fairly. My girls were literally pushed out of bounds, shoved to the floor, and blatantly hacked on the arms and no fouls were called. My best player was called for two fouls when she didn't even touch the other girl, and when I protested the referee explained to me that my girl had been standing too close to the other player. Standing too close? When my girls were practically draped with opposing players on them like a second skin? It was ridiculous. The other team cheered when their teammates deliberately fouled our team and yelled at my girls to "chill out" when they shook their head in frustration. In all my years of basketball, I've never seen anything like it and I've never seen a coach or referee allow it.

I went to the official at half time and pointed out some of our frustrations, especially the one player in particular that had slappy hands and he just shrugged his shoulders. With no other options, I went to my girls and told them we just needed to play our best game no matter what. We did that and it looked like we were going to win it, horrible referee or not. However, with a few seconds to go in the game, the other team made a basket to tie the score and we went to overtime, just as my point guard was called for another phantom foul and fouled out.

We had a few minutes before the overtime started and as my players came off the court, my daughter had a large scratch across her face and two of my players were limping after being thrown to the ground. (One ended up having to be treated later on and is still wearing a knee brace, that's how bad it was.) Our other point guard had said "Come ON!" to the referee after she had been shoved and she had gotten a technical and was sitting out.

I have to admit, I was upset at the injustice that was going on in front of my face. My general easygoing nature seemed to disappear and I silently stood there, arms folded, unable to sit any longer. Overtime began and when the ref finally called a foul against the girl on the other team with the slappy hands, I wanted to cheer, but instead I said loudly, "FINALLY! She's been doing that the whole game!" And the ref gave me the death glare, almost gave me a technical, while pointing his finger at me and saying he was doing the best he could. Then he made a smart remark to one of my girls and the other coach yelled at me from across the gym. It was crazy! The whole room was charged with tension as the first overtime wound down and we were in the lead by two (because my daughter made this awesome basket!) but with ten seconds left to go the other team tied it once again.

Double overtime.

The adrenaline was pumping through my system by this time and I could hardly stand still. The minutes ticked by and I could tell my team was tired, hurt, and frustrated. With two minutes left to go, we were down by two points, and another of my best players fouled out. I put in this one small girl who made up for her height with very quick hands. She managed to steal the ball and made a wild shot. It was one of those that went round and round the rim, and everyone's head is following it. Will it drop in? Will it drop out?

It dropped in and we cheered. A few seconds later, with a minute left to go, we scored again. We were up by two. Then we were called for another foul and they had two shots. I couldn't handle a triple overtime so I have to admit I was praying with all I had that she would miss. She made the first one. It was a one point game. My entire team stood up, and the room was almost silent. The girl bounced the ball three times, lined it up, then shot.

It was wide. She missed.

We grabbed the ball and with forty seconds left to go, we slowed it down, and ran the clock. Then it was over. We'd persevered. I'd never breathed such a huge sigh of relief in my life.

I was so proud of my girls because even though it had been a tough game and they'd been incredibly frustrated, they hadn't played dirty or given in. They could hold their heads high at the game they'd played. That's what my coaches had always taught me and that's what I'd hoped to convey to those girls. I think I did. I think my girls walked off that court as winners, not only because the score said we were, but because of their actions. I know that even if they would have lost, it would have been handled with grace and I'm proud of the team for that quality.

Sadly, the other coach wouldn't shake my hand as I held out mine to her, but I still told her I thought it had been a good game because it was. I mean, my heart took a good half an hour to calm down after that, the adrenaline was pumping so hard. It was a hard-fought competition and it took teamwork and sportsmanship hand in hand to overcome the obstacles. We completely banded together as a team which is what it's all about anyways. It was a good game, win or lose.

And speaking of good games, congratulations to the Canadian hockey team who won their third straight World Junior Championship and brought home the gold. They worked hard, beating the U.S. team in a nail-biting shootout, and then winning against Russia in the championship game 4-2. Woohoo!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Motivation is a Marvelous Thing

by Stephanie Black

In days of yore, I was a skinny thing who could eat an entire buffalo at one sitting and not gain an ounce. Woe betide the fool who stood between me and the buffet table. Sadly, with age came a slowing of the metabolism—or maybe a slowing of everything except the movement of fork to mouth, and like a generous portion of the rest of the population, I’d really like to lose some weight. And when I say lose, I mean lose, as in just turn around and it’s gone and where did I put that flab, I just had it yesterday and isn’t that the craziest thing. I have a hard time with the concept that I actually need to eat less and exercise more if I want to take up less space on the benches of life. I did do well at exercising for a while, but then I started slacking off, and the holidays came, and . . .

But last week I got contacted by a former high school classmate asking if I knew anything about a class reunion. Twenty years, folks. I realize this is a freaky concept to young’uns like Rob, but yes, it’s been twenty years since I graduated from high school.

In the wake of that classmate e-mail, I got motivated. What is it about facing people you last saw when you were seventeen to make you want to look your best? Hey, I'll take whatever motivation I can get. This week I actually climbed back on the exercise machine. Woohoo.

Speaking of looking my best, it took my husband years to convince me that my hair really looks better without a permanent. When I look at my old yearbooks, I see why it took me so long to accept the concept that Lilt and I weren’t a match made in heaven. I went to high school in the eighties when curly hair was de rigueur. With my stick-straight hair, the only path to big hair and fluffy bangs was in a box of chemicals. But I imagine permanents have changed a lot since then. Maybe I should try one . . . hmm . . .

High school was a ton of fun and I really, really want to go to my reunion, but truth be told, I wouldn’t want to be a teenager again for all the gold in Fort Knox. I’ll take the fast metabolism, but other than that, I like being older. Notice I didn’t say “mature.” I haven’t actually tried that one yet.

A Celebrity in our Midst

by Kerry Blair, reporting in from the frozen northlands . . .

I happened to be hanging around Utah County yesterday and picked up one of those "best of the best" issues of Utah Valley magazine. Being a tourist of sorts, I checked out the best place for a photo op (Bridal Falls) and the best place to shop (University Mall) before scanning the rest of the catagories. There, right before my dazzled eyes, was JULIE COULTER BELLON, Utah County's favorite author! The accompanying text said the nominees included 34 authors of 300 books in 19 genres, but the winner was (and maybe I already mentioned this) JULIE COULTER BELLON. You can see for yourself at

I just had to tell you! Among their other sterling qualities, Canadians are naturally modest, so I was afraid Julie wouldn't mention it herself.

The Frog and I are very impressed. In fact, he's blowing off Bridal Falls to go take Julie's picture instead.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Envelope Please

by Robison Wells

The Oscar nominees were announced today. Unlike a lot of people, I actually get excited about them--I love to read movie reviews and movie criticism, and love to debate the award shows. So, when Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held their press conference this morning, my brother Dan and I simultaneously emailed to get each others' reaction.

Dan asked this question:
"I wonder what will happen if [Jennifer Hudson] wins—-one of the most powerful effects of an Oscar is that it will follow your name around forever afterward: Academy Award Winner Jennifer Hudson. But the title of 'Former American Idol Contestant' has thus far proven almost as permanent, and I think in Hudson’s case it has actually been to her detriment; she isn’t a real actress or a singer, she’s a former Idol contestant, and that colors everything people say or think about her. Will winning an Oscar change that, or will she forever be 'that girl who didn’t win American Idol'?"

I've been thinking about this kind of thing a lot lately, but from a writer's perspective. All artists live and die, it seems, by the labels we wear and the awards we win. Jennifer Hudson is not a legitimate singer (we are led to believe) because she wears the label "American Idol Loser". To some, the mere fact that she was an American Idol contestant, loser OR winner, is enough to mar her singing career--if you noticed, when Kelly Clarkson (the first AI winner) won two Grammy Awards she did not even acknowledge AI in her acceptance speeches. She was carefully trying to remove that label--and that label was far better than the one Jennifer Hudson was stuck with.

As an aspiring writer, people used to kind of smirk when I told them I had pipe dreams of becoming an author. When I'd tell people of the endless hours I spent holed up in my office, some would even criticize me for the waste of time. When I was finally published, that all changed. I actually have a relative who rarely gave me anything more than a roll of the eyes for most of my life, but who has declared herself my best friend since I'm published. That label, which does absolutely nothing to change my actual writing ability, instantly alters peoples' perceptions. Others (the publisher) think I'm good, so now it's okay.

Of course, it's not like I haven't run into more labels now that I've been published. Some still refuse to consider me a legitimate writer because I write LDS fiction which, as we all know, could be written by gangrenous monkeys and dyslexic pre-schoolers. Others consider all genre fiction to be the acne-faced step-brother of literary fiction.

I hope Jennifer Hudson wins. Rather than keeping the "American Idol Loser" label, it could easily turn to her benefit. People generally respect the Oscars much more than they respect American Idol (I would hope). People might hold her up to show that she's great, despite the fact that American Idol tossed her--not unlike stories of how JK Rowling was rejected by thirty-or-so publishers before finally getting a contract. It doesn't reflect badly on Rowling, it just makes people say "those publishers sure missed the boat".

And who knows? With the direction LDS fiction is going it might not be long before some of the authors will be garnering national attention and awards. Will that change people's stereotypes about the LDS market? Maybe; maybe not. But it will change their opinions about the award-winning author, and that can't be anything but good for the entire genre--even if only in the long-term.

My only hope is that it's not Jeff Savage who wins: I'd hate to see him traipsing down the red carpet in some skimpy Oscar de la Renta dress. People Magazine, watch out!

Find Your Magic

by Jeffrey Savage

Saturday morning I had the chance to meet three lovely and intelligent women who do a website and a monthly podcast on LDS books and books that LDS women would like. The website is called LDS Women’s Book Review. They have a very fun and amusing podcast they did with Rob Wells among others, and mine should be posted shortly. It will be number 11.

Anyway, in the course of our podcast (which I might add was the longest they’ve ever done—narrowly beating out Rob’s. Nyah, nyah.) I was asked if I’d always known I wanted to be a writer. Over the course of their interviews, they’d found that quite a few authors did not know they would grow up to write books.

This was the case with me. I didn’t write my first book until I was 38. And if someone had suggested I might be paid to write books back when I was in school, I would have considered them as nutty as Stephanie. (Sorry, Stephanie, but you know we love you.)

Now my point is this. There are many talents you either know you have—or don’t have in my case—by the time you’re old enough to ride a bike without training wheels. I knew by the time I was eight that I would never make a living singing. And I knew shortly after, that I would not be shooting hoops in Madison Square Garden. In fact the garden was where most of my shots ended up.

But other talents can sit dormant for years and suddenly spring up out of nowhere. Very few people sit down to write and find that they are William Faulkner. But lots of people discover they have a little flair for putting words together. And the more they work at it, the better they get.

I’ve been part of a critique group, which I jokingly call The Women of Wednesday Night, for five years. When I started, we all had some talent, but we also had a lot to improve upon. Now four of us have published novels and the others have published articles, short stories, and even sold movie scripts.

Did the seven of us just happen to be great writers that linked up? No, but we worked at it week after week, for years and years, and now I have to say that we are pretty darn good. So don’t think that authors are these incredibly talented people that sit on unreachable thrones. We are just like you. We struggle, we write a lot of crap, and occasionally we write something good. But if you go through enough crap, eventually you have enough good to make a book.

I hope that there is someone out there reading this blog who has always wanted to write a book of their own. Or maybe they’ve written a book or two without getting published. If so, I want you to know that getting published or more about perspiration than inspiration. Or maybe it's another talent or aspiration. Whatever it is, this is the year to make it happen. So reach down inside yourself and find your magic. Then put in the time and effort to share it with everyone else.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Five on One Hand, Half of Ten on the Other

By Sariah S. Wilson

I am succumbing to peer pressure and listing five things you may not know about me (note that I did not claim they would be interesting, only things you probably don’t know).

1. I’m the oldest of nine kids, and we all have names from the scriptures - Rachel, Jared, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Jordan, Adam, Stephen and Charity. Unfortunately for my brothers Jared and Jordan, while they were told that their names came from the brother of Jared and the River Jordan respectively, my mother revealed that she actually chose the names because they were her favorite romance hero names at the time. And that still makes me smile.

2. I skipped first grade. I guess my teacher got sick of me completing assignments before she had even finished passing them out. So when I went up to BYU, I had only been 17 for a couple of months. My parents, horror of all horrors, also allowed me to go on one or two dates before I turned 16 (since most of my friends turned 16 when I was a sophomore in high school and I didn’t turn 16 until the end of my junior year and because it would have been semi-humiliating to be nominated for Winter Formal Queen and not have a date). I also got to skip up through Young Women’s early - I became a Mia Maid at 13, but I was not allowed to be a Laurel until I was 16 (new bishop).

3. I was at the fireside where Cody Judy tried to hijack President Howard W. Hunter. A friend of mine wanted to get “good seats” so we got there early and actually sat two rows behind where Cody Judy was sitting. I noticed him because he was wearing a white suit and had a ponytail - not something you typically see at the Y. It was a terrifying experience because we didn’t know what was going on, but nobody left. I’ll never forget the power I felt when we sang those hymns, or the relief when Cody Judy was tackled. It took me over an hour to get a phone line to call my parents. On a related note - I have a distant relative in prison who was roommates with Cody Judy. Mr. Judy offered to write me a letter, explaining his actions, and while I thought that might be interesting for posterity that Grandma had corresponded with someone who said he would blow up tens of thousands of Y students, I didn’t feel comfortable giving him any identifying information.

4. I’m related to the former drummer of Good Charlotte. I found this out accidentally - turns out our moms are cousins. I’ve never met him, but apparently he goes to the family Christmas party out in Utah. None of my mom’s brothers or sisters appreciated how cool this fact was until their kids informed them of it. And if that’s not interesting enough celebrity-wise, I once received a phone call from my favorite celebrity (and it is someone who is still on TV as we speak).

5. I am having a GIRL! We are totally thrilled and excited - I started crying when the technician confirmed it at the ultrasound this last Thursday. My mom cried so much that people ran into her office to see what horrible thing had happened. LOL I’ve always wanted to have a little girl and since this will most likely be it for me, I am beyond grateful that it will be a daughter. I am prepared to go broke, dress her in nothing but pink and this child will be spoiled, just so that everyone knows.

How is everyone doing on their 21-day challenge? We’re almost to the end of it, and I’m actually pretty proud of myself on how well I’ve been doing. I’ve done it almost every day and am making good progress on my goal.

Friday, January 19, 2007

True Confessions

By Kerry Blair

I learned to walk on the beaches of Midway Island where my father was stationed in the Navy. My first words were gooey-burr which, interpreted, mean goony bird. Midway’s shores are the mating spot for nearly every albatross in the Western Hemisphere. These birds were my only childhood playmates and friends. (That explains a lot, doesn’t it?) To this day there’s nowhere I’d rather be than on a beach.

I wanted to be a witch when I grew up – or maybe a writer – depending on whether I was watching Bewitched or reading Nancy Drew at the time. One bright summer day my minister pulled me out of Vacation Bible School to explain that there just weren’t any truly successful Methodist witches. I guess that’s why I became a writer.

I was a teenage Trekkie. Not just a casual viewer like Stephanie, I was the captain of my own “starship” of a dozen or so people who were just as strange as I was. (See “goony birds” above.) I not only had the short dress and the long boots, but I wore them (in public!) to a Trek Con or two. At one of these events I nailed every question in a tri-state trivia event. Go ahead – ask me what the T in James T. Kirk stands for. If that’s too easy, ask me the name of the peddler who started all that trouble with tribbles. Take your best shot. I can’t remember my phone number, but I can’t seem to forget Spock’s favorite soup.

I joined the Church when I was nineteen. (While this is neither a secret nor a confession, few people seem to know it.) I took the first missionary discussion on a Monday and was baptized on the following Saturday. (This saved me the anxiety of stepping inside an LDS church for the first time as a nonmember.) I immediately stopped going to Sunday Trekkie events and began to boldly go to Relief Society instead. It’s been an almost thirty-year mission thus far.

I can’t think of a fifth thing. Frankly, I’m about as endlessly fascinating as turnips.

I tag Betsy Brannon Green, the ladies at ANWA Founder & Friends . . . and anonymous

Thursday, January 18, 2007

My Nickel and a Half

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Coming up with five things that no one knows about me is easy because I'm a fairly private person. Deciding which ones to reveal that would give the least amount of material for Rob to tease me about was the only hard part. After much deliberation, here are five things about myself that not many people know. And Rob, you just hush up!

1---I met Princess Diana when I was thirteen. She was on a walkabout in Canada and my friend Nicki and I waited for hours to see her. Prince Charles was coming down our side, but about five people before he got to us, they changed sides and Princess Diana came over to me, shook my hand, asked me what time it was and if it was always that hot in Canada. She was kind and friendly and seemed a little shy to me. I vowed never to wash my right hand again. Don't worry, I did.

2---My grandmother, Thelma Chalifoux, just retired as a Senator in the Canadian federal government. She was the first Metis woman ever appointed to the office and she lobbied for women's rights all over the world. She was also instrumental in furthering the cause of the First Nations in Canada. The Honorable Ms. Chalifoux was voted the most influential Albertan and is one of the leading female figures in the Canadian government.

3---I never dated my husband before I got engaged to him. I met him in college and we became fast friends. He quickly became one of my best friends and we found we could talk to each other about anything. When we were sitting on my couch one morning, he turned to me and said, "Will you marry me in August?" And I said yes, even though we hadn't kissed or dated or said I love you.

4---I had a medical complication once and my heart stopped beating. It was the weirdest feeling ever, like I had a hundred pound weight on my chest. I could hear the doctors all around me and talking about getting the paddles out, and then I felt myself slipping down toward my feet as if I was being pulled through them. The doctors got my heart beating again, though, and I didn't see any bright light or anything. Maybe that's a bad sign.

5---I spent a few weeks in Greece and since I would be there over Christmas, my roommates thought it would be funny to give me some fake snow in a bag so I could throw it on the beach or something and celebrate a snowy Christmas while I was there. Unfortunately, when I got to Athens, armed guards took us off the plane and searched our luggage. My bag of fake snow apparently looked like something else to the guard and he was screaming at me in Greek, pointing toward his gun. I had visions of Greek prisons in my head as I was trying to wave my hands around to simulate snow (think actions to The Wise Man and the Foolish Man when the rains came down and the floods came up sort of thing) Luckily, the Mission President and his wife were walking by at the time and stepped in to help me and explain that it was fake snow.

And Jeff, I'm from one of the greatest countries on earth----CANADA!!!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

My Five Cents

by Stephanie Black

I always have trouble with these “introduce yourself” games. Maybe if I had Rob “The Kid” Wells’ experience in dealing with U.S. Marshals, it would be easier to come up with “Five Things Only My Lawyer Knows about Me.” But I’ll give it a try.

1—I studied Hebrew for a couple of years in college. I’ve forgotten most of it, of course, but I still remember the line from one of our practice dialogues (sorry; I’m to lazy to find an Internet program that would let me write this in Hebrew characters): “Ani lo margish tov, Dr. Caspi.” This translates to: “I don’t feel good, Dr. Caspi." No doubt this line will come in handy if I ever go to Jerusalem and get the stomach flu.

2—Like the esteemed Evil HR Lady who tagged us in this Five Things game, I dislike mayonnaise. What is mayonnaise anyway—sandwich glue? I think my turkey can stay on the bread without gluing it there, and I don't need to coat my lettuce and tomato in slime so they can slide down my throat. I don’t put butter on my sandwiches either. I also don’t put milk on my breakfast cereal I eat my Cheerios and Raisin Nut Bran dry and keep the milk in the glass.

3—In my entire life, the longest I’ve ever lived in one location is seven years. What would it be like to still live in the town where you grew up and see people who've known you since you were born? I haven't the foggiest idea.

4—When I was a kid, I was a huge Star Trek fan. I loved the original series and the Next Generation. But I petered out on Deep Space Nine after a while, and Voyager was disappointing, so I petered out on that too. I never even saw an episode of the series with the Quantum Leap guy as the captain. But now that I mention it, I’d like to watch some Next Generation episodes for old times’ sake.

5—I’ve had a jillion Primary callings, but I’ve never had a calling in Young Women’s. Nay, not one. At least not until last Sunday, when I was sustained as Young Women’s president. Talk about jumping in the deep end. So all you experienced YW people out there, feel free to send me suggestions. My daughter’s advice was this: “Don’t talk in your Primary voice.”

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Five People You Meet In Heaven

by Robison Wells

One of the things that we bloggers planned for this year was to have theme weeks. The week of Valentine’s Day, perhaps, we’ll all talk about our first loves. During Thanksgiving we might discuss the things we’re grateful for. When Purim rolls around, we’ll have a contest to see who can come up with the worst insults for Haman. (Mine: Dinosaur Poo-Poo Head.)

Yesterday Jeff posted as part of a blogging chain letter, disclosing five things about himself that most readers never knew. And, considered what we already do know about Jeff, I think we’re all relieved at how benign his responses were. So, I don’t know whether this constitutes the beginning of a theme week or not, but I’m also going to post on that subject. (Calling it a theme week is better than calling it what it really is: a lack of original ideas.)

Without further ado:

(1) When I was in the eighth grade, I broke my back. I did so at a Boy Scout activity, and I fell off of a horse. It was the first time I’d ever ridden before. We’d almost finished the ride, and were taking the horses back to the corral, when there was a loud noise and my horse jumped. I fell right off—flat onto my back—and fractured the T-6 vertebrae. I spent the next eight months in physical therapy.

To this day I have little good to say about horses, and I once wrote a story in which a horse’s head explodes. (They say that if you fall off a horse you should hop right up and get back on, but that was hard with the backboard and neck brace. So, I never learned to forgive the animals.)

Oddly enough, it was during this injury (and a few broken legs the couple years prior) that doctors discovered I never bruise. Never. Weird, huh?

(2) My original creative outlet wasn’t writing, but painting. As I’ve mentioned before, I hated English all through high school, but I’ve been oil painting since the fifth grade. And I don’t mean to brag, but in 2002 I took third place in the Utah State Fair. So, you know, I’m a regular Leonardo Da Vinci.

(3) Whilst on my mission, I was once detained for over an hour by a US marshal. I was serving in northwestern New Mexico, a land that is peppered with ancient ruins, and often those ruins were the only places to go on P-Day. One day our entire zone went to Chaco Canyon, and myself and three other missionaries climbed up on a low wall have our picture taken. By this point in my mission, I’d done this about fourteen zillion times, though admittedly I shouldn’t have. Anyway, this day in particular there happened to be a US marshal nearby, and he had to restrain himself from beating us with his nightstick.

Normally, a US marshal wouldn’t have been there, and a park ranger would have merely clucked his tongue and kicked us out. But apparently there’d been some recent thefts of ancient artifacts, and the Marshall was staking out the ruins. He searched us for stolen items, and eventually wrote us a ticket for standing on the wall. Suffice it to say, this was not one of the proudest moments of missionary experience.

Incidentally, my time in New Mexico led directly to me taking all sorts of anthropology classes in college, and I’m quite honestly horrified at the lackadaisical attitude I had toward those ruins. Holy crap, we could have caused some real damage.

(4) I am a game player. And not just like your average college kid who has a Playstation—no, I’m a fanatic. In fact, I was one of the initial staff writers for The Official Time-Waster’s Guide, an online magazine that reviews and discusses games. Specifically, I was (and still nominally am) the wargames editor.

Yes, it’s true: I paint toy soldiers. Well, I used to until I had kids and discovered that small pointy things made out of lead are not good for children to swallow. But even now I still have all my little army guys, and I still play games whenever time allows. Just yesterday, in fact, I spent four hours at my brother’s house playing a game that boasted hundreds of tiny plastic pieces, hundreds of cards, and volumes of rules. And it was really awesome.

(5) I’m an author of three published novels. Oh, you already knew that? Then why haven’t you bought them yet? Honestly!

Incidentally, the five people you meet in heaven: St. Francis of Assissi, Sir Isaac Newton, Mark Twain, George Harrison, and Notorious B.I.G..

Monday, January 15, 2007

5 Things You Probably Didn't Want to Know About Me

by Jeffrey S Savage

The evil and eloquent, Evil HR Lady, recently tagged us in a blogosphere game called “5 Things No One Knows About You.” So I will be the first to take up the gauntlet, and I hope others on the blog will as well. Julie might even tell you where she’d really from.

(Actually just a side note, these will be 5 things you guys don’t know about me. Anything my wife doesn’t know by know is not fit for public consumption.)

1) Some of you may know that my wife and I dated for thirteen days before getting engaged, and were married 3 ½ months later. But what you don’t know is that we didn’t actually go out for over a year after the first time I asked her out. She blames it on the longish hair, moustache, and motorcycle. I say she just didn’t know a good thing when she saw it. (Which happened to be when I was fresh out of Army Reserve training with the accompanying tan, muscles, and crew cut.)

2) I have had a number of bizarre airplane experiences including: an emergency landing after a flight attendant became caught in an airplane elevator, a terrible claustrophobia experience when I was seated next to a very, very, large man who wouldn’t stand up when the plane landed and I was stuck beside him for almost an hour when a metal briefcase fell onto the head of another passenger and they had to bring in a stretcher, having a man escorted off the plane by air marshals when he didn’t take his meds and started preaching to the other passengers quite loudly, and a rather unpleasant experience involving HOT chocolate, inattentive parents, and three small children. And yet I keep flying.

3) I completed the St George Marathon in a time and condition I would rather not elaborate. Let’s just say my dad, who was running with me, said, “You better hurry up. There’s an old woman with a walker catching up.” To which I replied, “Trip her. I need the walker more than she does.”

4) I spent most of my mission (in Salt Lake of all places) accompanied by a Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist dummy, with a name tag that read, “Elder Ernie, Jr. Missionary.” Elder Ernie lasted right up until I was driving my truck from Salt Lake to California—post-mission and after breaking up with a wonderful girl by the name of Kari Lyn Biddulph (which explains why I still often misspell our Kerry’s name.) Unfortunately I fell asleep and rolled the truck so hard, there were rocks embedded between the tires and rims. Ernie didn’t survive.

5) I will drop just about anything to watch any of the following cartoons: Speed Racer, Aquaman, Tennessee Tuxedo, and Wacky Races.

Now that you know more about me than you wanted, I am tagging five others. Here they are:


Tristi Pinkston’s Media Review web site

Annette Lyon

Josi Kilpack

James Dashner – Actually this last one is more of a joke than anything else. Not because James isn’t a good writer. He is actually great. But because he hasn’t added anything to his sidebar blog since September. So all of you go to his website and send him an e-mail asking why he hasn’t updated his site. Tell him Jeff Savage promised he’d tell 5 things no one knows about himself.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Queen of Vomit

By Sariah S. Wilson

In case you were wondering, yes, that is my official title these days. I think I earned it when I threw up in a neighbor’s driveway a couple of nights ago.

I can thank blessed genetics for making certain that my morning sickness will not go away until, at earliest, I’m five months along. So…one month and counting. Although that doesn’t necessarily always hold true - with my first I threw up the entire nine months and I remember dry heaving in the middle of my C-section. Fun times.

I’m not a person that particularly enjoys throwing up. By the time I’m done I’m usually shaking, crying and have a horrible taste in my mouth that never, ever goes away no matter what I do.

So I do what I can to make it slightly amusing. Drinking sugar-free cherry Kool-Aid certainly makes it more interesting. I’m the expert on what things taste the same coming up that they do going down, i.e., any type of sherbet ice cream. I’ve also had the chance to run some scientific experiments on what happens to certain types of cereals whilst in my stomach. Golden Grahams have a bitter taste. Lucky Charms turn black (no joke). Frosted Mini-Wheats explode. They get all over your shower curtain (do not ask me how I know this).

Sorry to have grossed you out. I’m pretty grossed out by it too. Although I guess it’s not as bad when it’s not happening to you - my two boys seem fascinated by it (the cats too, for some reason). I usually have an audience.

As you can imagine, I spend most of my time trying to avoid throwing up. It’s usually a futile battle, but hey, anything to get me out of doing housework, right? Unfortunately, it has also affected my writing. When someone asks me how my next book is coming along, I don’t have the heart to tell them that my only creative output these days is what my stomach rejects.

Last Sunday at church a sister shared that she was in the throes of morning sickness as well and not doing too good. She talked about her pregnancy being a mixed blessing and I wanted to smack her around. (I think this is mainly due to raging hormones. I promise I am not typically violent.)

I guess when you get on this side of the fertility fence, when you can’t have a baby whenever you feel like having one, it’s really hard to see people who can and who talk about it like it’s a drag. I understand that pregnancy can be really rough. I understand that adding another child to your home can be hard. But to me, it is one of the greatest blessings in the world and one that I could never take for granted or ever view negatively, no matter what I have to go through.

I told the Lord that I would suffer any sickness, take on any hardship of pregnancy that He cared to throw at me, that I wanted a baby that much. And it seems, in His infinite wisdom, He decided to take me up on my offer.

And I am totally okay with that. Believe it or not, when I am in the bathroom six seconds after I finished eating my lunch, I am thanking the Lord for this baby. I am thanking Him even for the sickness, because the morning sickness means the baby is healthy and thriving. It means this one will stay where so many others have left.

I am grateful for the vomit.

And on an unrelated and less icky note - today is our first check-in for our 21-day challenge. I’ve met my goal almost every day this week - yesterday I had to begin work on our taxes and it was just ugly and sucked up all of my time. So I’m resolving to get back on the wagon and meet my goal today.

How is everyone else doing? Let us know how you’re progressing!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Choose the Night

by Kerry Blair

Can you imagine living your whole life in semi-darkness?

As a writer, I’ve tried to imagine it. A character in the Nightshade series, Sam’s adopted little brother Arjay, is what I came up with. He gets up at dusk and goes to bed when the sun rises. He does everything—school, scouts, even dental appointments—at night. Even then, to protect his skin and eyes from artificial light, he wears long sleeves, hats, gloves and goggles. (In Phoenix. In the summertime.) Sometimes he wears a complete Darth Vader costume to the grocery store because he gets better coverage—and fewer strange looks—that way. While Arjay happily tells everyone he meets that he was born nocturnal, he actually “chooses the night” for reasons of genetics rather than eccentricity. I’ve portrayed Arjay as a kid who suffers, like thousands of real kids worldwide, from a very rare genetic condition called xeroderma pigmentosum.

XP is an inherited inability of the skin to repair DNA damage from ultraviolet light. While ultraviolet light attacks everybody’s DNA, most of us are able to repair the damage automatically. This is not the case with XP kids. Sunlight (indeed all types of ultraviolet light) causes their skin to thin at an alarming rate. Unless carefully protected, they develop skin cancer, often before the age of five. This melanoma is not only disfiguring, it leads to a variety of truly frightening neurological disabilities. Worse, the cancer spreads rapidly to other organs. Thus, babies born with XP often do not live to be teenagers, let alone adults.

I became aware of this condition from a newspaper article about a real kid who was not only living with XP, but thriving. I marveled at the extraordinary lengths his family took to see to it that his life was as normal and full of fun and adventure as possible. I thought to myself, “Now there’s a real hero,” and took notes. His story – and his initials – eventually became Arjay Shade in Mummy's the Word and Ghost of a Chance.

I’ve donated royalties to the cause, but now that I’m off to promote the series again, I hope to do a little more. I plan to use my radio and newspaper interviews, book signings, and other public appearances to help raise awareness for XP. As part of this, I’m lugging a plastic jar with me from place to place, begging for pocket change and giving small thank you gifts to everyone who contributes a dollar or more. (My motto: Your spare change can change a child’s life.) This month alone I hope to collect enough nickels and dimes from kind folks in Mesa, Tucson, and the Salt Lake Valley to send at least one sun-sensitive kid to Night Camp.

Camp Sundown is a year-round night camp run by the not-for-profit XP Society. It offers light-sensitive children and their families a way to meet other families who share the same challenges while the kids enjoy a camp experience like their peers—just at the opposite time of day! There is no charge for campers under 18 because camperships are provided exclusively by donations. For just $350 any individual or organization can send a very special child to this unique, fun, life-enriching Night Camp.

In my first book, Arjay is the one raising money for Camp Sundown and XP research. Now that the next book in the series is out, I’ve decided to help him out a little myself. It isn’t much, but it doesn’t take much to make a big difference in the life of a special child.

Preview of Coming Attraction

by Kerry Blair

Marsha Ward, author of popular westerns Man from Shenandoah and Ride to Raton, will be our guest blogger next Friday. In years of freelancing and editing for four different LDS-oriented newspapers, Marsha has amassed more than 900 publication credits including articles, columns, poems, short stories, and novels. Her newest novel, Trail of Storms, will be released this spring. (Marsha treated me to a sneak peak of the book this week – it’s amazing!)

Marsha is active in LDStorymakers and is the founder of American Night Writers, an association of hundreds of LDS women writers nationwide. Her web site is here and she participates in two blogs: Writer in the Pines and the newly-begun ANWA Founder & Friends.

Her post will make you glad I'm ditching the frog blog to drive up to Utah!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Writer Whisperer

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I was folding laundry yesterday and the TV was on, and I caught a segment about this little girl whom they called the Lizard Whisperer because she could hypnotize lizards. They showed the little glass cage she had with three lizards in it, and one was jumping around like crazy. Since it was so energetic, they chose that one to demonstrate that she could truly hypnotize it. She took it out of the cage, turned it over on its back and started stroking its stomach. With just a few strokes, the lizard stopped moving around, and was "hypnotized." Then she dressed it in a princess outfit, complete with a unicorn in the background. (Which I thought was a little embarrassing for the poor little lizard). The interviewer then asked her how she realized she had this talent for hypnotizing lizards, and it got me thinking about writing and possibly hypnotizing writers. For a good cause, of course.

As many of you know, I was an editor at a publishing company for many years. I read a lot of manuscripts and I helped a lot of manuscripts go to press. There were several mistakes I noticed that almost every author made. If I was a Writer Whisperer, and could hypnotize authors into not making these mistakes, (no, I won't rub your tummy), then this is what I would be saying to you in your hypnotic state.

*gets out pocket watch* You are getting sleepy . . . You are getting sleepy . . . You are now asleep.

The number one mistake writers made was in the Show Don't Tell department. If you say, "He was tall and powerful," you're *telling* the audience. But if you say, "I was surprised by his commanding presence as he strode past the desk---shoulders back, head erect, his green eyes pinning me with his gaze," you're painting a picture for your audience, *showing* them the scene you have in your imagination so they can visualize it themselves.

The next most common mistake is the Author's Favorite Word. Every author has a favorite word whether they realize it or not. Some common ones are: "really," "actually," "just," and "so." Most times authors don't even recognize that they use these words so often, but it's easy to correct with the Find and Replace key. It just gets distracting and I think it draws attention away from where the author wants it to be.

The dreaded "ly" words. A lot of times authors are tempted to add "ly" words on at the end of their tags. "He said, reproachfully," or "she said, half-heartedly." "ly" words can sometimes emphasize meaning, but, really, you're telling the story again instead of showing. These words also can weigh down your dialogue, and suck the life out of the very scene you're trying to make stand out.

Backstory/Pacing---Pacing is very important to a story and many authors have this really exciting beginning, but then they stop to give some backstory into their character. For instance, the heroine makes it through the explosion in the parking lot, but then the author takes two pages while she's sitting in the ambulance to remember that she had a rotten childhood, she hated her sister, had a mysterious neighbor and her dad disappeared when she was five. It totally slows down the pacing and is information that the author can give in bits and pieces while they weave it into the story. Readers are smart, they'll put it all together without you having to throw up everything onto the page all at once. Smaller bites are generally more palatable and holds your tension longer. You want to keep the story moving so your readers stay active and involved, not yawning and putting the book down.

Laundry lists---This is one I saw constantly. The author wants to get the description across and so instead of painting a picture for the reader, they take the lazy way out and give laundry lists of adjectives. "Her long, golden blonde hair contrasted with her deeply bronzed flawless skin and beautiful almond-shaped green eyes that had just a hint of crows-feet wrinkles beside them." It bogs down the pacing and is once again telling the story instead of showing it, but it happens, and as a reader/editor I wish it wouldn't.

Now, my little writer friend, I am going to change you from your princess outfit and get rid of the unicorn, then I will count to three and when I say awake, you will wake up refreshed and invigorated and will never again make any of these common writer's mistakes.

1 . . .2 . . .3 . . . Awake!

Oops, I forgot to change you out of your princess outfit. Sorry.

Loony? Loony like a fox!

Julie "Coulter" Bellon, you've got some 'splaining to do!

From the Associated Press:
In a U.S. government warning high on the creepiness scale, the Defense Department cautioned its American contractors over what it described as a new espionage threat: Canadian coins with tiny radio frequency transmitters hidden inside.

The government said the mysterious coins were found planted on U.S. contractors with classified security clearances on at least three separate occasions between October 2005 and January 2006 as the contractors traveled through Canada.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Unromantic Confessions

by Stephanie Black

When Sariah's Secrets in Zarahemla is released next month, I can’t wait to read it. Her historical romance is a departure from the norm for me. I tend to stick closely to the mystery/suspense genre (as my like-minded sister remarked the other day, “I just don’t have the patience for the plot to be about how the hero and heroine are going to get together. I want them to meet over a dead body.”)

Before I get blacklisted by the RWA, let me say I do realize there’s a lot more to romance novels than just the build-up to the kissy-kissy. Sariah’s book looks fascinating, and I’ve heard great things about lots of romance novels (recently, Michele Ashman Bell’s Perfect Timing and Marnie Pehrson’s Angel and the Enemy. And I love Kerry Blair's romantic suspense—oh man, she writes good books. I adore her new release, Ghost of a Chance. I love detective Samantha Shade and her pining for handsome, Shakespeare-quoting cop Thom. That budding romance feels both beautiful and credible, which brings me to my problem with some fictional romance.

I have a practicality problem, probably inherited from my mother. We all loved The Music Man, but my mother couldn’t help observing that the chances of Marian the Librarian and Harold Hill making it work over the long-term were nil. Fast-talking con artist Harold is going to get bored with River City life before you can say seventy-six trombones. I know, I know, I’m missing the point. This is supposed to be a love conquers all changeover miracle and Harold is reformed now, but come on, it’s a one in a million shot.

Sorry. I know that’s so unromantic of me, and I am willing to suspend my disbelief in order to enjoy the movie. I had a bigger problem with a novel that I read recently. It was well-written and fascinating, but the heroine was just dumb. I can’t get swept away in the romance if I know the behavior of the romantic parties is—well, it brings to mind President Hinckley’s quote from the recent New Year’s Eve fireside: “You can be wise and happy, or stupid and miserable.” This heroine was a card-carrying member of the latter category. My sister was discussing this particular romance at a book club and one of her questions for the readers was along the lines of, “Do you think the main characters are really in love?” “Oh yes, oh yes,” was the consensus, and my sister was thinking they don’t even know each other beyond the physical attraction. Okay, so we’re freaks. Between my practical mother (who also pointed out the wrongness of the line in the song from West Side Story where it says, “When love comes so strong, there is no right or wrong”) and a bishop father who witnessed way too much misery from people with messed up ideas about romance, I got too thoroughly taught about how real relationships work to swoon over the overwhelming-passion-sweeps-away-all-common-sense theme. I like a romance I can believe in and applaud, like the blossoming of a relationship between Kerry’s Samantha and Thom, or Rob’s Rebecca and Eric.

Boy, I’m going to get in trouble with the RWA after all. But I am totally looking forward to Sariah’s novel. With Nephites and Lamanites and evil conspiracies and intrigue and such, I figure I can count on a few dead bodies along the way.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Bowl Contest Finals!

by Robison Wells

So, when I started this dang thing, it was with the understanding that I was going to win. I'm very disappointed in all of you for taking advantage of me in my time of overconfident weakness. For shame.

Stephanie wins a book, and got lots and lots of her games correct. FHL and Corfield also win books. I hope they realize that I've never liked either of them.

Anyway, if you're one of those three people, let me know what book you want and where to send it. You can either leave your info in the comments, or email it directly to me.

I'm going to miss college football. Pro football doesn't have the same heart, and they're too good for most of the great trick plays to work--when was the last time you saw a pro team run the option?

Besides, it's been a bad couple of years for me in football, and it was good to have a winning season again. Despite being a U of U grad, I've always been a BYU football fan--and they've stunk for five years. Additionally, I've been a Wake Forest fan for fifteen years, and they finally have a program worth rooting for.

One question a lot of people asked me this year, when they'd say "Where did Wake Forest come from? Who's ever heard of them?" and I'd reply "Who's ever heard of you, jerkface!? Why don't you shut up!?" and they'd say "Wait... you like Wake Forest? Why?" and I'd say "Because they're awesome, so shut up!" and they'd be all like "Woah, dude, calm down" and I'd be like "Why don't you calm down!? Are you too stupid!?" and I'd wish my keyboard had an interrobang.

So anyway, here's the reason I've always liked Wake Forest: because their mascot is the Demon Deacons. That's seriously cool. One day, back in high school, I was watching a game and said "Demon Deacons!? I'll root for them!" and the rest was losing-season history.

I've always like the Packers because my Grandpa had a Packers hat. He wasn't even a Packers fan, but he wore the hat, and I latched onto the team.

I've always liked the Steelers because back on my mission I had an investigator who used to give us regular Steelers updates.

My favorite NBA team is the New York Knicks, who haven't won a game since 1972. I've liked them ever since Patrick Ewing said, during the strike, "Basketball players need more money because we spend more money."

So, none of those reasons are really any good, but they've inspired staunch devotion. It got me to wonder: does anyone have a good reason for liking their teams? Why do we like who we like?

In the comments, post your favorite teams (of whatever sport) and explain why you started liking them. Maybe you're all boring and you like teams because you attended their schools or lived in their cities, but maybe you're like me and just really dig the Demon Deacons.

In related news: I hate baseball, because it's lame and boring, and the season lasts something like fourteen months, and holy crap I hate it.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Release the Hounds!

For those of you who signed up to join me on the 21-day challenge (and it's not too late if you'd still like to join - just sign in on the comments section and let me know that you're particpating), today is the first day!

I wish I had some great motivating quote to kick us off, but I don't. So good luck to everyone, and make sure you start on your goal today.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

They Say It’s Habit Forming

By Sariah S. Wilson

So apparently according to all the self-help gurus out there, it only takes 21 days to form a habit. I believe that. I bet if you did crack every day for 21 days you’d definitely form a habit.

But we have much loftier goals here! I’m starting a 21-day challenge.

If you’re like most people (or like me) you always have these great intentions at the beginning of each new year. You write down your goals, make plans on how you’ll carry through on each of them, and look forward to Monday, when you will start on such goals. Or the Monday after that one, since you forgot and no one can start a new diet/exercise program on a Tuesday, can they? Which then becomes the Monday after that one because your visiting teachers brought you over cookies and it would just be rude not to eat them, right?

There never seems to be a good time to start, and so you…don’t. And then you find yourself on the next January 1 with the same intentions and goals that you’ve had every year for the last five years (or more, your mileage may vary).

So this year I say no more! This year I am going to work on ONE goal. Just one. I’m also going to set smaller goals to reach my big one.

I am going to start this on Monday, but this time I really mean it.

I invite you to join me. Did you want to start exercising? Or make certain you’re writing on a daily basis? Or work on getting together query letters/synopses to send out to agents and editors? Get up earlier? Whatever it is you want to do - make a commitment now. Today. Write in the comments section and tell me you’re going to do the 21-day challenge. You don’t have to tell me what your goal is if you don’t want to, but do write it down somewhere. It makes it more real to you and your subconscious if you’ve written it down.

The challenge will start on Monday, January 8, 2007 and go to January 29, 2007. During the 21-day challenge you can miss a day here or there (perhaps Sundays you won’t feel comfortable working on your goal), but we all have to be consistent. Every Saturday I’ll post about how I’m doing, and you can do the same. Then on January 29 we’ll do a final post to see how we all did.

I realize I keep saying we when it might just be me that does this challenge. I hope some of you will join me - I think there is definite strength in numbers.

And if I do my goal every day for 21 days, I am interested to see if I can keep it up after that. Who knows? Maybe we can prove the quote true:

“Sow a thought, and you reap an act; sow an act, and you reap a habit; sow a habit, and you reap a character; sow a character, and you reap a destiny." (I have no idea who to attribute this quote to - every site lists a different author.)

Let’s sow some thoughts today, and starting on Monday we’ll start sowing some acts and see if we can reap a habit.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Eeyore is an Optimist

by Kerry Blair

Nobody came to my tenth birthday party. I spent the afternoon licking frosting from the candles, popping the brightly colored balloons one by one, and staring through tear-filled eyes at a table set up to hold all the gifts I didn’t get.

Maybe it would have turned out differently if I’d handed out party invitations.

I didn’t invite anyone to the party. Instead I left all the invitations wadded up in the bottom of my backpack and never mentioned my birthday to a single person. It made sense at the time. What if I’d invited twenty kids and only ten showed up? I’d then have concrete proof that half the class hated me. If nobody showed up, well, I wouldn’t be surprised, but the dog would be terribly disillusioned. (I’d told her I was the most popular girl in the fourth grade.)

I was a strange and painfully insecure child.

Frankly, I haven’t changed much.

I’ve mentioned this before, but publishing might not be the best profession for me. I wither in the face of rejection, cringe at self-promotion, and hyperventilate at the thought of people reading my work. And yet I have another book coming out this month. Not only is there the pressure to do my part to sell more than ten or twelve copies of Ghost of a Chance, but there's the fear that people all around the globe will soon feel free to read it. A few of them will do it, too. I know they will. Maybe even some of you. Ack! What if it's even worse than I think and my editor was just too nice to tell me? (Excuse me while I breathe into a paper bag.)

Yet despite my natural inclination to roll the rock securely back in front of my cave, crouch in a dark corner, and wait for January to pass, I am instead embarking upon a veritable flurry of signings, promotions, and . . . gasp! . . . parties. Yes, really. I’m even going to invite people this time. Since this is such an overwhelming prospect, I thought I’d start with you and work my way up to really scary folk.

Ready? Here goes: The first debut parties will be next weekend (January 12 and 13) at Seagull Book in Mesa, AZ and Latter-day Cottage in Tucson, AZ. From 5 - 7 p.m. on those two nights I will lick the frosting from the cookies, pop balloons, and stare through tear-filled eyes at the table set up to hold all the books nobody came to get.

Or maybe not. Maybe you’ll come. If you live within a sixty-mile radius of Mesa or Tucson I’ll expect you. (This is not unreasonable; I’m driving more than twice that far to see you.) There will be refreshments, games, prizes, and even the opportunity to help send a kid with XP to Night Camp. Just look for the 7’ inflatable ghosts. And don’t tell me you’ve ever seen one of those before. Outside an LDS bookstore, I mean. In January.

Please come! Please tell your friends – or even your enemies; I’m not picky about who shows up as long as somebody does. My dog thinks I’m a “famous author” and I can’t bear to disillusion her. Pit bulls are very sensitive, you know. Don't make me tell her where you live.

For an almost-complete schedule of my upcoming signings – and info on the Utah Debut Party – please check out my web site.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

It Can Only Go Up From Here

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I was told once that you should always kiss someone you love on New Year's Eve, because your actions will foretell what kind of year you're going to have. Well, if my actions this past New Year's Eve foretell the kind of year 2007 is going to be for me, I'm in trouble.

The night started off really well actually. Our family has a tradition to have a family party where we play games all night and eat really good food and snacks like shrimp and cocktail sauce, chips and dips, root beer floats, and cheese and crackers. We play games like Speed Scrabble (which is my favorite game on earth), Clue, Monopoly, Pass the Pigs, and all the classics. When it gets to near midnight, we watch the ball drop and toast each other in my finest crystal with sparkling cider. And I always kiss the one I love.

This year, however, things were going fine until about 11:40 p.m. My son had been partaking of all the goodies like the rest of us, when all of the sudden his tummy started to hurt. Yep, you guessed it. He ran for the stairs, trying to make it to our upstairs bathroom, but unfortunately he was vomiting the entire way, leaving no doubt as to where he'd been or what he'd eaten that evening.

So while my husband and I are starting to clean up our son, the stairs, the hall, and the bathroom, my daughter discovers that our cat has been accidentally locked in her room for who knows how long and has had an "accident."

So instead of kissing the one I loved and toasting with sparkling cider, we were cleaning up vomit and cat urine. If that foretells the year I'm going to have, I'm truly frightened.

On a high note, however, I'm knee deep in rewrites of my next novel and really loving the direction the story is going in. I love rewriting because the skeleton is already there, I'm just re-shaping or adding flesh to the story. My problem is knowing when to stop. I could edit a story to death, that's for sure. But I love the flow of rewrites and the shaping of a story. There's just something about getting it right that makes me feel good. And after the New Year's I've had, I need something to make me feel good.

*Raising my good crystal to all of my Six LDS Writers and a Frog blog friends.*

Happy New Year! May it only get better from here . . .

Bowl Contest Countdown Day Seven

Notre Dame loses.
Amy is out of the running.
Only one more game to go!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Three Cheers for Test Readers

by Stephanie Black

It’s New Year’s Resolution time again, where we set our goals for self-improvement. Fortunately, tradition dictates that these resolutions expire around February 7th, so no sweat.

Actually, I do have a goal that I’m determined to complete this month. For a while now, I’ve been working toward submitting my contemporary suspense novel to my publisher in January. It’s January and—cheers and celebration!—I’m almost finished. This week was a Big Step—running the novel past a cadre of test readers.

I don’t seek out feedback when I’m drafting a novel. I admire the heck out of writer Matthew Buckley, but I could never write a novel in a Wiki-style format, getting feedback and suggestions along the way (I can’t wait for your new book, Matthew!). While I’m creating a novel, it’s a private process and I’d rather get eaten by ants than let anyone read it. Not until a few drafts into the book am I ready to hand it to someone and say, “Does this work?”

(Out of curiosity, are there any other writers out there like me—whose first drafts are a mess unfit for readers’ eyes and who need to work and rework a book before they'll let anyone see it?)

Since I am a world-class chicken (defined as “too scared to let Rob or Kerry have a look at the manuscript, though they did offer”), my test readers are usually my siblings and parents. Some people feel that family/friends don’t make good test readers because they’ll be too nice, but I’ve found my family to be an extremely valuable source of feedback. Since I want to get this manuscript submitted as soon as possible, this time I asked for readers who could read the book within a week and get back to me with feedback. Several siblings signed up for this quick-read program, bless them.

It’s always exciting and scary to send out that e-mail attachment containing my work of genius, or semi-genius, or at least my fervent attempt at writing something coherent. I push send, close my eyes, curl up into a little ball and wait.

Okay, I wasn’t that petrified. I’d snuck in a couple of pre-readers a few weeks earlier. I’d printed out the manuscript so I could read straight through it to see how it flowed, and I didn’t intend to let anyone read it until I’d checked it, but then one of my daughters was so antsy to read it that, well, okay. I’m not immune to the implied flattery of her eagerly seeking a peek at the manuscript. Then I ended up sending that draft to one sister and she gave it the thumbs up, so whew, I at least I knew the book wasn't utter rubbish. But I still didn't know what my test readers would say.

Though sometimes it's not fun to get told that something in the manuscript doesn’t work, what is fun and exciting is when I look at a problem and/or discuss it with my test readers, and they have good suggestions, and I think hey, I could fix the problem this and this way, and I’m off and running, and I know the book is going to be better for the changes and I want to kiss my test readers’ feet for their perception in pointing out problems I hadn’t realized existed. So far, my readers have reported on two principal issues: a problem with the main character, who needs strengthening, and a problem with the villain, whose actions need more credible explanation. Neither problem should be a difficult fix, and I’m excited to improve the book by attacking these issues.

So I’m on target for my first goal of the year—to submit my suspense novel this month. Check that out—a resolution I’m likely to keep! How often does that happen?

Bowl Contest Countdown Day Six

Louisville wins. Only two games to go...
Rob is 5-3.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Best of 2006

by Robison Wells

It's a new beginning, an Apocalypto as it were. It's a time to reflect on the past and look to the future. A time to recycle old blogs and pretend that they're new. So, without further ado, here are some of the best parts of my blogging this last year.

On the life of an author, March 14 2006:
"Authors spend most of their lives holed up in a dark corner. We hide from the real world. Our best friend is our computer. When we get together with other authors we talk about grammar and Writer's Market and conventions. To put it plainly, we're a bunch of nerds. We're like college boys who spend thirty-six hours straight playing Everquest online – except that we authors not only live in a false reality, it's a reality that we make up! We sit by ourselves in a dark room and play pretend."

On why I hate public libraries, March 21, 2006
"Let me elucidate a few of the differences between the Marriott Library and the public library.
Okay, so there’s only one, but it’s all encompassing: the Marriott Library is quiet, while the public library is a frickin’ train station."

On being detail-oriented, April 19 2006
"In my books, people apparently change clothes mid-scene. Laws of physics are defied. Waitresses miraculously become waiters. Why won't people recognize my genius?!"

On upcoming writing projects, April 25 2006
"I have other ideas that I fully intend to never devote time to, such as the tale of three wacky Vietnamese roommates named Bo, Beau, and Charles. (Seriously, this stupid thing has been sitting in my head for four years now, and I can't get it out. I'm nearly ready to funnel bleach into my ear canal to wash my brain.)"

On LDS film, May 16 2006
"Do I think that The Home Teachers deserves an Oscar based on nothing more than effort and potential? Of course not. But at the same time, I can cut it some slack. These early films are paving the way for future. Someday The Singles Ward, might be considered an LDS equivalent of The Birth of a Nation."

On being a moron, May 23 2006
"My hard drive crashed, and I wept bitter, bitter tears. I was in the proverbial Gall Of Bitterness, as it were. Had I backed up everything on a disk? Nope. Will I obsessively back everything up in the future? Also nope. Am I lazy to my own destruction? Yep."

On visiting cemeteries,, May 30 2006
"If you ever try to find something fun to do, such as go and sit on the wall of the cemetery and applaud as cars drive by, then inevitably some old lady will get out of her station wagon and tell you to have some respect for the dead. Seriously: what the heck?"

On delving a little too deeply into my books, June 6 2006
"I keep wishing that one day I'll bump into my characters on the street. I'd like to talk with them. I have questions for them. Did I portray them correctly? Would they have really acted the way I wrote them? Do they like me? Can we be best friends forever?"

On things I hate, June 20 2006
"In a recent study ninety percent of cell phone users said other cell phone users are often inconsiderate, talking loudly at inappropriate times. But the study also said that only 15% of cell phone users ever thought that they themselves were rude. Conclusion: not only are cell phone users garishly annoying, but they're dumb and oblivious. And I hate them. Hey you! Yeah, you with the cell phone! I hate you."

On The Da Vinci Code, June 27, 2006
"Frankly, I thought, if your testimony of Christ’s divinity is so shaky that Dan Brown and his gang of Grailkateers destroyed it, then you probably didn’t have one to begin with. (That, or you put way too much faith in the media to inform you spiritually. Would you like to join my new church? Our Lady Dora of the Exploradoras, featuring the Fiesta Trinity.)"

On product placement, July 18 2006
"With all the usual flair and aplomb we’ve come to expect from the good folks at Disney, Dead Man’s Chest tells the story of Covergirl Keira Knightly, GQ hipster Johnny Depp, and pretty boy Legolas as they battle the forces of watery evil. Well, sorry for the spoiler, but evil goes down the drain faster than a Drano-soaked clog. The effects are as eye-popping as Old Navy’s new autumn lineup, the plot is as tight as the sweet German engineering of a finely tuned Volkswagen, and the romance is hotter than the new, cheesier Hot Pockets."

On Stephanie Black, July 21 2006
"Yesterday, I received the following email from Stephanie Black:
'I found mouse crap in my bathroom cupboards today. I thought of you.'"

On being a good tenant, August 21, 2006
"So that night I was very pleased with myself for being such a better tenant of the apartment. No loud music and alcohol poisoning here, thank you very much. For dinner I made some homemade french fries and the oil boiled over, and there was a big grease fire, and my wife called 911."

On the first book I ever wrote, August 29, 2006
"It was this really stupendously-awesome novel about elves and dwarves, but (and here's the money-maker!) it had World War Two technology. So, in other words, it was a story about World War Two, except the Nazis were elves, and there were some goblins in South America. This book was lame. Seriously, it took lameness to the city limits of Lameopolis, driving in a lameosine. When it reached the county line, it vomited all over the pavement."

On Coca-Cola, September 12 2006
"I don't know when my love affair with Coca-Cola began, but you can rest assured it's been a torrid, violent relationship, marked by passion and lust and pain and tears. I'm Tina Turner, and Coca-Cola is Ike. I'm Patty Hearst, and Coke is the Symbionese Liberation Army. I'm John Belushi, and Coke is, well, coke."

On Anita Stansfield, October 3 2006
"In fact, I can say without the least degree of exaggeration that I attempted to dance the Lindy Hop with Anita Stansfield, and that she couldn’t keep up with my l33t skillz. Frankly, for a woman who writes books called A Time To Dance, Dancing in the Light, and A Dance to Remember, she wasn’t that great of a dancer. (Either that, or I wasn’t, and I simply can’t imagine that could be the case.)"

On college, October 10 2006
"I changed my major four times in college. I started in architecture, moved to anthropology, moved to history, and finally landed in political science. While all of them fascinated me, I didn't have a deep passion for them; I didn't really want be an architect or an anthropologist or a historian or a fry cook."

On being a dad, November 21 2006
"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."

On writing serials, December 5 2006
"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?)"

On Search Enging Optimization, December 12 2006
"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."

So there you have it. I noticed while I was collecting these quotes that I was gathering less and less the later in the year I got. So, am I getting less funny? Or are my posts just more serious and sophisticated? Or, more likely, was it because I keep resorting to these cop-out posts? Tune in next week to find out!

Bowl Contest Countdown Day Five

Stephanie continues her winning streak. Rob does not. It looks like he'll be giving away a couple of books.

But, holy cow, what a game... Can you say "playoff"?

Monday, January 01, 2007

When the Magic Began

As I thought about what I wanted to write to start out the new year, I went back and reviewed some of our past blogs. It was fun to see how many different areas we’ve covered and how many regular readers we’ve picked up over the course of the year. I love Kerry’s witch story and the way everything she writes comes out like a sonnet, Rob’s peeping tom story and Coke insights, Julie’s standing up for Canada and for kids who have to go at the post office (way to get those childless folks riled up!), Sariah’s amazing Book of Mormon knowledge and constant reminders that it doesn’t snow in California (not to mention her new babe and book on the way), and Stephanie’s insights on everything from plot twists to Christmas bells (oh and mouse droppings in the bathroom.

So first of all, a big thanks to the other bloggers for letting me be a part of your group. (I haven’t really decided if we’re the cool kids who all eat lunch together at the front table or the un-cool kids who stick together at the back table and make fun of the cool kids, while secretly wishing we were a part of them—but I have my suspicions.) And a huge thanks to all our guest bloggers.

Second, thanks so much to those of you who read this blog and make it so much better with your great comments. You are a huge part of this group—cool or un-cool. Mean Aunt, FHL, Jennie, Amy, Dewd, Tristi, Trixie, Matthew, Kent, Annette, evil HR lady, Chilly, Keith, Marsha, annegb, sweebler, anon, and the rest of you, you guys are great.

While a lot has happened over the last year from Stephanie joining us, to Kerry’s boys protecting those in need in Iraq, to The Acquisition (which must be referred to in capital letters), to Rob’s hula skirt, and of course all the new titles, I thought I’d focus on the one thing that ties us all together—no not Stephanie’s mouse droppings—books.

I was thinking back and trying to remember the books that started things off for me. Probably like most of you, I read a ton of books growing up as a kid (wonder how many I would have read if we’d had cable TV, the internet, computers, video games, VCR/DVDs, etc? Makes me shudder.)

But what books started the magic for you? What books took hold of your imagination like a kite and pulled you so far up from earth you couldn’t see the ground? Also do you have any specific memories or where you were when you felt the magic? Hiding under your blankets with a flashlight? On the back lawn under a shady tree?

Here are a couple of mine. The first book I remember just flooring me was “My Side of the Mountain.” After finishing that book, I was all set to run away, go up into the mountains, and live in a tree for the rest of my life. That’s the first book which caught me so completely up that I totally lost track of time. I’d sit at my desk in class during reading time and completely forget I was at school until the teacher told us to put away our books. Thanks Jean Craighead George.

The next really strong memory I have is of “The Outsiders.” Did anyone of my generation not read that book? For me it was in the garage attic of my family’s Pleasant Hill, CA house laying on a fort up in the rafters, eating cherries like crazy, and following the Socs and the Greasers. I also think that was the book that made me think I might be able to write something myself. Thanks S.E. Hinton

Speaking of eating fruit, another strong memory is of a summer spent at a cabin up by Tahoe, when Tahoe wasn’t like it is today. I hadn’t brought any books, but I discovered a huge tome of Aesop’s fables. Every afternoon I would sit out on the second story deck under the shade of a big pine tree and eat apples while I read about foxes, and dogs, and ducks, and pigs. To this day it is still my best vacation memory. Thanks Aesop.

Finally I couldn’t get away without mentioning, LOTR. Wow! I had no idea fantasy could be so immersive. I wonder if anyone has ever read Lord of the Rings and not come away with the life altered at least a little. I imagine it’s probably like how today’s kids feel about Harry Potter. But for me, Tolkien will always be so much more grand. Thanks J.R.R.

Of course there are lots more. Asimov’s Foundation trilogy showed me how cool SF could be. Dune enthralled me. To Kill a Mocking Bird opened my eyes. The Lottery scared the pants off me. Poe introduced me to terror and King, Straub, Koontz, and company took me all the way inside. Thanks one and all.

Now it’s your turn gang. Fess up to Uncle Jeff. What did it for you? And where did it happen? Come on, Rob, you must have been reading something under that bed.