Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Market

By Jeffrey S Savage (Posting on Friday so Kerry could give us that wonderful Memorial Day post. Thanks, Kerry, it was a printer and keeper!)

Prior to my post today, let me add a little disclaimer. Last week I came to the conclusion that between writing multiple books, holding down a full time job, spending an inordinate amount of time marketing my Farworld series, and oh yeah, a family, I couldn’t keep doing two blogs. I love the Frog blog gang, But right now, my priority has to be focusing on the writing that will soon offer me a chance to write full time.

With that in mind, I let my good friends on the Frog blog know that I would need to bow out from the blog. It was a very difficult decision, but I couldn’t see any other way around it. Fortunately for me, my good friends offered me an alternative. They suggested that until I can give up my day job, I could post concurrently on the Frog Blog, and my Farworld Blog.

I know the two aren’t always targeting the same audience, and there will also be people who read both blogs that may feel it’s kind of a rip off. Like when the newspaper reruns the same comic strip. I hope it’s not too big of a mess and that it won’t be for much more than a year or so. If you really hate this work around, throw lots of tomatoes and I’ll get the hint. But in the mean time, I’ll try to make sure that my Monday posts on Find Your Magic are at least somewhat interesting to this group as well. I have also asked that for this period of time, Sariah change my contact information to show J Scott Savage, so people aren't totally confused when I blog about book tours, or the like. Thanks for understanding and thanks to Sariah, Rob, Stephanie, Julie, and Kerry for finding a way to let me hang around. Okay, on with my latest rant.

A friend of mine (writing as a sheepish anonymous poster) recently wrote about not writing for “the market,” and thought I might take offense at that. I’m sure he didn’t really think I’d be offended, but was instead referring to a strongly held belief of mine that you shouldn’t try to write what sells unless you hope to sell what you write. Today I thought I’d post about the difference between writing for “the market” and writing “what sells.”

First of all let’s define the two directions. I do not believe there is any such thing as THE (note the effective use of capitalization here) market. There are lots of markets. The romance market, the fantasy market, the middle grade market, the non-fiction market. In fact there are really more markets than there are genres, because you can combine them. How about little old ladies who only buy paperback medical romances? That’s a market. And if you could corner it, you could make a decent living as a writer.

When people talk about writing for the market, they generally mean it in a negative way. Writing a book with the intent to sell a lot of copies. Or selling out for the sake of a buck. For example an author who put extra sex scenes into a book, or profanity, or gratuitous violence, or a profusion of crabapples. (Just wanted to see if you were still paying attention.) Let me just say that if all you had to do to sell a million books was insert x, y, or , z, 90% of the writers out there would be writing for “the market.”

The truth of the matter is that no one—not even publishers or agents—know what the next big thing is. Could you have predicted prior to Twilight that everyone and her daughter would be buying vampire books? Prior to Harry Potter, the NY Times bestseller list wasn’t forced to pull children’s books off their main list. Since no one really knows what the market wants, how can you possibly write for it?

The second direction is writing what sells. I know what you’re thinking. “Didn’t you just say that nobody knows what sells?” Yes and no. It’s very difficult to predict what the next big seller will be (other than books by established authors or things like movie tie-ins.) It is much easier to predict what will not sell. Think about it. You may not be able to guess what the next fashion craze will be. But you could probably look at neon green spandex neckties with leather fringe and say, “It ain’t that.”

A certain smaller publisher I know has determined that their bestsellers are mysteries/thrillers, romance, historical fiction, and nonfiction. If you want to write for them, it would be a smart idea to do your homework and not send them a memoir of your first thirteen years living in a beach house on the coast. If you want to write your memoir, by all means go ahead and do so. But just understand, your chances of selling it to this publisher are pretty slim.

One of the first things an agent or publisher wants to know about your book is who you are marketing it to. In one of my recent polls, I asked what type of book you like. The general answer was a story which meets the guidelines of the genre you are reading, but that stands out from the competition. If you are writing a romance, have the two get together at the end, but do so in a unique and unexpected way.

Two recent movies are very good examples of the problem with not understanding the market. Iron Man is a fairly typical super hero flick. Was there really anything in the movie that made you go, “Wow! I’ve never seen anything like that before?” Probably not. It was somewhat predictable. But it had a solid script, solid acting, and a storyline that was easy to fall into. In other words, it met the needs of the super hero/action adventure crowd.

Next, let’s look at Speed Racer. Even critics who didn’t like the movie admit it had good acting and incredible special effects. The script wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t significantly worse than Iron Man. In fact, I would go so far as to say that while the plot was just as predictable as Iron Man, the style and cinematography was superior. So why did Iron Man rake in the bucks while Speed Racer flopped? Don’t tell me it was because today’s audience doesn’t remember Speed Racer. Today’s audience hasn’t read any Iron Man comics for the most part either.

I believe that the difference comes down to understanding your market and meeting its need. The super hero market is easy to define. It’s been done dozens of times. It’s not hard to see where some succeeded and others failed. But who was the market for Speed Racer? Was it a kid’s movie? Was it a chick flick? Was it an action adventure? Was it a family movie? At different times it was all of those. But the trailers didn’t nail any one target audience.

Here’s what I’m trying to say. First and foremost write what you love and love what you write. If you find yourself adding scenes to make your book more sellable, you are probably not writing what you love. But once you know what you love, read the books in that genre and find out what works. I’m not saying copy. I’m saying study. Learn why Harry Potter succeeded while so many YA fantasies bombed. Read not only to see what has worked before but to give you ideas on what hasn’t been done yet. Understand the rules of your genre and know when and why you are breaking them.

It’s hard enough to succeed in this business. Don’t hurt your chances any more by deciding you will only write what comes from your heart and who cares whether anyone likes it or not. Again, I’m not saying that people who write just for the fun of it are wrong. What I am sick of hearing are people who think that publishers only want to buy what sells. That’s like the authors who whine that their readers don’t understand their work. As an author, my job is to write something that people will read, love, and buy. If they don’t understand my work, that’s my fault not theirs. And if I am so condescending as to think that they should all come around to my way of thinking, I’m in the wrong business.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Reflection of Love

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Almost fourteen years ago, some friends of ours were giving away kittens. As a small family with three children, we thought it would be fun to have one. We chose one that was all black and took him home. All the way home we talked about names for our new addition. Our oldest son (who was four at the time) was really into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles thought of one of his favorite characters in the TMNT movie named Casey and so we named our kitten Casey.

Casey was so tiny as a kitten that we had to help him up and down the stairs. His little paws couldn’t seem to reach far enough to propel his body anywhere at first. However, he quickly became quite mischievous and would wait around corners for my two year old daughter to come toddling down the hall, before he would jump out and scare her. One of his favorite pastimes was to wait under her bed for her to kneel down and say her prayers, and then he would run out and playfully attack her legs. Our youngest son was six months old and Casey didn’t much care for him at first, since he mostly just pulled his tail, but they quickly became friends as my son grew.

Casey was a loyal companion to the entire family. He was probably the smartest cat I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot of cats. He instinctively seemed to know when someone needed a snuggle or a listening ear and he was always there. One time, after my oldest son had come home from second grade very discouraged over some problems with his friends, he pulled Casey close and said, “Mom, even if I never have any friends, I’ll always have Casey.”

Not that Casey’s life didn’t have its problems. When my grandfather died, we took his eighteen year old cat in and she didn’t like Casey at all. Casey did his level best to avoid her until she passed away four months after we got her. I don’t think Casey missed her much when she was gone, but I have to say he was quite patient while she lived with us.

And Casey was a very patient cat. Each time we brought home a new baby, he seemed to give me that look with a deep sigh that told me he might be thinking, “Are you serious? Another one to pull my tail?” But he never bit or clawed any of the children and was very, very sweet to each new baby.

His favorite thing to do was probably lie in the sun in his favorite spot in the living room to catch the best rays, but when so inclined, he could also do an awesome head butt or chase down anything that moved. And sometimes, if you looked at him just right, he seemed to be smiling. I loved that about him.

Last Friday, we watched as our beloved Casey took his last breaths. We held him and whispered our love for him in his ear, stroking his fur as he gently passed away. I think, in that moment, a little piece of my heart broke into a million pieces. I watched my oldest son, who is now eighteen and a pretty tough guy, cradle this little animal in his arms and say goodbye. There were lots of tears at Casey’s funeral, but some laughter, too, as we recalled some of our favorite memories of Casey.

I am so grateful that we have the opportunity to feel the unconditional love of a pet. It is so meaningful to have that sort of love and responsibility as you learn to care for one of God’s creatures and in return, have a little glimpse of God’s love. How wonderful it is to have a best friend who will listen to you no matter what time of day or night, who never tells you you’re silly or ridiculous for feeling the way you do, and always seems happy to see you---no matter what you look like or what mood you’re in.

Our house feels a little emptier without Casey in it, but while it’s hard to say goodbye for now, the memories of our sweet cat and what he meant to each of us will not be forgotten.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Three Peeves

by Stephanie Black

Today’s blog is about three of my pet writing peeves. You may have different peeves, or may not consider mine peeve-worthy, but hey—feel free to disagree with me and/or post your own peeves in the comment trail. The more the merrier!

(Random thought: Peeveworthy would be a good name for a butler).

Here’s today’s writer-beware list, in no particular order.

1. This peeve is what one writing book—can’t remember which one—called “unintentional simultaneity.” It involves sentences like this:

Lacing her running shoes, Matilda sprinted down the stairs.

Did she? Wow! The woman is more flexible than Gumby and has the balance of a tightrope walker. The grammatical construction of the sentence indicates that she’s lacing her shoes and sprinting down the stairs at the same time. (Note: Do not try this at home).

Today’s advice: If you’re using an –ing clause to spice up your sentence, please be sure it makes literal, simultaneous sense.

I realize some of you may feel I’m being too picky about this. After all, readers aren’t going to take the sentence literally. They know what you mean. But it still bugs the heck out of me because it's just . . . wrong.

2. Head-hopping. Naturally, I can’t get through a list of peeves without mentioning head-hopping.

There are fantastic examples of omniscient third-person POV books out there. Take Gone With the Wind, for instance, where the narrator is not only free to jump heads whenever she chooses, but also to offer commentary on the characters that they would never offer on themselves, or to summarize how the war is progressing, or whatever is needed. It's brilliantly done. What I don’t like is when a book is written in a POV that, rather than feeling omniscient, feels like third-person limited (seeing only what the viewpoint character sees) until zap, the writer jumps into another head mid-scene.

Today’s advice: Unless you truly mean to use an omniscient viewpoint in the sense that that narrator is an observer on the action, wait for a scene or chapter break to switch viewpoints.

3. Blah climaxes. After two or three or four hundred pages of build-up, I want some payoff.

When you go to a fireworks display, where does the biggest eruption of color and light come? At the end. When fireworks start exploding right on top of each other, you know it’s the finale. Wouldn't you be disappointed if you went to a fireworks display and it ended with single, smallish burst? You'd sit on your blanket on the grass, staring hopefully at the sky, waiting for the real finale, until, faced with only a blank, black sky and a few wisps of smoke, you'd finally mumble, "I guess that was it," and go home. Disappointing, right? You expected it to end with the biggest bang.

Another example: our community symphony played Tschaikovsky's 1812 Overture in our recent concert, and it was the last number on the program. As our conductor pointed out, what can you do after the 1812? He’s right. Anything else would be anticlimactic (Tangential story: when we were rehearsing the 1812, I was sitting right in front of the percussion section. As we were playing, I heard a crash, among all the usual crashing, that sounded like a cymbal hitting the floor. But I thought maybe it was supposed to sound that way, until we finished, and the conductor and percussionist were discussing his broken cymbal strap. Oh—it sounded like a cymbal hitting the floor because it was a cymbal hitting the floor. At the rehearsal break, the percussionist came up to me and reported that he’d just about had a heart attack—the strap for the cymbal had broken on a big upswing, and there he was, watching this cymbal go flying through the air toward me. And there I was, sawing away at my violin, unaware that I was in danger of getting creamed by a flying cymbal. Come to think of it, it’s a good thing we didn’t have real cannons . . . ).

Anyway, where was I?

Today’s advice: Climaxes--make them appropriate, satisfying, and big enough to merit the build-up. A blah climax is such a letdown. You don’t want your reader reading the climax and then turning the page feeling like, um, was that it?

Now it's your your turn. What are your pet peeves? I know you have them.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Is it Jealousy? Or Are They Really That Annoying? Guest Blogger: Crystal Liechty

Recently I went to a writer’s conference in California and made friends with another YA writer. Through her I met even more YA writers, none published yet, but all up and coming with agents and books soon to be released. How stoked was I to meet all these future Sarah Dessens and Cicely von Ziegesars!? Maybe some of their talent and luck would rub off on me. Maybe we’d all go on Oprah together. (When I dream, I dream big.)

Like the twenty-first century, techno-savy girls we were, we all exchanged blog info as we parted ways at the end of the conference. When I got home, I immediately saved all the addresses in my computer, excited to dip into this endless new fountain of knowledge.

Only it didn’t turn out to be a fountain so much as a mud puddle.

Before thou thinkest me too catty, let me explain. I was willing to put up with their different take on how to approach YA (like when one girl told me all my characters “talked too smart.” Real teenagers, like, don’t talk like that) but the final straw came after a week-long, rambling discussion over who was hotter, Edward or Jacob? Which ended with “who’s the hottest vampire in all of literature?” (Take a wild guess as to how far their minds traveled to come up with the answer. I mean, Dracula didn’t even enter the discussion!)

I tried to tell myself that these chicks write YA so it’s a good thing they remind me so much of those vapid, giggling girls I couldn’t stand in high school. It’s my fault because I’m too “adult” to write in my chosen genre. I’m the one with the problem here, right?

But the doubt gurgled in the pit of my stomach like bad indigestion.

These same authors like to post excerpts of their latest works. Great! I thought. I can see what’s out there, how people are molding their characters and playing out their stories! Except all five or so excerpts from all five or so different authors (plus two actual finished drafts that were emailed to me) could have been from the same book. They were all about the same pretty, sassy teenage Carrie Bradshaw who gets into various forms of hijinks juggling the many boys that are interested in her. And she “like, so better not get grounded for staying out late again. Because there was, like, no way she was going to let Brad go to the party with Cindy unsupervised.”

But it’s me, right? I’m just jealous because they all have agents and I don’t. Obviously, they’re doing something right. So I need to go back and make sure my characters don’t talk in coherent sentences. And I need to make sure my main girl is brainless and boy-crazy, because that’s what the market is calling for, isn’t it? But then I thought of the most insanely, brainless, boy-crazy teen story of them all—Twilight. And that book was still good. And the characters still had depth and spoke like intelligent humans.

And I thought about how kind of presumptuous it was that these new friends of mine all have websites up for books their agents hadn’t even sold to a publisher yet (maybe their agents made them do it? Though one of them has a full photo gallery of her in various model poses and I’m pretty sure no one was asking for that). And how they all seemed to talk like they were big stars already. You know? That kind of “I’m being humble because I’m a good person, but really, you’re lucky I’m even talking to you,” tone?

So I wondered if I was being the opposite of jealous--if I was holding on to these friends to prove that I wasn’t bothered by their success. I began to consider that maybe my dislike of their writing style, their take on the YA market and their general personalities had no deeper meaning. What if I don’t like them … simply because I don’t like them?

And that’s when I realized: I may like watching Sex and the City, but I don’t like living it. I’d rather write books with characters I respect than with characters I think will sell. I’d rather associate with writers who can understand and encourage that than writers who only like work that sounds just like their own. So what if I never get published again? At least I can respect myself in the morning.

Crystal Liechty is the author of The First Year. Visit Crystal's blog here and her website here.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day!

by Kerry Blair

Thanks to Jeff for lending me his day when I missed my own, and apologies to all the rest of you for the disappointment of finding me here, now. I know just how you feel. Jeff’s blog is the highlight of my Mondays as well. Never fear: he will be back next week and in the meantime you will find his Farworld blog HERE. (And, yes, you may all be excused now.)

I asked to blog today because Memorial Day is possibly my favorite holiday. Truly. Not only am I descended from a long line of patriots and veterans of war, but I’ve always had a thing for dead people.

The final clause of that last sentence is not quite as macabre as it sounds. (Almost, but not quite.) When I was a child, my favorite picture book was an album of family daguerreotypes, several of which had been taken after the subjects’ deaths. No, my maiden name is neither Addams nor Kevorkian; calling in a photographer when a loved one passed was not uncommon in America in the late 1800s. Nor was it uncommon a few generations later to decorate ancestral graves on Memorial Day, and then have a picnic at the site. At any rate, I grew up fascinated by old photos and older cemeteries. These days the pictures are framed and displayed, and I am not only faithful about keeping up the graves of loved ones in the area, but am inclined to drive a hundred miles out of the way to visit a great-grandmother’s final resting place and/or drag my family to the oldest plots in practically any city we happen to visit in order to pay my respects to total strangers.

As I said, I have a deep and abiding appreciation for dead people. It has little to do with the fact that they’re dead. It has everything to do with the fact that they lived. Loved. Did all the things that we do – and more. At some point they passed on their life and love (and green eyes and square faces and clefted chins) before moving on as we all must. Since my children were very small I have tried to impress upon them that “Families Can be Together Forever” is more than a Primary song. It is an eternal truth older than the world on which we live. Because of our Savior, the people who stare down at us from the mantel still live. They still love. And I suspect they are as mindful of us as we are of them, probably more so. Putting flowers on their graves is a meaningful custom, but honoring them in our hearts, and being grateful for the sacrifices they made, should be something we do 365 days a year, not just one.

And, of course, being who we are and knowing what we know, we should do more than that.

I suspect I feel more strongly about genealogy (and dead people) than most because of a dream I had when I was ten or twelve. I wasn’t yet a member of the Church, so while its meaning could not have been clearer, its message didn’t strike me until years later.

In the dream I was seated in a bright and beautiful room, surrounded by women I felt I had always known and always loved. The bonds between us were stronger even than sisterhood. These women weren’t just dear to me, they were part of me. I felt that I had always been with them. I wanted to continue to be with them forever.

Very soon a stranger entered and told us that we were soon to be separated. We must live other lives in another place. She then began to describe the places we might go and bits and pieces of the lives we might live. Though I sense I saw many lives, I only remember a few. First, she described a sparse existence of bitter cold and gnawing hunger. While I shrank away, one of my beloved sisters raised her arm and said, “I will go. Send me.”

Another glimpse included a miserable voyage across a vast sea into a wilderness so strange and terrifying it made me shudder. “I will go,” said another of my sisters.

More life-experiences were described. Many were the scenes of deprivation, struggle, and heartache. I remember vividly the stranger asking for someone to bear fourteen children, with the knowledge that only two would live to adulthood. This time no one stirred. Then a very small, very gentle hand went up. “I will go. Send me.”

I was almost the only one uncommitted when the stranger told of the first life into which the gospel of Jesus Christ might come. There were many, many blessings . . . and one charge: to never forget. Here, at last, was the opportunity to somehow find and bind all the courageous, giving, and truly good women who went before . . . to restore our circle, this time forever.

“Me,” I said finally. “Please.”

And thus it was. When people are surprised to hear that I took the lessons, read the Book of Mormon, and was baptized in less than a week, it is because I’ve so rarely shared this vivid dream. (Almost never, in fact. I don’t know why the Spirit moved me so strongly this morning.) But the moment the missionaries mentioned earthly sealings done with heavenly keys I recognized my life’s mission. The rest, I figured, must be true because that so assuredly was. (The rest is true, I’m thrilled to report after years of study and application.)

And so Memorial Day has for me the meaning of Thanksgiving, the awe of Christmas, and the promise of Easter – along with the joy of every other holiday and birthday we observe – all wrapped up in one. I decorate graves. I honor the men and women who gave – and give – their lives for our country. Like most of America, I gather as much family as I can for a cookout. In the evening I take down the pictures and get out the books of “dead people” and I remember. In fact, I memorialize. My children know all faces and all the stories of the men and women who sacrificed and struggled and endured for love of us. Thus they better understand why they look as they do and believe as they choose. Each one of them has, in gratitude and faith, accepted the gift of life and given the gift of eternal life – as only the living are now able in the fonts of the Houses of our Lord. Because of His gift there are no dead people to remember. There are only people beloved by someone somewhere who have come and gone and now wait for a glorious reunion.

What a happy and memorable day that will be.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

"Secrets in Zarahemla" Nominated!

Just found out this morning that "Secrets in Zarahemla" is a finalist in the inspirational category for the Beacon Awards. I don't really expect to win, because non-LDS inspirational readers just sort of wig out when they read my books (you should have seen my contest scores for the RITA - people either really loved it, thought it was good, or that I was the devil for writing blasphemy LOL). But it is always fun to be recognized.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

What Would You Change in Publishing?

by Sariah S. Wilson

I've been catching up on some agent blogs that I'd fallen behind in reading (I'm generally behind in everything in my life right now and constantly trying to play catch up).

I spent some time last reading a couple of posts at the BookEnds blog and Nathan Bransford's blog. BookEnds did a post encouraging authors to post anonymously about things they dislike in the industry, and Mr. Bransford asked what he could do to stress less and make things go more smoothly with his authors. (Of course, it might be more helpful for this discussion if I could actually link those...wait! I found the BookEnds entry! You're on your own for the Bransford one.)

It seems to me that the two things authors would most like changed is 1) lack of response to a query (so you're left wondering, did they even get it?) because now some agencies are starting to say, "If we don't respond, that means no," and 2) the length of time everything takes in every part of the publishing process.

(As a small aside to the second problem, you may or may not know that Brenda Novak (national romance writer who is LDS) has an auction every May to raise money to fund juvenile diabetes research. This auction is becoming more well known and gets more participants every year. There are all sorts of agent and editor evaluations that promise extremely fast turn arounds. A couple of my dream agents are there, but their current bids are already way out of my price range. And the guy bidding to get Evil Editor's editing for $3,900.00? Man, I think if you had that kind of money surely you could bribe a publisher to accept your book. Anyway, it's worth checking out.)

So I was thinking, what would I change in the LDS publishing industry if I could? We don't have the agent issue here, so everything is directly publisher-related. (Or maybe some of you do have agents that you use for your LDS publishing. I suppose I shouldn't assume.) I realized I'm pretty happy with how things are going. I don't even think I really would change anything.

Well, I would change something but it's not really anything to do with the publishing aspect. I would love to open readers' minds. Because for so long certain types of books were put out, many people turned completely away from the LDS fiction industry, never to return. I had one in college that literally made me want to hurt someone it was so bad. I personally didn't get back into LDS fiction until I started writing it, and I wanted to see what the market was like. I truly believe that anything you enjoy reading in the national market you can find in the LDS market, only without the graphic words or explicit scenes.

But people don't know this. I do applaud Rob and the Whitney Committee because I'm hoping that this competition will gain some recognition in libraries and bookstores and will help guide people to trying LDS fiction for the first time.

And if I had one LDS publishing wish (other than getting millions of dollars because I write the next Harry Potter, obviously) it would be that I could have thousands of copies of various LDS books to pass out for free to people who don't typically read LDS fiction. JA Konrath once said something to that effect (that the best publicity is passing out free books which is why he wrote e-books that he gives away for free so that people will see whether or not they like his writing and then hopefully buy his books), and I realized he was right. The only way to build word of mouth is to have people read your book and love it, so to put it in the hands of people for free would be awesome. How much would I love to leave an LDS book on every car at General Conference? (Yes, I know this would be bad and you're probably not even allowed to do something like that, but I still think it would be fun.)

So for you writers out there - if you could change something about our industry, what would it be? Or tell us what your publishing wish would be. Or if you're deliriously happy with everything, let us know that too.

For readers - what would you change about LDS fiction writers? What would your reading wish be?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Bullet Blog

by Julie Coulter Bellon

After spending last night and most of the early morning in the ER with one of my sons, this is going to be a bullet blog. (My son is going to be fine. It was just a really long night and I’m exhausted.)

All of the movie talk these days has me really excited to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull this afternoon. In a behind the scenes peek, I have found some interesting trivia for you (thank you imdb) regarding this new release.

Did you know:

  • Sean Connery was approached for a cameo appearance as Henry Jones Sr., Indiana's father, but he turned it down, finding retirement too enjoyable. George Lucas later stated that in retrospect it was good that Jones Sr. did not appear, as it would disappoint the audience when he would not come along for the adventure. Harrison Ford also joked that he was getting old enough to play his own father, so Sean wasn't needed anymore.

  • Before ‘The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ was chosen as the title, several other titles were considered and even registered with the MPAA in August 2007, including ‘The City of Gods’, ‘The Destroyer of Worlds’, ‘The Fourth Corner of the Earth’, ‘The Lost City of Gold’, and finally, ‘The Quest for the Covenant’.

  • This is the first Indiana Jones film without Pat Roach, who had a role in the first three films. Roach died in 2004. (He played a sherpa, chief guard, and a Gestapo in the other three.)

  • To reprise his role as the legendary explorer Indiana Jones, the 64-year-old Harrison Ford spent three hours a day at the gym, and subsisted on a high-protein diet of fish and vegetables, thus building his body into a condition where he could perform his own stunts (he always kept himself fit anyway, as he hoped to complete all the five Indiana Jones films that were originally planned in the 1980s). Steven Spielberg later stated he was so impressed with Ford's form that he could not tell the difference between the shoots for the third and fourth films.

  • When asked if Harrison Ford was too old to return as Indy, producer Frank Marshall quoted Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981): "It's not the years, it's the mileage." He explained that it would be interesting to see Indy in a different decade, and deal with all kinds of new and interesting things. The age also adds to Indy as a fallible and therefore believable character.

  • At a pre-production press conference at Yale, producer Frank Marshall said that Indy's fictional Marshall College is indeed named after him. He quipped, "If my last name was Yale, it would be Yale College."

    And here are some very interesting trivia facts about Harrison Ford himself.

    Did you know:

  • Neither of Harrison Ford's two most famous roles (Han Solo and Indiana Jones) were offered to him first. Tom Selleck was the first choice to play Indiana Jones and Christopher Walken was the first choice to play Han Solo.

  • Harrison scared director Steven Spielberg and the crew during Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) when, without warning, he ran out across the rope bridge used in the film's climax to test its safety.

  • Has a species of Central American ant (Peidole harrisonfordi) and spider (Calponia Harrisonfordi) named after him in honor of his conservation work.

  • Credited with "creating" what many believe to be the best scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) because he was suffering from a bout of dysentery at the time of filming: during the scene in Cairo with the swordsman in black, the script called for a much longer fight, but because of his condition, he quietly asked director Steven Spielberg if they could shorten the scene. Spielberg's reply was that the only way it could be done would be if Indy pulled out his gun and "just shot the guy." The rest of the crew, not aware of the change, laughed at this, and it remained in the final cut.

  • Has a scar on his chin which he got when he tried to "buckle up" while already driving, and lost control of the car. The scar was explain in the introductory sequence of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), when an inexperienced young Indy hits himself in the chin the first time he tries to use the whip;

  • And my favorite trivia bit: Harrison Ford’s favorite record is "On the Edge," by his favorite artist, Patrick Rondat. And if I squint really hard it could say his favorite book is “On the Edge,” by Julie Coulter Bellon. What? A girl can dream can’t she?

I love little trivia facts and I hope that when The Nephite Who Loved Me is released, we will get all the backstage scoop from Rob. He is so amazing at getting the tough interviews isn’t he? He definitely makes those hard-hitting questions count. What would the entertainment world be without him?

Well, look at the time! I need to get to the theater early to get a good seat and maybe a teeny nap so I don't miss one second of the action. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Two Announcements

by Robison Wells

First, I just wanted to let everyone know that I'll be moving to Minnesota next week, for my internship. So, next Tuesday, as I drive through scenic Wyoming, Crystal Liechty will be guest blogging for me. And the Tuesday after that, while I'm sipping cocktails in scenic Omaha, Nebraska, Annette Lyon will be guest blogging.

I've left lesson plans with them. Please give them your full attention; I asked them to make a list of the troublemakers, and you'll be punished when I get back.

Second, the marketing guys have finally gotten back to us with the first teaser poster for the new movie. I hope you're as excited as we are.

If You're Looking for a Good Read . . .

by Stephanie Black

I’m usually an “entertainment” reader when it comes to fiction. Though it makes me sound a bit shallow, I’ll admit I’m not on the hunt for deep, profound, instructive novels. I want a fun read. If I learn something in the course of the story, awesome, but what interests me most is the story itself. Is it compelling? Do I care about the characters? Am I eager to find out what happens or is it one of those “I paid fourteen dollars for this book and I'm going to finish it if it kills me” experiences? In the case of LDS fiction, are doctrinal or spiritual elements woven seamlessly into the story, enriching it while not feeling preachy, or tending to bring the plot to a screeching halt?

But a good story is not enough. I also care about the writing. As I’m sure my fellow writers can attest, once you start studying and writing fiction yourself, you become WAY more picky of a reader. Things that I never would have noticed before now irritate me. So I want a good story and good writing.

Recently I read a book that not only filled both these requirements for a good read (good story plus good writing), but also included the bonus of teaching me something. I’m not opposed to learning something in my fiction, see. I just don’t want the story to drag or stop in order for the learning to take place, and in the case of Tristi Pinkston’s compelling Season of Sacrifice, the story moves along at a rapid pace.

I was particularly interested in this book because it deals with the story of the “Hole in the Rock” pioneers who settled the San Juan, and I had ancestors at Hole in the Rock. Season of Sacrifice centers around Tristi’s ancestor, Ben Perkins, and his two wives, sisters Mary Ann and Sarah Williams. Ben, with experience gained in the mines in Wales, played a vital role in blasting the way through the rock, allowing the pioneers to run their wagons down an extremely steep cliff in order to fulfill the call they’d been given to settle the San Juan Valley.

The courage and tenacity demonstrated by these pioneers is astounding. When seemingly insurmountable obstacles loomed, they conquered them through tremendous faith, determination and sheer guts. I’m kind of scared of steep hills, and the thought of sending a wagon down a rock chute—I’m thinking that riding the paved hills of San Francisco in a minivan is enough for me. Climbing in a wagon and shooting down the side of a mountain would have been terror beyond terror for me! But these faithful pioneers wouldn’t let anything stop them. The Lord had called them to settle the San Juan and they were going to do it, no matter what it took. And they succeeded.

Ironically, the most emotionally wrenching part of the story comes after the pioneers have settled in their new home. Ben knows that it is time for him to fulfill the counsel given in his patriarchal blessing and take a second wife. He’s been happily married to Mary Ann for many years, but now knows that Mary Ann’s sister, Sarah, is the woman who should be his second wife. This decision is fraught with pain for both sisters and for Ben as they struggle to do as the Lord has required of them. Reading of their struggles was an eye-opener for me. It’s so easy to put the early saints on a pedestal and think oh, they were so strong and so faithful that of course they could deal with this requirement without batting an eye. But this was incredibly hard for them, and I was so caught up in their lives that when the story ended, I felt like, “No! I want more! Go on!”

Season of Sacrifice is a compelling and inspiring story of people whose faith could move mountains—whether that meant blasting through rock or blasting through mountains of emotional pain. Kudos to Tristi Pinkston for sharing the story of these faithful people.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Enough For Forever: An Interview with Edward Cullen

by Robison Wells

You may have heard that fellow LDS writer Stephenie Meyer has released her fourth book—her first that is not part of the Twilight Series. I invited her to interview with us today, but her publicist replied with the following: “We regret to inform you that Mrs. Meyer will be unavailable, as she will spend the better part of the day rolling around in a big pile of money, followed by a light dinner of gold-plated caviar. And then more rolling in money.”

Fortunately, however, the publicist gave us the number of Mr. Edward Cullen. So, he’s here in the studio today. We hope to address some important, hard-hitting issues, and then we’ll take your calls.

Rob: So, Edward. It’s good to have you here. Let me just say that this is quite an honor.

Edward: Are you okay? I mean, are you afraid?

Rob: Uh. . . not exactly scared. More like honored, like I said.

Edward: Well you should be scared. I’m very scary and just being here with you is putting your life in danger.

Rob: Really? Because you seem pretty dang docile.

Edward: [He glowers a bit, and his eyes turn black.] No. I’m really freaky scary, and you should run away from me, far away.

Rob: Oh, knock it off. I have some questions.

Edward: Alright, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Rob: I sure won’t say that when you glower me to death. First question is: you said once that Bella has a very floral smell, like freesia.

Edward: Yes.

Rob: Personally, I have no idea what freesia smells like.

Edward: Is that a question?

Rob: Well I’m just thinking that I bet most people don’t know what freesia smells like. I bet Bella had no idea what freesia smells like.

Edward: What’s your point?

Rob: I think it’s a pick-up line. I think if you were to say “Bella, you smell like flowers”, then she’d shrug it off. I mean, she’s a very discerning, hard-to-get kind of girl. But, if you say “Bella, you smell like freesia”, then she’d think you’re really romantic and jump right into your cold, undead arms.

Edward: You caught me. Honestly, people ask us vampires all the time what they smell like, and what am I supposed to say? I’m not some aromatherapy nerd. So, me and the other vamps made a big list of romantic-sounding smells. For example, “the wind of an angry sea” or “the morning dew on the petal of a lily”.

Rob: Ooh, those are good. What do I smell like?

Edward: Fried chicken.

Rob: I don’t brush my teeth a lot.

Edward: No biggie.

Rob: What would you have said if I were a girl? “You smell like. . . the oily bird of a Southern colonel?”

Edward: That’s absolutely terrible.

Rob: Well, we can’t all be vampires. How would you phrase it?

Edward: Maybe I could come up with something about the secret blend of herbs and spices. Girls like secrets, and they’d think the spices were hot and sexy, like cayenne pepper.

Rob: When actually you just mean salt?

Edward: Yeah, and Crisco.

Rob: Next question: you say at some point that you prefer brunettes. Is this just another line?

Edward: No, I generally prefer brunettes. However, I’ll make an exception for that Naomi Watts. She’s a fox. And Kate Bosworth. And Reese Witherspoon.

Rob: I thought you were totally committed to Bella.

Edward: Well, the books are written from her point of view.

Rob: Speaking of which, does anyone else find it creepy that you’re a really old man and your dating a teenager? I mean, that’s more than robbing the cradle.

Edward: I see your concern, but, you know, I’m old. When someone cuts you off in traffic, and then you realize that he’s an old man in a hat from the 1940s, don’t you cut him a little slack? “He’s old,” you say. “Just ignore him.”

Rob: That makes it not creepy?

Edward: Totally. That, and I’m also really attractive.

Rob: I see. Next question. I hear that your mortal enemies are werewolves.

Edward: Yep.

Rob: Well, I don’t mean to get all Jerry Springer on you, but I thought I’d bring your arch-nemesis into the studio as well.

Edward: Jacob Black? Bring it on. I’ll throw a folding chair at him.

Rob: Well, he couldn’t exactly make it. So, I invited Michael J. Fox, as Teen Wolf!

Teen Wolf: Hi guys!

Edward: What?

Rob: So, Teen Wolf, tell me a little about your feud with the vampires.

Teen Wolf: I don’t think I really have one. I played a lot of basketball.

Rob: Edward, do you think you could beat Teen Wolf in basketball?

Edward: Vampires don’t play basketball.

Teen Wolf: What’s the matter? Chicken?

Rob: Next question. Who would win in basketball: Teen Wolf, or Edward with Flubber on his shoes?

Edward: I assure you, I do not need Flubber to jump high.

Teen Wolf: That’s big talk from a pale-faced pick-up artist.

Edward: [Glowers some more.]

Teen Wolf: I’m gonna make like a tree and get outta here. To the Wolfmobile! [He leaves.]

Rob: So, back to you. There’s only one more Twilight book and then this gig is over. Any hints about the ending?

Edward: Well, we’ve already fought the werewolves. Would it surprise you to learn there’s a small group of Frankensteins living in Seattle?

Rob: I suppose not.

Edward: Well, there are. And there’s another love triangle with one of them, except now, I guess, it’s more like a love square, since there’s three guys.

Rob: And one of them is a Frankenstein?

Edward: His first day of high school his arm falls off! He’s so embarrassed.

Rob: I bet.

Edward: And there’s the whole thing with the Zombies. And then Mike Newton does his genealogy and discovers his great-great-grandfather was Van Helsing.

Rob: That’s probably awkward. So, what do you have planned next? You must be doing something after the Twilight series.

Edward: Well, I suppose this is as good a place as any to let the cat out of the bag. I’m starring in a new book: The Nephite Who Loved Me. “The name is Giddoni . Gidgidonni.”

Rob: That sounds terrific. Thanks, and good night.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Soccer Balls, Spiders, and Life

I have four children ranging in ages from twenty to eight. The two oldest have always gotten along well for a brother and sister. But they have also always been contrary. They like to joke that if I offered them chocolate or dog manure, the second one would choose dog manure just to disagree with the first.

Fortunately our younger two don’t have that whole thing going on yet. But they do have very different personalities. The oldest one (ten) has never been scared of anything that I can remember. No ride at any amusement park scares him. He no problems with heights, close spaces, meeting new people. He just seems to naturally assume the world will treat him well and he treats everyone else that way.

The younger of the two sees everything as a potential danger. He reminds me of the little elephant in Tarzan who says of the lake water, “Looks questionable to me.” My littlest guy thinks everything looks questionable. He doesn’t want to run through the sprinklers for fear a bee might shoot up out of the grass. He regularly checks his bed for spiders. He HATES heights. He still won’t let me teach him to ride a bike, Oddly enough he is okay with most rides, but he worries all the way up to and onto the ride that something might break. The last time I took him on a hike, he wanted to turn back because, “Mother nature doesn’t like me.”

Recently they’ve both started doing sports. I didn’t give them especially athletic genes, so I always approach the sports scene with some trepidation. The older boy has my eye hand coordination, but charges fearlessly into any event. The younger one actually has better motor skills, but is sure he is going to die.

Recently two events occurred. The first happened with the younger boy playing soccer. As always, he would stand back, only kicking the ball if it came right to him. Because of where and how he would stand, he became kind of a designated target for the ball. Within three games he’d been hit in the face, the rear, several times in the stomach, and once in a place which isn’t a problem with girls’ soccer.

I tried to explain to him that if he’d run toward the ball, and get right up on it, he’d be less likely to keep playing the punching bag. Instead, he’d stand back, cowering if the ball came anywhere near him, or even running away. It was a long season.

A few days later, I asked the older of the two to go grab a tarp off the lawn and put it on the deck. He came back and told me there was a spider on the tarp and he thought it might bite him. I explained that if he just grabbed one end and gave it a sharp tug, it would knock the spider off. He did, and it did.

I think of this in relation to writing, but also in relation to life. When I was fifteen, I was always looking for a job. One November I saw an ad for a shopping mall Santa Claus. Of course, being fifteen and weighing maybe 120 pounds at most, I wasn’t such a good candidate. But my mother never let me say no. “At least call them,” she said. “It can’t hurt.” Next thing I knew, I was making twice as much holiday money as any of my friends. The same thing with working as a chef in a French restaurant, and many other jobs that didn’t seem to be a good fit at first.

I’ve met a lot of authors with a lot of different personalities. As I mentioned last week, many of them are pretty shy in person. But one thing they all seem to have in common is a willingness to take the tarp by the corner and give it a yank. They didn’t know whether they would succeed or fail, but at some point they rolled up their sleeves, said, “I’m going to try that and got their hands dirty.”

The people who try new things in life are the people who succeed. Of course they are also the people who fail. But even in failing they learn and progress. You can’t publish a book unless you write it. You can’t write it if you don’t sit down and get to it. And you won’t get to it until you decide you can.

If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, but were afraid of failing, take that pack off of your shoulders and give yourself permission to fail. I have no idea how my new fantasy series will do, but I know it will do better than if I hadn’t ever tried to write it in the first place. You can stand back and get hit in the face with soccer balls and bit by spiders or you can jump into the middle of things and take control.

PS Anon, do you have any soccer advice for me?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Problems with Perception

by Sariah S. Wilson

Prince Caspian = written by a man. It has a man's romantic ending instead of the romantic ending it should have (i.e., the ending I would have written, original source books be hanged!). But other than that it was a very good movie. I enjoyed the 20 minutes total I got to watch since I was on mommy duty with the baby who thought the best part of the movie was eating popcorn off the floor and became quite indignant when I prevented her from doing so. I did a lot of walking around outside the theater.

So, on Mother's Day we got a repeat of being served food just as we did last year. The last 15 minutes of Relief Society (which all the women were attending as the Priesthood took over all the callings so we could go to RS) we went to the gym, where there were buffet tables set up with extremely fresh fruit and all sorts of desserts. I had my eyes on the three layer chocolate cake, which was cut for me and put on my plate along with my strawberries. They had water for us to drink with and without lemons (I am a without lemons person) and they offered to carry my plate and my drink back to my seat for me. It's a little unnerving to be waited on hand and foot the way we were by all the men that were in there, but it is a wonderful experience (they even walked around to see if anyone wanted seconds or needed more to drink so that they could get it for us). If anyone's looking for a unique way to celebrate women on Mother's Day, I would suggest doing what my ward's done. It makes all the sisters sort of giddy (plus we got plantable geraniums!).

The Priesthood also makes sure to guard the doors to keep the kids out until church is officially over. Even if some manage to sneak in, they're told that the food is for the women and they're not allowed to have any of it until they get the go ahead (at which point it quickly becomes a lot like a pack of hyenas descending on a wounded zebra).

My husband came and sat with me and my mom. My mom, for some reason unknown to me, likes to get a lot of food but is able to eat only a little of it because of surgery she had years ago. (It would make sense to me to only get a few bites of food, but she doesn't do this. I think it's a psychological thing. So of course, as understanding and compassionate children, we must tease her about this.) So she had a plate of food and after her few bites, was unable to finish. She offered it to my husband, who is not a man who ever says no to food.

One of the people who'd helped to organize the event (and was still making sure that only the women were getting the food) walked past my husband, slapped him on the shoulder, and leaned in to say, "I see you're enjoying your Mother's Day." The insinuation seemed obvious - that my husband had helped himself to the food despite it not being for him.

The man had moved past us before an explanation could be offered.

My little writerly brain started to click. I thought of the possible negative opinions this person might now have about my husband. He didn't understand the situation, that my husband was eating someone else's leftovers that otherwise would have been thrown away and had been offered to him to prevent said waste. He saw what he saw, interpreted it is a certain way, and formed his opinion.

He didn't have the whole story.

But when you're writing, you, obviously, do have the whole story. You understand all the motivations. You know what all your characters are thinking because they're your characters.

So it's important to remember that when you are in your character's point of view, you have to remember their limitations, their prejudices, their perceptions, that are coloring everything they see.

I had a discussion with my editor not too long ago about my upcoming release (Servant to a King, coming out soon!). I think generally I'm a pretty easy author to work with. I'm typically not so attached to my writing that I think it can't be changed. My editor makes changes and I usually say, "That's cool."

I can really only think of one or two times when I've tried to hold on to my original idea (The Nephite Who Loved Me!) and had to significantly alter it or drop it all together.

But with the new book, there is a scene toward the end where the heroine has to make a hard decision. She believes that Ammon doesn't love her, despite what her friend tells her, and convinces herself that he couldn't possibly feel that way toward her. My editor thought I should take it out, because he thought it was pretty obvious that Ammon did have feelings for her.

I got to keep my passage when I explained the heroine's perception. Her perception was not reality. For example, I once had an experience in college where a boy I just met made me a cake because I'd been complaining about guys (it actually sort of creeped me out. He had just met me and he was making me a cake? That had some message about not being blue (in blue icing) because not all guys were bad? It probably won't surprise you that this guy was engaged to someone else about a month later). I think that's a pretty overt display of "I'm interested in you." If this situation had a gender reversal, a roommate would have told his guy friend, "That chick totally likes you." "Yeah." And that would have been the end of the conversation. But because my roommates and I were female, this event was discussed ad nauseum for hours on end as to what his true intentions were and whether he liked me or not (I remember how we used to dissect messages left from guys for their tone and trying to read between the lines and what it all truly meant. Even if all he said was, "Can I borrow your blender?"). It should have seemed obvious.

It may be obvious to the reader, who may have been inside the heads of different characters. It is certainly obvious to the writer, who knows all the ins and outs of the story. But it isn't obvious to your character. You may have an unreliable narrator whose perception alters the story completely. For the aspiring writers out there - think about your characters' perceptions and how that will affect their actions and how they feel about other characters. It's one of those things that seems obvious, but when you're the one orchestrating the entire story, sometimes it's easy to forget that your character doesn't know everything that you know.

(P.S. - I got to keep the scene.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

About Face

by Kerry Blair

I regret to report that I have had to give up writing and editing. Also housework, reading, sleeping, and any physical activity that cannot be accomplished with one’s nose glued to a laptop. While I no longer have a real life, I am “virtually” the busiest person you’ll ever meet. I have found Facebook.

It began innocently enough. The days following a chemo treatment are as long as they are dreary. About the time I’d read the bottom book in my bedside basket and watched the last PG-movie in the Netflix library, I received an invitation from a not-so-long lost friend to join her on Facebook. Let me tell you, that site should have a warning label not unlike those attached to codeine tablets – or any other highly-addictive, mind-altering substance. Before I knew it, I had fifty friends - many of whom wanted to pillow fight, duel, raise puppies, toss sheep (I don’t get it either), garden, cross the Plains, dabble in the arts, trade colored hearts, collect trading cards, save the rainforests, and/or quiz each other on which Disney Princesses we are.

That last request was from Rob, so of course I ignored it.

Alas, the Disney Princess application is the only one I’ve ignored. Well, that’s not entirely true. Max Borghini, ace baseball card collector, invited me to join his mob. I considered his name, scrutinized his photo (burly, tattooed arms wrapped around a pit bull) and politely demurred when I couldn’t decide if his mob was actual or virtual.

Kidding. Max is a great guy.

But everything else? Well, sure! I don’t like to boast, but I am the #5 collector of make-believe Diamondback baseball cards in the entire world. Maybe. There’s this guy, Louis DiFabio, who keeps pulling ahead of me by a card or three. I can’t begin to describe the pressure of maintaining my standing in the world of imaginary card collecting. I pass my days worrying about falling behind. At night I dream about rejection. I log onto the computer every four hours, day or night, to see where I rank among the elite. Now that I think about it, it’s very much like having a new book on the DB lists. (But not quite as painful because the trading card thing is more within my control.)

Like the rest of the population in my small rural town, I sowed a garden at the first sign of spring. Unlike the Face-less masses, I haven’t found time to tend it. Vicki thoughtfully sent me a virtual flower that would (believe it or not) save the rainforests. (Yes, wow!) The moment I accepted it, a frantic little message announced that weeds were overrunning my new Lil Green Patch and, by association, threatening the planet. What did I want to do about it? I bought virtual gloves and pulled them, of course. But no sooner had I rid my fantasy garden of blight than deer began to eat the tender shoots in Candace’s patch. Oh, dear! I finished that chore just in time to learn that Peter’s plants were wilting from draught and Hilary’s were under attack by hostile rabbits. Six hours later I was exhausted, but the make-believe planet was a tidier, wetter, safer place for fake flora.

Unfortunately, there is no rest for the wired. My poor pooch was desperate for attention, so I had to hasten over to my where I keep my virtual weimerinerer. Wymeriner. Whymereyenar. Oh, shoot! Leave it to me to adopt a breed I can’t spell. Weimaraner! (I looked it up.) Pictured at right is the pup I feel compelled to feed, entertain, train, and take to competitions. This is, embarrassingly enough, roughly twice as much as I do with the living, panting pup that sits hopefully at my side, begging for a pat on the head . . . playful tug with a fuzzy . . . doggie biscuit . . . fresh bowl of water . . .

I might as well confess the rest of my dirty little secrets: the many family members I have buried along the trail to Oregon. (Or wherever the heck it is that wagon train goes; I’ve never actually arrived anywhere.) The countless quizzes, duels, food, and pillow fights I have lost to friends, family, fans, and former Laurels. The hours I have spent placing make-believe books on imaginary shelves, and then cataloguing and reviewing same. The total strangers I have chatted up about things I know absolutely nothing about. (But since they’re mostly from places in Egypt and South America than I can’t spell any better than weimaraner, they haven’t noticed - I don’t think.)

My name is kerrylynn and I am a Facebook addict.

I’ve spent hours doing . . . I don’t know what. Well, yes, I do know what. I just don’t know why. But now that I’ve taken my last chemo, I have a new lease on life. Real life, hopefully. With a little intensive therapy, I’m almost certain I can stop collecting non-existent trading cards. I can probably also leave the Lil Green Plants to the deer, and the sheep-tossing battle to those who started it. (So strange.) I might even be able to go thirty-six hours or so without reading The Office Quote-of-the-day. Maybe I will even write a real book for somebody else to shelve, catalogue and review. (Maybe.)

But only if somebody promises to feed my dog!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Witty Writer of Rewrites

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Rewrites can be fun. Or not.

If you don’t know what I mean, here’s the scoop. I handed in a manuscript to my publisher and they came back and said they loved the book, but it needed strengthening in some areas. So they gave me the evaluators’ comments, as well as some of their own comments, so I could do the rewrites and get it back to them.

I love evaluators. Really, I do. But sometimes the comments can be confusing for a writer.

For example, on one of my earlier books I had an evaluator tell me they hated my character who went by the nickname of Pepper. (Her real name was Penelope). Flat out hated everything about poor Pepper. But the very next evaluator loved her. Said she was funny and quirky. So, to solve the problem, I took both evaluator’s comments into consideration, made a few tweaks, and voila! The book was published and no one has told me they hated Pepper again. (People could still secretly hate her, of course, but no one has told me.)

For this new manuscript I’m working on, the first evaluator was extremely thorough. This person even included page numbers on the paragraphs that needed to be fixed. They did quote one section of my book, however, that they thought could be construed as “uncomfortable subject matter.” I was very surprised, since I’m no Sariah Wilson with her Nephite Who Loved Me deal (wink, wink) and so I hurried to look at the section the evaluator was pointing out. I am going to quote it for you, because I want you to tell me if it makes you uncomfortable and if so, how would you change it.

Isabella dug right in. “I am so hungry,” she said between bites, trying to think of something to say.

“Me, too,” Tyler replied, but his eyes told her he was thinking about much more than food.

Isabella stopped, her fork in mid-air and felt the blush creeping up her cheeks.

The context is that this is my hero and heroine who are on the run from the bad guys, have already been through a mountain of adventure and are grabbing a quick bite to eat before they go on to the final confrontation. What do you think? Too hot or not?

The other evaluator’s comment that stuck out to me was from someone who thought my manuscript should be at least another hundred pages long, but they said something that reminded me a lot of Rob Wells. (Rob, are you moonlighting as an evaluator? Because really, this person sounded a lot like you. Odd. I mean, odd that they sounded like you, not that you're odd. Never mind.) The "evaluator" said, “I personally would like at least one of the characters to be more witty.”

I have pondered that little comment quite a bit. I don’t know if I can make that happen. I mean, we all know that I am no Rob "Witty" Wells. He is one of a kind. And I am definitely not a Kerry Blair, Stephanie Black or Jeff Savage, where wittiness just rolls off of them in waves. Perhaps being witty is a talent and, apparently, I skipped that line in heaven. I’m sure Rob, Kerry, Stephanie and Jeff were trying to wave me over, but I was running to get into the line
for . . . yeah, um, playing the flute. That’s it. I do have talents. Sort of.

But anyway, I’m not sure how to make a character more witty, but I’m looking at it. If you have any suggestions for being more witty, let me know. (If you say the word witty a lot of times, it starts to sound funny, have you noticed that? Witty, witty, witty.)

So, that’s how I’m spending my time, trying to get this manuscript back in before my children are out of school and chanting the word witty.

I love being a writer. Truly.

Big Changes for the Whitney Awards

After gathering feedback after the 2007 Whitney Awards, the Whitney Committee has been working to make a few tweaks and adjustments. You can view all the changes at, but here are a few of the highlights:

  • The category "General Fiction" has been added.

  • The category "Romance/Women's Fiction" is now "Romance".

  • The category "YA/Children's Lit" is now "Youth Fiction", and will be focusing just on YA and Middle-Grade, not children's books. (The required word count is 20,000 words.)

  • There are now small panels of judges dedicated to individual genre categories, rather than a single committee that judges all the books. (The Whitney Committee, however, will continue to judge the two overall categories, Best Novel of the Year and Best Novel by a New Author.)

  • The Whitneys now have more autonomy from the LDStorymakers organization. While the president is still chosen by, and reports to, the Storymakers Executive Committee, the Whitney Committee operates independently in all other respects.

  • Instead of just allowing LDStorymakers to vote in the Whitney Academy, now almost all LDS authors are eligible.

There are more changes. Go to the website and check it out. And remember: nominate your favorite novels!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Home Again

by Stephanie Black

We just got home last night from a whirlwind trip to Washington D.C. It is Whirlwind Trip Month in our household, as the DC trip came only a week after I arrived home from Utah. Between airports and touring in DC, where you pass through security to go just about anywhere, my purse has been X-rayed so many times that the molecular structure of the bag has altered. I'm hoping it will develop superpowers.

The DC trip came about due to my fourteen-year-old daughter, Shauna. Shauna’s artwork won the grand prize in her age category in an international poetry and art contest sponsored by the River of Words. Grand prize winners won a trip to DC. The awards ceremony was held at the Library of Congress. It was super cool.

We had three days in DC, so we made the most of it, visiting the National History Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the zoo, the Capitol Building (our representative’s office had kindly called to offer Shauna a tour) and, of course, the Library of Congress. We also got to visit with family (my husband and I both have sisters in the area, and my husband's parents came up for the ceremony). It was a great trip and all went well except for that small, unpleasant part about missing my flight on the way out, but I don't want to talk about that because it's too embarrassing.

Sorry for the short blog, but I'd better go get some work done. It's four o'clock in the afternoon, the breakfast cereal is still on the table and I don't know what I'm having for dinner. Erk.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Back in the Saddle Again

by Robison Wells

I mentioned last week that I've started writing again. And, man, I forgot what a pain in the neck it is.

For those of you who have arrived late to the party, here's the situation: I've published three novels, and I've written a handful of other, unpublished (crappy) books. Then, sometime last year, I decided to go back to school--I'm at BYU getting an MBA in marketing. (And, if you're not familiar with a fulltime MBA, it's a little like the MTC: you don't get out of your chair, let alone leave the room, for fourteen hours a day. When you finally leave, you go somewhere to study. Then, you sleep for three hours, and then you have a breakfast of Coke and toast, and start it all over again.) (Ok, so you don’t drink Coke in the MTC. And, in business school we have yet to ride a mattress down the stairs like a sled.) Anyway, I talked to my publisher and told them that I was taking a hiatus.

But, school is out and I don’t leave for Minnesota until May 28th, so I’ve been writing again. And it’s a beautiful blend of awesome and awful.

When I sit down to write, no matter where I am in the story, it usually takes me about an hour of crappy lousiness before I get in the groove. If you translate that to the big scale, and realize that I haven’t been writing anything fictional (except for accounting papers) for a year, the last three weeks have produced some absolutely terrible writing.

And on top of being out of the writing habit, I’m trying something entirely new with this book: it’s in third person, whereas all my other books have been in first—and I don’t know how to write in third person. Also: the main character is a girl, and I don’t know how to write girls. Also: third person doesn’t lend itself to humor as much as first person, so there’s not as much of that in there. In other words, I’m writing a detached, unfunny, girl book.

One nice thing, however, is that I am once again in a writing group. So, now when I don’t know what I’m doing, people tell me in no uncertain terms. For example, when I presented a chapter from this book wherein the female lead was accosted by a devious villain, my writing group replied with: “Man, this sucks.” Of course, they were right, and their comments were helpful. (And I got my revenge when I told Annette Lyon that her chapter was not only unfunny, but egregiously unfunny.)

One thing about the writing group surprises me, though: it scares me to death. Here I am a member of the LDS-writing glitterati, thrice published, and recipient of multitudes of fan mail. And yet, whenever I’m sitting around that kitchen table, reading my new chapter out loud, it freaks me right the heck out. This is not because my writing group is mean and awful. It’s because, despite writing credits, I’m terrified that what I’ve written is bad. Yesterday, Jeff mentioned how most authors grew up as shy kids, and that deep down we’re all still afraid of rejection.

Here’s a quote, which is taken from my personal blog, written on July 5, 2005:

As advertised, I write books. Not only have I written books in the past, but I write books in the present, as well. It's an important distinction, because I've spent the last year and a half wondering whether I am simply a has-been. This recent project has taken at least twice as long as any of the others, and has undergone something like eleven complete rewrites -- many of them voluntary, and one of them due to a crashed hard-drive.

I honestly got to the point with this thing where I began to question my ability to even complete a book, let alone make it good.

That’s exactly how I feel right now. That blog was two and a half years ago, and was referring to me sending The Counterfeit in to my editor. And that book sold well and was, I think, my best so far. But I’m still feeling that same sense of dread: what if I just can’t do it again? What if it’s been too long and I just can’t figure it all out anymore? What if that was all I had in me?

Well, this blog certainly got a little more introspective than I originally intended. With any luck, I’ll quote this post a year or two from now when I’m starting the next book and this one is just a pleasant memory.

And, no matter what happens, at least my book won’t be as egregiously unfunny as Annette’s. I mean, holy lame.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Tales of a Third Grade Nothing

I was cool up until third grade. And not just cool meaning I didn’t usually spill milk in my lap at lunch. I was funny. Girls liked me. Boys feared me. I had a Speed Racer lunch box. I knew most of the Three Stooges routines by heart. I had a Stingray bike with an extra high sissy bar and baseball cards safety-pinned into the spokes. I had life right where I wanted it.

Then everything changed.

It started innocently enough. Our class was filed into the auditorium for eye tests. You remember those? “Look at the colored dots and tell me what number you see.” “Read line four with your left eye closed.” It was all fun and games. We joked around about which kids were actually blind, which is why they could never catch the kickball, and who would end up with a pirate patch. I had nothing to worry about. I mean, wouldn’t I know if I had eye problems? Neither of my parents needed glasses. None of my brothers or sisters did.

I was still laughing when they pulled me out of line for extra tests.

I didn’t stay laughing long. Turns out I had what the doctors technically referred to as a lazy left eye. (Okay, that’s probably not the technical term, but it’s the one I could remember.) The gist of it was that while my right eye was 20/20, my left eye was apparently fishing for marlins off the coast of Florida.

Now this is just me, but I would’ve been perfectly fine with looking at everything only through my right eye. But the doctors had other ideas. What their ideas amounted to was, number one, a pair of glasses with black plastic frames thick enough to support a three story building. I recently noticed that those thick plastic frames are now cool. People actually buy those when they are given a choice of dozens of frame types. I wasn’t given a choice and let me say right now that when I was in third grade, those glasses were NOT cool.

But that wasn’t the worst of it.

If any of you have read Orson Scott Card’s SciFi novel, “Enders Game,” you’ll know that they took a young kid with a promising future and constantly stacked the deck against him. I’m not sure I had such a promising future ahead of me, but I can absolutely imagine this conversation taking place behind closed doors.

Doc 1: “Isn’t it bad enough the kid is soon going to discover he has next to no depth perception? Pretty much everything in a third grader’s life requires depth perception. He’ll miss easy pop flies in kickball. The tetherball will smack him in the face every time a kid smashes it back. He’ll run his bike into light poles. Let’s just leave him alone. He’s already going to be a loser.”

Doc 2: “I’m afraid that’s not enough.” Pulls out Groucho Marx glasses with lenses thick enough to guarantee any kid’s eyes will immediately look like gold fish eyes through them. “Adversity brings strength. And a pair of glasses like these just scream out, ‘Hit me.’ And with these humongous lenses he’ll never see the punches coming. Plus he’ll lose them or break them at least once a month, driving his mom crazy.”

Doc 1: “Fine. But you know you’re guaranteeing this kid will instantly be transformed into a total loser.” Takes the glasses and starts toward the door.

Doc 2: “Wait. There’s more.” Pulls a cardboard box out of his pocket.

Doc 1: Goes pale and steps away. “You can’t be thinking . . .”

Doc 2: “Yes.” Chuckles evilly. “He only has one good eye, which the glasses will screw up anyway. That will break him. But we can destroy him completely.” Opens the box and pulls out a flesh colored patch that looks like an eye-shaped adhesive bandage. “If we slap one of these over his right eye, he’ll be as good as blind. No depth perception. Only one eye—that can’t see well anyway. Stupid geeky glasses. And finally this. We could give him a pirate patch, which would at least be cool looking, but I want to see what happens when he shows up to school in this.”

Doc 1: “The other kids will murder him.”

Doc 2: “What doesn’t kill him will make him stronger.”

Cut to junior high. I’ve finally gotten rid of the patch and the glasses. (It’s amazing what happens when you break your spectacles over and over.) But I am firmly ensconced in loser-hood. I got beat up for the first time a month or so after the glasses and it just increased from there. My thermos got broken so many times, my Mom just started sending me to school with milk money. I constantly tilted my head to one side without realizing I was doing it. I had developed a weird scratchy voice thing (think Froggy on The Little Rascals) so I went to speech therapy. I was actually nearly voted as the Junior High homecoming king—as a joke.

And then my family moved across the country from Sunny California to New Jersey at the beginning of my eighth grade year. I’d like to say the fresh start turned everything around, but it actually turned out the opposite. A mindset is a terrible thing to break. I didn’t talk to other kids unless I absolutely had to. I expected to get beat up and did regularly. I was introduced by the teachers as the kid who had moved from California (which all the kids assumed consisted of nothing but surfers, hot babes, and beaches.) So my shyness was taken for aloofness and things only got worse and worse. You know the kid in the Bad News Bears movies who gets eggs smashed on his head, all of his underwear ripped, and has about twenty annoying nick names?

That was me.

Fortunately, fate had one more twist in store for me. The summer before my junior year in high school, my family moved back to California. This time to San Jose, where there really was lots of sun and surfers. What chance did this loser from New Jersey have amongst all the cool kids in California? It should have been a massacre of epic proportions. Except that on a whim, I signed up for drama. And as part of drama we were required to try out for the spring play.

I ended up getting the lead.

That in and of itself would not have changed everything. Could not have changed everything. But it did change one thing. My attitude. For the first time since second grade, it occurred to me that I didn’t have to be a loser. I started smiling more. I talked to other kids. I remember one conversation in particular that opened my eyes. I wore straight leg 501 Levis and T-shirts most of the time. Not as any kind of fashion statement, but probably because that’s what was on sale at J.C Penny’s. But I remember a girl coming up to me and asking if that’s what they were wearing on the East Coast. I had to look at her twice to make sure she wasn’t mocking me. Finally I nodded my head. “Um, yeah.”

And because my attitude changed, everything around me changed. I went out for cross country. I went on dates. I got kissed—more than once. I started laughing. I liked school. I made friends. A couple of years later I happened to run into a guy who had given me a ton of crap in New Jersey. I recognized him right away, but it took him a minute to realize who I was. When he finally did, he looked up at me (I was taller than him now, heh, heh) and kind of stammered, “Hey, Savage. You look good.”

More importantly than that. I felt good.

The reason I’m telling this story is not just because I’m desperate for blog material. (Although that could be a part of it.) It’s that lots of kids had much rougher trials than I did and never went through eight years of loser-hood. Somehow they didn’t let the things life threw at them get them down. They maintained an inner confidence that helped them feel good about themselves, which in turn encouraged everyone else to see them in the same light.

I know there are a lot of writers who read this blog. And for some reason, an inordinately large number of writers grew up as shy kids. And despite our successfully publishing books, we are still afraid other people will reject us. That’s a big part of the reason why we are so scared of doing events like book signings. It’s hard to be outgoing when you expect someone to tell you how crappy your book is. And if they don’t buy your book, they’re just reminding you of what a loser you are.

Then there are people like Kerry.

Maybe deep inside Kerry is afraid of rejection. But I’ve never seen it at any of her book signings. She is the most friendly person in the world to everyone who comes by. It doesn’t seem to faze her if they are interested in her book or not. And because she is so friendly, everyone is friendly back to her. They can’t help it. She has a great time.

As I look back at my experience in New Jersey, I don’t think the kids there were any more or less friendly than California. Yes, there were cultural differences. But the biggest impact was that because I was from California, they expected me to act stuck up. When I was too shy to talk to them, they saw it as me snubbing them. Even though I’d never had a girlfriend, rumors quickly spread that I thought the girls in California were much better looking. Essentially I fulfilled their expectations without ever knowing they even had them.

As authors, we are viewed differently. People expect us to be stuck up. We’ve published a book. Surely we look down on people who haven’t. They can’t see the scared kid inside most of us who is so completely afraid of rejection we are too scared to do anything more than make eye contact. They don’t know how afraid we are that no one will buy our books and that even if they do, they will probably hate them. What they see is someone who is too good for the rest of the world.

Knowing that, what can we do about it?

First and foremost, break out of your protective shell. It stands in the way of making friends. And honestly that’s what author events are. They are not about how many books you can sell. They are about how many friends you can make. Once you stop worrying about selling, you can start having fun. Talk to every person who comes by. Expect them to like you. Talk to all the store employees. If you are good at small talk and making friends, do that. If you aren’t, then by all means tell the store employees how scared you are and ask for their help. It’s much better to have the employees know you are a big chicken than to think you are a snobby author.

Ask people what kind of books they like and recommend authors that write those kinds of books. If it’s a slow day, help the staff stock shelves. If you are uncomfortable talking about yourself, ask people questions about themselves. It’s a lot like second grade all over again. If you are friendly and outgoing, people will generally be friendly back. And for the occasional kid who is rude, feel bad for them and move on.

If everything else fails, just remember you could be doing the event in thick black glasses, a patch over one eye (not the cool pirate kind), and a voice that sounds like a tractor in low gear.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Nephite Who Loved Me

by Sariah S. Wilson

I would like to take this opportunity to ask authors (aspiring or otherwise) to please stop doing some things:

1. If you give a character an obstacle, for the love of Mike, make sure you explain how it is overcome. I recently read a romance by one of THE romance authors (she started back in the 70s and was HUGE - many of her books are considered romance classics). In this historical, a woman marries a horrible man to save her family. Before her betrothal she meets a cutie at a feast, but he doesn't offer for her or try to court her. Luckily for her, the awful husband dies the night of their wedding and she inherits everything. Now a wealthy widow, said cutie comes back into her life and wants to marry her. She's understandably peeved that he didn't make a play for her when she was poor. So she keeps him at arm's length because she wants a husband who loves her, not her money. It's revealed later on that he has a gigantic fortune of his own, so he's not really after her money.

Okay. So...what was the hold up? Why not pursue the heroine? The author never tells us. I waited and waited and went through this book that I actually found a little dull to discover that...the author had no intention of telling me.


As Anton Chekov said, "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there." So if you're not going to fire the gun, don't put it in the book!

2) Please don't start a book with a lot of backstory or start off with an action scene that turns out to only be a dream. I know it makes agents highly ticked off when they pick up an exciting first chapter only to find out it's just a dream. Don't do that. Just don't. Stop it now.

3) When you do your historical research, I understand that you learn new words. It's fun to learn new (old?) slang. You can use it once. Maybe twice. But after that, don't do it anymore. I read a Regency not too long ago where the author had apparently learned that "toad-eater" meant someone who was a suck-up. There was a toad-eater reference from then on about every five pages (I am not exaggerating). It made my head hurt.

Sometimes you don't catch these repetitions until you hear a book on audio. Terry Brooks (a fantasy author) is fond of saying "like a wraith." There's lots of "like a wraith"s in his books. To the point that as my husband was listening to one of Brooks's books while I was writing my first novel, I put "like a wraith" in there just as an homage. (I also named a character Numa because we were constantly listening to "Dragostea din tei." I blame Matthew Buckley for introducing me to this clip in the first place.)

But now, for the part of the post that relates to "The Nephite Who Loved Me."

That was the original title of my third book (currently set to be released in July). I thought it was clever and a good title. First, because if I saw that title in an LDS bookstore I would stop and pick it up. Second, the heroine of the third book believes that Ammon is a spy. So it was a play on the James Bond title, and because I considered it to be a more "fun" title, I hoped it would convey that this book was much lighter and more playful than my previous books.

Alas, as is always the case with me and my poor taste in titles, my publisher didn't agree. "Servant to a King" will be the title. I asked my editor if I could go and beg the editorial board to keep my first title. I loved it a lot. He said I definitely shouldn't because it was not going to happen.

So I've had some people who had a very good reaction to the title, others who thought the title is highly stupid. What do you think?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Random Acts of Kindness -- Guest Blog

by John Governale

The film, Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith and his real-life son, Jaden, has one of my favorite mini-characters. I use the term mini-character to describe a part that is so small it doesn't rate as a minor character--someone who is in only one scene, or at most a couple of scenes, yet is memorable. When I say memorable, I don't mean because of the quality of the actor's performance necessarily, but memorable because of the quality of the character's character.

Perhaps you'll understand what I mean if you've seen Pursuit of Happyness. There is a secretary who escorts Will Smith into an important interview. Though Smith's personal appearance is way below what is expected for such a formal occasion, not once, before, during, or after does the secretary show, even in her eyes, that there is anything amiss. She announces him as cheerfully and professionally as any other interviewee. Her total screen time is less than a minute, but she won my heart.

Two more mini-characters I admire are in Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, starring Julianne Moore. If you've not seen this film, I highly recommend that you do. At one point in the story, the main character, Evelyn Ryan, who is the mother of ten, wins a shopping spree at a small, local supermarket. The time-frame is the 1950s.

Because the shopping carts at this store are small, Evelyn goes to the butcher ahead of time, and he agrees to wrap some long, tall packages of ribs that, during the spree, she can stand on end, lining the sides of the cart to make it taller. We never see this butcher, we only hear Evelyn talk about what he agreed to do, so I guess this makes him a mini-mini-character. Anyway, I like this guy. The two characters I want to point out in Prize Winner, however, are Marge and Pauline, who work at the store. The official in charge of the ten-minute spree and who is timing the events says to them, "Any help you happen to give Mrs. Ryan in filling her cart won't be seen by me."

The two women accept this license to help with enthusiasm, and when the time starts, they split up, each collecting arm-loads of food to throw into the basket. Most mothers of ten in such a situation would want to fill the cart with staples that would feed her family as long as possible, but Evelyn is not most mothers. She uses this opportunity to collect a great assortment of exotic foods, things she and her kids and her husband could not afford and have never tasted. She grabs caviar and heart of palm and fresh pineapple and capers and cocktail pickles and fillet minion.

In the frantic bustle of food-gathering, one of the store ladies, Marge, has a great line, which she delivers as she dumps an armful of cans into the shopping cart. "I got you some goose pate -- ever had that? Let me know what it's like."

She says this, not snidely or bitterly or even longingly, but with a matter-of-fact, simple delivery that charmed me as she rushed off to collect more items.

I could spend the rest of this post talking about the young actors who play the children in Prize Winner. Though they certainly are more minor (pardon the pun) than mini-characters, they delight, from oldest to youngest. But let me move on.

My number one favorite mini-character is that of Lamarr in the Tom Hanks movie, That Thing You Do. Lamarr, played by Obba Babatundé, has less than five minutes of screen time, but he captures the audience's interest, admiration, and heart. Lamarr is a bell captain (or concierge?) at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. He says to one of the main characters, "My name is Lamarr, and this is my hotel. And we take care of people here."

By his helpful actions, we see that Lamarr believes those words. Today, businesses make a big deal about their employees taking "ownership" of problems, of situations, of opportunities. A better example of this business philosophy could hardly be found than the mini-character, Lamarr. He doesn't just work for the hotel, he feels like it's his, and "we take care of people here."

The mini-characters I admire occur, not just in movies, but in songs, in poems, in stories, and in novels. Even in the Scriptures. The book of Nehemiah, chapter three, for example, mentions some women, not by name and only in passing, but they inspire me. Around 445 BC, Nehemiah gets permission from Artaxerxes, king of Persia, to travel to Jerusalem and make the city defensible. Once there, Nehemiah, all alone, takes a midnight tour of the place and finds that the walls have been broken down and the gates burned with fire, so enemies can show up any time they want and sack the place. He is determined to rebuild the wall and gates -- a huge undertaking -- and soon has enlisted the help of many men in Jerusalem, each being assigned a section of the wall or a gate to rebuild.

Chapter three is a long list of the people involved. It starts at the sheep gate and works its way around the wall, one section after the other, telling who rebuilt what. There are 32 verses, and typical of how the chapter reads would be verse four, which says, "And next unto them repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz. And next unto them repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabeel. And next unto them repaired Zadok the son of Baana."

In this long list of men, we find in verse 12, "And next unto him repaired Shallum the son of Halohesh, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem, he and his daughters."

The first time I read that, the image I got in my mind was of Shallum, who perhaps had no sons, getting up the first day to go work on the wall, and there, dressed in work clothes and armed with buckets and hammers, were his daughters, ready to go, too. Unnamed and mentioned in only one verse, these real-life girls are but mini-characters, but to me they rank up there with Marge and Pauline and Lamarr and the Pursuit of Happyness secretary.

Are there not in each of our lives, mini-characters -- people who show up only once in passing, but do us some kindness or inspire us in some way? Perhaps they hold a door for us, allowing us to get in a post office line before them. Or maybe they offer a smile that brightens a dim day. Or maybe they are someone who, burdened by a great infirmity, shoulder it with courage and thus give us a renewed will to carry on.

I once saw a feeble, elderly man stop, slowly bend down, pick up a piece of litter, then hobble out of his way to a garbage can to deposit it. I've picked up hundreds of bits of litter since then. The man never realized I saw him or that I've been led by his quiet example.

I'm grateful for all the mini-characters, fictional and real, who in good ways have crossed my path. And for the chance I have each day to play such a part in the lives of others.

Kerry is grateful for John and all the others who guest blog while she lazes away Fridays, puking and watching old movies.

John Governale is the creative genius behind Exceedingly Curious, and a heck of a nice guy besides.