Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Michael Phelps Way of Reaching Your Goals

By Sariah S. Wilson

Of course, like so many of you out there, I was glued to my DVR during the Olympics (and can I just say what an awesome way that it is to watch the Olympics? I swear it would take me 20 minutes to watch a five-hour segment. Finally you can skip not only the commercials, but all the boring interviews with experts I’ve never even heard of/could care less about (seriously, I really don’t care what Bela Karolyi thinks about Nastia and Shawn) and all those backstories and waiting around. So much to skip and then you get to watch all the good parts!).

But I was enthralled by Michael Phelps’ quest for eight gold medals, and watched every second of it.

I realized while listening to him talk and reading articles about the Games how I could apply his ability to reach his goals to reaching goals in my own life.

1. Work really, really hard. Phelps trained five hours a day seven days a week. Even on his birthday and Christmas. That’s not including any cardio training (on a stationary bike instead of running because he’s clumsy on land and tends to hurt himself) and what weight training he does. Everyone wants the easy way out. Everyone wants to write the million-dollar bestseller easily. It doesn’t work that way. It’s your rear end in your chair day in and day out. Working hard is the only way to reach your dreams.

2. Be humble. Coach Bowman said that Phelps was an extremely adept swimming student that took direction well. Teachability is probably one of the most important things you can have if you’re trying to succeed. Find people who know more than you, and learn from them. Phelps admired and emulated those who had gone before him. You can do the same.

3. Be a team player. Phelps’ ability to work well with others helped him to succeed. As a writer, think of all the people you’ll come across that will be helping you in your writing career. You have to be able to get along with all different kinds of people who will want the same thing as you – for your book to do well.

4. Use negative comments/reviews to motivate and inspire you. Phelps had a habit of taping printed negative comments from other swimmers and coaches up in his locker to inspire him to work even harder. When someone says they hate your stuff, take it in stride. Use it to motivate you to write even better the next time.

5. Be gracious and give credit where credit is due. Phelps’ is always extremely thankful for and thoughtful of those who helped him along his path (and continue to help him). His great sportsmanlike conduct was actually learned – when he was younger he threw a fit at a meet when he lost (throwing his goggles) and his coach warned him to never act that way again. Nobody likes a diva. Nobody will want to work with you if you are one.

6. Did I mention working really, really hard?

7. Apparently eating a lot of food helped Phelps to reach his goals. I wish I could justify following Phelps’ daily menu in an attempt to rationalize chowing down on Twinkies before I start writing, but since I’m not swimming five hours a day I can’t. But wouldn’t it be fun if we could include this one to reaching your goals?

8. Set a goal and work toward it. Phelps decided he wanted to win eight gold medals in the Olympics to beat a 36-year-old record. This may sound obvious, but what is your writing goal right now? Have you written it down? Do you wake up every day knowing that all the work you’re doing is because of the goal you have in mind?

9. Take a setback and make it a strength (Ether 12:27 anyone?). Phelps was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age. His mom got him into swimming as a way of burning off some of that excess energy. This supposed limitation didn’t limit him. Or take his fall in October 2007. He slipped on a patch of ice (clumsy on land, remember?) and fractured his right wrist. There was a lot of fear that he had effectively ended his Olympic dreams. For weeks he was only allowed to use a kickboard to train. This ended up being a blessing in disguise because all that practice added some strength to his kick. Insurmountable setbacks, rejections, all of these things are for your good. You can overcome them and succeed in spite of them.

10. Even when your vision is blocked, keep swimming. Despite goggles full of water, Phelps didn’t panic that he could no longer see. Instead he counted swimming strokes to get from one end of the pool to the other. No one even knew. Sometimes there’s another way around writer’s block or a sagging middle. Persevere even when it seems like you’ll fail.

11. Don’t give up when you get close. Phelps had a goal of winning eight gold medals. In Athens he won six gold and two bronze. For many people, this would have been nearly as good as their original dream. It wasn’t for Phelps. If your goal is to be a New York Times bestseller, don’t give up when you hit the USA Today list. Celebrate when you get close, but keep working until you get what you want.

12. “Dream as big as you can dream and anything is possible.” Michael Phelps

And for the self-promotion this week, there have been two recent reviews for “Servant to a King.”

The first is from Jennie Hansen at Meridian Magazine. You’ll have to scroll all the way down to the bottom to find it (although I disagree with her assertion that my books are YA. I’d say the opposite is true – that I write for an adult audience but have some devoted teen readers. But I was very happy with it – I think this is the best review Jennie has given me so far).

The second is another positive review, this time from author Marsha Ward on her blog.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Thanks so much to everybody who played last week's game! I found meaning in each of the submissions -- not to mention three or four works-in-progress that I simply must read! Write faster, everybody! Then, if you happen to need another evaluator near the end, please, please, please consider me! I love what I've read here. It's fun to think we may have been treated to snippets of future Whitney winners. (Remember, you saw it here first!)

The grand prize winner -- as in the winner of the drawing -- is Kelsi Rose! Please contact me to claim your prizes.

But, wait the rest of you! Don't go wandering off muttering about how you never win anything. Thanks to the founder of the idea -- Michael Cleverly -- you did win! Michael is offering a free copy of Mormon's Book to anybody who will e-mail him the complete 42nd page (not just the text left as a comment) along with the title, author, and ISBN number of the book they used. (Although Michael didn't ask, I hope everybody who takes advantage of this generous offer will reimburse him for postage after receiving their book.) Michael's e-mail addy is

No, wait you yet-to-be published geniuses! There's even more! Michael will also give a free pdf (e-book) to everybody who entered! You can pick yours up HERE.

Now don't say we never give you anything.

Thanks again to everybody who played, and an especially big thanks to Michael Cleverly for making it worth your while. (See? I told you he's a heck of a nice guy.)

Have a marvelous Labor Day weekend! And be safe. We couldn't bear to lose any of you!

In Memorium

by Kerry Blair

As you can see, things haven't improved much around here kitten-wise. But that isn't the reason I've missed four blogs and and almost a hundred comments this week. I've been away from the computer because I've been down in Mesa with my sister-in-law and her family. Her mother went to the hospital over the weekend and passed her life-test early Tuesday morning.

Joyce Pirkey is one of my heroes. She is the kind of woman who was truly the heart and soul of her home. Late this afternoon, each of her six children will rise at her memorial service to call her blessed. Her grandchildren will be told anew the many, many stories of laughter and light and love that filled their parents' childhood. As they continue to hear the stories and participate in the many family traditions, the legacy left by this truly remarkable woman will bless her posterity through the ages.

Times like this, while heart-rending in the extreme, are a blessing to our souls. They shine a bright light on what is most important in life -- family, friends, faith -- and too often we see that those are the very things we take most for granted day-to-day. Today, nobody in the Pirkey family will think of the financial struggles they often endured. The petty squabbles that characterize every family on earth might never have happened to them. Their mother's long illness and the myriad of stresses and frustrations and fears that must need have come with it have already faded.

What then is left us when a loved one dies?

Remember the Hans Christian Andersen story of the Little Tin Soldier? I first heard it when I was very young and on the day my beloved grandfather was buried. I have deeply believed from that day to this that while his body has gone and his soul has sojourned somewhere I cannot see, the refiner's fire that was his life left a heart of solid gold. I thought of that story yesterday when I lifted the small box that holds Joyce's mortal remains. I knew absolutely what was inside it: a bright and golden heart, forged in joy and sorrow, trouble and triumph, because that is the life she led. That is the woman she is.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

An Announcement

Julie will not be blogging today. She gave birth to a healthy 9 lb 2 oz baby girl on Monday. Both mother and baby are resting comfortably.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Surprise Packages

by Stephanie Black

When my son told me he was excited to start school because he was excited to see his friends, I was happy. He starts middle school this year—big transition—and I was pleased to know he’ll have friends around him to help make that transition easier. Good friends are a great blessing—a truth very familiar to the three protagonists in Surprise Packages: The Company of Good Women, Volume 3).

Even if you haven’t read Volumes 1 or 2, that won’t stop you from enjoying a journey into the lives of Deenie, Juneau, and Erin, three women who met fifteen years ago at BYU Education Week and are on a journey to earn the distinguished title of Crusty Old Broads. They live in different parts of the country, but distance doesn't stop them from being involved in each other's lives, laughing with each other, mourning with each other, uplifting each other, and giving each other a little kick in the pants if needed.

Deenie, Juneau, and Erin are good women struggling to do what’s right--and sometimes it takes them a while to figure out what right is. They're all interesting and complicated characters. They've all got flaws. Deenie struggles with her pride and her need to be in control. Juneau struggles to appreciate a rebellious daughter. Erin struggles to give up her need to be superwoman. All of them grow over the course of the book. Through joys and trials—and there are plenty of both—these women are there for each other.

I love the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 130:2: “And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.” Kinda gives new meaning to being Best Friends Forever, eh?

I feel that one of the great blessings of getting involved in the LDS writing world is all the new friends that come with it--so thank you to all of you who have reached out to me and strengthened my life through your friendship. Truly, the network of support is phenomenal.

Surprise Packages
is written by Nancy Anderson, Lael Littke, and Carroll Hofeling Morris. Check out their blog here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Little Bighorn

by Robison Wells

For the past two weeks I have written complainy posts wherein I have whined a lot. As much as I would love to continue the tradition, things are generally okay now. I managed to sprain my back, but it only hurts when I sit, stand up, or lay down. So, no big deal.

Today's blog is going to be about my visit to Little Bighorn National Monument, the last noteworthy place I stopped before my car died (as I described last week). I have to say, this was the strangest National Monument I have ever visited. I didn't know what to feel about it, and it was quite clear that no one else--including the visitors, rangers, and docents--knew what to feel about it, either. (That picture, by the way, is the best I could do taking a picture of myself. It's not particularly attractive, but neither am I.)

Here's the gist of it: Little Bighorn is the location of Custer's Last Stand. He and about 210 United States cavalrymen where killed on the dry grasslands of Montana, back in June of 1876. The slaughter was merciless. It was the first major battle in which Crazy Horse led the Sioux, and he had an entirely new strategy; effectively, he did to the US Army what the Revolutionaries did to the British--he made it impossible for them to operate in rank, attacking swiftly from the sides and then disappearing.

In the picture below you can see the white gravestones of the fallen soldiers--they were originally buried where they fell, and the anonymous markers were placed there several years later. Few of the stones have names (most just say "U.S. Soldier, 7th Cavalry"), but one is specific: it's for a the battallion surgeon. He didn't actually die there--no one ever found his body, but his clothes and tools were later found in the Indian camp. When his mother came to visit the battlefield, several years later, the army put up a gravestone for him so that she wouldn't have to learn that her boy likely survived the battle and was executed as a prisoner.

The picture below is of the monument and mass grave marking Custer's Last Stand. On this hilltop the soldiers shot their horses and used them as desperate barricades--something to hide behind while the fighting raged.

So it all makes sense, right? It was a terrible tragedy--a major loss for the U.S. military, and a massacre of American soldiers.

But it's not that simple. For years and years, this was called the General Custer National Monument, and it was only in 1991 that it was changed to Little Bighorn National Monument. There were many reasons for the switch, and debate raged on both sides. But the question boiled down to this: what are we honoring? Was Custer a great war hero, cut down by savage enemies?

General Custer's hands weren't exactly clean. In one infamous battle, he attacked a Cheyenne village in the middle of the night. He had orders to kill the warriors and capture the others. But (according to the account in Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee):

"To kill or hang all the warriors meant separating them from the old men, women, and children. This work was much too slow and dangerous for the cavalrymen; they found it much more efficient and safe to kill indiscriminately. They killed 103 Cheyenne, but only eleven of them were warriors."

In fact, just because the U.S. soldiers were slaughtered at Little Bighorn doesn't mean that they were ambushed or otherwise decieved by the Indians. The battle (which was part of an ongoing war) began when Custer and his cavalry directly assaulted an Indian camp. The problem was that he had vastly underestimated the size of the camp--his battallion was charging into three to four thousand warriors (the camp itself was well over ten thousand people). Again from Bury My Heart:

"Kill Eagle, a Blackfoot Sioux chief, later said that the movement of Indians toward Custer's column was 'like a bees swarming out of a hive'."

So, who was right? It certainly wasn't Custer, who had been attacking villages--women and children--all across the plains. And the war certainly wasn't justified (the Indian Bureau complained that the Cheyenne were well-fed and well-armed, and were "lofty and independent in attitude", and declared that troops should be sent "the sooner the better, to whip them into subjection." The Secretary of War was mostly concerned with protecting the white miners who were "strongly attracted [to the Black Hills] by reports of rich deposits of precious metal." The Black Hills had been previously granted to the Cheyenne in an 1868 treaty...)

But does that mean Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse were right? Not exactly. They'd been reacting the to the encroachment into their land with increasing aggression, and had killed many white settlers--every bit as innocent as the Sioux women who'd been shot by Custer. Granted, the white people may have started the fight (by moving into Indian territory as though it was theirs for the taking), but no one stayed innocent very long.

And Little Bighorn National Monument doesn't seem to know what to do about that. Neither side really seems to admit much wrongdoing. Take a look at the picture below, where two Cheyenne headstones proclaim proudly that their warriors fell "defending the Cheyenne way of life".

And look at the gravestone of General Custer. Someone has gone in and honored him with an American flag and a bundle of flowers.

I'm told that the memorial in Japan to those killed in Hiroshima has a comparable feel: a lot of people died, and we honor them. But who is to blame? What is to be learned from all this? The Hiroshima memorial, I understand, lays the blame on no one--the feeling is almost "Something (it doesn't matter what) fell from the sky and many people died."

While I was looking for meaning in all of this, I cam across this quote, hung on the side of the visitor's center.

I think that's as good a moral of the story as we're going to get out of this, but I still feel something is lacking. Despite what those words say, this is not a memorial describing the futility of war. This is a memorial that people don't understand, and where even now--well over a century later--neither side really wants to take the blame; on the contrary, both sides still seem to have proud supporters. Sure, everyone will say peace is great, but will they also say that their side should have backed down? If solutions were that easy then we probably ought to write down Black Elk's quote and mail it to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Then again, maybe this blog is the point. We might not ever be able to say "Custer=bad, Sitting Bull=good" (or vice-versa) but maybe if we talk about these things we can prevent another Battle of Little Bighorn. Maybe we can prevent the entire war.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Can You Really Have Too Many Page 42 Contests?

After Kerry’s extraordinarily enjoyable post about page 42s, and my propensity for blank pages, I started going through my library looking at the forty-second page of lots of books. Which got me thinking. How cool would it be to have a contest where you have to guess the book based solely on a single clue and a quote from page 42? Okay, maybe not so exciting to everyone. But to fellow bibliophiles—read geeks—way cool. So here they are. I will send something cool to the first person who can guess all of the titles. And no, it won’t be a kitten.

Hint—I am just as wide ranging in my reading genres as I am in my writing genres.

Second Hint—These are all national titles.

Third Hint—They are all books by well known authors.

Good luck!

1) Funny we should start with this first.
“I noticed you eating all alone. Every launch has one like that. Kid that nobody takes to right away. Sometimes I think the teachers do it on purpose. The teachers aren’t very nice. You’ll notice that.”

2) Shortest title of all time?
Only Stanley had seemed sure of himself, confident of the future, unconcerned with the pitfalls their parents saw strewn all around “the kids.” And in the end it was his confidence rather than their fears which had been justified.

3) This is a sad one
He went to work then, trailing and treeing the squirrels that little Arlis was scaring up off the ground.

4) You have to like an author who goes by three initials before his last name.
Very puffed up he was, when he got to Bywater just on the stroke of eleven, and found he had come without a pocket handkerchief!

5) You would too if you had to carry that
She jingled the bracelet, making it sparkle under the light. “Henry it’s perfectly wonderful! What originality! I shall be the sensation of New York, wearing the same stuff as bridge girders, truck motors, kitchen stoves, typewriters, and—what was it you were saying about it the other day darling?—Soup kettles?

6) This author was such a little _______?
As to any sense of inequality, or youthfulness, or other difficulty in our way, little Em’ly and I had no such trouble, because we had no future. We made no more provision for growing older, than we did for growing younger.

7) This started it all
“They’ll take the boy and go. There’ll be no hanging around. That’s if they’re coming at all. Probably mistaken the day. I daresay their kind don’t set much store with punctuality. Either that or they drive some tin pot car that’s broken d-AAAAAAAARRRRRGH!”

8) How many chick flicks have they made out of this?
A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.

9) A man and a mouse
April 21st—I figured out a new way to set up the mixing machines in the bakery to speed up production. Mr. Donner says he will save labor costs and increase profits. He gave me a fifty dollar bonus and a ten dollar a week raise.

10) When your watch gets really old you might have this
“She’d be delighted. Mother’s all right. She’s not one of us. But she’s all right”

11) I’m sure these make lousy raisins
In the open doors the women stood looking out, and behind them the children—corn-headed children with wide eyes, one bare foot on top of the other bare foot, and their toes working. The women and children watched their men talking to the owner men. They were silent.

12) It’s alive!
I replied carelessly and, partly in contempt, mentioned the names of my alchemists as the principal authors I had studied. The professor stared. “Have you,” he said, “really spent your time in studying such nonsense?”

13) Wait, who am I?
The passport in question was, naturally one of the most difficult in the world to tamper with, but with great care, equipment, and artistry, it could be done.

“How much?”

“These skills—and equipment—do not come cheap. Twenty-five hundred francs.”

14) Who would kill a bunch of perfectly good letters?
Madness, Hastings, is a terrible thing . . . I am afraid . . . I am very much afraid . . ."

15) That’s one heck of a night crawler
CHOAM controls the spice,” Paul said.

16) Dream on!
Now being prepared for almost anything, he was not prepared by any means for nothing; and, consequently, when the bell struck one, and no shape appeared, he was taken with a violent fit of trembling.

17) Where ghosts pay to drive
"Our job," said the count, "is to see that all the words sold are proper ones, for it wouldn't do to sell someone a word that had no meaning or didn't exist at all."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Stephenie Meyer's "Breaking Dawn"

by Sariah S. Wilson


So, I read "Breaking Dawn." My reaction? Meh.

I will admit right now to coming from a place of small bits of author jealousy. As much as you want other authors to succeed and are happy for their successes, sometimes (for me at least) a small part of you feels jealous. I've always had this sort of awestruck/envy thing for Stephenie Meyer, particularly since we're the same age, went to the same school, have the same number of children (similar ages), same faith, both writers, etc. I wonder if I could ever reach the level that she has, if I could ever write a story that would grip people by the throat the way "Twilight" did.

With that disclaimer in mind, my thoughts on "Breaking Dawn."

First off, Renesmee is quite possibly the stupidest name EVER. Seriously. Hard to say, tough to look at - I would trip over it every time I came across it. And Nessie was not much better - I kept getting Loch Ness images in my mind.

Jacob imprinting on a baby, which felt like a total cop-out to me so that the Jacob/Bella issues didn't have to be resolved, grosses me out. I was grossed out when Quil did it. I don't care how she tried to explain it or justify it or make it okay, it wasn't okay with me in the last book, and it wasn't okay with me in this one. Particularly since ew...he was madly, totally in love with Bella. They kissed. He warmed her up while he was naked. Mommy used to kiss your husband? Your husband used to fantasize about mom and wanted to be with her? That just doesn't fly with me. I know it's a fantasy, I know it's not real, but again I say ew. (I actually wanted Jacob to imprint on that female werewolf (Leah?) because it would have resolved a lot of pain for both of them.)

I was a little surprised with characterization - how Bella was so adamant against marriage, yet when she got pregnant, hey, no big deal. No need to worry or fret or think she might be too young for something like that. I'm pregnant, it's growing at a superhuman rate and killing me, but it's cool. I think Publishers Weekly summarized it better than I could - "Essentially, everyone gets everything they want, even if their desires necessitate an about-face in characterization or the messy introduction of some back story. Nobody has to renounce anything or suffer more than temporarily--in other words, grandeur is out. This isn't about happy endings; it's about gratification."

I think probably my biggest issue with the book was the final battle (and you know how I like me some ancient weapons and fight scenes!). The entire book, as the family gathers up allies to testify for them against the Volturi, we're introduced to all sort of mutant abilities. On the good guy side, one has the ability to force everyone to see illusion. Another can conduct electricity. A third can actually manipulate the elements (but he isn't that good at it yet). Bella discovers that she is actually a shield and can create a forcefield to protect her allies from whatever the bad guys may throw at them. The werewolves (who have the ability to destroy vamps) show up in greater numbers than ever before.

On the bad guy side, the Volturi have spent millennia gathering up the most special/talented vampires in the world. One Volturi has his own personal shield to protect him. Another vampire can manipulate emotions/attachments. A third can daze and confuse. Another can cause unimaginable pain with her mind. Someone else had the ability to control fire.

So as we're building to this great battle, as I'm waiting for the big X-Men/Fantastic 4/magical powers blow-out, what happens?


Seriously, nothing happens.

For pages and pages and pages and pages as we watch the vampires use their powers and prepare and discuss strategy, as Bella prepares for an outcome where she won't survive, everything is leading up to this final conflict.

Now, while the real world solution of nobody gets hurt and nobody dies and the bad guys just go away is a nice one, it's not a very exciting one after you got me pumped for a giant vampire smackdown. I read that, literally shaking my head and flipping back to make sure none of my pages were stuck together. For me, you can't build up to a climax you have no intention of delivering on.

Particularly since I think the Volturi will always be a threat to the Cullen family because they covet the Cullens' abilities, it would have been nice to see them wiped out rather than out there as a constant worry.

Speaking of the final fight - Alice not telling Bella about her visions was also dumb. Obviously Bella could keep a secret from Edward (as she did with what little information Alice gave her) and so there would have been no way for the Volturi to find out. A whole lot of hoopla for nothing.

I wanted to see Bella dealing with Renee. Didn't happen. I thought that would be fairly significant with her new lifestyle choice. I was also bothered by how important Rosalie had been to protect Bella and the baby, but dropped from the story after Bella was vamped.

I wasn't engrossed in this one as I wasn't engrossed with "Eclipse." I could put it down and walk away from it. So much of what made "Twilight" and "New Moon" so enjoyable for me, the themes, the characterizations, all of it was just gone with the last two. I'm glad that Bella got her happy ending (I did think there was a chance that Meyer might actually kill Edward and Bella in the final battle and let Jacob the Yucky Imprinter raise their little girl), got her baby and got her man and gets to live happily ever after (literally).

I'm glad that after all the hemming and hawing that Bella did finally become a vampire (although at the point she became unrelatable as a normal, typical, average girl), and that she was happy. But I was frustrated with the book; I think Meyer could have done better (and has).

Friday, August 22, 2008

Life, the Universe & a Couple of Kittens

by Kerry Blair

Things have been pretty tough around here. Jeff is buried under an avalanche of interviews and fan mail about his soon-to-be national bestseller. (Stinks to be him, huh? I know my heart is bleeding.) Rob was marooned in Billings, Montana while Amy was out of town, and Julie. . . well I’m afraid to say anything to or about Julie lest I become the writer after whom she fashions the nastiest of all villains. Now it’s my turn to whine and, quite frankly, I’m having a harder time blogging than any of them -- possibly all three of them put together. Every first-draft sentence I attempt looks like this:

It’n3333QQQ`` ?kkkk?/~```XXXX your Y TTQQED1

Have you ever tried to create with a couple of catastrophically cute five-week-old kittens capering across your keyboard? It’s not as poetic as it sounds. And, by the way, that loud gasp/swish/thud you just heard was my husband taking a last ragged breath before falling from his office chair in a dead faith. I haven’t exactly told him about the foster kitties. Until now. Surprise, dear!

So, while I play with Cleo and Bruce (not that I've named them) and my husband Googles divorce attorneys, I thought maybe the rest of you could play a game about Life, the Universe & Everything.

As most of you already know, it took Deep Thought seven-and-a-half million years to formulate the answer to the Ultimate Question. The answer is forty-two. Unfortunately, it may take another ten million years to uncover the question, which is hidden somewhere here on Earth. (This is assuming, of course, that the Vogons build their bypass elsewhere.) As you may or may not know, one of our readers, Michael Cleverly, is hard at work finding the answer. I mean question. His website, Wisdom from the 42nd Page, theorizes that the Ultimate Question might just be found on the forty-second page of a random book published somewhere, sometime on our little third rock from the sun. His mission: Searching for answers to life’s big (scratch that) random questions on the forty-second page. Join us in taste-testing three books per day, forty-two per fortnight, and 1,095 per year.

Okay . . . wow! You probably have to spend a week or so at that site to believe it. Similarly, I suspect you might also have to meet the man in person to believe him, but from what I’ve observed thus far, Michael is not only a possibly-deranged bibliophile, but a creative genius with a wide streak of humanity and deeply embedded spirituality. As his newest fan, I thought we could band together this week to help him out a little. If we each ferret out the nuggets of wisdom from our own forty-second pages, we can hopefully lighten the load on his sagging bookshelves by a dozen tomes or better.

Here’s how we’re going to play. If you’re a writer—and most of you are, published or not, LDS or not—scan the forty-second page of any work you have on your shelf, in a drawer, or somewhere within the bowels of your computer. Although Michael puts up the whole page with the “good stuff” highlighted, in the interest of space in our comments trail we’ll only put up the gems themselves – preferably just a few lines or a couple of paragraphs at most.

If you’re not a writer—or won’t admit it yet in public—you can choose any work of LDS fiction. (Fiction because General Authorities are "cheaters" in this case, what with inside information on life, the universe and all, and LDS because that’s in the name of our blog. Hmm. I guess I’m going to have to modify that to keep the boss happy. You may use any fiction work by an LDS author or a frog. As for the frog’s religion, you don’t tell and we won’t ask.) Besides the nugget of truth, include the title of the book and the name of the author if, in fact, you did not write it yourself. You can enter up to three times a day through next Thursday. Each separate entry will be placed in a box with one to be drawn at random next Friday. Winner gets a kitten!

Kidding. The grand prize is a paperback copy of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or another book cited in the comments that can be ordered and shipped from Amazon.

Warning: this can be highly addictive. (See: Michael Cleverly, above.) Before I was distracted by kittens, I was combing the pages of books by authors and frequent comment-ers on this blog, planning to blog from what I discovered in their pages. I came upon words possibly profound in works by Julie Bellon and Tristi Pinkston, and laughed out loud when the first two of Jeff's books I picked up had forty-second pages that were totally blank. Apparently Jeff is a write-your-own-profundity-here sort of guy.

Everybody play! Please? Not to twist any arms, but I have a pretty good idea who stops by this blog. If I know for a fact that you have written something -- anything -- and you don't play, you can expect a special-delivery package to arrive on your doorstop early next week. I won't tell you what will be inside, but it will mewl pitifully and possibly pee on your keyboard. Just so you know.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Emotional Rollercoasters & Sensitive Writers

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Someone once told me that writers are more sensitive than average people and feel things more deeply. I don’t know if that’s true, but after this week, I’m starting to believe that it could be true. It’s definitely been a rollercoaster of emotion for me.

I celebrated my twentieth wedding anniversary this week. I am married to one of the most romantic men on earth, and since I am nine months pregnant and not feeling the greatest, he brought everything home to make it the perfect anniversary---my favorite dinner from one of my favorite restaurants, a dozen roses---everything that I could have wanted, he thought of bringing. It was the perfect “date” at home and I loved it. Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe it’s been twenty years already. We’re still in love, I still get butterflies when I look at him, and I’m so grateful to be married to him.

However, that same day, our oldest son moved away from home to go to college. He is totally ready, and I am so proud of him and all that he’s accomplished, but I am going to miss him terribly. He is one of my best friends and I can talk to him about anything. If I needed an errand done, he would do it. If I was really stressed out, he always noticed and did nice things for me like make dinner or take care of the other children so I could lie down. It has especially been nice as I'm finishing out the last part of this pregnancy. It's been so hectic around my house with trying to get all my kids ready to go back to school while I am nine months pregnant and very uncomfortable so having his help was priceless. Of course the hardest thing for me was saying goodbye to him, but the thing that started my tears in earnest was watching through my own tears as my five year old son said goodbye to his oldest brother. He was trying to be so brave, then he finally broke down into tears as he ran out in the yard to wave goodbye one more time as his brother drove away. It still makes me weepy to think about it.

I also got to witness my youngest son’s first day at kindergarten. Talk about a milestone week! He was feeling pretty grown up as we met his teacher and found his desk. I smiled back at him as he proudly showed me what was in his desk already, but inside I was thinking how strange it would be not to have him at home with me. Everyone seems to be growing up so fast when I want time to stand still for just a moment. Yet, at the same time, I’m thrilled to see how ready the kids are to meet new challenges and start a new chapter in their lives.

You may have guessed, and I think I also mentioned, that this week finds me still here, nine months pregnant, obviously able to blog because I am not in the hospital with my baby. I feel a teeny bit cranky about that. But I used those cranky feelings for a good cause. I have been rewriting my villain for my current work in progress. You could say that I’ve been making him a little more villainously cranky which is quite cathartic actually. No one messes with him this week, because if someone disses my villain, this week? Then, yeah, look out, they’re going to be sorry. This author is taking no prisoners.

So you can see how a sensitive writer could deeply feel the emotions of change, especially when there is an entire gamut to be felt in one short week. But, as I look back, I can see that everything I’ve felt this week is sort of like the elements of a good story---one I would want to read. I had a little romance, I had something to make me weepy, yet proud, I felt happy when something was accomplished and a new chapter begun, and I definitely was feeling the cranky villain. He’s not evil per se. Maybe he’s just misunderstood. Or he’s had a crazy week of rollercoaster emotion. Ooh, maybe this is some sort of sign that I should make him a writer. You know, since writers just feel things so deeply. Hmmm……

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

by Stephanie Black

A huge thank you to Anna Jones Buttimore and Gale Sears for guest blogging for me while I was off partying in Utah. I had a great time at my family reunion. There are 33 of us now—two parents, six kids, six spouses, and nineteen grandchildren. Two families flew in from the east coast (Virginia and Pennsylvania), three came up from southern Utah, and two from elsewhere in the west (Arizona and California). We all assembled in Aspen Grove and proceeded to entertain and amuse the heck out of each other.

This involved a lot of us grown-ups sitting around in camp chairs and chatting and eating junk food, while the kids were off being entertained by energetic young BYU students. Occasionally a family member would extend him or herself to do something physical—for instance, my husband and my sister-in-law did the ropes course, which involved scaling a rock wall and other things that involve actual muscles. I would have done the ropes, except that climbing would have required me to set down my fistfuls of Twizzlers and peanut M&Ms. (Okay, actually, I wouldn’t have done the ropes if you paid me. I am a complete wuss, with no upper body strength whatsoever. No lower body strength either. In fact, I’m almost completely devoid of strength, though I think my left pinky might be able to bench press its own weight). My husband and one brother-in-law put their muscles to work as well, climbing Mt. Timpanogos.
Ha ha! Better them than me. Not only did this involve leaving at six in the morning, but it included strain and pain and rain and took pretty much the whole day. But they haven’t learned their lesson—my brother-in-law will be in town next month and e-mailed my husband asking if he would be interested in hiking Half Dome in Yosemite. Strangely enough, my husband had just mentioned that he wanted to hike Half Dome. Personally, I think they’re nuts. Sure, it would be a pretty view from the top, but isn't that what Google Images is for?

I discovered that some of my siblings are very good at Boggle, and I am not. You’d think that being a writer, I’d be good at a word game, but no. I’m finding words like “cat”, while my lawyer brother is noting his sixty-seven points for “sesquipedalian.” I didn’t do any better in the game of family Jeopardy created by my other brother. The game was a blast, and taught me that I don’t know nearly as much of my family history as I should. My team was getting creamed for most of the game, but we came back in Final Jeopardy—The meaning of the family motto, Virtutis Gloria Merces. No, I didn’t know the answer, though it was printed on the front of my family reunion T-shirt, but two of our team had fortuitously looked up the meaning the day before (Glory is the reward of valor).

We were able to attend the Provo Temple, and what a blessing to be able to be in the temple with all my siblings, their spouses, and my parents. My seventeen-year-old daughter kindly volunteered to come hang around outside with my youngest nephew--a nursing baby not quite three months old--so my sister could attend the temple session. For this, she received many blessings, including lunch at Tucanos.

The family talent show was awesome, including everything from a romantic song sung by my brother to his wife (it was their wedding anniversary) and some beautiful artwork displayed by my daughter, to magic tricks, the Purple People Eater, Once There Was a Snowman and, from a very young participant, locating his belly button. Our contribution included a movie made by my children and edited by my oldest daughter, entitled "Stephen and the Ninjas". They started making this movie over spring break and finished it up for the reunion. It involved a lot of ninjas. And Bear Grylls. And teleporting.

Unfortunately, all good parties must come to an end, and everyone had to head back to real life. I postponed the real life thing a bit longer by going to hang out with my parents in southern Utah for another week, where we could swim and relax before we hopped in the car for the twelve-hour trip back home, which turned out to involve a great deal of desert, some embarrassing incidents at Subway, and Weird Al. (And I'm very grateful to report that my car worked. Rob, I'm glad you made it home).

On the road again...

Sorry to make an entirely new post about this, rather than just a comment. I'm that way.

So, the verdict was: the car is broken beyond all repair. I had a long conversation with the mechanic the gist of which was: there's something wrong with it, way down inside it, but you're not going to want to pay for it.

I sat down with the salesman and discussed options. He offered to run my credit, and I told him that I had neither income nor good scores. He said he'd try it anyway, and I told him that when he came back he'd be laughing. Fortunately, there's something to be said for paying your bills, and my credit was fine.

I now own an orange car which I have lovingly named Monty. (Lest you hear "orange" and think "ugly" rest assured that it's actually quite nice. It's kind of a burnt sienna kind of color.) It's the lowest model on the totem pole, with no extras whatsoever, but it's better than walking.

So, around 2:30 yesterday I loaded it up with all my stuff, said goodbye to my old car (who was named Sussudio), and left Billings. I pulled into Provo at about 12:30am.

And I didn't drive over the cursed Beartooth Pass. Maybe I'll try that again someday--when I'm rich.

(P.S. Thanks to everyone who offered to help. And Amy, I'm sorry that I disparaged Billings. Rest assured that my anger was directed at Sussudio, not the city. All that I actually saw of Billings was the hotel, the dealership, and the convenience store where I purchased a Lunchable.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


by Robison Wells

Several months ago I recounted a story of several bad things piling up: a leaky roof, a neice who didn't sleep, a son who peed on me during stake conference. And I said, "After a while, when problems pile up (or puddle up) it stops being aggravating and starts being funny."

Well, I was mistaken.

Several weeks ago we had a bit of a milestone on the old Frog Blog, wherin I used a bad word. Despite what you would expect--that a bad word would be used in a hurried, wild rant--I actually deliberated long and hard before using it. But I decided that it worked, and that it fit the post.

But the problem is that that kind of language would be extremely appropriate today, but now I can't use it lest I be deemed a potty mouth. Dang it.

Here's the story:

I left scenic Minneapolis on Friday afternoon, and I drove to Fargo, ND. The next day I drove from Fargo to Miles City, MT (home of Violet Beauregard). Along the way I stopped in at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and was surprised to discover it holds the record as the World's Most Boring National Park.

Sunday I drove down to Little Bighorn National Monument, which I found fascinatingly ambiguous. I took a great many pictures, and I was already fashioning a blog post in my head as I left the parking lot.

Then, on to Billings Montana for lunch and fuel, and then over the scenic Beartooth Pass into Yellowstone National Park. I've been to Yellowstone a million times--it's one of my favorite places on earth--but I'd never come in the northeast entrance. And the Beartooth Pass was once dubbed The Most Beautiful Road in North America. So, I was excited.

Here's a picture of the pass. The road doesn't go up the canyon floor, as you might expect. It actually goes up the side of the mountain in a series of wicked switchbacks.

Here is Google Earth's map of the switchbacks. In these steep roads, you climb just under 4000 feet. It's beautiful and crazy--one of those roads that makes you think civil engineers secretly want to be in the X-Games.

So I got to the top of the switchbacks, and there's a great little vista where you can pull over and look back at the road and be amazed that you actually survived.

As I pulled into that parkign lot, my car died.

It didn't start again. I know absolutely nothing about cars, so I enlisted the help of a fellow traveler, who happened to be an auto mechanic. He tried to jump start it, but to no avail. I finally called a tow truck. (And I did so on one of those roadside emergency boxes, because no one had cellphone coverage up on Beartooth Pass.)

The tow truck took me and the car back down the insane switchbacks, and on into Billings (all for the low low price of $430!)

It being a Sunday afternoon, I found a hotel across the street from the Kia dealership (did I mention that my car is a Kia? And were you aware that Kia sucks?). The next morning (yesterday) they gave me the diagnosis: timing belt.

For those, like me, who are unaware of the inner workings of vehicles, a timing belt is some thing somewhere inside the engine that makes the car work. When the timing belt breaks, then the engine stops working. (Sorry if that description is too technical for you.) But the fun thing about the timing belt is that it's like a villian in a bad mobster movie: the kind who says "If I'm going down, I'm taking you all with me!" So, the timing belt breaks, and it whips around smashing stuff and bending things and causing mischief.

So. Around 10:00am they told me that it looked like I lucked out and the belt didn't cause much damage. The repair bill would be painful, but not devastating. And then, I didn't see them for seven hours. When the mechanic (named Marv) finally came out of the operating room, he didn't look happy. Three times, he said, they tried to make the timing belt work and three times it didn't solve the problem. So, there must be something else wrong, deeper inside the belly of the beast.

I got a hotel for another night. And here I sit today, continuing to wait, in fricking Billings Montana.

Here's what stinks: this car is not a nice car. It has 110,000 miles on it, and has a lot of wear. Marv said that there's a very real possibility that the repair bill will be more than the car is worth.

Of course, if you were in my shoes, you'd say: "That's okay. I'll just trade it in and buy something else." But that won't work, because I'm a grad student, with no income. And my credit is about what you'd expect for someone with no income, massive student loans, and credit cards bills reflecting the fact that I have NO MONEY.

So, we just might be turning this stupid car in for scrap and then walking for a while.

I tell you: poverty sucks. Almost as much as Kias.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Avalanche of Words

Once up on a time there was an author who was getting ready for the publication of his first fantasy series. Deciding that he wanted to do everything within his power to make his series a success, he decided to do leave the city of Blog and go on a tour. The thing was, he couldn’t really find any solid information on what a blog tour involved. He’d always enjoyed reading other people’s blogs as well as writing his own, so he set out on a quest to discover the prefect blog tour.

Along the way, he learned that not all blogs are equal. Some blogs focus primarily on certain genres of books or certain age groups. Some have a very small audience of only a few readers while others have hundreds of thousands of unique visitors. Many bloggers weren’t sure he was really legit. Some didn’t respond to his e-mails. Some politely declined.

But over time, he met many new friends, found lots of great sites that he regularly visits, and signed up over one-hundred and fifty people to join his tour. Now that he had a great group of bloggers covering the US and Canada, and representing a wide range of readers, he thought about ways to make his tour stand out. A review is great, he thought. And one-hundred and fifty reviews will be even better. But how cool would it be if the readers could get to know me as well?. He knew that he liked learning more about the authors he enjoyed reading. What better way than to do interviews where bloggers could ask him questions?

This seemed like a good plan. And the bloggers appeared to agree. Soon he received his advance reader copies, ARCs, and sent them to the wonderful bloggers. At first there wasn’t much response, as people read his book. But after a week or so, he began to get e-mails. The messages were great. People didn’t hate his book! In fact most of them liked it quite a bit. Along with the reviews came interview questions. He excitedly answered each question, trying to think of answers that were both helpful and at least a little entertaining.

Soon he received more interviews, and more, and more, and more. One thing he had failed to take into consideration was how long it takes to answer 150 interviews. On average, each interview took from thirty to forty minutes to answer. Some were shorter. Some were longer. Questions ranged from what his favorite candy bar was to why there was no technology to speak of on Farworld.

The questions were great! They really gave him a lot to think about. And it was wonderful hearing how the book affected people. But even with an average response time of 30 minutes, doing 150 interviews took over seventy-five hours. At the same time, his publisher was asking for a completed manuscript of book two. And his other publisher was asking for edits on his regional mystery series.

The author tried to keep climbing the growing mountain of interviews while also writing 2-3,000 words per day. But soon he slipped and disappeared under an avalanche of words. Several miles away, the people of the Blog watched and waited. Would he ever be heard from again? Had he smothered under the weight of so many words? Had his brain been twisted by the question of which character was his favorite or how he came up with names?

Then a hand appeared at the top of the mountain of words, and the people gasped. A second hand appeared. And finally a head peeked over the surface of the pile. He WAS alive. He still had a gazillion books to send out. And he was answering questions from three days before. But there was hope that he would return to the land of Blog soon. And once there, he would post many links, tell many tales of his journey, and get all of the winner’s their books. Oh, and he would also get his second book turned in. It being easily twice as exciting as his first book.

Hey, gang. Sorry I disappeared for a while. I’m just about caught up. I’m currently answering Friday’s questions and hope to be through all of today’s questions by the end of the night. So if you haven’t missed my posts, bad luck for you, I’m back. But if you have missed them, thanks! I’ve missed you too. Also, please if you have sent me questions earlier than Friday and have not heard back, absolutely resend them.

Thanks! Scott

Sunday, August 17, 2008

LDS Booksellers Convention

by Sariah S. Wilson

This saga begins at 3:30 in the morning – the time I had to get up to get me and the baby to the airport. Fortunately, people are very kind because the thing I worried most about (how to get suitcases and baby and stroller on/off the shuttle) I was helped with. All things considered, the baby did very well. She was fine on the flights there, although I did have to keep her entertained the entire time.

On the second leg of my trip, I sat on the aisle (and can I just mention that on all of my flights EVERY single seat was filled? What is this madness? I hate full flights!) and directly across from me was a woman who engaged me in a conversation. She was traveling with her three small children, which included a 5-year-old son with Asperger’s (which led to a very important conversation where I feel fully convinced that the Lord intended for us to meet just so that I could help her down the road of getting services for her child on the spectrum), an 8-year-old daughter and a 21-month-old son. Her two boys slept, and we found out we were both from Ohio and both LDS.

Now knowing me as you do, you know making conversation wasn’t easy for me, but Becky (the woman sitting next to me) really made it simple and enjoyable.

Toward the end of the flight, her toddler woke up and accidentally spilled his Cheerios. The 8-year-old got down to help her mom and tried to pick up as much of it as she could. The stewardess walked past and ordered the child back into her seat (we weren’t landing, but the seatbelt light was on). Becky tried to explain that they were cleaning up the mess but the flight attendant was uninterested and again ordered the girl back in her seat.

We landed at SLC, gathered up our things, and went to wait for our strollers. Because we were in the second row, we had a bit of time to wait.

The same flight attendant came out of the plane and approached Becky. She then went on a rant that absolutely stunned me. The attendant began berating Becky for the mess her children made, screaming at her and insulting her in every fashion imaginable. As I stood there stunned, Becky apologized repeatedly, saying she hadn’t realized that it was as bad as the attendant insinuated it was, and offered to go back on the plane to clean up the mess herself. The flight attendant snapped that for security reasons, Becky would not be permitted back on the plane.

So at this point, I’m trying to figure out what it was the attendant wanted. Becky apologized over and over. She offered to clean the mess. I don’t know what more she could have done. But this wasn’t good enough for this woman. When Becky said that she was traveling with three small children and doing her best, the attendant snapped back that she had eight children and that Becky’s children were old enough to know how to behave themselves.

I was shocked and appalled. I have never witnessed such disgusting behavior from anyone on an airline. I don’t mind mentioning it was Frontier Airlines, and that I am in the process of sending them a letter about this. Customer service aside, the things coming out of that attendant’s mouth as she verbally lashed out at Becky, who was dealing with these kids, one of whom had a disability, was enough to make me livid.

So, that sort of set the tone for me that day, unfortunately.

I arrived at the LDSBA Convention not too long after that. After walking the wrong direction at the convention center, I did finally find where I was supposed to go.

I have to say LDS Publisher’s past pictures made the convention look cooler than it was. It was a lot smaller than I imagined, and there were far fewer people there than I thought there would be. I have heard it bandied about that the convention may not continue because of costs and the reduction in bookstores, and it wouldn’t surprise me.

I had enough time to stop by the Covenant booth, meet Traci Hunter Abramson (who was willing, ready and able to watch over me), say hi to everyone there, collect my official Covenant shirt (which was, predictably enough as this is how my life works, too small despite me looking up the shirt sizes on the website), and take off with my editor and the acquisitions editor to go to an Italian restaurant for lunch.

I am a picky eater (this may surprise you, I’m so sure). So as I ruled out basically anything non-American, I felt like I couldn’t say no to the Italian. I mean, when I go to the Olive Garden I can find that chicken and steak grill. No such luck this time.

Which meant I ended up ordering spaghetti as I hadn’t eaten since the day before. Yes, I got flecks of marinara sauce on my new too-small Covenant shirt. Yes, I scarfed that thing down in record time (I was STARVING). But I did manage to make conversation yet again. Woo-hoo!

We returned to the convention, and Traci and I went out to a local Seagull that she had made previous arrangements to stop by. It was so, so nice to meet the manager and have her say that she liked my book. That it actually made her laugh out loud. (Hear that Wells? You’re not the only funny one!) That she thinks every single one of you should rush out and buy it. Okay, the last part was an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

We returned to the Expo Center in time for me to have my official booksigning. The way this works is tickets are passed out for a limited number of books that the publisher gives away to book buyers. This helps to get the buyers to come to the booths, to meet the authors, and for some of them to maybe find a new author they haven’t tried before (like me!). The tickets were passed out half an hour before the signing. (We timed Traci’s tickets, and they were all gone within three minutes.)

I got to meet Nancy (N.C.) Allen (who does not have a website, apparently) who has written a Civil War saga for Covenant, and is about to release a spin-off of that set in India. Our meeting was very brief, but she seemed so nice.

I also got to meet Jeri Gilchrist, who ended up helping with co-babysitting responsibilities with Traci. Jeri and I discovered we both had a deep, and abiding adoration for Kerry Blair (who helped Jeri to become an author in the first place).

Then…it was time for my signing.

Best. Signing. EVER.

Who knew all you had to do was give away free books to get people to come to your signing?

Complete and total blast.

After I was done I walked around the convention floor. With the exception of maybe two booths, there didn’t seem to be much decorating going on as I’ve seen in pictures in the past. But tons of neat artwork and fun stuff to look at.

I also hung around the Covenant booth, although I didn’t quite have anything near Traci’s dynamic personality/energy. I interjected on a couple of sales pitches when they were looking at my books (“I hear that book is AWESOME.”) I think I even helped a couple of times in getting them to order more of my books. (Although for all I know Covenant sales staff is reading this and saying, “If by help you mean screw things up, then yes, you helped.”)

(Three pages in Word already! Are you hanging in there with me? I’m nearly done!)

I also got to meet Julie Wright (who runs her own store. Who knew?), who is absolutely hilarious, and has this sort of cool, bohemian vibe going on for her. I also got to meet James Dashner, AKA the man too big and famous and awesome for all of us plebian writers now, and to let you know the sort of idiotic thing I’m prone to do in public, I met Josi Kilpack. And what do I say when I meet Josi? I’m sure “Nice to meet you,” would have worked. Or, “I’m so thrilled I get the chance to finally meet you,” might have been even better.

Did I say those things? No. What did I say?

“Wow, you look a lot different than I pictured you!”

It’s only after the fact that you realize how offensive you might have sounded (although zero offense was intended and you honestly don’t know why you’ve just said something so stupid), and you try to make it better, but it never actually gets better. “Julie looks the way I pictured her because I’ve seen her picture.” Yep, that’s me fixing it.

Josi was nice enough to ignore my fumbling attempts and to direct me over to the Whitney Awards booth to kind of refocus myself and to hope to make an actual and real conversation with people again.

I got to meet Jewel Adams and Stacy Gooch Anderson and chat with them for a little while. I “know” them from the LDStorymakers loops (where I am more of a lurker than a poster) and got to have another fun experience when I realized that my sister (the one taking care of the baby), who was supposed to contact Stacy (because Stacy had so graciously offered to lend me a portable crib while I was in Utah so that I wouldn’t have to lug one around) and decline the offer because my sister had made other arrangements, never did. Yeah, I felt stupid. But this is obviously not a new thing for me.

The convention ended, and I had dinner with my brother, sisters, their spouses and kids. Famous Dave’s Barbecue. Because obviously that’s the best place to take small children.

The next morning started out with the Covenant breakfast. My eating was so screwed up with the time differential that I wasn’t even hungry. I entered that event, looked at all the people already seated, panicked for a second, and…called Traci on her cell phone. Fortunately she was in line, waved me over, I grabbed a muffin and we found a table with Jeri. We sat with a high level exec from Seagull, a district manager and a store manager. Hopefully some good impressions were made.

Then they had a presentation of an upcoming book (sort of like a Garrison Keillor thing set in Utah by some SLC news anchor), an album of Emma songs (which made me wonder, is this like the anniversary of Emma’s birth or death or something? Because I swear everything in the stores music and book wise were Emma Smith related), and a new DVD/book called Mormon Mythellaneous that is out to debunk Mormon myths.

After that instead of returning to the conference, I made the decision to visit bookstores in the area. I felt like I had done all I could do at the convention and should use this time to visit stores instead. So if anyone is looking for a signed copy of my book, any of the Seagull stores down south (Spanish Fork, American Fork, Orem, Provo, Linden, etc.) should have one because I signed every single one I could find.

Plus, for some reason, my tongue was loosed and I was trying to sell my book to everybody in the store. I think I might have sold more copies going store to store than I did in my last trip doing signings.

And it is such a thrill to walk into a store and see your book facing straight back at you. I know a lot of you Utah authors are probably over that feeling, but I never get to see mine. It made me feel giddy each and every time. The book was everywhere – at the register, on shelves by the register, in new releases and on a display table, so here’s to hoping the third one sells well! (And have I mentioned that Desire of Our Hearts is 50% off? I did? Okay, I’m mentioning it again. You need to buy it. Seriously.)

I made time to stop by and see most of my husband’s family (which wins me the Best Wife Ever Award for that day at least) and then back to the airport and back home. With a late night flight (that of course, had been delayed by two hours) where my daughter refused to fall asleep (which involved her throwing her sippy cup and sippy cup lid at the nice man seated next to me), and said tantrum felt really long but when I got off the plane Sippy Cup Target Man said she was so good, so it probably felt longer than it was.

I was so relieved to be home, but glad to have had the experience of attending the convention and of visiting bookstores. Then you know what happened after that (husband appendicitis), but I’m thinking it might be a while before I get back to Utah again. I can’t believe how exhausting it is to travel like that.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

More to Follow....

Okay, this has been another one of THOSE DAYS and it is now close to 11:00 here and I haven't finished my lesson yet and after I do I need to go watch and see if Michael Phelps won his eighth gold medal (don't ruin it for me!) and then go to bed to get my allotted five hours or so of sleep before Her Highness deems it necessary for me to get her up. I started a post about the convention, but it's long and unwieldy so I'll have to do it probably tomorrow.

Just wanted to let everyone know that I hadn't actually forgotten. :D

Friday, August 15, 2008

School Days -- Guest Blog by Cheri Crane

Earlier today as I was returning home from a jaunt to Utah, I swung by a couple of stores in Logan. Since my husband and I are now considered an empty-nesters (our youngest son is currently serving a mission in Canada) I'm obviously out of the groove for the yearly tradition known as "Back-to-School Shopping." Both of the stores I happened to visit today were filled with harried parents and their offspring. It was rather fascinating to watch.

"Here's a pair of pants on sale," a hopeful mother offered.

Her daughter, who looked to be between the ages of 12-14 replied: "Puh-leeze. The zipper is like gi-nor-mous!"

"What's wrong with the zipper?"

"It's like 5 miles long!"

The mother examined the pants in question, then rolled her eyes. "It isn't either. It's barely 4-5 inches. Now stand still so I can see how they'll fit."

"Mother! They come up to my armpits!" the teenage girl wailed.

"They'll barely cover your rear-end."

"That's what layered shirts are for." With that, the sweet young thing turned and began to send a flurry of text messages, her thumbs moving so fast they were a blur.

"You did not just text your friends about this. And just so you know, you are not buying those low-cut pants your friends all wear!"

Since I was in this particular store to find a pair of shoes for my husband, I moved out of range of the ensuing argument. Hurrying toward the back of the store, I passed a mother and son combo. They were looking at shirts."Here's a nice looking shirt," the mother said, retrieving a striped polo-style shirt from the rack in front of her.

"You're all up in the Kool-aid," was the indifferent reply.

(Incidentally, I looked this phrase up online when I returned home and learned that it means: "You're getting in my business.")

"Well then, what do you want to wear?" the tired mother inquired.

The teen in question sauntered to a rack of t-shirts that looked like something from a frightening Halloween movie. "Aight!" he exclaimed. (I looked this term up, too. It means: "All right, or okay.")

Casting a sympathetic glance toward the appalled parent, I moved on past, finding the shoe aisle. I passed a small girl, possibly about 6-7 who was looking at shoes with her mother. The only requirement this young lady stressed was that the shoes had to be pink. Her mother was trying to convince her that pink wouldn't necessarily match everything in her wardrobe. This discussion didn't seem to be going well as I moved on toward the mens' section.

As I searched for the shoes my husband wanted, I began pondering what the conversations might have been like during shopping adventures when my parents were teenagers:

"Jane, what makes you think you need a poodle-skirt?"

"All of the other girls are wearing them.""What's wrong with this nice black wool skirt?"

"Puleeze! There's not a dog on the front of it and it's black!"


"Son, what is that stuff in your hair?"

"Gel. All the guys are using it."

"If all of the guys were jumping off a cliff, would you do it too?"

I guess my point is, the styles and speech patterns may change, but the arguments stem from the same source. Teenagers are trying to establish who they are. They are striving for independence and anything considered cool by their parents is automatically out of the question. And on the other side of the coin, parents are usually appalled by the current fashion trends. This is a time-honored tradition. I predict that in years to come, today's teens will be having similar conversations with their offspring:

"What are you thinking? That metallic suit is atrocious. The colors don't even match!"

"I like it! It speaks well of my individuality."

"Your what?! Don't you use that kind of language with me young lady!"

"Talk to my robot."

"Come back here! We are not through discussing this! And I refuse to speak to a stupid brain in a can!"

"Warning, Tercel's mother unit, your blood pressure is dangerously high. Refrain from this behavior."

And so on. I suspect conversations like this began with Adam and Eve's posterity:"You are not wearing that leopard skin skirt!"

"Why not? Cain slew the beast. It's not like anyone else is using it. And it looks great with my emu-feather top."

"I've asked you not to wear that thing. It looks disgusting."

"You don't understand me!"

"You did not just slam that wooden door! The house collapsed. Are you happy now?"

Here's what I've noticed: Trends and fashions change. The relationship shared with our children is what matters most. I learned to pick my battles. My kids picked out interesting hair styles and clothing through the years, but I usually let that go, standing firm on items like curfews, etc. I did stress that my sons had to dress modestly---to me, that's important. But if they wore colorful, sometimes outrageous looking garb in the process, I tried to be tolerant. After all, I'm from the era that made bell-bottom jeans popular. I don't have a leg to stand on.

The author of more than a dozen best-selling YA books, Cheri Crane is a novelist, poet, photographer, playwright, wife, mother, YW president, frequent contributor to LDSNeighborhood, faithful commenter on this site, and much-appreciated-saver-of-people-who-find-they-cannot-blog-at-the-last-minute. (That would be me.) Visit her blogsite HERE and her website HERE. THANKS, CHERI!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Having a Baby vs. Writing a Book--Guest Blogger Karlene Browning

Top 10 Reasons Why Having a Baby is Easier than Writing a Book

by Karlene Browning

When writers compare the process of writing a book to having a baby, I just have to roll my eyes and wonder. They must never have had a baby. Or perhaps, like with childbirth, the memory of the whole writing and publishing experience is erased by the joy of seeing that finished product on the bookstore shelves.

I’m here to remind everyone that writing a book is so NOT like having a baby. Having a baby is much, much easier! Right, Julie?

Top 10 Reasons Why Having a Baby is Easier than Writing a Book:

10. A baby changes and grows, and presumably gets better with age. Once your book is published, it is what it is. Plot holes do not gradually heal over with time and lame dialog is never replaced with more appropriate speech. It stays as you created it. For all the world to see. Forever.

9. There’s no such thing as in vitro novelization. Or novel surrogacy. Or even novel adoption. If you can’t create the idea yourself, you don’t get to be a proud author.

8. There is no epidural for the birthing of a book. Sorry. Not even chocolate can dull the pain.

7. It only takes nine months to birth a baby.

6. Nobody yells at you when your baby is overdue—with a baby you get sympathy and backrubs, and if you’re lucky, gifts of chocolate.

5. No one expects you to edit a newborn.

4. You get to name your baby.

3. You rarely have to present your baby in public dressed in something that embarrasses you—unless it’s a gift from your mother-in-law, and then you can change it as soon as she leaves.

2. Nobody tells you your baby is ugly to your face. Nor do they bad mouth it on the Internet.

And the number one reason having a baby is easier than writing a book:

1. No one expects you to have a new baby every. single. year. for the rest of your life.

Karlene Browning lives at Inksplasher. She is the mother of four wonderful children, three cats and a dog. She is also the proud author of Ancient Civilizations, an educational book for middle grades, and is currently gestating an entire litter of novels. As an editor and former publisher, she has midwifed many a new book, hopefully making the process a little easier for those involved.

Visit her at:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Memories of Magic -- Guest Blog by Gale Sears

Stephanie is still on vacation and I'm still jealous, but I'm also impressed. Somehow she convinced the incomparable Gale Sears to fill in for her. Gale is the author of Autumn Sky, Until the Dawn and Upon the Mountains. (Many of you will recall that Upon the Mountains was a Whitney nominee for Best Novel of 2007.) While Gale spins literary fiction without peer, this is her first blog. Ever. In fact, Stephanie had to define the word for her before she'd agree to give it a try.

Memories of Magic
by Gale Sears
Thank you Stephanie for giving me the opportunity to post my first blog!

I grew up in Lake Tahoe, California. I know—lucky girl, and believe me I appreciated every magical minute. I was even luckier because in the summer my mom let me tromp around the neighborhood in bib overalls and scuffed up Buster Brown shoes, exploring to my hearts content, and getting really dirty in the process. There were some days my dog Tuffy and I would come home from a day’s adventuring and my mom would insist on hosing us down on the back patio before we could even step into the mud room. I loved it. I can still remember the sound the water made when it hit my sturdy Levi overalls.

My two older sisters and I would sleep outside all summer long. My parents brought out old metal army camp beds with squeaky springs upon which mattresses, sheets, quilts, and pillows would magically appear the last week in June. The whole shebang was covered with army surplus canvas tarps, and if it rained (which it often did at night in the High Sierras) we didn’t run into the house like little sissy girls, oh no! We’d just pull the tarp over our heads and drift off to sleep with the lullaby patter of rain.

On those nights we weren’t hiding away like moles, we’d gaze up through the branches of the huge Ponderosa Pines at the billions of stars.

Nature wasn’t just around us, it was in us.

As my childhood slid away into adolescence and adulthood, I vowed to hold on to the memories and magic, and more importantly the generosity of spirit that living in such a place offered. It became my touchstone: be grateful.

Gratitude is the scale on which I weigh everything; every pleasant, scary, heartbreaking, funny, difficult, demanding, or remarkable life event. And, as a writer, I find that those Tahoe days of tromping and nights under the High Sierra stars have encouraged the literary choices I make.

Because I have been given much, I too must give.

There must be magic in that mission statement, because even after all these years I can still fit into my bib overalls and Buster Brown shoes.

An additional note from Gale: I’m indeed grateful for two books coming out this Christmas. I have an essay included in a compilation of Christmas stories, By the Light of a Star. (I’m honored to be in there with Kerry Blair.) The second book is Christmas for a Dollar. It is based on a true story of my dad and his siblings in 1931.

On behalf of Stephanie: Thank you, Gale! I noticed that Upon the Mountains is currently 40% off at Seagull Book. You can order it, and the rest of her stunning books, HERE. Stop by Gale's dazzling website and sign her guestbook HERE.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Freaking Out

by Robison Wells

May I remind you of a few things?

First, I'm in grad school. You know this, because I tell you about it every other day. I'm always complaining about finals this and financial aid that, and frankly, you're sick of it. That's fair.

Second, I'm on an internship right now with ConAgra Foods, doing marketing for Orville Redenbacher's popcorn. Specifically, I have spent the last two and a half months looking at kernels--that is, the popcorn which you don't cook in a microwave. Popcorn is my entire life. You like popcorn, don't you? Enought to devote your life to it???

Third, this is how brand management internships work: an intern will spend all summer on a very specific project--something meaty with strategic concerns and large dollar values attached. Then, after eleven weeks of research and testing and thinking, the intern gives a big presentation to company decision makers.

Well, my presentation is today. At 3:00pm, CDT. I will be presenting to local folks, like my boss and coworkers, but I'll also be videoconferenced to Chicago and Omaha, so that the four company presidents can be watching and asking questions. That's right--the four men who report to the CEO of a Fortune 250 company.

Oh, I forgot to remind you of the fourth thing: I once took a personality test which included this gem: "A major source of concern to [this personality type] is the haunting sense of impending failure." This statement has always been me to a T. In fact, my other blog, which describes my day-to-day struggles in the MBA program is entitled "The Haunting Sense of Impending Failure."

But, until the last month, I had no idea what impending failure was all about.
For the first time in my life, I've started getting panic attacks. I can honestly say that until July, I've never had these things--I didn't even really believe in them--but I now understand, and I hope to never have them again. They're not just my usual run-of-the-mill pessimism. This is an overwhelming feeling of wanting to run away (and, lest I be misunderstood, I'm speaking literally, not figuratively).

So, panic attacks, big presentation. Lately I have been working about thirteen hours a day, six days a week. I sit in my little cube, crunching numbers, making graphs, exploring hypotheses and running into dead ends--all in preparation for the big presentation. August 12th, 2008.

You'd think that was enough, right?

But then my wife flew home. My daughter starts school on the 18th, and we worried that we wouldn't be able to drive home quickly enough to get her there for the first day. So, the wife and kids packed up and flew out last week, leaving me a lone man.

And then she got home and discovered that our apartment (where we haven't been since May) had apparently flooded in the relatively recent past. Fortunately, it only festered for a few days before maintenance came in and stripped it bare, pulling all of our furniture out into the street and replacing the carpet and scrubbing the muck and flith off the linoleum. (And then they put all our stuff back inside, but couldn't remember where it went. So, when Erin got home Friday night, after a cross-country flight with two little kids, she was in for a real treat!)

And then, back here in Minnesota, I had to leave my apartment. We'd found a really cheap sub-lease, and it's been great all summer, but it had the catch that the owner was returning a week early and we needed to move out. Now, everything I own is in the back of my crappy Korean car, and I'm living in the local Microtel.

So, my point is: things are deteriorating rapidly around here. I mean, I ate a frickin' salad today--purchased from a diner selling "Butterburgers"--so you know my mind isn't where it ought to be.

I finished my presentation preparations today (I'm writing this Monday night). It was as good as it was going to get, and I left work at the first decent hour in weeks. And, to reward my lonesome self, I went to a movie. I saw The Dark Knight. And, let me tell you, if you're looking for a movie wherein you can relax from a mountain of troubles and turn off your mind, this movie ain't the one for you.

And then, as I was driving home, I was listening to an old NPR interview with Isaac Hayes, and they played his version of "By The Time I Get to Phoenix", (which, for you unclutured youths, is a very sad song about a man who is away from his wife), and I wanted to bawl like a little girl.

And now I'm back here in the motel, watching the Olympics and eating Chips Ahoy and trying to counteract all the good that salad did for me.

By this time tomorrow (Tuesday), I'll be done and happy and I'll probably pass out from eleven weeks of sleep deprivation and caffeine poisoning.

But, for now, I think I'll just sit here and freak out.

P.S.: if you are Josi or Jeff or William or Annette or Heather or LuAnn or Alicia or Derek or any number of other people: yes, I've gotten your emails and I'll be responding soon after this presentation is over. Just give me a minute to hyperventilate first.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Short Post

I am currently staying at an Atlanta hotel that refuses to let me upload more than a couple of sentances before hanging. Therefore, let me say that Booksellers was a ball. I had a great time signing and seeing old friends. I will update more when I can get decent acccess.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Problem With Appendicitis

by Sariah S. Wilson

I'm blogging to say that I won't be blogging about what I intended to blog about today.

I did go to the LDS Booksellers Convention (my initial plan for blogging), and I have lots to discuss (although I had the mysterious missing camera phenomenon again. For some reason, when I pack my camera, I can't ever find it in my suitcase until I get home again. I do not understand why this happens, but alas and alack, I have no pictures to show from the convention).

I thought that top among my list would be that I got home late Thursday night and my husband had to turn around on Friday and go to Utah himself (to help bless his nephew and to participate in some family stuff).

Instead, my husband spent yesterday and today in the hospital.

He awoke early Friday morning with stomach pains. This isn't too unusual - it has happened to him in the past and doctors have never detected anything out of the ordinary.

But somehow, he knew this time was different. I was a little surprised to see him dressed (he likes to "go to work" (he works at home) in his pajamas), and he told me he was headed to the hospital. We both hoped it would be nothing serious. We considered whether he should go to our family physician first, but based on my experiences with the gall bladder mess, he decided to just head straight to the hospital (with hopes that if nothing was wrong he could still make his afternoon flight).

He called me throughout the day to give me updates on what was happening to him. Finally at about 1:00 he called to say that after a CAT scan they had diagnosed him with appendicitis. He was scheduled for immediate emergency surgery.

My mom came home from work to watch the children for me and I spent hours in the surgery waiting room hoping to hear something. At 7:00 the doctor met with me briefly to tell me that the surgery had gone very well, and my husband was fine and headed to recovery. The doctor gave me pictures of the appendectomy. (I'm trying to figure out what the pictures are for. It's not like it was an ultrasound of a baby or something. It was color pics of gross body parts. I could have lived without seeing my husband's inflamed appendix and his lower intestines.)

I waited for his recovery to end so that I could accompany him to his room. The nurses and volunteers on staff in the waiting room left, saying the phone would ring eventually for me.

It never did.

So finally, after two hours of waiting, I called the nurses in PACU. They came to get me to bring me to my husband.

Up to this point, I hadn't really stressed too much. I felt like my husband would be fine. I knew despite this awful thing happening, that the Lord was watching out for him and everything would be okay.

But when I saw him lying in that bed, so weakened he could barely move, his lips white and face pale, I just lost it. I started to cry. Suddenly it was real. Suddenly the full implication of what had happened, what could have happened, overwhelmed me. I just wanted to hold his hand, to kiss him, to stroke his hair and reassure myself that he was there and he would be all right.

We were eventually given a room (in the hospital's new tower which has the nicest hospital rooms I've ever seen. It was seriously like being in a hotel or something). My dad and my brother came to give him a blessing. I stayed with him until he was ready to sleep, and then got up this morning to go back and sit by his bedside until he was discharged.

It was a scary experience. So sudden, random and totally unexpected.

Everything is fine now. He's feeling much better and at the moment is on the couch watching Star Trek: Next Generation episodes from the DVR.

And on the plus side, now we have matching laproscopic scars.