Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Place Your Bets...(Or Guesses) for a Free DVD

by Sariah S. Wilson

Three more days!!! WOO-HOO!!!

Right now we know neither the gender nor (of course) the weight of our baby.

It seemed pretty easy in the past to guess that any new baby in our family would be 12 pounds plus, but the last one threw that pattern off.

So here we have:

Baby #1 - Boy, 12 lbs. 12 oz.

Baby #2 - Boy, 12 lbs. 3 oz.

Baby #3 - Girl, 7 lbs. 14 oz.

Now you get to guess what Baby #4 will be. In the comments, list what gender you think the baby is, and list your guess for birth weight. I will say that I am about ten pounds heavier at this point in my pregnancy than I was with my daughter. I've also posted that glorious no make-up/lounge-around-the-house-clothes picture taken of me today up top. I am six feet tall and typically overweight, so that might skew how much I am/am not showing.

For the person with the right gender guess and the closest weight guess, I will send you out a brand new copy of "Church History" from the Church's "Home and Family Collection." It will take me at least four weeks from now to get the item out to you, so you will enter with the understanding that I'll need to recover before I head to the post office. (And even if you have one already, if you win, you could always donate it to your ward library or give it as a gift!)

You have until Monday, March 2, 2009 at midnight to enter. Happy Guessing!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Writerly Advice -- Guest Blog by Nancy Campbell Allen

by Nancy Campbell Allen

Long, long ago, in a mindset far, far away, in the days before I was published, I used to lap up positive writing quotations and stick them on the wall by my computer. Once I'm published, I used to think, I'll be over this insecurity.

Well, guess what. That mindset isn't really far, far away. I still grab onto positive thoughts regarding writing and publication because it's never a sure thing, especially in the market right now. What is a great career now can change on a dime if you're not careful.

One of the best quotes I came across was from Anne Rice. I think I found it in either a Writer's Digest or maybe online somewhere. I didn't write the source down and I wish I had. At any rate, this is it:"...[People who write have to] a)believe in themselves totally, b)work like demons and c)ignore the rejections. When you mail out a transcript, you are not turning in a paper for a grade. You can mail out a perfectly wonderful and publishable novel and then have it rejected 10 times. And the reason it's rejected is because you hit 10 different people who, for various reasons, don't want to work with this idea. You have to keep going. You have to never interpret rejection as a failing grade. They are not failing grades. they mean almost nothing...I kept writing and kept mailing out. My attitude was, 'I'm going to become a writer.' I was a writer."

And that's Anne Rice! Like her or not, you must admit the woman tells an amazing story and has done really, really well with it. The fact that, for me, this advice came from such a credible source was a real kick of inspiration.I'm not sure how many writers read this blog, but if you're out there and wondering if your work will ever see the light of day, take heart! It's possible, it's doable, you just cannot, cannot quit. You hone the art, you perfect it, you polish and scrub it, you get objective, kind feedback, you work and work and work. I love that billboard that has a pic of Edison on it. The quote is, "After the 10,000th try, there was light."

Good thing he kept at it, or we'd all still smell like kerosene.

Nancy is the author of the bestselling Faith of Our Fathers series and the new Whitney-nominated novel Isabelle Webb: Legend of the Jewel. You can read her blog HERE. "Writerly Advice" was first posted on the VFormation Blog and has been used with permission.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Ballad of a Manuscript

by Julie Coulter Bellon

(sung to the Gilligan's Island theme song)

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started sometime way last March
By giving my manuscript

My girl was a secret agent gal,
The hero brave and sure.
Five readers reassured me
that the story wasn’t poor, the story wasn’t poor.

The evaluations were getting rough,
The manuscript was tossed,
If I didn’t do all the rewrites
Acceptance would be lost, acceptance would be lost.

I kept on with rewriting, I needed a desert isle
With chocolate
and my husband too,
Instead I got
seven kids,
No time to spare
A manuscript to rewrite
it was taking me a while

So this is the tale of the manuscript,
I rewrote it for a long, long time,
I tried to make the best of things,
It was an uphill climb.

I changed the story all around
I did my very best,
To make the publisher more comfortable,
So their answer would be yes.

Yesterday I got an email,
Patience was all it took,
My story is accepted,
Next spring it will be a book.

So join us here each week my friends,
You can hear all about progress,
My rewrites finally hit the mark,
A miracle no less

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It's Random Day

by Stephanie Black

I know. I'm late posting. And unlike Rob, I don't have the excuse of finals, or of anything else. I did have time to write a blog. I started blogging this morning. Worked for a bit on an idea. Set it aside. Came back to it this afternoon. Poked around at it some more. Ended up with a couple of paragraphs that counted as maybe half a blog, but I wasn't excited about where I'd thought about taking the topic from there. Urgh. Gave up. Went and played Wii Fit, because at least exercise felt productive, as opposed to wallowing in blog block.

So forget a coherent blog. I'll just be random.

*I'm having fun reading Whitney finalists. When I did my initial count, I had something like 23 1/2 books to read by the beginning of April. I've now read six off my list and am more than halfway through another. I'm currently reading Above and Beyond, by Betsy Brannon Green, along with Farword: Water Keep, by J. Scott Savage, which I am reading to my son. Next on the list: The Host, by Stephenie Meyer. It's fun to have a bunch of books to read--fun because I haven't yet hit the panic stage of "I'm out of time! Help!" (My panic is scheduled for the end of March.)

*After a YW activity one of our leaders was showing some of her high school pictures to the girls. Naturally the pictures are a hoot now. I tried to tell the girls that twenty years from now, their high school pictures will look just as dated, but I doubt they believed me. How can their pictures possibly look silly? Sure, the older generation dressed weird—honestly, whoever heard of tucking in your shirt?—and look at that big hair—ha ha ha!—but no way will their pictures ever evoke giggles. But fact is, they will. Their styles will look just as dated to their kids as my mother’s beehive-hairdoed classmate photos looked to me and my era's big curls and bangs-to-heaven styles look to my kids. I’m guilty of a certain amount of denial myself—I used to think that 80s clothes had a classic look (stop laughing), but little by little, changes in styles turn yesterday’s must-wear outfit into a museum piece.

*Speaking of the ‘80s, good gravy, what’s up with the profanity in ‘80s movies? You think it will be fun to watch Back to the Future with your kids and find out, wowie, they sure cussed a lot in movies back then. Maybe it’s because anything objectionable seems a lot more so when my kids are listening to it with me, or maybe it’s because I’m not used to hearing profanity anymore, but . . . wince.

*I like suburbs because there are places to park. Cities just seem so danged inconvenient. Interesting, but inconvenient.

*My youngest daughter just brought me a dandelion and instructed me to put it in water.

*I have a hard time comprehending the following:

--People who get a thrill out of extreme sports activities that could, at any moment, result in broken bones. I can't relate to the thrill-seeking gene at all. I'm too fond of keeping my body in one piece.
--People who don't like chocolate.
--People who, when feeling horribly sick, get up and clean their houses (love ya, Sariah and Kerry). My sister-in-law is like this (love you too, Sue). Sue could have a fever of 107 along with pneumonia, the stomach flu, and broken ankles, but she'd still get her floor mopped. I could be perfectly healthy and my floor still wouldn't get mopped because I'd be too busy checking to see if there was any interesting e-mail or if the Writers in Heels have updated their blogs.

*My oldest daughter is heading for BYU next year. It'll be a whole new adventure for us to have a college student.

*I need to go put that dandelion in water. See you next week, when I hope to actually write a coherent blog.

Writing Excuses

by Rob Wells

Hey guys,

It's midterms here at the old grad school, which means that my blog this week consists of a big fat nothin'. Enjoy.

However, if you're clamoring for some Rob goodness, and would prefer to listen to that goodness rather than read it, let me direct you to the Writing Excuses podcast. As I've mentioned before, the podcast is run by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. This week they brought me on as a guest to discuss marketing. I'll also be on the show for the next two weeks, so you can look forward to that.

This show reminds me of how much I dislike discussions of marketing for authors, because when most authors refer to marketing, they're actually referring to promotion and advertising; they neglect all of the far more important stuff that has to come first.

Anyway, take a listen. The podcast is here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Read Before you Read

If you've been wondering where that Savage character has been lately, you are not alone. My critique group recently sent out search and rescue hounds. I really am alive, just living a slightly crazy life at the moment. A typical week includes 16-20 school visits, and three book signings. I have been hand signing anywhere between 400-700 books per week, which tends to leave you a little punch drunk by the end of the day. I am loving visiting with the kids, and their e-mails are the best, so I am not complaining, I just occassionaly wonder what day it is and where I am!

Fortunately, I am not the only busy one in my family. My older sister, Deanne Blackhurst, recently started a great on-line service. I will let her tell you more about it. (PS Part two of Publishing 101 will be up next week!)

Read Before you Read
by Deanne Blackhurst

I was nine years old the day I discovered the worn, faded green book in the elementary school library. It was thick full of dog eared pages with no illustrations. Not even the pencil drawing that authors sometimes add to break up the monotony of the printed word. To this day I don’t know why I checked it out. The vocabulary was challenging, especially the cockney English dialogue. But it turned out to be the most magical book I’d ever read.

It was called, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The point of my reverie into the past is to point out the foolishness of judging a book by its cover. Yet, every time we walk into an LDS bookstore, that’s exactly what we are expected to do. How many times have you bought a book with a great cover design, only to be bored before reaching the end of the first chapter?

Or have you ever passed up a book that didn’t look like it would appeal to you, only to learn later it was the hottest story since Gone with the Wind?

I know within the first ten or twenty pages whether a book is something I’m going to want to read, or something I’d prefer to pass on. The problem is I usually have to buy the book before I can read those pages and I’m just not willing to take the chance of wasting my money. It was this thought that inspired my new website, is a site dedicated to promoting and selling work by LDS authors. It’s a place you can drop in day or night and browse hundreds of titles by both the well known LDS writers, and those that are new or lesser know. Many of those books include excerpts of the first few pages right on line.

Perhaps the most exciting feature is the Daily Chapter. Visitors to the site can sign up to receive free emails that contain the first twenty pages of a book or novel. A different book is spotlighted each week and divided into five daily emails. This gives you a chance to see if you like the book without investing any cash.

Daily Chapter books include some of today’s top writers like H.B. Moore, J. Scott Savage and Jennie Hansen, as well as many other talented and award winning authors.

Some of the best writing ever seen both in and out of the LDS market is being produced by LDS authors today. And yet if you’re like me, you’ve don’t have a clue what a rich and diversified body of work is out there. LDS writers are producing national selling fantasy, spine tingling adventure, suspense laden mysteries as well as some of the most delightful romance and historical fiction on the market today.

Find out what you’re missing. Go to LDSBookcorner and sign up for the Daily Chapter today. All email addresses are kept strictly confidential and you can unsubscribe by the click of a link any time you choose.

If you have any questions, comments or authors that I can add to the site, feel free to drop me a line at

Happy Reading

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bed Rest is Boring

by Sariah S. Wilson

Only ten days to go. Ten more days, and this pain stops. (To be replaced by new pain, but we will worry about that a week and a half from now. At least the new pain will be bringing fun drugs with it.)

The end of this pregnancy has been unlike any of my others (isn't that always the way of things?). Since I apparently didn't have to pay in the beginning with buckets of vomit, I must now make up for it by being in a constant amount of pain all the time. Loads of fun, that.

It started a couple of weeks ago. I have the typical about-to-have-a-baby discomfort that most women have: going to the bathroom more frequently, not sleeping well, hips and knees hurt when I'm in bed, lower back aches, etc.

But the new baby decided to mix it up a bit. In addition to the above, I have this unending pain in what feels like my bones. It isn't the muscles; the pain goes deeper than that. I told my doctor about it and he conjectured that either the baby is sitting on a nerve (yay!) or that the baby is positioned just so to be putting an intense amount of pressure on my pelvic bones (double yay!). I can barely walk. I move like Quasimodo through knee-deep mud.

And of course, the doctor informed me that there's nothing to be done about it except staying off my feet and being in bed as much as possible. I laughed. I reminded him about my almost-two-year-old, who the doctor knows about considering that he's the one who delivered her. And the older kids want to eat and stuff.

Probably one of the hardest things for me is here at the end is when I get ready. I get out those baby clothes and get my home prepared. I will be in the hospital for four days, and this time my mother will be staying here at the house to take care of my kids for me so that my husband will be able to stay at the hospital to help me there.

So I want the house to be nice for my mom's sake, and I want it to be nice for when I come home to it.

My mother keeps telling me to stop working. She says she'll need something to do when she's here and she's more than happy to clean up.

My husband says for once he will stop caring about the house because he just wants me to rest.

Why do I feel so compelled to clean? It's not like my mom didn't live with me for 17 years. She knows I'm a slob and an inept/lazy housekeeper. I won't be embarrassed. Maybe there's guilt that she would clean it while I'm gone, and since she is doing me such an enormous favor that the least I could do is have the house nice for her.

I don't know why I'm pushing myself so hard and doing stupid things like reorganizing the linen closet and the bookshelves or the garage freezer. Maybe it's a nesting instinct. I don't know why I can't just back away, keep my feet up and eat bon bons all day. I can do about one thing on the house a day, and it completely wipes me out. But I am feeling good about accomplishing something.

I also think church is going to be out of the question for now. I just can't get comfortable in the pews no matter what I do, so I sit there in horrible pain the entire Sacrament. Then the baby refuses to go to nursery alone, and as I'm the only one without a calling during those time periods (and I had to ask to be released because I feel like she needs to be in nursery and learning that this is where she goes each Sunday) I have to go with her. My seating choices there are the floor or little tiny nursery chairs, neither one of which does me any favors. Last week I was nearly crying when some of the nursery teachers had to help me get off the floor.

And our couches in the foyer aren't comfortable and I can't exactly bring pillows and lay down out there.

So I think I might be skipping the next couple of Sundays. That's hard for me to do - my father is one of those people that you go to church no matter what. He could be without limbs and bleeding like that "only a flesh wound" knight from Monty Python and would probably still go to church. So you have a lifetime of upbringing to contend with, and the fact that my dad is in bishopric in my ward and while he's being loving and supportive, I feel like I know what he's secretly thinking. (This is magnified by the fact that with my last pregnancy I was told to stay off my feet toward the end because of dangerous swelling that I had in my left foot, but I was the ward librarian. I thought I should probably be released seeing as how I wasn't supposed to be walking/standing around, but my dad's solution was for me to get a chair. How am I supposed to function as a librarian if I'm sitting in the chair? He never could give me a good answer to that one.)

Then you watch a movie like "The Two Towers" and Aragorn falls off a huge cliff, gets beat up and cut and bleeding and still manages to get on his horse, go to Helms Deep and annihilate the bad guys nearly single-handedly. It makes me feel like a total wuss.

So my question is, if you've been on bed rest, how do you deal with the rest of your life? I don't have help other than my husband in the evenings, and he doesn't get home until nearly 7:00. So dinner and any cleaning pretty much has to be done by me. (Plus, if I'm going to call the Relief Society, I want it to be after I've had the major abdominal surgery. I'm sure things will be worse then and I'll need them more.) I want to just let things go, but I feel like I can't. Help - I need some words of wisdom!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Message in a Bottle

by Kerry Blair

I told you some time ago how (and why) my grandmother kept her worries in a box. Since that has worked so well for me, I’ve now started to bottle prayer.

Yes, really. While I am still in the early stages of market research, all signs point toward it being quite effective.

You see, I’ve long relied on Elder Maxwell’s declaration that prayer is the most efficacious thing one mortal being can do for another. With so many people I know going through so much in these latter days, bottles of jam still have their place in compassionate service—and I distribute them widely—but bottles of prayer spread even farther.

My favorite recipe is one I happened upon years ago when I was a young RS president. There was a woman in our ward who could have campaigned against Job for “Most Persecuted Person in the History of the Planet”—and won. Every time I answered the phone it was her or the bishop or her Visiting Teachers, calling to report yet another calamity. The Elder’s Quorum president suggested we hire one of those fire-fighting planes to drop consecrated oil over her house, but since the Priesthood failed to follow through on that one, crisis management was mostly left to me.

They were some of the scariest days of my life. Every time I approached her door I feared I would be overcome and consumed by her dozens of cats. It never happened (obviously) but I was consumed by the felines’ fleas—until I got smart enough to wear jeans and tuck the hems into the tops of my boots. I helped her clean, I really did, despite the very real concern that her derelict roof would collapse, trapping me alive with all those felines and fleas.

(And, yes, it has occurred to me that I may be turning into a little old cat lady myself, but how rude of you to think it while I’m trying to tell you a story.)

One Sunday afternoon, I sat with this poor sister in the hall outside the bishop’s office while she waited for her tri-weekly appointment. (He was too smart to go to her house.) She was going on and on about how diligent she had been in following his counsel to say her prayers morning and night—and every minute in between.

Amazed at the still-sorry state of her life I blurted out, “What in the heck are you praying for?”

She smiled with the self-righteous assurance of a St. Benedict and replied, “All I ever ask is for patience and the strength to endure.”

It was like a lightning bolt of divine revelation struck me right there on that cheap plastic chair. “So that’s your problem,” I said. “My gosh! If you’re going to pray for patience and endurance, what do you expect the Lord to send you? Could you try praying for peace and joy for awhile and give us all a break?”

I was not the most compassionate RS president to ever serve in that ward. Not even close.

It was then that the bishop opened his door. “Never mind the appointment,” I said, standing. “I’ve solved Sister Job’s root problem. She just needs to stop praying . . . and buy flea powder.”

I didn’t say that last line, but I thought it very loudly, so it will still count against me on Judgment Day.

I tell you this flippantly, but I believe it is true at a very basic level. I know with all my heart that the Lord hears and answers prayers. Moreover, He often gives us what we pray for, if only to teach us to be more aware of what we truly want—and need—in life. This sounds irreverent, but it’s not too much unlike that old monkey paw morality fable where a man wishes for what he thinks he really wants/needs and then discovers to his horror that he should have thought his heart’s desires out much more carefully. I once received a blessing in which I was instructed to ask the Lord for things only under the direction of the Spirit. When I do, life is good. Or, when it isn’t good, I am at least good with it. It’s when I believe that I can run the universe at large better than You-Know-Who that I get into trouble. Deep trouble. (Do not try this at home, in other words.)

So, while I can’t know or maybe even guess at the desires of others’ hearts, let alone perceive the needs of which only the Lord is aware, I can (and do) put my prayer for them in a little bottle. It is my way of offering the Bread of Life along with the much more meager gift of bread and jam. The prayer I include is always the same. I ask in their behalf for what the angels promised us all at the birth of our Savior: comfort and joy.

And it works. When we ask for joy and seek after the gift of the Comforter, it doesn’t matter how many jams* we get ourselves into or how many worries we have in our boxes—we’ll be fine.

*Sorry. I tried so, so hard to write just one blog without a bad pun in it, but I just couldn't.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

If I Could Save Time in a Bottle---Finding Time to Write

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Last night I went to my daughter’s parent/teacher conferences and one teacher asked me as I sat down, “Are you the Julie Bellon who writes books?” I told her I was and she told me she’d read All’s Fair and really enjoyed it. Then she said she’d had my older son in her class last year and we talked about my children for a bit and she sort of shook her head and said, “How do you find time to write when you have seven kids?”

I get that question a lot. The students that I teach at BYU have asked many times how I teach, have seven children, and write books. The ladies and girls I work with at Special Needs Mutual ask how I can be a Young Women advisor to these special people, have seven kids, and write books. The girls I coach in basketball don’t seem to wonder, though. Or if they do they keep it to themselves. Maybe they wonder, but they're so focused on the game and our big tournament coming up that they don't say anything. That's probably it. The point I’m trying to make, however, is that I am a very busy person, as are most people. So with everything on my plate, how do I find time to write?

First of all I should probably tell you why I write. Writing helps me make sense of my world. I have written in my journal since I was twelve years old and writing let me vent my fears, frustrations, secret crushes, and everything else in my life. My inner stories as a girl shaped who and what I wanted to be and writing those things down made me reach for my dreams. Looking back, I realize now that writing is my way of expressing who I am. Writing is my way to overcome a weary heart, an overwhelmed soul, or to express my happiness so I don’t burst. Writing is my therapist, my sculpture, my dessert, my stress reliever, my loyal friend, my enemy, my joy, my aching, my peace, and almost always my spiritual recharge. There is just something about creating a painting of words on a page—whether it’s something beautiful, something sad, or something so unique and private I don’t know that it can ever be shared. I love that feeling of molding, of creation, whether I’m writing a novel, writing in my journal, writing my missionary son, or just free-writing some thoughts I had. Writing gives me the time and space to get into my own head for just a few minutes, to be by myself, and collect my thoughts.

Since writing is so important to me, and is something that I need to have in my life no matter how busy I am, here are some ideas on how I find time to write.

Learn to write when you have minutes instead of hours. That is probably the most valuable thing I’ve learned as a mother, teacher, and writer. I can pick up a lot of minutes if I’m looking for them. And I know that I can write anytime and anywhere because I carry a notebook and I use it. I write in my notebook when I’m waiting for carpool, or waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or waiting on hold on the phone or something, and then I jot a few ideas down, or plot out a scene, or mold a character. If the baby unexpectedly goes down for a nap, I have a few ideas or scenes in my head I could go write in my notebook or go to the computer and get written down. If the dog needs a walk, I take her and think about my next scene, or how I’m going to flesh out that character. Then it’s all ready for my notebook or my computer files.

Know your schedule and plan ahead. With a large family, there has to be some planning involved or it would be chaos. I make menus so I know each morning what is going to be for dinner that evening. If I do a crockpot dinner and prepare that in the morning, then later that afternoon I’m going to have a half an hour free that would have been dinner prep, which is now writing time. Or, I know that my baby generally takes a nap in the morning so instead of watching her sweet angelic little face in repose, I already have some ideas or scenes ready that I’ve been thinking through in my head and waiting for a time on the computer when I could type them up. I have to be flexible, but prepared just in case I get a bit of time in which to write.

I try not to let myself get distracted. My time at the computer is limited and valuable. I could spend it checking email, checking Facebook, or surfing the net, but I want to spend it writing so I have to discipline myself. I also may not answer my phone during my precious computer time. I always call back, though, if I miss calls.

I don’t watch a lot of television. I have one or two shows that are appointment television for me (24 is great this year! Go Jack and Renee!) but other than that, I don’t spend a lot of time in front of the television. Where possible, I use that time for writing.

I try to keep myself in writing condition. There’s no point in finding time to write if you don’t have anything to write. I try to write something every day whether it’s novel writing, journal writing, letter writing, grocery list writing, or whatever, just so I get some practice and keep the old wheels in the idea department of my brain lubricated and working. It’s like conditioning when you’re preparing for a marathon. You do incremental exercises to keep yourself ready while you’re gearing up for the big race.

Be creative. I offer incentives to my older children if they’ll babysit the younger ones for a period of time. Depending on the incentive I can get a nice block of writing time that way.

Bounce story ideas off of your children. You’d be amazed at how much easier they make finding time for you to write if you involve them in the process.

Sit at the table with your children while they are doing homework. You can be doing your own writing while they’re working, yet you can also be a help and a resource if they need it.

If you linger under the covers in the morning, get up and write something. If you’re like me, sleep and lingering is quite valuable, so consider this aspect before you decide if it's worth it to get up or not.

Have your notebook ready while you’re cooking dinner. You’d be amazed at how much time there is to jot stuff down.

Don’t be afraid to ask your spouse/children for “me” time where you can write your latest and greatest. It’s cheaper than therapy later on and it lets your children know that grown-ups can have dreams and hopes, too.

Or, if that doesn’t work:

If you’re a nursing mother, learn to type one-handed and write while you nurse.

Tell your children you’re going to play a fun game where they’re duct taped to chairs for thirty minutes while you write a story about it and you need a visual to make the story realistic.

Duct tape yourself to your computer chair and tell your kids you have to work now, since you can’t get up.

Get your kids addicted to Barney. This will guarantee you a half hour of uninterrupted writing. And don’t let them tell you it’s a baby show. Give the old “it’s good for you” lecture.

Stop cleaning the house and doing laundry. That would give any writing mom plenty of writing time. Invest in dimmer light bulbs and it might take longer for the family to notice.

Tell your kids you’re doing a practice earthquake drill and not to come out from under their beds until you say so.

Hide in your bathroom and write until you see fingers under the door asking if you’re in there.

Really, the time you have for writing is the time you make for writing. If you love it, then you will make time for it, no matter how busy you are. Family will always come first, but there is time for your writing as well, and with practice you can find that balance in your life.

What are some of your suggestions and ideas for finding time to write?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mii Too

by Stephanie Black

We got a Wii for Christmas in 2007, and I’ve played it a grand total of twice. Sure, it looks cool, but if I have free time, there are other things I’d rather be doing, so I leave it to the kids and my husband. But lately on my family e-mail list, there’s been a lot of talk about the Wii Fit, how fun it is, how it makes you feel the burn, and that kind of thing. In light of my ongoing quest to get in shape while enduring the least possible suffering, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and get Wii Fit. I figure anything fun that helps me get moving and burn calories is a good thing. My eight-year-old was thrilled. Mom ordered a Wii Fit! Will wonders never cease?

So yesterday, UPS delivered our Wii Fit (I love and the adventure began. My eight-year-old—oh the agony!—didn’t have time to try it out after school because he had Cub Scouts and piano lessons. I promised I wouldn’t try it until he could show me how (remember, I’m a Wii novice. I don’t even know which buttons to push). So my twelve-year-old son inaugurated it, and it wasn’t until after dinner that I finally stepped onto the Wii Board that I hope will change, if not my life, at least my pant size.

First it has you enter your height and age, and it calculates freaky numbers like weight and BMI. I don’t know where it came up with the number it gave me for my weight, but either gravity is lighter in the family room than it is around my bathroom scale, or the Wii is angling to become my friend via rank dishonesty. If it tells me I have great teeth, impeccable fashion sense, and a dazzling personality, I’ll accept that too. But I think it was starting to figure out that it had messed up—after I’d been off the board and got back on it, it told me my weight was higher. Ya think? Must have been that drink of water, or maybe that umpteen pounds you failed to notice the first time around.

But it wasn’t all pleasant little lies from my new Fitness Friend. I won’t tell you what my Wii Fit age is, lest Rob make fun of me, but it was a good bit older than I really am. This is annoying, considering that I’ve been dedicated about exercising for many weeks now. I’d like the Wii to say, “Hey, woman, you’ve been exercising, haven’t you? Good job! Have another donut! You’ve earned it.”

It also turns out that I am unbalanced. This will not come as a surprise to anyone who’s read my books, but sheesh, did the Wii have to rub it in? And pegging me in the forehead with cleats when I was supposed to be hitting soccer balls was just uncalled for.

At least I’ll get my money’s worth from the games, since I’ve got lots of room to improve. But I beat my husband on the hula hoops . . .

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

There's No Business Like Show Business

by Robison Wells

Normally I would feel bad about doing this kind of media recap blog, because that's traditionally the type of thing I do when I'm looking for the easy way out. (Which is why I've done it four other times: here, here, here, and here.) However, Jeff didn't post a blog yesterday which means that even if I post a crappy, cop-out blog, I'm still better than him.

The media which I have consumed as of late:

I've actually read a lot of books lately--buckets and buckets of books--but they were all read for the Whitney Awards and therefore I am unable to discuss them. Suffice it to say that there were a lot of good books in those buckets.

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
I mentioned this book last week, so I won't talk about it too much today. Overall, I really liked it. I thought the idea, while not exactly original, was executed well and felt fresh. The world was interesting and well-developed. On the other hand, the ending was lame. And I'm not meaning that I don't like cliffhangers--it was just a crummy ending. Also, the technology was at times stretching the limits of my suspended disbelief. But, again, I liked it.

I Am Not a Serial Killer, by Dan Wells
This is my brother's debut novel, which will be released in the UK in a few weeks, and then in the US later this year.

At last year's Whitney Awards Gala, Shannon Hale asked the audience if anyone else in attendance had been reported to their bishops for something that they'd written. I can unequivocally say that Dan is going to get a bit of that with this book.

The premise is this: John Cleaver, a teenager and sociopath, is obsessed with serial killers. More than that, however, he also shows all the early warning signs of being a future serial killer himself. He wants to be a good person, but he has to fight against his inner urges and suppress the murderous monster within. Then, people in town start getting murdered, and John is the only person who recognizes the killer for what it is--or isn't.

Yes, the book is horror, which isn't discussed very much on this blog. But it's absolutely marvelous.

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann
I first got interested in Native American culture when I served my mission on the Navajo reservation, but my real fascination came later when, at college as an anthropology major, I learned that everything I'd been taught about the Navajos--while living on the reservation!--was a phony, sanitized (and even deceptive) version of history, and that the truth explained many of the questions that I'd had while working with them.

1491 had a similar effect on me. As the title suggests, the book sets out to explain what the Americas were like before the Europeans arrived. And, not surprisingly, it shows that much of what we learned in elementary school was a boatload of crap.

Of course, by now, this kind of book is not uncommon. Lies My Teacher Taught Me and similar books have made a small industry of knocking down old false notions about history, but that doesn't make 1491 any less fascinating.


Yeah, I know I'm late to the game on this one. Sorry.

Erin and I went and saw this on Valentine's Day, which would have been romantic except it was at the dollar theater (so the place smelled bad), and I had the stomach flu (so I wanted to leave), and the old guy behind me kept repeating lines. It's not like he was quoting favorite lines--he was just repeating them after the characters, as though they were the work of a genius and he was savoring their awesomeness. He also kept making excited grunting noises whenever interesting things happened, as though he was thinking "Edward's a vampire!? Aha! I never saw that coming!"

I actually enjoyed the movie, though. There were problems, of course, but all the problems with the movie were the same problems I had with the books. (Well, except that the special effects were unforgivably terrible.)

My thoughts are these:
  • In neither the movie nor the book are we presented with any reason to like Edward other than "he's hot". He's not charming or funny or enjoyable to talk to or anything. He's just... a handsome vampire who says cheesy things.

  • Likewise, Edward never gives any reason for liking Bella other than "She smells really good." Granted, almost any relationship will begin with some degree of physical attraction, but there is also some point at which other qualities take over and you say "I fell in love with her because she smells like freesia, but now I love her because she's nice to old people and is a good sport when losing at foosball." But I never get a sense of that in Twilight. It's always obsession and smelling.

  • I think it's funny that Alice's ability to see the future is never helpful at all.

  • I also think it's funny that Bella tells Jacob she wishes that he was at her high school so that she would have at least one friend, but then, when she gets to high school she has a dozen friends before she even gets out of the parking lot. And then she proceeds to treat them all like crap.

  • When Edward shows her how his skin sparkles like diamonds, why does he unbutton his shirt? When I show someone I have freckles, I don't feel the need to say "Yeah, you can already see the freckles on my face, but just wait till you see my chest!"

Yes, I know that my movie watching is grossly behind the times, but that's what happens when you wait for everything to come to video.

This movie was significantly better than I expected, in nearly every way. I was expecting a simple comedy about a smart-aleck, drunken superhero, but the movie was way more than that. I'm not sure why this movie got mediocre reviews--I thought it was great.

(I know that's very vague, but I'm running out of time to write.)


After a great first season, Heroes' quality has been steadily declining, but this newest season looks like a slight improvement. There are still problems, but at least the writers look like they're trying.

Here are my two biggest problems with Heroes:
  • No character ever has a consistent motivation. They've had so many plot twists now that every character has been both good and bad, but they never been able to do it in such a way that the switch was believable. They switch because of the plot, not the character.

  • People die for no reason. I have no problem with killing main characters--in fact, I think it's often essential to a good action story. However, Heroes never seems to do it for any good reason--it often doesn't further the plot or the characterization or the theme or anything. They just die, and no one ever thinks about that person again. It annoys me.

Dr. Who
Speaking of being late to the party, I've started watching all the new Doctor Who seasons. (This has been aided by my baby, who keeps me up all night.) I like how these new seasons are consistently snappy and fun; even if the stories don't really hold up under critical scrutiny, the characters and ideas are fun and interesting.

Austin City Limits
Speaking of being WAY late to the party, I have developed a strong love of Austin City Limits. (Before you all think ill of me, it's not actually crappy country music. I know! That's what I always thought, too.) I have a fondness for live performances, and I like Austin City Limits' mix of genres. It's always a good show, even if the band is something wacky like Drive-By Truckers or Ghostland Observatory. My favorites recently have been Iron and Wine, Gnarls Barkley (of which I'm already a fan) and Grupo Fantasma.

So, if you find yourself awake at midnight on a Saturday night, why don't you tune in to PBS?

Anyway, I've been writing too long. I'll write more later, when I'm copping out of another blog.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

Today I decided that my husband and I should never go out on Valentine's Day ever again. The crowds - wow! We tried to go to our favorite restaurant for dinner - at 5:00 they already had a two hour wait. So we went next door to a not as great restaurant that was practically empty, and had a fabulous time. (The food wasn't as good, but it was still pretty yummy.) By the time we returned the beeper to our original restaurant, our name still hadn't been called.

Then we went to the movies (Mistake No. 2). Traffic was backed up for blocks of people trying to get into the theater. We arrived for our movie ("Taken" - Liam Neeson is AWESOME) thirty minutes early, and ten minutes after our arrival every single seat in the theater was filled. Craziness. Fortunately, there is a back road out of the theater that we could take to get home.

My wonderful mom watched the kids for us so that we could have this full, real date, and it was wonderful. Particularly since in 17 days our life is going to be turned upside down by the arrival of our new baby (on March 3 - did you mark your calendars?). It was nice to have this one last hurrah to tide us over for the next few months.

My husband also brought me flowers and chocolate and a balloon, because he's awesome like that. But we decided for the future maybe we should just exchange cards on Valentine's Day and then go out to celebrate either the day before or the day after. Because while I can't do a holiday like Christmas on any day but Christmas (it just feels weird to do it earlier), Valentine's Day is a holiday I could take or leave. It's just not all that important to me. I like having a chance to celebrate and have some alone time, but I don't necessarily have to have it on the 14th.

So how do you celebrate Valentine's? Do you fight the crowds or stay in? Do you celebrate on a day besides February 14?

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Love Poem for my Husband

by Kerry Blair

I'd planned to slip this poem in my husband's valentine tomorrow, but since the first blog I posted this morning failed miserably to express the deep appreciation -- not to mention wonder and amazement -- I feel about the Whitney thing, I'll share it with everybody and hope for more inspiration before next Friday.

The 17th Century poet Anne Bradstreet is one of my American Idols. This is "To My Dear and Beloved Husband." Even though I didn't write it, I think it every day.

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were lov'd by wife, then thee.
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole Mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompence.
Thy love is such I can no way repay.
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persevere
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Frugal Valentine

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Valentine’s Day is set aside as a time to tell your special someone how much you love them. Traditionally, rich chocolates and expensive jewelry have been the gifts of choice, but in this economic downturn, I wanted to suggest some gifts or ideas for your valentine that were frugal, but still full of heart.

Plan a romantic movie date at home. Rent a movie, make the popcorn, and cuddle under the blankets. Or, if your budget is a little larger, you could buy the romantic DVD with a bag of popcorn, and maybe a bottle of sparkling cider, and put it in an inexpensive basket to give to your valentine. Either way, the mood will be set for romance. Here are some of my favorite romantic movies that might give you some ideas as well. I generally like romantic comedies more than straight romance, but choose what your valentine would like.

Pride and Prejudice

Ever After

Princess Bride

Sleepless in Seattle

Beauty and the Beast

Somewhere in Time


While You Were Sleeping

Sound of Music

Romancing the Stone

A Walk to Remember

Other romantic movies that my friends have recommended to me that I have never seen:


An Affair to Remember

House of Flying Daggers

Gone With the Wind

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Doctor Zhivago

To Catch a Thief

Write your valentine a sappy romantic poem, even if you stink at poetry. As Plato once said, “At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet. Think of all the traits you love about your valentine, or the moment you first knew you were in love, and go from there. If all else fails, go for a few verses of Roses are red, Violets are blue . . . Or, if you are really uncomfortable with writing a poem, find a romantic poem you can read to your valentine that best expresses what you want to say.

Fill a small basket with lotion, massage oils, bubble bath and candles. Offer to give your valentine a massage.

Make a list of the ten most romantic moments you’ve had with your valentine. Or, make a list of what you love best about your valentine. Wrap the paper in ribbon and give it to them.

Make your valentine a CD of all their favorite songs or songs that are special to you as a couple. Perhaps have a private dance at home by candlelight, or reminisce about the meaning of the songs while they’re playing.

Drive to a spot above your city, pull out some blankets and a thermos of hot chocolate and watch the sunset together. This is a perfect time to reminisce about your courtship and what you appreciate most about each other. One of my favorite quotes is from E. Joseph Cossman when he said, Love is a friendship set to music.>Nourish that friendship and love.

Prepare your valentine’s favorite meal. Use your best china and eat together by candlelight.

After you’ve eaten your meal, give the dishwasher a break and wash the dishes together by hand. You'll be surprised at what can happen!

Give your valentine your favorite picture of the two of you together in a frame. Write the date and a romantic quote on the back. Here are a few ideas for quotes:

    “If you have love, you don’t need anything else, and if you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter much what else you have.”

    Sir James M. Barrie

    “Love doesn’t make the world go round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.”

    Franklin P. Jones

    “Love is a canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination.”


    “Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.”

    Henry Louis Mencken

    “Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.”

    Robert Frost

    If you don’t have a valentine this year, consider sharing your love by volunteering at a homeless shelter or food bank or making a valentine for a member of our military who are away from home and loved onesExtra hands and hearts are always appreciated. Also, if you are interested, Operation Care and Comfort (an organization that sends care packages to our military men and women overseas) is doing a Comic Book Drive for our troops. They are asking people to donate comic books, new or used, funny or not, to be shipped to our troops in care packages on an ongoing basis. Comic books are easy to read because they are short stories and they cost very little to add to the shipments weight-wise. You are free to include a note with your donation - paper clip it to the cover or insert it inside. If you do this, comic books are considered "media" and may be shipped using the media rate at the post office. This will save you money! You can mail comics to:

    Operation: Care and Comfort
    2392 Walden Sq
    San Jose, CA 95124
    span style="font-size:100%;">

    Whatever you do, be it extravagant or frugal, have a happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Highs and the Lows

by Stephanie Black

I knew the Whitney Award finalists were going to be announced Monday morning at 7:00 MST. This means that on Sunday night, my brain was completely Whitnified. Hoping . . . hoping . . . hoping . . . urrgh! Knowing there was a ton of competition in the Mystery/Suspense category . . . double urrgh! . . . knowing there was nothing to do but wait until morning to find out if my book had made the finals . . .

Being a writer seems to involve a lot of nail-biting waits.

Not surprisingly, on Sunday night, I kept dreaming about the results being announced. Normally we get up at 6:00 on a Monday morning (which is 7:00 Utah time), but the kids didn’t have school that day, so no early morning seminary. When I looked at the clock and saw it was 6:15, I knew the time had arrived—the results were posted!—but I stayed in bed, feeling somewhat chicken. What if I went and checked and the news was disappointing? As long as I didn’t check, then I could keep hoping. Well, that didn’t last too long before I went downstairs and opened up my computer.

Finding out that Fool Me Twice was a finalist in two categories was one of those amazing, thrilling moments that make the stress and the un-thrilling moments of being an author worth it.

As authors, I think we’re all hungry for validation. With each book we write, with each manuscript we submit, with each new release, with each review, we’re wondering, “Will they like it? Will it be successful? What will reviewers say? Will people who liked my other books like this one?” And so on. When feedback is good, you can store up a lot of validation for the moments that aren’t so validating. Because those moments will come. It’s part of the business.

Take rejections. My most painful rejection came on a hot June day, my kids’ last day of school. I had e-mailed my editor that morning and asked if there was any news on my manuscript. She replied that she had some committee notes; let her clear off her desk and she’d get back to me that afternoon.

That was a horrible moment. I knew this couldn’t possibly be good news. If the book had been accepted, she would have said so, right? But she hadn’t actually said it had been rejected, so there was still hope, right? Right? Right? I went with my son to a last-day-of-school pool party, and while he swam, I worried about the book. I had such high hopes for that manuscript. When I returned home, an e-mail from my editor was in my inbox. It was a very nice e-mail, and she took the time to explain the issues to me. It wasn’t a problem with the quality of the book, but rather with the marketability. The manuscript had been rejected.

I felt like I’d walked straight into a brick wall. That was the first rejection I cried over. It probably won’t be the last.

The next year, on the last day of school, I went with my son to the same house for the same pool party where I’d sat worrying the year before. Déjà vu—but not quite. This time, folded up in my pocket, I carried a printout of the e-mail from my editor telling me my new manuscript had been accepted. Yes, I brought the e-mail with me. I didn't show it to anyone. This was just for me. I wanted to privately celebrate the joy of this year’s success, which had followed the previous year’s painful rejection.

I'm going to print out the press release announcing the Whitney finalists. It could be a good thing to have around when bad moments come.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Publishing 101

Probably the most common question I am asked as I do author events is, “How do you get published?” Of course there is no “one” way to get published. Everyone’s experience is different, and there is no magic bullet. The simple answer is, “Write something really great and send it out until someone buys it.” Kind of like the old joke. “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice!” If your writing is good enough—or you are willing to really work at getting better—and you are persistent enough, you will eventually get published.

Every author has written something on this subject, but I haven’t addressed it lately, and there are so many myths or misunderstandings about getting published, that I thought I would add my two cents. This is going to be getting published 101, so if you already know all about agents, query letters, and SASE’s, you may want to skip this post.

First, let me clear up some commonly held misconceptions—the dreaded publishing myths.

1) All authors make are rich. The truth is that most authors could make more money flipping burgers than they do writing books. Many, many authors are lucky to earn $5,000 for a book that took a year or more to write. And that’s before they spend their own money on marketing, gas, book tours, etc. This is not to say that people do not make good money as authors, or to discourage would-be writers. There are always going to be people making a living writing books or articles, and you could very well be one of them. But do not begin writing a book because you need to quit your job, make a ton of money, pay pressing bills, or anything like that. Write because you love to write, and let it lead you where it will.

2) This brings me to the second writing myth. If I turn in a book in January, it will probably come out sometime this summer. On average the time from submission to publication for a new author is a minimum of two years. And that’s not taking into account the time it takes to get an agent, which is required for many publishers. This is another good reason not to write because you hate your job. Depending on the publisher, you may not even see a dime for another six months after your book is published. If you hate your job that much, quit your job and find one you like—it’s much quicker.

3) You must pay (either an agent or a publisher) to get your book published. I’ll talk more about agents a little later, but suffice it to say that if an agent asks you for a dime, run away fast. They are unethical at best, and most likely a scammer. An agent who asks you for money up front is not making money by selling books. He or she is making money by scamming innocent writers and playing upon their hopes. You will not get published by paying money to an agent.

In general the same thing applies to publishers. There are many types and sizes of publishers. Depending on how big they are, and what their policies are, they will pay and market your book very differently. Bigger publishers have bigger budgets, and generally pay better. But they are also more difficult to sell to. Most big publishers won’t even look at a manuscript that is not represented by an agent.

That being said, publishers fall into two general categories. The kind that pay you and the kind you pay. A traditional publisher does not charge you money to publish your book. They may or may not pay you an advance (money you get before the book is published), the royalties (how much they pay you per each book sold) and contracts can differ wildly. But in general, they pay you money for each book that they sell. Self-publishers (also called vanity press) charge you money for the service of publishing your book. If you have a good way to sell your own books, or if you are publishing primarily for friends and family, this can be a great service. But do not be fooled into thinking that if you publish with a vanity press your books will start showing up on the shelves of the local Barnes and Nobel.

4) Getting an agent means I will definitely get published. While it is true that many publishers will no longer even look at un-agented manuscripts, getting an agent does not guarantee that a publisher will buy your book. Think of an agent as a middleman. The agent’s job is to weed out bad manuscripts and find ones that are good enough to be published. Then they sell the work to a publisher. They negotiate the contract, sell additional rights (movie, foreign, audio, etc), and help set up the next book deal. For this, they get a cut of the royalties—typically 15%.

Okay, now that we are done with myths, let’s get to work going through the process of selling a book. Let’s say I have written a great new novel called Vlad the Embalmer. The first thing I need to do, is get the book done and polished before I start shopping it. Do not start contacting agents or publishers unless your manuscript is finished and polished. Another thing I could have listed in myths is that it is the editor’s or agent’s job to clean up your story. Yes, the editor will help make your story better, but you will never make it to that point if you haven’t polished your work until it shines. If you think you can send out a rough draft and the story will shine through, you are in for a rude awakening.

Once your story is as polished as it can be, you need to begin researching publishers and agents. For the sake of this example, let’s jump over to a publisher’s site and see what their submission guidelines are. The link is What we are looking to see is if the publisher takes un-agented submissions, and also what types of books they are looking for. The good news is that they do not require and agent. Notice the description of what types of books they are looking for:

“Shadow Mountain seeks to publish new books for adults and children that will appeal to a values-based, general market of readers and writers. We prefer to publish books that reflect traditional Christian values. A book we are interested in will be

1. Of value to our readers.

2. Well written and well researched.

3. Unique.

In general, Shadow Mountain is not interested in poetry, family histories, or personal journals. We will consider manuscripts that are being submitted simultaneously to other publishers. We do ask, however, that you let us know you are also submitting it elsewhere, so misunderstandings can be avoided.”

Pretty straightforward. Be aware though, that if a publisher tells you they are not looking for a particular type of book, they mean it. Don’t think that your poetry is so good that they will buy it anyway. Instead, find a publisher that is looking for poetry if that’s what you write.

Now let’s jump to another site. When you read their submission page, you quickly find that they do NOT take un-agented submissions.

“Random House, Inc. does not accept unsolicited submissions, proposals, manuscripts, or submission queries via e-mail at this time.”

This means that if you want to publish with Random House, you will need an agent. Okay, so where do you get an agent? Well, there a couple of places to look. Two of the best sources are The Literary MarketPlace (the LMP), a reference guide that can be found in most libraries. Or The Writer's Market, which you can also find in the library or purchase. Writer’s market is also available online at, for a monthly or annual fee.

So your next step is to go to the library or the bookstore and do some research. What you want to find are agents that accept the kind of book you have written. Typically this will be broken down by reader age and genre. For example, our book, Vlad the Embalmer is a horror novel for young adults. We don’t want to waste our time or the agent’s time by sending them a YA horror novel if they only accept nonfiction, romance, and mainstream mysteries.

In my next post, I’ll talk about researching agents and putting together a query packet.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Whitney Awards Finalists Announced

SALT LAKE CITY, UT: The Whitney Awards committee today announced the finalists for the 2008 Whitney Awards, a program which honors the best novels by Latter-day Saint writers. Sponsored and endorsed by LDStorymakers, an LDS authors’ guild, the Whitney Awards offer national recognition to authors whose books win in one of eight categories.

To be eligible for consideration, a book must have received at least five nominations from its fans. More than one hundred works by new and established authors in both the LDS and national markets met the preliminary criteria. Once a book is nominated, juries of authors and critics narrow the nominees down to five per category.

This year’s nominees are listed below in alphabetical order by genre:

ROMANCE: Seeking Persephone, by Sarah Eden, Servant to a King, by Sariah Wilson, The Sound of Rain, by Anita Stansfield, Spare Change, by Aubrey Mace, Taking Chances, by Shannon Guymon

MYSTERY/SUSPENSE: Above and Beyond, by Betsy Brannon Green, Do No Harm, by Gregg Luke, Fool Me Twice, by Stephanie Black, Freefall, by Traci Hunter Abramson, Royal Target, by Traci Hunter Abramson

YOUTH FICTION: The 13th Reality, by James Dashner, Alcatraz vs. The Scrivner’s Bones, by Brandon Sanderson, Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague (Book 3), by Brandon Mull, Far World: Water Keep, by J. Scott Savage, Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, by Jessica Day George

SPECULATIVE: Ender in Exile, by Orson Scott Card, The Great and Terrible: From the End of Heaven, by Chris Stewart, The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, Book 3), by Brandon Sanderson, The Host, by Stephanie Meyer, The Wyrmling Horde: The Seventh Book of the Runelords, by David Farland

HISTORICAL: Abinadi, by H.B. Moore, Isabelle Webb, Legend of the Jewel, by N.C. Allen, Master, by Toni Sorenson, The Ruby, by Jennie Hansen, Traitor, by Sandra Grey

GENERAL FICTION: Bound on Earth, by Angela Hallstrom, The Reckoning, by Tanya Parker Mills, Waiting For the Light to Change, by Annette Hawes, Fields of Home, by Rachel Ann Nunes, Keeping Keller, by Tracy Winegar

BEST BOOK BY A NEW AUTHOR: Bound on Earth, by Angela Hallstrom, The Reckoning, by Tanya Parker Mills, Spare Change, by Aubrey Mace, Traitor, by Sandra Grey, Waiting For the Light to Change, by Annette Hawes

NOVEL OF THE YEAR: Bound on Earth, by Angela Hallstrom, Fool Me Twice, by Stephanie Black, The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, Book 3), by Brandon Sanderson, Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, by Jessica Day George, Traitor, by Sandra Grey

This ballot now goes out to members of the voting academy, a select group of LDS publishers; bookstore owners, managers, and employees; LDS authors; print and online magazine publishers; reviewers; and others working in the field of LDS literature.

Winners will be announced at a gala banquet on Saturday, April 25 at the Marriott Hotel in Provo, Utah. Tickets are now on sale at

Special Lifetime Achievement Awards will also be presented that night to two persons whose bodies of works and tireless efforts have made a significant impact on the field of LDS popular fiction. This year’s honorees are Kerry Blair and Orson Scott Card.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Writing Stuff Down to Get What You Need

by Sariah S. Wilson

Internet has been restored!! It's one of those things that you don't realize just how dependent you are until it is taken from you.

Take cell phones. I could live without cell phones. I barely use the one I have now and mostly like the idea of it - having a way to get help if something were to happen to me in the car. But if it ceased to function, I would get by without it the way I've lived without it for years before I got it.

But Internet access - I felt like I had lost my electricity or something. It's sort of like when you stand there flicking the light switch off and on hoping something will happen. No power. So then you think, "Well, I guess I'll just go watch TV" only remembering that said TV is also powered by electricity once you reach for the power switch. Feeling stupid, you decide to make yourself some soup to remember too late that both the stove and the microwave are also tied up into your electrical power.

Our ISP simply told us that they didn't know what was wrong with the system (only that it wasn't hardware related) and had no idea when our service would be restored. I kept thinking things like, "Oh, I need to check my banking statements" or "Time to read the blogs to find out where to go and get the best deals this week" or "What did the forks look like that were used at a ball in 1816?" only to remember at the last moment that I couldn't access any of this information. I was trying to finish up our 2008 taxes (which are actually now done, if you can believe it!) and I needed to double-check some medical and business mileage, but couldn't because I couldn't access any maps online. It was driving all of us crazy - my husband and I actually looked to see if we could switch providers, but this is the only DSL available in our area.

But they finally fixed the problem nearly a week later - and I felt like I was feasting after being starved for seven days. I could read the news online again! Print out coupons! Check on our banking account! Read Dear Abby! You know, the important stuff.

So now that things have settled back down, I ran across an interesting article by Dr. Wally Goddard over at Meridian today (and for the full account of President Packer's referenced story, you can check out this entry over at Dr. Wally's blog).

All of my life, my mother had taught me that if I wanted something to happen in my life that I needed to write it down. She had example after example of amazing things that had happened to her, unbelievable things, that she had written down. I've often heard examples of people writing down their goals, putting them away and then rediscovering the list only to find that they had somehow, even without conscious effort, managed to meet a majority of those goals. (As a sidenote, I will tell you that it won't work for certain things. You're not going to win the lottery that way.)

Debbie MacComber is a NYT bestselling author who started out with only a dream that she could make it. When she first got published, she wrote a highly impossible list of things she wanted to accomplish with her writing - like making the New York Times and having her books turned into movies. Things that were so outlandish and crazy she thought they could never, ever come true. But come true they did - every single outrageous wish/goal on her list.

Whenever I mentioned my mom's philosphy on writing things down, people in the church have often given me strange looks, like it's some kind of New Age-y philosophy that needs to be ignored.

It was so neat to read the words of Heber C. Kimball and Boyd K. Packer, two GAs who seemingly also endorse this line of thinking and made a case for writing things down. I don't want to suggest that the Lord is some sort of vending machine that will dispense our wanted blessings based on our behavior. I think the Lord will do what we need to have done, not necessarily what we want to have done (and as Dr. Wally points out, there are times when pain is necessary to strengthen us and make us into better people).

But I think asking, asking in prayer, asking by writing things down, that it is too often overlooked. I know that I have often thought, "Well, the Lord already knows." But the scriptures in Luke aren't saying it's enough just to think it, it's saying you have to actively do something, you have to physically ask.

Since we're near the beginning of the year, I'm going to post a challenge here. Write down one thing in the comments that you hope to have happen in 2009. Maybe, as President Packer did, it can be a blessing for someone near and dear to you. Or a need you have in your life or see in someone else's life. Then let's check in next year to see whether or not that one goal was accomplished.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Interview with Janette Rallison

Janette Rallison is a very busy lady. She is also the most dedicated, giving, and all-around nice person you'll ever meet. I had only to sound just a little desperate (and more than a little pathetic) and she dropped everything to answer your questions. ALL of them. I hope you appreciate this even half as much as I do!

This, then is the blog you hoped it would be!

What was Janette's path to publication in the national market?

I wrote a book that would work in the national market, sent it to an agent that some SCBWI folks suggested, and after about a year of waiting and anguish while it was shopped around, I had Tim Travaglini at Walker Books (He's now at Putnam) convinced that I could write well. Tim is brilliant.

If this book is turned into a movie, will Janette make sure it stays true to the book or will she let them tweak it?

My Fair Godmother was over 300 pages and the average movie script is a 100 pages, so it goes without saying that most books are tweaked for the movies. I hate to think of 200 pages being chopped/condensed and rewritten, but that's just the way it is.

Seriously, now, I read you biography on your website, and know that you've written several other books, mostly young adult novels. Have you any plans to write a novel aimed at us more ... mature persons?

You're in luck, mature persons reading this, I did write some LDS romances and a Sci-fi novel under the name Sierra St. James. And they're great books too.

If casting were completely up to you, who would be in the movie? Did you have a mental image of any of these people in mind as you created your characters?

I love the guys from Prince Caspian so I would probably cast Ben Barnes as Hunter and William Moseley as Tristan. Savannah and Jane would be a little harder because you would have to find actresses that looked like sisters.

Here is my question. When do you find time to write with 5 kids? I have 3 and it's tough to get in the mood to write when there is so much to do.

At first I wrote during nap time, then at favorite show time, then at preschool time. I even wrote long hand while nursing. I paid older kids to play with the younger kids so I could write. You don't get much written when you have little kids but if you can manage a page or two a day then you can have a book written in less than a year.

I'd be interested in knowing if she plans on writing anymore fantasy books and if she would ever do more writing about any other fairy tales or myths (like Greek and Roman Hera & Aphrodite, etc myths).

Yes, I want to do more fantasy. And although I hadn't really planned on doing a sequel to My Fair Godmother, I left it open so I could, and it looks like the book is doing well enough that I might--so I'll need to come up with some more fairy tales to send people to.

Now, for the question: In Kerry's quote, Janette's discussion of the power of the wish shows an interesting perception of the strength and courage necessary to change. Do you feel any of that ambivalence as you head towards a movie after breaking into the national market?

No, actually I only feel like squealing like a teenage girl. The producer called me today and I was barely capable of coherent speech. I told him I was a big fan of Sky High so he is sending me an official Sky High backpack. How cool is that? I mean, even if the book never makes it to the theaters, I'll have a Sky High backpack. What was the question again? (You see how I go all incoherent while talking about the possibility of a movie.)

That said, Chrissy really is right about wishes. Sometimes they do swallow you whole. How many of us who sit down at our computers with the intent to write a book and then get it published and market it, feel like that wish has swallowed us whole?

If you can you tell how lovingly jealous we(well, me)are, will you tell us what wish you made that changed you/your writing so you could do all this?

When I started out in my writing group all my friends were wishing that their books would get published. I decided not to wish for that because I thought: what if it happened but my book wasn't really any good? That would be worse. Everyone would know I was a horrible writer and wonder how I got published, and people would trash my book, and it would end up on sale for .99 in the bargain bin. (That happens, by the way, even to good books.)

So I decided to wish that I would become a good writer and I read writing books, took classes on writing, and went to conferences. That is always my advice to budding writers: Don't worry about getting published so much. Worry about learning the craft of writing, then publishing becomes easier.

Where did you learn so much about wishes?

High school where I spent a lot of time wishing I would get noticed by certain young men and other things that didn’t happen.

If Ms. Rallison could have three wishes of her own, what would they be?

A self cleaning house would be right up there on the list. So would world peace, but I might put the self cleaning house before world peace (which shows you what kind of person I am.) I'd probably also wish to rule the world or something like that which would end up not making me happy at all. But think of the changes you could make if you ruled the world. I could, for example, dictate that spelling had to make sense from here on out. Goodbye silent p in pnemonia and in alphabet and all sorts of other places Ps don't belong like psychiatry.

Does Ms. Rallison give her story characters any of her own personal traits?

Always. Which is why they usually have a weakness for chocolate and are lousy drivers. They also tend to embarrass themselves.

My question: Does your bishop ask you to speak in sacrament more often after you were published and are you in your ward or stake YW presidency? Just kidding about the second part. None of my business.

Nope, perhaps they're worried what I'm going to say. (Although I do get asked to write camp skits and road shows. It turns out that's not an entirely bad thing. I got the idea for My Fair Godmother from a road show I wrote. Go fractured fairy tale theme! The original was called Beauty and the Priest. And right now I'm in Primary. I love it!

What use of metaphor in your recent release did you enjoy writing the most? And which use of metaphor do you think was used to the most dramatic impact?

In the fairy's report at the beginning of the novel I talk about predatory guys being sharks. It was fun to play a little bit with that image since I don't usually use a lot of literary symbolism in my books. My publisher wanted me to take out the whole report and I had to sort of fight them over it. I liked the report, and besides I was afraid that if the reader didn't get to see the situation from Jane's side first, everyone would hate Jane and Hunter and would be waiting for Savannah to take revenge. I didn't want the book to be about revenge.

How long did it take you to write this book? I remember from reading her blog a while ago that she was trying to write a book in two months, and I'm curious if this is the one.

Nope, that wasn't this one. This one probably took around six months.

In the past year, what is one of your favorite book signing experiences?

I did one in my old neighborhood and got to see all of my old friends. It was sort of like a funeral, only I didn't have to die for it.

Okay, my question: Having read quite a few of your books (and owning even more) where do come up with your ideas? And please keep them coming???!!!

I get ideas from my teenagers and from my own mind that likes to wander far too much when I should be paying attention to things like driving the car.

I have a question! Is she going to write a sequel to her sci-fi novel Time Riders now that it is getting published by Desert Book soon? :)

I hope so. Echo is one of my all time favorite characters.

My question is: Does Janette plan on continuing in the YA market or will she consider writing adult fiction?

Both! And I wish I had more time!

After many and deep thinking things in my brain, the only question that I came up with is, do you find writing a little everyday helps you be more creative?

Yes, and another side effect is that my house is a mess. Oh well.

Will you play a cameo part in the movie, like Stephenie Meyer did? If so, what would you like to play?

That would be so cool. If and when they start filming it, I'll have to beg the producer and see if they'll let me walk across the background or something.

What time of day are you more productive - morning? evening?

Anytime my family isn't around is what works best for me.

Do you write longhand, or are you computer oriented?

Mostly I write on the computer but if I'm out watching a soccer game or something I take a notebook and write long hand.

Can you write with life going on around you - or do you need quiet?

I need it quiet, definitely.

To read more about this very talented writer, visit her website and her blogsite! Thanks, Janette!

This is Not a Blog -- Or at Least it is Not the Blog You Hoped it Would Be

by Kerry Blair

In our continuing quest to uphold good blog etiquette, let me first thank everyone who has sent e-mails or called to tell me that Friday arrived more than sixteen hours ago. I appreciate the head's up. As my closest friends know, little things like, say, the date on the calendar, the day of the week, and/or the correct spelling of my own name often elude me these days. But in my defense, I did know it's Friday. So . . . how is everybody? An y fun plans for the weekend? Nice weather we're having here in Arizona.How 'bout those Diamondbacks? Seen any good movies lately?

Okay, no more stalling. According to site stats, we'd had 185 hits by 3:35. Assuming that a hundred of them were David Woolley, we still have a veritable host of loyal readers clamoring for a contest winner and Janette Rallison's answers to their probing, insightful (or is that inciteful?) questions.

Will you settle for half of that? Ms. Rallison is a very busy lady and I realize now that I ran the contest way too long to give her adequate time to respond. (Mea culpa, in other words.) But I can at least get the book in the mail to somebody. Let's see . . . rather than take the time to write down all the names and put them in a hat, I'll ask the pit bull to pick a number between one and fifteen. Just a sec.

She picked five. I know this because five is her favorite number. She always picks five, especially if the question is, "How many dog cookies do you think you deserve?" or "What time do you think you'll want to go out in the morning?"

Therefore, the person who asked the fifth legitimate question of Janette just won a book! I have no idea who that is. Just one more sec. I'll have to log onto the blogs from another connection to see their comments trails.

The winner is: Marta O. Smith! (This is assuming the questions about writers' age and geographical location were not seriously intended, and that nobody really reads anything Dave posts.) At any rate, the decision of the judges is final. If you have a problem with it, you may appeal to the pit bull. In person. Bring cookies.

Congrats, Marta! Send me your address and I'll send you My Fair Godmother. You'll love it!

And . . . just think . . . now I won't have to blog next week, either!

PS: I didn't proof this. Let's just assume that all spelling errors are Jeff's fault and that Annette will pull out her Sharpie and correct everything else for me in the comment trail.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Blundering Through My Blog

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I read Stephanie Black’s post this morning and, boy, do I have her fooled. With my superhuman skills, I may have even fooled her twice. Get it? Haha. I recently saw a sign that said something to the effect of, “My house is organized because the computer is broken,” and since I’m writing this on a computer, I guess you can surmise my state of organization. But I’m glad Stephanie thinks that about me, considering what an amazing woman she is in her own right. She’s not only one of the best writers I know, she’s genuinely a good person.

Stephanie always has good etiquette as well, and I admire that about her. It has recently been brought to my attention that I have bad blog etiquette. I did not know that you were supposed to reply to each comment on a blog or you were considered rude. I do read every comment posted to my Thursday blogs, but sometimes I’m rushing out the door and think of a funny or witty thing to say in return, but by the time I get home from running kids around, I forgot what I was going to say, so I just stay silent. Wasn’t there a Mark Twain quote that said, “It’s better to stay silent and look a fool, rather than speak and remove all doubt.” Yeah, that’s me most days. But I would never want to be seen as rude to any commenters on this blog, so please just know that I read and giggle and marvel over your comments, even if I don’t respond all the time. I don’t mean to be rude or have bad blog etiquette. I’m sorry if I’ve hurt anyone’s feelings. I really do have good etiquette most of the time.

However, I did have another little etiquette dilemma of my own this past week at the Cub Scout Blue and Gold banquet. We were sitting at a table with my son, and when we received our meal, it was fried chicken. It sort of looked like Kentucky Fried Chicken, but it wasn’t, if you know what I mean. So anyway, the lady next to me gets out her knife and fork and proceeds to try to eat it that way. The boy across from me grabs the chicken piece with his fingers and digs in. So, what is the appropriate way to eat chicken pieces in public? Fingers or fork?

And then, at my last basketball game (I coach the Young Women team) we pulled out a win and the other coach didn’t shake my hand. I was always told that the quality of your handshake (or lack of) makes or breaks your first impression and says a lot about you. Did you know that the American Psychological Association did a study about handshakes? They found that, “Those with a firm handshake were more extraverted and open to experience and less neurotic and shy than those with a less firm or limp handshake.” It was an interesting study, actually. They had “handshake coders” go around shaking 112 male and female college students’ hands and then analyzed them. Could you imagine if you were a handshake coder at church? Or even on this Frog Blog? Well, Sister Bellon, your handshake tells me you’re neurotic and shy.” Or, “Whoa, there, Brother Wells, you’re a bit too open to experience, if you catch my drift. Tone that down, will ya?” It could be an interesting side job. I’m sure every parent would be proud to tell their neighbors that little Johnny grew up to be a handshake coder. Then no one would ever want to shake Johnny’s hand again. However, it is considered bad manners not to shake hands, so we’re back to where we started.

So, perhaps the moral of this blog today would be, have a firm handshake or people think you’re neurotic, don’t go places until you know how to properly eat what is served, and don’t feel slighted if I don’t respond to each and every comment. Just know that each post is read and cherished.

Well, they're definitely read, but only some are cherished. You know who you are.