Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Sunday, February 28, 2010

More Please Don't Do This in Your Book

by Sariah S. Wilson

I am really starting to understand why readers are loathe to give new authors a try.

Because holy cow - I am trying out all kinds of new authors recently as I'm gearing up for my next book (I find lots of reading very inspiring). I didn't want to stay just with the tried and true - I was a new author once and I wanted people to buy my book.

So I don't know if I'm just not picking them right or what the deal is with my rotten luck, but with the books I've read the last two days:

*The "hero" (and I should probably use the word protagonist because there was absolutely nothing heroic about this idiot) did something so heinous to the heroine in the first ten pages of the book that I never got over it. I thought he was a Grade A jerk from beginning to end (I could've cared less what his motivations were) and then I thought the heroine was the epitome of stupid because despite how foully he treated her (and continued to treat her) she just couldn't help but fall in love with him. Lameness all around.

*The next book I read, while it had a fairly interesting premise/characters, had a completely unnecessary prologue (and I for once found myself in agreeance with Jeff Savage that this prologue should have been left out. The events in the prologue could have been referred to in conversations or internal thoughts later on in the book (and would have actually increased the suspense as you wondered what had happened between the two to make them so upset with each other)), but this wasn't the worst offense. This book made liberal use of head hopping.

Now, I don't mind a point of view shift mid-scene (but my editor doesn't let me do it unless I do some kind of break so you know that things have changed), but this author literally changed point of view from the hero to the heroine every other paragraph.

And it wasn't constant where I could keep track - him, now her, now him, now her - instead it might be one or two paragraphs from the heroine's point of view, then one from him, then one from her, then three from him, etc. Your reader should not be reading and wondering which character's head they're in with this paragraph. Sometimes I couldn't tell until after several sentences! And this wasn't some literary rule-breaker type book - just a typical genre book. It actually gave me a headache trying to keep track of whose thoughts I was being privy to.

I want to find new authors, because my favorites have this habit of taking a long time to write their next book. I need to find new favorites - but so far I'm just not picking things out well. So, have you read a new author recently that you really enjoyed? Any books by someone not well known that you'd recommend?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Give Me a Break

by Kerry Blair

Today I am throwing myself a big ol’ pity party and you’re all invited.

The party commemorates the unfortunate reality that I am not where I want to be. While this is true spiritually, emotionally, professionally, and metaphorically, I’m talking about life on the physical plane—at least I am in this paragraph. Specifically, I want to be about a hundred miles south of here, in Mesa, soaking up sunshine, meeting with a good friend about his magnificent manuscript, and practically vibrating with excitement in anticipation of tomorrow’s ANWA Conference. (I plunked down $65 in a heartbeat just to hear Jeff Savage’s keynote address. Everything else is frosting.) I have been looking forward to this weekend for months. I’m packed. I’m psyched. I’m prepared. I spent days putting together an “Arizona Survival Kit” for Jeff—scorpion light and everything. (I have no idea how he's going to make it through the weekend without my help, but I fear for him.) I am not, however, on my way. I am at home. In bed. Sick.

I’m sick of a lot of things, now that I’ve brought it up. I am sick of being sick. I am sick of people lowering their voices as if at a wake when they ask me how I am. I am sick of not being able to drive. I am sick of stumbling over dust moozies and dropping things the first three times I try to pick them up. I am sick of looking like a troll doll on steroids. (The only things I hate worse than steroids are wheelchairs. And pain. And suffering. Those kinds of things.) I am sick of people saying I am such a “champ” when in fact your average, run-of-the-mill badger with ulcerative colitis and an abcessed fang is much more social—not to mention pleasant to be around—than I have been the last few months. I am sick of knowing that when all we can control is our attitude, the Lord expects us to do it. I am sick of pity parties. In short(er), I am sick of being broken and would like to be fixed. Now. Please.

I’ve said “please” in my prayers; I’ve even added cream and sugar and a little charity on top. But I am still broken. I am, in fact, beyond what a little Scotch tape—or even Super Glue—can manage. So, I’ve taken to obsessing over a talk Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave at our stake conference several years ago. It differs from the many-broken-things-can-be-mended talk he gave at General Conference in 2008 so, unless you know somebody else in the Prescott Stake who takes great notes, you’ll just have to accept my interpretation.

Elder Holland observed that most of us live in a time and place where worn, slow, out-dated and/or broken things are cast thoughtlessly aside. This is not true, he says, of God’s time and place. God, in fact, loves broken things and uses them to bring about His miraculous design. The dawn must break to bring a new day. Ground must be broken to plant a seed. Clouds break to release life-giving rain. A seed splits to grow and bring forth fruit. When grain is ripe, it must be broken to make bread. Bread is symbolically broken each week so that we may take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ.

It is clear to me from Elder Holland’s testimony that the way we see ourselves and the way God sees us may not be the same—or always very similar. As much as I hate to admit it, I know in my heart which of us has the better perspective. This is probably why pity parties are not an integral part of the Plan and why, now that I’ve served up enough whine and cheese to last us all through the Millennium, I will pick up the pieces, dust them off, and place them back upon the altar where they belong.

That, unfortunately, is all I can do with the broken pieces of me. (I’m on the activities committee because I’m so much better at pity parties than arts and crafts.) I want to believe that something beautiful can be made of the shards of what seemed like a perfectly good life. (Heck, forget beautiful! I’d be thrilled to remain unsightly-but-utilitarian.) But I also know that I can't do it myself. (I’ve messed around so long now with tape and glue that I’m a tangled, sticky, disheartened mess.) You’d think that letting go and "letting God" would be the easy thing to do, but it’s not. After all, what if it was His idea to break up all that beautiful china to build the Nauvoo temple? Ground-to-dust is a little too broken, if you ask me.

Nobody has asked me.

Please know that I am lecturing myself . (I'm the only one who needs it.) I find that I must constantly impress upon myself that even when we feel the most sorry for ourselves--especially when we feel the most sorry for ourselves--the truth remains that "broken" isn't "worthless." Broken is merely a new miracle in progress. We mustn't lose hope, or even confidence. While I know I won't make it to Mesa this weekend, I don't know what I might be able to do right here. That's the interesting part. Interesting I can handle.

Despite my self-pep-talk, I'll so miss seeing so many of you at the conference tomorrow! (Say hello to my son for me, will you?) Jeff, you can still have that survival kit, plus my uneaten lunch, if you'll send me your notes. And have fun! Those ANWAites and their associates are the nicest people you're ever going to meet.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Behind the Scenes with Dangerous Connections

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Well, after Stephanie’s brilliant post yesterday, I found myself inspired. (Thanks for the mention of Dangerous Connections. I’m so excited!) But I was thinking about all the little things that go into creating a book and the fun little private jokes the author almost always puts in, and I thought I would give you a little peek into some of my Dangerous Connections, behind the scenes, little known facts, just for fun.

There is a gentleman in my ward, a sweet man who loves LDS fiction and comes to book club even though he’s the only male there, and he’s really fun, so to honor him, I named one of the terrorists in my book after him. (He has a great name! Bernell. Doesn’t that sound like a great terrorist name? Of course I did get his permission first and he thought it was totally fine. In case you wondered.)

I named a possible double/triple agent after my sister-in-law because she has a French-sounding name and Dangerous Connections takes place in Paris. I didn’t get her permission beforehand, though, and when I told her no one knows if she’s good or evil until the end, she said, “so are you trying to tell me something?” (We’re all good, though, so don’t worry.)

I should maybe state here that it’s probably not a good idea to name characters after people you know. I’ve done it a few times in previous books and while it’s fun for me (and my ward members totally read my books to see if they’re in it) you could definitely get in trouble doing it.

I used the Arc de Triomphe in my book because of all the references to the number eight in it. Eight is my favorite number and the Arc de Triomphe has several eights associated with it. It is 80.5 m high. The sides of the arch alone are decorated with one hundred and twenty-eight sculptures of battles. Then, on the inside are the names of the battles in which Napoleon’s armies fought along with the lists of his generals. Guess how many generals there were? Five hundred and fifty-eight, all making important decisions, facing crossroads in their lives every day. And Dangerous Connections has a lot of crossroad-type decisions for all the characters to make so I liked the comparison.

I loved visiting Paris. The city itself was so beautiful, the food was nothing like I’d ever tasted, (our hotel was next door to a bakery and we had pastries every night. Completely melt-in-your-mouth stuff that was indescribably good) and the culture fascinated me. I also love the dynamic between France and America and put a little bit of that in the book since my hero, Dr. Tyler Winthrop, is American, and my heroine, Isabella Floret, is a French counterintelligence agent who loves her country.

There is a scene where Isabella is captured and, with her hands drawn over her head, is handcuffed to a pipe in a basement. I have her trying a very creative way to escape, but my editor told me that when she acted that scenario out in her office, it didn’t work. Can I tell you how badly I wanted to witness my editor, in her office, with her arms over her head, pretending to be handcuffed to a pipe and trying to escape? Yeah, I would have paid money for that one.

I can hardly believe my book’s release is already here. It seems like I’ve been writing it forever, and now it’s finished, done, and people can see it! Of course, I’m hoping everyone likes it, and when you read it, think back to all these little behind the scene fun facts. It’s good for a chuckle, right?

Oh, and if you watch TV in the daytime at all, I’ll be on Channel 2 News at Noon on March 8th talking about my charity and my new book. I’m so excited! More on that next week.

Also, if you’re in the area, the official book launch party for Dangerous Connections will be March 12, at the new Seagull book in Orem by the Orem mall. (It’s sort of in the parking lot now). Anyway, I’ll get you more details before then, but Annette Lyon and Sarah Eden will also be there with their new books! I’d say that’s a party. Maybe we could get behind the scene footage for that one. Wouldn't that be fun?

P.S. For some reason Blogger is being totally wonky and making my blog look weird. I tried to fix it to no avail, but at least it is somewhat readable. Sorry about that. I really did try!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Top Ten Reasons for Not Blogging Today

10. Too busy celebrating the upcoming release of Julie’s new novel, Dangerous Connections.

9. I was cooking again, and it’s hard to think through the noise of the smoke detector.

8. The global warming crisis, or 7. The global warming hoax (choose one).

6. Too distracted wondering if Mr. and Mrs. Howell, et al., with their trunks full of clothes knew something one-shirt Gilligan didn’t when they packed for that three-hour tour.

5. Creeped myself out writing my new book; must hide under bed.

4. Gotta finish that wrapping paper/cookie dough/coupon book/tins o’candy fundraiser so I can raise cash to bribe the Whitney Academy.

3. I fell off one of Jeff’s cliffhangers and I can’t get up.

2. Wore freesia-scented deodorant; now have vampire stalker.

And, of course, the number one reason for not blogging today:

1. I want to be like Rob.

Monday, February 22, 2010


I was talking about books with someone recently. When he discovered I was a writer, he asked, “Do you think Stephenie Meyer is a good writer?”

That’s an interesting question. Not just because it’s always fun to discuss the merits (and demerits) of various writers. But because there is an inherent assumption to this particular question that Ms. Meyer must have succeeded beyond her talent. There are so many people who mock Twilight, and the book has sold so many copies, that lots of people who haven’t even read her work make the assumption the author must be “lucky” to have sold so many books. Her sales must be far in excess of her writing ability.

Is it true? Well of course almost no one “deserves” to sell millions of books. Many people write great books that sell minimally. And, if we’re going to be perfectly honest, luck plays a huge role not only in how many books you sell, but in even getting published in the first place. As much as I love Dan Brown novels, for instance, it is not his quality of writing that sells so many copies. And yet, can we simply write off the Twilight series as luck? Did millions and millions of girls, women, and Rob Wells, really buy and read the Meyer’s books (in some cases over and over dozens of times) because of the hype?

Before we run into estrogen overload, I think it’s time for a sports analogy. It’s nearly time for the NFL draft. For those of you who don’t follow football, this is where professional teams choose from the top college players. (Think picking teams for dodge ball, where I was never picked last—thanks to the kid who refused to play even if he was picked. He’d just sit off to the side and watch the horizon whether he was picked or not.) Anyway, as teams decide who they should pick, they often have to decide between a position they need to fill (quarterback, defense, running back, safety, etc) versus the BPA. BPA stands for best player available. It’s when a team says, “Well we already have a fullback, but this kid is such an incredible player, we just have to take him.”

How does football apply to writing? (Other than the fact that football can be applied to anything in life?) Well, like all of us, there are things Ms. Meyer could probably improve on in her writing. People like to make fun of how she uses certain actions or descriptions over and over. But, as I told my friend, she managed to create characters so real to her readers that they literally went to war over who Bella should chose. They bought shirts, started web sites, argued, cried, even made death threats—all because, to them, Bella, Edward, and Jacob were real people. Her characters—and the emotions they evoked—were so strong that Twilight readers were willing to over look any flaws in her writing because they were hooked on Bella, Edward, Jacob, etc.

As writers, we all have strengths and weaknesses. I know some authors whose writing is so beautiful I would read page after page even if nothing was happening. Others have imaginations so powerful that I am pulled into their books on the strength of the story alone. JK Rowling has the ability not only to create fantastic worlds, but to make even the most minor character interesting. The more experienced we become as writers, the more we can work to improve to improve our weaknesses. The guy who is strong on story learns to create characters with more depth. The woman who creates beautiful prose, learns to beef up her plot. But we also need to be aware of what it is that makes our writing strong.

If a quarterback has a strong arm, he needs to use it. If a receiver is blazingly fast, he needs to outrun the cornerback covering him. Stephenie Myer played to her strength. She wrote a series that was heavy on character. Even the biggest conflicts were character based. Although she was writing a book about vampires and werewolves, she did not write an action adventure. She wrote about a girl choosing between two men and the men competing for her affection. When you chose the type of story, you need to play to your strengths. If you are good at dialog, you might steer toward romance or mystery. If your imagination is out of this world, try steering toward fantasy or SciFi. If you are best at action, maybe go toward thrillers.

There’s a reason editors and agents want you to know your genre. You need to know who you are writing to, what they like to read, and why you are the best person to write that kind of book. If you’re not sure what your strength is, try two things. Ask people what they like best about your writing, and ask yourself what parts of writing you enjoy most. Most of the time, you will find that they are one and the same.

Of course one of the great things about writing is that you can have powerful characters in many types of books. And a mystery can be set in outer space as easily as a living room. Just because you are great at characters doesn’t mean you need to write a coming of age story. But if you know your strength is plot, try and come up with a plot that has so many cool twists and turns no one can put it down.

The answer I gave to my friend is that Stephenie Meyer is a great writer in the areas she needed to be great. She sold millions upon millions of books because her writing rang true to the people who enjoy her kind of writing. If you want to be great, play to your strengths and make yourself the BPA when it comes time for an agent or editor to choose which story to go with.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

More Annoying Writing Things

by Sariah S. Wilson

Dear Joss Whedon:

I have followed you devotedly for many years. Few TV writers possess your wit, your verve, have their finger so strongly on the pulse of current cultural phenomenons, or write such strong female leads as you do. (Props alone must be given for writing the Buffy musical episode or for writing an entire episode where the whole cast couldn't speak and still managed to make me afraid to look out my windows at night, even now.)

And I will still probably follow your career and see what you do next as you employ some of my favorite actors/actresses and continue to write well.

But you and I need to have a discussion about this need you have to kill loved ones in the series finale.

By now I should expect it, but it doesn't annoy me any less.

I was willing to give you Spike, because Buffy didn't really love him and, awesome as he was, I knew you wouldn't let him stay dead (and sure enough, he enjoyably showed up on "Angel"). I was willing to give you Anya because her relationships had lapsed and she had become less important.

I was fine when Wesley died, because it meant he got to go and be with Fred (and I didn't really mind her "death" either because Illyria was entertaining).

But then in the Firefly movie, I was supposed to be okay with Wash dying? Unexpectedly, when you finally thought the crew would make it?

Or, as this is the reason I'm upset this go round, on "Dollhouse" Echo loses Paul to some random bullet? I'm sure this is all meaningful about how accidentally and quickly it can happen (particularly when they're so close to the end and about to defeat the bad guys), and you were upping the stakes or whatever, and I know you tried to make it okay because she could download him into her head, but you know it's not the same and you made this character on a quest to end her loneliness be the loneliest of all. Not cool. I'm sorry Fox cancelled your show (again), but that wasn't the ending I wanted. I'm irritated that I cared about a pairing that will never be.

This doesn't mean we're over. You'll write, and I'll watch. But I'm starting to be wary of getting invested when I know it won't end well for anyone.

(End of letter.)


I also had the misfortune recently of picking up the novelization of "Grease."

I wasn't expecting a literary masterpiece. But with movies I enjoy, I will read the book that goes with them (finding it much easier to do it that way than the other way - when I read a book and go see the movie I usually end up angry and frustrated).

So while browsing the library with my kids I happened to see this book sitting out. It was rereleased (originally written back in the '70s) during the 25th anniversary and I picked it up.

I took it home and read until I realized...that the point of view character was Sonny.

That slimy, lame, background character Sonny.

First problem - Sonny's not there when things are happening and so we have to hear about them secondhand. Part of reading a story is getting to be IN the action. I'm not in the action if I'm hearing about Danny and Sandy at the beach from Sonny (who wasn't actually there and seems to be guessing what all went on).

Second problem - I know it's all literary and artsy to have a horrible character as your protagonist, but said character should at least have something going for them to make them readable. I don't have to like them, but I should at least want to spend time in their head. They have to be interesting in some way. Why the author chose to take the least interesting and most annoying character in the movie to tell this story I'll never understand. It would be sort of like reading Harry Potter with Crabbe or Goyle as narrators. Not quite the same.

Third problem - trying to make Sonny the focus of the story. As a useless character (who could easily be wiped from the canvas and the story would not change without him in it, which should have been the author's first clue that this might not be a good idea) it just wrecks the story further and makes it totally unreadable.

So these problems led to me not getting past the first ten pages (and I'm someone who almost always finishes books).

I had to go and cleanse my palate with a Jane Austen and a JK Rowling (authors that I so admire), and am feeling good to go again with a new author.

Anything you've read lately that made you crazy? Or do you have go-to author/book that you read when you've resorted to throwing books against a wall?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Writer/Character Conferences

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Yesterday I had Parent/Teacher conferences for two of my children and as we discussed how things were going at school, I thought of how I actually do something similar at different points in whatever story I’m writing. It’s sort of like a Writer/Character conference for my novel.

How do you do a Writer/Character conference? Well, I sit down with myself and with each character in my head and ask them (myself) a few questions.

How are things going for your character?

At this point in the story, what would you describe as your most important core trait?

Do you feel like you’re growing and learning from your experiences in the story?

How are you doing mentally, spiritually, and physically with the tests you’ve been through?

Do you have a sufficient background to be in this story?

What is motivating you now?

What risks are you willing to take?

How do you see this ending up for you?

These are just a few ideas to point out that it is important for a writer to sit down occasionally and take stock of the characters. The characters in your story, and their reactions to what happens around them, are really at the core of a good novel. You draw a reader in when they can identify with your characters and it makes them feel something---whether it’s sympathy, horror, or just being anxious to see how it all turns out.

Periodic writer/character conferences also make sure that your characters are more than just a part of the story—that they really are in the story and you are digging deep instead of skimming the surface to bring the story to life through your characters. And this little conference can also help if you’re having trouble with a character in that ideas and direction can come with the answers to those questions.

Of course there are generally no report cards or grades for writer/character conferences or for doing a good job. But give yourself a pat on the back anyway.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Kissing Books

by Stephanie Black

Since Valentine’s day was last Sunday, it seems like a good time to talk about romance. I’m afraid I’ve been corrupted by the strong current of romance that runs through much LDS suspense fiction. My last book was a kissing book (!) and my book being released in August is a kissing book (!!). That’s two books in a row, which means this kissy stuff has practically become a habit. In fact, yesterday the main characters in my work-in-progress got very close to some lip contact. If the heroine had just leaned in a little closer instead of freaking out due to unresolved guilt over the death of the hero’s former girlfriend . . . ah, complications. But I think this book could use less relationship angst and more suspense. Maybe I’ve been channeling a soap opera writer. Troubled marriages, a crush on an unattainable guy, a can’t-let-go-of-a-former-relationship problem, a toxic mother-in-law—and now a hero and heroine who want to kiss each other. Maybe I’ll let them. Or maybe I shall deliberately torment Julie by having their relationship never get past a good, brisk handshake.

Kidding. They’ll (spoiler alert!) kiss. Eventually. I wouldn’t want to risk incurring the wrath of the people who were disappointed when the only thing the hero’s and heroine’s lips did at the end of Fool Me Twice was talk. Actually, I don’t feel the slightest bit of regret about that. Romance is awesome when it fits naturally into the story and is credible. But at the end of FMT, the hero and heroine, in my opinion, simply weren’t ready for romance. I made it obvious that they were leaning in that direction, but a kiss before The End? No. No way. Too soon. Not true to the characters. The heroine has some gone through serious physical and emotional trauma and has some major issues she’s dealing with and the hero is a staunch member of the church who would never consider getting romantically involved with someone he couldn’t take to the temple. She’s investigating the church, but that’s as far as it’s gone. They’re friends, they like each other, she blushes when the hero’s sister teases her about him, but a kiss? Not yet. Give them time.

But in deference to those who were disappointed at the lack of kissing at the end of the book, I am thrilled to announce that I have resolved that deficit. I have . . . wait for it . . . written an epilogue to Fool Me Twice. Rather than try to get it included in any future printings of the book, I have decided to give it away for free, right here, right now, on this blog, as my Valentine’s gift to you. Here it is:

Six months later:

He pulled her into his strong arms and pressed his lips to her newly baptized lips in a kiss that turned her heart to an oversized Jell-o Jiggler. “I love you,” he said, or at least that’s what she thought he said—it’s not easy to enunciate clearly with your lips pressed against someone else’s lips, but given the context, she was pretty sure he hadn’t said “Hi fluff glue,” which had been her second guess.

She wrapped her arms around him, her trembling knees as soft as the funeral potatoes the Relief Society would, at some point, be called upon to serve up in quantity, since, given the perpetually creepy nature of her life over the past year, someone in her vicinity was bound to end up with a knife in the back sooner or later.

No need to thank me. Knowing I’ve made hearts go pitter-patter is thanks enough. Hear that zinging noise? That’s Cupid, shooting arrows.

Now for today’s question: what books have you read lately where the romance warmed your heart? As for me, the romance I like is the friendship-based romance where the hero and heroine actually get to know each other and like each other and then fall in love, as opposed to the crazed-hormonal-do-we-even-have-anything-in-common-who-cares-I-just-know-you’re-handsome/beautiful relationships. For example, I really enjoyed the romance that grew between a couple of the main characters in Heather Moore's Alma. What in your reading over the past months has made your heart go thumpety-thump?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Olympic Fever

by Robison Wells

There's been a lot of talk around the internets in recent years about who hates America most. I don't suppose I've ever given an official, straight-forward answer to the question, but I'll give it now: the people who hate America most are the people who don't watch the Olympics. (Also: the Russians.)

I love me some Olympics--even the stupid sports--and if you are not an Olympics watcher then why don't you go back to the Motherland and eat some borscht, Pinko.

Granted, there are a lot of stupid, boring sports in the Winter Olympics. As much as the commentators try, there is no way to make cross-country skiing exciting. I've gone cross-country skiing before, and the only reason I ever voluntarily strapped those stupid things on was because I was freezing in my tent and needed exercise to stave off impending death. (The problem is that cross-country skiing shouldn't be considered a sport. At best, it's exercise, but a more apt description is that it's work. People cross-country ski because they need to get to the other side of the big snowy field and snowshoes would be too slow. Also, have you ever met people who cross-country ski recreationally? They're the type of people who shop at Whole Foods and comment on other peoples' aspartame use.)

On the other hand, the Winter Olympics has a lot of awesome sports, too. Both short-track skating and snowboard cross are violent slugfests that could easily result in serious injury. That's a big plus in my book. Likewise, the commentators during the moguls used the phrase "controlled chaos" about ninety-five times, and that has to be a good thing.

Every time I watch the Olympics I get the inspiration to try some of the sports. Snowboarding looks pretty fun. Besides, if those pot-smoking slackers can get to the Olympics then imagine what I could do--I mean, heck, I graduated from high school! Just give me the medal now.

So, with this desire to prove that I can do whatever those so-called "athletes" can, after the 2006 Olympics my wife and I signed up for curling classes. Curling, for those of you who are unaware, is the most awesome sport on the face of the earth. It's essentially bowling on ice. You slide a chunk of granite across the ice and try to hit the center of a target. Along the way, team members with brooms scrub the ice to alter the stone's progress. It's loads of fun, and endlessly silly, and I figured that it was the ideal sport for me. I mean, how hard could it be?

The answer: extremely hard. Another thing that was extremely hard: the ice onto which I repeatedly fell.

Here's how curling works. When you're the player who casts the first stone (determined by whichever team member is without sin) you crouch down with your back foot in the hack (a brace for your back foot) and all of your weight is resting on your forward foot. And your forward foot is wearing a teflon shoe. Walking on the ice is bad enough, but wearing a teflon shoe? And then balancing on one foot? This is pure stupidity.

So, these classes that I was registered for were four weeks long. The first week we learned all the lingo and practiced throwing stones (people who lived in glass houses were disqualified). The second week we practiced sweeping, and played our first games, and fell down over and over and over and over. It was highly unpleasant. We didn't find out what happened during weeks two and three, because we were nursing our bruised and fractured bodies.

My point of all this is to say that curling is really hard, and you should watch the Olympics more and think about how amazing those curlers really are. My other point is that snowboarding doesn't look too hard--maybe I'll try that.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Primary Birthday Box

by Sariah S. Wilson

Somehow, I got put in charge of our Primary's birthday box. I think this is what happens when you venture an opinion in a presidency meeting ("Great idea! Hey, why don't you go ahead and be in charge of that?").

Here's the situation - we have approximately 100 kids and I can spend $30.

The plan is to have four different items to choose from (as in the past when there are too many choices the kids stand up there for a long time choosing and rechoosing).

Right now the box has Article of Faith cards and some CTR rings. (Which I'd personally like to take out of the box as that's all they've had to choose from for the last year.)

I considered an Oriental Trading Company toy assortment, but many of those things look loud and/or breakable.

I suppose I could go shopping and look around (seeing as how I'm all about the deals) but shopping has become a not-so-easy task for me as of late.

Take yesterday for example.

There I was, shopping with my baby and preschooler. My daughter fell asleep in the car on the way to the store, and so when I woke her up, she was not happy (strike 1).

She has also recently decided she wants to be like the baby, so she wants to sit in the cart like he does. This isn't a problem when the two older kids come with me, but I can't push two carts in the store. We found a cart that has a car in the front, and two side by side seats in the back of the cart. She was initially amenable to this idea.

Until...we came across a "little cart" that someone had left in an aisle (a child-sized cart that is the bane of my existence while shopping at Kroger - I actually avoid the entrance that has them out because of how awful they are). She had to have that little cart. I now had to push an extremely bulky cart and keep her close to me as she's not all that skilled with maneuvering said little cart (strike 2).

Then, while going down the chip/popcorn aisle she suddenly darted out to my left to go in front of me and decided to introduce her little cart to a flimsy display of Starburst and Skittles (strike 3).

You can guess what happened next.

Down went the display, spilling its contents all over the main walkway in the middle of the store. Packages of Starburst and Skittles covered the entire area. There were probably ten people in the area when this happened. People walked around the candy and kept on going.

That sort of stunned me. I'm not the most extroverted person in the world, and I was in a bit of a hurry myself (trying to get home before my kids got off the bus), but I can't imagine that I wouldn't stop and help. I know that I would, because I have in the past.

So with my cheeks red and my daughter helping me, we fixed the display and started putting the candy back in the boxes. The Starburst fit pretty easily back into the box, but the Skittles refused to behave.

And as I was doing this, an older woman apparently wanted to come into the aisle where we were cleaning up the candy. She stopped and stood there, staring at us, I kid you not, for at least five minutes.

Had it been me (well, it wouldn't have been me because I would have offered to help) and I needed to get into an aisle that someone was blocking, I would have walked down the aisles on either side to get into that aisle from the opposite end (these are short aisles).

I felt pretty stupid and embarassed.

But we did fix the candy display and returned the candy to its place, only to find that my baby had used his time to remove every box of Hot Tamales that he could reach from the shelf.

So rather than go out and hunt around and set myself up for another possible situation like yesterday's, I thought I'd ask to see if anyone had any ideas. I'm leaning toward party favor type things.

So, keeping in mind the budgetary restraints and gender/age/number of kids, any suggestions?

Friday, February 12, 2010

How to Make it to Your 85th Anniversary

by Kerry Blair

Before we begin, I need you to know that I spent actual hours this week writing a really-truly blog to put up today. All by myself, no less. And get this: it was writing-related! At least it was as writing-related as those of us who who mostly just hang out with writers (and a frog) ever get.

So, I got up this morning and opened up my laptop, practically popping with self-satisfaction. But before I could put up the post* I had to log onto the Internet. This, of course, brought up my home page and before I could hit the second W in www, I saw this picture and followed the link and . . . well . . . aww! It's almost Valentine's Day, and this story is so sweet you diabetics should probably just move along to the next blog right now.

This is Herbert and Zelmyra Fisher, a couple who have been married for nearly 86 years. According to their granddaughter, Herbert and Zelmyra (don't you love those names!?) are eager to share their insight into what constitutes a lasting marriage. Moreover, they're appealing to many of those just starting out in adulthood by . . . Twittering . . . their advice. (Okay. I cannot believe I just spent five minutes trying to figure out how to conjugate that . . . word. Boy, do I feel like a Twit. Also, I'm pretty sure I got it wrong. Now that I think about it for six minutes, I believe the Fishers are in fact Tweeting their advice. Or tweeting it. Apparently, "Twitter" and "tweet" are proper nouns -- except when they're not. Mercy! I'll bet Webster's glad he's dead. I have no idea how the rest of us are expected to struggle through modern communication with new words popping up every day or so, most of which want to be both nouns and verbs -- and every other part of speech they think they can wrangle.)

Pardon me. I may have gotten a little off-topic there. I will save that rant for another week because I do believe it's a good one. In the meantime, I'll move on with the story by quoting from Holidash**, thus saving me a great deal of brain strain: Through February 12 Twitter and Facebook users can post questions for the couple and on February 14, Valentine's Day, they will tweet their answers to fourteen of the best inquiries.

At 104 and 102, the Fishers hold the Guinness World Record for being the living couple with the longest marriage. Assuming they're still together this time next year (and their chances look good) they'll break the record for the longest marriage in recorded history. Wow! This means Gary and I have about 56 years to go. Sadly, our chances do not look quite as rosy as Herbert and Zayma's.

Of course, I have no idea how this . . . tweetering . . . thing actually works, so I'll quote Sandy Maple's article once again: Tweet your questions to @longestmarried or post a message on the America's Tweethearts Facebook page. And don't forget to bring your own sweetheart back on Valentine's Day to learn the secrets of everlasting love.

Isn't that terrific? It's the second best true love story I've ever heard. The best is my grandmother's. At 84, she finally married her childhood sweetheart. Chet had been widowed after 60 years of marriage; Nana had been widowed twice and then remained single for more than 30 years. They had a simple, but storybook, wedding, and were still acting like newlyweds on an anniversary cruise ten years later.

They're not available for . . . tweeting . . . anymore, but I can share one of their secrets. Vera and Chet each held their spouse's happiness in higher regard than their own. At 87 he was outside in early April, spading near-frozen Spokane soil in order to plant the rosesbushes she'd ordered in the mail; she was inside kneading dough with arthritic fingers because he loved a fresh, hot loaf of bread.

I feel all warm and gushy inside and want it to continue, at least through Valentine's Day. Help me out. What do you think the secret is to making a marriage that doesn't just seem eternal? Or, if you don't have all the answers, what about the questions? What would you ask Herbert and Zelmyra? If there is a secret, they've apparently found it.

Happy Valentine's Day!

*Alas, I seem to have awakened with an awful case of alliteration which, I fear, has now spread as far as assonance will allow.

**Disclaimer: Follow links at your own risk. I almost never link to websites because some readers may find advertising, etc on the site objectionable. I glanced at this one and saw nothing much more pernicious than red and pink M&Ms, but I did not look it over carefully, nor follow any of it's links, nor do I know what will appear there later in the day/week/month/year.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Peanut Butter and Mayo Sandwiches

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Have you ever tried to mash two foods together that normally wouldn’t be mashed, or watched someone eat two mashed together things and winced? For instance, if you google odd mashed together food choices you come up with things like this: peanut butter and mayo sandwiches, popcorn and mustard, pancakes and ketchup, Fritos dipped in caramel sauce and chocolate cake with pinto beans. My own brother used to put mustard on ice cubes and eat that when we were young. Surprisingly, none of the above mentioned food combinations makes me run to the fridge excited about trying something new. At all.

What did make me excited was the thought of a twist in my book. The idea came to me in a flash and it seemed right for my main female character, so I started writing it. It really fleshed out her character and gave her a lot of direction, both things of which she had been lacking. It also gave me a great platform for my book, since it was somewhat of a timely issue.

The problem came because her backstory and “direction,” didn’t exactly jive with the rest of the story or character direction. I spent almost two weeks trying to decide how I could best integrate her story with the rest of the book, which frustrated me. I wrote, rewrote, and rewrote again, but nothing seemed to be working. Everything I came up with sounded forced no matter how I tried to mash it together. But in my heart I really wanted it to work because it was so timely and I was proud of myself for thinking of it.

After another week of banging my head trying to get this story to work in with the rest of the book, it finally hit me. It wasn’t working because my job is to tell a continuous, compelling story and I was essentially trying to mash two potentially great stories together that, in this instance, didn’t belong. My story was the peanut butter and the character’s story was the mayo. Or the story was the pancakes and the character’s story was the ketchup, if you get my drift. It was sort of an epiphany for me because I realized that I was going to have to scrap my character’s story for now for the good of this book. (But I consoled myself that I could make it a book of its own someday). I also realized that I had my work cut out for me with the main story. My character didn’t have direction because I hadn’t gotten into her head with the story that was already there and I was taking the lazy way out in inventing a story for her that she would fit into. So, I’m starting from square one with this character and really getting down to the nitty gritty with her and her part in my story---which I should have done from the beginning.

You might think that having to start over with this character would be discouraging, but I’m actually excited about it. (Well, okay, I had a hard time letting it go at first, but now I’m excited.) For one, I know myself better when it comes to writing her, I know her better from thinking about her so often over the last three weeks, and I think I have a better grasp on where she’s at emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It’s actually nice for me not to be thinking about how she’s going to fit, but thinking about where she already fits and digging deeper into the possibilities. It’s like separating the two “foods”, and knowing it’s for the best. At least it is for my writing appetite.

Although I think that now I’ve written this blog, I’m going to give her a characteristic that she likes odd food choices mashed together. That sounds appropriate, don’t you think?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Donut Plan

by Stephanie Black

I was a nervous wreck last Friday morning, waiting for the announcement of the 2009 Whitney Award finalists. Heck, I’d been worried for a long time. When you know something is coming that can either be a huge thrill or a huge disappointment, and in fact, you even know the exact date that the thrill/disappointment will come . . . yeah. Eek. I had tried to think of some way to comfort myself if Methods of Madness didn’t make the finals. I knew competition in Mystery/Suspense was fierce, so I wanted something to look forward to if I didn’t make the cut. I decided on . . . donuts! (Hey, what did you expect? A trip to Hawaii? I’ve got a mortgage, a kid in college, and California-style property taxes). If I found out on Friday morning that my book wasn’t a finalist, then after all the kids were at school, I could go to the local donut shop, buy a dozen donuts (and they always give you one extra!) and eat as many as I wanted. Now, don’t go all sick to your stomach on me—I wasn’t planning to eat a dozen, or half a dozen. But I would eat what I wanted throughout the day and share the rest with the kids when they came home. I could also soak in the tub, or read, or write, or whatever I wanted to do to comfort myself that morning. I knew the Donut Plan wouldn’t cure my disappointment—it takes time for disappointment to heal—but I hoped it would help a little. At least planning for disappointment might help me brace myself, right? Maybe? It’s a nice theory, anyway. My plans veered a bit off-course when I ended up scheduling a meeting with my girls camp assistant for Friday morning (I’m the stake camp director). I wouldn’t be able to indulge in a morning of doing whatever I wanted, but I’d still manage to work donuts in there.

I fell asleep just fine on Thursday night (hooray!), but then woke up a bunch of times and finally woke up at five-something and couldn’t get back to sleep, knowing the time for the announcement (7:00 AM, Utah time, so 6:00 my time) was . . . so . . . very . . . close. Aaargh! I crept downstairs and checked to see if maybe they’d posted the announcement a little early. They hadn’t. I was scared silly until the big moment arrived and to my immense relief, I discovered that Methods of Madness was a finalist.

I think I’ll recycle the Donut Plan for next year, because I know darn well I’ll be at least as nervous, if not more nervous, about Cold as Ice as I was about Methods of Madness, and I'll be trying to brace myself for disappointment, hoping, probably futilely, that I can make it not hurt as much if things don’t turn out like I hoped. Each book is another “baby” and generates both new excitement and new worry.

I was pleased to discover that I’d already read eleven of the Whitney finalists and was currently reading another. I’ve since finished another beyond that, for a total of 13 out of 30, which still gives me seventeen books to read. Can I do it? Dunno. We’ll see. A lot depends on two things: 1--Can I get copies of all the finalists without spending bales of money? And 2--How long are they? It’s going to take me a lot longer to read Gerald Lund’s massive The Undaunted than it did to read Princess of the Midnight Ball, the delightful Jessica Day George YA novel I finished reading this morning. I just want to make sure that I complete all the reading in at least some categories. It would be, I suppose, pretty poor planning on my part if I read 4 out of 5 books in each category and then couldn’t vote in any of them.

I like the way they’ve added a requirement that Whitney Academy members needs to check a box certifying that they’ve read all books in a category before they can vote in that category. Naturally, that was an unwritten requirement all along—how can you make an informed decision unless you’ve given each book a fair shot?—but I think that requiring voters to certify that they have done so will help nudge people into making sure they are truly prepared before voting. And by the way, if you’re an author and are not a member of the Whitney Academy and would like to be, check out the Whitney Awards Official Rules page and contact the committee to get added to the voting roster. You don’t have to be a member of LDStorymakers to vote in the Whitney Academy.

And I suppose I’d better quit blogging and leave myself some writing time this morning so, I hope, I’ll have something to worry about in February 2012.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

On Mentoring

by Sariah S. Wilson

Yes, I am aware that there is some sort of sports event happening today. But as I know nothing about either team (other than a vague rumor I heard about a BYU graduate playing for the Colts) I will have nothing to say on the subject. Other than that I DVR'ed it so that I could watch the commercials.

So, I was thinking the other day about how important mentors are in certain fields. We don't expect surgeons to glean all their knowledge from teachers and books - they have to practice with mentors who teach them for a long time before they go off on their own. Master carpenters can teach an apprentice more than he'd ever learn from studying a book.

My thoughts went this direction because I wanted to write a character with a certain personality trait that I do not possess and I thought I should get a book on it. I then thought of all the things I've tried to learn from reading books - how to potty train my kids, how to get them to sleep through the night, how to write a book, how to be a more positive person, etc., etc.

Then I thought that the best teaching methods came not from a book, but from another person. Moms who had already potty/sleep trained their children were far more help than the best book. Reading the work of other authors in my genre taught me more than any instructional book could have. Happy, positive people are better examples and more motivating for me than the written word.

I considered that I hadn't had an actual mentor when I wrote and sold my first book. I didn't belong to a writing group; I didn't have any critique partners.

But then I remembered the help I did have - Rob Wells pushed me toward my current publisher and encouraged me to send my work there; Julie Bellon read my first chapter, made a suggestion that made the first few lines even better, and answered any questions I had about the publishing process; once my work was accepted Jeff Savage became my go-to-guy on questions I had regarding the LDS market. I met these three authors at Latter Day Authors, and in big and small ways they acted as mentors for me.

I've also had the help of many generous authors along the way who did blurbs for my books or sent me kind words regarding my work. I had more help from real people than I'd ever imagined once I stopped to think about it.

What do you think - are mentors necessary to help you succeed? Or do you think you could learn all you need to know from books or websites?

Friday, February 05, 2010

2009 Whitney Awards Finalists Announced

The Whitney Awards committee today announced the finalists for the 2009 Whitney Awards, a program which honors the best novels by Latter-day Saint writers.

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 finalists per category.

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

BEST ROMANCE: Counting the Cost, by Liz Adair; Illuminations of the Heart, by Joyce DiPastena; All the Stars in Heaven, by Michele Paige Holmes; Santa Maybe, by Aubrey Mace; Previously Engaged, by Elodia Strain.

MYSTERY/SUSPENSE: Lockdown, by Traci Hunter Abramson; Methods of Madness, by Stephanie Black; Murder by the Book, by Betsy Brannon Green; Lemon Tart, by Josi Kilpack; Altered State, by Gregg Luke.

YOUTH FICTION: Princess of the Midnight Ball, by Jessica Day George; Fablehaven IV: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary, by Brandon Mull; My Fair Godmother, by Janette Rallison; Bright Blue Miracle, by Becca Wilhite; The Chosen One, by Carol Lynch Williams.

SPECULATIVE: Servant of a Dark God, by John Brown; The Maze Runner, by James Dashner; Wings, by Aprilynne Pike; Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson; I Am Not A Serial Killer, by Dan Wells.

HISTORICAL: Tribunal, by Sandra Grey; The Undaunted, by Gerald Lund; Alma, by H.B. Moore; The Last Waltz, by G.G. Vandagriff; In the Company of Angels, by Dave Wolverton.

GENERAL FICTION: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford; No Going Back, by Jonathon Langford; Gravity vs. The Girl, by Riley Noehren; The Route, by Gale Sears; Eyes Like Mine, by Julie Wright.

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.

Unlike previous voting, this year the academy can choose from any of the thirty finalists for the overall award, Best Novel of the Year. Similarly, any of the finalists who meet the eligibility requirements can be chosen for Best Novel by a New Author. (Those eligible this year: John Brown, Jamie Ford, Jonathon Langford, Riley Noehren, Aprilynne Pike, Dan Wells, and Becca Wilhite.)

Winners will be announced at a gala banquet on Saturday, April 24 at the Marriott Hotel in Provo, Utah. Tickets are now on sale at

Special 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. Gerald Lund will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, and Dave Wolverton will receive an Outstanding Achievement Award.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

My Love Affair with Writing

by Julie Coulter Bellon

As a wife, mother, teacher, friend, daughter, church member, and writer, I almost always have to squeeze in time for writing because of all the things going on in my life. It's not that I don't love writing, I do, and I want to spend a lot of time with it, but sometimes writing and I have a long-distance relationship because of my schedule.

For example, I was on the Whitney committee this year and have been reading a lot of books recently. (The finalists will be announced tomorrow. I can’t wait to see it!) But while I’ve been reading, reading, reading in the past week alone, my father has come to visit from Canada, I’ve had six basketball games to attend for my children, planned a surprise birthday party for my daughter, the writing muse came back and gave me the first chapter to my work-in progress, I started casting and rehearsing the road show I wrote, while a billion (or at least twelve) BYU students were breathing down my neck to get their portfolios graded. I’m also getting everything ready for my new book, Dangerous Connections, to launch in just over three weeks.

Sometimes my schedule leaves me feeling overwhelmed and wondering if I’ll ever finish my work in progress. But it’s when I’m doing something totally unrelated to writing that the ideas seem to come (and usually someone else is on the computer so I have to go over and over it in my mind so I don’t forget). Lately, I’ve been struggling with a character in my work in progress because she just didn’t seem to have a solid foundation. One day, I was driving down the road fairly early in the morning to drop one of my kids off at school and all of the sudden, there it was. I clearly saw how I was going to start my book out with her, and the first chapter just sort of flowed through my head. I couldn’t wait to rush home and write it. It took me about half an hour (I’m used to writing quickly because of my limited computer time due to my older kids being on it, or my one year old needing me), but that half an hour was definitely the highlight of my day.

For some reason, even with my hectic schedule, writing for a small amount of time grounds me. It fills my bucket, so to speak. I have so many demands because of my job and large family, but my writing is something that de-stresses me, that focuses me, and makes me feel like I am doing something for myself by trying to develop a talent. With my schedule right now I can’t write every day, but I notice a difference on the days I do write.

Even with all that said, there are days when I simply don’t want to write. I know I should, but I don’t. I’m too exhausted, I feel like giving up, or there are just too many things to do and I feel like I can’t justify sitting down at the computer. And sometimes, my mind just feels like there’s nothing up there even worth typing. But even with those days, I know that tomorrow will be better, or that if I can just squeeze in a little tiny bit of writing time today, I would feel better. If I do sit down and at least write a paragraph, I always remember this quote:

“I have forced myself to begin writing when I've been utterly exhausted, when I've felt my soul as thin as a playing card…and somehow the activity of writing changes everything.” - Joyce Carol Oates

Writing can change everything. It can change your mood, your perspective, and how you react to what’s going on around you. I love writing. I love creating something. And even in a very busy time of life, I find writing to be a solace, something that calls to me and has helped me find myself.

Maybe this doesn’t make sense to anyone but me, but I am grateful for writing, even when it’s hard. Writing is my antidote for stress, my ointment for a wounded heart, and my doorway to possibilities. It gives me a sense of fulfillment and is another way for me to share myself and my view of the world. I think it was always meant to be this way for me. And while I don't always make the time for it, I'm glad when I do.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Stoking the Fire

by Stephanie Black

A friend asked me the other day how I got motivated to write my first book. She’s interested in writing, but the problem for her is that “gap between thinking and doing.”

I find this a very interesting issue.

I wonder if sometimes the difficulty in getting fingers to keyboard can stem from the difference between wanting to write and wanting to have written. It’s very possible to want the finished product—a book—but at the same time to lack the motivation for the actual lengthy process of writing it.

I have the same motivation problem with a lot of things in my life. For instance, I’d like to be organized. I’d like to have my library books back on time and to always be on top of everything, and so on. But I don’t want these things badly enough to go through the process of getting organized. It’s not until something becomes painful enough that I want to change more than I don’t want to bother that I take action. For instance, I passionately hate trying to find all the forms we need for our taxes. So each year, as tax documents start arriving in the mail, I put them into a Ziploc bag. Then when my husband is ready to do the taxes, I can hand him the bag. There’s always something I still need to find—for instance, the paper showing how much we paid to renew the car registration—but it makes it so much easier for me to have most of the papers all together. Because the problem bothered me so much, I was motivated to fix it. And, of course, there’s the classic example—I’d like to be skinnier. But I only want to BE skinnier—I don’t want to go through the process of GETTING skinnier. And until I want to lose weight more than I want to eat what I want when I want, it’s not going to happen. The motivation just isn’t there yet. I’m motivated enough to exercise, but not to count calories.

Back to the original question—for me, finding the motivation to write my first book was NOT a problem. Stepping away from the computer when I really needed to stop writing and go pay attention to something else--THAT was tougher. I was so excited about the story that I rushed for the computer every chance I got. I had young children, so the baby/toddler naptime after lunch was my golden writing time. Unless there was some unusual situation—like visitors coming to town—no way would I spend that precious time doing housework. If a friend came to visit during naptime, I would be internally twitchy because this was my writing time slipping away (but I would have been way too embarrassed to say, um, hey, I really want to write right now; could we visit later?) If my husband was gone on a business trip, I would sometimes stay up very late writing. Since I was not yet published, I had no one waiting for my book—no editor, no fans. There was no need to hurry so there wouldn’t be a huge gap between releases, and there were no deadlines. I could take as much time as I wanted, and I did. I spent years learning how to write and working on that book, and the fire didn’t dim. I loved it.

Subsequent books—well, that’s a somewhat different story. I’m still motivated, but the roaring fire has cooled a bit. I still love writing, but I don’t rush to devote every spare second to my story like I wanted to when I was working on my first book. I admit that I'm not as disciplined as I should be. But I am motivated enough to keep those books coming, knowing that if I want to be successful, I need to keep on typing.

So how can you motivate yourself when the fire alone isn’t enough to get your fingers to the keyboard? Here are a few suggestions to stoke the flames:

*Set small, concrete goals. Instead of a big monster-goal of “I am going to write a book”, break it down. “This week, I am going to write 250 words per day.”. That’s about one page. Or if you’re really feeling stymied, set a goal to write just 100 words per day. Or, if you prefer to set goals in time increments instead of by word count, you could say, “This week, I will spend twenty minutes a day working on my book.” Or an hour, or whatever works for you. Bestselling author and Whitney Award winner Josi Kilpack said the following about getting out of a writing slump:

“What works best for me is forcing myself to write. I will set a timer for a prescribed amount of time and make myself write, no matter how much I don’t want to. I do about 30 minutes. Sometimes by the time the timer runs out I’m on a roll and I keep going. Other times I am so glad to leave the computer, but I am glad I did it.

"I think most writing slumps, at least for me, come from lack of confidence—either in my story, my ability to write it, or that I’ve taken care of other things in life enough to be able to feel good about writing. But it’s brutal trying to gain confidence when you’re not feeling it. I find making myself write gives me something to feel better about: “I’ve written three days this week, that’s better than last week” and eventually I find myself back in a groove.”

Following up on Josi’s comment about lack of confidence, my next tip is:

*Don’t demand perfection in that first draft. Get those words written and tell yourself you can fix them later. Of course you want to write your best and stretch yourself, but I think perfectionism can be the death of a first draft. If you worry too much that what you’re writing is awful, pretty soon you’ll sputter to a halt, or you’ll revise chapter one forty-seven times and never get anywhere near The End. Repeat after me: First drafts can be dorky. First drafts can be fixed. That’s what revision is for. There’s a lot to be said for gaining momentum, so don’t keep screeching to a halt to criticize yourself and redo everything. If you realize something in the story isn’t working, sometimes it helps to just make a note saying “fix this” and then keep moving forward.

*Give yourself little rewards. I’m an e-mail addict, so I often use that to kick myself in the pants, telling myself I have to write 200 words before I can look at my email again. It really works for me, and those 200 word increments add up. What little rewards might work for you? Chocolate? A favorite TV show? That novel you’ve been wanting to read? The chance to check your favorite blogs?

*Get a writing buddy or join a critique group. If you have to regularly submit pages to a critique group, that’s some serious motivation to get to work. Or if you have a writing buddy, you can share your goals and follow up with each other—a little accountability can go a long way. Or join a writing challenge, like the ones author Tristi Pinkston holds regularly on her blog, where you post your progress.

Now I’d love to hear your suggestions. What helps you stoke the fire and get that story written?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Fourth Nephite

Thanks for all the birthday wishes here and on Facebook. I had a great 47th with family. And I got new games which is always a plus! Sorry about missing posting yesterday. I am in head down writing mode which always makes things a little crazy.

But I thought I'd share the cover from a new book coming out in July. The goal of a cover is obviously to hook the reader. But it can also tell you a lot about the genre, age group, story, etc So without knowing anything about this story, what would you guess from the cover?

Monday, February 01, 2010

If'n You're Interested

The latest issue of Mormon Artist came out this weekend, and it features a big long interview with me as well as the always-awesome Julie Wright.

The interview is a little different from previous interviews I've done around the interweb. It's a little more serious, I guess. When they contacted me I decided that I wasn't going to treat it like a marketing interview, since I'm not really promoting anything at the moment, but that I'd answer the questions as openly as possible. I think it turned out pretty well.

Go and partake.