Friday, May 31, 2013

Writing in Cycles

June is a day away, and I thought I would have my book finished by now.  I'm working on a book for families - a Christmas project - called "The 12 Days of Christmas Adventure." 

I work on it furiously during November and December, because I'm thinking of Christmas, of course.  Come January, I'm weary of the thing (it involves a lot of pictures) and I set it aside for awhile, swearing to be done by June.  I'm ashamed to admit I've done this for three years.

I know this is an unproductive pattern.  Well, it's productive during November and December, and then the factory practically shuts down.  I clearly struggle to write about a holiday when the holiday is not upon me.  Is there a remedy for this?

I think it's this: I have to keep writing.

When the Christmas cookies are gone, I have to keep writing about Christmas.  When the Valentine candy appears in stores, I have to keep writing about Christmas.  When St. Patrick's day rolls around and May tulips are springing up, I have to keep writing about Christmas.  When Independence Day cookouts are smoking and school starts back up...I have to keep writing about Christmas. 

If I could do this for just ONE year, I know my work in progress would be my work is done.  At least until I find a publisher, and their suggestions send me back to the factory for some adjustments. 

Is anyone else working on a project that is seasonal, or circumstantial, and when that atmosphere wanes, so does some of your motivation?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Call For Money Saving Ideas

I think must of us mommy writers are very familiar with the concept of pinching pennies.  It's become a topic lately that I've become slightly obsessed with - how to get the most out of the money we have - particularly when it comes to food supplies and groceries. 

So I'd like to send out a request to our wonderful readers:  Does anyone have any good tips on how to extend a budget, by cutting back on unnecessary costs?  I'll take any tips, but what I'm most interested in are suggestions and/or recipes that cut back the costs on food and household items most regularly used.  For example: laundry detergent, or yogurt. 

Please send me your great links, tips, ideas and recipes, and I will feature a few over the month of June on my Thursday posts.  You can leave a comment on this post, or better yet, email me.  I can be reached at maybemandi(at)gmail(dot)com.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Because whether you are a writer or not, who couldn't use a few more pennies?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

An Easy Mistake to Make

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.
(Sauce unknown)

Spelling is difficult enough, but when there are several words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings it can be extremely difficult to know how to get the right one. Here are a few I've come across recently:
  • He was hunched in a corner pouring over a book.
  • The children looked at me in ore.
  • Just to wet your appetite.
Did you spot all the mistakes? (The correct versions were poring, awe and whet.)

English is the world's biggest language, with twice the vocabulary of its nearest rival. That means that it's a wonderful tool for writers, but there are also pitfalls. How do we learn all those little variations and nuances?

When I was learning Welsh I came across mutations. In Welsh, a word changes its first letter depending on the word preceding it. So, for example, the Welsh word for cat is cath, but if you put the definite article in front of it, the cat, it becomes y gath. It makes it extremely difficult to look up Welsh words in a dictionary because gath will not be listed. There are three separate tables of mutations, and one word could have any number of mutations depending on what word it follows and what context it's used in. At first I despaired of ever leaning them, but a wise teacher told me not to bother. "Just listen," he said, "And you will pick it up."

He was right. One day someone asked me where I lived. The obvious reply "Yn [in] Caernarfon" but somehow I knew that was wrong. I replied instead "Yng Nghaernarfon", correctly using the mutation. It just sounded right. I must have heard it a few times and assimilated it.

It's the same with learning these awkward spellings. If we read a lot we will just know.  Immerse ourselves in books and see the correct word and correct spelling used time and time again. That's one of the many reasons why writers who are asked for their advice to aspiring writers so often say "Read a lot".

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Talking Tuesday; Falling in Love All Over

While cleaning my daughter's room last week I found an old journal of mine.  It was from the semester of college that I met my husband.  I couldn't resist taking a break from my cleaning, so I sat down to read a few pages.  This lead to me reading the entire journal. 

I discovered I have forgotten quite a bit about myself then.  But mostly I learned what a blessing it is that my husband saw through my craziness and loved me.  Seriously, I must have thought the world revolved around me.  

It was nice to walk down memory lane.  It was just as good for me as curling up with my favorite book. I am not saying that my journal is the next best seller.  I doubt that it would have the same pull for anyone else.  But for me it did what every good book should do.  It transported me outside of what I was doing, and dropped me into an experience that pulled at my emotions. 

Have you ever written your own love story? 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Clicking Update and Some Changes for Me

So, two weeks ago I posted the video about clicking. Last week I promised an update and here it is!

So, that first week I couldn’t find my clicker, but I decided I would do some mental clicking. I made a conscious effort to think happy thoughts. It was fantastic, but it made me sore. This is because when I was out running one of those days I thought, “Whoof, I’m tired.” But then I’d think, “What a lovely day!” and I’d get a little extra spring in my step. I’d think, “Ugh, another hill,” and then I’d think, “I love this song on my iPod. Gosh, I’m glad I have an iPod. And hey, I even remembered to charge it! Go Me!” (drop of awesome! For the win!) And I’d sprint right on up that hill. Then, I thought, “I haven’t run for awhile. I probably shouldn’t go too far,” which was quickly defeated by, “Whatever! You’re out now! You’re awesome! You just keep going, girl! Run like the wind!” And I did. Run, run, run.

Did you know that if you haven’t run for awhile and then you go out and practically sprint two miles it makes you just a bit sore and stiff? True story.

Anyway, the times that I remembered my “mental clicking” it was great. Mostly, I just remembered to be grateful. And then the next week, I found my clicker in the junk drawer! For the win!

So here’s how that went: I was wearing a dress that day so I didn’t have pockets to put it in. So I just kept it near me and clicked it whenever I remembered. Good. Then my kids got home from school.

Kid #1: “Mom, what’s this?”

Me: “It’s my clicker. When I push this lever, the number on it goes up by one.”

Kid #1: “Can I push it?”

Me: "Well, I’m pushing it every time I think a happy thought. I guess if you want to, you can push it for your happy thoughts too. Why not?”

Kid #1: “I had a good day at school!” *click* “Look! It’s at 83!"

Me: “Great!” [second child notices]

Kid #2: “Mom, can I click it too?”

Me: “Sure, go ahead."

Kid #2: “Umm...I got to go to Art today!” *click* “84! It’s at 84, Mom!"

Me: “Awesome! Happy thoughts are great, aren’t they?”

Kid #3: “What’s this?” [picks up clicker and starts clicking it repeatedly because she’s three and thinks it’s fun]

Kid: #1: MOOOM!!!!! She’s MESSING UP THE CLICKER!!!!!!

Me: “Guys, it doesn’t matter. It’s not like a competition or anything.”

Kid #2: “BUT NOW THE NUMBERS ARE ALL MESSED UP!!! AND SHE DIDN’T HAVE ANY HAPPY THOUGHTS!!!” [grabs clicker from unsuspecting 3-year-old who starts screaming]

Me: “Don’t just grab it from her! Give it to me! Sheesh, you guys are ruining my happy thoughts with your fighting!”

So...yeah. Clicker works better if I can keep it hidden.

Anyway, this past week I had the awesome opportunity to attend a writer’s group hosted/taught by author Lana Krumwiede who is super duper nice and awesome and knows her stuff. As I’ve posted on here, I’ve been in the trenches of freelancing over the past couple of months, trying to earn a little extra money, so I haven’t been doing a lot of nurturing of my creative side. In our little writer’s group, however, following our discussion on setting and our critique of another member’s work, the group zeroed in on me and said that next month it would be my turn to share my work for a critique.

Suddenly I was like, What? What am I going to submit? The only stuff I’ve been working on for the last four months are articles on couponing, Jennifer Lopez, hydrangeas, and birthday quotes. Uhh....

Then it dawned on me. I am tired of writing articles on couponing, Jennifer Lopez, hydrangeas, and birthday quotes. And if I spent as much time each week working on my book as I was writing these ridiculous articles, I could have it finished by now. And I could be submitting to agents and editors and have MY name on the work and be LOVING what I’m doing, rather than filling in templates and getting paid meager wages for several hours of research, note taking, and, well, let’s be honest here, brilliant writing.

So I quit.

But one important thing I realized from that experience is that one of the main reasons I got so much accomplished during that time was that each week I had to commit, in writing, to the articles I would complete for the client. So I have enlisted my mom to be my new client. Each week, I will commit, in writing, to a word count that will be due to her by Saturday at midnight. It is my hope that that will keep me accountable. We’ll see how it goes! (Did I ever mention that my mom is a writer too? She’s completely awesome. I’ll introduce her to you in another post. :-))

In the meantime, I am happy to have my characters chattering away in my head again, happy to be jumping out of the shower dripping wet and scrambling for a pen and an old receipt to scratch down some urgent story notes, and smiling to think, as I while away my time typing on my computer on a Saturday afternoon, that one day someone will be curled up with this same story whiling away their time on a Saturday afternoon.

Happy thought! *click*

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Saturday So What: Beta Fishing

This question came to my email via MMW Peggy C.

"What is the point of Beta Readers? Everyone seems to be the opposite of each other and it's like every time I revise someone tells me to put it back the way it was. Help!!"

Well, Peggy, you are not alone. Allow me to teach you the simple trick of beta fishing.

Step one: Find up to ten beta readers with a mix of writer friends and readers THAT ARE YOUR TARGET MARKET. Do not try to get someone to read your light fairytale YA that loves high TOR fantasy.

Step two: Receive feedback from your little betas. Read the feedback with an open mind, but don't make any changes. Let it stew overnight.

Step three: Go fishin' Look through all the notes. If one starts a light bulb moment "Aha, that's what was missing right here" then make a change. If you don't agree with the note, set it aside. Fish through the other readers notes and see who agrees. If 2 or more people are telling you the same thing, it might be time to consider making a change.  If you only hear it from one person, or have readers contradicting each other, it is going to be a matter of taste. Believe in yourself and stick to your vision.

Many a manuscript has been ruined by the author trying to please everyone. Here's a truth that took me a while to realize, not everyone else knows best! For a long time I was sure that everybody had to know better than me. So and so had been writing for 10 years, surely they would know best, right? Nope, not true. Take the criticism, especially when you hear it over and over, but what someone else might like to happen may not be what's best for your book or your narrative voice.

Everyone has a personal preference and taste, and you can't make the perfect book that everyone will fawn over. This includes agents and editors too. The goal is to write a book that you love and would love to read. I promise there are lots of other people out there that have similar taste to you and will feel the same way.

So when using Betas, fish for the stuff that resonates with you, fish for the stuff that seems to repeat -- then throw the rest back.

Thanks again Peggy for your question. Everybody else, keep 'em coming - Please put in the subject line Saturday So What

Friday, May 24, 2013

Guest Post -- Terron James

Please welcome our guest blogger today, Terron James author of "Insight" an epic YA fantasy set to release June 1, 2013.

I've been trying to think of different ways to address the same topics so my blog tour readers don't become bored. With that in mind, I'm going to approach this post a little abstractly. I want to talk about my magic fingers. That's right, magic!

When I initially began writing INSIGHT, I had created a detailed, chronological outline of what events needed to happen in the book. It wasn't until halfway through (on my first draft, mind you; INSIGHT is worlds different that the original draft, thank goodness!) that I finally discovered one of my most powerful keys to crafting engaging literature.

For those who have read INSIGHT, I'll be referring to the kidnapping, and I'll leave it at that. No spoilers here! I was following my usual protocol, "Alt-Tab"ing between my book and my outline as I laid out a scene where one character was reconnecting with a relative. They were speaking back and forth while eating breakfast and I became enveloped in their conversation, so much that I stopped looking back at my outline. Oh, the scandal! Before I knew it, there was a knock on the character's door and when she opened it, it was not who she (nor I) had suspected. It was someone else, reporting that a person had gone missing.

I still tingle when I think back to that epiphany! I remember gawking at the computer screen, then lifting my hands to stare at my open palms. "Where did that come from? I don't know, but I like it!" The resulting scenes became some of the best parts of INSIGHT, and some of my favorite parts to write. It took many days of retelling my experience, along with deep critical analyzing, before I finally figured out the secret.


I had accidentally shut off the "thinker" part of my brain and allowed my subconscious mind to take control; the part of my brain that instinctually knows what makes a great story. The creative side.

I've used this technique many times since, but I won't lie and say that it's always easy. It takes practice, discipline, and repetition to bring out this creative side of ourselves. Unfortunately, for most of us, adulthood squashed our imagination and creativity when we had to accept reality and responsibility. But don't give up! It's in there, screaming to be let out! We just have to figure out where to listen. I find mine in a good movie soundtrack and a tall glass of cherry Pepsi, on the rocks.

Terron James

To find out more about "Insight" here:

You can find Terron James online here:
Also find a giveaway in honor of the blog tour on the sidebar!!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

An Ode to my Muse

Following Saturday's post by Betsy, I have been thinking about that little voice of inspiration, the legendary muse, which gifts us writers with the creative vision we need to fill our pages.

Mine is called Phil, and phones me regularly.

Seriously, I am rubbish at coming up with stories, but once I have an idea I can write it pretty well (I like to think). Meanwhile my best friend's husband, Phil, has an active and eclectic imagination and often thinks of great storylines and plot ideas, but doesn't have the time, patience and maybe the expertise to write them. So he phones me instead.  The idea might be anything from a "zombies on the daily commute" concept to a full-blown and complex novel wherein the various beta readers, proofreaders, agents and editors find themselves sucked into the book they are working on and interacting with the characters.

Here is a picture of my muse:

Phil always wears funny t-shirts, and I buy him a t-shirt every year for his birthday. Best one so far has been "I am not Bill Bailey" because you'll have noticed that he looks a lot like Bill Bailey and was getting a little tired of signing autographs.
Bill Bailey, comedian
About half the stories in my upcoming short-story collection, Random Ramblings, came from Phil. (The other half are from my book clubs.) Much of the plot of my magnum opus, Emon and the Emperor is from Phil, although the basic premise is from another friend.

Ironically my youngest daughter, Ceridwen, is named after the Welsh muse of poetry. And Muse are my favourite band.

What's your muse called?

Monday, May 20, 2013

I’m Having a Little Too Much Fun

I realized after I wrote this post that I had planned on a “happiness clicker project” follow-up today. Well, I couldn’t find my clicker. So I didn’t do it. But what I have been doing is pretending I have a clicker and consciously trying to think happier thoughts. Works great when I remember to do it! ;-) I’ll get back with y’all about the clicking next week. If you missed that post, check it out here.

So, I’ve mentioned before about some of my *other* writing gigs. Today I thought I’d share one with you.

A few months back I attended a birthday party for a friend over at a consignment store near my house. When I heard they were having a party at a consignment store, I thought it was a little bit odd, but I was curious. Well, when I arrived I was pleasantly surprised- okay, more like stunned. It was the prettiest consignment store I had ever seen.

I ended up talking with the owner for awhile and I learned that she had opened the year before, but she was struggling to get the word out (it’s literally about 8 minutes from my house and I never knew it was there- and I’m a total clothes horse/bargain hunter). I told her I would love to help her out, so we ended up meeting and talking marketing and, long story short, I now do a blog for her.

We’re still working on getting followers (planning a big giveaway for that next week) but I’m really proud of what I’ve put together for her. You can check it out here- The Sophisticated Suitcase. I do a seasonal blog plan, then I go into the store about once a month to take photos for the posts I have planned, then I do one post a week and link it up to the store's facebook page.

I love going into the store and setting up my shots and dressing up the mannequins and finding outfits that go together- it’s just a total blast. Then I get to come home and edit the photos and do the other thing I love- write about them! And while I don’t get paid much (she’s struggling so I’m on the low end of the pay scale until *hopefully* we can get her going) I am having a blast doing it, and I know it will be great experience and possibly a stepping stone to other similar opportunities.

Am I the only one marketing my skills or has anyone else out there ventured into advertising? Just curious... ;-)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Path to Anywhere

A couple of week ago I wrote a post about how I like to create stories in my head as I pass by different places and scenery.  A few days ago I was at the park with my kids and I saw a path.  In reality I know right where the path leads, but as I stared at this somewhat hidden trail I felt like it had a story to tell.  I took a picture of it on my phone and texted it to Ashley.  I asked her what sort of story the picture created for her, or where the path might lead.  We went back and forth for a while bouncing ideas and just trying to stir our creative juices.  Here's what we came up with:

It could be a good place for a scary story
Something like "Bridge to Terabithia" or some magic land.
Could even be a good book cover
A secret garden, some forgotten nook, discovered all overgrown.
It could lead to an old family cemetery...
or an old Indian burial ground
It could be the start of a historical mystery/adventure
What story does this picture tell you?  What does it make you think of?  We would love to hear your ideas and thoughts.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Saturday So What: Inspired Eavesdropping

So normally, I am not an eavesdropper. Just ask anyone. I am the daintiest, most well mannered southern belle you have ever met. (hey, I hear you snorting over there!)

But this past weekend at Storymakers, I made the rare exception and listened in to Howard Taylor, author of the awesome comic Schlock Mercenary and more, talk to an aspiring author about productivity. And more interestingly for me, inspiration. He likened the voice of inspiration to that of the Holy Ghost. The more you listen and act, the more it speaks to you.

BOOM CRASH Mind blown.

 I have always thought of creativity just like any other muscle, you might be a creative person, but you have to exercise that aspect regularly for it to grow. It is an ingrained part of me, so when writer's block strikes, I feel like an amputee. But thinking on Howard's terms, I just kept expounding and expanding on the principle of the spirit.

Sometimes, when I am busy with life, I just cannot receive revelation. Aside from my daily nonsense, I am doing all the right things: go to church, temple, whatever; but I am stressed like crazy, and of course that is when I need the spirit the most. Same things apply to writing. When a deadline looms, sometimes I cannot think of single non cliched thing to type out. Nothing new and certainly nothing that retains my narrative voice. That is when I need it the most and though I am trying so hard and working at it, the muse will not come.

My answer was to just try harder. But I think I will try a new approach, the one the gospel teaches. Clear my mind and let the cares of the world slip away. Listen to the still small voice and act on every prompting.  We all know what that means in the spiritual sense, but in a writing sense that means jotting down every idea. Even if you can't use it in your current manuscript. Even if it's about vampires and completely unsellable at this point. Write it down and file it away, but get it out.

So often when either the Holy Ghost or inspiration speaks, I am to busy... being busy. I recognize the thought as a good idea and file it in my brain. Then I promptly forget it because of all the other crap I am cramming in. How many times have I not taken a card to a sick neighbor? How many bestsellers have I let rot away in the cobwebbed recesses of my mind?

But no more! From this day forth I will keep my little notebook and write down ideas, even the ones with sparkly abs. I will listen and really actively hear.

I will even eavesdrop more often, because who knows what other little nuggets of wisdom I am missing out on.

Friday, May 17, 2013

April Showers...and I'm Not Talking Flowers

I'm so glad April is over.   It was a crazy month.   So frantic that I forgot to write a post here for May 3rd.  Well, I actually wrote it, but forgot to post it. 

I participated in the A-Z blogging challenge during April, which involved writing a post a day, starting with the letter A on April 1 and ending with the letter Z on April 30.  The A-Z challenge is a frenzied, intense brain workout. 

Two weeks in, my dad had some stroke symptoms and was hospitalized.  He did not have a stroke, but it was discovered he did have a brain bleed and would need brain surgery .  B is for brain surgery.  Oh.  My.  Word.

Dad, who would be 90 on May 8, came through the surgery very well.  Three days later, he had a slump, and we thought he'd had a stroke.  S is for stroke.  Holy Moly.

However....he rallied with no intervention and began rehab.  R is for rehab.

After only twenty-four hours in rehab, he had more stroke symptoms.

Back to the hospital.  H is for hospital.

Then, he developed a bladder problem and contracted MRSA.  M is for  Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.  I see why they call it MRSA.

He is a trooper, my dad - part of that greatest generation - and he stabilized enough to send him back to rehab May 3 (my forgetful posting day.  F is for forgetful.)  Hopefully, he will keep moving forward.

We had a big birthday party for him on the 8th.

We had his favorite foods - honey-baked ham and cherry cobbler.  C is for cherry cobbler.  I'm stuck on this letter thing, as you can see.

I hope May brings less attention to the alphabet and no hospital visits.  I pray May brings strawberries and cool breezes and better days for Dad.  D is for Dad. 

I've got to get off this train.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Are You A Serial Killer?

Here's a light-hearted post for you today:

My sister-in-law and I have attended the LDStorymakers Conference in Utah several times together.  This year, though I was unable to go, she brought along her daughter, my 15-year-old niece.  She related this story to me, and I enjoyed it so much, I had to share it.  (The details may be not be wholly accurate - it is a retelling after all!)

Apparently they were sitting together at a table in the main ballroom, listening to a panel of speakers.  One of them made reference to the Dan Wells book, "I Am Not A Serial Killer."  My sweet niece leaned over to her mother and asked,

"Mom, what's a serial killer?"

My sister-in-law thought about the question briefly before responding,

"It's somebody who murders person after person."

My niece nodded, and looked thoughtfully around the room before saying,

"I guess that means we're sitting in a room full of serial killers."

I had to laugh, because in a twisted sort of way, when you're surrounded by other writers, it's true!   I've even read quotes from authors such as J.K. Rowling where she laments about how difficult it can be to kill off a favorite character from a storyline.  It also reminded me of the movie, "Stranger than Fiction".  I'm not usually a huge Will Ferrell fan, but he won me over in that show.  If you haven't watched it, go check it out.  Pure genius. 

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

For the Win!

This blog post (and I really insist you read it because it's amazingly fabulous) has been going viral for the last few weeks, and quite rightly so. It reminds us all that we should stop beating ourselves up about the things we fail at, and instead congratulate ourselves for those little "drops of awesome" we add to our bucket every day. It's uplifting, inspiring and most of all, true. I read it about a month ago and it really has changed my outlook on my life for the better. Thank you so much, Kathryn Thompson. (Why does everything great seem to come from Seattle?)

Then we had the wonderful post from Kasey on Monday about clicking to count our positive thoughts, and how it can really improve our outlook on life. Amen to that, and if I owned a clicker I'd be clicking away. (Seriously, is there anything Hillary Weeks can't do? Is it fair for someone to be that talented at singing, and that pretty and slim, and funny and clever too? She must be from Seattle.)

I've had on my mind, however, something I feel I need to add to all this feel-good stuff. (I've just rebranded my author self: I am now "Your friend for feel-good fiction". So I'm all about the feel-good factor. And the alliteration.)

Three years ago my eldest daughter lost her iPod shuffle. Those things are tiny! A few weeks ago we found it. We were selling our old car, and discovered the little silver iPod tucked into a rusting cranny in the footwell as we cleaned it out.

Naturally the poor neglected thing didn't work. I plugged it in and tried to charge it up, but it wouldn't take a charge and my computer couldn't connect to it. Since eldest child had long ago bought a new one, it wasn't an issue. Pity, though. I'd have quite liked a little iPod shuffle so that I could listen to music as I pottered about doing housework.

About a week later, however, I noticed an orange light on the iPod. Lazy creature that I am, I'd left it plugged into its charger rather than throwing it out. A bit of poking buttons and fiddling, and it sprang to life. My computer managed to discover it, and I loaded it with my music and now use it every day.

Here's my thought: If I had planned to leave it to dry out (or whatever) and by my own clever technological know-how resurrected a dead iPod, then that would be a drop of awesome. That would be me being great and adding to my bucket of awesomeness. But it wasn't anything to do with me. It was something great that just happened.

For the win!

I noticed, right from the next day, that actually many great but little things happen without any input from us. Parking spaces are free, favourite songs come on the radio, or we manage to find the end of the sellotape right away. I'm not talking about the things which we could call blessings–things that we have maybe prayed for, or hoped for, or worked for–just the little, everyday serendipitous occurrences.

I sat down and idly switched on the TV the other day to find a new series of one of my favourite TV shows just starting. I had no idea it was coming back, and could so easily have missed it. For the win!

Although my boss turned down my request for a new laptop computer to use for work, she did give me her old one (and bought herself a new one) and it's almost brand new and in perfect condition and exactly what I would have chosen. For the win! (Meanwhile, my boss is struggling to get to grips with Windows 8.)

A stranger had bought a set of hair elastics in Morrison's last week. It came with a free hairband which she didn't want, so she gave it to my daughter who loves it and has worn it every day since. For the win!

The fact is that not only do we do great things (drops of awesome) every day, but great things happen to us, seemingly completely at random. So while we're adding drops of awesome to our bucket, and clicking for each positive thought, perhaps we should also take a moment to notice the really wonderful things that just come our way.

Every time your size is in stock, or the sun comes out just as you're setting off for a walk, or you bump into an old friend, think, For the Win! And see just how great your life is.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Talking Tuesday: Writer's Block: Is Its All in your Head?

I happily stumble upon a group of authors doing podcast, Author's Think Tank, this week. Today I listened to Episode 11 The Myth  of Writer's Block.  Shirley Bahlmann, one of their guest authors, very confidently says there is no such thing as writers block.  After which she tells us how to get through those hard moments when you are trying to find the direction your story needs to go.  But much like Kasey's post, it can all come down to positive thinking.  When you say you have writer's block you are focusing on the negative.  If you instead approach the moments has an opportunity to choose which direction is best for your story it becomes a much more positive experience.

If we give our thoughts over to negative mantras, "I will never get through this...." or  "I cannot accomplish....", then we are setting ourselves up to fail.  I often run into this same problem when I approach running.  I get to a point where my mental focus is on my exhaustion, pain, and boredom.  When I allow this to fill my mind, it is almost impossible for me to run any further.  The negative thoughts weigh on me as if they were an hundred pound pack.  When I tell myself that I can continue and I focus on a goal, then my determination carries me. 

Our minds are powerful.  Where we choose to set our focus will determine where we end up.  Use your power for good.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Click It! Click It Good!

Okay, the title of this post is completely awful. But it’s late and I’m tired. And when I wrote this title it made me laugh, so it stays.

Anyway, I came across this video clip today and I was really intrigued by this idea. I happen to have a clicker (when I was running long distances on the track I found myself getting lost in my thoughts and having a hard time remembering how many laps I’d done, so I got a clicker so I wouldn’t have to think about it) and I think I’m going to try this.

Anybody else in? Shall we try our experiment for one week and report back next Monday?



Sunday, May 12, 2013

To All Mothers

Thank you to every mother, to every woman who's cared for another, and all those with a nurturing heart. 

I hope you all are able to find the opportunity to thank the women in your life that have loved and nurtured you.

Most of all take time to thank our Heavenly Father for the wonderful blessing of having mothers in our lives.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Saturday So What: Lending a helping quill

I'm writing this Friday night, because tomorrow I will be at Storymakers once again, running back and forth through the Marriot lobby, bringing Anne Perry scones (it was really a roll, but I'm sticking to the British thing), trying to joke with nervous authors while they wait for their turn to pitch, and probably at some point trying to remember someone's name who's face I know from Facebook.

But today, aside from sore feet, I gained something new. A knowledge that people actually know who I am. Huh, go freaking figure. Sometimes, it feels like we write words and then toss them into the void, never to be seen or heard from again. I was so humbled and warm and fuzzy feelinged with all the people who came up to me today who said they'd read my book, seen me on the Today show, - and even, yes, regularly read my posts here on MMW. Jeanna Stay- learn that name now folks, cuz you will be seeing it again someday - found me at the mass author signing to say hello and meet the snark in person since she reads my column weekly. I had a lot of fun chatting with her about fractured fairytales, how to get sneak into a trend, and more. And I promised I would include her in tonite's post. Mission accomplished!

Also learned today, were somethings I already knew. Like, Tristi Pinkston is a freaking hilarious MC. Or that agents and editors are really people and don't walk around with pitchforks, torturing poor authors for fun while on break. Having the villain secretly be the Main characters's dad is way overdone. Cheetos will always top Lays. Heels are not smart all day running wear. Annette Lyon is truly the Queen of the Grammar Nazis. And we Mormons have some of the best most creative minds on the planet. And when we come together it makes a super supportive community that lifts each other up and celebrates our success.

My advice to anyone who is reading this today, find your writing community.  Whether online, in your hometown... whatever.  But find some peeps outside your mom and granny who can faux swear along with you when the rejections come, tell you when your character is whiny, and remind you that you are an awesome success with a story only you can tell.

Self esteem and mental health issues are pretty much a mandatory requirement for an author. And the publishing field is littered with land mines that can blow even the best of us to pieces. I am here to pick them up with you. The other MMW's are here. Share your heartaches and your successes. Ask questions or share your wisdom. That's why we're all here isn't it?

If you have something you want to say, ask, names you want to call me or news you want to share - please email me at and I will see what I can do to lending a helping quill.

Love y'all


Friday, May 10, 2013

Remember Who You Are

This week, my very wonderful mother in law passed away after a five year battle with cancer. In the days following up to her death, the family all gathered and took turns at her bedside. Afterwards we compared notes on the what she told each person. Everyone who she spoke to was told these same words, "Remember who you are. You are a child of God. Stay strong." Knowing that her life was at an end this was the wisdom she felt most important to impart to her children and grandchildren. Because knowing who you are reminds you of where you are going. Having this knowledge through out your life brings so much peace.
It's just as important to remember who you are when you are writing. It's so easy to get caught up in what is selling, or what publishers want, or what the world thinks is socially acceptable that we forget who we are. Sometimes we tell ourselves that our characters are not us therefore we can tell the story from their perspective and be socially acceptable. I'm not talking about writing books that have no darkness. Because you can't show the true power of light without darkness. But if we show immoral things as good, then we are not being true to who we are. I'm not sure if this is making sense right now. My mind is still in a fog. But I want to boldly proclaim liked mother in law did, "Remember who you are!" Don't give in to the voices around you to compromise your standards. Stay strong in your beliefs and always show that you are a child of God!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Leading By Example

This morning I watched my two year old son climb up on a chair and make his own (from a packet) oatmeal breakfast (with assistance from me at the tap).  He measured the water, dumped it in the bowl with the pre-measured oats, instructed me in which manner to carry across the room, and then pushed the correct buttons on the microwave to cook the yummy meal.  After a scoop of sugar and a helping of milk (which he uncapped and added himself), he was happily eating, and I was sitting there in awe. 

On one hand I was thinking, how is it that my toddler can almost independently complete a task that my two school aged children only mastered within the last year?  On the other hand I was worrying about how to keep him from experimenting with his newfound abilities to operate the microwave when I'm not in the kitchen with him?

I tried to reflect on my older children.  They certainly did not express an interest in cooking their own breakfast at the age of two, and I probably never would have even assumed they had the ability.  Is there something different about this child?  Is he smarter, more determined, or more observant?

It's impossible to say with certainty, but the more I think about it, I believe it really has to do with leading by example.  You see, my toddler gets to interact with two older, independent children who treat him like an equal, and in his mind, age difference is not a concrete idea.  He likely sees himself as their peer.  If they can make their own oatmeal, so can he.  He's watched them do it, and he knows how.  The age and authority gap that exists between a parent and child is much different between supportive siblings.  My older children likely could have completed the same task at a similar age, had they had the tutelage of a similar kind.

Which got to me thinking about writing:  Its a good thing we all work at this skill from different levels.  We have varying amounts of experience and education when it comes to being writers, but the key is to be interacting.  While there are giants and professionals in the writing world whose advice and instruction can be of great benefit to our growth and progress (similar to our parents), what we really need are peers.  We need other writers, no matter their stage or experience, to share and learn and grow and interact with.  We need siblings.  Siblings with which it is difficult sometimes to differentiate an 'age difference', though it certainly will exist.  Then we won't know when we're completing a task that should be too difficult for our abilities - because we watched our peers do it successfully.  Once we know we can do something impossible, we can focus on doing it more independently, and with more confidence.

So get out there.  Make some writers friends.  Make some contacts.  Find some peers.  And if you have something great, nurture it.

In the end, what we really need is each other.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why British Mormons will never Marry in the Temple

The new Mr and Mrs Buttimore leaving
Southend Ward LDS Chapel

My wedding day was wonderful. At 11 a.m. I walked down the aisle on my father's arm, followed by five bridesmaids, to where my husband-to-be was waiting with his best man.  We recited traditional vows, exchanged rings, walked back down the aisle together, and then had a wonderful reception celebration with 80 guests. For most of our family members and many of our friends and colleagues it was the first time they had set foot in an LDS church.

After the reception we drove to the London England LDS Temple where we were sealed for time and for all eternity in the presence of 20 friends, most of them members of our ward.

It was a wonderful day, and I particularly love the fact that we had the best of both worlds. We had the dream traditional wedding in our LDS chapel surrounded by those we love, and we also had the meaningful  and sacred sealing ordinance. I  wouldn't change a thing.

Members of the church in the US have faced a particular problem for many years. Unlike in the UK, marriages which take place in an LDS temple are legally recognised, so US couples are encouraged to marry in this sacred place. (For non-Mormons reading this, Temples are different from the chapels used for weekly Sunday worship. They are reserved for particular ordinances - including the sealing of marriages for eternity - and are, in fact, closed on Sundays.) However, only worthy recommend-holding members of the LDS church are permitted to enter a Temple. This means that a couple whose parents are not members of the church (as is the case for my husband and I) cannot be at their wedding. Engaged couples therefore face the agonising choice between having their wedding elsewhere so that their family can be present and then waiting the year the church requires before entering the Temple for the sealing ordinance, or explaining to their families and friends why they will not be able to witness their marriage.
Waiting to go into the London Temple for our Sealing

The law on marriages in the UK has relaxed recently. It used to be the law that marriages could only be conducted in Anglican churches, other churches where a licensed registrar was present, or council registry offices. In the last few years, however, this law has been changed and now owners of stately homes, hotels, etc., can apply for a licence to conduct weddings. There's even an old windmill nearby which hosts weddings, although not receptions because it can only hold 20 people.

Could the London and Preston Temples now apply to be licensed for weddings? Could British Latter-day Saints now legally marry in the Temple?

I think if there was the suggestion that the Church might apply for such a licence most Latter-day Saints in the UK would be against it. We love being able to invite our non-member friends and family to our weddings. Whenever prophets and apostles encourage us only to marry in the Temple, we are quite aware that their counsel does not apply to us. We cannot marry in the Temple, we can only have our marriage sealed there - albeit whenever we like, including on the day of the legal ceremony.

It's not going to be an issue, however, because of another law about marriage. Weddings in the UK have to be open to the public because it has to be possible for anyone with a legal impediment to the marriage to be able to come into the ceremony and declare it. The Temple is not a public building therefore, unless UK law changes further (which seems very unlikely), it will never be legal here to marry in the Temple.

And whilst we're on the subject of laws about marriage in the UK, weddings also have to take place after 8am and before 6pm. Evening weddings are not legal because before electric light was invented the law had to ensure that the parties could see each other and were thus marrying the right person. Neither it is legal (or sensible, given the weather) to get married out-of-doors. Weddings have to take place within a licensed building which is also a permanent structure - although some venues have built pretty pavillions or gazebos in their gardens to get round this rule. Quick weddings can't happen either. It takes at least three weeks to call banns for a wedding, and an appointment needs to be made for a special licence, with both parties being interviewed, so that can take several weeks to arrange too.

What do you think? Was your Temple marriage perfect in every way, or would you have preferred to walk down the aisle in your chapel too?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Unlocking Your Dreams

I took this photo last month at the Botanical Gardens in Washington, D.C. Love.

When I was in high school I read a book about dream interpretation. I’ve always had very vivid dreams (to the point that my brother has been convinced that I’m dreaming other people’s memories- how’s that for a good novel premise?), and it’s always seemed to me that for my brain to be working so hard while I’m sleeping, it must be trying to tell me something. After reading the book, I started interpreting my dreams and while I don’t do it all the time, whenever I do I am always a little bit amazed by what I discover. 

First, let me give you a little crash course in dream interpretation. You know all that stuff you’ve read about how certain things in your dreams are representative of other things, like everybody’s dreams are in secret code? Well, that’s true, but what you might not know is that the code is different for everybody. Just because you dream about A doesn’t mean it always is symbolic of B. 

The best way to interpret your dreams is to look at the people, places, and events taking place in them. Then ask yourself, “How do I feel about this particular person, place, or event?” 

I had a dream recently that felt strong enough that I decided it needed interpretation. In my dream I was visiting New York City with my family. It was the anniversary of September 11th. In my dream they had rebuilt the World Trade Center and we were in a part of the city where we had a good view of the towers. We were standing there and I heard a commotion. I looked, and everyone was looking up into the sky where a plane was headed straight for the building. I had a horrible sinking feeling in my gut, and I just knew I had to get my family out of there. I was holding both of my youngest girls- the baby, 9 months old, and my 3-year-old. In my dream I was very glad that I was holding both of them, because I knew where they were and by me carrying them I could get them to safety more quickly. We made it safely to our transportation and then I woke up.

So what did it mean? The fact that I was carrying both my little girls stuck out to me. To be truthful, when I’m carrying the baby and I end up having to carry the 3-year-old too for whatever reason, I get a little bit martyr-y. Like, “poor me, exhausted mom never gets a rest.” Dumb, right? But in this dream I was glad I was carrying them, because I could keep them safe. Because I was stronger than they were and they needed me. 

As I analyzed it, I realized that I’ve been doing the “poor me” thing a lot lately. I think this dream was the Lord reminding me that the world is a scary place, that evil abounds, and this work that I do day in and day out, exhausting and frustrating and maddening as it may be, it’s essential. It’s about more than just dirty diapers and homework and temper tantrums; by doing what I’m doing- this tiring, seemingly never ending work- I am holding my children close and carrying them to safety. 

Ever since that dream I’ve tried to avoid “martyr mode”. I’ve tried to remember how unbelievably blessed I am. Whenever something challenging comes up, I try to think of how much worse it could be. My baby got diagnosed with “early pneumonia” this week. Rather than mope about the doctor’s visits, medications, and breathing treatments, I was just grateful I had them. Heaven only knows how many mothers have heard their babies start wheezing and coughing and known they would probably be losing them, because there was absolutely nothing they could do. 

So this week, take some time and pay attention to your dreams. God might be using them to tell you something important that could change your life. If you’re not sure how to go about interpreting them, I’ve had some success helping others interpret their dreams using a “dream interview” and I’d be glad to help you out. Just let me know. :-)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Setting the Scene

     I love where I live, and this Spring I have fallen even more in love with it.  I am surrounded by a variety of settings.  I can see everything from a bustling city to a quite small town community.  There are rocky river beaches and sandy shorelines along the ocean.  Every day I pass both developed neighborhoods and old farms and farm houses.  And to top it all off I'm surrounded by countless historical sites.  Having this huge variety is amazing as a writer.  Any time I go anywhere I can't help but create stories in my head to match the area I'm in.  I find myself asking what types of characters would live in whatever place I may be at the time.  I wonder at what sorts of exciting things could take place. 
     Lately I have been trying to focus on the little details that can pull a reader into the story, a lot of times that includes the character's surroundings.  As I drive across a bridge and see the waves splashing onto the rocky edges of the river I try and picture myself sitting there and think of all the things I would see, feel, and hear.  When I drive by the edge of a forest I think of what a person might experience while in those trees.  Would they be running from someone or something?  Could they be on a leisurely walk?  Or perhaps they are exploring and seeking some lost treasure.  I feel like this has opened up my mind's eye to a whole new level of writing.  Now I feel like whenever I go anywhere I have a new story pop into my head.  It sort of makes every outing a bit of an adventure.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Saturday So What: How to make your writing conference Pitch perfect

How many of us are going to LDStorymakers this year? If you just wiggled in your chair and raised your hand eagerly, welcome my pretties.

Next weekend is, in my opinion, the premier Writing Conference in Utah. So many extremely busy and talented authors, agents, and editors abound for you to rub shoulders with and, wait for it, pitch your story to.

Did your heart just sink to your stomach along with yesterday's meatloaf? Well, you are not alone. Whether you have paid for a pitch session or you are just attending the workshops, you will have to talk to people about your project. No, you can not just hand out query letters and run away. No conference doorbell ditching allowed. You must actually be able to convey via the spoken word what your awesomeness is all about. It's not fair, you say? After all, we became writers in the first place to avoid talking to people. Well, them's the breaks kid. You've got one week to get over it, so let's start now.

First things usually go at the beginning. Like you name. And what kind of books you write. Try to come up with the answer now as opposed to bumbling on the spot trying to explain your unique blend of sci-fi historical fantasy set in Nephi's time. If you write every genre under the sun, pick the one you want to talk about. Or try this approach:
Hi, my name is Betsy Schow. I've published narrative non-fiction, but currently I'm working on a new speculative YA.

Next, have your fast ball pitch practiced and prepared AHEAD of time. "It's Dawn of the Dead meets Carebears" (not really, but that got you interested didn't it?) Pick two things that combined sum up your project and make it unique.

Now, if the person is still standing there, give them a brief peep. This is not a 2-3 page synopsis. This is a 2-3 sentence hook to peak someone's interest. They do not need to know that it was really Aunt Sally in the hall with the wrench.

Whether you are in an official pitch session or not, this is probably the point the agent, editor or other author will have questions for you. They may also just request the full or first 50 pages right there. Some things to be prepared to answer ahead of time:
*  Who is you target audience
*   What other books are you competing against
*   How can you help market this book. What is your CURRENT (not what you will do) reach to the masses
*   Why is your book different and better than everybody else's (and the answer is NOT, my mom said so or it would make a great movie)

In talking to my agent, Michelle Witte (who is going to be there at the conference by the way), I have picked up a few no-no's

DON'T go on about how nervous you are, how you've never done this before. If you aren't confident in your ability, it is hard to get someone to take a chance on you.

DON'T tell the entire plot of the book including character backstory. This is a tease. You want to leave the agent wanting more, dying to know what you are talking about so they will request those pages.

DON'T try to make a new best friend. It's great to be nice and amicable, but more importantly, it's better to be professional. Take criticism or rejection well, no swearing please. On the other hand, if they request the pages, don't jump on down or look flabbergasted and say "Really?"

DON'T accost an editor or agent while they are eating, in the elevator (even for elevator pitches) or in mid conversation. Remember to start at the beginning with the hellos before you try to introduce them to your brilliance.

My advice, take this week and practice talking about your book to random strangers at Costco. Just kidding, but really, get comfortable talking about it. Then, when a perfect opportunity to pitch comes up, you won't freeze. You can deliver the goods like a pro.

Good luck, have fun, take notes, and make an impression. Hopefully a great one. See y'all there. Insert shameless plug to buy my book, Finished being Fat, at the conference bookstore for cheap and have it signed by me at the mass author signing.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Book Review: Fairy Godmothers Inc. by Jenniffer Wardell

I took this book with my on my recent sojourn to Florida ( and so it will always give me glowy feelings because I associate it with reading on the balcony overlooking a lake across which I could see the Disney fireworks. Life doesn't get much better that a book, a balcony, a burrito and unaccustomed heat. (I miss those three last things.)

But the pertinent question here is was the book any good? Did I enjoy reading it because I was on a balcony in Florida, or did I enjoy reading it because it was a great book?

Well, both. The writer is capable and the prose flowed well, it was perfectly edited (I didn't find any mistakes anyway) and while maybe not laugh-out-loud funny it was certainly very amusing and entertaining. What's not to love about the line, "He is currently enjoying life as a pig"? The characters weren't quite fully realised, with the exception of the heroine, Kate, but it was nicely unpredictable maybe because of that. For example, I never really figured out Rellie well enough to know whether or not she was happy to marry Rupert. Still, it was quirky and fun, and the mix of modern and fantastical was perfectly executed.

And yet... somehow it didn't grip me. I finished it, but had I not been happily ensconced on my balcony, with none of the demands of my hectic day-to-day life, I might not have done. And if I hadn't I wouldn't have spent any time wondering what happened in the end. I had time for reading, so I read it. In the chaos of home life as a working mother, writer and seminary teacher I might not have gone to the effort of finding the time. (Whereas with the most recent book I read, Wool, I all but took a day off work in order to read it.)

Still an entertaining and amusing read, though.


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