Monday, September 30, 2013

Building Character

by Kasey Tross

Last Saturday I had the fun opportunity to attend a free panel discussion offered by my local library. The title of the event was “Sizzle and Smoke”, and the main topic was on how to combine the genres of romance and mystery/suspense. It was sponsored by the local chapter of Sisters in Crime, a group for female crime novelists. The panelists were authors Marliss Melton, Kit Wilkinson, and Christine Trent, and the moderator was author Mary Burton.

We discussed a wide variety of topics over the course of two hours, including the average body count of a crime novel (at least 1, not more than 3), how to steal a private jet (it’s all about timing), and how to successfully blow up a SWAT communications vehicle (FYI- don’t google that and then try to get on a military base- turns out the government has trust issues with people who google stuff like that). While that was all quite interesting, to say the least, one of other topics that caught my attention was about character.

Building my characters is something that I struggle with. I don’t know why. I was so frustrated with the two-dimensionalness (I think I just made that up but blogger is putting no squiggly lines under it- cool!)  of my main character one night that I was getting a little bit punchy. I started writing “Your MC is so flat” jokes (no, those are not a real joke category, at least not that I’m aware- just me making stuff up again). One of my favorites was, “Your MC is so flat she got served up on a plate at IHOP.” Yeah...I get weird when I’m tired.

Anyway, at the panel discussion one of the authors talked about how sometimes our secondary characters can start to steal the show with their personalities. As she said that, I realized she was right. My main character was flat as a pancake, but I had a couple of secondary characters who popped off the page like a full-sized wedding cake. They had layers, they were interesting, they had depth and detail. Why was that? Well, the author made the very astute observation that we keep our main characters very safe, because we need them. We have a to-do list for them in the story; they are the vehicle that must get the story from Point A to Point B. None of this crazy ‘personality' stuff allowed.

When she said that I realized how true that is for me. I am relying on my main character, and I am afraid that if I give her too much personality she won’t be reliable enough to get me through my story.

Crazy, right?

So this author gave us the advice to let our main characters be a little flawed. Shine the light on not only their best qualities but also their worst- take some risks with them. Don’t limit your story to ‘bad guys’ and ‘good guys’- let the main character be her own worst enemy sometimes. It’s okay- she’s not you. I think sometimes I forget that. (Check out Katy White’s great post about character flaws here.)

Another piece of advice I read recently about building characters came from Utah Children’s Writers- one of the writers over there suggested that we make our main characters someone we’d want to hang out with. Because, if you think about it, you’re asking your reader to spend several hours of their life with your main character. If your MC is not all that likable (even with their flaws) then chances are good that you'll lose the reader. And like Betsy said on Saturday, the whole point is to ENTERTAIN THE READER. (I totally love that. Genius, I tell you.)

So I am now going to save my MC from a fate worse than IHOP- she’s about to find herself doing something she was just judging someone else for doing earlier in the book and hurting someone she loves. Hmm...

How do you make your main characters pop?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Journey to Motherhood

I'd like to introduce our newest MMW blogger, Danielle Oldroyd! Please give her a nice warm welcome! --Nikki

By Dani Dennis Oldroyd

Sometime in writing, or parenting or other aspects of my life things don’t work out as I expect them to. I am a planner and pretty organized. Early on in my marriage I learned that life isn’t perfect, I can’t plan everything. It was humbling. All I wanted to do when I grew up, was to be a mommy. I was married young at only nineteen and I never took college seriously, because I was going to be a mom. I struggled for over four years with infertility. Only six months into my marriage, my husband and I found out we may never be able to get pregnant. I found out I had endometriosis and it was very fast growing. We decided to just try on our own and see what happens. A year later I had another surgery and the doctor said that if I wanted to get pregnant before I had a hysterectomy I should probably start some fertility drugs to help me along. I was on medication, constantly going in for ultrasounds, getting shots and blood drawn. On top of that I had four more surgeries. It was not how I imagined becoming a mom would be like, but that is what I wanted. I wanted to be a mom. I dedicated my whole world to the process to have a baby. After three years of this I knew that it just wasn’t working.

I went to a Relief Society Meeting and someone in the Stake was talking to us about her journey to adopt from Romania. Those feelings were so strong inside of me. That was what we were supposed to do. I went home and told my husband. He thought it was just because I felt the spirit so strong from her testimony. He let me talk about it, but didn’t really take me seriously at first. Let me add that through those three and a half years my husband was very supportive with everything. He didn’t enjoy all that we had to do, but he supported it.
Somewhere along the line we were both full force toward the adoption process. Both of our families were so supportive and we were ready for what came. The process was long, and to be honest, grueling. It takes a lot out of you emotionally. I knew that it was the right thing for us. I could still be a mom, through someone else. I was a young women leader and I remember one of the other leaders was pregnant. She was towards the end and her baby was moving a lot. She looked at me and asked if I wanted to feel the baby. I put my hand on her belly and it was the most amazing thing. I held my tears in, but when I got home they just flowed. I knew that I was making the right decision, but it didn’t mean it wasn’t hard. We had so many friends who were even on their second pregnancies, and several of them even admitted that they were afraid to tell us. We were always excited and happy for friends and family, but we were still sad for us. When someone had a baby we would go visit them in the hospital and show our support, but I still cried when I was alone.

The long process of adoption was over, after just over six months of interviews, making binders with pictures, letters to the birth parents and home visits; we were approved for adoption at LDS Family Services. We got the call the Monday before Thanksgiving. Now we just had to wait. These were before Facebook and Twitter, we had an online profile, but they said the best way was word of mouth. Tell everyone. Most everyone who knew us, were aware of our situation. I thought we would wait a few months. My husband was just graduating from nursing school, we had a new house, and I wanted to get through the holidays with no pressure.
It’s funny once you think something like that, it never goes as planned. A few days after Thanksgiving we got a call. It wasn’t from the agency, but a friend. Someone she knew heard about us and wanted to talk to us. Right away we were excited, and ready. Unfortunately I called and called and this woman didn’t answer or call me back. I knew she was the one. I knew that she had my baby. I told myself that I would try one more time. I prayed the night before and asked Heavenly Father that I didn’t want to give up, but if that was my baby I needed some help. The next day after work I picked up the phone. After two weeks of calling her she answered. She immediately told me that I was the one; I was the mom of her baby girl. This was it, the feeling you get when you find out you were going to be a mom. We decided to tell my husband’s parents and my mom. We were all so excited, and didn’t have long to prepare. Two and a half weeks later on Christmas Eve we told my brothers and sister. On Christmas morning we told my husband’s brothers and sister. The next morning we left to go meet our baby. On December 28, 2005 at 12:06 PM I became a mommy.
It was everything I imagined, and was told, wonderful and hard. Almost three years later I gave birth to a little boy. Two years after he was born I gave birth to a little girl. I am a mom to three, it is still wonderful and hard, but the greatest blessings I could have ever imagined. I learned that in this life you have to have faith, work toward what you want, and know that it’s all in our Heavenly Father’s hands. I am still learning and sometimes I forget, but I remind myself that things work out as they are supposed to if we have faith. Is there anything in your life that didn’t go as planned, but turned out just the way it was meant to?




Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Writing Rulebook

post by Betsy Schow

I've decide to publish The Writing Rulebook (according to Betsy).

Problem: It's only one page. Hard to get a publisher interested in one measly page, even if it's gold plated wisdom.

Correction: It's actually only one rule.

Are you ready? Take notes ...(not really)


That is the sole purpose of a book. To entertain or otherwise fulfill the reader.

Genius, I know right?

Some writers (whistles and looks away) at times get caught up in the rules. How long a chapter should be. How many pages in a book. Show not tell, except when you show too much and the reader gets bored. Dialogue tags. Whether or not you can actually speak to the reader. Changing tenses. I could go on...

However, we all know of a great book that captured our hearts and broke at least one of these engraved rules. How come that author can get away with it? Easy, the book still entertained.

Think about it. If a book is poorly thought out, sloppy in grammar, and a million other things -- what is the end result? The reader is not entertained.

Similarly, a book can be nearly flawless from a textbook approach to writing: poetic imagery, action verbs, showing the world... but if the reader still gets bored -- wah wah -- the book's purpose is not met.

Recently, my fingers refused to type another sentence from fear of doing it wrong. My laptop very nearly got chucked into the blender to make alphabet soup. I trapped myself, having to get every rule just right, or my book would suck. So I researched, and googled, and asked experts. I worked so hard on following the rules, that I lost what made the book mine to begin with. The voice.

Admittedly, I got rather obsessed and tried to find and replace every "to be" verb (was, were, are, is). I pushed to make each chapter 9-10 pages long, even if the scene lagged because of it.
Finally, I decided to look at the "rules".

Nearly every one of them had some sort of exception attached (vague of course). When to use or break the rules all depended on (say it with me) what made the book more entertaining.

In the boldest fashion of rule breaking, I'm writing the introduction to my Writing Rulebook here at the end.

Learn your craft. Soak up every bit that you can from books and authors that entertain you. Figure out what works and what doesn't. Then throw out any preconceived notion of what your book NEEDS to look or sound like. Use the tools you've collected in your Writer's shed in whatever way works for you and follow the only important rule.


Feel free to discuss a rule you break with panache (great word) or a book that gets it right by being wrong.

Friday, September 27, 2013


By Nikki Wilson

The hardest part of being a writer is getting the right words to paper. You can have the best, most wonderful story, but if it remains unwritten, no one will ever know about it. I'm trying to change my writing ways and convert from being a pantser (flying by the seat of my pants while writing) to being an outliner. My outline is coming along and I'm getting so excited about this story. But it doesn't matter how wonderful my outline is, if I never write it, no one will know how wonderful it could have been.

My favorite example of this is the story of how Frankenstein came to be. Now I'm sure there are lots of rumors about how this went down and I'm not sure if any of them even come close to the true story, but I'm just going to summarize the story that my high school English teacher told me. It goes like this. Percy Shelley and his wife, Mary Shelley went with Lord Byron and Lord Byron's "pharmacist" to a summer castle of Lord Byron's. While there, they had a contest to see who could tell the scariest story. Mary Shelley's story won and she was urged very strongly to write it and that is how Frankenstein came to be. On the other hand, Lord Byron's "pharmacist's" story got second place but he never wrote it. Though the story went by word of mouth for some years and eventually the story of Dracula was born. But because the "pharmacist" never wrote it down, we will never know what his story truly was and we will probably never know his name.

Can you imagine what the world would be like without Frankenstein? Don't sit around wondering what the world will be like without your story. Write the books that only you can write. Let the world know who you are!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Believe Christ

by Katy White

My 14 month old was recently sick.  The kind of sick that has you thinking some pretty dark worst-case scenarios when you're a new mom.  I took her to the doctor on the first day of her sickness because she had such a high fever.  The doctor ran some tests, ruled some things out, and then said some other things, like pneumonia, were quite possible.  She gave me several "warning signs" to watch out for, and told me that I should go to Urgent Care if I saw any of these signs.  Of course, she also told me that most things were not emergencies.

Mixed messages from doctors are fun.

That night, my daughter woke up after only a few hours of sleep.  She had a high fever, but she was also shivering and whimpering.  She also had some new symptoms that felt awfully like some of the warning signs the doctor had cautioned me to watch for.  But not exactly.  I had no idea what to do.  I picked her up and held her and prayed urgently to know how to help her.  I asked Heavenly Father a very specific question and asked him for a very specific answer:  if she coughed and the rattling throat cleared, I would know that she was fine.  As I thought those words, she coughed!  The rattling in her throat cleared instantly!  It was a sign from the Lord, and I felt so relieved.

Not ten seconds later, she vomited three times.

Oh. No.

All thoughts of the answer I'd just received fled my mind.  I called the on-call nurse and then a dear friend, who is also a nurse, and told them everything.  They both felt that she did not have the warning signs I feared and told me some specific things to watch out for.  I cleaned up my baby girl, gave her more medicine, and put her back to bed.  Then I prayed again to be able to believe the advice that I was given.  I felt peace quickly wash over me, and I felt myself calm down.

Within five minutes, she woke up screaming and crying.

The peace I'd just felt evaporated.  I jumped up, ran into her room, and picked her up, sure that this fear I was feeling was actually what Heavenly Father was trying to tell me this whole time.  I called my husband, who was in Florida for work and absolutely terrified to be getting a call in the middle of the night.  I told him everything.  He agreed with the nurse and our friend and our doctor and said that he thought I needed to allow myself to trust them, but if I couldn't, that he would of course support me in whatever I thought I should do.  (He also said sweet things about how our daughter has a wonderful mother and that he was so sorry he couldn't be there to hug me.  I missed him more than I ever have in my life.)  Most importantly, he told me to trust the Lord.

I realized then what my problem was.  My problem wasn't my sick baby girl.  My problem in that moment was that I didn't believe my Heavenly Father.  I could say that I simply didn't believe in my ability to interpret an answer from Him, but that's not quite true.

I'm really, really good at resigning myself to my trials in life.  Like most everyone, I have experienced a fair amount of trials, some sorer than others.  It has been easy for me to view this mortal existence as a time to experience trials and loss and pain.  I have long considered our reactions to these "accidents of mortality" as the true test of mortality.  Because of this perspective, I have found myself in many situations where my faith is tested, but not where I have tested my faith.

Yet Heavenly Father tells us to test him!  He says in Malachi 3:10 "...and prove me now herewith...if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."  And Enos 1:6 tells us, "And I...knew that God could not lie."

Okay, so God promises us blessings and cannot lie.  In other words, He asks us to hold Him to his promises.  So when He tells us, in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid," it's up to us - to me - to believe Him.

So.  That's my goal.  I wish I could say I'm already there, but I'm not.  I believe in Christ, but now I need to believe Him.

And maybe that is the true test of mortality.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Blessed Time

by Anna Jones Buttimore

It's my birthday on Friday, so I'm thinking a lot about time at the moment. There's no escaping the fact that I'm probably more than halfway through my life now, and so time is pretty precious. A friend asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I told her "time". So my friend is babysitting for the evening so that I can go out with my husband, and knowing her she'll clean my kitchen and dining room while she's there too.

We mothers have so little time. Every minute is swallowed up in a list of chores and little people needing things done for them. I also have to do my paid work for five hours a day, and I like to find time to do what is mostly unpaid work - writing books. I'm lucky if I get half-an-hour to myself on any given day.

Then there's my Church calling - I'm currently the early morning Seminary teacher for our ward. Initially I was dismayed at receiving this calling and wondered how on earth I would get everything done if I had to give up another hour and a half each day to teach and prepare lessons, never mind attending all the faculty meetings, dances and Super Saturdays. (I teach via Skype, so at least I don't have to drive the three miles to the chapel.)

To prepare I started getting up extra-early for a couple of weeks to get into the habit. That was great. I'm a morning person, and I found that I could work my way down the list of chores--ironing shirts, making lunches, emptying the bins, unloading and reloading the dishwasher and putting on the first load of laundry--before the children woke up. On a good day I could even be showered and dressed. I dreaded the start of the school year when Seminary would steal back that precious time and leave me again drowning in a sea of housework.

It took me a week to realise that despite teaching a class, preparing the next day's lesson, and putting a lesson summary on Facebook for the students who hadn't been able to log in each morning, I was still managing to keep up with all my chores. Somehow I still got everything down, and was showered and dressed and standing in a (mostly) clean and orderly house by the time the children needed to be taken to school. I even had time free in the evenings to watch TV occasionally.

Sacrifice brings blessings. This time when my children are young enough to still be home but old enough to be a little independent, is the best time of my life so far, and Heavenly Father knew that He was asking a lot of me, and honoured that. If we give up some of our precious time to the Lord, He will reward us with more time, and more blessings. I have not only learned a lot through the Seminary material I am teaching and the students who are teaching me, but I have learned that sacrifice does indeed bring blessings, and one of the greatest blessings we can be given is time.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Banned" Books and "Clean" Media

This week is Banned Books Week. The entire blogosphere is alight with posts about the benefits of reading banned books, posts about how we shouldn't ban books, posts about the First Amendment (sorry, non-US readers, I don't know what clause this falls under for you), posts about how lives have been changed by reading a book that was on a banned list.

As members of the LDS church, we strive to seek out uplifting media. The church officially gave one hard-and-fast rule in the nineties, that members should avoid viewing R-rated movies, which quickly became obsolete. The standards for MPAA ratings shifted, and as says, relying on the MPAA to regulate the content of your media is like "playing Russian roulette with your standards."

So now the official standard is to find media (in all its forms) that is "uplifting... wholesome... [and] promotes good thoughts."

Which means there's no longer a hard-and-fast rule. Which means you need to think for yourself. Which means you need to let others do the same. What uplifts you may not do the same for another, and vice versa.

So how does this relate to Banned Books Week?

Most books, as I'm sure you've guessed, are banned because of parental requests through schools. But that's not always the case. Books can be pulled from store shelves due to customer complaint and library shelves due to patron complaints.

The most common reasons books are banned are (1) sexually explicit - though this often includes sexual themes, not sexual acts* (2) profane language, (3) unsuited for the age group - this is the catch-all, "I can't put my finger on why, but I just don't want my kid reading it", (4) Satanism - any magic gets this label, including Harry Potter and Narnia, (5) violence, (6) religious viewpoint.

Religious. Viewpoint.

Over the last ten years, 291 titles have been banned (most of them are banned broadly and repeatedly, resulting in thousands of petitions) in schools for having a religious theme. Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series was often banned for being too violent and sexually charged, until book three came out and Edward announced he was a virgin and wanted to remain so until marriage. Then the book was challenged for having a religious viewpoint.

Parents all over the United States are successfully having books removed for having a religious viewpoint. This includes the Bible. Religious texts of any kind are not allowed in school or public libraries. Searching my (extensive) public library for "Book of Mormon" brings up a slew of anti-Mormon hate-books and the Broadway musical soundtrack.

Let's think about that: We, collectively as a nation, are more okay with anti-religious hate than we are with Christ's message of love and forgiveness. Look back to the reasons books are banned. We are more okay with violence than we are with sex, even if it is consensual, non-graphic sex.

Looking at a list of the most popular banned books of all time (compiling sales with successful bans over the entire twentieth century), The Bible tops the list. Virtually every classic work of literature makes the list. Les Miserables is a powerful metaphor of God's redeeming love and the juxtaposition of mercy and justice. But it features an unwed mother who turns to prostitution to survive, so it gets banned. Canterbury Tales, The Scarlet Letter, Oliver Twist, Sherlock Holmes (it teaches kids to lie and spy!), and The Diary of Anne Frank are all on the list.
Sorry, 13 year old girl, your thoughts are inappropriate for teenagers.
While those books contain some content that some people might find objectionable (particularly if taken out of context), I argue that those titles all fall under the category of "wholesome" and "uplifting." Les Miserables stands, in my opinion, as one of the most beautiful works of literature to preach the Gospel of Christ without actually being a religious text. Here on MMW, just last week, we had a post recommending The Hunger Games as being "squeaky clean." The series tops the list of books banned in 2010 and 2011**. Parents cited them as being anti-ethnic, anti-family, insensitive, and being full of offensive language, occult/satanic themes, and violence.  (Looking at that list makes me believe the people requesting and approving the ban have not, in fact, read the books)

Here's the TL;DR version: If one woman who is seeking out clean, uplifting, wholesome media sees The Hunger Games  as filling that role, what right do you have to prevent her from reading it? What right do you have to demand the book be taken from shelves across libraries and stores? Control what happens in your own home. Make suggestions. Ask for alternate assignments for your children if you need to.

Don't ban books.

*For the purpose of this post, and because of logic, I grouped the bans based on "homosexuality" with "sexual content," though homosexuality is usually listed as its own category. 

** Books are usually only banned when they're popular. Book banners apparently have short attention spans and forget about those evil books once they're not on the bestseller lists anymore. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

I ran across the cutest story and I just HAD to share it!  As writers, and with many other aspects of life, we sometimes fall into this trap!  I'm not sure who wrote it, so forgive me, but it was too cute not to share !!

Once upon a time there was a bunch of tiny frogs.... who arranged a running competition. 
The goal was to reach the top of a very high tower.   A big crowd had gathered around the tower to see the race and cheer on the contestants.... 
The race began.... Honestly, no one in crowd really believed that the tiny frogs would reach the top of the tower.  You heard statements such as: "Oh, WAY too difficult!!" "They will NEVER make it to the top." or: "Not a chance that they will succeed. The tower is too high!" 
The tiny frogs began collapsing. One by one... Except for those, who in a fresh tempo, were climbing higher and higher....The crowd continued to yell,  "It is too difficult!!! No one will make it!" More tiny frogs got tired and gave up... But ONE continued higher and higher and higher... 
This one wouldn't give up! 
At the end everyone else had given up climbing the tower. Except for the one tiny frog who, after a big effort, was the only one who reached the top! 
THEN all of the other tiny frogs naturally wanted to know how this one frog managed to do it? 
A contestant asked the tiny frog how he had found the strength to succeed and reach the goal? 
It turned out.... That the winner was DEAF!!!! 
The wisdom of this story is: 
Never listen to other people's tendencies to be negative or pessimistic...   because they take your most wonderful dreams and wishes away from you -- the ones you have in your heart! 
Always think of the power words have. Because everything you hear and read will affect your actions! 
Therefore: ALWAYS be....POSITIVE! 
And above all: Be DEAF when people tell YOU that you cannot fulfill your dreams! 
Always think:    I can do this! 

Author Unknown

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What the stats say: turns out you're normal!

By Lacey Gunter
My service marathon is going great. I plan to post about what I have learned from it in two weeks. In the meantime, chew on this:

Anyone researching how to get a book published is bound to run into the massive wall of "You're probably not going to succeed, unless you are a writing genius or as persistent as the ocean tide, so  give up now!" commentaries. I know you know what I'm talking about. Anyone who is even remotely consistent at reading this blog is savvy enough to have discovered these types of warnings ages ago.

These commentaries are specifically meant for people like me.  People who never dreamed of being a writer, but one day woke up and felt like writing a book. Moreover, people who want to write picture books.  These commentators see people like me as the poster child when they are writing their 'warnings'.  Ha-ha! Little do they know how badly their articles backfire on Little Miss Poster Childs like me.

You see, when I decided to write a book, I already assumed it was going to be a tough sale getting it published. I thought, "Wow, why am I doing this? I must be the only crazy person like me to have ever tried this." I was so insecure about being the only amateur to send off a manuscript to a publisher that I didn't even want to tell my parents.  The fear of being identified as an aspiring author was actually greater than the fear of failing at it. Not because being an aspiring author is bad, but because I wasn't really sure why I was doing it, so how could I explain it to someone else? 

So when I read articles like that Joseph Epstein NY Times column that stated  “81% of Americans feel they have a book in them,” it was like a huge weight being lifted off my back. What a relief! I wasn't going crazy. It turns out, I'm just like everybody else. So what if I try and fail, I'm just another face in the crowd of humanity. Phew!

 Moral of the story here, if you are feeling insecure about being an aspiring author, break free from this fear. Statistics are often mistrusted and disliked for their lack of black and white conclusions; they are open to interpretation. Well, sometimes that's a good thing. In this case use it to your advantage. Don't say "Oh no, I should just give up now." Flip it around and realize, "Hey, it's okay, I'm just like everybody else. I'm normal!"

Friday, September 20, 2013

There's No Crying in Publishing

by Mare Ball 

I started a writing/marketing course last week called "Author Training 101."  It's not about how to write, but how to finish a writing project; how to write a book proposal; how to write a business plan; how to promote your work; and how to be a bulldog about getting published.

I need to know all these things because I've been dragging my feet on my WIP for three years.  I have no idea how to write a book proposal or a business plan.  I hate self-promotion.  And I've never been a bulldog about anything.

It's the most challenging course I've ever taken (excluding all college math courses.)   It's difficult because it's forcing me out of my comfort zone - which, of course, is always uncomfortable and scary.  Comfort zones are aptly named, aren't they?

I'm only in week two of this course, and I'm struggling with the homework.  I have to answer questions like:

Is my current project unique? 
If I were a publisher, would I invest money in my project?
Am I tenacious enough to do whatever it takes to get published?

I don't know.  I don't know.  And I don't know.  I never concretely thought about these things.  I ended up saying, yes, I think so, and what does whatever-it-takes mean?   Go into debt?  Change all the things I love about my project?  I still don't know.

This course is taught by Nina Amir, whom you can check out HERE.    She's direct and talented and I'm impressed with her knowledge.  I'm going to learn so much from this eight-week course.  I'm afraid I might learn I don't have what it takes to get published.

There, I said it.

That's my fear.  That I don't have the tenacity, the will, the never-give-up attitude that is necessary to get published.  Some things in life aren't worth killing yourself over.

Nina also asks her students these things:

How do you handle rejection?  (bums me out)
Are you generally optimistic?  (depends)
Are you objective about your work? (probably not)

I have a long way to go.

Nina then said something that really hit me.  "Getting your book published is not about you.  It's about your reader."  Hmmm.  The heart-and-soul work that is going into my book is probably not going to be recognized by the reader.  The reader is looking for connection to her heart and soul. 

This is a shift in thinking for me.  For readers to spend their hard-earned money on my book, they must be engaged and inspired within a minute of skimming its pages in Barnes and Noble (a girl can dream.)  My love for it doesn't necessarily transfer into sales.

This was hard to hear, although, upon further thought, I know it's true.  I don't buy a book if it doesn't speak to me on some level.  This course is helping me understand the realities of publishing and selling and convincing the world my work is a worthy investment.    

I told you this is a challenging course.

But, I'm sticking with it, and I'm going to ruminate on all the questions and dig deep and see what I'm made of, find the bulldog inside.  Because getting my book published is what I want to do.   With God's grace and direction, I will succeed.

It might be difficult, but things of value always are.  In the movie A League of Their Own Gina Davis tells Tom Hanks she's quitting baseball because it's too hard.

"Of course it's hard," he replies.  "If it was easy, everybody would do it."  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Drawing Down Lightning

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

According to the all-knowing internet, the chance of being struck by lightning in your lifetime ranges from the (reasonably scientific) 1 in 3,000 to (my personal favorite for sheer size and specificity) 1 in 8,987,657.* Either way, I think we can agree that the odds are not high. A tall building like the Empire State Building, on the other hand, can get struck by lightning more than 100 times per year. If it were a person, it would get struck maybe 7,000 times in its life.
Earlier this week I suddenly realized that it had been almost a fortnight since I last posted here.** Gasp! I had absolutely nothing interesting to say. But I still had a few days, so I would just wait for a brilliant idea to strike me. Like lightning. A couple days passed, and whenever I thought about the post, I thought, “Oh, something will occur to me.” And then I shrugged it aside and thought about something else.

I kept waiting for lightning to strike. Which is an epically ridiculous idea.

If you want lightning to strike, you have to provide an object that lightning is drawn to. You want something very tall and pointy (like the Empire State Building). And, theoretically, if you want lots of lightning strikes, you want lots of tall, pointy objects. And tall, pointy objects need to be built (unless they’re mountains or trees—which I’m going to completely ignore for my metaphor here).

I’m sure you can see where this is going. Waiting for an idea was crazy talk. For every Stephenie Meyer lightning strike (she hadn’t been writing much for six years when suddenly one morning she woke up from a very vivid dream, started writing like crazy, and was under contract for Twilight six-ish months later),*** there’s a gazillion other authors who first had to plod along, building their stories and their skills, providing tall, pointy places for brilliant story lightning bolts to strike.

I have been avoiding my WIPs like the plague lately, hoping that magically one day I will wake up and my characters will be interesting again, my plotlines not riddled with holes, my prose at least look-at-able. This keeps on not happening. It feels like I need to just buck up and start building, making something, drawing down lightning. It’s better than just waiting.

* By the way, if you are a person who is easily plagued by unnecessary fears (like me), you probably shouldn’t research this in depth. Suffice it to say, if you can hear thunder, go inside and stay there. And don’t talk on the phone. Or do laundry. Or lie on the concrete floor in your garage (really? yes, really).

** If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I really love the word “fortnight.”

*** Which is not to say that she didn’t have to do a lot of work. It’s just that her story came to her in a way that is rare.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I love Elizabeth Gilbert - by Charla J Schneider

Lately writing has been a bit of a tortured experience for me.  I'm like the heroine in Tangled who vacillates between bliss and despair over her adventure.   I love, love, love this TED talk.  It actually makes me tear up whenever I watch it.  Gilbert talks about her own tortured experience with writing and manages to offer hope to anyone who is daring to create. It's twenty minutes you won't regret, I promise.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Stuck in a Nation of Expectation

By. Amber Lynae
When you mix the rain with the sunshine you get rainbows
Today my thoughts are on expectations.  It is very hard for me to live up to my own high expectations.  So why do I set them so high?    Are high expectations a good thing or a bad?  I think it can be both.  Sometimes our expectations get in our way and sometimes they push us to try harder.

Often in my youth my parents' high expectations discouraged me from making poor choices.  Through the power of their expectation I was inspired to push harder. On the other hand, I have been buried under the weight of unrealistic expectations set for myself. With the undoubted certain of failure, I felt paralyzed.  There have also been times when my high expectations have kept me from enjoying the journey.

What are you thoughts on high expectations?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sometimes It’s Better to Be ON the Hook

by Kasey Tross

You know how when somebody tells you you’re “off the hook” for something you get a great sense of relief? Well today I’m going to be talking about being ON the hook- specifically about hooking agents and editors with our incredible cleverness and wit.

If you’re unfamiliar with “hook” as a noun in writing terms, a hook is basically your book summed up in a single sentence in a way that makes a person want to read it. It’s the kind of thing you see at the top of the back cover of a book in bold letters.

In “From the Query to the Call” Elana Johnson gives several examples of great hooks:

 “Sixteen-year-old Penelope Baker has died 67 times and it’s about to happen again.”

“Kate Lowry didn’t think dead best friends could send e-mails.”

Cool, right? Who knew you could get such intrigue into a single sentence?

This week I’m taking a little break from my WIP to work on my hook and my “elevator pitch” (the art of pitching your story in the amount of time it takes to get from the first floor to the second- or maybe from the first to like the fifth or the tenth...yeah, most big time editors are probably heading to a pretty high floor) in preparation for a workshop this weekend (with REAL authors!) and a writing conference next month (real authors AND agents AND editors!).

Soooo...I thought maybe you guys could help me. I’ll show you my hook if you show me yours?

Let’s all share our hooks! If you don’t have one yet, this is a great time to create one- you might be surprised at how satisfying it is to condense your entire 50,000+-word manuscript into a single amazing sentence. Check out Writing the Query Letter Part I- The Hook by Elana Johnson to get started. And even if you haven’t finished your book yet (like me) it can help you to answer the question: What is this story really about and why should anybody care?

So here’s what we’ll do: I will share my hook and I invite you to share yours in the comments section. If you are an established author who has published books with successful hooks, please share those too! I’d love some feedback on my hook for anyone who would care to give it, and if you would like others to respond to yours with their reactions, please invite them to do so in your comment. 

Okay! Here goes:

Sixteen-year-old Kate never expected to fall for a ghost, but she also never expected to move to a small town where people she’s never met hold a century-long grudge against her.

Your turn! Share your feedback & advice for me, or share your own hook. Ready, GO!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Where Does Our Trust Lie?

Written by Ashley & Jessica 

We've all come across moments in life that are hard to accept. Sometimes those moments try our faith, perhaps causing us to wonder if we've been forgotten or left behind. These moments can be a great cause of worry and uncertainty. We may find ourselves weighed down by doubts and questions. It would become easy to get lost in these feelings but when we put our trust in Jesus Christ and follow Him we will not fail. When we look to Christ we can replace any doubts and uncertainties with faith. In time we may find that these difficult times resulted in some of the richest learning experiences. It's when we endure through dark and difficult times that we are rewarded with blessings we wouldn't have been able to receive otherwise.
Remember when you find yourself in moments of hardship or uncertainty: 
"There isn't enough room in your mind for both worry and faith. You must decide which one will live there."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saturday So What Book Bite: Shy by S.D Kupiec

I would like to introduce you to a new feature, the Book Bite - a little nibble into what I'm currently reading and what I dig about it.

Today, I am doing signings at an event on the other side of the country, without a computer and the IPad is not the ideal blogging tool.  When I get home, I will add the cover picture and links to go with the book I'm going to talk about- Shy.

On the plane ride over here, I didn't get any sleep because I immersed in a book, a far better pastime than catching zzzzzs. The book I packed along is the debut YA novel from SD Kupiec called, Shy. My inner editor was fascinated with the prospect of reading a character POV that doesn't speak for the first big chunk of the story. My inner bullied teenager wanted to cry along with the protagonist.

Kupiec wisely kept the narrative brisk with modern short chapters, allowing the pace to move easily. She also avoided the dreaded info dump, and while that left me scratching my head for a minute, I gladly kept reading to understand more.

The book falls into the magical realism genre with rich Indian Shaman setting. I will stay away from spoilers, but I fell in love with the characters and that made the ending tough for me to accept. I'm assuming that there will be more to the story (hum hum Stacy).

If you want an intriguing clean read you wouldn't be ashamed to loan to your granny, give this Mormon Momma's debut a gander. You can find it as an ebook or trade paperback on Amazon.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Eye of the Tiger

By Nikki Wilson

One of the best parts of being a writer is getting to critique and edit books for your friends that no one else has read yet. Recently I was critiquing my friend's book (I call it the evil, twisted circus story, and I love it!) Well in the book a  girl is at this carnival and suddenly she sees a big beautiful tiger walking towards an unsuspecting person. She starts to cry out when someone else walks up the tiger and kicks it and tells it to get lost. Now I don't know about you, but kicking a tiger just doesn't sound like a good idea to me. But this tiger just tucks it's tail between it's legs and whimpers as it looks at it's attacker with big sad puppy dog eyes. The girl is confused about this and finds out that the carnival got the tiger when it was a cub and they put it with a litter of puppies. They raised it like a mongrel and abused it until the tiger believed it WAS a mongrel.

Well this story of the tiger hit me kind of hard. Because I immediately drew the conclusion that Satan is like the evil carnival owner telling us that we are useless mongrels because if we ever figured out that we are tigers, we would destroy him. 
I thought about how this is true in my writing life. I have a voice in my head that constantly tells me my writing isn't good enough yet. Sometimes the voice even goes so far as to say that it will never be good enough. I kick myself down so often it's a miracle I keep trying to get back up. When I saw myself in this light I realized something. I'm sick of being a mongrel with a broken spirit. I want to be a fierce, magnificent tiger. I want to bare my teeth and sharpen my claws and I want to get in there in fight for my dreams. I want to work hard and reach for my potential.

My son is playing high school football again this year, and he sometimes gets frustrated when he doesn't get in the game. He works hard at practice, but sometimes finds himself on the sidelines watching everyone else play. I feel this way sometimes with my writing too. Many of my friends are published now and are definitely in the game of being an author. I'm still on the sidelines. But the thing about the people on the sidelines is that they eventually get hungry enough to do whatever it takes to get in the game. I am ready to get in the game. I'm ready to buckle down and give it all I got. I'm done listening to the voice that says I'm no good. I'm done being kicked. I'm done watching everyone else play the game. It's time for me to make it happen. Who else needs to find their inner tiger and fight for their dreams? Let's do it together!


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