Wednesday, December 30, 2009


YES! My third book, A Time for the Heart, has come out of oblivion and is again in print! I'm so glad, because I really liked this story.

Covenant has reissued it, and it is available through Seagull, Deseret Book, and online. I'll be having a small blog tour- small because it is a re-release, after all- and a contest here.

This is the back blurb:
For Claire O'Brian, a bright and beautiful archaeologist, working at a newly discovered archaeological site in the wilds of Guatemala is her opportunity of a lifetime. Unfortunately, the dig is being funded by Darren Stark, her manipulative ex-boyfriend. And if that isn't enough, several rare artifacts have disappeared--and Claire suspects everyone. Enter "Bump" St. James, a handsome and capable private investigator. As Claire and Bump work together to unearth the mystery, their mutual attraction deepens. However, in a dramatic confrontation, Claire learns that Darren Stark will do anything to keep her from learning the truth about the missing artifacts. Anything.

Click here to to check it out at Amazon.

If you haven't read it, I hope you'll give it a try. :-)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

How many books do you have?

So I was looking around my library the other day and wondered exactly how many books I have in there. I would post a picture, but it's such a mess that I'll have to clean it up first.

My best estimate is somewhere around 500. I could be low on that guess- I have a whole lotta paperbacks. If it sounds excessive to you, you must understand that it's a disease with me, this whole collecting of the books. I must own what I read, and more often than not I like to keep it when I'm done.

That said, I do plan on going through the shelves someday soon and culling the best from those that need a new home. The first of a new year is always a good time to purge!

So what about it? Do you obsessively collect or are you a good library visitor? Speaking of which, I need to renew my card...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Things I Learned in 2009

These are some of the things I learned in 2009:

1. I am not perfect. I know! I was surprised too.
2. I can lose weight when I exercise and quit eating, like, 4,000 calories a day.
3. I like to exercise!
4. Too much sun really is bad for my skin.
5. I absolutely love my chosen careers. Writing and homemaking suit me well.
6. I love to cook.
7. I love to knit.
8. I love to kickbox. I know! I was surprised too.
9. My kids are growing up fast.
10. I fell in love with my husband all over again. 20 years look good on us.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

To be accurate, or not to be accurate...

Writers of historical fiction sometimes find themselves in a bit of a quandary. If you don't get it right, someone will know and will tell you. If you don't include enough of the history, armchair historians will be unhappy that the history is little more than wallpaper for the book, while those not so much into the history will be bored if there's too much.

Dialogue. Now there's a mess waiting to happen. Keep the dialogue too true to the period and it can come off sounding stilted and can be jarring for the modern reader. Make it too modern, and it will pull the reader out of the setting.

I suppose the question for me is not so much "do I want to be accurate?" as it is "how can I strike the right balance?" I think this is very hard, and trying to please as many readers as possible can be a challenge.

So as a reader, how do you prefer your historicals? Meaty, or just enough history to give the story a sense of place?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Josi Kilpack's Lemon Tart

Josi Kilpack'sLemon Tart is a fun book with a twisting plot and engaging characters. That line sounds totally cliche, but every word is true. This is the backliner from the book:

A recipe for murder!

* 5 families living on Peregrine Circle
* 1 flowered curtain tieback
* 1 missing child
* 1 body in the field

Mix with a long list of suspects and top with two very different detectives. Increase heat until only the truth remains.

Award-winning author Josi S. Kilpack introduces a new series of culinary "cozies" that is sure to tantalize mystery lovers. In this debut volume, cooking aficionado-turned-amateur detective, Sadie Hoffmiller, tries to solve the murder of Anne Lemmon, her beautiful young neighbor - a single mother who was mysteriously killed while a lemon tart was baking in her oven. At the heart of Sadie's search is Anne's missing two-year-old son, Trevor. Whoever took the child must be the murderer, but Sadie is certain that the police are looking at all the wrong suspects - including her!

Armed with a handful of her very best culinary masterpieces, Sadie is determined to bake her way to proving her innocence, rescuing Trevor, and finding out exactly who had a motive for murder.

Here's what worked for me with this book:

*I loved Sadie. She is a funny, funny character. Josi has a way of putting the reader in Sadie's head without intruding there, herself. So funny. Sadie meddles, is frustrating for some of the other characters but ends up being endearing rather than irritating. I think this is a hard mix to accomplish, and my hat is off to the author.

*I enjoyed the cast of secondary characters. There was enough going on to make me wonder whodunit.

*The plot. I enjoy a good mystery, and I liked peeling back the layers of this one.

*The recipes! They were such a fun addition to the story. Rather than just read about what Sadie made, I was able to look at the recipes and get a sense for exactly how it would have tasted or come together. I have yet to try them myself; I'm hoping for a chance to do some experimenting over the holiday season.

All told, I loved this book and am looking forward to getting my hands on the sequel. Reading Lemon Tart was an enjoyable experience, and I enjoyed the story so much I hated to put the book down. That's always a sign of a good read.

P.S. Same disclaimer as with Jennie's book: I do know Josi Kilpack and am pleased to call her my friend, however, I wouldn't have reviewed the book if I didn't like it. It's true. :-)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jennie Hansen's Shudder

This is the description from the backliner of Shudder, by Jennie Hansen:

Darcy and Clare grew up as best friends, sharing trials and triumphs from preschool through college graduation. Now they’re sharing an apartment in Boise, Idaho, where Clare just landed a great job and Darcy is pursuing a teaching certificate. There’s only one problem: Blaine, Clare’s boyfriend. His chauvinistic, know-it-all ways set Darcy’s teeth on edge. Darcy vows not to let Blaine ruin her lifelong friendship with Clare, but when Blaine insists on moving in, Darcy suddenly finds herself alone. The estranged friends forge ahead on seemingly separate paths. Engaged to Blaine, Clare becomes trapped in ugly family politics and vicious treatment from her fiancĂ©. Darcy finds a temporary home with Karlene, an accident victim seeking live-in help, but a twisted plot soon threatens their safety. Clare’s wedding briefly reunites her with Darcy, yet the friends have never been farther apart. And when Clare finds herself in mortal peril and finally calls on Darcy to help, it might be too late.

I liked this book for several reasons. I should probably preface this review by admitting that the author is a friend of mine. I will, however, attest to the objectivity of this review by stating that if I didn't like the book, I wouldn't have reviewed it.

Here, in a nutshell, are several of the things that worked for me:

*The realism. The book pulls no punches, no pun intended, and I liked that the author portrays the abusive relationship in the book as realistic without being gratuitous.

*Clare's internal dialogue. It's everything I've ever heard about the thought processes of a victim of abuse.

*The contrast between an unhealthy and healthy relationship. The difference is clear.

*The setting. Yes, I know, it's in Idaho. (If you're from Idaho, no offense intended. I live in Utah. Like I have a lot of room to talk). But it's BOISE, which is a very cool city. It really worked for me.

*The mystery/suspense portion of the plot. I love a good suspense novel, and the fact that I stayed up late trying to finish the book before exhaustion finally took over tells me something. When I fight sleep to finish a book, I know it's a good one.

*I found myself feeling for Clare, and there wasn't a tidy wrap-up to her story. I was sympathetic to her without thinking that she was TSTL. (Too Stupid to Live). I thought that given her painful background, her vulnerability to Blaine was believable.

I know this subject isn't an easy one to broach and I admire the author for doing it well. I can imagine she felt a certain amount of pain? discomfort? at throwing her creations into such a bad situation. This is more than just escapist fiction, (which I do love, I write it myself), it's stuff that happens in real life and it isn't pretty. The healing power of the Savior and loving friends and family is clear, though, and gives a ray of hope. I was satisfied with Clare's ending, and yet my first question for Jennie was to ask if there was a sequel on the way to continue her story. Her answer was that no, this is where it ended for her, that in real life, sometimes we don't know how things pan out. After she said that, it made perfect sense to me.

I would recommend this book to anyone- it's a good fix if you like suspense and romance, or also if you prefer your fiction to be more on the "realistic" side- rather like Anita Stansfield, Rachel Ann Nunes, Jodi Picoult, etc.

I loved it!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The worth of a soul...

Last night I had the privilege of attending a fundraiser at my husband's school. He's a counselor for the Youth in Custody program, and the school decided to hold a fundraiser to raise money for a family in need this Christmas.

The students have been doing research for projects, writing papers on those projects and putting together slide shows that displayed images of their research with original text, all set to music.

There was a group of four brave students who sang, "Angels Among Us." They were wonderful, and I say "brave," because there were eight more who were supposed to sing with them. These four were awesome!

The students also made five quilts that were auctioned off. They were beautiful, and each one was purchased.

I was so touched at the work the kids put into their projects and the quilts. These children have experienced a slice of life I can only gape at, and I'm amazed at their resilience. They are working hard to succeed in a world that hasn't given then a very nice beginning. My hat is off to them--I am in awe of them and humbled by them.

My kudos also to the staff, who are talented, dedicated, and who must have loads of patience and use it often. Teaching is not an easy profession; I speak from experience.

I suppose I just want to say to this group of people, staff and children, and to teachers and students everywhere--nicely done. This life is not an easy one, and I do believe that as long as we help each other, we'll all get through it intact.

Happy Holidays to Project Surpass, and truly, God bless us, everyone!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I am alive!

I am still alive and kicking- just not kicking too much online lately. I'm finishing up my Isabelle 2 novel, doing the mom thing, and trying to keep my house in some semblance of order, which is ever a losing battle for me.

Coming soon, though, I'll be posting my review of Jennie Hansen's Shudder. And I'm way behind the game, but I finally read Josi Kilpack's Lemon Tart and will be reviewing that one soon, too.

In the meantime, think of me fondly, as I am of you. :-)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Writer Groups

To join or not to join? That's a question I have asked myself numerous times over the course of my writing career and I must say I'm glad I finally approached a fellow writer friend who has a writer group and asked if they had room for one more. They have graciously accepted me, and I went to my first meeting this morning!

I have waited WAAAAYYY too long to do this. Here's the thing with me. Writing is very solitary. I am not a solitary person. There is nothing introverted about me. I love people. I yak a lot. When I need a recharge, I feel better after spending time with friends and family. My husband, (thank the stars), is also a yakker, and I am able to bounce ideas off of him and enjoy a unique friendship with him that I cherish.

Anyway, yes, writing is very solitary. I find my enthusiasm, energy, drive, etc. lagging when I spend too much time alone with it. I always come home from signings or other writing activities feeling recharged. But often, especially lately, they've been far and few between. This group is just what I've needed to do to keep me on track and motivated.

If you're considering the value of joining a writers group, try to find one with people who will encourage as well as offer kind, constructive criticism. This is crucial. For me, anyway. I suspect for most of us. I feel so lucky to have landed in a good group of people. They're so kind to allow it- sometimes when you're part of a group you don't really want the dynamics to change by adding someone new, and I'm glad they're willing to take the risk.

Find yourself a group! Whether you like to read or knit or quilt or scrapbook or make shoes or eat sunflower's nice to connect with like-minded people. Give it a try!

Friday, October 9, 2009

I'm finding that one of the worst things about being behind on a writing deadline is the frustrating fact that I can't blog or do anything like unto it without feeling an incredible sense of guilt. If I have two minutes to blog, I should have two minutes to try for another couple hundred words on the manuscript.

Well, blogging and internet research is one thing I can do while the kids are running around and distracting me, so today I'm using that as my justification. I wish I were the kind of writer who can write amidst chaos, but when I write my novels, I must have complete and utter silence. I can't even have music on. It affects my mood too much.

I keep trying to grab those stray moments when I can, but just when I get sucked into the zone of my story, someone comes along and wants a drink/snack/needs to be wiped/help with algebra (It doesn't have to make sense, honey. Just learn the blasted formula. It never made sense to me either)/or any one of a million other interruptions, and I get sucked right back out of the story and I feel all disoriented. Really, picture the warp speed images from Star Wars and the like, and that's what it feels like when I have to jump back and forth between worlds. I usually find myself literally blinking and trying to focus on the person talking to me. You know it's bad when the five-year-old has to repeat himself and starts articulating slowly and loudly, kind of like people do to my Norwegian mom when they hear her accent.

When I'm in the middle of writing, I also have to be careful of what I read. For instance, when I was writing the Civil War series, I was paranoid about copying anybody else's style so I avoided other historical series. I have yet to read Dean Hughes's Children of the Promise, like the rest of the LDS world has already done five times over. I'm sure it's probably irrational, but I worry about things like that. My 1st Isabelle book was set in Colonial India, so instead of reading helpful books like A Passage to India and The Far Pavillions, I ran in the other direction with my hands over my eyes. I do all of my research, well, almost all, from nonfiction sources because I worry about unconsciously using material I've read from another author.

There is one exception this time around; Isabelle 2 is set in Egypt at the height of the Egyptology craze, and I have been reading Amelia Peabody like crazy to get myself into an authentic feel for the place. Why this is different, I have no clue. I think one of the reasons is that there was a REAL Amelia, who wrote A Thousand Miles up the Nile, and I suspect she was an inspiration for Elizabeth Peters. Amelia Edwards wrote her memoir in such beautiful detail that it makes research on this time and place an absolute joy.

Isabelle 3 will be set in Greece, and I am stamping impatiently to get at that one. If people were to ask me which of my books is my favorite, I think I would say, "the next one." As much as I love to write, it's really hard. There are times when I want someone to come along and tell me what happens next. It always works itself out, but it can be a frustrating, intimidating process sometimes.

Enough of the rambling. Time to pick up kids from school. And then the crazy-busy afternoon melts into dinner time, then shifts to after-dinner craziness and then bath time and then the threats to the teenagers begin. (Go to bed NOW. This is why it's so hard for you to get up in the morning. *ten minutes pass* I swear, I will take your phone. Don't look at me that way. If I had looked at my mother that way I'd have found my head across the room.)

When all this is done, I settle down to write. If I'm lucky, I stay awake. :-)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Another fun readers' site

If you read LDS fiction and/or books that hold with LDS standards, you might enjoy the LDS Readers blog- interesting reviews, open for comments if you've also read the book, that sort of thing. I really like it! Check it out.

Do you like talking about books?

Bell Ladies Good Reads!
Come on over to Bell Ladies Good Reads! Bell Ladies is a fun group of women who discuss all kinds of things from politics, to fashion, to home care, you name it. Now I get to guide discussion on a new page dedicated to reading and all things books.

Check it out, and I hope you'll stay with us!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

To all fellow quote nerds

"I have been complimented many times, and they always embarrass me; I always feel they have not said enough."
---Mark Twain

I love quotes. I write them in notebooks, scribble down good ones when I'm in meetings, use them later for inspiration or whatever. If you are a quote nerd like I am, you will love this site. Quotes from everyone imaginable, in every category imaginable. If you have a talk or speech to give in the near future, you might want to check this out!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An oldie but goodie...

So much of what I get out of this life is found in the pages of books, big surprise, and I've mentioned this one before but it bears repeating. If you need a little bit of a shift in the way you think, you might like this book.

It's the precursor to The Secret and a gajillion other books/philosophies that followed, and I love it for its simplicity and genuine tone. Aside from that, it's given me some great food for thought and brought to mind ideas and concepts that have been truly lifting during times of stress or sadness.

I hope you'll give it a try at some point and remember that even though it was written decades ago, (and at times seems really charmingly quaint), the concepts are sound and well worth the time it takes to read.

I highly recommend it! Ok, now back to work. Isabelle awaits. :-)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Favorite historical settings...

Do you have a favorite historical setting? Something that speaks to your heart and makes you almost wish you'd been alive then?

Some of my favorites are:
Victorian England
Colonial India
Egypt in the 19th Century archaeology craze
The Roaring 20s

I know I'll think of more, but for now that's what comes to mind.

How about you?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fall reads

I just threw open my window for the first time in...well...a long time. The temperature is slated for a high of 83ish and my home is well-shaded in the front, allowing for a nice, gentle breeze.

I do so love autumn! Just when I'm afraid summer will be eternal, fall slides in and redeems my faith in the beautiful 23 1/2 degree tilt and the fact that the sun now hangs lower in the southern sky and will soon bring Halloween and Thanksgiving in its wings.

I have certain books I love to read depending on the season. Not particular books, I suppose, but certain genres. I love a good, frothy romance in the summer. Nothing like a good beach read. In the fall I enjoy Dracula, Frankenstein, books that lend themselves to setting the mood for a good Halloween.

My book club is reading Ender's Game this month, and although I've read it before, I am so looking forward to getting into it again. Ok, it's not exactly Dracula, but for some reason it feels right for the season. I need to get on it- book club is in two weeks.

Do you have any books you like to read in the fall? Please share!

Monday, September 14, 2009

LDS Bookcorner!

Last week, my book Isabelle Webb, Legend of the Jewel was featured at LDS Bookcorner and I was out of town. I didn't have internet access and it had been my intention to post a link to the site. So it's too late to receive the first 20 pages of the book in an email from LDS Bookcorner, but here's the link anyway! The site is fabulous, and if you're a reader of LDS fiction, I highly recommend you visit and then add it to your favorites list.

Ok, I'm trying to get my second Isabelle book ready for submission so back to work I go!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Anticipation is always more fun

It seems like I've been an avid anticipater my whole life. My personality profile suggests this about my preferred line of thinking: "What could be is always more exciting than what is." As a kid, the anticipation of any event almost eclipsed the event itself. Sometimes the buildup was so emotionally absorbing that the event almost felt anticlimactic in comparison.

I thought of the fun of anticipation the other night as I sat with some friends in my living room for Book Club. We read an old favorite, Pride and Prejudice, and had a good discussion. We also compared the book to the more prevalent movies released in recent decades. This led to a more general discussion about romance in books and movies, and one of my friends mentioned the fun of the buildup to that big kiss, the big embrace, the deliciousness of the tension and anticipation.

Remember when you were young and reading a book where the hero and heroine sat by each other, their fingers almost touching? Sometimes the simplest of gestures are the most satisfying. I remember being 13 and reading one of my beloved Trixie Belden books. Jim and Trixie HELD HANDS on a plane ride at the end of the story. Actually, she put her fist in his palm and he closed his fingers around it.

I was in absolute ecstasy. I must have read that book a million times for that scene alone.

I think there's a crucial element to a good love story that will work almost every time for me. Now, the fact that the book must be well written with compelling characters is a given. So ok, assuming those things are in place, the thing I want is tension. I want tension between the hero and heroine. By the time he finally takes her hand or they move in for that kiss, I want to be saying, preferably out loud, "Oh come ON already!" Make it worth my while. I want a story to be emotionally charged and the characters emotions to be deep and intense. I want the air around them charged and the passion intense with just a glance or a meeting of the eyes without a word even spoken.

Now, granted, I do not feel these things from reading Pride and Prejudice. The relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy is much more...subdued. At least on the page. My friend assures me that the Kiera Knightly version is much more grand and charged with love, drama and a fantastic music score. I have yet to see it myself, but it's on my list of to do's.

As a writer, I suppose my Ideal Reader would be the one who sighs at the end of my books, completely emotionally satisfied and fulfilled with the romance thing. My eternal quest will probably be to write the perfect book about the perfect romance that people will read again and again.

I suppose I should mention that my personality profile opens with this description: "If ever there was a personality destined to die for love, this is it."


Friday, August 21, 2009

BTS Night

Aw yeah. Back to School night for both my daughters. Mark went with Nina and I took Anna. (And Gunder. Doh.) We talked to teachers, noted the required supplies, walked the crowded halls and said hi to friends they haven't seen for three months. Part of me was excited for Anna, and the other part wanted to throw up. I really did like school, but the drama with friends and hoping people would like me and wanting to look perfect, etc etc came back with a vengeance.

In terms of Anna's classes, I found myself being excited for her. The geography teacher said she needs colored pencils because they do a lot of maps. Natch. Ok, I so would have been all over that. I have a weird affinity for both colored pencils and maps. The math teacher was really cool and I think it'll be a good match for my daughter, and the English teacher was one I would have loved having as a kid. And she has the kids write something every day!

They're writing every day!

I think this is one of the most valuable skills that helps students across the board. If you can read and write, success in multiple subjects is much more attainable than otherwise.

I'm reminded of the line in "You've Got Mail," where Tom Hanks tells Meg Ryan that he wants to buy "bouquets of sharpened pencils." Dork that I am, I love that. My favorite pencils ever are the Ticonderoga Tri Write. They are unbelievably sexy. Yes, I just said that about a pencil.

All things considered, as much as I will miss the freedom of summer, I am looking forward to reestablishing routine around here. I'm much more organized during the school year. Summer becomes a free-for-all.

To my sweet children, I wish you good luck and fabulous friends and good study habits. I hope that you'll learn many wonderful and useful things this year, and that your successes will be satisfying.

Better stop before I get all misty-eyed.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Danger, beware!

"There's a danger in the word 'someday.'" --Henry B. Eyering.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the danger of Someday.

Someday I will take that trip. Someday I will actually ride that roller coaster. Someday I will learn how to sew something useful. Someday I will go back to school. Someday I will read that book sitting by my bedside. Someday I will be brave and befriend that new neighbor. Someday I will begin an exercise program. Someday, someday, someday...

The problem is that Someday often doesn't come. Someday doesn't make itself manifest until we create it. Oftentimes, the Somedays that we yearn for are secret longings of our hearts, things we don't tell another soul about but quietly wish we could or would do.

The problem with waiting is that none of us know how much time we're allotted here, and how sad would it be to get to the other side of life only to realize that while we did our best and what was required of us, we could have experienced a lot more, found much more enrichment and joy along the way.

Maybe I'm all introspective because I turned 40 last month and I'm now doing the whole Am I Where I thought I Would Be thing. Gratefully, I have accomplished much of what I envisioned when I was 18. I have waited, however, for other things that could have brought me joy much sooner.

For example, I've been a Someday I'll exercise person for years. I had a gloriously fast metabolism as a kid and then I hit 30. Oy. Those insidious pounds crept on one by one until I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered what had happened. Again, maybe because of the milestone birthday and maybe because I managed to lose a couple of pounds from a brief illness--whatever the reason, I decided to keep those few pounds off and begin melting away the rest.

I've exercised and eaten smart, and have lost roughly 20 pounds since May. My goal is another 20. It's gratifying to see real results and knowing it's coming because I'm working at it is that much more satisfying. Who knew I would come to look forward to jogging? I used to be winded climbing a flight of stairs.

Am I sounding like an infomercial for weight loss? I don't mean to. I just want to throw this out there, that I have a renewed sense of faith in our secret dreams. The only thing holding us back is ourselves. I know this to be true, because I've done it. I came across a quote the other day, and now I can't remember where I saw it, but basically it asked if we are hanging out in the rear mezzanine of life.

It hit me squarely. I don't want to be standing in the shadows of my own life. I don't want you to be standing in the shadows of your own life, either. Rabbi Zusya said, "If they ask me in the next world, 'Why were you not Moses?' I will know the answer. but if they ask me, 'Why were you not Zusya?' I will have nothing to say."

We are all unique, and we all have talents, some of the bizarre. Doesn't matter how weird or inconsequential we think they are; we have an obligation to ourselves and those in our realm of life to use those talents and pursue our secret dreams.

Take that class, go on that walk, take that vacation with your sister, do something carefree with your kids, read that book, write that book, learn to play that musical instrument, save a little pocket change for that silly froo-froo home decor thing you really want but don't really need. Love your family with abandon, their faults and all. Think of one good thing your spouse did for you last week and give him/her a big, fat kiss for it.

There is so much good in this world, and so many opportunities for us to do those things we want to, whether small or big. Beware of Someday and instead, reach inside to where you are uncertain or self-conscious. Rip that secret dream from its hiding place in your heart and put it down on paper. Smile.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Writer's Must-Have

So this book has been around forever, but it's new to me. Just when I thought I'd bought every writing how-to book on the planet, I found a classic at B&N that I'd always heard about but never read.

Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones is so, so good. I'm already implementing her suggestions and techniques into my writing day. The book has a decided Zen/Eastern slant to it, but even if you're not particularly appreciative of all things Zen, the principles contain truths and ideas guaranteed to resonate with even the most unZenlike writer.

Of course, now that I've raved about this book, you may want to take a look at Jennie Hansen's August 5th post, "Fantastic or Boring." What's good to one isn't always good to another.

But trust me. This book is good.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Simple Summer Favorites

I do so love the different seasons. Really. Every time we go into a new season, I think of all the reasons why that one is my favorite. Then, just when I get tired of it, it's time for another one. Well, it's really, really hot right now where I live, but I'm still loving summer. I decided to make a list of ten of my favorite things about it:

1. popsicles
2. the farmer's market and fruit stands
3. our family garden and fresh veggies
4. my sister's pool
5. watching my husband swim in my sister's pool- he's like a fish.
6. green lawns
7. the smell of freshly-mowed green lawns
8. bar-b-ques
9. my little boy wearing only shorts and his tan tummy
10. my big girls and their tan shoulders, looking like I used to

(Ok, so number 10 is a little bittersweet. Give them a few years and a couple pregnancies and then they'll be envious of their own daughters).

But how about you? Do you like summer? What are some of your favorite things?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sometimes the simplest times are the best

This 4th of July, my family and I spent time with my sister who lives a block away from me. They recently moved to Ogden from Salt Lake, and the best bonus of all is her backyard pool. My husband has been cleaning and caring for it in a most dedicated fashion, because my sis and brother-in-law are not really what they call, "Pool People," but we definitely are. They said they'd not fill it in if we would help maintain it.

Done and done.

So we all hung out on the 4th, doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING MORE than swimming, sitting under the umbrellas, eating and visiting. We didn't go anywhere, buy anything other than food for the grill and some simple fireworks that we lit later in the street. (My favorite are the pagodas that spin and then pop up at the end. Sweet!)

My 4-year-old was even low-maintenance because his water wing contraption keeps him afloat so well that he can toodle all over the pool and we don't have to worry about him drowning. Ok, we need to teach him to swim, but for now, it's awesome. The only downside to the day was that two of the five siblings and their families weren't able to make it. And my dad's recovering from some surgery so we let my parents miss this one. Other than these missing loved ones, the day was absolutely divine.

I found myself hoping my sister never, ever moves because when we're all old and gray with one foot in the grave, maybe, I still want to be able to go over to her house and hang out with the people I love. And to have no agenda?! Such bliss, I tell you! It was the best 4th I can think of; I loved every minute of it.

It's a good lesson for me. Simple is good. Makes me want to go through my house and create a minimalist palate. I know myself too well, though. Wouldn't be long before I'd have things cluttered about again. Then I'd just have to go through again and purge. Purge, collect, repeat. One eternal round, or something.

At any rate, I hope everyone who celebrates the 4th of July had a wonderful time, and my wishes to all that we make time to enjoy loved ones first and foremost.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My book is boring me, or I have writer's block...

To those of you who like to write and are working on a project/book, I have a question for you that I put on my Scribbling Teens blog:

What happens if you're writing along, loving it, and then you miss a day or two, or three, or four and you find yourself slightly bored with the thought of picking up the pen or opening the folder?

This happened to me while I was writing my first book. I put it away for weeks at a time, sometimes months, and it took me five years to write a book that ended up being just under 200 pages long. Kinda lame, yes. I got bored with it, I listened to the inner voices that told me I was wasting my time...

Well, I've since discovered some things that will help. If you do need to put the book away for a small amount of time to take a breather, fine. Do just that. But don't NOT write something else every day. Keep your writing habit alive by still writing/journaling/scribbling something down each day. We must ingrain the daily writing habit, even if it's only ten minutes at a time.

Another idea might be to try a fresh project for a bit and then go back to the original one that was giving you fits. When you get a little bit of distance from it, sometimes you can see the thing that was wrong, or you realize you really do like that idea and you're willing to work with it again. I don't suggest you put it away for five years, though, if you can help it.

Maybe it would help to brainstorm a list of possibilities for your characters. Start making a list of things that could happen to him/her. Raise the stakes! Do something horrible and let the character work her way out of it. Shake it up a bit.

Go for a walk and think about your book. Let the fresh air slip into your head and rejuvenate those tired brain cells. (Or something like that). Truly, sometimes just moving around does wonders for my writing abilities.

Sit somewhere crowded and listen to people talking. See if there's anything you overhear that might be useful in your story. Challenge yourself- see if you can find a way to fit in something you might not have thought of otherwise.

Don't give in to boredom or writer's block! Fight it!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Scribbling Teens

Do you know any teens who like to write? I've started a new blog called Scribbling Teens that's aimed at helping kids figure out the writing process and learn as much as possible to help them along their paths to writerhood. (I know that's not a real word).

Anyway, if you know of anybody who might be interested, point them in my direction!

Thanks! :-)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Amazing talent!

Saturday was so much fun for me. I was privileged to be on the committee for THE Teen Writers Conference, which turned out so well. I also did the coordinating for the writing contest, and it was so amazing. There's a lot of talent out there in the world, housed in the bodies of the 19 and younger.

The classes were really good, the kids seemed to have a good time, and the author panels were informative. I even learned a few things!

Among the books I bought at the conference:

I've known Jeff (J. Scott Savage), for a few years now, and I watch his career climb with admiration and awe. He's amazing, approachable, and so very cool!

I met Lisa Mangum in person at the conference but had been communicating with her earlier in the week regarding the contest judging. She was such a wonderful judge, and would be, of course, because she's a real-life professional editor for Deseret Book. She's amazing. Smart and witty and as she sat talking with the kids during lunch, my opinion of her just kept growing. She offered advice and was so approachable to the kids. It was so cool. Thank you for all your time and effort, Lisa!! Can't wait to read your book.

I had James Dashner's first volume of the 13th Reality series at home and wished I'd thought to bring it with me for him to sign. Such a funny, funny man. I'd seen him being entertaining with Jeff Savage for two years at the Whitneys and have seen him all over the web but never had the chance to actually talk with him until Saturday and I just have to say, he's wonderful. So articulate and sarcastic, two qualities I love and admire in others. :-) At any rate, I will continue to watch his career climb and cheer wholeheartedly for him from the sidelines. His book The Maze Runner comes out this fall from... Random House! So incredibly cool. (Plus, I think I've found a political kindred spirit, and this is always a wonderful thing.)

I don't have a copy of this book yet, but I can't wait to read it. I don't think I've ever met a more energetic, entertaining and sincere performer than Julie Wright. She was so, so wonderful. She did the general session at the conference and it was everything I could have hoped for and more. I think the kids got a real treat in her, and everything she said about the differing stages of writership was dead-on and I'm really hoping the kids took some good notes. Awesome, awesome, and she is so warm and just all-around great. Wish she lived farther north!

I bought this book, but will have to wait until I get it. They sold out! Annette took my order and will mail it to me. Call me a dork, but I do love a good grammar book. That would also mean Annette is a dork too, and she's anything but. She's also wonderful, (I'm using that word a lot), and I had a great time talking to her. She's a wealth of industry info, and she's a person I know I could ask just about anything and she'd probably have the answer for it. She's also incredibly funny and great to talk to.

I met Jewel Adams several years ago and have had the chance off and on to see her at various functions. I'm always impressed with her class and style. Jewel is awesome and I'm glad to say I know her. We traded books and I can't wait to start The Journey!! She's an incredible lady with an amazing presence about her.

I also met Ronda Hinrichsen, who has a new book called Missing coming out this month from Leatherwood Press. Another book to add to the stack! It sounds really cool, and I enjoyed spending some time with Ronda at the conference. She has a very polished air about her that reminds me of someone who really has her crap together. (Does that sound crude? I obviously don't have my crap together yet). At any rate, she was nice and gracious and I liked getting to know her.

Karen Hoover is a massage therapist! I'm thinking we need to set up a chair for her at future conferences. Oh, and in addition to that, she's signed a contract with Valor Publishing Group and has a book slated for March, 2010. Woohoo!! She was so much fun to talk to and I loved getting to know her.

I spent time with Heather Moore, historical novel author extraordinaire and winner of this year's Whitney and Best of State awards. She's beautiful and eloquent, as always, and has a daughter who looks just like her!!

Also on the committee and giving a wonderful presentation on humor was Matthew Buckley/Marion Jensen. As Josi put it, he was the testosterone on the committee that helped keep the estrogen in check. He's such a nice guy and I really enjoyed his presentation. He has such a dry sense of humor- subtle and very hilarious.

Speaking of funny, Jessica Day George was there as a presenter and panelist. I could just sit and listen to her talk because she is so funny and light. She's a person who will brighten up a room just by walking into it. I can't wait to read her books. They've been on my list since last year when I saw her receive her Whitney award for her book Dragon Slippers. She's an amazing person.

I met Cindy Bezas, (C.S. Bezas), for real at this conference, after seeing her only in passing before. What an amazingly talented woman. She was a committee member and presenter, and she's done it all, from books to music and everything in between. (I've tried unsuccessfully to link to her website- I'll try again in a bit). At any rate, she is all things gracious and lovely and I'm in awe of her accomplishments. Plus, she brought chocolate for her presentation which now makes her the smartest person I know.

Last, but not least, Josi Kilpack is an amazing woman. I want to be like her when I grow up. She ran one heck of an amazing conference and I am really, really impressed. It ran like clockwork, and I've decided if I ever need to have a major event organized, I want her in charge. Not to mention that she's funny and smart and I really like her. I've had her book, Lemon Tart, for some time now, and it's in my TBR stack. I will one day read all these great books. I think one day will start tomorrow morning. Extra reading time isn't going to leap into my lap. Unfortunately.

Well, all told, it was a great conference and I really hope that the kids enjoyed themselves and feel it was worth their time. I would have been all kinds of bat-crazy for something like this when I was young. Good times!!!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Someone made MY day!

So Bookworm Nation totally made my day by posting that I made HER day! Here's the link- she says some really nice things about me and my books. It seriously makes me feel so good.

Thank you, thank you!!

Conference prep!

I'm getting ready for THE Teen Writers Conference, which is happening this Saturday at Weber State. I'm finalizing my presentation and going over the contest entries, which have been so, so impressive. There are, I'm thrilled to say, some very talented writing kids in the world. In all, about half of the registered attendees entered the writing contest, and I happen to be in the know about the prizes. They are going to be uber cool.

So I'm old school- fighting the inevitability of the power point, (really, what's so bad about a white board and a marker? And the fact that the markers smell so good is an added bonus), and recruiting my husband and daughters to help. I know the mechanics of making the slides, putting together the presentation, but there's this little part of me that is waiting for the whole thing to crash on Saturday and then I'll have to punt.

With the whiteboard and a marker. Hmm. Who knew a crash could be a good thing?

Well, at any rate, I am so, so excited about this conference and the kids I'll get to meet. Kindred spirits, all of them, I'm sure. There's something about being with other people who love to do the same things you do. You can be as different as night and day, and yet there's a bond, an understanding. (You love pens and paper? Really? Me too!) I've loved reading and writing as long as I can remember. Only a fellow nerd would understand the delight of reading Nancy Drew and eating countless Popsicles in the back yard all summer long.

So to the kids I'll meet on Saturday, I give you a fond cyber-greeting in advance. You are now who I used to be. It's a good, good life. There is nothing more satisfying, for some of us, than writing. I wish you all the good things that a life of writing has to offer.

And perhaps the most important advice a writer can ever receive?

Read. And then read some more.

Can't wait to meet all of you!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Stephen King writes a lot

I just followed a link from Nathan Bransford's blog to a blog called The Book Page, where they have a quick write-up on Stephen King's new book, coming out this fall. You know, I may actually be able to read this one! His books usually scare the beejeebies out of me so much that I can't keep reading them. After checking out the premise of Under the Dome, I think I might brave it.

Reading about his page count reminds me of a review I read once about a Tom Clancy novel, where the reviewer said something along the lines of, "Tom Clancy again gives us a novel that weighs more than a laptop..." Stephen King's The Stand is one of those that's definitely in the heavier-than-a-laptop category, and it'd be fun to see Under the Dome become as well-loved. King is one of those dreaded genre authors, *sniff of disdain,* and he's prolific and beloved and talented and wealthy because of it and I love it. He's been one of the most vocal supporters of "popular fiction" and its value, despite the bad rap it usually gets, and I've appreciated that about him.

I love a good, weighty novel. I love that an author has so much to say. One of my favorite books ever, coincidentally also by Stephen King, On Writing, suggests that if you have a God-given talent to write and you aren't writing, what's your problem? He says something like, "What are you doing, knitting afghans?"

Hmm. It's a good question. I find myself often avoiding the computer. Writing is a hard thing to do. Many's the time I've stared at the screen, at that blasted blinking cursor, and wished someone would come along and tell me what happens next. And as I sat knitting the other night, Mr. King's comments came floating through my brain and I stared guiltily at the knitting needles, feeling like they were the devil.

Well, I've renewed my resolve to live a well-balanced life. There will be time to knit after I've written my word quota for the day. And can I get a massive woot-woot for the fact that school will soon be out and I'll have two teenage slaves at my disposal. Don't tell them, but I plan on putting them to work so I can get some things done.

And maybe, just maybe, before I die I'll be able to string so many words together that I'll produce a thousand-page novel. That'd be so, so cool.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

You running out of ideas?

Lily Furedi's Subway

I had a quick visit with a cousin I don't see very often, and we were catching up on life and such. He asked me how the writing was going, and I said it's kind of slow right now. He misunderstood, and asked if I was having a hard time coming up with ideas.

Well, the idea well is never really dry. In fact, knock on wood, I have enough ideas to last me for, like, seven lifetimes. I'll never get them all written. Ideas are never my problem. Slow sales- that can be a problem.

My only consolation is that sales have been relatively slow across the board. I'm thanking my lucky stars that it's not just me. The only book industry still booming, from what I understand, is the national romance novel sector. I can understand, because I am a die-hard romance fan myself, and I'm always a sucker for the guaranteed happy ending.

Life is cyclical, or so I've been told, and I have high hopes that things will pick up again. I was thinking about these things when I opened my newly-delivered Smithsonian Magazine this afternoon. This current issue is so full of good stuff! I was especially enamored of an article on Depression-era paintings. This is the link to the article, and if you visit it, which I'm sure you will after this, click to see all the pictures they highlight. As the author, Jerry Adler, explains- there's such a sense of optimism in these beautiful paintings. Like people knew the hard times would pass and life would again be pleasant.

I worry about abusing copyright law, and hope that I haven't, but I had to include two of my favorites here. The one above is the "seedy subway crowd," which totally makes me laugh because hello, they look better put-together than most of us today in our Sunday best.

This one is called Tenement Flats, by Millard Sheets. It speaks to me because of its sense of community among women; it makes me think of my friends I love and spend time with up and down my neighborhood streets, and I appreciate the strength I draw from them.

I sometimes think it would be an awful lot of fun to live in such quarters as this, and to be such a part of each others' daily lives in close proximity. (Then we'd probably be all mad at each other for hanging our laundry in someone else's spot or the kids making too much noise, running around inside...but for a while, hey. Total fun).

At any rate, these images give me a reminder that my ancestors on both sides seem to shout from the dust: work is always the answer. Reminds me of my favorite line from Disney's "The Great Mouse Detective." "There's always a chance, Doctor. As long as one can think." I figure if I can keep thinking, I can keep producing.

And truly, there are moments in my day when I am so thankful just to be here for the journey. What a privilege. :-)

Monday, April 27, 2009

THE Teen Writers' Conference

Hey all- the following is an interview with Josi Kilpack, THE Teen Writers' Conference chair. I'm honored to be on the committee with her and am looking forward to this conference. It's going to be great, and if you know any kids aged 13-19, please pass the info along!!

NANCY: Tell us a little bit about yourself, Josi.

JOSI: I’m a mother of four, ages 15-7, and an author of 9 novels, with a tenth coming out in August. I have been a member of multiple writing groups, large and small, and a committee member and former conference chair for numerous writer’s conferences. In addition, I’m a frequent presenter to schools and groups, a fabulous cook (if I do say so myself) and amateur chicken farmer.

NANCY: You are the conference chairperson for an upcoming writers' conference for kids. Please tell us about the purpose of the conference.

JOSI: Several of the committee members and myself have been involved with putting together writing conferences for several years. We started small and have grown until our most recent conference had well over 250 attendants. Over the years we have had some teenagers attend our conference, and while they have enjoyed the experience, it seems to also be a bit overwhelming to walk into a two day, morning to night information-fest. So, we began discussing the idea of having a conference where the format, classes, and overall environment is created specifically to give kids, ages 13-19, the best overall introduction to writing conferences as well as instruction that will be most helpful to where they are now on their journey of being a writer. From there we started throwing out ideas and it really just rolled all together until we have this; THE Teen Writer’s Conference.

NANCY: What is your purpose for the conference? What do you hope the teens who come discover?

JOSI: Our hope is that the attendees will discover a lot of things, 1) that they are not the only kids that write, 2) that whatever goals or ambitions they might have in regard to becoming a writer are within reach, and 3) that it takes knowledge and time and concerted effort to accomplish those goals. Those of us on the committee, all of us being writers ourselves, have spent years honing our craft and are excited to help set these kids on that same path—perhaps earlier than we ever started.

NANCY: What kind of classes will you be offering?

JOSI: We will have classes that focus on actual elements of writing, as well as classes on book markets, the publishing process, and what they can do now to best prepare themselves for a future in writing. We have a variety of classes so as to appeal to both new and experiences writers.

NANCY: What if a teen would like to come, but is really shy? Will there be anything that will make him or her uncomfortable?

JOSI: Our entire focus and reason for putting this conference together is to create a comfortable place for young writers to come, learn, and flourish. We have been and will continue to put their comfort as our first priority because we know if they are intimidated and anxious, they will not benefit from this experience. However, we also expect them to be ready for this experience. Each youth, along with their parents, will need to determine if they are ready to be a part of this. Not all teen writers will be, and that’s okay. We hope to make this an annual event, so if this year won’t work, then perhaps by next year they will be ready.

NANCY: What is your overall goal for every youth that attends the Teen Writers' Conference?

JOSI: That they leave encouraged and inspired to do their best, to hone their craft, and to truly reach for the stars in regard to their writing and their life. We also hope they will make friends with one another and feel a sense of community among other writers their own age.

NANCY: How were you able to get such excellent editors and famous writers to attend?

JOSI: Well, in all humility I have to admit that they are my friends—my very good friends. We are like-minded people that saw a common goal and made it happen. I admire each and every person on this committee, and understand the sacrifice they each make to be a part of this. We are joined in this purpose as well as in our passion for great writing. I am blessed to rub shoulders with some of the best writers out there and the attendees get to benefit from that gift in my life.

NANCY: When is it and how do teens register?

JOSI: Registration is open for another 4 weeks. To register, attendees need to go to the website and print off the registration form. Those attendees under the age of 17 will need parental permission to attend; then they will mail the completed registration, along with payment, to the address printed on the page. They, and their parents, will receive a welcome e-mail upon receipt of their registration as well as updates as the conference gets closer. Updates will also be posted on the website.

NANCY: Finally, this conference is for 13 to 19 year olds. Why that age group?

JOSI: We discussed this issue at length, and then simply decided since it was a TEEN conference, we would make it open to TEENS only. We feel that having them among their peers will help them relax and yet be willing to ask questions, meet other kids, and focus on the instruction we’re providing. For the older attendees, this will likely be a kind of introduction to adult-focused writer’s conferences, showing them what to expect and how the typical conference is organized. For the younger attendees, we hope they will come back year after year and continue learning about what they can do in the future.

NANCY: Any other information you'd like to share?

JOSI: We’ve had some parents express concern in regard to leaving their children at the conference without them. Again, this conference isn’t right for all teens, or all parents, but we do ask that parents consider the value of letting their children experience the independent nature of this conference. As a committee, we are dedicated to their safety and comfort; they will come to no harm while attending. And while we ask that parents stay clear of the conference rooms, there are many places on campus that are great for reading or getting some other work done if they worry about going too far away. We will also allow attendees to keep cell-phones on silent throughout the conference so that parents are only a phone call away. For those attendees without cell-phones, they are welcome to use a committee member's phone at any time.

NANCY: Where can people go to find more information, and especially to learn about the writing contest made available just for those who attend?

JOSI: has all the details of the conference, contest, venue, etc. If something is not answered, there are e-mail links that will send you to us so we can give you the details you are looking for.

**And a final note from me- this is going to be so fun. What I wouldn't have given to have had something like this when I was a kid! I'm looking forward to it and am pleased to be teaching a class, myself!

Questions or comments? Check out the website or feel free to email me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

She posted WHAT online?

I just found this extremely cool link from Nathan Brandsford's blog. It's an article written by author Lynn Viehl, and in it she writes about how she got on the NYT mass market bestseller list. She even, get this, posted her royalty statement for all and sundry to peruse. She clearly lists how much money she made, what percentages went where, and what she ultimately pocketed.

For anyone wondering how things are in the national publishing scene, this is one link you don't want to miss.

Ok, scrapping the schedule

I'm a Meyers/Briggs/Keirsey ENFP personality type, which basically means that I have issues with rules, regulations and too much routine.

Makes me sound really dependable, doesn't it.

And in light of the fact that I've not nearly done what I set out to do with this blog, I'm scrapping the rigid, (hey, for me, it's rigid), schedule and will post as often as possible about at least one of the things I was trying to do with that daily schedule.

Right now, I'm pushing to get my next book done, and between that and mothering, I find myself not giving the blog the attention it deserves. I'm hoping if I relax it a bit for myself, my posts will be better.

Lame, yes. And I suppose you might understand if you are also an ENFP. My dad is an ESTJ. Personality-wise, the only thing we have in common is the extrovert piece. He is duty-bound and dependable. I struggle to make it on time anywhere. It's not something I'm proud of. But given the fact that in the evolutionary scheme of things I do supposedly have the potential to learn and progress, (and trust me, there are days I wonder if I've evolved much past, say, plant life), I have to believe that by the time I'm 80, I'll be responsible, too.

At least, that's what I tell myself. ;-) My dad has hope.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Author Spotlight- Michele Ashman Bell

So I'm skipping Thursday's Tidbits post and jumping right into the author spotlight for this week.

When I was perusing shelves for LDS authors before I sent in my first manuscript, I saw Michele's name. She, Anita Stansfield and Rachel Nunes are the women I remember seeing the most as I conducted my own informal market research, and I've been lucky enough to get to know all three of these talented ladies.

Michele has 21 published books to her credit, and those books include romances, young adult adventures, short stories and children's books. I've enjoyed her romance novels and my daughter loved her young adult books.

Michele is beautiful and gracious, and even though she is both of those things, I can't help but love her. I try to hate her but it doesn't work. She is one of the most genuinely nice people I've ever met. She also possesses amazing people skills--I've seen her charm people at book signings, and I always come away from time spent with her with lifted spirits and a smile.

All that aside, she's a really good storyteller, which is the point of this spotlight. Her most recent series is The Butterfly Box, of which the first book has been published (A Modest Proposal),and she's just finished writing the second. I have yet to read A Modest Proposal, which is sitting on my nightstand and waiting for a peaceful moment (ha!) this summer when I can read it and bask in the sun. It's one of those books I've been putting off because I want to enjoy it at my leisure. (Does that make sense? Am I the only one who does that?) I've enjoyed many of Michele's books, but I think my favorite this far is Finding Paradise.

Michele is the mother of three beautiful girls, a handsome son and she has a darling grandbaby. Her blog is here. Her website is here. I think she's the ultimate fun beach read, and since summer is coming... :-)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Industry Info

Thanks to the miracle of cyberspace, we have access to agents and editors who openly share their business lives with the rest of us through their sites and blogs. There are a few that I've seen many writers link to on their blogrolls, and one such is Nathan Bransford. This guy has such good advice and a sense of humor, to boot. I check his blog daily and have made lots of good notes.

There are so many good agent blogs out there, but another that I frequent is LDS Publisher. She gives valuable advice specific to the LDS market, so if that's your goal, your time will be well spent at this blog.

One last blog with a wealth of info: BookEnds LLC. So, so much good stuff to be had there. BookEnds is a literary agency and I love the conversational, helpful and friendly tone of the posts. Makes you feel like you can get there from here.

Good luck, and might I suggest a massive Google hunt for agents/editors if you want to get an overall feel for who's out there and who might be representing the kind of books you write. If you're like me, the hunt is half the fun. I love doing industry research. If you're not like me, however, then just visit the links I've provided, for starters, and work from there. :-)

Happy hunting!

Books I Like

So I'm really late posting this, but I haven't forgotten. I'm trying to finish the book I'm working on right now, and it has me a little scattered.

One of my favorite books of all time is Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I read this book several years ago for a book club and really, really loved it. It tells the story of Francie Nolan, and girl growing up in Brooklyn with her brother, practical mother and alcoholic father, whom she adores. They live in poverty, but there's such a feeling of hope about the book that it didn't bog me down in spirit the way others have. By the end of the book, I was pulling for this character, and I was so happy with how it all ended.

I do believe that most of the reviews I've seen about this book have been positive. Some like it more than others, of course, and one review I saw recently mentioned some prejudice and stereotyping in the book that I don't remember jumping out at me. It's been some time, though, and it could be I've blocked it out. It makes me cringe a little to think that there may be something objectionable in terms of prejudice that I may have missed. Some books are interesting commentaries on their time/settings and as such the reader will expect it to reflect the attitudes of the day. There are other times, though, that it's too much, to the point that it detracts from the story, and I don't remember feeling that with this book.

One thing is for sure--it made me appreciate a fully-stocked kitchen.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Writing Tips- Generating Ideas

"Where do you get your ideas?"

Such a common question, and I usually respond with my favorite answer to everything: Brainstorming.

Now, granted, there are ideas everywhere; a story in the newspaper or something on tv might trigger a great idea. But lots of times, my ideas have come from brainstorm lists.

Here's one way I do this. I make lists of jobs I think are really cool, locations I'd love to visit, people I think are interesting, that sort of thing. I also list my favorite books and movies, examining what I really like as a reader, and jot down everything I can think of.

Then, I start asking the "what if" question. What if artifacts started disappearing from an archaeological dig in Guatemala? What if a man with a rotten past temporarily forgot it? And what if clues to his past took him to Savannah, Georgia and Tuscany, Italy? And what if this same guy sees a mirror image of himself lying dead in an alley? (Ok, so maybe that's not a common "what if" question; I'm just odd).

The key to everything, for me, is brainstorming. It's how I work things out. And when I get ideas, I know I'll forget them if I don't write it down somewhere. I've jotted down plot ideas and notes for other books on scraps of paper or notebooks I put aside and when I find these ideas later, I'm always amazed that a) I thought of them in the first place, and b) that those ideas haven't popped up in my mind since. That's been one witness to me that just because I think of something once doesn't always mean I'll think of it twice. I have to write it down.

Incidentally, lists are also a great journaling device. My sister makes lists, and I copied her idea once, ages ago. I listed all of my kids' favorite foods, movies, books, and toys. It's such a fun window into the past. The memories come right back and I can see my kids playing all over again.

Brainstorming lists! Try it!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Author Spotlight- Jennie Hansen

My first author spotlight is someone I know personally and admire very much, both as a writer and a woman. She's amazingly talented, strong and kind. She's also witty and 9 times out of 10, I find myself saying, "Yeah, what she said!" She puts into words the things I'm thinking but she does it so much more effectively than I do.

Jennie has 20 published books to her credit, the most recent being High Country. She's written both contemporary and historical novels. She also has an impressive background as an award-winning journalist. I'm constantly in awe of the way she strings words together.

Jennie is also a book reviewer for Meridian. She does this in addition to her writing, family, and now temple work. One of the things I appreciate about Jennie, as a reviewer, is that she's honest, but kind. She is also so well-read that I know I can trust her opinion about good writing, regardless of whether or not we like the same kinds of books.

Here's a link to her website- as a reader I'm always happy to find author websites so I can read a little about them and discover how they started life as a published writer. Click on the link and learn some more about Jennie- that is, if you haven't already. It'll be worth your time!

She's really good.

And no, she didn't pay me to do this. ;-)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Behind the scenes...

I was trying to think of a tidbit from my 2nd book, No Time for Love, when I remembered the most glaring change of all that I had to make.

In this book, my heroine is a private investigator who spends the bulk of her time following cheating husbands around and showing evidence of their infidelities to their wives, who hired her to do the following around in the first place. ORIGINALLY, she was hired by the wives to serve as BAIT, to see if the husbands would fall for it.

What was I thinking? I mean really, that's a bit edgy for my intended audience, and my publisher let me know it. I figured, hey, it gives the heroine that much more of a reason to be jaded, which was an integral part of her character at the beginning.

Well, with the rewrite, she still came off as jaded enough, and it worked.

That's me. LDS fiction's bad girl. ;-) (Oh, come on! Like we haven't all had stuff we've had to tone down at one point or another! No? Well don't I feel sheepish...)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Industry Info

Ok, so I'm going to morph two categories into one; I've realized that much of what I'd offer in terms of industry info is also in the form of links to sites and blogs that I find helpful, which is supposed to be Saturday's category. So Industry Info now includes blogs/websites/books and I'll think of something else for Saturday.

To begin, the mother of all industry helps in this business is, of course, Writer's Digest Magazine. I read this publication before I was published and still read it, religiously, to this day. The advice they offer runs the gamut from writing tips to agent searching to working with editors to the ever changing market--it's a treasure trove of info for the hungry author.

I was absolutely THRILLED one day, years ago, when I read an article on some kind of writing style, it escapes me now, but as I read I was thinking, "Hey! I already do that! Woohoo!" Now when I look back on some of my early books I kind of cringe, but even then I did manage to do a few things right.

One of the things I love about writing is how much I change and evolve as I go. I'm convinced that rarely is an author as good as s/he has the potential to be. It's why we keep trying to learn and get better and improve upon what we already know and do. I love that there's always more to learn. For me, that thought keeps it fresh and maybe I'll forever be chasing the dangling carrot, but at least it keeps me moving. Better that than to stagnate.

I read books on the writing craft voraciously. I can't get enough of them. Along with the trusty Writer's Digest, these books keep me continually searching and evaluating what I do. So given that, the book I should mention in this post as it's been my favorite, to date, and will likely always be, is Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. Absolutely the mecca, for me, of writing advice. I love, love this book.

If you're looking to keep a finger on the pulse of your writing career, I'd start first with a subscription, (or monthly bookstore visit), to Writer's Digest. It's an excellent place to begin, if you haven't already.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Back on track. Sort of.

So life intruded and I fell off the schedule. Didn't take me long. To the five of you who read this blog, I apologize!

Ok. So Monday was Writing Tip day. (I missed Friday and Saturday of last week, too, but that'll just have to be missed until this week).

My writing tip for today is my most favorite part of the whole process and I carry it throughout the whole project. BRAINSTORMING! This is how I begin all of my books and it's the blueprint I use from start to finish.

Now yes, it tends to be a bit messy, but I pull from my brainstorm list and use it to make outlines and what I call the Next Time Notes, but more on that later. My brainstorm list has every little thought I ever conceived of for the book. There's no order to the list at all, just a massive compilation of thoughts and ideas.

Then, when I start to see how the structure will form, I make a general outline and pull from the brainstorm list, which is often several pages long. Then, as I write, I cross items off both my outline and the brainstorm list so I know what's been covered and what still needs to go in.

I think one of the reasons I like brainstorming so much is because at that point, the story is still perfect. It's this fantastic idea that has the potential to become something wonderful. I read somewhere that the finished product is never quite as perfect as we envision it, and that is so true for me, but I do the best I can and then let it go. It is what it is.

For each book I write, I have a notebook I keep with tabs for each section. Some of my sections include brainstorming, chapter outlines, general outline, research, running edit, and ICAs, (Individual Character Assessments). And although it's the most jumbled and formless, I like looking back over the brainstorming section because it's fun to see how an idea popped out of chaos and morphed into something organized. My notebooks become fun journals that I revisit every now and then.

Now then, Tuesday's post is supposed to be a Book I Enjoy. For today's book, I choose Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. Ah, the quintessential romantic book, I absolutely love the story and brooding hero. It's my favorite formula: governess and moody lord of the manor who is in desperate need of her healing hand. I like the way the mystery unfolds, layer by spooky layer, and the relationship evolves slowly and beautifully. The happy ending leaves me in such a good place that I invariable close the book with a sigh. Admittedly, I haven't read it for about 20 years, and now it makes me wonder if my perspective has changed at all. (For exampe, I read The Scarlet Letter in high school and was pretty irritated. I read it later at 30 and was absolutely OUTRAGED). Jane Eyre is on my local bookclub list to read, so I'll let you know if I have some weird issues with it now that I'm so much older and wiser.

At any rate, any particular thoughts on brainstorming or Jane Eyre would be welcome! What do you think?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tidbits- What's in a name?

Ok, so my first tidbit is from my first novel, Love Beyond Time. (No, I often don't pick the titles. The publishing company does. And, although I've been known to bash the titles, from a marketing standpoint they really are effective).

ANYway. I began writing this book when we lived in Atlanta for a short time. I had just read a time travel novel by Jude Deveraux, (A Night in Shining Armor, if you're interested), and I was totally enamored of the landscape around Atlanta--all the plaques everywhere that stated what had happened there in that very spot--so I decided to try to write a book myself.

When I first started the book, my heroine was a doctor named Claire Elizabeth. Loved, loved that name. As I progressed with the book, (over an embarrassingly long period of time), I came across a series of books I thought looked absolutely wonderful. The third in the series, Voyager, was newly released, so I backed up and read the first two books. Alas, imagine my dismay to realize that the books were about a time-traveling nurse-turned-doctor named: Claire Elizabeth. The series is the now-famed Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Amazing, amazing books.


I was distraught. But as my character was a time-traveling medical worker, I didn't want to be a copy cat, even though it really was entirely coincidental.

So I changed Claire's name to Amber. It worked, but it was SO HARD to change the character's name in the middle of the writing. I didn't think of her as an Amber. It was sillily painful. Now enough time has passed, (and truthfully I'd have to reread the book to really remember it well), that I can think of her as Amber.

I did resurrect the name Claire, however. She became an archaeologist in my third book. :-)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Industry Info

This post is going to be the most basic of basic posts on submitting manuscripts to a real-life publisher. I'll just begin by telling you what I knew about publishing when I finished writing my first book.

Little to nothing.

The one thing I had in my favor was that I'd made several virtual friends online through a couple of romance readers' bulletin boards. These friends were wonderfully supportive; some of them were published nationally, others were avid readers who knew what they liked in a good story. Through these associations I found the drive to finish my first manuscript and then actually pursue publication.

How did I do that? I hopped online, of course. I knew nobody personally who was published in the LDS market, so I went to a few key websites. Lo and behold, they had submission guidelines! I followed their instructions to the last detail, made three copies of my book, submitted to three companies and crossed my fingers.

I also followed sage advice and kept writing. (I give this sentence its own little paragraph because I cannot emphasize how important it is).

After a few months, I heard from all three companies; the first two sent nice rejection letters, and the third company told me that if I made a few changes, they'd publish my book. Happily enough, I made the changes. And the nice thing was that while I'd waited to hear from the publishers, I'd been able to write the sequel to the first book. It was nice to be able to submit that one right away and get going on the third book.

Now, this will seem silly and very elementary to people who are well-versed in the arts of learning about publishers and submitting manuscripts. But for the novice who really has no idea where to start, just begin by surfing publishers' websites. They'll tell you everything you need to know about submitting to them, and whether or not they take unsolicited manuscripts. (Unsolicited = you don't have an agent and you're just sending the book out on your own).

To make a long story short, become familiar with your favorite publishers' websites and guidelines. This is the advice I always give first when people ask me how to go about the process of getting published. We live in an age where this process is so much more accessible to the unpublished writer--take advantage of it! Know their requirements inside and out. Pay attention to the kinds of books they publish. Follow their instructions to the letter; don't assume that your book is so fabulous that they'll dismiss the fact that you didn't format the manuscript to their specific requirements. They notice things like that; if they say they want double-spaced with one-inch margins all around, that's what they mean.

(Don't panic if you're not sure how to format your manuscript just right--I guarantee you have someone in your life who can help you with this. Typically, the younger they are, the more proficient. Take a 13-year-old kid who's written essays for school and I'll show you a kid who knows Microsoft Word pretty well. Said kid can probably be bought for a burrito or a Slurpee).

This is really basic stuff, and again, I apologize if you're way beyond this. But I hope there's at least one writer out there who might be wondering where to start. I would have loved for someone to walk me through the process, and while some of my friends were able to help, so much of what I learned was self-taught. The publishing industry is complex, but it's also fascinating and not nearly as intimidating to face if you surf around for a bit and learn all you can about it.

J. Scott Savage, author of the new Farworld series, has an awesome post on publishing, ("Publishing 101"), and he says it so much better than I do! He really is amazing--a wonderful writer who's becoming a marketing genius in his own right. I admire him very much.

Good luck!