Monday, December 31, 2007

Interview: Marcia Mickelson


Marcia Mickelson is the author of the newly released, Reasonable Doubt, a story about basketball and murder. She is also the author of, Star Shining Brightly. Thank you, Marcia, for a great interview. Her books are available at LDS bookstores.

What made you decide to write for the LDS market?
In high school when I bought a new computer, I decided I wanted to
write a novel. Automatically, my characters were LDS. I thought I was
being unique. I had never heard of Jack Weyland or had ever read an
LDS novel. I never finished that novel. I went to college, got
married, had kids, and writing stopped.

About four years ago, I became hooked on LDS novels. My favorites were
Betsy Brannon Green, Jennie Hansen, and Rachel Ann Nunes. I quickly
read any of their books that I could get my hands on.

Then, I remembered the novel I started in high school, but had never
finished. So, I pulled it out and finished it, realized it wasn’t very
good, and then went on to write new ones.

Have you written for other markets?
I haven’t written for any other markets. Right now, my heart is in the
LDS market. I hope to one day write a novel that I could submit to the
national market.

What was it like to submit your first novel?
It was very exciting, but scary as well. It made me anxious to think
that someone would be reading what I wrote. As a writer, you really
put yourself out there.

How did it feel when you first saw it in print?
It was like a dream come true. When you’re writing, you envision that
moment so many times and think about how it would be. When it finally
happened, it was just so exciting.

Have you ever felt like giving up?
I don’t think I ever felt like giving up. When I received my first
rejection, I was actually excited. My first rejection! Hooray, I
thought. It meant I was on my way. Each rejection just made me feel
like I was one step closer to achieving my dream. I saw rejections as
just part of the path that would take me where I wanted to go. I think
that’s how life is. If we didn’t have disappointments and challenges,
we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the triumphs and good times.

What inspired you to write about basketball and murder?
I’ve always been a sports fan. When I was at BYU, I really enjoyed
going to college basketball games. A few years ago, during March
Madness and as the NCAA championships were approaching, I had the idea
that I wanted to have basketball be the backdrop of my novel. The
murder part just kind of worked its way into the story.

I still enjoy sports, but sometimes I feel guilty that when I married
my husband, I was a bigger sports fan than I am now. As I became
busier with kids and writing, I had to leave a few hobbies behind, and
sports was one of them. I held on to the ones that were really
important to me—reading and writing.

How did you keep track of all the clues you had to plant?
I kept notes that were pertinent to the story such as names, dates,
timelines, and other such details.

Do you outline?
I don’t usually outline very extensively. I write about a page of
notes that tell in a few words the major events that take place in the
novel. Then, I cross off the events as I write them. I have another
page of notes on which I write the characters’ names and a brief
description.

I once tried doing a very detailed outline with each chapter and the
major events that happened. I finished the outline and have the story
completely mapped out, but now I don’t really have the desire to write
it. This particular novel is still a work in progress, and I think I
will eventually finish it one day. I think I overdid the outline and
so I have realized that for me, it is better to not do detailed
outlines, but rather a very concise, short list of events and write
from that.

It is different for each writer and I think we all eventually figure
out what works for each of us.

How long did it take from submission to release of, Reasonable Doubt?
This last submission didn’t take as long as my first. I heard back
from the publisher within a week or so. That was a nice change
compared to my first novel which took the publisher several months to
contact me. It was nice to not be kept in suspense for so long this
time.

After they accepted Reasonable Doubt, it took about six months for it
to be released.

What is your writing routine?
I don’t have a real routine; that’s hard with three little kids. I
can’t write when they’re awake at all. It’s too hard to focus when I
know they need me. My two oldest are in school, so sometimes I write
when my little one naps. Mostly, I write at night when they’re all in
bed. I prefer to write in a closed room where there are no
distractions—I can’t see the dirty dishes in the sink or hear the TV
if my husband is watching.

I always carry a small notebook with me and sometimes find a few
minutes here and there to write a little. Just today, I was in line
for over forty minutes at the post office and was able to get a few
pages written. I did get some stares, and the man in front of me asked
what I was writing. It gave me a chance to tell him about my books,
and I even gave him a business card. I wonder if he regretted asking.

What authors have most influenced you?
I think that Betsy Brannon Green and Jennie Hansen who write in the
LDS market have influenced me the most. I loved their books. Reading
their novels made me want to pursue the dream I’d had many years before.

Any advice for aspiring authors?
I really suggest doing as much research as you can about the market
you want to write in. There is so much information available about LDS
publishing that was not available even 3-4 years ago. Read books about
writing and publishing. Know the business really well before even
submitting.

Have someone you trust read your manuscript and be ready to accept
their feedback.

Don’t give up. Get excited about your first (and second and third)
rejection. That means you’re on your way!

Other than the scriptures, if you were stranded on an island, which
book would you choose to have that you could reread over and over again?

My favorite book of all time is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I
love Elizabeth and Darcy and could reread their interchanges over and
over.

Plans for more novels?
Yes! Right now, I’m editing and revising the sequel to Reasonable
Doubt. I hope to submit it to my publisher in January or February. I
also have a few others that I’ve started and really want to finish.
There are more ideas in my head than I have time for.



Purchase your copy now at Cedar Fort.

A beautiful and promising athlete is dead. The only suspect—her fiancĂ©—has been apprehended. And as a defense attorney, it is Julia’s job to prove that Mick is innocent. But Julia believes he is guilty. No stranger to the crimes that men commit against women, Julia can easily believe that rich, talented, spoiled Mick did indeed kill Avery. Both were basketball stars at the University of Utah, and both were popular; yet everyone—except Mick’s family and Julia’s boss—believes that Mick is the murderer. As the evidence against Mick mounts, Julia stumbles across a secret Avery had kept hidden from everyone, even Mick. Julia realizes that perhaps she may have more than just reasonable doubt to support Mick’s case—if she can face her past and reveal her own secret. Meanwhile, Pablo, Julia’s new co-counsel, becomes convinced that Mick did not murder Avery, but can he convince Julia? Guilty or innocent? With Pablo’s help, Julia may be able to overcome her own fears and uncover the truth about Avery at the same time—if the murderer doesn’t find her first.

Friday, December 21, 2007

12 Random Christmas Facts

Marcia Mickelson tagged me so I'll play along.

1. I grew up in California so I spent Christmas vacation at the beach. Snow? No way.

2. Now I live in Colorado and we pray for snow every year at Christmas. Yeah, weird.

3. I love how a real tree smells.

4. We used to cut our own tree, but since the drought and a beetle infestation many of the trees have died so we no longer cut down a tree.

5. We have a beautiful artificial tree. I hate the way it doesn't smell like Christmas.

6. My kids are official present shakers, squeezers, and feelers so I have to hide some presents until Christmas day just so my nosey kids won't figure out their gifts.

7. I love Kenny G's Christmas album and Manheim Steamroller's Christmas albums.

8. My husband usually tells me what he'd like and then goes out and buys it for himself before I can purchase it for Christmas. So he gets boring clothes.

9. I hate the song, "Go Tell It On The Mountain."

10. I finally put up lights outside this year--we are sooooo festive.

11. My kids all choose a name of a sibling and then make or purchase a gift for that sibling. On Christmas Eve they open their gifts from each other and try to guess who gave it to them. (Santa comes and delivers those gifts to the kids on Christmas Eve long before he delivers the other gifts later that night.)

12. I spoil my kids way too much at Christmas--I can't help it, I inherited it from my grandmother who raised me. She was all about Christmas all year round.(I think she may have actually been be Mrs. Claus).

The Polar Express

A few nights ago, in our pajamas, we boarded "The Polar Express" and headed to the North Pole. After a magical ride that included hot chocolate, a reading of the book, and the conductor punching holes in our tickets, we saw Santa and his elves waving to us from a snow mound at the "North Pole." All the trees were decorated with lights. The sheer glee of the kids on the train was infectious.

We then headed back home. While singing Christmas Carols the kids all let out a shriek when, you guessed it, Santa himself entered our car. He even said, "Ho, ho ho." He handed each of the children a bell and then waved goodbye. We continued to sing carols while the kids all rang their bells. It was a fun and entertaining ride complete with chefs (who both happened to be my daughters) who made jokes, led the songs, and catered to all of the guests. Our kids were fascinated the entire way.

The Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge makes "Polar Express" runs beginning in November and through the whole month of December. The DSNG, a real train that was used back during the railroad era, also runs during the summer months through gorgeous mountains covered in pine trees and occasional sheer cliffs.

What a magical experience to ride a train back in time and become just like one of the kids reveling in Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lights Out!

Every year we have a community get-together to sing Christmas carols and watch others perform. This year we had a few kids play instruments, choirs from the different churches in our community sing various traditional songs, and one woman who did sign language to an unfamiliar, yet beautiful Christmas song. It's a time when all of us from different religions gather together to recognize what we share in common, the celebration of the Savior's birth. It is a wonderful time to see community members and feel of the Christmas spirit.

Each year a different church sponsors the Community Sing. That church organizes the program which includes musical numbers from each of the other churches and it also supplies the location and the refreshments. This year the Baptist church sponsored it and they held it at their summer camp headquarters which is about 20 miles from my house. It was breathtaking because the tall pines still gracefully held puffs of snow on their branches and the sky was crystal clear, allowing a night sky filled with sparkling stars. The members of their church also decorated the outside with lights which added to the atmosphere.

We returned home to a very dark house. Apparently, while we were at the Community Sing our electricity had gone out. It was a weird checkerboard of homes with and without electricity and we happened to be one of the homes without it. We lit candles and huddled around the table where we read and ate ice cream. We then moved down to the basement to enjoy the blazing fire. It was fun to spend time as a family without any of the distractions that electricity can provide. We talked and laughed and snuggled. It was a perfect ending to the evening and when the lights suddenly turned back on, I was a bit disappointed.

Sometimes, in our rush to "do Christmas" and live our lives, I think we forget the simple pleasures of sitting by a fire and reading or telling stories. I hope we can all take a little time to enjoy the simplicity of the season and remember what's truly important in our lives.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Aura

Your Aura is Violet
Idealistic and thoughtful, you have the mind and ideas to change the world.And you have the charisma of a great leader, even if you don't always use it!
The purpose of your life: saying truths that other people dare not say
Famous purples include: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Susan B. Anthony
Careers for you to try: Political Activist, Inventor, Life Coach

7 Things About Me

Darcy Pattison at Revision Notes (a great blog for children's writers) has tagged me for a meme that requires me to tell 7 things about myself, then tag 7 others.

Thanks, Darcy!

Rules of the Meme:
1) Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself.
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Seven Things About Me:
1) I have 10 children--ages 22 months-20 years old. (I hated to babysit when I was a teenager). 2) I have one sister. She also has 10 children and we live across the highway from each other.
3) I love to dress up for Halloween and do so every year (including make-up and a wig).
4) I love to redecorate my house (much to my husband's chagrin) and would flip houses in a nano-second if I lived in the right market.
5) I could live on ice cream, chocolate, and fresh fruit (I know, weird combination).
6) I graduated from BYU with a degree in Communications (I was also voted "Biggest Flirt" one year in my student ward).
7) I love to swim, especially in the ocean, and would live in Hawaii if only I could convince my honey to move there (he wants to live in Alaska).

Tag, you're it:

Candace Salima
Ali Cross
Stephanie Humphreys
Kerry Blair
Karen Hoover
Kathleen
Marsha Ward

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Apology, please

Recently, my daughter's fifth grade class traveled to the local college for an activity. While they were waiting to board the bus, a college student rode his skateboard directly through the group of kids. He did not ride around the group. He did not stop and pick up his board and politely make his way through the kids. He did not say, "Excuse me," and wait for the group to part. Instead, he rode straight through the middle and in the process ran over my daughter's foot. Immediately, my daughter was told by her teacher to apologize for "getting in his way." She apologized. The college student? He grunted at her and then took off on his skateboard.


My daughter came home limping and when we removed her shoe, her foot was swollen and her big toe was visibly injured. Thankfully, the toe wasn't broken, but for several days she hobbled around until her foot wasn't so sore.


Both she and her cousin (who was with her during the incident) were bewildered as to why my daughter had to apologize since it wasn't her fault. I told her that apologizing was the right thing to do, even if it wasn't her fault, because it showed she was sorry that the collision occurred and usually people don't apologize enough (rather than too much). With that said, she asked why the college student (probably 8-10 years older than her) never apologized even though he'd clearly injured her. I couldn't answer her question. I think her feelings were hurt much worse than her foot.


I'm appalled that this young man, seeing he'd injured a little girl, didn't apologize. Have we, as a society, forgotten common courtesy? Have we become so self-absorbed that when we see we've hurt someone else, even if it's unintentional, we don't care? This college student didn't even ask my daughter if she was okay. He simply jumped on his skateboard and rode away.


I hope I can remember to apologize when I need to, and even if I don't. An absence of an apology can go a long way, but a sincere apology can go even further.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Romantic Notions

Long before I actually started writing, I did ascribe to the romantic notion of sitting next to a window that overlooked the ocean, a soft fragrant the sea breeze wafting through the room, while I wrote the Great American Novel. (And I'd eat chocolate all day and never gain a pound).


Reality set in (especially since I live nowhere near the ocean and I haven't found any calorie-free chocolate) and I soon realized that if I wanted to write it would have to be between pregnancies, nursing babies, poopy diapers, barfing kids, homework, dishes, mountains of laundry, yard work, cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, church callings, service to others and all the other day-to-day things. I decided that my desire to write was strong enough to motivate me to figure out how to work it in. I adapted.

This gave birth to a new romantic notion. After studying and practicing and studying and practicing, I would pound out nearly perfect manuscripts that would be accepted on the spot. You're laughing, aren't you? Well, it didn't take too long for me to realize the error of that notion. I adapted.


And, yes, a new romantic notion emerged. If a publisher liked my manuscript well enough to offer a contract on it, then it must mean I would not have to revise or rewrite any of it. It would be published just as I had submitted it. Maybe that's true for some. Maybe some writers can write so flawlessly that they never have to rewrite anything. I wish that were me, but it's not. Again, I adapted.


Cedar Fort accepted my YA LDS novel, Heaven Scent, several months ago. Since then, I have been revising it, making it better (I hope) with each revision. My editor is great, she's caught blunders and asked insightful questions so I could clarify the story. She told me this week they may move up my press date to January 15th. This is exciting news, but it's also a little scary.


I don't think I have any romantic notions left, except maybe, someday, that one of my stories will touch someone, somewhere, somehow. That's a notion I'll hang onto.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Traditions

My two daughters were cast in, "Fiddler on the Roof," for the fall 2007 musical. It was an amazing production. Our high school program is extraordinary when it comes to theater productions and my kids have been very lucky to be able to participate in such an outstanding program. Tradition is the underlying theme in "Fiddler" and it explores how one man deals with daughters who no longer wish to adhere to their long established traditions. It's a powerful play.

We have many family traditions during this time of year. One of those is to decorate our tree the day after Thanksgiving. When I was a child, living with my grandparents, Grandma pulled out boxes and boxes of decorations the day after Thanksgiving and we decorated the house and the store-bought tree. We spent the entire day getting ready for Christmas. Grandma loved, loved, loved, Christmas and she went all out. She bought gifts all year long and was more excited than we were for us to open the gifts she'd purchased.

I never even considered the idea that others didn't decorate the way we did until I got married. My husband and his family actually trudged through the wilderness to pick out and then cut down their Christmas tree. They decorated for Christmas well into December and celebrated a more Christ-centered Christmas.

My husband and I both had traditions coming into our marriage. We compromised. Even though I had never met anyone who cut down their tree, we decided to adopt that tradition along with my family's tradition of decorating the day after Thanksgiving.

We've spent hours and hours in the mountains following my husband's search for just the right tree. You know, the one where the light shines down upon the tree and choruses of angels sing in the background. I've carried small babies, drug toddlers by my side, and picked up small children who couldn't hike one more step. Usually, the tree we (translate: my husband) find(s) is at least 3 miles from our vehicle so dragging it back to load it is always an adventure. Of course, our best, albeit unintentional, tradition is to drive into our garage with said tree on top of the vehicle and wedging the tree between the roof of the car and the garage door. Even when we've specifically talked about not driving into the garage with the tree still on top, we've still managed to do it.

A few years back, a beetle infested evergreen trees in our area. The beetles and the severe drought we encountered for several years both combined to destroy about 2/3 of the trees in our region. We have very few trees left on our property. We decided at that time that we just couldn't bring ourselves to cut down a live tree when so many had perished, so we purchased an artificial tree.

Our artificial tree is very nice, but it's not the same. It doesn't smell like a Christmas tree should and though it is pretty, it doesn't look like a real tree, either. So we've adapted our tradition of cutting down a tree. We did still decorate the day after Thanksgiving (no black Friday for me) and have continued our other traditions.

Another tradition is to wrap and place all the gifts under the tree soon after it's been decorated. I've wrapped presents like a madwoman over the last several days and they're all finally placed under the tree. My kids have squeezed, shaken, and otherwise tried to analyze each wrapped gift--one of their traditions. Every day the gifts are all in different places. (This year, I might have outsmarted them because all the gifts that might be "obvious" from their wrapping, I've saved and won't put out until late Christmas Eve--that may become my new tradition).

This time of year is filled with traditions. But like Tevye in, "Fiddler," I guess I'll have to be open to adjusting some of my traditions.

The best traditions we have, though, are those that remember the One who initiated the celebration. Without the Savior, not only would Christmas be meaningless but so would life.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Let it Snow . . . .

Isn't she lovely?

I'm knee-deep, or today that would be neck-deep, in revisions for my novel. My editor has been great and I'm still having fun with the whole thing, but it doesn't leave me much time for any other writing (unless I forego laundry, cooking, and cleaning--that might not be such a bad idea!).

So I'm going to post a few photos of what we did over the weekend. Besides eating to engorgement, we also enjoyed a surprise sledding trip. Monday of last week we were wearing t-shirts and running the AC. Friday morning we woke up to 3-4 inches of snow and decided to take advantage of it. Yes, I do live in Colorado where we say that the the only thing predictable about our weather is that it's so unpredictable. We do still have snow on the ground and I'm spending my writing time next to a cozy fire. I love writing next to a fire!


My younger kids--we call them the "little kids." Don't know what we'll call them when they're teenagers. I think they'll always be the "little kids." We also joke that they're the "second family" because they're all close in age and there's a gap between their group and my older kids.
My daughters are so camera-shy. Can you tell? Usually they like to pose like Charlie's Angels.

This is about a 20 minute drive from my house. We like to go sledding here because it's so beautiful. A river runs just below these trees and it's gorgeous year round.
Hope you all had an enjoyable weekend and were able to spend time with your family.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'm Sponsoring a Contest

I'm sponsoring one of the categories for a Christmas story contest at LDS Publisher. My picture book, Grasshopper Pie, is the prize for the Reader's Choice, Unpublished Author category. I'm excited to be able to sponsor a contest and promote my picture book at the same time. LDS Publisher has been a great help to LDS writers and this promotional idea is fabulous. Published authors can sponsor a specific contest or an entire month. It's a great way to support a site that's dedicated to helping LDS writers navigate their way through the publishing world while also promoting individual books.


Promotion is uncomfortable for many LDS writers because it feels as if we're braggarts or full of ourselves when we promote our books. Yet, no one will read a book unless he/she is aware that such a book exists. And, as writers, we tend to like the creative writing process more than the promoting and marketing processes. Indeed, most of us would much rather shut ourselves away in a cozy mountain cabin next to a warm fire and pound out stories rather than promote our books.


I've been toying with several ideas to promote my upcoming YA LDS novel, Heaven Scent. I want something unique enough to stand out, but not so radical it makes people wonder if I'm sane. I need something economical enough that I can reasonably produce it, but not so cheesy no one even notices it. The wheels keep turning in my head. For now, I'm thrilled with the opportunity to sponsor a contest at LDS Publisher.


I hope that any of you who have a Christmas story under 1500 words will consider entering it into this contest. Those who win will receive books as prizes and will also receive feedback from readers and LDS Publisher. It's a lot of fun and can get those creative juices flowing. Hope to see you over at LDS Publisher.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My List of 10 Male Characters

As usual, I'm a day late and a dollar short. Some time ago, Marcia Mickelson tagged me with the "10 Male Fictional Characters I'd Most Like to Make-out With" or something to that effect. I had it in the back of my mind, but life slammed me and I forgot.

My list of 10 male characters that I would find attractive if I were single and they were, well, you know, real:

1. Rhett Butler--no need to say anything else.

2. Thom Casey (Nightshade Mysteries by Kerry Blair).

3. Ben Adams ("Spires of Stone" by Annette Lyon).

4. Phillip Adams ("Spires of Stone") Wouldn't be the first time I liked brothers.

5. Andrew Davidson ("To Have or To Hold" by Josi Kilpack). Love how he changes.

6. Slade Jacobson ("Masquerade" by Sierra St. James/Janette Rallison).

7. Brandon Mace ("Molly" series by Tamra Norton).

8. Jason Hackett ("Angels Don't Knock" by Dan Yates).

9. Kyle Reynolds from my upcoming novel, "Heaven Scent."

10. Travis Dixon from my WIP.

Yeah, I know 9 and 10 are kind of like cheating, but since others have done this I think it's acceptable.

I do read mainly juvenile fiction and there's not a lot of "hot" middle grade characters, at least not to an over-the-hill mom of 10 like me!

This was fun.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Whew!

It was quite a weekend.

My son, (2nd boy, 5th child) turned 12 on Saturday. In the LDS church, that's a magic age. Shortly before he turned 12, he earned his Faith in God in Primary and passed off the requirements in Boy Scouts to become a First Class Scout. Since boys can, at the age of 12, receive the priesthood and be ordained a Deacon in the LDS church, we decided to invite family and friends over after church Sunday to celebrate my son's birthday and his ordination.

Now, keep in mind, I have 10 people living at my house. Many of those are professional mess-makers. It takes time, energy, and patience to thoroughly clean my house, especially since, most of the time, my younger kids are only a step behind me uncleaning what I've just cleaned. (I think they gleefully follow behind me undoing all the work I've done just to see my reaction!). Thankfully, my husband pitched in and helped all through the week. He washed dishes, cooked the turkey, mowed the lawn, cut down weeds, and cleaned the yard/outside areas around the house. He's my very best helper and he's by far the hardest worker of all of us.

Which is why I was quite distraught when I realized that my husband ( as well as my son and my older daughters) would be gone all day on Saturday (the last day to really get everything clean) at a youth activity. Let's do the math: 10 people, minus my husband and older kids (the cleaners) = me left with the younger kids (non-cleaners). Hmmm. I needed a little (okay, a lot of) chocolate when I realized this.

In addition to the youth activity, my older girls were also performing in "Fiddler on the Roof" at the high school Friday night, Saturday night, and in a matinee on Saturday afternoon (they attended the youth activity in between performances).

And, my daughter who attends college decided to come home for the weekend.

Can I also add that my six-year-old son had a talk in Primary on Sunday?

Did I mention the carpet cleaner and the hard surface cleaner both stopped working mid-cleaning?

And the icing on the cake? Our family spoke in church at Sacrament Meeting on Sunday. On charity. As if I had any left!

Well, I survived, but it was oh, so hectic and I collapsed Sunday evening after everyone left (including my husband and son who attended a church meeting Sunday night). I was pleased with the support of family and friends for my son's ordination and happy to have a clean (just barely) house for it.

It's always nice to have family get-togethers. I must admit, though, I like the get-togethers best at someone else's house!

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Write, Write, Write

I am currently enrolled in a children's writing course through The Institute of Children's Literature. This course focuses on writing for the magazine market. I can choose to either write fiction or non-fiction for each assignment. Since I've studied, and successfully marketed fiction, I decided to concentrate on non-fiction.

I never thought I'd be interested in writing non-fiction, but listening to my kids ask questions and talk to each other has given me more subjects than I will ever have time to write about. One question will lead to another which will invariably lead to another. I have notebook pages filled with possible article ideas and I'm interested in pursuing each idea. Thinking about what I can learn along the way is exciting. I want to learn about sea horses, rocks, and how to measure the weight of clouds. There's so much to learn and so little time to learn all of it.

I decided to take the course from ICL because I believed it would help me learn how to write non-ficiton more quickly and more efficiently than my own researching and reading could provide and because I wanted personal feedback from an instructor on how to improve my writing. I'm constantly working to improve my skills and often wonder if I'll ever feel like I actually know what I'm doing. I'm not sure that I'll ever feel like a real writer, especially since so many writers know so much more, and write so much better, than I do.

Once in a while, I wish I could escape the desire to write. I know I'd get a lot more cleaning done. I'd probably cook better meals. I'd have more time to sew, do crafts, make meals for others, and iron that growing pile of wrinkles in my laundry room. Yet, I can't seem to imagine my life without writing. It's such a part of me. I tried to quit. Once. I guess I'll keep at it until I'm too old to write anymore or I write everything I want to write, whichever comes first.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Read a Good Book?

Have you read a good book lately? Was it by an LDS author? If so, you may want to nominate it for a Whitney Award. The Whitney Awards have been developed to recognize excellence in literature by LDS authors. For an extensive list of books eligible for the first annual Whitney Awards go to LDSPublisher.

I'm excited about this new opportunity for LDS writers and plan to attend the banquet following the LDS Storymakers Conference on March 22, 2008. What a great idea to encourage excellence in LDS writing. And, what a fun way to celebrate with the winners.

Once you nominate a book, the Whitney Awards Comittee tallies the votes and all books that receive more than 5 nominations will be placed on a list. The committee will then read all books that meet that criteria and whittle the list down to 5 books. Industry professionals will then vote for their favorite from among the 5 finalists.

A lot of thought and work has been put into creating the Whitney Awards and I'm looking forward to seeing the results.

I've nominated books. Have you?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

Interview: Annette Lyon

As I posted last time, I've been reading, Spires of Stone. Annette Lyon graciously agreed to an interview. Thank you, Annette. If you haven't read Spires of Stone, yet, you're in for a great read.

What made you decide to write for the LDS market?

To a large extent, it was reading some of the books in the market and realizing that there were stories I could tell for my own people. I knew some LDS authors that had become successful—in particular, I got to know Rachel Nunes before her first book ever came out, and I watched her career blossom. Seeing their success from the sidelines turned my mind to the kinds of stories I’d like to tell in an LDS framework. It has been rewarding on so many levels; I’m so glad I decided to write for this market.

Have you written for other markets?

I have. I’ve got a couple of young adult fantasy stories on the shelf that have yet to be published since I’m focused elsewhere right now. But I’ve published quite a few articles in various magazines and newspapers, and I have a children’s book I co-authored that should be published soon. I also write a weekly e-letter for the Utah Chocolate Show. Non-fiction is a very different animal than fiction, but I enjoy using a different part of my writer brain. It’s good exercise.


What was it like to submit your first novel?

An exciting waiting game. I had tried to learn the market and the procedures for how to submit things. Then came the rejections—often after getting encouragement to send in complete manuscripts or getting rejections that were glowing but still rejections. I got lots of them.

How did it feel when you first saw it in print?

Surreal. I couldn’t quite grasp what it meant. This was something I had tried to reach for so long, and when it arrived, I was so wrapped up in the anxiety of the experience that I don’t think I really took a deep breath and enjoyed the ride as much as I could have. I still remember the first time I held my book, though, and what it was like to see it on a real store shelf. But I’m having a lot more fun now that I have five books published than I ever did with that first one. I’ve finally been able to sit back and appreciate the experience.


Have you ever felt like giving up?

Heavens, yes. Lots of times. Every so often I still get a day or two when I question my sanity and my ability, but it’s no longer the debilitating, crushing sense of hopelessness I used to feel when I’d get a particularly hard rejection or face a brick wall of writer’s block.


What inspired you to write about the temples?

The first time was simply a love of the Logan temple. My father grew up in Cache Valley , so I’d go up there to visit relatives as a kid, so I grew to love the area. After reading a book about the temple, I knew right away I had to tell a story about it. I had no idea at the time that the resulting book would launch an entire project of studying other temples, but after learning about the Logan temple—and feeling like I had really come “home” with the historical genre—it made sense to keep going with researching more temples.


Are the characters in your temple books purely fictional or are they based on real people you found during your research?

The main characters are all fictional, but they often run into people who really existed. Anyone who is real is identified in the historical notes section of the back of each book. I prefer not to base entire books on real people, because I try hard to reflect what they were really like and what they really said, and that would be tough to keep up for an entire novel. That, and I’d miss making up my own stories.


How do you conduct your research? Internet? Library? Interviews? Family histories?

A bit of all the above. The internet is certainly a life saver. I’ve been able to search on-line library catalogs to find information, and sometimes I go bury myself in an actual library. I’ve found great help from web masters on various topics. People are really willing to help if you just ask. My greatest sources have been graduate theses written specifically about various temples. The bottom line for me is I don’t have the time or the resources to do primary research most of the time. That’s why I rely on the real historians’ work—I find what they’ve already spent years looking up and then use that.


How do you keep all of your research straight and organized?

I’ve got binders lined up on my bookshelf. Most of them are by book location. For example, I have ones that read, “ Logan ,” “St. George,” “ Salt Lake ” and “Manti.” Sections are divided by topics. I also have a binder that holds miscellaneous historical tidbits that aren’t book specific. That one has stuff about the history of denim, horse colic, and more. Then there’s the shelves I have lined with writing books, many of which have historical facts in them that I rely on for period details.


Has researching the temples changed your own life in some way?

I have no pioneer blood in me, but learning about the temples and the stories behind them has made me feel a part of that heritage in a way I never felt before. I have a greater appreciation for what the early settlers did, of their commitment and their drive to make this experiment work because of their beliefs.

And then there are life lessons I’ve learned from the stories. One example is with the SLC temple and when the quarry was closed for several years. It looked like a major delay, that construction would take even longer, but in the end, that railroad sped things up tremendously. That’s a reminder to me that what may look like a dead end from my perspective might actually be a shortcut if I just had the Lord’s view. There are tons of life lessons like that to be learned from the temples.


Have you always been interested in historical fiction?

I have—at least, fiction from that era, whether it was written then or set in that period—ever since eighth grade when I discovered L. M. Montgomery. Since then, my favorite authors list has expanded to include a lot of writers from the 1800s


What is your writing routine?

That depends on the time of year it is, whether I’m in research, writing, revision, or editorial mode. It has also varied over the years according to the ages of my children. I had to be more creative to find writing time when they were all little. Now my youngest is in preschool three days a week, so that time is reserved for writing. I also do a lot of writing on my AlphaSmart Neo on the fly when I’m running around.

When I’m in full-fledged drafting mode, I try to get in about 1,000 words a day. But when editing deadlines and such hit, I just have to get whatever done whenever I can, although I try “put it to bed” by the time school is out and the resulting chaos descends on the house.


What authors have most influenced you?

L. M. Montgomery, definitely, has had the most influence. I’ll reread some of her work and only then realize that something there impacted one of my books that was published a year ago. Other writers that span the 1800s also slip in: Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, and so on. I just love that period, so it feels natural to write for it.


Any advice for aspiring authors?

Learn as much as you can about the craft, write regularly, and get honest feedback. The best thing I ever did for my work was join a good critique group. My next advice would be to develop a thick skin, start submitting, and don’t give up. And then brace yourself—rejections will come, and even when you get that acceptance, it’s just the first step on a long road.


If you had to choose between writing and chocolate which would you choose?

For a dyed-in-the-wool chocoholic, you’d think that would be a tough one. But I’d have to pick writing. The satisfaction of writing lasts a lot longer—and is much sweeter—than any truffle.


Other than the scriptures, if you were stranded on an island, which book would you choose to have that you could reread over and over again?

The collected works of C. S. Lewis. Actually, I don’t know if there’s a collection like that, but I’m going to assume there is. I could read C. S. Lewis a hundred times and still find new things in the pages. The Great Divorce and The Screwtape letters are like that. And with his Miracles, I could only read about ten pages a day before my brain was ready to collapse from overload. I had to put the book down and think through what I had read before I could go back and absorb more. He’s amazing.


Are you planning to write a novel based on each temple?

Not every temple. For starters, I couldn’t keep up with the rate they’re being built, and for another, I want to stick with the historical thing for now, and only certain temples fall into that category. I will likely write something about early temples outside of Utah ( Mesa , Alberta , Hawaii ) and perhaps back up and do Nauvoo and Kirtland. I may even revisit temples I’ve already written about, jumping ahead ten, twenty, or more years to tell stories that never made it into the first one.

As you know, I’m finishing up the one on Manti right now. After that I’ll do Vernal, because the tabernacle it came from was built in the early Utah years, even though it wasn’t a temple yet.

I may eventually do other historical novels not necessarily centered on a temple. For a long time I’ve wanted to write something about the Scofield Mine disaster in 1900. But that’s way down the road.



Annette Lyon
2007 Best of State Fiction Medalist
http://www.annettelyon.com
http://writersinheels.com/
http://writingonthewallblog.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What I'm Reading


The other day, it was cold and windy. The wind was so forceful, in fact, that it knocked over the goats' shelter. My husband and I trudged out to the farthest point of our property to repair the shelter.
It took a while to make it suitable for the goats again so we were outside for a long time. When we finally finished, the wind had successfully whipped my hair into knots, frozen my nose, and given me an earache. I was happy to get back to my house.

My husband built a fire and I made hot chocolate. I grabbed a book and settled on the couch in the living room. I love, love, love reading a book next to a blazing fire, especially when the cold has sliced right through me. The book I chose to read: Spires of Stone by Annette Lyon.

I am truly enjoying this book. I love the relationship between two of the characters--their insults are quite creative and snappy. The writing is so easy to read and I love learning about the history as well. The story is woven so effortlessly, too. I'm excited to read to the end so I can find the answers to all the questions that are swimming around my head. Will they get married? Will he fess up? Will I ever know what happened between those two? Can I slap the one brother?

So, I'm going to go build a fire, snuggle up on the couch, and read more Spires of Stone.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sew What? Oh, Pooh!

When my daughter left for college, we decided to place our youngest children together in that bedroom. These two children do not attend school, yet, so it seemed natural to put them together.


After my daughter "cleaned" her room and packed her stuff, I then tackled it and removed two full bags of trash. I also had to vaccumm and vacuum and vacuum. Since my youngest child is a boy, I decided that the lavendar walls with the cute stencil at the top needed to be repainted.


My baby had been given a Pooh Bear quilt when he was born. I matched the green color in the quilt for the paint and bought more Pooh material to make curtains. The painting was interesting since my younger kids all wanted to "help." (Now we have a room with green paint in unique places). Once I finished repainting all of the trim and window sills, we moved my son's crib and dresser into the room. We also set up a bed for my three-year-old daughter (who has since slept in said "big girl" bed instead of in our room and we're wondering why we didn't set up the bed a long time ago).


The kids both occupied the room without curtains for a few weeks while I worked on my manuscript. Since I turned in that manuscript on Monday, I figured it was time to make those curtains.


Now, I've sewn over the years. I didn't sew at all until I got married, but when my daughter (the one who's in college now) was born, I made all sorts of dresses. I continued to sew for my girls until I had so many kids pulling out the thread and readjusting my machine settings, I couldn't take it anymore.


I must say that I think my sewing machine is also alive (just like my computer) and it plots against me. One day, many years ago, my husband came home from work to find the sewing machine in the trashcan. Okay, so I get a little frustrated when I'm sewing.


Today I began the curtain project. And, after knocking the box of straight pins onto the floor at least three times spewing pins all over, poking my fingers a couple of times and drawing blood, fighting with said sewing machine as it tried to work against me, listening to my young son complain very loudly that I was sewing instead of holding him, saving a large remnant piece to make into a pillow only to discover I'd picked it up by mistake and sewn it into the curtain panel, sewing the part for the top rod into the bottom of the panel and having to take it all out and redo it, and having it take at least 45 times longer than I anticipated, I finally finished. Only to then discover my pants were on inside out.


Yes, it's been a day of . . . sewing. I am happy with the results and think the curtains make the room look even cuter. But, I have to admit, I'm really glad they're done and I can get back to something easier, like say, rocket science.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ready for the World?

As many of you know, my son is serving a mission in Rome, Italy. My daughter has recently left home to attend college. It was difficult to send my two oldest children out into the world, wondering if they were prepared, hoping I'd taught them enough, and crossing my fingers all would go well. Should I tell them one more thing? Should I check their suitcases to make sure they had everything? Were they ready? Would I ever feel like they were ready to leave me?

There have been a few bumps in the road, but all in all they are both doing well and I think they will return better home, more mature people who will have experiences only leaving home could provide. I'm sure they will both return home a few times before they are ready to venture out into their own worlds of marriage and family. By then, they should be ready.

Again, I couldn't help but draw another analogy to writing as I finished my manuscript and hit that send button today. My manuscript Heaven Scent (working title) was accepted by Cedar Fort and I signed a contract some months ago. I then revised the manuscript, incorporating the suggestions by the readers at Cedar Fort. It has been a long process, and even more complicated by personal events in the last few months, but I met the deadline. Whew!

As I prepared to send it, though, I couldn't help but take one more look and check one more word, one more paragraph, one more chapter. I ran spell check several times and then just stared at the screen. Could I send my "baby" out? Had I done enough? Should I reread it one more time? Should I see if I'd overused "just" again? Was it ready to leave my hands? Would I ever feel like it was ready?

Finally, I hit the button and sent it out into the world of editing. As with my two oldest kids, I'm sure my manuscript will come back better, more readable, and more easily understood with the help of a seasoned editor. Then, it will be ready for the rest of the world.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Writing and Fencing

Yesterday my husband, two sons, and I spent the day working on our fences. When we moved to our property, we originally built fences for large animals (horses and cows). We've had a drought since then and it's left us with less feed so we decided to begin raising small animals. Since we have the world's largest population of hungry coyotes, when we decided to begin raising goats, we had to tear down and rebuild our fences in order to protect the goats from these determined (and very noisy) predators. (We also have a llama to protect the goats, but we didn't want to depend solely on the llama to discourage the coyotes).

As I was working on our fence, I thought about how it relates to writing. The first time we built our fences it was a wide open space-an empty canvas-and we could choose wherever we wanted to place the fence. We had to plan and make decisions about what our goals were and then place the fence according to those plans. We had to decide where to place gates and how to access all the fields. We had to decide what type of fence to build and how to place it around our house. It was a wild adventure and when we finished we had something that looked much different than when we began. It was like the first draft of a story. We had started with nothing, but ended with something pretty amazing.

After the fence was built for large animals and we determined it no longer served our needs for smaller animals, it became more like the next drafts of a story. We had to remove the parts that no longer served us and make some changes, but we left the "skeleton." We didn't completely destroy it. We used the bare bones to rebuild, but added something else--changing it to meet our needs. We also had to do some more planning and make sure the end result would meet our goals.

While I was taking down the barbed wire fence and then attempting to coil it up (not an easy task and never do it with anything but leather gloves), I thought about the difficult task of rebuilding it and how this was even more work because, though the fence posts were still there, I had the work of removing the old and replacing with the new, just like it is to revise and rewrite. I have to remove the parts of the story that don't work and replace those parts with something new that will make the story better.

I believe the task of writing the first draft is work, but it's also invigorating to see a story take shape and when you're done you can see the huge task you've accomplished because you started with nothing but ended with something pretty amazing.

With rewriting and revision, you have the bare bones, the heart of your story, but there is still much work to be done. It isn't so easy to see what you've accomplished when you're revising and it takes a lot of stamina and dedication to go through a story bit by bit and piece by piece, but when you're finished, you have something that's even more amazing (hopefully). Then you can sit back, enjoy the fruits of your labors for a moment until it's time to dive back in and write something else.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Tammy's Reunion

Today is a somber day at my house. My sister-in-law, Tammy, succumbed to cancer last night. It was certainly not the outcome that we'd hoped and prayed for, but there is comfort knowing that she is no longer in pain and is now free of suffering.

As I've contemplated her passing, I've thought much of the Plan of Salvation. Though we cannot recall our time in the pre-existence, I imagine we had relationships very similar to the ones we enjoy in mortality. I would even guess that we nurtured relationships with our own mortal families. As we looked forward to our turn to obtain a physical tabernacle, I would think we also felt a bit sad at the thought of leaving people behind in the pre-existence. We probably knew that mortality is a step in our eternal progression and that we'd have wonderful opportunities for great joy and peace as we traversed through our mortal lives. We were probably also told that if we made the right choices we would be reunited with our loved ones from the pre-existence here in mortality. I'm sure, for a time, we missed those whose turn at mortality came before ours, but found comfort knowing we'd have the opportunity to see them again.

And so it is now. We live here in mortality, building and maintaining relationships, trying to make the choices that will unite us for eternity. Some must leave mortality sooner than others. Some, it may seem, leave before their work is done or before we think they should leave. It's hard to say goodbye. We do not have the memories of the pre-existence and must rely on faith. We must believe that there really is a plan, that Heavenly Father is in control, and that, if we live worthy, we will be reunited with our loved ones.

Just as we experience the incredible joy at the birth of a child, I'm sure those who've passed through the veil before us, experience a similar joy when we leave mortality and enter into paradise. Though we are sad and will miss Tammy, I can't help but imagine the reunion that's going on right now. Her father, grandparents, and others are circled about her, embracing her, loving her, and welcoming her home. They have probably all been anticipating her arrival, anxious to see her. What a reunion, indeed.

And isn't that the essence of the whole plan? To be reunited with those we love.

Tammy will always be part of our family and we will always love her and remember her with great affection. She has left a legacy of faith and courage. She has taught me so many things. I'm am so thankful I had the opportunity to know and love her.

Someday, we will all see her again.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Book Tag

I've answered some of these questions in my last post, but I will play along because it's fun. I love to read how everyone else answers these questions.

My Reading: When I was a kid, I was an advanced reader. Back then, the teachers weren't quite sure how to address my needs. They sent me to the next grade for reading, but that didn't seem to help much. Somewhere along the line, I lost interest in reading. I also lost my mother and my world changed dramatically. I lived with my grandparents. My grandfather spent his retirement watching soap operas and reruns of Roseanne. My grandmother read all the time, but it was the National Enquirer, Star, Globe, and Weekly World Report (I tried unsuccessfully to convince her that a baby cannot be born with a ring on its finger, that a baby's birth weight couldn't be 30 pounds, and that spaceships hadn't found where God lives). Weekly World Report did convince me that people actually bought and read outlandish fiction (some of those people, like my grandmother, even believed the fiction to be true). As a result, we didn't read much. I read my assignments for school and college, but never read for pleasure until my sister gave me the first Ariana book by Rachel Ann Nunes. After I read that book, I realized that I enjoyed reading and dove into it head first. I now read every day and buy as many books as I can.

Total Number of Books Owned: This is hard. As I wrote in an earlier post, we turned our original living room into a library, with shelves from the floor to the ceiling, to house all of our books. I'd love to have one of those huge libraries where you need a ladder to reach the top shelves, but for now I can reach the top shelves in my library. We have so many books and on Saturday, after my son's soccer game, I let my kids go to the thrift store and pick out more books. While there, I happened to find Peace Like A River by Leif Enger which Josi Kilpack had reviewed so I snatched it from the shelf. I'll count all my books one of these days, but not today.

Last Book I bought: I did buy Peace Like A River but it was at the thrift store. The last book I bought retail was Ghost of a Chance by Kerry Lynn Blair. I'm reading it right now and truly enjoy the humor and the story. I'm a Blairfanatic (is that a word?).

Last Book I Read: The First 2000 Years by Cleon Skousen. He has an amazing store of knowledge about ancient times and prophets. I learned a lot while reading this book as a companion to the Old Testament. I'm now on the next book in the series.

Five Meaningful Books: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli spoke to me because the main character is so different from what's "cool" and despite the ridicule from the other kids, she's happy, kind, and thoughtful. Teaching by the Spirit by Gene R. Cook made me think differently about teaching and speaking in Sacrament Meeting. Raising Up a Family Unto the Lord by Gene R. Cook taught me principles about raising a family that I hadn't considered before. Believing Christ by Stephen E. Robinson helped me to see how important it is to not only believe in Christ, but to believe Christ when he tells us to come unto Him and that through Him we can be with Heavenly Father again. Of course, the scriptures would be included. I would also add the series I'm currently reading by Cleon Skousen because these books have made me see and understand things I didn't before. His books have helped me to remember and truly digest the stories in the Old Testament.

I tag: Karlene Browning, Patricia Wiles, David Woolley, and Terrie Bittner.

Friday, September 21, 2007

What I Read

Candace Salima has suggested we write about what we read and why.

A few years ago, after adding a larger living room to our house, we decided to rearrange some of the other rooms. Since we had books stashed in kids' rooms, in the basement, in our bedroom, in a bookcase in the living room, in boxes in the garage, and under couches and beds, we decided to build shelves and make our original living into our library and house all of the books in one place. Of course, I fantasized that the books would be organized similar to real libraries--silly me--at least most of the books are in a central location.

My kids love books. One of their favorite "rewards" is to go to the thrift store and fill a bag with "previously loved" books. I love books, too. I buy books through the book clubs at my kids' school, from Amazon, at bookstores, at Walmart, and wherever I can find books I want to read. I love to go to the bookstore and just "smell" all the books. I love to handle them in my hands and touch the pages. I recently walked through a bookstore in Denver, CO that's 3 stories high and filled with so many books my eyes popped out of my head. Yes, we love books.

Since my library is filled with picture books (I've read at least a million picture books through the years), easy readers, chapter books, middle grade novels, and young adult novels, that's what I read a lot. I loved Princess Academy (Shannon Hale) and Stargirl (Jerry Spinelli).

We do have a section in the library dedicated to my husband's passion--LDS doctrinal books--but I don't select books from that section as often as I should. However, I am currently reading The Third Thousand Years (Cleon Skousen) as an accompaniment to my Old Testament study and have found this series to be quite enlightening and helpful as I attempt to digest the stories of the ancient prophets. But, I still gravitate toward fiction.

I also have shelves for my adult fiction choices which tend to be LDS fiction. I'm currently reading Ghost of a Chance (Kerry Lynn Blair) and am loving it. I love the voice of the main character, Samantha Shade. Blair's humor is woven throughout the story and it makes me want to meet the author in person because she must be one funny woman. I am enjoying this book very much.

I read LDS fiction because I do not want to wade through trash and profanity to try to find the story. I want to be entertained. I want to learn. I want to see characters with my values. I want to feel the spiritual growth of the characters. I want to think about something differently. I generally feel "safe" in choosing an LDS fiction book. I have come to expect certain standards from the publishers of LDS books and I know what I'm getting. I don't have to worry that I'll be spiritually offended.

I believe the quality of LDS fiction has increased greatly and we will continue to see more growth from LDS authors. I love to read books by people I "know" and admire. I also want to see the market grow and flourish.

I read LDS fiction for many reasons, but the main reason is because I enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My Sister, My Friend



Tristi Pinkston so generously dubbed me a "Wonder Woman" on her blog. I don't think I'm such a wonder woman, just an average gal with a few (okay, a lot of) kids, trying to make the most of the life I've been blessed with. And, I have been blessed with an abundant life filled with many wonder women.

Today, though, I'd like to dedicate this "Wonder Woman" award to my sister-in-law, Tammy. A little more than a year ago, Tammy felt as though she had pneumonia. Tests showed it wasn't pneumonia, but instead an infection that the doctors believed was Valley Fever, a common lung infection in Mesa, AZ. When she did not improve on antibiotics, the doctor ordered additional tests which indicated a tumor that had not been noticed previously. When all was said and done, Tammy was diagnosed with a stage 4 lung cancer.

We were all devastated. She was only 47, still had 2 teenage daughters at home, and was looking forward to enjoying her granddaughter. In a second, all of that changed.

She began chemotherapy and targeted radiation. The doctor told her it was terminal, but she chose to undergo treatment in an effort to beat the cancer and live to raise her family.

Tammy is one of the most thoughtful and considerate people I know. She never misses a birthday and is always the first to sent a thank you card for anything and everything. She has such a fun sense of humor. She loves to play games and thinks she is the foremost authority on Boggle. She has faithfully served in Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary. She has always strived to keep the commandments. In addition to her daughters still at home, she and her husband have raised two young men who both served honorable missions. Her oldest son has been married in the temple and is now a father.

After the doctors told her there was nothing more to do for her, she told my husband, "I don't want to live forever, I only want to live long enough to raise my kids." A righteous desire by any standards.

She is now in the very last stages and barring a miraculous intervention, she will succumb to this disease. Because the cancer has invaded many parts of her body, she is in constant, excruciating pain. She takes morphine to help relieve some of the pain, but the result is that she has a hard time focusing and, for the most part, is too "doped up" to have much of a conversation. Yet, after my husband called her recently, she called back to apologize because she didn't want to hurt his feelings for not being able to have a coherent conversation. She was more concerned about his feelings than her own pain. That's Tammy.

She has never blamed God or asked, "Why me?" She has gracefully and faithfully endured this trial. She has a strong testimony of faith in God and in a plan, that though she may not understand it, she still believes it. She has shown me what it means to endure to the end and to do so with courage and never-wavering faith.

She is truly a "Wonder Woman" to me and I will forever be grateful for all that she's taught me through the years and that she's been my sister.

Friday, September 14, 2007

It's My Computer

I was in the Honor Society in high school and was also inducted into the National Honor Society when I attended BYU. I can carry on a reasonably intelligent conversation and I can balance my checkbook. I'm smart, really, I am.

I have to constantly remind myself of the above every single time I deal with a computer. As soon as I have to do something other than word processing, my brain slips out of my head and I'm left brainless, or so my computer would have me believe. It's not me, I'm sure of it, it's my computer. It even calls itself Darth Vader. And, believe me, the name fits.

My husband will say, "You must have told the computer to do that." When I insist I did not, he gently tells me that a computer can't think on its own, it has to be told what to do. Well, I submit that I may have the very first computer that has its own brain because Darth absolutely thinks for himself and his sole purpose is to drive me insane. It's a very sinister plot, I assure you.

And, it's not just the hardware, I believe Darth is in cahoots with all the software as well. I guess a more logical explanation may be that there's a computer gremlin that lives in my house and it only comes out to wreak havoc when I'm not looking, but that's a ridiculous idea. No, I'm much more convinced that Darth is a living, breathing entity that wants nothing more than to make my life miserable. You know, it's like the car in that Stephen King movie.

For example, I set recently set up my website. I created the entire site on Publisher. I liked it. But, when it came time to publish it to the internet it was murdered. Who did it, you ask? Darth, that's who. He's been plotting against me ever since I first plugged him in and he's murdered more than my website, I can tell you.

So I recreated an entirely new website with Yahoo's Sitebuilder. It didn't take too long and I liked it even better than the first one. It was easy to publish because Yahoo is the host. It's simple to update and I can manage it on my own. But, that made Darth mad because he doesn't want me to be happy. No, he wants to torture me.

On my contact page I installed a comment form so people could easily make comments. Once someone made a comment, it was sent to my email address. Seems logical and simple, right? Well, what email address did it pick? Not my Yahoo address for my website. Not my personal Yahoo address that I've been using for years. No, it picked some obsolete email address that was input somehow, some way. How did such an old, outdated email address get inserted? Darth, of course. Isn't it obvious that he's out to get me? He did not want anyone to contact me because he is determined to ruin my life.

So, I am smart. Really, I am. It's my computer that causes all of these problems. Darth is alive and out to get me. If I suddenly disappear one day, be sure to check inside my computer because chances are, Darth has sucked me inside and is keeping me a prisoner to torment me forever.

Monday, September 10, 2007

My Big Announcement

I have exciting news. Cedar Fort will publish my LDS Young Adult novel, tenatively titled Heaven Scent, in March 2008 (working date). I'm thrilled.

I've had magazine stories published and even sold another one a couple of weeks ago. I also had a children's picture book published in 2003, Grasshopper Pie. I'm very thankful I've had these opportunities to see my words in print, but I've always wanted to be published in the LDS novel market and now I will have that chance. Woo hoo!

I need to do some revisions and have a deadline for those next month. Writing a novel is grueling work, but it's also such great fun to write about characters who've lived in my head and about a story I've seen unfolding in my mind and I'm so excited to be able to share it. (I'm doing the happy dance).

I also published my website. It's www.rebeccatalley.com. Stop by for a visit and let me know what you think.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Respect for our Country

While discussing the war in Iraq, my daughter commented that most of her classmates do not support the war and do not support George W. Bush. They claim he lied and has ulterior motives for involving the United States in the war. Most of her teachers do not support the war or the President. These people all feel justified in not supporting our troops and not showing respect to our country because of the war.

We discussed patriotism and she mentioned that during one class each day at her high school, they recite the Pledge of Allegiance. She said that only she and a few other students recite the Pledge. The rest of the students either mock it or ignore it. How disgraceful.

One of the things that makes our country great is the fact that we have the freedom to make our own choices. Who bought that freedom for us? Who paid the ultimate price so that each one of us is free to make choices? What does it mean to be a United States citizen?

Whether the war in Iraq is justified or not is irrelevant when it comes to showing support and respect for our country and those who've fought for our freedom or are currently fighting for others' freedom. What is relevant, and quite apparent in my daughter's class, is the total disregard for our nation. The lack of respect for our flag and what it symbolizes is appalling. The war in Iraq, the Vietnam war, or any other war does not give license for apathy or opposition to the very foundation of our country.

While we speak of the ills that plague our society, we must include the rising generation's disregard for those things we've held sacred. How would a veteran, who served in a war to secure or protect our freedom, all the while believing that those of us at home were not only supportive, but grateful for his/her service, feel if he/she walked into a classroom of teenagers who refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance? He/she would realize that many of today's youth think nothing of the sacrifices made in their behalf.

Whether we support the war or not, those who are putting their lives on the line deserve our respect, our admiriation, and our gratitude. They deserve to be remembered. They deserve to come home to a grateful country. And when they do not come home, they deserve to be respected. Go here for an emotional and beautiful tribute to today's soldiers:

**Everybody should see this. Please watch. Lizzie Palmer, who put this YouTube program together, is 15 years old. There have been over 3,000,000 hits as of this morning. In case you missed it, here it is.http://www.youtube.com/v/ervaMPt4Ha0&autoplay=1**

While we may disagree when it comes to politics, we must be diligent in not only showing respect for our country ourselves, but in teaching our children to do the same. Disagreement over political issues does not discount what our flag represents and what it means to be an American.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Persistence

I thought I would follow up my last blog with another one on writing.

When you go to college, attend a vocational school, or learn by participating in the "school of hard knocks," you can usually find the type of work for which you've trained. If you graduate with a degree in Elementary Education, chances are good you'll find employment as a teacher. If you attend medical school and last through the years of study and residency, you'll probably become the doctor you've dreamed of being. If you learn how to program a computer, you have a better than average chance of working in the computer field. For the most part, training leads to success in the field of your choice.

With writing, especially creative writing, it's a completely different scenario. Yes, you can study and then procure a job as a technical writer, but if you love to write fiction, there are very few, if any, advertisements that say, "Creative Writer Wanted, Publication Guaranteed." True, there is a market for writers who want to write-for-hire, usually in the educational field, but these jobs typically require a degree in education, science, math, etc., that will qualify you to write the proposed project. Even with specific training, it can be difficult to secure a write-for-hire job.

For those of us who want to write novels and short stories, there is no ready-made market clamoring to buy our masterpieces. We must make the market and we must create a desire for our works. We can't simply reply to an ad for an author and expect to be hired. It just doesn't work that way.

Even after studying writing, taking classes, attending conferences, networking, reading what's being published, writing every day, and generally immersing yourself in writing, there's no guarantee that publication will be at the end of the road.

So why do we do it? Why do we submit ourselves to rejection and criticism? When is it time to cut our losses and take up brain surgery? When do we finally admit we're not good enough to be published? When do we decide it's far better to have clean laundry than to write one more thing that won't be published? When do we give up and throw in the towel? NEVER.

NEVER SURRENDER. NEVER QUIT. Any worthwhile dream is worth pursuing, even it takes a while to realize that dream. A published writer is simply a writer who never gave up. We must never give up our dream because surrender is not in our vocabulary. Persistence is our vocabulary word of our lives.

And, persistence pays off. I've been able to publish stories in several children's magazines, with other stories accepted and waiting to be published. I've also had a children's picture book published. The biggest accomplishment for me, thus far, will be the publication of . . . . you'll just have to check back for my big announcement.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Serious Dreams

What makes someone a "serious writer?" Are you "serious" only if you've had a book published? Do you qualify if you have magazine credits? If you attend writing conferences? Take classes? Belong to a critique group? Blog? Dream about it?

Or is it the way in which you refer to yourself and your dreams?


I've been writing on and off ever since I was a kid. I've taken breaks to go to college, get married, have babies (and more babies and more babies), raise kids, clean the house (not really), and generally live life.


Throughout the years I've taken some correspondence courses, including a novel writing course through Writer's Digest, a creative writing course at a local college, and a few online magazine writing courses. I've attended conferences, joined email lists, and participated in critique groups. I did all of these things long before I ever had anything published.


Before my picture book, Grasshopper Pie, was published, I never told anyone about my aspirations to be a writer. I barely admitted it to my husband. I thought people would look at me and say, "Is she kidding? She's a great poopy bottom cleaner and a fabulous snot wiper, but a writer? Yeah, right." And then I imgained they'd spend the rest of the day laughing at my insane idea of being a writer.


I was still a little shy about admitting my "secret desire" after my book came out. Looking back, I think my insecurity prohibited me from being an effective marketer for that book, but at the time, I'd blush whenever anyone asked me about it. After I sold a story to the Friend, I still felt the same way. I was sure the editor only bought it out of a sense of pity. "Here's this poor woman who thinks she can write and I don't have the heart to tell her she can't, so I'll buy this story from her to make her feel good about herself." Isn't that what editors do?


Now that I've sold several more stories to the Friend and other magazines, and even seen some of those stories in print, I can admit: "I'm a writer." In fact, I'm a "serious writer" because that's how I see myself. I'm no longer afraid to admit that I love to write and I dream of being a novelist. I think that being a "serious writer" has much more to do with the way I see myself than anything else. Many, many people are serious about their writing but have yet to find the right home for a manuscript.


I've learned that before anyone else can take me seriously, I have to take myself, and my dreams, seriously. Being a writer isn't some silly pipedream, it's my dream and I'm serious about it.

And my dream of being a novelist? Let's just say, I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What You See is What You Get

Two of my daughters have expressed an interest in joining the Debate Team at our high school. The older of the two has already taken a debate class and the younger one is now enrolled in that class. Today they will meet with the teacher that sponsors the team and will decide if they want to pursue joining.

This has brought up some interesting subjects as my younger daughter has been relating the subjects that students are interested in debating. Some of those subjects include the shortened lunch hour, the open campus policy, and other school related issues. General subjects have included abortion, same-sex marriage, the war in Iraq, and current Presidential candidates.

Last night my daughter and I discussed Mitt Romney. She commented that people won't vote for him simply based on his religion. People claim that his religion will influence his decisions and that his private life will most defintely affect his ability to effectively serve in our country's highest office. I find this position so interesting because 8-10 years ago, these same people vehemently defended the then current president's right to do whatever he wanted in his private life (even when it included immoral activities in the Oval Office) and claimed that his private life had absolutely nothing to do with his public life or his ability to stand as head of our country. Hmmm. Interesting how people will flip-flop depending on how it suits them.

Does someone's private acts affect his/her public acts? Should we, as voters, be concerned with what a candidate does in his/her private time? I must answer: Absolutely. What we do in private, especially when we think no one is watching, shows who we are at our very core. Someone who conducts himself or herself differently in private than in public, is not an honest person and does not have integrity. Only when our behavior is consistent, privately and publicly, can we be considered to have integrity.

I do not want my elected officials to be one kind of person in private and a different kind of person in public. I much prefer people who are "what you see is what you get" kind of people, even if I disagree with them, because I know they are consistent and I know what to expect.

I remember girls in high school who would act like they were your best friend to your face and as soon as you turned your back, they'd shred you to bits. I much prefer people to be honest and upfront. I can agree to disagree, but it's difficult to know where I stand with someone who isn't honestly portraying himself/herself.

Wouldn't it be nice if all of our candidates for the upcoming Presidential election would just be honest? We could vote for who we feel best represents our views and know that "what we see is what we'll get."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Seasons

Some of my children started school yesterday and the others will start tomorrow. My older girls attend Seminary at 6:00 am and catch the bus from the church. My other kids all catch the bus at the end of our lane at 6:40 am. This morning I noticed a definite chill in the air. After a long, hot, sweaty summer, it was invigorating to feel that cool air which signals that fall is close at hand. When the rabbit brush turns yellow, we know that the first frost of the fall will arrive in about two weeks.

I love fall. Though I enjoy swimming and warm weather, I'm always ready for the cooler weather. I love to drive up to the La Plata mountains and view the vibrant colors that paint the mountainside. I love to walk along the river and hear the burbling water as it slips over the rocks on its way to the sea. Even the air smells differently in the fall.

I grew up on the coast of California where the weather was mild all year long. I remember one year, we actually had some "snow" fall and we all left school to play in the minuscule amount that lightly dusted the area. Other than that, I spent most of my life wearing a light sweater in the winter and a bathing suit in the summer. When I moved to Utah, the seasons definitely changed and it shocked me. I couldn't understand why the snow stayed on the ground for so long and why I had to wear a hat, gloves, and a winter coat most of the winter. I didn't enjoy it much.

Now that I live in Colorado, I've come to appreciate the changing seasons. I look forward to each season because each one brings something a little different than the last. I know that fall will bring beautiful arrays of yellows, golds, and reds. Winter will bring soft, clean snow and clear night skies with stars so brilliant it's hard to imagine that Heavenly Father actually counts each one. The spring will bring new life as plants and animals are born, while the summer will bring fresh vegetables, warm weather, and longer days.

I believe that the seasons are a pattern. We all go through seasons in our lives, each one bringing something just a bit different from the last. We're children and depend on our parents to teach us and love us. Then, it's time to leave and venture out on our own. After a bit of time, we settle down, maybe have a family and spend a season working and raising a family. After what seems like a short time, we again enter another season as our children begin to leave our home to venture out on their own and we're left scratching our heads wondering how that season passed so quickly. At some point, we enter the time when we no longer have children at home, and even a time when we might be alone.

Heavenly Father has designed each of the seasons of our lives for us to find joy. Just as each season of the year is a bit different, we can find peace and happiness in each season of our lives and enjoy every season with which we're blessed.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Writers Write

Since I have a large family, a constant thread of discussion is always on cleaning bedrooms. Apparently, my definition of a clean bedroom is far different from my children's. I'd like to see the carpet occasionally. I'd like to go to the closet and see the clothes hanging from the rod instead of jumbled into a ball on the floor. I'd like to know that we're not growing our own version of penicillin under the bed. I don't insist that the vacuum marks all align in the same direction or that the windows are so clear birds might fly through them. I don't demand that the walls are completely smudge free or that the pillows are fluffed to a certain state of fluffiness. I merely ask that when I walk by the bedroom I don't shudder and feel an uncontrollable urge to vomit.

We were having another discussion this morning about how I wanted the rooms to be cleaned since we start school next week. (We all know it'd be so much easier for me to simply clean their rooms and be done with it, but what would that teach them?) After our discussion followed several smaller talks with individual kids about how he/she would fold clothes, place blankets in a certain place, line up shoes on the shelf, display only important items on the dressers, organize Legos, and general plans for the room. All of these were great ideas. It was wonderful to discuss their plans and see that they were thinking about their rooms and how to make them function more efficiently. It was effective to bounce ideas around and ask for advice. It helped to make the cleaning seem like it was manageable until . . . . it came time for the actual work. We'd done so much talking and planning, yet, nothing was accomplished. The rooms are still messy and my kids are still talking about how they plan to clean. I keep reminding them that all the talking in the world won't make up for not following through with the work.

And so it is with writing. We can talk about it, think about it, plan it, read about how to do it, and otherwise involve ourselves, but until we actually tackle the work and accomplish what we've planned, it isn't truly writing. Someone has said, "Writing is writing." The process of sitting down, creating stories, revising, reworking, rewriting, and continuing the process until we have a finished product that satisfies us is writing. Hundreds, probably thousands, of books have been written on writing and these books certainly serve a purpose, but it's the writing that has to be the priority. We learn best from doing because . . . writers write.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Sunrise, Sunset

Yesterday, my daughter experienced a rite of passage. She passed her driving test and received her driver's license. She was ecstatic. I was happy for her, but a little uneasy at the idea of turning a vehicle over to her to drive without a parent as a passenger. Don't get me wrong, she's a good driver (as good as a teenager gets), but the idea of her driving by herself made me scared and sad at the same time.

My oldest daughter will soon also experience a rite of passage as she leaves for college. She is excited, as she should be, to enter this new phase of her life and move away from home. Though I know it's time for her to do this, it still leaves me a little empty that she will leave our home and go out on her own.

My oldest child, a son, is currently serving a mission for the LDS church in Rome, Italy. I still haven't quite recovered from sending my newborn son out into the world (though having him on a mission eases the sting a bit).

The high school musical this fall will be, "Fiddler on the Roof." Since my daughters are involved in theater (as are all of my children), they plan to audition for the musical and have been listening to the soundtrack all summer. When the song, "Sunrise, Sunset," plays I have to stop and listen because it so aptly describes the way I feel. How did my babies grow so fast? Where has the time gone? How did my son become old enough to serve a mission, my daughter old enough to leave for college, and my third child old enough to obtain a driver's license?

"Is this the little girl I carried, is this the little boy at play? I don't remember growing older, when did they?"

Yes, I still have many children at home, but they are all growing as well. Time slips by so fast and the older I get, the faster it seems to go. I've tried to absorb every drop of my newborns, spend time with my toddlers reading books and playing, and generally enjoy all the moments of my children's lives.

"When did she get to be a beauty, when did he grow to be so tall? Wasn't it yesterday when they were small?"

And, yet, I feel as though they're growing so quickly I can't even catch my breath.

"Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the days. Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers, blossoming even as we gaze. Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset. Swiftly fly the years."

While it's wonderful that my children are realizing their goals and dreams, it still leaves me wondering where all the time has gone and how very short the day is between sunrise and sunset.