Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Bees in My Butt" Blogfest

Wanna have some fun? Join in on this blogfest! You'll get free ebooks and a coupon for the print copy of Bees in My Butt. How can you lose? And, what about that title? Anyone guess what it means?

I'm excited to read this book and my fourth-grader can't wait to get his hands on it!

I'm excited to announced the first ever Smartboys Club Blog Fest to celebrate the release of Bees in My Butt in paperback. Everyone who participates will get the first 4 Smartboys Club books for free as ebooks and a coupon code to buy the paperback Bees in My Butt for only $3 instead of the list price of $6.99. In addition, for every hundred people that join us in the blog fest we'll have a drawing to give away a Kindle.

For details on how to participate, visit the Wonder Realms Books website. I look forward to seeing you there.

Take Monkey, a literary genius with flatulence; Bean, a science and math guru; Vinny, a computer whiz who can't keep her mouth shut; and Art, an artist who can shoot a basketball like a pro, confront them with a mess of fourth grade trouble, and watch the fun explode.

In Bees in My Butt, the first book of the Smartboys Club series, the members of the Smartboys Club use their skills to battle a group of crazed Ninjas that take over the school. And it happens on a day when Monkey has the worst case of flatulence imaginable.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Contest Giveaway

In celebration of the release of Laura Bingham's newest novel, Wings of Light, I am giving away a copy of my book, The Upside of Down.

To enter the contest:
1. Visit Laura's blog and leave a comment on one of her posts
2. Become a follower of my blog
3. Subscribe to my newsletter (under my photo)
4. Add my book on Goodreads
5. Add Laura's book, Wings of Light, on Goodreads

Each one receives an entry into the contest, the more you do, the more chance you have of winning! You have until midnight March 31st to enter. I'll use http://www.random.org/ on April 1st to draw a winner--no joke for any of you April foolers.

You can leave a comment on this post to let me know what you've done.

Thanks for participating and good luck!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Book Signing at Seagull Book on Saturday

If you missed me last weekend, great news: I'll be back in UT this weekend. I'll be signing books at Seagull Books, 2250 N. University Parkway, Provo, UT, on Saturday 12:00-2:00 pm for the "Celebrating Sisterhood" event. It's the Seagull next to Shopko and behind Olive Garden on the BYU diagonal.

I'd love to see you if you're in the neigborhood. Please, help me pass the word!

Thank you!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Interview with Larry Brooks

Larry Brooks is a successful novelist and a popular writing guru. His blog http://www.storyfix.com/ has a huge readership and has won awards for its outstanding advice and tips. Larry is a personable guy who's always willing to answer questions. I've read his ebook Story Structure and his newest book, available in Kindle and print formats, Story Engineering. Excellent resources. His advice and explanations are easy to understand and have enlightened and empowered me to, hopefully, improve my fiction.

Larry Brooks is also the keynote speaker for the LDStorymakers Conference May 5-7 at the Salt Lake Sheraton, http://www.ldstorymakers.com/, a conference you definitely don't want to miss if you're serious about writing. I am so excited to hear him speak because I've been reading his blog for some time now and his take on writing really makes sense to me. Be forewarned, though, that he is not LDS and his language can be colorful at times on his blog and in his books.

Larry has agreed to do an interview. Be prepared to learn a ton just from this interview.

Why is story structure so important?

Because structure is actually more than structure. Like a building, structure has a role: it bears weight, it provides safe access, it provides efficiency, it becomes the foundation for aesthetic beauty (think Effiel Tower on that one, yet the design is all engineering).

Structure is the machine that dictates pacing and dramatic tension. Without it, too much or too little is revealed too soon or too late. A cynic might ask, "who says?" The answer is proven by the marketplace -- publishers don't buy books and readers don't read books that don't have that solid pacing and dramatic tension.

Certain things need to happen in a certain order, and at certain places within a story that works. There is some wiggle room, but very little. This disappoints those who thought they were getting into some kind of "free-form no rules do-what-you-want" craft... but the contrary is true. At a professional level of writing and publishing, structure is the foundation of story.

How did you come up with the Six Core Competencies?

I was looking for a new, clearer and more accessible way to wrap my head around the craft of storytelling. I'd hear this grad-school rhetoric, like, "You hero's quest is dictated by the sub-text of his subliminal need as demonstrated by the backstory, and in context to the agenda of that antagonist who is merely a catalyst for the hero's exposition and the ultimate denouement of the dramatic arc."

All of that is true, by the way. But it's pretty much elitist mumbo-jumbo, too, leaving newer writers cold and frustrated. There had to be a better way.

The model of the Six Core Competencies was developed over many years of teaching fiction at writing conferences. It began as "the four pillars of story," which later became a sub-set of the 6CC when I added two  "executional" (my word, spell check doesn't like it, either) core competencies to the list.

Virtually anything and everything you can come up with pertaining to the goal of writing a story falls into one of these competency "buckets," each of which has its own standards, criteria and techniques.

What are the Six Core Competencies?

Four are elemental, two are executional.

The four "elements" of story are: concept, character, theme, and structure (plot exposition).

The two "executional" core competencies are scene development and writing voice.

A weakness in any one of these will kill the story. You have to be solid in all six to get into the game.

Can you explain the difference between idea, concept, and theme?

A good challenge that, and an important one. Because when a writer doesn't know the difference they may head down the wrong road. It is made all the more challenging because an "idea" actually can be one of the other two.

An "idea" is the initial germ or spark that begins the search for story. It can be generic, such as: "I want to write a mystery that takes place in a military academy." Is that a concept? No, not yet, the criteria for concept asks more of us. Same with premise, there isn't enough to it.

Then again, an idea can be more specific. "Write a mystery that takes place in a military academy involving the son of a controversial senator." Better. The idea is heading toward conceptville. But it doesn't get there until...

... you add a "what if?" component. Something that asks a dramatic question that sets the stage for a story. Such as: "What if the son of a senator attending a snooty military academy is killed when it is revealed he's been dating the wife of the head master?" Juicy. And conceptual. There's a story there. There was no story at the "idea" level, but now there is.

As for premise, this becomes an expansion of the concept through the addition of character arc and agenda. Just as concept uses a "what if?" tool, premise uses this: "this is a story about..." and goes on to overview the dramatic landscape, with the inclusion of theme and character. In this example: "This is a story of a young man trying to live out from under the dark shadow of his disgraced senator father, who falls for a woman who needs his help to rescue her from her abusive husband, who happens to run the military academy he attends. The story is about the murder of the young man and the ensuing coverup, plumbing the depths of the lengths people will go to in order to avenge a broken heart and protect a false legacy at all costs."

You could say it's a matter of degree. But really, it's story planning at its highest level. If a writer begins writing with only that first idea, the story will have no focus, no pace and no arc. It's a recipe for a rewrite, because all that draft could ever be is a tool in the search for the story.

What are the five elements that each story must have? Can a story be successful without them?

A hero who must achieve something, with whom we can empathize and root for.

An antagonistic force that blocks the hero's quest, thus summoning the heroic core of the protagonist.

A hero who becomes just that, conquering inner demons and ultimately becoming the primary catalyst and instrument of the story's ending. The hero can never be rescued, they must achieve something, even if it isn't what he/she set out to accomplish.

A story must have a solid structure. Four sequential parts, each with a succinct narrative mission. Each separated by a prescribed (non-negotiable) narrative milestone (shift, twist or new information) that speeds things up, deepens stakes, empowers context and fuels the forward motion of the exposition.

A combination of vicarious reader experience (they must be taken for a ride), thematic weight (they feel it as they read it), character arc (the hero's rewarding journey) and a sweet writing voice that doesn't seek to become a distraction to the story it tells.

And no, a story cannot be successful without all of these thing in play.

You're not only a successful novelist and a popular presenter at writing conferences, but you also offer a manuscript critiquing service. What is the most common mistake you find in the manuscripts you critique?

A violation of all of the above princples is commonplace, and understandable. Writing a great story is really hard. REALLY hard. Most mistakes can be assigned to the writer not yet wrapping their head around what I call the six core competencies, they leave something unclear and unexecuted in that regard. The idea and the resultant concept isn't strong enough. The character/hero isn't three dimension. The story doesn't matter, it elicits a "who cares?" response. And most of all, the structure is off, usually by way of far too much expositional description, side-trips and lack of scene focus.

That last one is the stuff of professionals, and it's the best writing tip I know: each scene you write should have a clear, efficient and compelling mission to fulfill. A piece of narrative exposition to deliver. This isn't characterization -- that is incumbent upon every scene to delivery. Rather, each scene needs to propel the story forward. Not with a bunch of stuff, but with one compelling piece. We should build our scenes around what chunk of narrative information, whatever it is.

This is the art of it. Where do you start within a scene? How do you know when and how to cut to it? What makes a scene dramatic, keeps it from lagging? What details are important, what aren't?

Always the writer's call. Those who get it, who develop a sensiblity in this regard, go on to write successful stories and possibly have a career.

You get to that point by internalizing the six core competencies, which ultimate blend together and depend on each other, and, when done well, become a sum in excess of their parts.

Hope this stuff helps excite you and propel you toward even better storytelling! Thanks for having me.

Thanks, Larry for dropping by. Great information!
I told you this was AMAZING stuff. I LOVE it. Visit his blog http://www.storyfix.com/ for more info on writing. His book Story Engineering, is available at Amazon as well as bookstores.

If you want to see him in person and learn from a master, come to the LDStorymakers Conference. You won't regret it!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop Winner

Thanks to everyone for such an awesome response to my book and to the giveaway hop. I used http://www.random.org/ to pick the winner. And the winner is . . . . .

Jennifer @ The Bawdy Book Blog. Yay!!! Woo hoo!!! I'll send you an email to get your mailing address!

Thanks again, everyone, for participating!!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Book Signings

I'm in Utah today doing some signings. If you happen to be in the area, I'd love to see you!

I'll be at:

Pioneer Book
858 S. State St.
Orem UT

Today, Friday, 4:00-6:00 pm
Tomorrow, Saturday, 12:00-2:00 pm

Copies of  The Upside of Down as well as my other books will available for purchase. If you already own a copy and want my super cool signature :), come on by. If you just want to chat, come on by. Pioneer Book is near the University Mall on State St.

Hope to see you there!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop hosted by Books Complete Me and I am a Reader Not a Writer. This blog hop runs from March 17th through March 20th (which happens to be my birthday). The prize I am offering is a copy of my novel, "The Upside of Down."

Here's the back cover copy:

"Hmmm," the doctor muttered.

Natalie wrinkled her forehead, almost afraid to ask, and said, "What does that mean?"
"You do know you're pregnant, right?"
Her breath caught in her throat. "Excuse me?"
"You're pregnant."
Her heartbeat thundered in her ears. "I'm what?"

Natalie Drake certainly has her hands full raising a large family, dealing with her difficult mother, and maintaining a relationship with her rebellious teenager. Just when things seem to be going smoothly, she finds out another unexpected surprise--she's going to have a baby. Faced with so many challenges, Natalie must learn to trust in a plan that isn't what she imagined and discover that every situation has an upside.

Rebecca Talley once again carefully crafts together a touching and heartfelt story that is sure to inspire you. With true-to-life characters and situations, The Upside of Down will reignite your faith and remind you of the importance of family.

To be entered into the contest:

1. Become a follower of my blog.

Additional entries:

2. Sign up for my newsletter (under my photo)
3. Add my book on Goodreads
4. Become a follower of The Upside of Down blog
5. Like my author page on Facebook.

Let me know in the comments section what you did and I'll use http://www.random.org/ to select a winner on Monday, March 21, 2011. You will be entered for each thing you do so you can be entered up to 5 times for a chance to win my book.

Good luck and thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan and Preparation

My heart goes out to all of those affected by the disasters in Japan. I saw some footage and the devastation is mind-boggling. I feel so bad for those people. It's overwhelming to see such destruction.

Watching the effects of this disaster made me question my own preparation. Would I be prepared if struck with a natural disaster? I don't live on a fault line, near a large body of water, or in tornado alley. However, we've had enough snow fall at times to knock out our electricity and make it impossible to get out of our driveway for a few days. Even losing electricity for seemingly no reason means we can't use our well so we have no water. Droughts can also cause us problems because it means we'll have very little water for household use. Certainly not a disaster but it does take some forethought and preparation.

And what about personal disasters? In the course of one week we had a member of our ward suffer a heart attack and another one that was involved in a head-on collision. The member with the heart attack is self-employed and he has 9 of his 13 children still living at home. The man involved in the car accident had serious injuries to his leg and has been in a wheelchair. Neither of these people expected what happened and both will be out of work for a while. I'm thinking their food storage will come in very handy.

And that's the thing with disasters, natural or personal, we usually don't see them coming. So we have to ask ourselves, are we prepared? The brethren have been counseling us to build up food storage, fuel, and the like for many, many years. Are we listening? I believe a lot of that storage will be used in personal disasters like losing a job, sickness, accidents, etc., but each of us, especially in lght of the disaster in Japan, would be wise to take stock of our preparation in case of a disaster.

No one can deny we are in the last days and we are seeing many prophecies being fulfilled. There will continue to be natural disasters, and if our government doen't get itself under control we'll be seeing more and more personal disasters. I've watched the housing market where I live come to a standstill and those involved in the construction industry have lost income and even their own homes because of this current economy.

There will come a time, just as Joseph Smith prophesied, when we will not be able to buy a loaf of bread for a wheelbarrow of money. We will have to depend on what we've stored. We've been warned and we need to heed that warning to protect ourselves and our families from suffering.

I know of a family that told their kids that they'd never go on missions or get married because the end of the world would come before then--that was 20 years ago. I don't believe in being scared or going all doomsdayish, but I do believe in being prepared. If we're prepared we need not fear.

So let's learn from what's happened to Japan and now, while we still can, let's get prepared. We never know when a disaster is lurking around the corner.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Newspaper Article

Here is the text from a newspaper article in The Daily Times in Farmington, NM. I'm so excited!

Mother knows best
By Melissa Oyer The Daily Times

Posted: 03/07/2011 10:51:29 AM MST

FARMINGTON — For an author with 10 children, there's always something funny, serious, soothing, traumatic, dangerous, witty and, most of all, heartfelt to write about.

Rebecca Talley used all of these and more to emote the message in her latest book, "The Upside of Down."

"My family inspired me to write this book," Talley said. "When I shared some of my experiences with my friends and family, they encouraged me to write everything down so I decided to express my experiences within the framework of a novel so I could tweak things here and there to create a functional storyline."

"The Upside of Down" is a story centered around a woman raising a large family and trying to do the best she can despite trials that arise. The book helps mothers, or women in general, take hold of problems that arise throughout life.

A series of events happens to Natalie, the main character, that chip away at her faith. She begins to question her beliefs, her faith, and most of all, herself. After some tough-love and deep bouts of soul searching, she realizes that what has happened to her was meant to be.

Though this story is framed within a religious belief system, Talley thinks many busy mothers can identify with the normal, everyday dealings most people encounter, such as the infamous haircuts small children like to give themselves and/or their siblings, trying to conquer the ever-growing mountain of laundry, juggling kids' schedules, dealing with difficult family members, and attempting to raise respectful, loving children.

"This isn't a tool for converting," Talley said. "I wrote a story that I would read, and that I felt like other mothers would enjoy reading."

When writing, Talley said she generally percolates a story idea in her mind for a few months, then writes a narrative synopsis, character sketches, character goals, story goal, descriptions of the settings, and any other details as they develop.

Talley writes scenes on index cards and continuously rearranges them until the flow of the story feels right. Then several drafts are worked through, then sent to the publisher for final edits.

"It takes me about a year or so from start to finish," she said, "depending on when the idea first strikes me. Sometimes I get an idea when I'm in the middle of another project, so I have had to learn how to juggle. I'm a wife and mom first, so I fit my writing in whenever I can."

So when not writing novels, updating her blog, or contributing to other publications, Talley spends her days like every other mother, which she considers her number one priority.

My family is extremely supportive," Talley said. "My husband picks up the slack at home when I have a deadline to meet. Writing wouldn't be possible without my family's support."

Talley sits on the Board of Directors for the writing group LDStorymakers. After current chairman Julie Coulter Bellon's term ends this summer, Talley will take over the leadership role.

"Rebecca balances her writing and her family with her responsibilities as the chair-elect of LDStorymakers and excels at all three," Bellon said. "Her compassionate nature just naturally flows into her writing and her characters are so real they become people you'd like to be friends with."

Of course, her books are as complex as she is, and they always have that little thread of optimism running through them, no matter what the issue, just like she does, Bellon said.

"The Upside of Down" is available locally at the Farmington LDS Bookstore and can be ordered through Hastings. It's also available online at www.cedarfort.com, as well as Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

"Besides writing," Talley said, "I enjoy dating my husband, playing with my kids, swimming in the ocean, and dancing to disco music while I clean the house — you know, normal mom-stuff."

Melissa Oyer: moyer@daily-times.com

Friday, March 4, 2011

Health Class Odyssey

In February 2010 my son registered for the 2010-2011 school year at the high school. I noticed that the health class required for graduation was now required for ninth-graders. In the past it had been offered to upperclassman. I called the high school and politely asked that they replace the health class with another class because I didn't approve of this health class.

And thus begun my odyssey.

Remember, I live in one of the most liberal states and our school district is one of the most liberal within the state. My rural community is actually quite conservative but my children attend school in a very anti-God, anti-religion, anti-values community. My kids are regularly harassed for being Mormons, for not drinking or doing drugs, and especially for being virgins. Kids and teachers alike consistently ridicule my kids.

This particular health class is very explicit. They do demonstrations on how to use birth control. They speak about sex in the most disrespectful ways and scoff at the idea of abstinence. Most of my kids' friends have lost their virginity by age 14. That's got to be the saddest thing ever. What happened to being a kid? What happened to just enjoying being a teen without all the adult responsibilities that come with sexual activity? These kids can't drive, can't vote, can't even drop out of school legally and yet they are involved in sexual activities. Very sad. And the school district, in all of its wisdom, never addresses the emotional impact sex has on kids. Never. They tell the kids to have "safe" sex. As if. There is no such thing as "safe" sex when it comes to premartial sex. Sure you can protect yourself from diseases most of the time, but what about the emotional and spiritual toll it takes?

My husband and I met with principal of our high school only because I'd complained to the assistant superintendent that the principal wouldn't discuss this with me and, suddenly, we had a meeting scheduled. We asked if our son could test out of the class, an option that had been available for years. She refused. We asked if we could homeschool him through the school's shared schooling program. Again, she refused stating that this health class was the only class that couldn't be homeschooled. She offered us an online option that he could take during the school day with a teacher in the room. We asked to see the curriculum of the online class. We were denied access. No matter what we asked for, the principal denied us and blocked us.

I continued to research laws and after sifting through pages and pages of the district website found the policy on health education buried so deep it was a miracle I found it.  The policy states that parents have the right to exempt their student from "any or all of the health education program." A-ha. I'd found the answer. Or so I thought.

I presented it to the high school principal, vice principal, and assistant superintendent and was told it didn't really say that after all. I showed them the exact wording and was told the wording needed to be changed.

My next step was to email all the members of the school board asking for clarification of the exemption policy. None of them replied. I emailed again. And none of them replied a second time. Not being one to give up, I attended a school board meeting and in the public session addressed the topic of exemption for the health class at the high school. The board members acted as if they'd never been notified of my plight. Oh brother. But, the superintendent was there and in public said they would address it. Nothing like a public forum to shed light on an issue.

A few days later an administrator whom I'd worked with before and respect greatly called me and promised she'd get to the bottom of this whole thing. She also assured me that CO school law backed me and that she was very familiar with school law. Basically, the district couldn't deny the exemption request and the principal either didn't understand that or didn't want to.

Finally, after all this going back and forth and, really, playing a power tug-of-war with the high school principal, the administrator called to let me know that all I need to do is to send an exemption request and my kids can take an elective in lieu of this health class and still graduate.



I'm pretty sure the principal figured if she threw enough roadblocks in my way I'd give up and go away. Not so. I don't give up and I don't go away, not when I feel so strongly about something.

Moral of the story: Don't give up. Don't let educators try to usurp your rights as a parent. Fight for what you believe in.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Building Relationships with Our Kids

"Emotional connections between parents and young children are so essential for the child's development and mental health that disruption of parent-child attachment is considered a risk factor for early development" (Bowlby 1969, 1980; Ainsworth, et al., 1978; Greenspan, 1985).

I couldn't agree more. I'm sure this won't be very popular, but I truly believe that pre-school is detrimental for children.

For years, educators have insisted that all children should be enrolled in pre-school and that those of us who do not enroll our children in pre-school do a serious disservice to our kids. I completely and wholeheartedly disagree.

In my experience, children enrolled in pre-school do not do better and, in fact, most have serious struggles because that emotional connection was severed at such an early age. I've been a mother long enough and seen enough to say that I firmly believe that the relationship we develop with our children from birth to age 8 is the foundation for the relationship we have with them when they are teenagers.

I also believe that if we want to have an influence on our children when they are going through the tumultuous teen years we must establish and nurture that relationship when they are babies and toddlers.

Sending young children off to pre-school compels them to establish a relationship with their teacher instead of with their parents. It isn't about quality time, it's about quantity. I think we've been lulled by the politically correct term "quality time" into thinking if we give our kids 30 minutes of focused time a day that will somehow be enough. It is not. Young children want quantity. They want to know mom is there all the time because this is the time that they form the strong bonds that will call them back when they are teenagers.

Emotional connections with our children are imperative. If those connections are disrupted problems occur. Look around and see how many teens are drinking regularly, doing drugs, and are sexually active at 12-14. It's astonishing. How many families are struggling with problems with their teens? I believe it goes back to the relationship established when they were very young.

We have one chance to be a parent. Time goes by so fast and our lives slip away before we know it. Children grow from babies to young adults in warp speed. I believe that if we want to avoid many of the problems plaguing our kids, and even our society, we, as parents, need to step up to the plate. We need to focus the bulk of our time on raising and teaching our children. We need to establish emotional connections with them when they are young. We need to realize that, "No other success can compensate for failure in the home," (David O. McKay) and nothing we do will ever be more important than what we do within the walls of our own homes.

Keeping a child at home with a loving, nurturing relationship will do far more for him than any pre-school. Learning to read can wait, but building a relationship cannot. We need to take time to build relationships with our children and when we do, we'll see the fruits of our labors when we need it most.