Thursday, October 20, 2016

So Many E-Mails. So Little Time.

As I'm writing this, my computer has 8 tabs open in Chrome and 15 open Word documents.  Two of my tabs are different e-mail accounts.  One of my accounts has 5,087 e-mails and the other has 397 e-mails.  My Pinterest Account is much the same. 4,600 pins on writing, and 1,700 pins on writing prompts.  Don't even get me started on research for books, marketing, publishing, or other facets of writing. I have boards for those too.

There have been times I've looked at my in-box and felt disgusted.  Why not delete anything over a month old, or just wipe it clean and start all over again?  What sane person would have nearly 6,000 e-mails in their in-box??

Then I look closer at the subject lines. How Publishing Really Works. [ANWA Chapter Officers] Digest Number 882.  ANWA Founders and Friends. NW Writers Retreat. Daily Scrivener Tip.  Your Daily e-Book deals. And the list goes on.

Before the internet, I would hoard articles that I thought were significant, creating file after file of information I wanted to learn or remember.  Now, in the digital age, my piles are (theoretically) smaller. Instead, I have digital files and big fat e-mail accounts brimming with articles I hope to read.  The idea of missing opportunities to learn and better my craft, or to gleen motivation and friendship from other writers scares me.  There's so much to learn, and so many people to learn from. And I don't want to miss a bit of it!

That desire to learn causes me to whittle away at that long list of e-mails, or the sky-high tower of 'to-read' books beside my bed. It keeps me up long past my bedtime, and often well into the wee hours of the morning.

At times it's tedious, and exhausting.  Other times it's fascinating.  Still others I'm exhilarated.  Whatever the outcome, writing has been nothing, if not totally and utterly fulfilling.

So, I guess I'll keep those massive lists of e-mails, slowly sifting through and filing the articles away as I read them.  Occasionally even (gasp!) deleting those that don't apply. I may not have enough hours in the day to devote to writing the way I want to, but by golly, I will never run out of articles to read on the topic!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Choosing Ur Bad Guy's Back Story

by Terri Wagner

Lately I have been pondering how you decide on bad guys. I never saw the purpose in plotting out your story until I ran into this experience with my partner. Eventually people are going to want to know about the bad guy. I see this as a cultural transition myself. In my dad's day as he loves to remind me bad guys wore black hats and you didn't try to understand them, you just killed them. In my generation, we still saw bad guys as characters to be killed off or at least receive severe consequences. However, we did like a bit deeper understanding of our bad guys.

Let's use my favorite example, Darth Vader. In the original Star Wars, Vader wore black, breathed funny, was overlord of the bad guys, was the baddest guy's head bad guy. We just knew eventually Vader would be destroyed. And he was in a way. He became more dimensional as we discovered he was Luke and Leia's dad, he had once been good, and in the end, he chose to save his son from corruption and/or death itself, sacrificing himself. I was satisfied. Always nice to know anyone can be redeemed, and the truly evil guy was the emperor who was destroyed.

But then came the prequels. A totally different Vader appeared. He was young, he was confused, he gave in to temptation, he lived on the edge of righteousness until he deliberately chose to be evil. He was despicable. In his rage, he killed a whole family of the sand people for hurting his mom, then he went on at one point to kill younglings. Suddenly I could not reconcile this Vader, he wasn't redeemable. I wanted him to fall into a deep dark hole. In many ways to me he became the ultimate bad guy. He wasn't deceived, he clearly chose evil.

Then came the sequels. Now his grandson has chosen to follow in Vader's evil way. He kills his own father. Sets himself up as second bad guy (some kind of manipulating back evil lord we don't know much about yet). If the story runs true, then are we supposed to be so caught up in the grandson's drama that we "feel" for him? That we overlook his actions because after all he had it tough?

Don't mistake me this isn't about real life or current events, only a dabbling in fiction that puzzles me. How bad do I want my bad guy to be and how much sympathy (if at all) do I want to weave into his backstory (and oh btw he doesn't have to be a he). How do you like your bad guys?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Tidying Up

Call me sensitive–when a perpetually neat houseguest bought me a book on tidying, it kinda raised my ire. The book is entitled The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and the houseguest was my mother, alias The Recreational Cleaner. We also call her The Phantom Picker Upper, although not to her face. Seriously, I can sip my lemonade, set it on the table beside me, reach for the glass a minute later, and it's gone, rinsed, and already in the dishwasher. How does she do that, without me even noticing she came in the room?

After walking by the book for two days, I finally picked it up, planning to casually skim the first chapter or two. Sucked in, soon I was turning the last page.

I admit I learned a few things, such as Never Throw Away Other’s Belongings, of which I may or may not be guilty. But the Spread Out Every Item You Own, Touch Each, Have A Conversation With It, Asking If It Brings Joy Or Not, seemed outlandish to me. I set the book aside; just another self-help scheme.

And then the weirdness started. Dressing in the mornings, I’d find myself thinking, “Hm. Do I love this faded blue shirt? How much joy is left in it?” Unloading the dishwasher, I’d ponder stacking the chipped green bowl neatly, or throwing it out. Did it make me happy? It felt like a spell had been cast on me, and I was annoyed.

I’m an author, a writer, a researcher, a traveler. On a daily basis, I’m swamped. I juggle a husband, kids, grandchildren, friends, Church responsibilities, writer’s groups, and assorted doctors who seem to be throwing plaster on my crumbling walls.  I converse plenty. I simply don’t have time to be listening to dated jackets and seven-year-old skirts.

I’ve written eleven non-fiction books, including two best-selling cruise books, and I recently released a sequel, “More Cruise Tips from the Cruise Addict’s Wife.” Around this same time, I began my first novel. Off to a great start, until the voices in my head began. Does this paragraph bring me joy? Is this character making me happy? Has this scene outlived its usefulness?

I reread Mom’s book. I know it plainly talks about sorting one’s Things, but it squirmed its way into my mind and changed my writing for the good. If “man is that he might have joy,” then I guess I’m entitled to some joy in my writing, too. I winnowed my novel down from 89,000 words to 68,000 words, weighing each sentence, jettisoning the parts that brought no joy.

“Peril In Paradise” was released in early 2016, and is selling well. I love the cover design! It’s a cozy mystery set on a cruise ship in Hawaii, with warm characters and descriptions so rich, you could plan a cruise with it. The process was more fun than I expected, so much so I’m currently writing two more novels.

Bonus-I also have more room in my closet since I began writing. Weird, isn’t it, how some books wriggle into one’s subconscious? 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Why I Keep Writing

by Kari Diane Pike

Hold tight to your pencils dear friends. I'm about to actually write about writing [GASP!] Wait. Do any of you even still write with pencils? How many of you still write by hand at all - other than, you know, the occasional grocery list? Even note taking seems to have gone the digital route. But I'm getting side-tracked here.

Which reminds me. I used to wonder why people in Phoenix yell "Squirrel!" when there are no squirrels around here (ok...there's actually three types of squirrels in the Sonora desert, but we don't see them in the city much). Then I discovered it's a movie reference. I think here in the desert we should say "Lizard!" or "Pigeon!" when someone gets sidetracked.  But not "Scorpion!" because that's kind of like yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater. Never joke about seeing a scorpion. And yah, I'm way off topic again. Would someone please call to order? I need a keeper.

Okay. Back to writing. After all, this is a blog for writers. It's also a place to get to know a few writers and how we view the world. Anyway - last month I arrived at the annual ANWA Writers Conference full of fear and trepidation. I had taken that metaphorical step off the ledge and signed up for a pitch session with one of the editors. The night before my big day, I tossed and turned in the motel bed, trying not to wake up my bunk mate. Doubts about my writing swirled in my brain and invaded my dreams. Just before dawn I decided to cancel my appointment.

When I finally got out of bed both of my roommates were still sleeping. I knelt by the bed and had a little heart-to-heart with Heavenly Father. Should I, or shouldn't I, go through with the pitch session? The answer came in the form of another question.

What do you want to accomplish? Why do you write? How will cancelling your appointment help you reach your goal?

I knew then that I wanted, needed even, to go through with the interview. Since I was still terrified, I opened my scriptures. Scripture study always eases my mind. That morning was no exception. In fact, I almost laughed out loud when I opened to my place marker in 3 Nephi 22 and came to verse 4:

Fear not for thou shalt not be ashamed.

Fascinated, I continued to read through to 3 Nephi 23: 4 -

Therefore give heed to my words; write the things which I have told you..."

Needless to say, I kept the appointment and pitched my book idea. The editor shared kind and encouraging words of advice and asked me to send a copy of my completed manuscript to her personally! She even gave me a "get out of the slush pile" card (actually it was her business card with her personal email addy - and yes, I think another exclamation mark is called for)!

You'd think that I'd be writing...err...typing my fingers to their arthritic nubbin's trying to finish writing my book. And I did. For one day. I came home from the conference and wrote over 1500 words that very day, which is huge for me. I normally struggle to write 600 words a day because I spend so much time refereeing arguments between Creative Brain and Editor Brain. By mid day, both sides start arguing with the Ref and Creative Brain usually ends up getting kicked out of the game, and...LIZARD!


Back to the story.

I wrote for one day and then got caught up in all the bookkeeping/check writing/paperwork trailing responsibilities for post-conference ANWA, playing with grandkids and hubby's trip to the hospital (he's doing great), and...yeah.

I did manage to meet a friend for a writing session at the library one other day. I read those 1500+ words out loud. I think I can use about 500 of them. They are awful - vague, repetitive, boring. I think the word a former mentor would use describes it well - Craptastic. Ugh. Maybe I should give up.

Or not. Because guess what? Hubby and I sat down at breakfast  yesterday and opened to the last talk from April's General Conference. Elder Holland rocks. In his talk, "Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders Among You," Elder Holland reminds us that highs and lows are all part of life. The important thing to remember is to keep trying. Do the best you can. Have faith in Christ and in God's plan and keep going.

So, what is my role as a writer in the Lord's plan? I don't know the answer to that yet, but I do know the journey will be an exciting one because ~

Life is magnificent.



Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Ten Social Media "Marketing" NO-NOs for Authors

By Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been astounded at complaints I've seen in writer groups across Facebook on the bad manners of other "authors."

One published author mentioned that someone placed a post with all their books listed on her Facebook Author Page. Someone else said someone horned in on their Fan Group with a listing of their books. Another complained that someone hijacked her book launch event. Her own Book Launch EVENT! Again, this person posted a message listing all their own books. I didn't think to ask if it could be the same ill-mannered writer doing these unthinkable things.

Blogger and author Anne R. Allen posted about this problem eighteen months ago, and gave fair warning to new authors who sorely abuse Social Media in an attempt to sell books that their actions are undesirable. (It's possible some marketing "guru" is selling new authors really bad advice.) Anne came up with a countdown list of ten things not to do on social media, along with very good advice on why such actions are repellent, and that doing them are against the Ethical Author code.

I'll just give the ten no-nos headings. You must read the article to get the meat of Anne's excellent reasoning.

10. Forgetting that social media is social
9. Over-hashtagging and robo-posting
8. Emotional blackmail in demands for shares and RTs
7. Projecting a snarky, nasty online persona
6. Starting lots of blogs, webpages, and social media accounts
5. Pop-ups and other annoying gimmicks on your blog or website
4. Auto Direct Messages in reply to a follow—or advertising in a DM
3. Pitching your own book on somebody else's Facebook Page
2. Buying or trading reviews and trading "likes".
1. Putting somebody on your mailing list who has not signed up


Let me add this to number 1: "Adding someone to your product, party, or any Facebook Group without first asking for their permission."

If you know a new writer who is slipping up and annoying not only you, but your friends, please let them know about Anne Allen's advice.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Riding the Conference Wave

It's crazy to think that the ANWA conference was 3 weeks ago.  Time flies when you're having fun. ...Or running around like a banshee with its hair on fire.

The Arizona conference was...uh-mazing. It's the first conference I'd been to, and I'm still sifting through all the information we received. Don't get me started on that one.  My eyes glaze over and I smile off into the distance. The speakers were awesome. The information was glorious.  The women were fantastic. And I was able to meet many fantastic individuals I'd been corresponding with via Internet and telephone for months.  Yep. These ladies are even better in person.

Two of my three pitches resulted in requests for pages (wahoo!).  One of them asked me to cut about 15,000 words from my manuscript (uh...). And I got the impression she expected those words gone by the time she contacted me again. In about four weeks.

That was three weeks ago.  Guess how many words I've removed?  1,200.  Guess how much time I've spent editing since the ANWA conference? 15 minutes.  I've had 15 minutes to devote to writing in the past three weeks.

No pressure.  I hear sleep is highly overrated anyway.

I also came home with seven new story ideas, the feeling that publishing may actually become a reality, several new friendships, answers to specific questions I'd been agonizing over for quite some time, and feeling more motivated and inspired than I've felt in months.

I will be back next year.  And the year after that...and the year after that. I'd love to see you there.

Now, I'm gearing up for the NW retreat at the end of this month.  This will be my third time.  I'm not gonna lie.  I'm giddy.  This is the first time I'm actually leading one of the classes.  Okay so it's a critique group and I don't have much responsibility, but c'mon! A girl has to start somewhere.

I'm sitting here grinning at my computer screen. Why? Because ANWA is probably one of the best things that has happened to me in my adult life (aside from children and church, of course). I am thankful to be a part of this organization, and to be able to ride the conference wave right on into the NW Retreat. And from there, I'll be riding a new wave which will propel me into NaNoWriMo in November then into 2017.

So much to do. So little time.  But at least I'll be grinning while my hair is on fire.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

General Conference

by Terri Wagner

This year I actually made it to see all the sessions but one. And that one I will get to. It was a Sunday of rest from worldly things. I took notes so here's the ones that stick out in my words and in no particular order.

1. President Uchtdorg: Don't take the church for granted.

2. Elder Hales: Cannot pray away someone's free agency.

3. Sister McConkie: Prayer can heal our hearts.

4. Elder Christensen: Translating the BOM must have given Joseph Smith great comfort when Moroni said that infants have no need of baptism.

5. Elder Cornish: Ask Heavenly Father what he thinks of's the only one that counts.

6. Elder Andersen: We are all a part of the miraculous gathering of the Last Days.

7. Elder Nelson: Lehi lived in perilous times.

8. Elder Ballard: You can falter in the faith due to church history, mistakes by past and present leaders, even unacceptable doctrine, but as Peter told Christ, where else can you go?

9. Elder Robbins: Guard against unrighteous and self righteous judgement.

10. President Eyring: Carry a sense of gratitude on the Sabbath Day.

11. Elder Bednar: Living the transformative reality of the Restoration will cement Christ's countenance on your image.

12. Elder Schmutz: Sorrow is part of our mortal existence.

13. Elder Nattress: If your children only knew the gospel from you, what would they know?

14. Elder Renlund: The Atonement is the part of repentance that will change your crippling guilt to hope and joy.

15. President Monson: Trust in the Search for Happiness.