Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Faith

by Terri Wagner

I'm going to go a bit off range here and just discuss something whirling around my head. Apply to writing and let me know about it, seriously.

I joined a small group of sisters online to discuss different spiritual qualities in order to help us all grow in the gospel. The first two weeks were on faith. Many emails burned through the group but almost as one we all bemoaned the fact that we felt we didn't have much faith.

I have had this non-serious health issue for about 10 years. I've had at least two blessings and many fastings and prayers. I keep being told you can be healed if you have faith. In truth, I kinda spiritually shrugged and thought ok I have faith, just do it in your time Father, and I'll live with it until then.

When this opportunity came to share gospel principles, I felt a burning desire to finally reach a point to have faith to be healed (yes I am assuming this came from the Spirit). Today our final day, the group leader sent out a link to a talk by President Hinckley "We Walk by Faith" in the Liahona July 2002. She asked us to comment on what our experiences had been these past two weeks learning about faith.

Here was my answer: What I have learned is what I do not yet know. While this may sound counterproductive, it is not. The beginning of wisdom is knowing what you do not know. The Spirit gently advised me to seek not only out of the best books (talks) or scripture but to kneel and listen to my Heavenly Father. It is a gift of the Spirit and mine to have if I will do this.

I am reminded once again of how much I am loved as a child of God, of how incredibly silly I"ve been to miss this, and how grateful I am I can still learn.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A New Direction


By Christine Thackeray

So I feel like I'm clipping through my WIP when I go and talk to my brother about it. Mistake. He tells me to go a whole different direction. The only problem is he makes sense. I talk to my critique group. They sort of agree with him. Ack!

Here's the deal. I'm writing a book on Herod the Great. Well, it's actually a series of books starting with him at ten when the Romans take over Jerusalem and covering each major era of his life and the history that created the foundation of the New Testament.

My brother thought it should be like Star Wars and I should start with the Christmas Story when Herod is old, wracked with pain and filled with vengence. By seeing the cracks in Darth Vadar, we become curious how someone could get there and then my next release would be the one with him as a bright young kid.

He's right, isn't he? Good thing the children start school next week. I'm determined to have a completed manuscript by Christmas so I've got to decide by next week. Once the kids enter school, I'm writing full-time from nine to three. That's the plan. What do you think?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Editing Song

by Joan Sowards
(Tune: Christmas Bells are Ringing)

Editing, editing, here we go!
My manuscript needs shaping.
Finding typos like a pro—
None will be escaping.
Change the words that tell, not show,
Out of point of view, don’t go!
Slice, slice, cut, cut,
Anxious readers waiting!

Editing, editing to refine,
Hoping soon to publish.
Proofing carefully each line,
Delete all the rubbish.
Ousting passive verbs and such,
Adding taste and smell and touch.
Slice, slice, cut, cut,
Publishers are waiting!

Editing, editing page by page,
Ridding repetition
So the reader will engage
To the tale’s completion.
Dialogue and tenses right
Ditch the chitchat, make it tight.
Slice, slice, cut, cut,
Bookstore shelves are waiting!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Fitting End...or Just the Beginning?

by Kari Diane Pike

Remember me?
I'm Richy the Banker's daughter.
Only now, I am safe at home and have changed out of my adult care-giver hat and back into my mom-of-teens hat, my wife-of-one hat, and of course my student and writer hats and my favorite grandma hat. Every couple of days, I dig out my gardening hat or reluctantly dust off my housekeeping hat, usually found at the bottom of the laundry pile. While these hats may not look as exciting as my super-sleuthing hat, they are certainly a better fit.

After a nine day stay in Phoenix and my sleuthing experience at the track, it was time to get back to "normal life." Since I had flown to Phoenix on a one-way ticket, my sister-in-law, soon to be housemate, asked if I would be willing and able to drive one of her vehicles back up to Utah. I love win-win situations. I needed a way home and she needed help with the moving. The night before I was to come home, Becky brought me the car and handed me some cash to help pay for the gas. I placed the cash in a certain spot in my wallet so that I could keep track of my expenses. Early the next morning, I pulled into a gas station and handed the cashier the two twenty dollar bills Becky had given me. When the pump failed to start, I headed back to the cashier to see if she pushed the wrong button. The cashier met me at the door.

"Your twenties are counterfeit."

"What?"

"They're fake."

"What are you talking about?" I raced back to the car and grabbed my purse. I had another twenty from cashing a personal check at the credit union. I wanted to compare the bills and find out what the cashier meant by counterfeit. Where in the world would I get phony money? Well, besides at the track trying to collect a debt from a complete stranger. Then I remembered the cash Becky gave me.

"See here?" The cashier held a fake twenty up to the light and pointed her finger at it. "These bills don't have a water mark. You're supposed to be able to see the President's face right here in the lower right-hand corner."

I held up my twenty-dollar-bill from the credit union. Sure enough. There was President Andrew Jackson himself, not only front and center, but hiding in the corner as well. "I'm so sorry. I had no idea. My sister-in-law gave me that money last night. I'm sure she is unaware that this money is counterfeit. I probably should call her and tell her to check the rest of her cash." I handed the cashier good money for the gas. She handed the phony money back to me and I shoved them into my purse.

My mind whirled as I went through the motions of filling the gas tank and cleaning the windshield. Where would Becky get phony money? What do I do with it now? Is the cashier going to call the police? Is it a felony to cross a state line with counterfeit money? I latched my seat belt and dialed Becky on my cell phone.

"Ummm...Becky?"

"Hi! Are you on the road yet?"

"Well, sort of. I had a little problem. The twenties you gave me are fake."

"Oh. Wow. Really? I guess I didn't do as well at my moving sale as I thought I did. I gave you cash from my yard sale stash. I will have to call you back."

I started the car and headed north. By the time I arrived in Vegas, Becky had checked the rest of her money and found no other fakes. We decided that I should send the bills back to Arizona. Becky and her husband had a pretty good idea who had given them the twenties and they were going to turn them in to the police. Then I wondered. Would it be another felony to send fake money in the federal mail?

When I pulled into the driveway, home at last, my anxious husband bounded out the door and towards the car. Aww! He was so worried about me. I'm going to get the best hug. Doug, however, stopped in front of the car and made a frantic gesture for me to pop the hood. As I did so, I heard a loud hissing noise. Doug lifted the hood and did a quick side step to avoid the hot steam billowing from the engine. Someone had removed the cap from the coolant reservoir. I knew angels had attended me in my journey. How else could I have driven across the desert all those miles and not overheated and broken down? I offered a silent, but heartfelt prayer of gratitude.

Then my writer hat prompted another thought. Who removed the cap? Did David forget to put the cap back on after checking the fluids? What if the salesman guy at the track really worked for Austin? Was there a secret message on the counterfeit money and someone was following me, hoping I would break down?

I sense a book in the making!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Making Money from Twitter

By Lynn Parsons


So, how can you make money from Twitter? You can use it to generate free advertising, or post some sponsored tweets.

To use Twitter as a marketing tool, look for people with similar interests using the search tool. Remember those #hashtags? Search for them! For example, I have a friend opening a candy store soon (no, it’s not near me, so no freebies). She could search for #sweet, #chocolate, #candy, #sweettooth, and other similar words. Then she can send messages to people on Twitter who have used those hashtags and may be interested in earning money by tweeting her message. This also works for books!

Want to earn money directly from tweets? First, go to http://sponsoredtweets.com/ and sign up. The site will suggest a price per tweet based on your Twitter status. You’ll be asked to pick a category and supply a list of tags—topics that you tweet about. Select a content rating, choose how you want to be notified, say who referred you (I’m @parsonslynn!), and click to register.

Note: Your account needs to be at least two months old and have a minimum of 50 followers to qualify. You’ll be given opportunities when they come up, and you can accept or decline.

Have fun tweeting, and remember I’m @parsonslynn, and I’ll follow you back!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fear of failure or fear of success?

I have a healthy fear of failure. That's why you don't see me cliff-diving.

But in other areas of life I've decided failure is easy. It's comfortable. It's success that requires work. Success brings expectation. Like writing a book and subsequently having it published. Work, expectation...and people-you-know will read it. I fear that.

First-time author Elana Johnson posted about the fear of success today at her blogspot. She received copy edits and talks about seeing her book in an almost book-like form. We dream of that day, right? But I understand her fear.

On a little bit of a different bent, today I read a blog post by agent Chip MacGregor (posted last March) where he said, "There's this myth in our culture that your mettle will somehow be tested by failure. Baloney. All of us experience some failure, some rejection, some times of being ignored, and we get over it. We have to, since the world keeps going. I don't think our souls are tested all that much by failure...they are tested much more by success." He mentions how the Bible has a myriad of warnings for the rich and powerful, but for the poor and ignored, not so much. (Read blog post here.) So he's saying maybe there's reason to fear it because success will most certainly be a test of our character.

All I know is I'm not worried about my character as much as I'm worried about you reading my book. (Well, not you, but all those other people.)

Which is it for you? Which do you fear more--failure or success?

[and if you missed my Monday (8/23/10) post at valerieipson.blogspot.com, go check it out. I promise it will make your day]

Monday, August 23, 2010

The consequence of obedience

By Stacy Johnson

My kids are notorious for using the phrase, "OK, hold on," when I ask them to do something.   I might say, "I need you to get your room cleaned."  Their response is usually, "OK, hold on."  I could even say, "Hey, if you will go right now and open the dishwasher, there is a million dollars in there."  You know what my kids would say? "OK, hold on."

Recently, we attended a carnival to raise money for our football league.  It was warm when we started, but we enjoyed some yummy fried foods, snow cones, soda, and visiting with friends.  The best part for the kids were the jumpy things, the inflatable kind that you slide down, bounce on, and race your friends in the obstacle course on.  They were having a blast.  The sun finally went down and it cooled off only slightly.  But, when you're a kid, somehow the heat doesn't bother you like it does adults.

So, I was getting tired, I was hot, and not having a great time holding the sweaty baby who only wanted me to nurse him or walk around with him for the last three hours.  So, since it was almost time for the carnival to end, I ventured back where the jumpy things were and started gathering my kids.  I found my nine year old and told her to head back to our shade and start packing up, but not before she found her seven year old sister and tell her it was time to go.  I then found my 10  year old neighbor who had come with us and told him to find my 11 year old and head back to the shade.  With that, I turned and started back towards the shade.  At about 10 steps, the wind picked up and brought the smell of rain with it.  I walked past one lady and we both said it at the same time, "Can you smell the rain?"  I continued walking to my shade.

My nine year old daughter was a few steps ahead of me and I yelled at her to run and tell the older boys to put the shade down before the wind picked it up and blew it away.  She took off running.  It hadn't been 90 seconds since I told the kids it was time to leave before I noticed the wind had picked up considerably .  Knowing the older ones had the shade and our chairs, the crib, blankets, and ice chest ready to move, I turned to make sure the others were behind me.  As I turned, I noticed one of the jumpy rides take flight.  The wind had swept it up and carried it 25 feet to the fence and slammed against it.  At the same time, a rented light tower caught the wrath of the jumpy and went rolling.  It all seemed like it was in slow motion too, like something you see in a scary movie.

I quickly gathered my children who had heeded my request to leave the jumpies and had them haul our belongings to the nearby truck and take the babies and sit and wait for me.  While a dozen or so adults ran to the aid of the jumpies and the children in that area, I found someone to lower the remaining light towers and turn them off while I headed over to see if I could help some vendors put their stuff away.  There was little to be done there, so I headed back to the jumpies and helped deflate and roll them so they wouldn't blow anymore and assess the damage.

Luckily, not seconds after I asked my children to leave, the adults manning the inflatable rides began evacuating them and getting children down as fast as they could.  Unfortunately, one child was still on top when a gust of wind took the first ride and the child with it.  We later found out that he escaped with a few bumps and bruises.  The light tower took down a coach with it, but he too, was relatively unhurt.  The pelting rain that stung my skin was the only pain I suffered as we closed down the festivities.

About half an hour later, in the car, all of us soaking wet, I turned to my children and thanked them for being obedient the first time I had asked and then I asked them if they understood that there can be good consequences and bad consequences.  I explained that this was a good consequence, that they were safe from being injured on those rides because they came when I asked them to.  We offered a prayer of gratitude for our safety and a blessing on the little injured boy and on our journey home.   It was a night I will remember for a long time and so will my children.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How I Track Word Count

by Marsha Ward

As I drown in slip-sliding paper falling toward me and my fingers on the keyboard (most of which I could shred, once I extract the odd computer disk, wedding announcement, and hardback book from the pile), it occurs to me that I could share how I keep track of my word count as I write.

Now understand, this can be as complex or as simple as I want to make it. I can use the Excel chart my friend J. Scott Savage sent me several years ago that nags me incessantly, or I can add and subtract words as I write and edit, or I can keep a simple running tally at the beginning and the end of my writing day. I kind of like the simple style nowadays, so I'll tell you how that last thing works.

I love the 9.5 inch by 6 inch one-subject notebooks for this task. They're not so big as to be in the way, and not so small as to disappear amidst the rubble on my desk. I open it up and draw three equally-spaced lines down the page. This gives me two sections of columns to fill up.

In the left-most column, at the top, I put the date. I can put anything else in the nature of notes in that column, like the times I start and end, the scene or chapter I'm working on, and how many hours I work. I see I have a notation saying slippery elm bark and chamomile tea. Ha! I know what scene that one was!

The second column is where I put the beginning word count opposite the date. If I'm starting fresh, this is zero. If I want to, I can add the word count when I do a save, when I get up for lunch, or what-not (I usually only put down the last three digits, or hundreds). The last figure I put in that column is the final word count of the day, unless I want to do a total of words written underneath it. I finish the day with a horizontal line drawn under all the notes for the day, in both columns.

The other section of two columns is for when I get to the bottom of the page. You knew that, right?

How do you find your word count at the beginning and end of the writing period?

If you're in Word, look for a menu item called Word Count. It might be in the Tools menu. That's where I'd look first, because that's where it is in my ancient Word 2003. Before you click it, highlight all your text. Then click Word Count, and you'll have a rough estimate of your words. I say "rough," because it will count every asterisk (*) and Chapter Heading, but it's good enough for starters. Do this again when you quit for the day, and you have the second count.

Or, you can use the software program I now use, yWriter5, which tells me at the bottom of the main window how many words I write that day, along with the total of words in the project. I put those numbers in my notebook at start and end of day.

yWriter5 and its antecedents were written by novelist and computer programmer Simon Haynes of Australia. He couldn't find a writing software that suited his needs, so he wrote it. He updates it quite often, sometimes to meet suggestions of users, but it's a lean program written to use few resources of your machine. It even runs off a flash drive, so it's highly portable.

You can find yWriter5 at http://www.spacejock.com (Hal Spacejock is the hero of Simon's futuristic sci-fi series). There are several other useful programs to be found there, as well as a link to the new how-to wiki created by the folks in the next paragraph.

This software is free, not only no-cost, but free of nasty surprises like virii, Trojan horses, and other malware. There's an active community of users in a Google group who support each other. The old hands answer the questions of the newbies, and Simon occasionally pops in, too.

Can you tell I like yWriter5? Let's see how many converts I can make. Let's see, |||...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

To Blog is to Write

by Cindy R. Williams

Blogging. Some tell me it's not really writing. (You know who you are.) Well, if this isn't writing, then is it just messing around and typing words on a computer for fun or practice? Is it just a waste of both yours and my time? Some say it doesn't have a valid purpose. I say a hearty "NAY!"

Blogging is a way to connect with other people, and to share experiences and knowledge. I have learned so much about life, read great examples of faith and love, and learned tons about the writing process from technique to queries to publishing and life after publishing. It's also an avenue or tool to support each other and to lift and buoy up the weary.

Oh sure, we can waste time surfing blogs when we should be catching up on our chores, writing or even sleeping. Yes, some blogs are nothing more than sheer entertainment. (Beats TV, if you ask me, and if you didn't, too bad, this is my blog post.) Just like everything else in life . . . balance in all things.
What say you, dear reader of this blog? YAY or NAY. Is blogging really writing?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sincerity in Blogging and Comments

by Tanya Parker Mills

My daughter was home for a whirlwind six (yes, only six) days, before returning to Provo to prepare for moving and beginning fall semester. While she was here, she asked me to read a long and thoughtful Facebook note posted by a friend about the lack of sincerity in communication at BYU. Her friend posted this after coming off an unsatisfying DTR (for those of us who are out of it--and I certainly was--that stands for "Define the relationship") conversation with a guy she liked. Her main point was that if people would just be honest from the beginning, a lot of pain and confusion could be avoided.

So, I'd been thinking a good bit about sincerity and then today on the Publishing Pulse I get from QueryTracker, there was a link to this posting by agent Jessica Papin of Dystel & Godrich. I'd love for you to give it a read (and don't skip her readers' comments, either), and then answer the following questions (sincerely) with me:

1) What percentage of the time do we post a comment on someone's blog just to keep our name out there? (I'm guilty of this, I'll admit...for me, I'd say 60%)

2) Do we read all the comments on our own blog postings and reply to each of them because we want to...or because marketing people say we should? (50-50 for me)

3) Do we post on agents' blogs to get their attention and, when we do, do we try extra hard to come across as professional, witty, and cool...or are we just ourselves? (I've only posted on one agency blog and it was to ask a question...though I labored long and hard over exactly how to put the question. Mostly, I'm just a lurker.)

4) Are we afraid to disagree with the blogger publicly in a comment? (Yes...I don't want to burn bridges. But I'm rethinking this after reading what Jessica had to say.)

5) Are we afraid to really be ourselves in our blogging? (Yes, particularly when it comes to politics because I'm sure 80% of you would not only disagree with me but begin to distrust me...after all, I'm a Democrat. GASP! There, now you know.)

I'd love to read your honest responses.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Help me help you

by Susan G. Haws


Help me help you. I say that phrase a lot these days; whether it is in reference to helping my mom sit up or trying to diagnose her current need. I tell her, “pull on me and I’ll pull on you.” When the person seeking help does their part, the person helping has a much easier time. With moving I try to make it easy on people I ask to drive a load of boxes or deal with the house. How does this relate to anyone else’s’ situation? When we ask for assistance from a critique friend, editor or even God; the more we give the more they have to work with and can give back.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Happy New School Year

by Tamara Passey


Something about school supplies and fall fashions in the stores and I get nostalgic. I think the student part of me loves learning and gets excited -even though I'm not the one returning to school. Of course, being the mom of kids going back to school, I appreciate some order resuming to our household routine. But this is not a blog post about how nice it is to have a (partially) quiet house or a pantry that isn't raided every hour, on the hour. I happen to love spending time with my children over their summer break and I also love when a new school year begins.

I realize no ball dropped in Times Square, and we didn't count down at midnight on the First Day of School Eve. But I have caught myself in reflective moods, taking stock. Sort of the way I feel around the first week of January. Making a mental inventory of my projects and goals. And I think I figured out why I love the back to school time of year (and it's not just because of the bargains!) I love beginnings and all their possibilities. I know beginning some things are more daunting than others - starting a new school, learning a new skill or hobby, moving to a new state. But tucked away behind the apprehensiveness and fear is the possibility, all the things that could happen, the hope of something grand. So, in honor of the new school year, begin something new, even if its as simple as using a new notebook for your journal - imagine the possibilities!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Seashell

by Terri Wagner

I'm not sure what brought this on, but I've gone into 80s mode lately. Maybe because for the most part I loved the 80s. So I'm throwing out this writing exercise this guy at William & Mary had us do in his creative writing class. So put on your tights, your headband, play Manic from Flashdance and do this exercise.

Take a seashell and look at it and then write everything it evokes. Then read your response. If you spent time describing it, that's your favored forte. You like descriptions. If your words evoke memories of being on a beach, a special day, a special moment, you are into safe sweet memories. If you pragmatically wrote the scientific aspects of the shell, then you are into techno writing. If you wrote what you would do with the shell (hold it up to your ear) or how you found the shell, you are an action oriented writer.

It was a very eye-opening experience for all of us. I discovered I was action oriented. And all these years later, I find, I still am.

Have fun with it. And if you need an interpretation, just ask.

Monday, August 16, 2010

More Than One Way to Get There

By: Rebecca Irvine

Writing a book involves much more than developing a plot that gets the reader from point A to point B. Everyone loves a good plot twist, but it is not always easy to come up with creative, yet plausible, ones. It helps if authors try to look at the problem presented by their plot in different ways. Here is a list of various strategies that can be used in problem solving; you have probably already used some (if not many) of them. But by trying to use new problem-solving strategies, you might just find new ideas worth writing about.

Build up
Eliminate
Work forward
Work backward
Associate
Display
Organize
List
Check
Diagram
Visualize
Hypothesize
Simulate
Role play
Exaggerate
Understate
Separate
Adapt
Question
Incubate
Dream
Discuss
Compare
Contrast

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Master Wordsmith

By Cecily Markland

From the time I was a young girl, words have fascinated me and provided hours of entertainment. Often, when I was delaying my chores or when it was way past my bedtime and I still couldn’t pull myself away from my preferred pastime, I heard—so many times, in fact, that it still rings in my ears—the chiding from my mom or dad to “get your nose out of that book.”
I was almost glad for the few times when I was sick enough to miss school, because all I needed was a piece of paper and a pencil and I could spend hours writing down all the short words I could make by rearranging the letters in a longer word or phrase, like “Mississippi” or “Happy Birthday.” Or, I’d pick and ending, like “-at” or “-ight” and list as many words as I could think of with those endings.
It wasn’t until a little later in life that I realized words needed to be looked at as more than simple entertainment—or a way to escape my Saturday chores.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize the importance of my “working” words—and I am grateful for the opportunities I have as a freelance writer and editor to do something I love while still providing a roof over my head.
Even more than that, however, I’ve also learned that words have a place in our very salvation. “For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us and we shall not be found spotless,” we are told in Alma 12:14.
Of course, words would be important to a Father whose words directed the process set the very planets in orbit … and to a Son, who was referred to as “the Word” who was “made flesh and dwelt among us."
In fashioning our conversations and our writings—and in every other thing we do—we are encouraged to look to Christ—and especially to the words of Christ.
In Alma 37:45, the words of Christ are compared to the Liahona, the “director” that was provided in the wilderness.
“And for just as surely as this director did bring our father, by following its course to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.”
I still love to play word games and I still love to read into the wee hours of the morning, but I’ve also learned to treasure and even to feast at times, on the words of the master wordsmith…and I love, indeed, what He continues to write on the tables of my heart!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My New Hat

by Kari Diane Pike

I love hats. As a teenager I owned several different kinds of hats, despite their unpopularity among the "fashionable" crowd. I often wished I had grown up in an earlier era when a woman never left the house without donning her favorite chapeau. Lately, however, I have been contemplating the figurative hats that we wear: daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, grandmother, friend, cook, housekeeper, employee/employer, chauffeur, activities director, health care specialist, teacher, and many, many others.

I've had fun wearing a variety of those hats this summer as a parade of children and grandchildren visited our home. Last week I tried on a new hat. Dad, who has been caring for my disabled mother for nearly twenty years, suddenly needed a caregiver of his own. Picture in your mind a three-year-old clomping down the sidewalk in her mother's much too large heels and an over-sized floppy hat that keeps slipping over her eyes. I feel like that little girl as I try to wear this new "adult care-giver" hat.

As each day passes, the fit gets a little better. A sense of humor is by far one of the best "sizers." I flew to Phoenix Saturday evening. While Dad still manifested many of the symptoms of a recovering stroke patient, confusion, weakness, speech deficiency, etc., I could tell he was determined to regain his health and independence. Early Monday morning Dad told me he needed me to take him somewhere.

"Where do you want to go Dad?"

"I need you to take me to the track."

"Why do you want to go to the track?"

" I need you to take me to the track because I need to find Austin. He owes me $43.00 and I need to collect before he loses it."

"OK, Dad. At nine o'clock, I'll take you to the track."

Mom overheard the conversation and motioned for me to come talk to her. She informed me that Dad was still under home-health services and was not allowed to leave the house except for doctor appointments and a church service. Oh. Dad growled a bit and announced that he really needed to collect the money from Austin.

"Dad, do you want me to go to the track for you? You could describe Austin to me and tell me where to find him."

Dad's countenance brightened as he gave me directions to the track and a description of the man who owed him the money. "Austin's a big, obese guy with adenoid problems. You can't miss him. They know me down there as Richey, the Banker. You tell him you're Richey the Banker's daughter and you're there to collect the money he owes me."

I found the keys to my parents' mini van and made the two-mile drive to the race track. The nearly empty parking lot created a bit of apprehension. What was I thinking? I was looking for a complete stranger in order to collect a gambling debt. All the murder mystery novels I've read came flooding back to my mind as I got out of the car and followed the sidewalk. What if...? An older gentleman wearing a western shirt, jeans and cowboy boots came out through the big glass doors of the clubhouse entrance. He tipped his hat and gave me a half smile as he passed by. The breath I had been holding whooshed out. I told myself to stop letting my imagination run away. I took another deep breath and made my way up the escalator and turned to the right, just like Dad told me. He said I could find Austin at a table in the far corner, against the windows. Only Austin wasn't there. None of the tables in front of the windows had occupants. A gentleman's voice echoed in the nearly empty clubhouse. I walked around a pillar and spotted the source of the voice.

"Can I help you?" the man asked as I approached. He stood and closed his cell phone. He had a pleasant enough countenance despite the salesman schmooze I heard him using on the phone. I felt safe asking for his help. Another man walked came into the room and stood nearby. At least I had a witness, or maybe not. What if they were together? Perspiration dripped down the middle of my back.

"Yes. Thank you. Do you know if Austin is here?"

"Why would you be looking for Austin?" His tone of voice emphasized the "you" and "Austin" in such a way that I began once again to doubt the wisdom of my errand.

"He doesn't owe you any money, does he?" The second man stood staring at me, his arms crossed in front, as they both waited for my answer.

"I'm Richey, the Banker's daughter and he's laid up and can't leave the house. He sent me to collect from Austin."

"Richey who?" The salesman frowned in confusion trying to place "Richey the Banker."


The other man's head snapped back in recognition. "Oh! Are you talking about Richard? I know Richard."

"Yes, I'm Richard's daughter. He told me what to say to Austin and ask for the money."

"Austin stiffs everybody. He stiffed me three different times. If I was you, I'd go get some cash and just tell your dad that you collected. Tell you what, if we see Austin, we'll even try to collect for your Dad."

Relieved, I nodded, expressed my thanks, and hurried out of the clubhouse as quickly as I could. I climbed into the car and started the engine. A blast of cold air from the vent chilled my sweaty body and made me shiver. I put on my seat belt and sat back in the chair. The previous five minutes replayed through my mind. Richey the Banker's daughter? Really? I giggled. How ridiculous had I looked to those guys in there? Of course, you know what I thought next. Some day this will be a scene in a book...you know...house wife and grandmother of 14 becomes super sleuth. Picture a cross between "Murder, She Wrote" and "Charlie's Angels." It could happen! Now all I need to do is pick the color of hat I want to wear.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More Twitter--Hashtags, FollowFridays, and Karma Twitter

By Lynn Parsons

By now, you should have set up your Twitter account and even found some followers. Good for you!

Wondering about all those tweets containing words with a # sign in front of them? Like #blogpost. Those are called hashtags, and they have two purposes. One is to help people search for tweets on a certain subject, like #ldsstorymakers. The other is to provide commentary and humor. For example, I could tweet about adventures with my grandkids and include hashtags like #tiredgrandma, #havingtoomuchfun, or #canItakeanap. It's a way to insert a little personality into your 140 characters.

One common hashtag is #FF or #FollowFridays. That means you post a tweet starting with #FF and list by name all the people you think are worth following. This leads other people to follow those you listed, and someone may actually suggest people follow you. This is a great way to increase your followers.

So, now you've tried out some hashtags, sent a #FF tweet, and your list of followers is growing. Look on the right hand side of your home page, and you may see some people Twitter suggests you follow. This is based on the people you already follow, and who they are following. As your list grows, you may decide to weed out the people you follow who don't follow you back.

There are several programs that can help you decide how to narrow your list. I've used Twitter Karma, available at http://dossy.org/twitter/karma/. Yes, it's free! Just log in, and it will show you how reciprocal your Twitter relationships are. You can hand select who to unfollow or blow them off in bulk.

OK, you have your homework cut out for you. Next month, how to monetize your Twitter account. Don't worry, I'll be the guinea pig!

Until then, remember I'm @parsonslynn, and if you follow me, I'll follow you!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It's finally here...

The fabulous writeoncon for Children's/YA writers!!!

Here's the link...

http://writeoncon.com/about/schedule/

Monday, August 9, 2010

I told you so! or not


By Stacy Johnson

I had one of those "I told you so" moments with my son last week.  While I wanted to revel in the moment, the situation turned on me.  It is pretty funny so I want to share.

My son who will be 18 tomorrow, bought a morph suit.  Have you seen these things?  They are scary.  Think of Blue Man Group or Spiderman suit but make it all black.  It is weird.  It is especially weird to see your 6'2" son who is skinny as a rail put it on and come out wearing it.  The first time he did, my two year old screamed bloody murder and for the next two days when he was near her without the suit she would say, "Geta way!  You scare me, don't do that."  Her scared, little pouty face was hard to look at because she was totally and completely serious.  The baby, on the other hand, thought it was hilarious and he loves to play with him.  

Vance kept telling me about all the places he was going to wear his morph suit and I got a sick feeling in my stomach.  I told him I thought the suit was a little scary and it might make people suspicious and call the police.  I added that I thought it was a bad idea to wear it anywhere except at maybe a friend's party, but I'd leave the choice up to him.   He assured me that plenty of people have worn them in public and not to worry.  I ended the conversation with the warning that I would not like a phone call from the police needing me to come pick up my underage trouble maker from anywhere.  He laughed at me like I was ridiculous.

So, the first weekend, he and his friends went to the parking lot of the WalMart and Quiznos (where he works) and he put on the suit.  He went around shaking people's hands and just being a nuisance, but not hurting anyone or touching any cars or property.  What do you think happened?  Someone thought he looked suspicious and called the police.  I told you so!  And the first time wearing it out too!  He interrupted my moment of glee to add, "So the policeman came and found me in the parking lot and he got out of his car.  He asked me for ID and I pointed to my car on the other side of the lot.  He looked my name up on the computer and saw that I was clear and then wanted to know all the details about where I bought it, how I got into it, what I was doing and stuff like that.  Then he called all patrol cars in the vicinity to come and check me out.  Within just a few minutes, I was surrounded by 5 cop cars and I was really nervous."  

I just sat there with my mouth open, I felt like I was going to throw up during the whole story.  He finally concluded by saying that as soon as the rest of the deputies showed up and got out of their cars, they all started laughing, they thought it was the funniest thing they had ever seen.  Then he had to answer all their questions too.  Finally he said the cop told him to go home, so he did.  Whew, I'm glad that ended well.  But, it gets better (for him).

Last weekend, I took a bunch of the kids ice skating.  My oldest brought some friends and his morph suit (without my knowledge).  After skating for about 30 minutes, he left and I didn't know where he had gone.  Not even 10 minutes later, here he comes back on the ice in his morph suit but this time with clothes over it.  Still creepy if you ask me.  But, I let it go, he is harmless and nobody seems to have a problem with it except for my two year old who was not happy about it.  

Pretty soon, this dad comes over to him and says that his little boy has hurt his finger while skating and the kid things that my son is some kind of super hero, would he mind coming over and saying something to the boy?  Vance did and the kid forgot about his finger and was in awe at the real live super hero standing in front of him.

Super Hero or Super Scary?
Needless to say, I may be the only one who thinks the suit is creepy, what do you think?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Recap

by Marsha Ward

The last few weeks have been exciting, brutal, horrendous, tender, and very interesting.

Some of the events included a writers' retreat (you've heard a lot about that here and on other blogs), a visit to the cardiologist, getting kick-started on my novel, a death in the family, a funeral, a malware attack on my desktop computer, and cutting back on my volunteer activities.

I think I should write contemporary horror novels! It's now what I know.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

ANWA RETREAT 2010

By Cindy R. Williams
The picture of the frog does have something to do with this blog. Read on and find out.

I returned home a week ago from the ANWA Writers Retreat. It was amazing. Three days of being surrounded by women writers of my same beliefs. If you’re a writer, you know how wonderful it is to have heart to heart talks with other writers.

They get it.

They get that characters talk in your head and sometimes you have to get out of bed to jot down what they are saying or doing.

They get it that some of your characters won’t leave you alone until you write about them even though you’re working on a different story.

They get that sometimes you are so deeply involved in your story that half the night’s gone before you climb into bed.

They know that a WIP is not “whip” misspelled but a Work In Progress.

They now that POV stands for point of view.

They know the rest of the lingo including things like; protagonist, antagonist, query, homonyms, synonyms, emotional curve, hooks, pacing and info dump.

Writers are proud of their rejection letters and even host contest to see who has received the most in one year.

Writers know all about the angst of getting a character out of horribly tough situations that they themselves put them in.

Yes, it was fabulous to be with ladies writers that walk the walk and talk the talk and write the words. Thank you my dear writing friends of ANWA. What a glorious time it was to be with you.

Now, about that frog. It rained --no poured and flooded the "Bunk House" downstairs on Friday at the Retreat. Krista, Tiffany, Siciley and I had a blast (okay maybe that's stretching it) scooping and tossing buckets of the wet stuff from the window well amongst all the BLACK WIDOW SPIDERS! We slogged back into the cabin soaked to the skin, chilled to the bones and a wee bit exhausted. Lovely Anna had fixed us hot chocolate by melting some of the chocolate from the goodies table. I thought our trials were over. Alas . . . it was not to be. In the middle of the night I woke up to thumping on the walls in my room. I knew there must be some creepy murdering type character out in the hall, but had too much pride to call out for help. After all, the ever famous Janette Rallison, Donna Hatch, Sarah Eden and Carroll Morris were just across the hall. I had to save some face. I really think I just didn't want to end up in one of their books so I mustered all of my inner bravery, and turned on the bed side lamp. There was a little three inch frog jumping up and down, trying to find his way out. Only thing I can figure is that the frogs were seeking higher and dryer ground. Rather than wake any of the others, I went on a frog hunt. Thank goodness they weren't BLACK WIDOWS or I would have made Aimee handle them. Frogs are actually kind of cute.

Hoppy writing. Waa Waa Waa

Friday, August 6, 2010

Time Out...Please?

by Tanya Parker Mills

We all need a Thoreau vacation (which I like to call a thorough vacation). Back in his day, all you had to do was pack a knapsack of essentials, hike to some remote spot and camp out--undisturbed by anything or anyone but nature.

Sounds nice, eh?

In our age of connectivity, if we tried Thoreau's approach we'd soon be placed on the Missing Persons list at police headquarters. So how about a modern equivalent?

What ties us down most and overwhelms our schedule to the point that we forget about face to face time with those we love, not to mention our Maker? What gets in the way of our ability to ponder? I'll tell you what intrudes on my thinking, creative time: TV, Email, Facebook, my iPhone (except when I'm using it to read), the Internet, Blogging...and that's just for starters.

Wouldn't it be great to pick a month and unplug from everything digital?

These days they call it a "Digital Sabbatical," and I think it's a must for writers and overwhelmed moms. You can read more about it here.

Now, since I'm obligated to blog here every other Friday, I can't do a full sabbatical...but I can come close and, as a birthday present to myself next month, I'm going to undertake my own custom-designed Digital Sabbatical. How does that sound to you? What would you be willing to forego for a little more peace of mind?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hijacked

By Susan G. Haws

Help I have been hijacked. Or rather my agenda has been unexpectedly rearranged. My neighbor came over to help me with my yard. I need the help so while I had hoped to do that Sat. or even Mon., out I went. I managed to negotiate a truce with the weed eater. (We have never been friends.) So while my mom felt neglected and I am not posting my blog until night the yard is looking 500% better thanks to my kind neighbor.

I quick did some survival shopping and my mom is so happy to have company she is chatting like a Kathy doll. I am behind on so many fronts. Yesterday I asked my sister for a favor. It probably derailed some of her plans. I had to reschedule a dentist appointment this week. I am sure it upset their plans. I find that if I am prepared in most areas a change or setback in one area is not a big deal. If I keep my perspective that things can be cleaned and that health and safety are what is important; I find I am more flexible. But when I am already behind something small slows me down exponentially, or totally changes my course. Emotionally I find that if I am already off center something insignificant on another day can send me over the edge. It seems balance and preparedness like the ten virgins lead to reduced stress and success. What have you done to bring flexibility and control to your life?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Growing Inspiration

by Tamara Passey

Have you ever tried to force a plant to grow? Or a flower to bloom? Or force fruit to ripen? Have you ever tried to force inspiration? That doesn't work so well either. I wasn't exactly trying to force inspiration for this blog post --I just got excited when I had an opportunity to visit the gardens at Thanksgiving Point yesterday. I planned to wander the beautiful grounds there and come home with ample analogies for nurturing the inner writer like a gardener might nurture his flower beds.

It was Two-Buck Tuesday, so I brought my children. We arrived and the place was packed. We were there no more than six minutes when my four year-old said, "Can we go home to Grandma's pool?" Of course we stayed, having just driven numerous miles and paid admission. But my time there was not the leisurely, contemplative kind. I spent the next few hours helping my child stay engaged in the vibrant outdoors. The vibrant, hot, humid and crowded outdoors. Oh, isn't that what summer family vacations are for?

The gardens were great for a day trip with my children. Had the conditions been different, I might have been struck with ideas for writing. But maybe not. Those inspiring ideas are like the gardens --they bloom when they are ready --not always when we are.

As for nurturing the inner writer, this is my conclusion: Take your kids to the gardens (or any other lovely place) to nurture them. Buy a 15 cent notebook at any school supply sale and take it and yourself anywhere you'd like . . . and write. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Listening for that Still Small Voice

by Terri Wagner

As Gospel Doctrine teacher, I have the privilege of learning a doctrinal lesson every week. There's nothing like having to teach to make you study. This last Sunday's lesson was on Elijah. I felt that the focus for the class should be on waiting out the whirlwind, the earthquake and the fire for the still small voice.

As I prepared my lesson, I felt the Spirit testifying to me about the importance of the whirlwind, the earthquake and the fire. Today we could liken them to diva drama (guys have this too, they just don't like to admit it), the emotionally charged moment and moral confusion.

In pondering the significance of this lesson both to Elijah and to us, I thought about an experience I had years ago with a close friend. We were writing a story and she wanted a certain type of love scene which the plot seem to call for while I was uncomfortable with it. We struggled to find a solution. It ended with a plot change that drained all our enthusiam for the story.

I've read this blog for years and the same moral confusion seems to rise up. Perhaps we should wait out the whirlwind, the earthquake and the fire to hear the still small voice that will surely guide us to the best option.

The message of the Elijah also seemed to include waiting for the best not settling for less.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Future is Coming

By: Rebecca Irvine

I just got back from vacation and am exhausted, so I have decided to post portions of an article recently published in the Los Angeles Times, titled Apple's Tablet and the Future of Literature (by Daniel Akst). Sorry for being so lazy, but I have been very interested recently by what appears to be a siesmic shift in the publishing industry, not to mention the implications it will have for authors around the world. I hope you find this as interesting as I have.

Literature has always relied on technology. We wouldn't have the Dead Sea Scrolls had the ancients failed to invent papyrus, just as we wouldn't have "The Da Vinci Code" if Gutenberg hadn't come out with movable type.

Technology has also abetted literature by enabling the wealth and leisure that fueled the rise of the popular press -- and allowed for such luxuries as a class of professional writers and a large campus establishment devoted to the literary arts.

It is important to bear in mind that technology is not the sworn enemy of literature as Apple prepares (according to frantic rumor) to unveil its much-anticipated new tablet computer on Jan. 27. Still, the collision of technology and literature in this case may well prove explosive.

A well-designed Apple tablet, embedded in the right business model, has the potential to blow up the book business as we know it, ultimately upending the whole rickety edifice of publishers, booksellers and agents, much as the digital revolution (and Apple) have done to the music business.

It's been clear for a while, of course, that the future of text is digital. And an Apple tablet wouldn't be the first of its kind. Amazon's Kindle is almost synonymous with dedicated electronic readers, and others have appeared recently as well.

But these devices are relatively primitive. By comparison, the iPhone and its iPod Touch sibling are already remarkably good reading machines while doing so much more as well. Equipped with a 10-inch screen and sold for the right price, the formidable tablet will force competitors to ramp up their game.

These new tablets will give ink on paper a powerful nudge into history's wastebasket, helping to remake not just books but newspapers, magazines and other material we've traditionally consumed in print.

The result will be a seismic change in the literary culture. Ubiquitous tablets will make books cheaper and more readily available, even as physical bookstores follow Tower Records into oblivion. Lending libraries will have to figure out a new mission; the time is not far off when the typical 10-year-old will have the equivalent of the Library of Alexandria in her backpack.

Tablets will also change the nature of books. The reliably fixed quality of ink on paper is being replaced by the protean nature of bytes, introducing an element of impermanence into the written record of civilization, as some scholars have already complained.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Kaizen for Writers

By Cecily Markland

The Japanese named it, Toyota adopted it, and most writers seem to have it instinctively.

Called “kaizen,” it comes from the Japanese word for "improvement" or "change for the better."

This philosophy of focusing on continuous improvement has been referred to particularly in manufacturing, engineering, business and management practices. Companies, like Toyota, who have made kaizen a standard practice, use it as a way to improve production and simplify processes. Most of all, though, kaizen emphasizes people and their contributions. So, companies that apply this philosophy look for ways to continue to improve functions while involving all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers—making their bottom line better, while maintaining the human side of their business.

When kaizen is applied, employees are to be on constant alert, looking for ways to improve and to help make others’ jobs easier. Front line workers are to watch for anything that doesn’t seem to be working right or flowing smoothly, and then, to suggest changes and modifications. Those on the shipping or packaging end of things are encouraged to consider the complete picture and recommend ways to help things move along better.

Okay, no need to belabor the industrial view of kaizen. My point is, it’s a philosophy that is deeply imbedded in most writers as well. It’s pretty obvious, don’t you think? Writers seem to have an instinct, a fundamental drive that pushes them to improve themselves and to contribute to the world around them.

As writers, we look, not for changes that simply get the job done, but ways to “change for the better,” by continually improving our plots, making our characters come to life, and struggling to find the exact word that conveys the meaning and emotion our stories need. Ultimately, our goal is writers is to make the process of communication, of conveying human emotions and resolutions, in ways that will flow most smoothly and elicit the most favorable responses from our end users.

Our internal kaizen instincts drive us to read others’ writing, to attend writers’ conferences (by the way, GREAT job to those who put together the ANWA Retreat) and to struggle to put ourselves in touch with the most effective muse we can find.

While every writer has those kernels of desire, some have revved up their drive and formalized their processes so they seem to be hitting on all cylinders, producing and publishing work that is better and more widely received all the time.
Unfortunately, looking at the Toyota’s among us, some get a bit discouraged and forget that a minor tune-up of even a paragraph or two a day will get them moving along on their own kaizen process.

Sometimes it’s a little thing that will get us regenerated and refocused. A critique that gives us new ideas, a manuscript sent to a publisher, or something completely non-writing related that spurs us on. Sometimes, it’s other people’s words that remind us to get back in there and find wonderful ways to use our own.
For me, Valerie Ipson’s keynote at the ANWA Retreat was that kind of catalyst, as were two other great quotes I read this week. In Red Means Go, Carl Taylor says “When you apply consistent daily practice, your life is going to change dramatically.”

And, a Scottish Proverb reminds us, “What may be done at any time, will be done at no time.”

With that, my own kaizen process now has a plan for the coming weeks, with specific writing times, a project goal…and, most of all, a desire to take a step or two forward in this process of continual improvement!