Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Trauma

by Kami Cornwall

(this is an excerpt from my memoirs - a work in progress)

“The Brady Bunch is on! Heather! Matt! Hurry up! The Brady Bunch is starting!” My three-year-old body was jumping for joy because the Brady Bunch was going to start soon. Come on. How many of you weren't jumping up and down like a pogo-stick at the thought of the Brady Bunch starting? We never missed a show! We had to pile in front of the T.V. as soon as possible! Heather and I would argue about which one of us was more like Marsha (nobody wanted to be Jan) and time was running out! I continued to jump like a bunny rabbit down the hall into the living room. That's when my forehead met the metal tipped corner of a shelf on the wall.

While my dad drove like a maniac to the hospital, he explained to me that I'd probably need stitches and explained how that would go down. It seemed sensible enough. Give me a shot to numb the skin, sew it up, let it heal. No problem.

"Dr. Fun entered the room, had me lie on the noisy paper and took a look at my head. He cleaned it up a bit and then just before giving me the shot of Novocaine to numb the area he decided since I was a child, he would make this more kid-friendly. “This is Mr. Bee. He's a friendly bee! He's just going to sting you just a little bit to help things along.” He said with a smile.

Whoa, mister! There's no way on God's green earth that you are pulling bees out of jars and using them to sting poor innocent children! How's a bee sting gonna help? What else have you got in your jars over there, Doctor Death? Leeches? Do you treat people with wasps and worms? I started screaming and my father tried to explain to Dr. Never-will-we-visit-again about my uncanny fear of bees.

He couldn't have chosen a worse mascot. But the damage had been done and he refused to change his story. So sting, sting, sting went the bee and I screamed until I was hoarse. I cried so hard the whole thin medical sheet that stretched over the bed was soaked in tears.

My father tried to bribe me into submission by telling me if I was “good” we would go to Dairy Queen afterward for a treat. I didn't care. Dairy Queen be hanged. No amount of ice cream was going to change my mind about this quack. I screamed until he left the room - adjusting his hearing aid. Dairy Queen was out the window and I couldn't care less.

My stitches made me look like Frankenstein's monster. They were black and ugly. A nurse came in, covered my Franken-stitches with gauze, and released us. Dad hoisted me up in his arms, allowing me to sniffle and bury my face in his neck. We went to Dairy Queen anyway. Big softy.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Project

by Terri Wagner

Doing is not nearly as important as getting along. That's a fact I have to accept in our "new world order." I've just finished "The Terrorist Next Door," and I have to say getting along is THE buzzword. (Warning: It's a clean, thoughtful, well-researched book that will scare the pants off of you, seriously.)

What does this have to do with a new writing project? As most of you know I long ago gave up the idea of writing fiction. I love to read it, but I can't write it. And once I accepted that fact, my writing projects took a back seat to RL. (No job yet, please keep up the prayers and thank you for them.)

But I resurrected an old idea from years ago when it first began to occur to me that I have a problem getting along with people. I'm very task oriented. Tell me what to do when you need it and then get out of my way. I like people. It's not that. I'm that quintessential "nice" person who'll stop to help you. Even go out of my way to do so. BUT I don't communicate well.

For example, an old guy friend recently recontacted me. He too is a frustrated writer who gave me the where-I've-been story via storybook form. I told him what I thought. He isn't speaking to me right now. And I really don't get why.

So I think I should explore how to communicate better in the work field. I'll work on that personal communication thing later.

So who says we all have to write fiction, right?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hey, Where'd the Summer Go?

by Kristin Baker Przybyla

Seems like it whizzed by. Since I mostly just stayed in the house all summer, the days blended into weeks and before I knew it, we were facing the back-to-school scramble. Even though we're still struggling through 90-degree days (with the portable A/C in the living room shutting down every few minutes), I'm getting ready to welcome my favorite season.

This school year is different from previous years. We went from having five to three kids attending regular school hours. My oldest graduated last year, so there's no early morning seminary or fighting high school traffic. She's still home, while continuing to look for a job (not an easy feat in this state) and taking a few online college classes. My 13-year-old is also home while she attends online school, because middle school proved to be tough for her with the bullies and keeping up with her classmates. And my baby starts kindergarten next week!

It's both sad and exciting to have so many changes in the upcoming year. Once Lia walked on the stage to get her diploma, I knew things would never be quite the same again. But now I'm hoping to have some more writing time during kindergarten hours, and it's sure to be fun having the older girls at home for company.

While I was writing this post, I noticed my 6th-grader's lunch sitting forgotten on the couch, so Emily hopped on her scooter to take it over. I think I can get used to this!

What's your favorite season? Does the end of the summer mean a big change for your family, or is it business as usual?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Happiness Requires Effort

By Wendy A. Jones

A couple of months ago, my bishop called and asked me to take about ten minutes during our combined Relief Society/Priesthood meeting to share my thoughts. The topic? Happiness Requires Effort.

I laughed. Happiness requires effort. Really? All through my preparation, whenever I thought of the topic I would laugh again. I couldn't decide if he had asked me because I am happy, or because it obviously takes me a lot of effort.

The world may never know.

Anyway, I have been hanging onto these notes, waiting for the perfect time to form these bullet points of happiness efforts into a blog post.

And the time is now.

[Insert "The Eye of the Tiger" here.]

[Wait, is that happy enough? It just seemed to go so well with the line, "And the time is now." Hmm. Perhaps I'll re-think the song and get back to it later.]



What I decided, thinking about happiness, is that it's less like a light switch and more like a continuum. There are days of less happiness and there are days of more happiness, but rarely do I wake up and think, "Man--today I feel happy!" What I tried to do was figure out what I can do to keep my days on the greater happiness side of the continuum.

Here's what I came up with.


  • Listen to happy music. Whether it be show tunes, a favorite band from high school, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, I attest there is power in music. It has the ability to reach our hearts and change our emotions more than just words alone (which is also why, if you're feeling a bit gloomy, you should steer clear of the angst-y stuff).
  • Notice things. In the slap-dash, rapid-fire pace of today's world, it's easy to forget how amazing the earth is. When we take the time to notice the little things--the way a leaf uncurls in the spring, the way plants make food and oxygen, the way rain sounds as it falls--we're better able to recognize how some things that seem urgent and important really aren't.
  • Keep perspective. Whenever I fly out of Seattle, the clouds are a solid gray ceiling. The plane gains altitude and WHAM! We come above the clouds and the sun--the sun is still there. Naturally, I know it's still there, but it's easy to forget when you haven't seen it for weeks (or months) at a stretch. God is in control, even when bad things happen. Maybe especially when bad things happen? Keeping a journal and specifically recording the ways God touches our life, like in this talk, can help remind us of this.
  • Spend time with children. Preferably not your own. (Just kidding! Sort of.) For a little while, focus less on parenting and more on enjoying the unique views that come from those under six years of age. Borrow someone else's children if you have to, and be sure to ask them lots of questions.
  • Laugh. Together or alone. Watch a movie or read a book (P.G. Wodehouse is a personal favorite of mine--I think every single book he ever wrote has made me laugh out loud [LOL, PG!] more than once). I know it's totally cliche (or possibly just Readers' Digest), but laughter really is the best medicine.
  • Work. The feeling of accomplishment you get when finishing a project, whether it be sanitizing your entire kitchen or organizing the junk drawer, will lift your spirits. This I know (even if I don't speak from first-hand experience about the sanitized kitchen).
  • Exercise and eat right. It's amazing that what thousands of doctors have been saying for years is true! The first thing I do when I'm feeling crummy is look at my eating habits and my sleeping habits. When our bodies are physically, mentally, and spiritually well, we're better able to cope when emotional challenges arise.
  • Do less. We really can't do it all. Prioritize what time you have and decide what is essential, what is necessary, and what is nice, then act accordingly. Read this talk for more ideas.
  • Serve others. A friend in my ward is fond of saying, "When you're feeling sad, bake a cake and give it to someone else." It's completely true that taking the time and effort to give to someone else lightens our own load. I'm not sure why it works that way--possibly it's one of those mysteries we'll find out more about when we get to heaven.
  • Do something you enjoy. And don't think about all the things you need to be doing and feel guilty about doing something you enjoy instead of those other things. That completely defeats the purpose.
  • Keep the commandments. One of my favorite scriptures is in Mosiah 2:41. "And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it."

So there you are--a few bullet points to help you on your way to greater joy on the happiness continuum. As Joseph B. Wirthlin once said, "Yet in spite of discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to have a way of learning from difficult times, becoming stronger, wiser, and happier as a result."

It's possible. Not easy, but possible.

How to help an author

By Bonnie Harris

I recently read a post by Laura Bingham. (For the life of me, I'm struggling to find the exact post, but here's a link to her blog!) She talked about someone begging for her next book and gave us what she was really thinking. Something along the lines of, 'If you really liked my book so much, you'd go and tell 25 friends about it,' and then went on to say that the next book we see from her won't be from the same series. That makes me sad and yet I see the truth to it.

As readers, we don't want to sift through the thousands of books to find the one good one. We ask people for recommendations. We read what's popular at the time. In short, we read what other people tell us to read (sort of). Some books and authors I have come to love, I would never have heard of if it wasn't for my membership in ANWA or other people suggesting them to me.

So how can we help these authors? Tell people about their books. Review their books on amazon, goodreads, facebook, blog, really anywhere to get the names out there. Marsha Ward recently had a support an ANWA sister week. I admit, I didn't get to it that week, but I saved all the links and will get to them.

In fact, I've been doing a Book Buzzin' Tuesday since the beginning of the year. I've now decided that there are enough books out there that I should have been doing a post every Tuesday. Since Marsha's email, I've been doing just that. Now, every Tuesday I'm posting about someone's book, whether it be about an upcoming release, one I've already read, or one I've just discovered. Hopefully it will help get the word out.

If you ever find yourself with nothing to read then, hop on over and there will be a ton of suggestions on my blog. Consider this an invitation to join me in my quest to get the word out about some amazing books!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Why Write?

Today we have a new member of the Blog Team, Laura Lofgreen, as we say goodbye to Jolene Perry. Welcome, Laura!  ~~Marsha

by Laura Lofgreen

Last night, there was a cricket chirping in my closet. Mr. Cricket started out chirping somewhat sweet, like I’m camping under the stars on an autumn night, then its chirping grew insanely loud, making me wonder “Who gave the cricket a microphone?”

“I can’t sleep like this,” I said as I rolled over to my husband. “Make it stop.”

The love of my life jumps out of bed and turns the light on. “Where is it?” he asks, squinting into the closet, ever the protector of our home.

“The bug spray is out in the shed. Please spray it with poison,” is my deviant request.

With just a grumble (from my husband, not the cricket), the love of my life puts on his flip flops and heads out into our backyard shed in search of bug poison.

And what do I do?

Do I actively look for the cricket and put it to its death with the back of a shoe?

Do I fold laundry, trying to look busy so I don’t feel guilty just lying here while my husband is outside in the 90 degree midnight heat?

Do I hang up that towel crumbled on the floor that I used after my evening swim?

No, my friends, I do not. I do what any good writer would do. I start to think of book titles, cricket colonies with an evil villain and a microphone, wondering how this very experience will work into my next novel. I wonder about my blog; thinking of a very clever title for my next post, laughing just slightly under my breath when my husband walks back into the bedroom with bug poison.

“What’s so funny,” he says as he trips over the damp towel I have crumbled up on the floor.

“I think I’m going to get up and write,” I say, getting out of bed.

My husband is used to this. He doesn’t even try to convince me otherwise, and for this I love him. I can hear him in the closet as I turn the lights on in the office.

Other then the cricket, the house is quiet. It’s just me and my computer, with a little new age music playing in the background.

An hour later, after eating more then I’d like to mention of dark chocolate chips, I’m several pages into my unfinished manuscript and I decided it’s time for bed.

I tip-toe into my bedroom and quietly slip into bed when I realize I don’t hear the cricket anymore and I can finally sleep in silence, if only I could turn off the keyboard in my mind.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

That First Step


by Kari Pike

I have fifteen minutes before I have to jump in the car to deliver my son to his class at BYU, register for my own class and purchase my books, rush home to review a client's website before he calls to talk about a contract (A Contract!), turn around and drive back to Provo to take a friend to the doctor, shop for school supplies, pick up said son from BYU, rush home to meet kids home from school, cook dinner, get kids to soccer practice, write copy for another client (yep...that's two contracts!), and fall into bed. Everything is moving so fast. The coolest thing ever was calling my husband at work and telling him about the copywriting contracts and asking how he would feel about me quitting my day job. Okay, so I have yet to fit in time to work on my own projects, but can say that I love being able to say that I write for a living! Pushing the send button on my resignation from my keywording job felt like stepping off of a cliff in some ways, but because of thoughtful consideration, communication with my spouse, and heartfelt prayers, I knew that when I took that step, my foot would come down on solid ground instead of air. I don't know how to describe the feeling of excitement and energy I feel right now, despite the physical signs that I desperately need a full night's sleep.

I don't know the point of the post, except to encourage you never give up. Nothing we learn goes to waste. Be patient, keep writing, and smile. Life is good. Take that first step. It's not nearly as scary as I thought it would be.

hugs~


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Gold Rush

By Melinda Carroll

Recently I've been looking into software for writers. I was talking to fellow ANWA member Sandra Crandall and she said writing tools are sometimes like the gold rush. There were a few people at the beginning of the rush who hit it big, but then the rest of the people who got rich were those selling supplies to all the poor people coming out to seek their fortune.

The same seems to be true for writers. Sure, there's the Stephanie Meyers and J.K. Rowlings of the world who strike it rich at the beginning rush of a new trend, but the real money seems to be going to the people selling writing software, offering editing services, etc. Sometimes it makes it hard as a writer to determine which tools we actually need in our tool belts, and which ones will just weigh us down as we dig through the rugged terrain of writing.

I've found that the biggest help for me is going to writing conferences. It renews my motivation to write, it allows me to network, and it's a great place to find some useful nuggets about the craft. What about you? What tools have you found the most helpful?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ode to the “To Do” List

By Leesa Ostrander

My list of things to do grows each day. The items not checked off move to the next list. They are accompanied by items from weeks past.

The usual household cleaning tops the list each morning and work obligations plug the end. In the middle, the day’s appointments get priority.

I ask, why I write the list. I love writing and despise the order, yet it feels wrong to cheat the home of the rightful place at the top.

Today is the day I will challenge thee. I will write the list no more, or until I forget what I am doing.

No, today I will focus on strength. I will choose inner preparation and the cleaning, errands, appointments, and duties obligated to work will follow.

Today, the list will change to the “Done” list.

Only after I spend precious time with my computer, characters and the twists that keep them alive…

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Good Kind of Crazy


By Tracy Astle

Here's an inspiring story for you.
 
Perhaps you've heard of Kathryn Stockett, author of the Help. When her husband is asked about her best quality, he smiles and says, "She never gives up." When asked about her worst, his eyes narrow and he says, "She. Never. Gives. Up."

Here are a few stats that prove he knows what he's talking about.

- It took her a year and a half to write her original version.
- She queried agents for three and a half years before one took interest and signed her.
- In that three and a half years she received 60 rejections, one of which read, "There is no market for this kind of tiring writing." (Ouch!)
- Also during that three and a half years she continued to revise and polish her beloved project.
- After about 15 rejections when a friend said, "Maybe the next book will be the one," Kathryn thought, "Next book?" She wasn't about to give up because of "a few stupid letters."

She tells of how after about a year and a half and about 40 rejections she started lying to her friends about what she did on weekends to save them and her embarrassment. Some time after the 45th rejection  she even stooped to lying to her husband - a "girls' weekend" was likely to find her holed up by herself at the Comfort Inn around the corner for a few hours of writing time. (When people first find out we're pursuing our passion they think it's cool. After years of what seems like little or no progress or pay off? Maybe not so much.)

The way I see it, this is the good kind of crazy.

The happy ending? Only three weeks after signing with her agent, her book sold to a publisher. It went on to become a bestseller and has been made into a movie which was the number one movie in America last week.

Go, Kathryn!

And here's a great quote from her -
The point is, I can't tell you how to succeed. But I can tell you how not to: Give in to the shame of being rejected and put your manuscript - or painting, song, voice, dance moves, [insert passion here] - in the coffin that is your bedside drawer and close it for good. I guarantee you that it won't take you anywhere. Or you could do what this writer did: Give in to your obession instead.

And if your friends make fun of you for chasing your dream, remember - just lie.

You can read her full article at - http://shine.yahoo.com/event/poweryourfuture/kathryn-stocketts-the-help-turned-down-60-times-before-becoming-a-bestseller-2523496/ 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Let's look at teaming/teeming

by Marsha Ward

Last week I came across a sentence somewhere that used the word teaming. It's a nice word, if you're talking about teaming up, but the writer meant to convey abundance, not people banding together for a cooperative enterprise. The right word, therefore, would be teeming, as in abounding or swarming.

It's so important for writers to find and use the correct word, because people like me will find the errors and maybe think the less of their efforts and writing prowess. Don't be that writer!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hoarding Our Writing

by Cindy R. Williams

My daughter and I have been fascinated of late by a reality show about hoarding. It is stunning. I can hardly believe how people literally cannot throw anything away even to the point that rooms are filled to the ceiling with stuff. Lots of the stuff starts out to be good, usable stuff, but soon gets crushed and then bugs and even rats get into it. I mean . . . I can't even write anymore about it.

It is so overwhelming that the hoarder doesn't even know where to start. Professionals arrive and help the hoarders clean their homes, but more important, they provide them help to face their emotional issues that result in their hoarding behaviors. Usually, the homes and yards look remarkable, all clean and tidy and the hoarder is incredibly happy and relieved.

Each time I see an episode of Hoarders, I tackle an area in my house, like a closet, a bookcase, a dresser, some cupboards, etc. I am not a real hoarder, but I am a bit of a Hector the Collector. I find I LOVE tossing or giving things away. In fact, the back of my van is full of clothes, shoes, books and household items for the Deseret Industries right now. Getting things out the door and sprucing things up feels FABULOUS.

What does all this talk about hoarding have to do with writing? You know it's coming, right? Well . . . today I decided it was time to clean out my writing book shelf. It contains five years of binders and folders from writing conferences. There are tons of books about fairies, dragons and magical creatures. There are a great number of books by many of you, my author friends. I have shelves full of binders for each story, novel or novella that I have started and kept copious notes on. My main middle grade four book fiction series fills eight binders alone. As I organized it all and make new binders to organize my writing tips on queries, synopsis, marketing, agents, pitches, characters, plot, dialog . . . I realized that I have been hoarding my finished works.

I have four manuscripts complete and have left them gathering dust in my bookcase while I polish and edit the middle grade series. I thought long and hard about why I haven't sent those four projects out. Why am I hanging onto them?

The answer is plain and simple. Fear and self doubt. I am afraid that no one will love my darlings. It is incredibly hard to push them out the door and face the big, bad world.

The only solution to this is to dust them off, do my due diligence in finding agents that mesh with each, and send them flying across cyberspace.

I have set a goal to have the middle grade fantasy out to at least 10 agents by the end of August. While I am waiting for good news -- yeah, I know rejections are more likely, but there has to be hope or why bother right? --I plan on sending each of the other three out by the end of September.

I am feeling lighter already.

Good goals to be sure. No more hoarding manuscripts for me.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Software for Writers

by Tanya Parker Mills

I started out the old-fashioned way...well, not the REALLY old-fashioned way (quill and ink and paper) or the somewhat old-fashioned way (pen and paper)...but the common old-fashioned way in today's world of publishing: I opened a new page on Microsoft Word and began typing away.

That has worked well for me until now. Two weeks ago, I began to outline a rather complicated middle grade fantasy series that spans a long range of time, and find I have already created three different Word documents ("Notes," "Basic Outline and Ideas," and "Character Storylines") without even beginning the first draft of the first novel in the series yet! Today I woke up determined to begin the story despite my misgivings about how best to keep track of all this extraneous supporting information. Like an answer to my prayer, I found an invitation in my email inbox to try out StoryMill 4.0 for Mac.

I've tried a couple of other software programs for writers (yWrite and Scrivener), but they just didn't do it for me. They seemed a little too complex and, being a Mac user, I'm used to the facile and intuitive approach. I don't want anything with a huge learning curve. So, I looked for a review online and was impressed with the program's features as described here and here. You might want to check it out if you have a Mac with an operating system of 10.6 or higher because it seems to be designed particularly for novelists.

Whether you use this, or another, or refuse to even consider using such a program, I'd be interested in your response.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Moves, Passports and OCD Criminals

By Susan G. Haws
I was just reading a book and enjoying it and then the female main character decided to leave town for the summer and to not return to her rented house. So she took a whole day to pack because she would just be taking her most important belongings with her and the rest would go to storage or be donated. The moving/storage people and the donation people did not get mentioned as arriving or expected. Yet the woman was leaving town immediately.
 Didn’t she worry that the moving storage people and the donation people might get things mixed up? What about the owner of the house would they let people in? We are assuming that the owner isn’t owed money and no lease is broken. As I have never taken only one day to move unless it was way back in the dark ages in college days (and then I couldn’t leave until the premises was inspected). It pulled me out of the story for a minute.
Another thing that pulls me out of a story when I watch a show or read a book is perfectly filed evidence.   Bad guys generally seem to be  great record keepers. Much of the time if the good guy sneaks into the bad guy’s office or home the files needed are right there in the filing cabinet under a  label the good guy expected. Granted, once in a while there are double books. But there is never an overflowing inbox or filing box to go through. Bad guys seem to be OCD(Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) tidy.
For being such tidy people themselves bad guys seem to hire thugs that are just the opposite. If a house is trashed by bad guys  looking for something or just trying to make a point   the residence is  always so messed up it would take an army to get it back looking pristine by the time  the book or movie has the house back to normal. And yet our super fast heroine or hero has it back looking perfect right away even though cushions were slashed and papers were strewn about. I would like some of that speed and energy.
Shows and books always assume that everyone has a passport so at the drop of a hat they can travel internationally. Yet the person needing to fly the next day may have lived the quiet life with no expectations of travel. So why did they have a passport?  Had they planned ahead in hopes of traveling someday? I better plan ahead and get my passport. You just never know what opportunities are coming in the next chapter.
These are just things that pull me out of the story when I don’t feel that the explanation was believable or when no explanation was offered at all.  What pulls you out of a story?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Just keep writing

by Kami Cornwall

A few weeks ago I attended my 20 year high school reunion. (Yeay!) But I'm not going to blog about that. At the reunion I sat with a long-time friend, Candi, who has been writing the past 10 years or so and works at a book store. We swapped stories about our writing groups, conferences, and publishing.

Candi Norman self-publishes her short stories. *gasp!* And our conversation went like this:

Me: I'm afraid to self-publish. I feel like I should go with a major publishing company first who could get my name out there and then once I have followers I could break away and self-publish.

Candi: The problem is that hardly anyone is buying physical books anymore. The bulk of the readers out there are using their electronic devices to read books. So the more you write and put yourself out there, the more people will see your name when they do a search. You also will keep a higher percentage of the money since you don't give a huge cut to your publisher.

Me: But how do people find you if you self-publish?

Candi: You just keep writing. Your book will show up in the genre search and if readers think your story looks interesting, they buy it. Besides...a friend of mine self-published for years and then a major publishing company approached her with a contract for one of her stories and she has made a lot of money on that.

She's right, you know. It completely changed my mind about how to go about writing and publishing. I'm much more confident now about the idea of self-publishing. The idea of finishing something and publishing it is more important than ever now.

Just keep writing!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

MC Part 2

by Terri Wagner

I'd like to carry on a bit more about Kristin's post yesterday. What happens when the Main Character grows up or fails to? Do people lose interest in the story? Does it start altering the ending? I can think of two story lines that I thought "jump the shark" in this regard.

Luke Skywalker. In Return of the Jedi, we first see him opening Jabba's doors and choking the guards and rescuing Han. Then we're treated to him going back to Yoda in a completely wasted scene where Yoda passes on to Jedi Heaven and Luke suddenly looks like the boyish kid he was when we left in The Empire Strikes Back. I always thought that scene was either in the wrong place, wrong movie or just not necessary. Luke's dramatic entrance was enough to establish he was on his way to being a powerful Jedi.

The other were the last few books of the famed Anne of Green Gables books. I love them, re-read them often except for the last few. Somehow once Anne and Gilbert finally marry something precious is lost. The story of their marriage and children should have been as sweet and lovely as their stormy childhood romance. But the author went off track. In maturing Anne, she (to me) lost the appeal of Anne.

In fairness I have to point out a place where I think the MC matured fairly well. And that was Harry Potter. He grew up, gained wisdom, showed great courage and completed his task. Perhaps the best part was the ending. Just fast forwarding to when he sends his son off to Hogwarts.

Dealing with the maturing of your MC is tricky, especially for devoted readers. As a reader, I know I like my MC to remain the same unless the storyline calls for maturity and at some point (like most rom-com sitcoms) there just isn't anymore story to tell. We as a writer must sometimes make what can be a painful decision...it's time to draw the curtain.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Is Your Main Character a Dummy?



by Kristin Baker Przybyla


 Or rather, does your MC make dumb decisions?

When I was 14 or 15, my brother and I were visiting my dad on Mandeville Island in California, where he lived and worked. My dad's house sat near the edge of the levee. A tiny wooden pier led out a few feet into the Delta, and on this foggy November day my younger brother and stood at the edge of the pier with our fishing poles. I cast my line, then a moment later jumped as far out as I could into the frigid water. As I spluttered and swam back to the pier, my clothes freezing and soaking, my brother stood at the edge with a shocked expression and called out, "What did you do that for?"

Now let's think for a moment on our reaction when we're watching a scary movie, and one of the characters is about to do something extremely stupid which will almost certainly result in his or her gruesome death. "Don't go down into the dark basement by yourself!" we scream. "The lights are out, you idiot! At least take a flashlight!" Even worse, they often announce their presence with a tremulous, "Hello?" Why do these people insist on making such a brainless move? Haven't they watched enough scary movies of their own?

In writing, your characters, or at least your main characters, should possess a few more brain cells than horror movie characters. Your readers are not going to be sympathetic to the MC's and care about them if they keep running around making stupid choices. Every decision should count, especially toward the end of the story when your character has hopefully grown and learned something. (An exception to this, says James N. Frey in his book How to Write a Damn Good Novel, is if you're writing comedy and your MC's dumb decisions are part of the plot.)

Sure, everyone makes mistakes or chooses to do something that creates a disaster, and this can be a great way to start the conflict of a story. Our main characters are human, too. But by the time your story takes off, your character should be making better decisions than randomly wandering off into the deep, dark woods trying to find what was making that chainsaw noise. Your readers will quickly lose their patience with such a person and start rolling their eyes more and more often. (I've read books with characters like that and have not picked up the sequels.)

So, if I were a character in a book, why would I randomly decide to leap, fully-clothed, into a river on a chilly winter day? That was a really dumb decision. Or was it? To my brother, it looked like I'd lost my mind. But as I cast my line out, I lost my balance and knew I was going to fall and there was no time to cry out to my brother to pull me back. The tide was out, and the levee underneath the dock was shored up by large, jagged blocks of concrete. If I'd fallen off the dock, I would have been badly hurt. So, in a split second, I decided the only way to avoid injury was to jump out over the levee and hope the water beyond was deep enough to absorb my fall. I think it was a pretty smart decision, and certainly a choice that added drama and tension to the moment. It also drove the story forward and created a whole new set of problems for me to deal with. I got wet, cold, and yes, I did get hurt, although no bones were broken and I lived.

Although, if I was really smart, I would have remembered how clumsy I was and not cast my line out from the very edge of the dock! But where's the story in that?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Eating the Elephant

By Wendy A. Jones


I am a starter.

I am not a finisher.

I have fabric and patterns; I have stacks of cardboard in my garage; I have plans drawn in notebooks; I have lists; I have ideas.

What I don't have are about seven dresses, three skirts, a cardboard sculpture of a tree, and/or upholstered storage boxes in my entryway.

I bought a book once because I didn't quite feel in control of my house. There was too much clutter, too many projects, too much stuff. I can't even remember the title. It was something like Mission: Organization. In the introduction, the author said, "The key to organization is finishing things."

I closed the book.

(I haven't finished it.)

I realized that was the skill I needed to figure out first. Before I could organize anything, I had to figure out how to finish things.

I'm pleased to say I'm getting better, but I still stink at finishing.

Take writing, for instance. I have been writing seriously for five years.

FIVE YEARS.

And I have yet to finish a novel.

(I did finish two picture books, though. I've got to throw bones to myself when I can.)

Why is it taking so long?

The reasons are many and varied. We all have our reasons, I'm sure, and some are perfectly legitimate.

However, I've realized this writing . . . thing, for lack of a better word, is something I want.

Badly.

It won't leave me alone.

The words in my current WIP don't come easily. I have to drag them out of myself and shake them loose from my fingers--and it feels like half of the text is highlighted for me to come back and fix.

Still.

I will finish my book someday.

I will overlook the fabric and cardboard and notebooks of plans and look instead at the things I have finished: two skirts and two aprons and a blanket and a dress and a cabinet and some bookcases. And two children's books!

I do finish things.

I do.

It just takes me awhile.

I haven't written much through the summer; vacation and kids and gardens and a residential schedule and a new calling have made my schedule erratic to say the least. I kept a notebook tucked in my purse, though, and jotted things down when I was waiting for the dentist or sitting by the drain (my 4-year-old's current obsession). Not much, really, just a sentence here or there.

When I went to type it into my computer the other day, I was shocked and pleased to see the word count reach almost 1500 words.

If, over a couple of months, I can write 1500 words while not writing, how many could I write when I'm really trying?

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.


Chomp.

Nom-nom-nom-nom.

Gulp.


I'll let you know when I'm finished.



Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cinematography

By Bonnie Harris

I've been having trouble thinking of what to post lately. My mind has been preoccupied with other things. Life has a funny habit of getting in the way of some things. :) But I found myself, the other day, looking at the world through the eyes of a cinematographer. It's amazing what they see and how they can shift so seamlessly from the big picture to the minutest detail, with each scene making a huge impact. (I'm not saying every cinematographer does this well, but when it happens, it can sure be magical.)

That concept has given me a different perspective on writing. I've tried to find what type of scene (the big picture or the smallest detail) will make the biggest impact. It's really been a fun process and added more to the story, when it's done well of course. :) The last part, for me, is happening more and more in my head rather than on paper. I'm finding that when the baby bites my knee and makes a grab for the keyboard, it's time to put it up. Needless to say, I'm not getting much writing done. But the story is wonderful in my head!

Happy Writing and viewing!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Writing Milestones



As a writer, at each point along the way, we hit milestones - places we'll remember being - and places we made goals for and reached.

In my first book, I remember the feeling when I was over 100 pages. I built that spot up in my mind as being a big deal, and so it was.

I remember finishing my first book.

Sending my first query.

Getting my first (of many) rejections.

Finishing my second novel.

The day I got a letter from Cedar Fort saying they wanted to publish my book.

The day I had two agents tell me they loved my story, loved my writing, but it just wasn't good enough.

Getting an offer of rep from an agent.

And yes, now I shamelessly self-promote because I got my cover this week and it was hands-down, easy, my best writer moment yet. Because Cedar Fort really does turn out beautiful covers.



The beautiful thing about all of this is that in EACH and EVERY project we start, we can create milestones - places for us to sit back and look at what we've accomplished.

Because writing is filled with places of happiness :D





Thursday, August 11, 2011

Finding the Greatness Within

by Kari Diane Pike
A number of months back, I discovered a new favorite movie. I don’t know how I missed seeing this one before. When I turned it on, everyone else in the family exclaimed they had already seen it and left the room. Where was I? My 13-year-old son humored me and agreed to sit with me and watch Kung Fu Panda. Oh. My. Goodness. Have you seen that movie? I have been analyzing it ever since. I Googled trailers and clips and quotes and found more and more to love about Po and his journey through self discovery.
Po looks like just another portly panda. He works in his father’s noodle shop, and dreams of becoming a true master of the martial arts. Through what appears to be a series of accidents, Po is named “The Chosen One” who, according to ancient prophecy, is the only one who can save the village from certain destruction. Old Master Oogway seems to be alone in his belief that Po is indeed the Chosen One. Master Shifu and the Furious Five do their best to discourage Po from pursuing his desire to become the Dragon Master. After all,
“One would think that Master Oogway would choose someone who actually knew kung fu.”
“Yeah, or could at least touch his toes.”
“Or even see his toes.”
As Shifu struggles to see what Oogway sees in Po, Oogway tells him,
“Your mind is like this water, my friend. If it becomes agitated, it is difficult to see. But if you allow it to settle, the answer becomes clear.”
He also tells Shifu, “There are no accidents.”
Sometimes our minds get so agitated, we struggle to see things clearly. We blame others for getting in the way and for feelings that we don’t like. When we take the time to be still and recognize that the ripples in the pond distorting our vision come from our own choices, we can calm the waters. The clarity we receive comes through taking responsibility, accepting things for what they are, and then taking action. Sometimes the action is to be still and believe. At other times it requires us to roll up our sleeves and get in the game. Shifu chose to believe…in Oogway’s wisdom, in himself, and in Po.
When Shifu catches Po raiding the kitchen, he witnesses Po perform incredible acts requiring focus, agility and strength. Shifu nurtures, guides and teaches Po how to use that focus to develop his skills in martial arts. Po learns how to make his greatest weakness one of his greatest strengths. But there is still the question of Po being strong enough to defeat the malevolent Tai Lung. The entire village believes that Po must be given the sacred scroll that holds the secret to unlimited power. Imagine Po’s surprise when he opens that scroll only to find it has nothing written on it. Discouraged, Po believes that without the power promised from the sacred scroll, he is too weak to defeat Tai Lung. He returns to his father’s home. His father decides it is time to reveal to Po the secret of his special noodle soup. He says,
“The secret is…there is no secret. To make something special, you just have to believe it is special.”
Po suddenly understands the secret of the sacred scroll. While the scroll shows no words, it reflects the image of the one who holds it in their hands. The secret is that unlimited power is right inside of you.
“I’m not a big fat Panda. I am THE big fat panda.”
Like Po, underneath all the stuff on our outside is the mark of a chosen one. Whether we are short, tall, skinny, or portly…as children of God, we are divine in our nature through inheritance. We were created for a purpose and the power to fulfill that purpose is within each of us. As Po appeared to be just another panda, we can choose to be just another face, or we can choose greatness. The law of agency lets us choose simply because we exist. No one could make Po great. Not Master Oogway or Shifu or even the sacred scroll. The potential for greatness was always right there inside him. In choosing greatness, Po learned to accept himself and his situation for what it was, and then he took action. Po returned to the Dragon Palace and defeated Tai Lung, thus fulfilling the prophecy of the great Dragon Master and the Chosen One.
Think about what you perceive to be the biggest blocks in you life. Po wanted to change who he was. I loved seeing how Tai Lung served as a catalyst to help Po find the greatness within himself. How do your challenges serve you? Do you see your inherent greatness? I do. I see it in every one of you. Go look in the mirror. It’s right there. Be prepared to be amazed…because you are filled with pure awesomeness!

Sorry I didn't post yesterday

By Melinda Carroll

My computer wouldn't let me post for some reason. Too bad, because I'm sure I was going to write something brilliant. Oh well, maybe next time... :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Writing Practice - Pericarp

By Leesa Ostrander

I had written a blog on how I read on my phone through Kindle on the airplane ride to New York, yet it did not feel right.

Today is a pericarp day. I hear it already, “What is pericarp?”

Pericarp according to the dictionary online is the part of a fruit that surrounds the seed or seeds, including the skin, flesh, and, in some fruits, the core.  It is the outer most skin of the ripened fruit.

Can I use pericarp the way I did? Most likely not, the word would be used in a different sentence. Yet, it had me thinking. If I can learn how to use one word each week I could expand my vocabulary 520 words in ten years. If I learned a new word daily, well I would be tired and know 3650 new words in ten years.

To use the pericarp better, I would say, “With full strength, she lifted the fruit to her nose inhaling ripeness from the pericarp.”

I know I am stretching it with the above sentence. This word was a word I choose for my writing practice. I had a doozy of a time finding a sentence for this word.
For a writing practice, I challenge you to use the word in a sentence. How would you include it into your current WIP?

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Tense Situation

By Tracy Astle

I recently read a book written in first person present tense. It felt rather jarring sometimes and got me thinking. I wondered if I wasn't a fan of present tense or if I just wasn't a fan of how that writer handled it.
The way I see it, which person and tense a book is written in should feel so natural to the way the story is told that it shouldn't call attention to itself. It should just feel like there's no other way to tell that story.

I thought of another first person book that I love and couldn't recall if the author had used past or present tense. When I pulled it off the shelf to check, I was surprised to see that it was in present tense. She used first person present with such finesse that it was completely inobtrusive. Impressive.

Now, I can go either way on the first person/third person thing. I like the immediacy that using first person can create. It can be very effective in drawing the reader in and simply works better for some stories. Third person allows much more freedom with POV which can be much more interesting. I like both.

Tense seems to be trickier, though. I have a definite preference for past tense unless the present tense is used in very skillful hands.

So I'm wondering -
     What person/tense do you prefer to read, and why?
     What person/tense do you like to write in, and why?


Sunday, August 7, 2011

July Kindle Sales

by Marsha Ward

In keeping with my open and honest approach to sales figures from my venture into selling ebooks on Kindle, here are my sales figures for July. The numbers represent how many of each short story, collection, or novel were sold from 7/01/2011 to 7/31/2011.

The US Kindle Store:
Cottonwood Cowboys - 1
Ride to Raton - 24
The Man from Shenandoah - 40
The Owen Family Saga Sampler - 6
The Usual Game - 1
Thumps & Losers - 1
Trail of Storms - 28
War Party - 3

That is 104 units sold!

The UK Kindle Store:
Ride to Raton - 2
The Man from Shenandoah - 3
The Owen Family Saga Sampler - 4
Trail of Storms - 2
War Party - 1

The UK sales totaled 12 units.

So far in August I have 29 units sold from the US store and 0 from the UK.

Please let your British, Scots, Irish and Welsh cousins and friends know about my books in their local Kindle store.

And, if you know anyone in Germany . . . let them know great Westerns are available for them (in English) at Kindle DE. That shouldn't be a problem to the many, many Germans who read English and love Westerns.

Thanks!

Previously published on Writer in the Pines blog.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Harping and Writing

by Cindy R. Williams
Two of my favorite people, Tony and Joanni Judd, on their wedding day.

This is my magical harp, Arvilla. Did you know if you are the first owner of a harp, you have the privilege and responsibility of christening it with it's eternal name? Arvilla is the middle name of my favorite, and only dear mother. The name reminds me of vanilla, a yummy taste and a sublime smell. My mother doesn't like the name so much so it's fun to tease her a bit by using the name - not that I ever yanked her chain growing up or anything.
Playing the harp channels my muse and also calms my soul. I often play late at night in the dark. It's not like playing a trumpet so I don't wake anyone. If they do happen to stumble out of bed, they think they are hearing angels so it's all good.

I have found that writing harp music is pretty much the same process as writing stories. Sometimes the notes flow out and they sound wonderful, but other times, nothing comes.  Nada, stone-cold dry. When that happens, I play whatever my heart desires and enjoy the lilting music that floats around the lofty ceiling. When nonsense or no sense comes out of my fingertips on the keyboard of my computer, I often dive into the pool and float on my back make cloud animals.

Just yesterday there were dragons swooping in and out of thunder clouds along with some slashes of lighting giving me two good reasons to slosh out the pool. The first and most important was to quickly jot down the dragon scene before it slipped away and the second reason was to avoid getting zapped by lightning. Maybe not in the correct order, but both important none the less.

The muse is a tricky little minx at best. I think I will try enticicing the muse with chocolate. Has this worked for anyone?  What works for you?

Friday, August 5, 2011

New Genre, New Identity

by Tanya Parker Mills

So I'm sliding sideways into another genre. The story I had begun, set in 1970's Beirut, has stymied me for now. After 3-4 false starts, I decided now must not be the time to write it and so, for the past few weeks, I've been casting around for another character, another plot. When I finally hit upon it, I was both surprised and nervous. First, it's geared to younger readers. Second, it leaves the comfortable, safe world of reality and delves into half-fantasy.

Having recently read of an author friend's journey to success, I recalled sharply one of his sage bits of counsel: Don't change on your audience...stick to one genre. So I fought the drive to write this new saga. I'd always written for adults with an adult voice, firmly grounded in reality. I may not have a big, loyal base of readers just yet, but what if I get lucky and this new fantasy tale takes hold? Do I want to write fantasy the rest of my life? Yes...and no. I don't want to be tied to only one genre.

So there's only one option: Write the fantasy tales under a pseudonym. Any suggestions?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Old Friends in New Worlds

By Susan G. Haws

Favorite books are like old friends. Like pizza and pot roast they are comfortfood for the mind. Movies are that way for me too, what is not to like about a well made movie of a well loved novel. I get the most housework done when I am listening to an audio book.

I love to excape to a another world, time, situation. This is they kind of enjoyment I want to develop in my own writing. I feel so lucky to have found ANWA and other writers that are generous in helping aspiring writers learn the craft.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Best laid plans

by Kami Cornwall

So sorry this is a little later in the morning, but my 5-year-old wanted me to do some Mad-Libs with him during the commercial breaks of Discovery's Shark Week and I couldn't refuse. Quality time and all of that, you know.

Friday we drove to Olympia to make a business plan for a dream my husband has had for a year or two. He'd like to own a successful game shop. We had a name, a place picked out, and a list of vendors as well as how much money we would need for inventory.

Saturday my beagles rolled in a patch of death-stench that took two washings to get them to smell remotely sweet again...but that's another story.

The rest of the evening and most-part of Sunday evening we spent planning. We had a huge pad of paper on an easel to draw on, we printed out a business plan, it was all getting very real. On the way home my husband worked more on the plan and we contacted family for donations. It was so exciting! And scary.

We knew of one shop in our small town that was planning on expanding and moving to a new location so he decided to check them out before moving forward. He came back completely defeated. What we thought was a small-time operation with limited games turned out to be expanding into a large space with greater visibility than ours and the same plan as we had.

The dream had died.

In our economy? In our small town? Two game shops selling the same games? Neither of us would do well and one might even fail. It's too risky now.

I called my dad for some words of comfort and he said, "Yeah, this is only the first of what will probably be many dreams that you see dashed throughout your life." Good ol' dad. Always good for a pep talk.

I'm okay to just sit back and see how well the other shop does but my husband is still pretty depressed. How do you cheer up someone who got close to realizing a dream and then watched it run through their fingers like sand? I don't think, "Look, honey! I did the laundry!" is going to help.

"I made your favorite dinner?"
"I cleaned up the dog poop?"
"Everything is going to be okay?"
"I love you?"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Love Triangles

by Terri Wagner

Picking up on a former post here, I find myself in a bit of a pickle regarding love triangles. See I just don't like them. It means someone has to turn out bad, or goofy or someone has to get hurt. And sometimes I was the one who hurt and sometimes I was the one that got hurt. Neither was a very good option.

So I much prefer stories where the "couple" meet, don't like each other and then finally fall in love. Forget Edward/Bella/Jasper, I'll take Heronime and Ron and Harry and Ginny any day. You KNEW what was coming there.

How do the rest of you feel about that?

Monday, August 1, 2011

More On the Writing Gadgets That Have Us Spoiled. :)

by Kristin Baker Przybyla

Bonnie recently wrote a post about the convenience of the internet, and the possibility that some of us (cough cough) might be just a little bit too dependent on today's technology. You all should see my humorous antics whenever our internet goes down. Wait, there are dishes in the sink and laundry to be done? Noooo! Bring back my internet!

The other day, I was on the laptop when my 5-year-old walked up with a bottle of water. You can probably guess where this is going. I don't let the kids on my laptop; I don't even eat or drink when I'm using it. My daughter was still standing a respectful distance away, yet somehow the bottle of water managed to jump out of her hands and land smack in the middle of the keyboard! Water poured everywhere. I immediately flipped the laptop upside-down, and the hubby came to the rescue by pulling out the battery and drying it out as best he could. He couldn't make any promises as to whether my beloved laptop would survive, but told me he'd at least be able to get all my writing and other files off the hard drive (I backup, but not as often as I should).

Like my laptop when I've been using it too long without being plugged in, I shut down. My delightful husband told me I could get my mind off my worries about the laptop by folding laundry. I spent about a half hour slumped on the couch like I'd passed out before reluctantly shuffling off to the hampers.

Later that night, I switched on my old desk PC. We have several "Frankenstein" computers in the house, cobbled together out of old PC parts, and most of them work fairly well. Before getting my laptop, I wrote half my book on my desk computer and had no problems. But now, as if rubbing salt into the wound, my PC locked up after just 5 minutes. I sighed and gazed forlornly at my trusty laptop, still sitting upside-down on the kitchen counter.

Which brings me to the question of how we write these days: I don't have to admit, as I'm sure you've guessed by now, that I'm a bit spoiled as to the medium I use when writing. My hands are so used to typing that they cramp up when I try actually using a *gasp* pen! I was fine with using the PC when it was the only computer I had, but after a wonderful relationship of almost a year with my laptop and being able to write on the couch, on the bed, or on the toilet (don't judge me), the thought of chaining myself to the desk again isn't a happy one. Instead of carrying around a notebook to jot down ideas in, or setting it by my bed to write down those dreams that sound like inspired works of genius when I just wake up, but by the light of day always sound way too weird and never make it into any story ideas--I use the notepad feature in my cell phone.

I spent an agonizing day staring at my disabled laptop, wondering when I'd ever be able to get a new one if it had indeed gone to computer heaven, but not really wanting a new one because mine is just so cool with its pirate decal on the shell. When the time finally came to plug in the battery and give it a try, I held my breath. It booted up fine, but it was the keyboard I worried about. I pulled up the windows with no problem, clicked on a box to start typing, and...

Well, I've typed this entire blog post on my laptop. Good old trusty, amazing, wonderful laptop! Joy was heard throughout the house. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, knowing the torture they would have had to endure if Momma had to do without her addiction favorite toy.

So what about you all? If your writing medium were destroyed by a rogue flying water bottle, could you adapt? Do you still employ the pen, or, like me, are you very comfortable and happy tapping away at a keyboard?