Jan 31, 2012

The Devil Colony by James Rollins

by Terri Wagner

Let's call this a book review. I have been reading the Rollins' Sigma series for some time with my dad. We often get into adventure series and read until our eyes are red and our brain is saying no, please, no more of that!

Rollins is probably best known for writing the novel Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. That was not my favorite Jones' movie (book is better), but now that I have read quite a bit of the Sigma series, I get the why of the crystal skulls.

This particular book is about gasp Mormons! The author has sparked my interest in what I consider off doctrinal gospel mysteries. I like off beat ideas even if the author gets a few things wrong. It may have been the copyeditor but the title of the church is wrong; and we of course would never say Joseph Smith "wrote" the BOM. No spoiler alert here, I'm only half way through the wild, nailbiting tale that involves Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Meriweather Lewis, Mormons and Iceland. Have I whetted your appetite? If so, start with the first Sigma book Sandstorm and enjoy the roller coaster style of James Rollins.

While I have no idea if the "Mormon" community dissects the BOM quite this way, I can believe that Mormon scholars, scientists and Native Americans might delve into these so called troubling issues.

For example and from the book, a Native American/Mormon professor at BYU has concluded that the genealogy of the BOM could be (emphasis on could) interpreted in a different way. That the Nephities were not so much Jews as a group of people who believed a certain way and traveled to the US via the Atlantic and eventually met up with the current inhabitants who were Lamanite. Of course the other characters in the Devil Colony believe the BOM is off its proverbial rocker and all Native Americans are Asiatic in descent and came across the Bering Strait. In point of fact, I believe we classify the Nephities as descendants of Manasseh, whose father was Joseph who was a brother to Judah. So we would not classify Lehi as a Jew but of the House of Israel. But I digress.

As to the Asiatic vs the Atlantic vs Pacific vs Bering Strait...it does spark an interest. I like books that challenge my traditional way of thinking, and I really enjoy speculating about off doctrinal mysteries. Do you?

Jan 30, 2012

My Favorite Historic Place

by Kristin Baker Przybyla

There's a little place just over the hill from my town that's one of my favorite places ever: Virginia City, an old boomtown from the silver rush of the 1800's. It's famous as the literary birthplace of Mark Twain, and also the fictitious locale of the Ponderosa Ranch from the television show Bonanza. It also has quite a few famous restaurants and saloons, such the Bucket of Blood and the Silver Queen. But mainly, being a huge fan of the Victorian era, the Wild West, and everything vintage, I just go crazy over the historic architecture. Especially now, since my WIP is heavily Victorian-influenced, I love poring over pictures of Virginia City and visiting the place (when it's not too bitterly cold) for inspiration.

It's not Victorian England, but it's the closest you can get to it in this area!

St. Mary in the Mountains Catholic Church

SCBWI had a conference there a couple years ago, which was held both at the old 4th Ward School, now a museum, and the Mackay Mansion. I was in hog heaven.

The 4th Ward School

Most of these buildings are said to be haunted, including the Mackay Mansion. (TAPS and other television ghost hunters have done investigations around the town.) I couldn't find a nighttime picture of the Mackay Mansion, and really wish I'd taken one. The silence in the Virginia Foothills is eerie after dark, and driving down that long, spooky path toward the only lit building in the area was super creepy. I was glad to get inside where it was brightly lit and cheerful! Even with people around, the place had a creepy feeling to it--but by then I was having a blast and didn't care.

The Mackay Mansion

The historic cemetery is very old and fascinating to walk through. Some of the headstones are so worn you can barely make out the names and dates. Other grave markers are only made of wood. Forget reading the names on those!

Among all the antique stores, quirky museum tours, and other fun shops to visit, there's one place we always make a stop: Grandma's Fudge (the shop just to the left of the Silver Queen).

And I love walking past these cool buildings teetering at the edge of a steep hill. (Like many tourist attractions, the back streets can be even more interesting to explore than the main streets.) They look almost ready to fall, but have withstood time and weather for a hundred years or more. This picture doesn't even do the view justice.

This vintage photograph shows that not much has changed about the old boomtown in a long time, except for the dramatic decrease in population and the shift from mining city to tourist attraction.

If you have about 11 minutes to spare, check out the silly video we made in Virginia City for Lia's senior project last year! (And stick around for the bloopers at the end.) See if you recognize some of the city's famous landmarks. Unfortunately, since it was a less-cold-than-usual early spring day, there were a lot of tourists, so we couldn't do too much filming along the main street.

Do you guys have any favorite places in your area that you'd love to share?

Jan 29, 2012

Specialty Writing

by Margaret L. Turley

Time Out for Writers Faculty includes a journalist, free-lance writer, a copywriter, a blog and social media writer, a family history writer, and a magazine article writing expert.

Brent Whiting is a journalist and English professor. He will teach: Great Opening Lines -- Grabbing the Reader's Attention. Writers sometimes get only one chance to grab a reader's attention. Ways to write a catchy introduction and clear thesis.

Sara Fujimura is a Freelance Writer, Creative Writing Teacher and Author. She will teach: Contracts, Kill Fees, and Serial Rights, Oh My! (A crash course in magazine writing) and Cooking Up Some Chicken Soup (Write Fun, Inspirational Personal Essays)

Joshua Perkey is Senior Editor of the Ensign and writes fantasy novels on the side. His two-hour workshop will teach you how to craft articles for human interest magazines, including Church magazines such as the Ensign, New Era, and Friend.

Peggy Shumway is an author and former Family History Consultant. Her class is: Your Grandfather did What? -- Crafting a Family History that Reads Like fiction. Who says a family history has to be boring? Learn how to create compelling family chronicles.

Matt Peterson is a Copywriter specializing in blogging, social media marketing, website content, by-lined articles, email marketing, and more. He will teach: Freelance Copywriting -- The Perfect “Day Job” for Writers. How you can use your writing skills to pay the bills.

Serena Freewomyn is a Web/Blog & Social Network Expert. Social Media for Authors includes: What is social media, the number one tool for building an online presence? What is a blog, how to start one? Focus on Facebook & Twitter to reach your target audience & Time management tips.

Full Schedule: Classes, Activities, Pitches & Fees

Questions about the Conference, contact ANWA Event Co-Chairs,

Cindy or Patti at anwa-events@anwa-lds.com.

Hilton Hotel Discounts: 1-800-544-5866 or ONLINE

To register go to: http://anwa-lds.com/2012conference.html

More information about ANWA: http://anwa-lds.com

Jan 28, 2012

The 7 Deadly Sins of Writing-According to Writer's Digest

By Bonnie Harris

It's been one of those weeks this week. You know when it feels like a month's gone by and it's only been a day. I'm lucky I remembered to get this post done. :) So in a way I'm going to cheat for today. Someone emailed me this awesome link from Writer's Digest. It contained the 18 most popular writing articles of 2011. You should check it out. Here's one that caught my attention pretty quickly. It's short, simple, and too the point.


Categories: Improve My WritingMystery and Thriller WritingWhat's NewWrite 1st Chapter/Get StartedWriting for BeginnersWriting Your First Draft Tags: .
7In a thought-provoking ThrillerFest panel, four popular authors shared what they believe to be the deadly sins of the writing craft. Here are seven of their offerings. Have you committed any of them?
1. Laziness
(David Hewson, author of the Nic Costa series)
Intellectual laziness is something all writers are prone to: as in writing the same type of book, and doing it annually. “I think you really have to fight against laziness and constantly keep challenging yourself.” Like great art, books aren’t ever finished—they’re abandoned. (In other words, don’t just finish writing your first draft and call it a day.)
2. Trying to be a good student
(Lisa Gardner, author of The Killing Hour)
Gardner said it’s a thrill to rope a lot of cool forensic facts in the research process. But the danger is in going home and regurgitating all of them in your novel—“When really thrillers are all about entertaining. …” Keep that story moving forward.
3. Marching down the outline
(John Sandford, author of Buried Prey)
This occurs when you sit down to write and follow your outline exactly. Sandford said some people use an outline like a frame, and merely embroider within it. Outlining is fine, but sticking too closely to it can stifle your story. “If you do outline, you have to be aware of the problems that that kind of thing can cause.”
4. Denying jealousy 
(M.J. Rose, author of The Hypnotist)
“I try to not allow myself to be jealous of other writers and the books they’ve written,” Rose said—but in fact, she believes it’s a good thing to let some of that jealousy seep through. So don’t bottle it up. “I think it’s really healthy to let yourself have the full range of emotions.”
5. Focusing too heavily on the business
One of Sandford’s friends obsesses over the business end of writing—his friend writes a book, and then gets lost in all of the trappings of business and promotion … “to the exclusion of actually writing novels.”
6. Not reading books 
Reading is essential for writers. Rose cited a study that said that 23 percent of people in the United States want to be writers. If all of them read 10 books a year, Rose said, “We’d all be doing a lot better.”
7. Imitation
There is a difference between imitating a book, and being influenced by a book. Hewson added that it’s valuable to figure out why you think certain things work in the books you read, and why others don’t.

Jan 27, 2012

Lucky to be a Reader and a Writer

When a book has the following as the first sentence:
"My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie."
It sure does get your attention, it did mine anyway.

Because from the very first line author Alice Sebold makes it clear the main character, Susi Salmon, is no longer living. In the book, The Lovely Bones, I instantly bonded with 14-year old Susie Salmon because of her innocence and sweetness. I just loved her and as the narrator of the book she was vibrant and descriptive and funny, but she was dead. Early on in the book I knew how she died, a horrible death that still leaves me cold inside, but I found myself wishing I didn’t know she was dead. My reasoning behind this is I wanted the chance to think she could not be dead, so I could have some relief; so I could hope. Maybe they’ll find her, maybe she’ll escape – Nope! I knew she was dead and as the reader, it was heartbreaking to deal with her parents search efforts and belief that maybe they would find her alive.

I was very taken by the book, The Lovely Bones, but truth be told, this is the only book I’ve every thrown away. Once I finished it, I didn’t leave it on my bookshelf like a trophy, I didn’t offer it to family and friends like I do other books I read, I threw it in my outdoor black city garbage can because I never wanted to think about such horrible things again. The book itself was a visual of something I never wanted to remember again.

Although . . .

I will say I was very intrigued by the author, Alice Sebold. Who was she? As a writer, how did she get to such a dark place? Was she herself Susie Salmon; young innocent rape victim?

As a writer myself, I had I to do some research and I found a book I had to read: Lucky, Alice Sebold’s experiences of being raped and how the experience shaped the rest of her life. Why the title Lucky? Because when she reported the crime to the police, they remarked that a young woman had once been murdered in the same location. Thus, they told her, she was "lucky." Lucky had me hooked from the start. Ms. Sebold so graciously allows the reader into her mind. She doesn’t hide what happened to her, she doesn’t sugar-coat it and she never apologizes for the vulgarity of it. So, I have to ask myself; is this how she was able to write as rape/murder victim Susie Salmon? In other words, do we as authors need to have some sort of personal experience to be able to write the stories we want to share?

I’ve thought about his more then once. When I read the“Twilight” series, I remember thinking Stephenie Meyer must of have had a pretty healthy childhood. No mention of abuse or trauma. Bella is never looking back at a difficult life. Other then Bella’s parents divorce, we don’t know much about Bella “pre-Edward”. I’m convinced Ms. Meyer is a hopeless romantic who wanted to write a powerful love story and that’s most certainly what she did.  Ms. Meyer needed to write, but not for the same reason Ms. Sebold needed to write or maybe the reason doesn't matter because both authors found what they were looking for: an escape.

Still, I think writing is so therapeutic for the author. We get to explore shady places, reveal deep inner-thoughts and travel places we’ve never been. In fiction, we don’t have to reveal our sources unless we want to. I commend Alice Sebold for her accomplishments in The Lovely Bones and Lucky. Both stories needed be told. Ms. Sebold took a risk, she put her heart on the line in hopes to help other rape victims, and for this, I thank her. She shared a difficult story that took hold of the reader’s heart. So now I know. When I was reading The Lovely Bones, I wasn’t just rooting for fictional character Susie Salmon, I was rooting for the very real Ms. Sebold’s justice as well.

Jan 26, 2012

What Makes Me...Me!

All through Thanksgiving and Christmas I consistently tell myself, "Hang in there. After the holidays everything will slow down." And it never does. Ever. And yet, that's a good thing. Right?

My new favorite show is "Once Upon A Time." It's about a wicked witch who curses every fairy tale character ever created to spend eternity in the modern world - nothing changing. Ever. Even the clock tower reads the same time. Never moving. Oh...and the only one who remembers who they are is the wicked witch (She's the mayor of Storybrook, Maine). Until the one person who can save them from the curse shows up in town. Then everything starts to change...even the plots of the fairy tales themselves change as the clock begins to tick. It is a fascinating concept and the show is filled with all kinds of social, political, and philosophical nuances.

Of course, timing is everything...One line hit me right between the eyes when I watched the latest episode -- the day after Doug lost his job. Snow White knows she is in love with the prince, but has told him goodbye and that she never loved him (in order to save his life). She is in emotional pain. She has a potion in her possession that will erase that pain. She starts to open the bottle and Grumpy stops her. Snow White asks him to consider if he would use the potion to take away his own pain. Grumpy says,

"No, I would never use it. My pain makes me who I am. Grumpy."

At first I giggled. Yeah, my "pain" makes me grumpy too! I love the play on words, as corny as they might be. Then I thought about the deeper meaning of what Grumpy said. Every event, every thought, every action/reaction, every person that comes into my life, makes me who I am today. Would I take away any of my experiences in order to lessen the pain? If so, which ones?

The past couple of weeks have been particularly challenging as my teenage daughter demolished the garage door with the Durango, my husband lost his job and the kitchen sink clogged up...again. Of course, amazingly wonderful things have happened too! A new granddaughter, a fun trip to Idaho, children and grandchildren visiting and our new kitty caught her first mouse! I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from friends and family throughout the world.

My prayers this morning included a plea to help me feel the strength and courage that I know is there to help me, not just survive, but flourish in these circumstances. I opened my scriptures and an index card fell out and landed on the table in front of me. A reference to 2 Kings 6: 14 - 17 was written on the bottom of the card.

"Fear not; for they that be with us are more than they that be with them." Wow. I am surrounded by angels who love and protect me!

The quote above the scripture said, " Have the courage to be "ruthless" with my discards."

I remember now how to focus on what is needful. I will be ruthless in discarding my fears and insecurities. I choose to let them go. In the storyline, things change more and more as the characters start to remember who they are. I will remember who I am and what the Savior did for me. I choose to be strong and listen to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. Then I will act on that guidance and look forward to the blessings that await me!


Jan 25, 2012

Of France and Green Scarves

By Nikki McBride Spencer

- "C'est la vie", she said, as she slowly walked away, taking the green scarf with her. All he could think about was the fury he felt and how she wasn't even French.

The above two sentences were found on my cousin’s Facebook post. This is the first question that I asked him. 

“Was the green scarf his?” 

His answer?

“I did this to spark curiosity and create images in people’s minds that cause wonder. :) It worked!”

Yes indeedy, oh dear cousin, it most certainly did work. It worked so well, in fact that I have several more questions about this ill-fated couple. Why is she taking the scarf? Does the scarf have a history and what is it? Is the scarf valuable? Why is she speaking French if that isn’t her nationality? What is her nationality? Why is she walking slowly if she is breaking up with him? Is she mad, or just smug? Maybe they’re not breaking up, maybe she is a spy! Why is he furious and how well will he control it? What will the fallout of his emotions be? Will he try and retrieve the scarf someday? Will he call out scathing remarks? Will he get revenge? Will he go stuff his face with a delicious Subway meatball sandwich with extra meatballs and not even taste it because of his anger?

What did this scarf look like, anyway? Was it spring green, embroidered, tassels on both ends, perhaps a few jewels woven into the fibers? That’s how I imagine it. 

Ahhh, the curiosity, the images, the wonder! I’d say these two sentences did their job, and did them well. They certainly hooked me.

Sometimes we write to meet our goals, or because we think we should. Today, just for fun, I challenge you to write for play. Here is your Fun Assignment: Take three minutes and write one or two sentences that spark curiosity, create mind images, and invoke a sense of wonder. It doesn’t have to make sense. The only backstory is no backstory. You are simply writing for the fun of it.

When you’re done, post your sentences in the comments. I would love to hear what you come up with!

Let’s play!

Jan 24, 2012

Effective Time to Write

By Leesa Ostrander

I am in the middle of re-prioritizing my time set for writing, family, profession, training for marathon and the small business I own. With all the pots boiling on my stove I thought the article on Jan. 18, 2012, on writersdigest.com (http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/8-tips-for-making-the-most-of-your-writing-time) 8 Tips for Making the Most of Your Writing Time, was meant for me.
Aine Greaney suggests 8 tips to help:
1. Make a date with yourself. Set a regular date for writing, and show up on time.
2. Right brain. Right time. Figure out when you’re most energized and creative, and make the most of it.
3. Find a clean, well-lit place. You don’t need an artist studio with an ocean view, but make your writing space comfortable and inspiring.
4. Tell your family and friends. Enlist their support and cooperation in achieving your writing goals.
5. Same time, same place. Establish a routine, and stick with it.
6. Switch off all electronic communication. Enough said.
7. Set a daily word quota. This makes it easier to quantify your success.
8. Allow yourself to write badly. Give yourself a break—you can always revise later.

I hear, been told and in the back of my mind know all these tips are important and keep writing focused on writing. Some are easier for me than others.
Turning off electronics, allowing myself to write badly, and writing at the correct time are not so difficult for me. The difficult number is enlisting support and making a date specific for writing. I tend to fill the writing slot with other to-do items, and not always essential.
I decided to use this list as I do with my running training. When I train I have a log for miles run, food eaten, water and protein intake. I adjusted the log to fit words written, specific time set for writing, door closed in office and desk clear. When I log these steps it allows my brain to know, “this is training time.”
Do you agree? What would you add to making the most of your time and being the most effective?

Jan 23, 2012

Why Do It?

By Tracy Astle

You may have read these words before, but repetition of good things is a good thing. The first version posted is attributed to Mother Theresa (great woman!) and reportedly hung on the walls of her home for children in Calcutta, India. Some say they were even hung in her own room.

There's another version, by Kent Keith, that is said to be where she got her inspiration. How would you like to be known as an inspiration to Mother Theresa? I've included both versions.


Mother Teresa's version:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

(I found pictures of Dr. Kent, but couldn't get them to paste here.)

Dr. Keith M. Kent's version:
He was only 19 when he wrote this!

The Paradoxical Commandments

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

"The Paradoxical Commandments" were written by Kent M. Keith in 1968 as part of a booklet for student leaders.

Happy side note: I have a partial request from a publisher for my manuscript! As my son put it, it's like getting a callback. If they like my first 100 pages, they'll request the full. If they like that, they'll make an offer on it. If they don't like it enough to offer on it, then at least I know it was good enough to generate some interest. I'll keep you posted.

P.S. - Thanks to Lauri Egan for posting Mother Theresa's quote on the ANWA Social loop recently and reminding me of them.

Jan 22, 2012

EEK! I got Nuthin'!

by Marsha Ward

For some reason, I thought my turn to blog was last week, but then I checked, and Nope, it's today. This is what happens when I'm crazy busy and lose track of not only time, but entire days of the week.

So, I've scurried around in the recesses of my brain, and remembered one cogent fact. This:

"The US Postal Service has announced that as of January 22, 2012, the cost to mail first class letters, postcards and packages within the US will go up. The cost to mail a first class letter will be 45 cents, an increase of 1 cent. According to the USPS, this is the first increase since May 2009. The cost of mailing a postcard will be 32 cents, an increase of 3 cents. This is the second increase for postcard postage in less than a year; in April 2011, the USPS boosted the postcard stamp price from 28 cents to 29 cents. You will also pay more to send letters to Canada, Mexico and other international destinations. Click here for more information on all the postal increases."

Thanks to ARRL.org for the graphic and the news release. Happy emailing, everyone!