Apr 30, 2012


By Tracy Astle

Seems to me that in our writing lives there's a lot of waiting to be done: waiting for our muse to visit, for our rough draft to be done, for our final draft to be done, for a crituque to come back to us, for an agent, editor or publisher to respond, for life to slow down at least a bit so we can more easily make time for writing. You name it.

(BTW - If you figure out that last one, PLEASE let me know your secret. ASAP. Then write a book sharing said secret and you will be wealthy, wealthy, wealthy!)

We must find something to fill our waiting hours, so as to avoid wasting the minutes of our limited engagement here on earth. Besides, we all know just sitting around waiting can drive a person crazy.

I'm sure you're thinking, "Keep writing. That's what we have to do while we wait. Just keep writing." True. BUT - if you're like me you can do more than one thing at a time, such as engaging your fingers and most of your brain in writing while simultaneously having another part of your brain busy itself with obsessing over whatever it is you're waiting for. We're tricky like that, aren't we?

While it is quite important to have something to busy ourselves with to divert our attention from what we are wont to fixate on, I have found it's even more important to learn to surrender to, and even appreciate all the parts of the process - including the waiting parts. Now, I could go all deep and philisophical on you and delve into the "Zen of Waiting," but we don't have that much time or space here. Let me just say, there is joy to be found in waiting. We may have to look a little harder for it, but it's there.

There's a reason for the saying, "Good things come to those who wait." I like to add, "...to those who actively wait." When we wait actively we not only find other things to keep ourselves occupied, we also look  for the good in the waiting and open ourselves up to the blessings to be found there. 

So, tell us - what have you learned from waiting?

Apr 29, 2012

Have you checked your over-arching Scene Structure lately?

by Marsha Ward

This past week I got my writing groove back (now that my taxes are done and finally put away). I've been doing a bit of checking on my manuscript structure before I get back to actual writing.

Even though I'm basically an organic writer, or "pantser," I do know the beginning, some of the middle, and the desired end of my novel. I know who my characters are. I know more or less what their roles are in the story. I know some of the major plot points I want to build around.

I don't always know all of that information when I first put my fingers on the keyboard to write, but by the time I'm this far into the novel (65%+ finished), my ideas have firmed up, and it's time to go back for a check on my actual progress.

One of the ways I do this is to use visual and physical cues, which goes right along with my visual/tactile learning style. It's also a relief from being on the computer all the time.

In the past, I've posted long lists of chapter and scene descriptions on my walls that I could cut and tape back together in the desired chapter/scene order.

This time, I did something a bit different. I added color, one for each scene shown from a different character's viewpoint: pink for Marie Owen, orange for Bill Henry, white for C.G. Thorne, yellow for Rod Owen (Pa), and green for Julia Owen (Ma). If I'd possessed black index cards, I would have used them, too, but I don't know where to buy black index cards. :-)

Back to the subject. First, I printed out each scene description on a small slip of paper. Wait. I have to explain that.

My fabulous writing software, yWriter5 (be sure to explore the entire software inventory when you go over there), lets me print out the descriptions of each scene on "Scene Cards" of a size I specify. It doesn't, however, sort the scenes by POV (POV=point of view), or if it does, I haven't explored the instructions long enough to find that way of doing it.

Therefore, using colored card stock during the printing would have been purposeless, so I merely printed the information on plain white sheets of paper. Then I cut the "scenes cards" into rectangles and affixed them to my colored index cards.

Next, I laid the cards out on the floor:

 The first five chapters show a preponderance of Marie's viewpoint.

This helped me check for two things.

1) Having one card for each scene lets me know what information, event, or plot point I've covered so far.

I have determined that there are gaps in my narrative flow, and I need to fill them in.

2) Since the visual cue of the colored card tells me whose viewpoint is "seeing" the scene, I can also check for character balance.

Yes, it's Marie Owen's story, but there IS a supporting cast of characters, and I need them to do their job effectively, sometimes, out of Marie's sight.

Since I'm seeing an overabundance of pink cards laid out on my floor in the chapters shown above, I know there are other scenes to be written. Maybe. That depends on if material seen only from the POV of other characters is missing. Yes. Yes, it is, so I know I have scenes to write.

However, and this is a big "however," I won't necessarily add a scene for another character just because his or her viewpoint is missing from a chapter. The job of each scene is to advance the story, not to make the colors balance.

So, my title question remains, and I'll restate it: Have you checked the structure of your plot lately?

Apr 28, 2012

Books and Books and Books, Oh My!

By Cindy R. Williams
Do you love books? Do you love the feel of the pages? Do you love the smell of a new book? Do you love the musty smell of an old book? Do you just love to look at them? Are you a "Hector, the Collector" of books? Do you look at your books and see old friends?

I answer yes to all of the above. I am a dye hard book-aholic.

I took a walk through my books, I mean house and noticed the many, many books. There are books in book cases in my office and family room. There are books on the formal front room table and stacks around the grandfather clock. More books are upstairs on the hall counter and stacked on the antique dresser on the landing. Books fill the book cases in each of my children's rooms. There are ten boxes of books in the garage, three book cases in my bedroom plus the stack by the side of my bed that are priority reads. I can't forget the the three bathroom bookcase--you know, those storage thingies that surround your commode and hold about a hundred books.

Anyway . . . the point is, I tried to count how many books I have, and finally stopped at 2,333. For reals! An educated guess is that I have at least 3,500 books and I think that is probably being conservative.
So, here's the deal. Everyone take a stab at how many books you have in your abode and tell us in the comment section below. I wonder if together we can reach a half a million.
(By the way, the picture at the top isn't from my house . . . but I'm almost as bad.)

Apr 27, 2012

Mission: Possible

by Debra Erfert

It’s hard enough to sit down and write that first paragraph of a new story, but most of us don’t necessarily have a clear plan plotted out all the way to “the end.” At least I haven’t in the past. But I had the opportunity to listen to Larry Brooks, winner of the Top Ten blogs for Writers in 2011, StoryfixHe was the keynote speaker at the LDStorymaker’s conference in Salt Lake last year, and after I took his class at the ANWA conference in February, and I've started to change my ways. Okay, truthfully, I was very resistant to his rigid way of writing. Larry knows exactly what happens in his stories from beginning to end—every plot point and turn before ever typing them out.

Me? I discovered from Larry that I am, what he affectionately calls, a “pantser,” or, I tell a story by the seat of my pants, without knowing from one scene to the next what is going to happen. At first I resented that term, mostly because I have a hard time defending myself against anybody criticizing me. It’s not in my nature to confront anybody. (Read my last post  Unintentional Pain you’ll understand a little bit more why.) But after I had a chance to think about what he’d said, I figured out that I am not a true pantser. No, I am a cross between a plotter and a pantser. I mean, I can clearly “see” exactly how I want certain pivotal scenes to “look like” and all I need is the time to find the right words to describe those scenes, including the ending. I always know how I want the story to end, even before I know how it begins.   

I’ve been an artist since I was six or seven years old, and I’ve always been able to “see” the piece of work before I start it—I mean actually see it! It’s called visualization. Every pencil stoke, every swipe of colored pastel brings me closer to that finished product. I don’t do anything to that painting that isn’t advancing my project. Why would I? It would be a complete waste of precious time and energy. 

A painting is a single moment caught in time. I think that's why I like writing so much. It takes that moment and makes it move, creating a scene that leads to a whole story. Visualizing each scene as if it were real life (I write contemporary romance/suspense) is important, but what is more important is having that scene mean something. It needs to work. Larry calls this kind of writing a mission-driven scene. He explains, “The bottom line is this: every scene should have an expositional mission. Meaning, it delivers one piece of story that propels the narrative forward.” 

Expositional = explanation.  How well do we explain our story? Would you have your main character stop and smell a pretty rose if it had absolutely nothing to do with the story or her character other than you wanted to have a chance to describe a rose? I don't think so. It would be a waste of your time in writing it, and a waste of time for your reader to read it. But--if she needed to be there so a handsome hero could push her out of the way of a truck with darkened windows intentionally trying to run her down, then you've just driven home that fact that your character is in mortal danger--and advanced your narrative forward. 

Ah, but in the next scene your character clobbers the handsome hero with a solid upper cut to his jaw with a closed fist and tells him she doesn't need or want his help, you've just given us insight to her unappreciative, and even spoiled nature. This is also moving the narrative forward. As readers, we need to know more than just the action around the characters. We want to know what makes that characters tick, their motives, the desires, their idiosyncrasies. If they are stiff and uninteresting, then we won't care if that truck runs over them, and we most likely won't turn the next page, either. 

Make every word count. Make every scene work optimally.  

Apr 26, 2012

Rain Storm

By Susan G. Haws

I just started composing my blog today when I heard the rumble of thunder muffled by the house walls and the rapid splat sounds of a downpour. I walked to the door to watch the rain pound the dirt in the back yard flowing into puddles in the low spots and making multitudes of mini, splash waves in the pool.

In literature weather adds conflict or  illustrates concepts depending on how it is judiciously used. A rain storm is a prayed for blessing in a drought. Gentle rain refreshes the air, and nourishes a garden. Rain can fill a river and flood a town.  Rain can be part of a hurricane.  But just as rain can save a crop, hail or flood can kill a crop.

Weather physically changes the setting of a story and this leads to emotional and economic conflicts. Rain saves a crop and thus a farm financially.  A torrential rain blinds a driver so they tragically  maim or kill a pet or person.

The building of a storm can parallel building conflict or foreshadow events.  Characters can supernaturally manifest their emotions in physical storms. Other fantasy characters  can consciously control the weather as a weapon.

Do our characters throw a hurricane party or pack their car and evacuate? How the people in our stories react to the weather can provide insight into their character. Even today with our high tech lifestyle the weather can influence  feelings and actions. Weather can be a means to bring characters individually and collectively back in tune with the earth, ancestors, values, and God.

Weather, rain,  is significant in one of my projects. How have you used weather in your works?

Apr 25, 2012

Bad Guys

by Kami Cornwall

"How's the writing going? When are you going to be done with that story so I can read it? Let me know when that book is done!" These have been the words of frustration encouragement I have heard a lot lately. I explained yesterday to one query that I'm following Janette Rallison's advice and am just taking a break for a few months so that I can come back to it with fresh eyes. (Yeah. That's it.) As I was talking I also verbalized a truth that I had only bounced around in my brain up until now: I hate my bad guy.

He's a bad guy. You're supposed to hate him. I want the reader to hate him. But I identify with my main character enough (all of that visualizing you know) that now when I have him tagging along with her in a portion of her adventure after having escaped his clutches for so long...I can't stand to go back to the story and keep writing! I just hate him so much! I feel like I'm being forced into a tiny little box with him and it makes me seriously uncomfortable.

I have decided first of all I need to change his name because his name alone equates with someone in my past whose actions are offensive to my sensibilities. So a name change is a must. Maybe a little distance from that "too close to home" feeling will make it better.

Then I considered making this guy a little more like-able - like Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold in Once Upon A Time but that won't work either. I LOVE watching episodes with Mr. Gold because he's just so fascinating. (And also Robert is a fantastic actor!) But my "bad guy" really can't be very like-able. He really is just going to be an intelligent, power hungry jerk. Still, perhaps he needs to be better understood.

So I'm still working on it, but it IS coming together nicely and I should be done soon if I can just get the last two chapters down. Then I'll be enjoying the re-writing and editing stage that I actually love more than anything. Maybe I should be an editor. *sigh*

How's YOUR writing going?

Apr 24, 2012

I wish I was Different

by Terri Wagner

Here I am two weeks exactly from my last final to renew my teaching certificate. Still worried sick there will be no job out there once I have done this. Mostly I am miffed with myself. Do ya'll ever feel that way?

I started out in January with a promise to myself. One, I would not pin all my hopes on this situation; two, I would accept a C and move on; three, I would continue subbing. I only did number three. And I am very glad, because I am learning how to apply the principles I learn in school with the reality of subbing, which as you know, is mostly a babysitting venture. Sometimes I have been quite successful; others, not so much. One thought stays with me: These are Heavenly Father's best and brightest, what worked before will not work with them.

I have applied for several other jobs, but not one interview; so although I did not mean to pin my hopes on this, it seems the only door open at the moment. However, open it is.

As for number 2 that is why I am freaking out with two weeks left. Somehow, I have managed to pull an A in all three classes...no, don't congratulate me yet. I have two filmed projects, one final paper, one final and 5 blog posts yet to go. But instead of coasting because I have an A at the moment, I want to keep the A. And I am having a conversation with myself that goes something like this:

Just coast, you're safe! I WANT the As. Why, no one cares. I care! No you don't care, it's your ego. No, it's my pride. Either way it's a drag. But, but...and so on it goes. I'll resurface in two weeks with or without saving the As. Think I should coast?

poster of a beach

Apr 23, 2012

Oh Dear Goodness...

by Kristin Baker Przybyla

It was bound to happen one of these days. And I kept reminding myself of it all day yesterday, but it happened anyway: I totally spaced it! See, there I am on the left! Somewhere out in space! It's beautiful here. :)

Well, as it's still technically Monday, I'll post a quick entry with my apologies. I think I'll make this a post of Random Thoughts, since I do seem to have a few floating around my head today.

1. Still getting over this lung thing. This is officially the longest I've ever had a cough! Two months and counting...

2. I'm really loving my new water heater and kitchen faucet. I don't know how Dennis did it (I suspect he opened an account at Lowe's), but NO MORE BOILING WATER for baths, laundry, and dishes! Woo hoo!

3. I'm not really liking Blogger's new editing format. I know they've had it out a while, but I kept their old format as long as I could. What do you guys think? Maybe it's just me, but I hate it when I get so comfortable with a particular format AND THEN THEY GO AND CHANGE EVERYTHING!!! Don't they see how much people freak out whenever Facebook changes stuff?

Now my head feels nice and empty. I'm going to go wander off and do whatever spacey things I was doing before I remembered it was my day to post. Hope you all have a wonderful week!

Apr 22, 2012

On Deserts . . . and Gratitude

By Jennifer Debenham

I learned the difference on how to spell "desert" and "dessert" in grade school when my teacher informed our class that the double "s" in "dessert" could remind us that we always want seconds on dessert, but never would we request more of the dry, miserable desert.

As a child of the northern Nevada deserts, facing attitudes like this from my mentors, you might well imagine how I could come to the conclusion that the desert is no place to be--at least not by choice. After all, if one doesn't want seconds of something, does one really ever want firsts? Not to my way of thinking.

Couple that with my own dear mother's exclamations of joy whenever we'd leave said desert and head for--literally--greener pastures, and you're on your way to understanding my own eventual contempt for the desert. On a trip up the Oregon coast when I was a child, Mother's constant words of delight taught me we had truly entered a wondrous, even magical, place. I learned the lesson most dutifully that green is better than . . . well . . . brown.

It's probably no surprise, then, that I would jump at the opportunity to leave my desert home when my own Mr. Wonderful--from Alaska, no less--asked for my hand in marriage. When he informed me that we would be spending our first summer together living in the Last Frontier, I couldn't have been happier. What a thrill that would be!

And it was.

With wild flowers that reached past my head, and bear stories that pricked goosebumps I didn't know I possessed, and plenty of opportunities to view that verdant color not seen so much in the "one-s" desert, our first summer was a thrill this desert girl couldn't help but experience just as wide-eyed as a child with a pocket full of money on his first trip to a candy store. But before long we were back to the reality of college life and, yes, the desert.

Our next several years of marriage would take us to the deserts of Utah, Nevada, and southern California. While I was happy in each of these places, I never truly appreciated the desert around me. My focus was more on my friends and family. And while that is easily the best place to focus our happiness, I've since learned that finding happiness in EVERY part of our lives is important to maintaining lasting joy.

Ironically, my appreciation of the desert didn't happen until just a few months before we were scheduled to move to a place that was about as different from the Nevada deserts I had grown up in as a place can get--the Pacific Northwest.

It all happened because I had been spending a lot of time writing for some Master's classes I was taking at University of Nevada, Reno. I was forced to draw inspiration from my surroundings. Much of the time my inspiration was my family, my children. But more and more often I started to think about my grandmother "Gran," as I called her, who had passed away many years earlier, and from whom I believed I had inherited much of my creative talent. She was a poet and an artist, and most of her subject matter centered on the desert, which she loved. Why did she love it, I wondered. There must be something to it.

So little by little I noticed things I had never seen before. Maybe Gran was my muse.

And I was taken in.

Did you know, for instance, that the "one-s" desert is not ONE color--that tired, parched brown I had always crinkled my nose at? Well probably you did, because you are not so blinded as I had been much of my life. Often it is not easy to see these colors clearly under the glare of the noon-day sun, but there are yellows and grays and blues and greens. Yes, green! The sage, the junipers. And even the dirt is colorful in the desert, depending on where you are.
If you really want a treat, you'll set aside a moment or two to enjoy the best time of the day in the desert--sunset--when the brightness of the day has floated to the far corner of the western sky and cast a subtle glow across the land. But don't just look at the show in the sky, tempting though it will be with the bright, deep colors that change almost as quickly as you can breathe in and out. Share a part of your gaze with the landscape below that colorful sky. Then you'll notice that all the colors you picked up on before are now a deeper, more vibrant shade.

My love for the desert took many sunsets to establish itself. I wasn't easily persuaded. But now, after spending four years in a place that is green and vibrant and delightfully moist, I now find myself back to my roots. Back to the desert. I'm glad I learned to love it long before I returned.

And it makes me wonder . . . what else can I learn to love, to find joy in and gratitude for? After all, if I can love the "one-s" desert as greatly as I do now, maybe I can learn to love diets, or spiders, or--my personal worst--giving the dog a bath.

Hmm . . . baby steps!

Apr 21, 2012

A Tribute to Grandpa

By Bonnie Harris

Death is something that no one can escape. It has touched everyone in some way, whether it be a family member, friend, neighbor, acquaintance, celebrity, or pet. When our lives have crossed paths with death, it tends to be a time of reflection on our own lives as well as those who are no longer with us. These silent or spoken tributes help shape our way of living, at least for the next little while.
My grandpa recently passed away. It has brought many things to my mind. As my family and I made arrangements to attend the funeral, the reason for us leaving town brought much sympathy and sorrow. Faces of friends and neighbors would fall as they expressed their thoughts. “I’m sorry for your loss,” and “You have our/my sympathy,” were the most common phrases spoken. I’ve pondered what people said as of late, and found their first reaction didn’t make sense to me.
I understand those kind of sediments for an unexpected loss or the loss of a young person, but for a passing that is expected and actually a blessing, those phrases left me wondering. Now, I realize that that specific information was unknown to most people and some grandparents are young and their deaths are unexpected, but at the time I hadn’t thought of that. 
The more I’ve thought about it, maybe it’s the fact that I believe in an afterlife, and I know I will see my grandpa again, that have made the sorrowful sympathies unnecessary, in my eyes. I know that he’s been released from a state of pain in a sense, since he’s been sick for years. Maybe it’s a combination of all of that, and if people had all of that information up front, their responses might be different. Then again, a time of sorrow can be a time of celebration as well.
Those thoughts were ever present during his viewing and funeral service. What began as a sad moment, turned into a happy reunion since I saw cousins I hadn’t seen in years. We visited, laughed, and caught up on each others lives. Memories of what we loved about Grandpa came out, memories I had forgotten about—like riding in a wagon down the hill (which seemed so huge at the time) in Grandpa’s back yard or climbing up the cherry tree or that he loved Almond Joys or how he would laugh many different ways just because.
A twenty-one gun salute and the presentation of a flag reminded me of his service to this great nation. It also told of the many times Grandpa performed the same service to other veterans who have gone before him.
The luncheon, after the dedication of the grave was full of great-grandchildren running around, screaming, laughing, and having a wonderful time with each other. Grandpa’s legacy filled the church hall with joyful noises (no matter what else parents may call it). It was wonderful to witness the love that has grown from him.
So, I am adding my tribute to those already witnessed, to a wonderful, loving, Grandpa.
I find it interesting that as we think back on the time we’ve shared with people, often times it’s the little things that we roll our eyes at that are the first thoughts that come to mind. And in turn, it is those things we will miss the most.
  • I loved the way Grandpa squeezed my cheeks so hard and then kissed me on the lips in greeting and farewell.
  • I loved how Grandpa sat and listened to our visits, hardly saying a word, until it was time to leave and we were headed out the door. Then Grandpa started talking and asking questions, inevitably elongating our visit for up to another hour or so.
  • I loved watching Grandpa put the same puzzle piece in the exact same spot time and time again, even though it didn’t fit.
  • I loved how Grandpa put horse radish on everything, and when I say everything I mean EVERYTHING. We’d all say, “Ew! Gross!” as he scooped up a large helping of horse radish, dumped it on whatever, and put it in his mouth, grinning from ear to ear.

Apr 20, 2012

A Writer's Dream

by Laura Lofgreen

I dream a lot.  Most of the ideas for my writing projects come to me while I’m asleep, but one night I had a very interesting dream about the highs and lows of the actual writing process. 

In my dream, my husband and I are in Sedona. We have the entire day planned; great places to eat and visit, meeting up with friends and enjoying time together. And what do I suggest as we drive through beautiful Oak Creek Canyon? I look out the window at a huge boulder, isolated and remote and say;
“I want to spend the day on top of that.”
The rock is about 100 feet up in the air and has a small platform on top. There’s a rock climbing group that can help me get to the top of it.
Like usual, my husband doesn’t question my idea, he’s the perfect gentleman and agrees to help me however he can.
So, I spend the next hour being lured with ropes and levies up onto the top of this rock that’s piercing out of the ground like a 60 foot overgrown weed.
I watch as my husband drives away and there I sit, all alone.
The space is small and I barely fit sitting Indian style. If I lean too much either way, I’ll fall to my death.
I meditate and look at the view and after about an hour, I wonder how in the world I’ll get down. It’s hot and I have no water. I wonder why I wanted to do this at all. What a strange idea?
I think of my husband, out having fun and I miss him so much.
After about 3 hours, the rocking climbing group climbs back to the top of the boulder, slips some ropes around me and helps me down.
Once at the bottom, I wait and wait for my husband to come pick me up. Its night fall when I see the headlights of his car, pulling into the gravel parking lot. The car is filled with balloons and music is blaring from the radio. It’s obvious he’s had a great day.
“How was it?” he asks as I get into the car.
“It was fine, I wish I would’ve spent the day with you instead,” I say with some regret.

In a strange way, this is how I feel when I’ve spent the day writing. I sit alone, Indian style in a single chair and watch as the world flashes by. Sometimes I get really thirsty because I realize I’ve forgotten to drink while I work. Night falls and I type in the dark before I realize I need to turn a lamp on. And I sit, day after day, meditating the ideas of my novel. And the 3 hour time-line on top of the boulder in the dream? I rarely work more the 3 hours at a time on writing. I run out of ideas and loose momentum. There are plenty of days I ask myself, “Why am I doing this?”

So, after this dream I give myself a few days off.  I pretend like I don’t have the urge to continue working on my novels.  I procrastinate.  I shop for shoes on-line.  I try a new recipe for cinnamon rolls, even though I’m not eating carbohydrates.  I pluck my eyebrows slowly and when I’m done I change the sheets in my daughter’s crib.
Who am I fooling?  I want back up on the cliff-high boulder so I can look out at the world and get back to my writing.  

Apr 19, 2012

Random Thoughts From a Piece of String

by Kari Diane Pike

Have you ever stopped to ponder on a piece of string? Our kitten "Jules" loves string of any kind. I have to be attentive when I wear anything with strings or ties around the house. Jules ambushes everything that dangles. Let's just say that strings about one's throat are not a good idea at my house.

But I digress.
Our lives have often been compared to tapestries -- in which every experience is a thread that adds color and dimension. Some threads itch and chafe, while others shimmer and soothe. Sometimes our threads get tangled and knotted and we have to pick it out and start over.

As a parent, I work feverishly to keep the kite strings taught so that my children can reach their highest potential. Cutting the apron strings so that those binding ties can soar higher and reach farther can be a painful, yet rewarding experience.

Right now I feel like I am facing a raging river. Great adventures await me on the other side, but the only way to cross is to grab onto one of the many ropes (made from many strings bound together) hanging from the trees  and swing across. But which rope will hold?

Yesterday, after much prayer, I decided to take action. I grabbed one of those ropes and tugged. It felt strong. It felt secure. I took it further and climbed up the rope to test my weight on it. Right about the time I felt ready to commit, another rope was tossed down. I felt a little confused and decided to sleep on my final decision.

This morning, I found the first rope lying on the ground.  I'm grateful I didn't take the final swing!

Strings are funny things, and right now they are tugging on my heart.

Apr 18, 2012


by Nikki McBride Spencer

Jonathan kicked at the pebbles that were scattered across the dirt road. The road was more like a path, really, weeds springing up on the edges and some daring ones even took root in the middle of it, between the tire tracks. The road led to nowhere for most people, yet for Jonathan, it led everywhere. This was his world.

He hummed as he walked, kicking a stone here, pausing there to admire a jackrabbit family darting in the bushes. The little ones were so cute. They'd make good eating when the time came. 

The sky was perfect today; huge pure white clouds floated by gracefully. They exuded laziness and sunshine all at once. Jonathan felt good. Really, really, good.

He noticed his shoelace had wiggled loose, untying itself. He crouched down to fix it, and as he did, a bit of sparkle caught his eye. He squinted at the thing in the dirt, and then moved closer to it. Red and gold, it glimmered and beckoned to him.

Jonathan picked up the bit of sparkle. He turned it over and over in his fingers. It was smooth over most of its surface, like a river rock, except for one side. That side had a curious ridged area. He thought about this. It could be a piece of something that had broken off of a bigger thing, but he didn't think so. The ridged edge looked important, as if it had been purposely carved into place. He turned it again, inspecting it with his short, stubby fingers. Then he shrugged. The thing was pretty, no doubt. He hadn’t the faintest idea of what it could be, but he didn't care much. The thing was pretty and interesting, and colorful to boot. The thing made him happy

He slid the red and gold bauble into his pocket and continued on his way.

Apr 17, 2012

In Honor of National Poetry Month

By Leesa Ostrander

In honor of National Poetry Month I want to share a poem I wrote out of despair when my uncle died. It is not only my uncle dying that caused the surge of emotions. In three short weeks I lost suddenly, my grandpa, then my uncle (to everyone's shock) and my grandma. These three weeks were heart wrenching for my entire family.

In the years since, I have realized three ways I cope with pain. First, I have 15 second pity parties. Second, I sulk in quiet internal despair. Last, I write. The system does not always turn out to be the most productive or beneficial for those around me. Yet, it is my system of functioning and I am okay with it.

I have also noticed that my system is not good for everyone.

However, my time of writing does benefit others. First, it is a talent I can share. Next, I put words on a paper that one other person may be able to relate to. This to me is the most important. If I can help someone else put thoughts to together that is disorganized in their life, my purpose and system is inspirationally significant.

With this I give you my thoughts for my uncle:

Do not weep for me
It was my time to go
Do not long for me
I will find you
Do not cry for me
I had a great time
Do not miss me
I am near by

Do remember my smile
Let it lighten your soul
Do let the morning sunshine
Begin a cheerful day
Do remember my wisdom
I am here for you
Do let the evening colors
Remind you to hold true

Apr 16, 2012

Dream On!

By Tracy Astle

The order of the day is, of necessity, brevity, so what I have for you today is a quote for every writer and our characters.

It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.
                                                                                              Paulo Coelho, from The Alchemist

Dream on.

Apr 15, 2012

Tax Time & Quotes

by Marsha Ward

Unfortunately, writers who have income need to calculate and pay taxes every year. Fortunately, we have one more day to get them in this year, because April 15, the traditional filing deadline for most U.S. taxpayers, falls on Sunday. Therefore, that not being a business day, the IRS gives us a one-day extension to file.

I'm probably still doing all those calculations, so I have nothing witty to post today, except these few gems from bestselling authors:

"I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide." ~Harper Lee

"What a writer has to do is write what hasn't been written before or beat dead men at what they have done." ~Ernest Hemingway

"In truth, I never consider the audience for whom I'm writing. I just write what I want to write." ~J.K. Rowling

"I don't care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finished the book." ~Roald Dahl

Apr 14, 2012

by Cindy R. Williams

How to waste writing time:

Answer the phone every time it rings. - train of thought buster
Check email, Facebook and games, Twitter, blog, surf the net . . .
Clean house - Yikes!
Cook - Yum!
Eat - Yummier!
Nibble - Yummiest!
Exercise - Now you know you really are stalling.
Self doubt - Stop it! (some of the best advice ever thanks to Pres. Uchtdorf)

Okay, some of these things listed MUST be addressed, but not during your dedicated writing time.

I learned to set phone boundaries from being a music teacher in my home. If the phone rings during a music lesson, I don't take the call. Although I am at home, I am working. The student has paid for 30 minutes, and it is my job to be honest and give them that time. I show myself the same respect when I am writing.

Take this challenge: track time spent doing these for a week. It sure adds up. Look at all the writing time wasted.

Exercise is critical for your physical, spiritual and emotional self. Schedule it and DO IT! Just don't do it as an avoidance to write.

If you focus and work hard at the task at hand, it seems to fall into place. Focus and work hard at cleaning and organizing the house. Focus and work hard when it is time to fix meals. When family, friends, neighbors and loved ones need you, focus and give them quality time.

When it is time to write, set your "I must please the world" guilt aside and write. The world will keep turning.

Writing for many of us fills our wells. You will accomplish the things you were meant to accomplish, feel happy, and be a better mom, daughter, wife, friend, example and even a better writer.

Apr 13, 2012

The Role of a Beta-Reader

I finished writing my work-in-progress last week. Typing The End after the last sentence felt spectacular. I had every intention of shelving that manuscript and letting it sit for a couple of weeks. That way I would be able to read it with “fresh eyes” from beginning to end, and have a better chance of seeing any plot holes, bad grammar, and words that are out of place.

Only . . . I couldn’t let it sit. I don’t know about you, but I fall in love with my characters, and their plights, and with the unique ways they solve their dilemmas. After being with them for three or four months, leaving them behind left me lonely. Does that sound weird? So I started reading it from the beginning without the promised time lapse.

At the end of last week, Jolene Perry gave out the name of her secret reader for anyone who needed to have a manuscript read. Christina quickly consented to read BUCKET LIST OF HOPE for me. Of course, I wasn’t the only one to latch onto that great opportunity. And it was Easter weekend, too, so I never expected to have an email Wednesday morning with a critiqued manuscript attached. Whoa, Christina is super fast!   

I scrolled through the pages quickly, just to get an idea of how badly I did. There were minor errors—stupid things, really, that my eyes just wouldn’t catch because my brain said they weren’t there.

This is why we desperately need readers. I don’t know if they are classified beta-readers, or new best friends—I just know that without a dispassionate person taking her time and completely reading a story, I wouldn’t have known about the innumerable tiny holes that filled my manuscript that made the story leak like a sieve. I’m not talking about the extra words here and there that happen when we change a sentence around. I’m talking about the reasoning side of a story. The “whys” and “hows” of the plot are as important as the characters personalities and dialogue.

 Christina didn’t tell me it was a bad story. No, she said she really enjoyed it. And then she started asking questions. Here are a few . . .

So Stephanie was an actual suicide? She how long was she dead for? It must have been for a while then because the guy at work found her sometime, planned the other deaths and then followed through. So he went in and found her and changed her into a nice nightgown and laid her on her bed? Or was she already dressed like that? Was the line on David's neck from the knife that he pulled at Hope?? That and the timing was a little confusing. How long between the events. Just days? Thursday David was killed-Hope was bit by the dog and was with Dustin-Friday and Saturday she was with the rafting company and Sunday went to dinner with Seth. As I'm rethinking I guess it was just a matter of days but it would have been a big plan to pull off for the murderer between killing David, delivering the pictures, killing the other two, and then coming after Hope. All within Thursday to Thursday?? And he left the anonymous threats?

And with those questions I started patching the holes. But that didn’t stop Christina from thinking up more questions. Here are some more of her thoughts . . .

The only other thing I have thought of is the car accident with the truck. Was that just a freak accident or was the truck after her and she missed it by being an aware driver? I figured it was just another twist because the truck was white, something we were on the look out for. Also why was Seth being so weird when he stepped out of the office when she heard a noise? Is that just to make us look at him with suspicion??

They weren't her only questions. Christina had more, and they made me think. They were necessary to make the story better. And this is what makes a beta-reader invaluable to every author.

Do you have a beta-reader? Or two? That’s good, but not too many, though. You know the old saying about too many cooks in the kitchen makes for a bad stew. Well, it’s the same for a book. You give your manuscript to six different people they will give you six different suggestions for every situation. 

I think my book is almost done!

Apr 12, 2012

Tweets To Share

By Susan G. Haws

 I want to share two tweets I read. I hope it is OK to copy a tweet. . If it isn't it was done with good intentions. This tweet illustrates a lot of the things I like about ANWA and writing.

Thumbs up to my publisher. Two copies of sanderson books in the Perth airport. (Near gate 12). Both are now stealth-signed. 

I love that.  I especially love the "stealth-signed." In that little tweet I see the little-kid-at-Christmas joy and the jump-up-and-down pride of making a basket or winning the science fair and the giving back. 

 I see the same joy and pride at ANWA conference, in yahoo groups and writer blogs and at chapter meetings. The joy of accomplishing goals and dreams. Seeing your books in a bookstore rack or display has got to be amazing. Then to be on another continent and see your books has got to be an up in the ante. Wins after years of work. 

The thanks to the publisher for prime selling space is not to be discounted as I watch authors marketing their works (book babies). 

Some lucky, tired travelers will have an extra bonus with their purchase. (Talk about your win/win. It had to make Mr. Sanderson as happy to sneak sign the books as the owners will be happy to find them signed.) Authors both in and out of  ANWA are so supportive and helpful to others learning the craft. Generous sharing resources, tips and encouragement. 

The other tweet I want to share completely hit the spot for me. I have lamented in the past that my muse doesn't always send me the sort of ideas I want. I had to come to terms with that. I do love my ideas and I want to share them. I hope that eventually some will resonate with other people. Also, I get ideas for characters and settings that are very  3D to me. I also have been woken up with very clear dreams that I rush to record as much as possible before the dream fades.  I love hearing people talk about their characters, completed books and works in progress.

David Farland
 When you are transported by a dream, waking or sleeping, that feels so real you can taste, smell and feel, it's time to write.

I hope these two tweets perked up your day as much as they did mine.


Apr 11, 2012

Ten things I wish I could tell my teenage self

by Kami Cornwall

Last week I came across a post that rang true to me titled, "Ten Things I Want to Tell Teenage Girls" by Kate Elizabeth Connor and it got me thinking about some of the things I wished I would have listened to or had known as a teenager. So I decided to make my own list.

1. Your high school boyfriend will not be the love of your life. I know you are caught up in the excitement, passion, and twitterpation of it all, but you really should wait to see what's in store for you at college and "test drive" some of the other models there. And, oh yeah, some of them are actually models.

2. Stop comparing yourself to your sister. You will have much more fun together if you can appreciate her beauty and talents are unique to her. Don't disregard your own beauty and talents. Complement her instead of envy. Being prom queen will not negate life's problems.

3. Stop waiting for life to happen to you. Stop sulking because you feel like a loner. So does everyone else! The reason you all feel so alone is because we're all too insecure to sit down and talk to each other. No, wait...the popular kids aren't afraid. That's what makes them popular. Complement someone on their hair, eyes, shoes, anything! Kill 'em with kindness.

4. Don't be afraid to hurt feelings. When a guy tells you he wants to "show you how much he loves you" or uses some other lame excuse to get you to do what you know you shouldn't, don't be afraid to say no. More than no. Drop him like a hot brick and don't go back. If you don't feel good about yourself every moment you're around someone, you shouldn't be around them anymore. Your self worth is not less important than some jerk's self gratification.

5. Drinking is not cool.

6. Learn the circle of fifths! You will find yourself twenty years later wondering why you never learned it and knowing it would have helped greatly in your musical abilities.

7. Live with no regrets.

8. Write more letters to your grandparents. They had lives before you came along that consisted of more than baking you chocolate cake and laughing at every lame joke you told them. Write down their histories before they're gone. You may find that you have more in common than "Go Fish" and dusting.

9. Your mom is not out to get you. She doesn't communicate well with you, that's all. She really loves you more than you could possibly fathom and wants to protect you from the heartache that you are so desperate to plunge into. Try to overlook the way she says it and pay attention to the meaning. Also, when you're a mom, you're going to say a lot of the exact same phrases she is saying to you now. No, really. It's freaky.

10. You are beautiful. You are enough. I can't say this any better than Kate did: The world we live in is twisted and broken and for your entire life you will be subjected to all kinds of lies that tell you that you are not enough. You are not thin enough. You are not tan enough. You are not smooth, soft, shiny, firm, tight, fit, silky, blonde, hairless enough. Your teeth are not white enough. Your legs are not long enough. Your clothes are not stylish enough. You are not educated enough. You don’t have enough experience. You are not creative enough.

There is a beauty industry, a fashion industry, a television industry, (and most unfortunately) a pornography industry: and all of these have unique ways of communicating to bright young women: you are not beautiful, sexy, smart or valuable enough.

You must have the clarity and common sense to know that none of that is true. None of it.

You were created for a purpose, exactly so. You have innate value. You are loved more than you could ever comprehend; it is mind-boggling how much you are adored. There has never been, and there will never be another you. Therefore, you have unique thoughts to offer the world. They are only yours, and we all lose out if you are too fearful to share them.

You are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

Apr 10, 2012

The Next Best Thing

by Terri Wagner

poster saying the next best thing
I am taking an hybrid class this semester on education and the Internet. Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to a skype interview with Ms. Cassidy, a first grade teacher in Canada. She has her first graders blogging! And the best part was she taught herself about the Internet and how to adjust for use in her class. It's a terrific interview, please go watch it. What impressed me the most was her comment that she is always looking for the next best thing. As a teacher, she wants to make sure her children are Internet savvy. And she means not just playing around on it, but really knowing how to use and best of all how to be wise about it.

This class has been eye-opening for me. But in all the excitement over learning new things, I kept wondering how do you keep the children safe. She answered the question. Just the same way our Heavenly Father keeps us safe. He gives us the rules, and we govern ourselves. Granted those rules change a bit as we grow older and hopefully wiser; but the principle is the same. Now I feel I can "seek after anything (including the Internet)," that "is virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy."

Apr 9, 2012

The Curse of the Traveling Hubby

by Kristin Baker Przybyla

We have a little joke about what happens when my husband goes out of town. Something always breaks, but it's not the usual little things that are easy to deal with, like a plate or a toe. It's always some kind of emergency I can rarely handle on my own.

A few things that have gone wrong while the hubby's been off in faraway lands:
  • The dishwasher gasped its last (and is still broken, now being used as a big bread box).
  • The washing machine pooped out, then locked its door and refused to give me access to the soaking clothes within.
  • A close family member unexpectedly passed away.
  • My laptop and my husband's desk PC both fried on the same day.
  • The heater broke in the dead of winter.
  • My vacuum blew up, literally: pieces of plastic and hardware flew across the room and hit the wall hard enough to leave dents.
  • The car broke down.
  • Either a kid or a pet needed emergency medical treatment.
  • Our bank account always gets locked by either a hotel or a car rental company, making it impossible for me to buy anything. This time it's the car rental. I don't know when I'll be able to go to the store and I'm furious.
So when my husband and 13-year-old daughter left on Saturday for a week-long karate event in Texas, it was with no small amount of trepidation that I waved goodbye, wondering what was next on the list of Things to Kick the Bucket When the Husband's Not There to Keep an Eye on Stuff. I said a little prayer for the safety of my traveling family members, and also for the continued operational status of our material possessions.

I had a nice, if rather lonely, Easter, with the rest of the kids yesterday, and by nightfall I decided to stop neglecting the dishes and laundry. I started up the washing machine, then turned on the faucet to rinse some grease out of a pan. A minute later, I noticed it was just cold water coming out of the tap. I asked my 11-year-old to run the bath and see if that got any hot water. Nope. With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I went out into the garage to have a peek at the water heater.

A small waterfall was pouring from the bottom of the heater and making its way down the messy garage floor through our boxes of stuff. Not having a clue what the difference was between the gas line and the water pipes, I ran back inside and left a few panicky pleas for help on Facebook, then texted and called my husband and daughter about 50 times. No answer.

If Rule #1 when my husband goes out of town is Something Big Always Breaks, Rule #2 is You Can't Get Ahold of the Hubby to Save Your Life. I did, however, get lots of good advice from Facebook friends which I'm very grateful for, and my awesome local friends Kim and Andrew sped right over to help me turn off the water heater and drain it. (Sorry for my messy house and garage, guys!)

Eventually my daughter did text me back: She'd tell Daddy about the water heater after he got out of the shower. I grumbled something about hot showers being a luxury he'd better appreciate while he still could. Now I'm boiling water for the dishes, and trying to calculate how many pots I'll have to boil in order to partially fill up a lukewarm bath. It'll be a week before he gets back, and after that I'm not sure how long until we'll be able to afford a new water heater! But I'm handling this in stride; we're living like the pioneers (pioneers with an electric stove to boil water in, knock on wood), and it could still be worse. Knock on wood again.

Besides, I can rest happy knowing this is the last time something huge ever breaks while I'm on my own, because as soon as my husband gets home, I'm chaining him to the house and never letting him go out of town again!

Apr 8, 2012

On Christ and the Work of Creation

By Jennifer Debenham

Happy Easter everyone. Naturally, with this most significant holiday in Christianity, my thoughts have been turning to our Savior. In addition to thinking of Him in His role as Savior and Redeemer, I have also been pondering His role as Creator. Under the direction of our Heavenly Father, He created all things.

A few years ago, Elder Deiter F. Uchtdorf, apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, offered great insight into the creative natures of our Heavenly Father and Savior--our elder brother--Jesus Christ, in his inspiring talk: "Happiness, Your Heritage." I will never forget the moment I heard this talk because it seemed that he was speaking to me alone, and yet Elder Uchtdorf's words prove his message is for everyone. I can think of no message more inspiring to those of us who seek for creative outlets. To be inspired completely, click here.

As a reminder to those of you who've already experienced this talk or as an appetizer to those who've yet to enjoy it, here is a little snippet: "The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.

"Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.

"Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty." ~President Deiter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

It is no accident that you and I seek to create something that hasn't existed before. It's in our spiritual DNA as children of the most creative being in the universe.

It's no accident so many of us make the effort to stretch ourselves a little bit further so we can experience the fruits of our creative labors.

And I believe it's no accident each of us perusing the likes of the ANWA blog, and other inspirational writerly resources, find ourselves choosing WRITING as at least one of our modes of creation. The yearning to create is part of our nature. The way we choose to create, I believe, is one part a response to our natural talents and gifts, and one part our determination to develop or improve those particular talents and gifts.

So in our quest to mold our work into "something of beauty," perhaps we can also consider how we can pay tribute to the Supreme Creator of us all. And isn't it lovely to know the world will never be burdened with too many good books, too many inspiring poems, too many stories that matter and that are told with decency and honor?