May 28, 2016

Learned something new

by Cassie Shiels

I think we can always learn something new from every writing book, blog, or conference we attend. So I was reading a book on writing the other night and something hit me. She was talking about how a character should have a major flaw. Not just she has a lisp or she is shy... but something that will get in the way of her living a normal life that will make what she has to do during the book hard.

That got me thinking and I had to rethink what I have been working on, because I agree. Her flaw should be part of the big picture in the book. I thought through some of my favorite movies and I could see that in a lot of them.

For example, in Willow, he is small and short, and doubts himself. That affects the whole story. Only when he accepts himself for who he is and has faith in himself does he win.

Or how about a chick flick, Sweet Home Alabama. She is ashamed of her past, and is hiding from it. It's only when she realizes that she loves being a southern girl that things become clear to her and she chooses to have that as part of her life again.

This idea can be seen in many other books and movies. I know it might not be in all of them but I loved the idea once I realized it. I think I am going to try and do this. Write a story where the main character's flaw is vital to the story. Some of you, I am sure, have already figured this out, but for me it was a little bit of an eye opener, and I was glad that I learned something new.

May 26, 2016

Today is a Good Day

by Kari Diane Pike

Repeat after me:
Every day is a good day. Some are just better than others. Today is a good day. 

I mumbled those words (taught to me by my eternally optimistic father) for over two hours this morning in an effort to clear out a tormenting fog of impending doom. Have you ever run into a cobweb and tried to get rid of it, but you can't see it, and no matter what you do you can't get away from it, and you imagine the whole time that the spider that created the web may still be attached and crawling into your hair this very second?


Most of the time, writing out what I feel helps me process. But the static of anxiety wouldn't let me tune out the source of all the negative chatter going on in my head. I couldn't find any words. I felt the darkness of depression and discouragement crawling all over me.  I started to make a list of all the things I wanted to accomplish today, only to hear in my mind, Why even try? What makes you think you are good enough to do that? Go back to bed. You're just going to fail anyway.

Whoa! Enough!

I marched myself up to the bedroom. What could I do today to move forward and stay sane? How could I lift and strengthen myself and then others? I grabbed my journal and the pages fell open to yesterday's entry. I had been reading in the Book of Mormon, Alma 43-44. I got out my scriptures and turned to where I left off. In those chapters, Captain Moroni arms the Nephites with defensive armor and turns to the prophet Alma to seek guidance from the Lord concerning how to defend their families, liberty, and religion. Through those efforts, they conquer an army more than twice their size and preserve the lives of their families.

I recognized a great pattern to defend myself against Satan's buffetings: 1) inquire of the Lord; 2) listen to and follow the prophets; 3)be obedient; 4) be unified with Christ; 5) be aware of Satan's intentions and gain knowledge and wisdom. Also, be uplifting in the things I say to others and be humble - always remember the true source of strength. Beware of pride. Remember that nothing and no one can take my faith from me. If I choose to be faithful, I will be protected and preserved. Oh. And be forgiving.

Then I remembered that in his last email home, our son Levi had referenced this scripture - Doctrine and Covenants 123:17:
Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for His arm to be revealed.
I love how the Spirit opens my eyes and clarifies scriptures that I have read dozens of times before. This time I broke the scripture down and pondered on every word:

  • "dearly beloved" - Heavenly Father gives me direction because He loves me.
  • "cheerfully do all things that lie in [my] power" - Be happy. Be humble. Do my best. There are many things that I don't have control over. Do all I can with a good attitude with no regrets and no whining. Just do it. And smile. Smile a lot. 
  • "Stand still with the utmost assurance" - There comes a time when I need to recognize that I've done all I can. I need to let go and let my body and mind rest. Then I can feel the truth of the doctrine of Christ and 
  • "see the salvation of God, and for His arm to be revealed." - No matter what happens, everything will work out because the Atonement is real. Jesus Christ lives. Through Him I can do all things - even (especially) when they are hard. 
In the brief time it took to immerse myself in these verses and write a few simple words of gratitude, the darkness in my mind dissipated. Ah, yes. Gratitude completes the process - like frosting on the cake. My heart overflows with hope and joy. I feel empowered and grateful and excited to share this happiness with others. 

And those optimistic words my dad taught me... apparently, it's genetic...passed on through a Scots-Irish family line by the name of Peebles. These emigrant ancestors sailed from Ulster to Boston in 1718 and eventually helped found the town of Pelham, Massachusetts. Back in Scotland in the 1500 and 1600s, the family crest said, "Increase by swimming against the flood." I had to laugh at our Renaissance version of "just keep swimming." Life is magnificent.

Today is a great day!


May 24, 2016

Standing Against Plagiarism

By Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

Almost two years ago, a fellow author, Rachel Ann Nunes, learned that someone had gotten a hold of one of her sweet novels, altered the text to make it an erotic book, slapped her "name" on it, and published it to Amazon.

This is called plagiarism, if you're unfamiliar with this sort of intellectual property (IP) theft. Rachel decided to take a stand. With the help of several friends and a good attorney, she found the identity of the "alleged thief" and has taken her to court.

You cannot begin to imagine how costly this process is. It is not supported by any governmental entity as a criminal matter. It's all on Rachel. She had to sue the "alleged perpetrator" in Federal Court on her own. The case still has not been seen in open court. Rachel is embroiled in all the stuff that goes on before a matter comes to trial: discovery, depositions, and a host of other things.

The cost to Rachel has been much more than the monetary expenses of bringing the "alleged thief" to justice. She has endured harassment, loss of writing time and with that, loss of writing income, nightmares, anxiety, loss of time with family members, heartache, and did I mention that she is the sole breadwinner in her family? Her husband quit his job just before all this hit the fan, to work on a project he and Rachel held dear to their hearts.

Many people in the writing community have rallied to assist Rachel. One of the chief ways they have helped is to donate items or services of value that can be purchased on her Go Fund Me fundraising site.

I previously donated Naming Rights to characters in my novel, The Zion Trail. Now I've made a new offer for the right to name characters in my romantic post-Civil War work-in-progress (WIP), Mended by Moonlight.

I'm happy to report that four out of the five character's names have been snapped up by purchasers. But there's one more available!

For only $12 (or more, if you see fit), you can purchase the right to name a married 30-year-old wounded Northern soldier (who dies) in my WIP. Don't lose out on this opportunity! It's the final name I'll put up for this work.

This is the last chance for you to see your name, or immortalize an ancestor, in this book. Don't worry. I don't use your characteristics or physical attributes in any way (if I even know you), except by some bizarre coincidence.

To help my friend Rachel in her fight against intellectual property theft, go here, scroll down almost to the bottom to where the "Select a Reward Level" offerings appear, and in the next-to-last row, click on the "Name Character" icon with the $12 price.

Thank you!

May 17, 2016

Using the Book of Mormon as a Guide to Writing

by Terri Wagner

This week as I again taught Gospel Doctrine, I reminded our group that the main question we should always ask ourselves is why did this particular author write that, and why did Mormon keep that story in his abridgement. We have lively discussions about that because there really is no right or wrong answer, just a practical application as to why Mormon thought that as latter day saints we would need to know about this. It's my favorite part of the class because I feel we all benefit from the discussion. Although it is hard to keep a straight face when some go off into obscure reasoning.

So what does that have to do with our writing? Frankly, I see it as a perfect example of what to do and perhaps more importantly what not to do. The first and only rule here is have an objective then write, throw out anything that does not support your objective. I know we hear this a lot. But imagine Mormon sitting in a cold, dark, damp cave with an oil lamp pouring over scrolls worried that he would get something wrong. Not understanding why he had to copy Lehi's journal then back it up with Nephi's version. He even says I do not know why I am doing this. Of course we know why. Centuries later, Joseph Smith would learn a great and terrible lesson about giving away parts of the translation to Martin Harris who to his credit was not really trying to sabotage the work. I can so see Mormon peering over his work. I would love to be in the background and have the chance to touch his shoulder and whisper it's ok, we will understand, we will treasure every word well except for all those "and it came to pass." Hopefully my reformed Egyptian would make sense to him.

I see you too pouring over your work, struggling like he did to get it right. I'm sure he prayed a lot and so should we. Many times I have written a scene thinking it was terrific only to discover however brilliant, it did not fit the narrative or altered it in a way that changed too much. I wonder if Mormon had his favorite characters, and wanted to showcase them a bit more over the others. And yet no matter how many times we read the Book of Mormon, we learn something new, we reintroduce ourselves to what seem minor characters, like all the sons after Jacob that just keep passing the records down giving us its genealogy so to speak.

Bottom line: use Mormon's example time and again. Pray over your work, stick to your objective, discard what is great for what is glorious. The lessons we get from our religion are just as applicable to our personal endeavors as they are to our spiritual growth. I truly believe that.

May 14, 2016

Losing track of time

By Cassie Shiels
Have you all noticed that time seems to be getting faster? I remember as a little girl the year taking longer, the week lasting longer, and now it's like, what happened to April? That's what happened to this weekend. It was Friday and I said I have to write my post for Saturday before I forget, then the baby cried or something and before I knew it it's Monday and I'm wondering what happened to my weekend. Half of May is gone and deadlines for things are sneaking up.
Before I know it summer will be gone and School will be starting. Right now I'm looking at the last few weeks of school and cheering for summer time but the way this year is going, it's gonna go fast. I can feel it now.
What do you all do to keep up with time speeding by? How do you get your goals accomplished?
Are you a list maker? An "I have a general idea" kind of person? And how does that affect your writing?
All I can say is with life going by so fast, it helps to make sure that every day counts. On days where I get nothing done and maybe watch to much TV, I always feel a bit guilty and think I wasted a day. A whole day!
So what I am trying to do is make sure that every day has a purpose, that there are no wasted days. That might mean that I do some learning with my kids to make the day feel that way. I might get a lot of writing done, or presswork of my childbirth classes, or  a few loads of laundry. But one way or another I try to make the day count. I have noticed that I do a bit better with a list, it keeps me on track.
What do you do to make your days count? What is your definition of that? Its an interesting thing to figure out for sure.

May 12, 2016

Learning How to Be United In Charity

By Kari D. Pike

Has it really only been two weeks since I wrote my last post? I guess two days of B.Y.U. Women's Conference, a quick trip from Provo to Rexburg, Idaho and back in one day and the drive home back to Gilbert, Arizona the next day, selling our house, putting in an offer on another, a grandson's birthday and a nephew's wedding open house all in the following 7 days might possibly warp my perception of said time. Oh, and I can't forget to squeeze in all the normal stuff like grocery shopping, laundry, home inspections (well, not so normal...), church callings and now this nasty chest cold.

Women's Conference. Where do I begin? The theme "One in Charity" says it all. Each and every lecture that I attended focused on doctrines and principles that taught me how little I truly understand about what charity. Elder Renlund and his sweet wife concluded the conference with this. They reminded the audience that the Lord can use us where ever we are to do His work. The forty something minutes it takes to watch that video are well worth it - even if it means you don't read the rest of this post...honestly, you won't regret watching it! Real charity is not something you give away. It is something you acquire - an attitude - a state of heart and mind as you serve.

Everything I saw and heard expanded on what our Prophet and Apostles taught us in General Conference this past March/April. Our Church leaders called upon us to open our eyes, minds, and hearts to our brothers and sisters around the world who seek refuge from war torn countries. News feeds and social media exploded with opinions about the who, what, where, when, why and how to care for millions of people who are now homeless, hungry, and suffering.

I admit that while my heart ached as I watched news reports of parents burying the starved and broken bodies of their children, I also harbored fear of what might happen to my own family if we allowed so many refugees into our community. Rumors of terrorists hiding among the ranks of the oppressed fed the fear lurking in my thoughts. After all, aren't we supposed to defend our families and freedoms? How do you do both?

I added these concerns to my growing prayer list, intending to study it out more when I returned home from my trip to Utah and Idaho. Until then, I would enjoy visits with family, celebrating our 38th wedding anniversary, graduations, weddings, and BYU fudge and ice cream at the Creamery.

My heart began to change the moment 10,000 voices joined together to sing hymns of praise. Sister Sandra Rogers spoke about Corrie Ten Boom's story "The Hiding Place" and reconciling our beliefs with the hate and anger that comes with suffering and oppression. She said that charity is far more than love or kindness. Unity is to become one in thought, desire, and purpose. "One in charity" is loving God first. Receive the charity offered by the Father and His Son and extend that love to others. Interact with others without being easily provoked. Our covenants teach us how to keep the two great commandments. The best way to help and love others is to put the first commandment first. Those who love the Lord are blessed with all the gifts of the Spirit - including being one with the Lord in charity - and helps us overcome any challenge of the natural man (including fear of what others might do to us). See that you do not judge wrongfully. Then Sister Rogers told the story of the Dutch Potato Project.  "You can talk about it - but you have to do it - to be there - to feel it."

My Women's Conference high stayed with me all the way to Rexburg and back to Arizona, but the full dawn of light didn't happen until  I opened my scriptures to Alma 24 - 26 a few days after I returned home. These chapters in the Book of Mormon tell about the people of Ammon (Anti-Nephi-Lehies) and their conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They covenant to bury their swords and never risk shedding blood again. In fact, they chose to suffer death at the hand of their enemies rather than defend themselves. As the aggression against them escalated, the Lord commanded the prophet Ammon to take the people to the Nephites in Zarahemla to seek asylum. The Nephites not only gave them the land of Jershon but raised an army to defend them from the Lamanites. They treated them like the brothers and sisters in the Lord that they knew they were.

For the first time, I gave serious consideration to what it might have meant to the people in Zarahemla to be asked to take in the people of Ammon. The Anti-Nephi-Lehies had at one time been enemies of the Nephites. They had cause all sorts of problems, including death for the Nephites. Then the Nephites are asked by their king and prophet to take their enemy in and protect them from the very kinds of acts they had participated in before their conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that's when I got it.

What President Monson and the Apostles have asked of me is no different. We are all brothers and sisters - sons and daughters of a Father in Heaven who loves all of His children. If I let go of fear and focus on what the scriptures and my Church leaders teach me and unite with my brothers and sisters in the Lord, I will witness miracles. I can share light and love, but my motive needs to be charity - expecting nothing in return because I love the Lord and I know all things come from Him. It's time for me to bury my own weapons of war - be they words or feelings of resentment or fear - and help others who are suffering. Speak up. Speak out. Unite with others in charity to defend home and family and religious freedom. The time to serve is now. The time to put away differences is now - to be united in our love of God.

Life is magnificent. Now it's time to help others experience that magnificence.

May 7, 2016

Writing Tip #9 by the WWD

by Cindy R. Williams

Writing Tip #9 by the WWD

Stop comparing yourself with other writers around you. Write your heart and then roll up your sleeves and find a home for your work. 

Do you find that others around you in your writing world are having success with their books? You are happy for them, but now, doubt yourself and what you write. Maybe it won't appeal to others, maybe it's not good enough, maybe, maybe, maybe. We maybe ourselves into a corner. Let's not give up on ourselves. Let's write what are passionate about and then GO FOR IT!

Someone asked me to give them some writing tips. This sure got me thinking. Hmmm . . . I could go online and find some for them. I could peruse my many books on writing and share. Then I realized that I have a few things that have come to me through the school of hard knocks. So I dug deep and came up with these. I call myself  the "WWD--Writer With Desire".  I will post them throughout the year.

May 3, 2016


by Terri Wagner

A growing industry, fanfic has some very positive aspects to it. There are things you need to know about "slash" means gay. I found that out the hard way lol. But for the most part, I find this a great place to practice your writing skills and meet people who enjoy the same movies or shows you do or did.

This started for me as a fun way to revisit favorites from the past. I enjoyed reading "extra" episodes or stories that took the characters past the end of the series. I learned to avoid slash fanfic and shall we say overly adult fanfic. I did discover that 99% percent of the writers of fanfic are up front about it being adult or slash which I found refreshing. I tried my hand at a few mainly because I wanted to see if I could do it. Fanfic is also critiqued by, well, fellow fans. So another source of both beta readers and editors.

The characters are already in place although fanfic readers will jump on you if you "assume" things like how the character looks or where they live or what relationships they have. It's an exciting challenge.

The rules for fanfic is you have to know what is canon. Basically it's what's scared to the show/movie. For example, it is canon that Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa are brother and sister. You cannot change that in fanfic. You can alter things a bit like having Luke and Leia meet when her adopted parents bring her to Tatooine for a conference and Luke's uncle helps to fix a problem with their ship. The biggest baddest argument you can start in a fanfic world is about what is regarded as canon lol. They will argue for weeks over it.

Fanfic can be immensely profitable as the expanded universe of Star Wars can attest. Fanfic can also spawn spin off characters. Sticking to Star Wars, there was a six-book set of stories about the Rogue Squadron pilots with Wedge Antilles, a very minor character in the famed original Star Wars.

Consider fanfic as a writing opportunity or a possible money making venture. Start by finding fanfic for your favorites. Just so you know I also follow and write fanfic for Here Come the Brides, and Starsky and Hutch. So go dive in!