Nov 29, 2016

You Will Need A Sidekick, Trust Me

by Terri Wagner

Does anyone think Batman and not follow that with Robin? Can you say Qui Gon Jinn without saying Obi Wan Kenobi? Han Solo without Chewbacca? Sherlock Holmes without Mr. Watson? And in a very dramatic way Dr. Jekyll without Mr. Hyde? The list is probably endless. But exactly what are sidekicks and what is their literary function?

Ultimately your sidekick is the reader. By that I mean the sidekick says or does things that helps the reader understand what is going the main character a chance to show off his/her brilliance. The MC bounces things off the sidekick which gives the reader inside information. Generally though not always the sidekick is slightly denser than the MC. In Star Wars, of course, Chewbacca did not even speak. But his muffled roars gave us a pretty good idea of what he was thinking. Your sidekick is a critical part of your story. Choose well how you define him. Most writers blog now, and they can give you pretty good advice on how to develop your sidekick. Even down to names. For example, did you know a sidekick never has a name that starts with the MC's name, i.e., Lana is the MC, Lilian would NOT be the sidekick. That sidekicks are usually simple easy-to-remember names. These are not set in concrete as any fantasy reader/writer can tell you. However, it is a start. Pick your sidekick's vocation. It must mesh in some way with the MC. Cop shows usually have a quirky coroner that adds some fun in otherwise gruesome scenes.

A sidekick is generally the likeable character, especially if your MC has some dark sides to him. For example, early on in Star Wars and in the current sequel, Han Solo had a dark side, a murky were never really sure if he could be considered the hero type...but Chewbacca served as his conscience...which lead to Solo becoming a hero and a dad reaching out to a son that unfortunately did not end well. A sidekick almost always has the opposite personality of the MC. And a sidekick is almost always by the MC's side. They can be the comic relief in a tense situation. Or the as in the case Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings, Frodo's rock to lean on during the difficult journey. Samwise is a great example of a sidekick in that he has one mission to assist Frodo...he distrusts most everyone and so functions as a warning to Frodo not to be so trusting, he is average in looks with one passion, the young lady back home in the shire that he wants to marry. He is also rather plain looking. This is more important if your MC is depicted as being considerably handsome, charming, or extremely clever.

Here are a few blogs to check out about sidekicks

Yappy Sidekick

Kick up your story with a sidekick

Sidekick Archetype

Nov 26, 2016

What’s In A Name?

What’s In A Name?

I’m Deb. Although it’s not an uncommon name, certainly not an interesting name, I’m particular about it. If you call me Debbie, I may not respond, and the only places I tolerate being addessed as Debora is in doctor's offices. No need to get chummy there.

 My brothers married Debbie and Deborah. At the very least, that shows a distinct lack of imagination. Growing up, there were at least three or four Debs/Debbies/Debras in every class. Names run in streaks, you know.

By adulthood, I’d had enough. I determined to name my children not-typical names. We ended up with Mollika, Bjorn-Josef, and Darthaniel. I’m convinced Darthaniel was born three weeks late because Husband insisted on naming him D'Artagnan; you know, from the Three Musketeers story. It took me a while to find a close-enough name he’d go for.

Tell me, how would a child with an apostrophe ever get through kindergarten? As it was, our boy hated his name his first month of school. The rule was, “As soon as you write your name, you may go play.” Tim and Sue had the advantage, while Darthaniel and Stephanie struggled with their extra letters. They soon became “Stef” and “Darth.” In the age of “Star Wars,” that had its own drawbacks.

My criterion for names is that they should be interesting, and must be pronounceable at a glance. I met a woman named Alycyee, who insisted her name was Alice. What were her parents thinking? Same with my friend’s daughter, Kuqwinnsce, whose name sounds like Quincy. Husband’s uncle, Maurice, says his name is Morris, not pronounced Mor EES, as it’s spelled.

As I’ve dabbled in fiction writing, working on Novels #2 and #3, I find my opinion is the same for naming characters. It’s slightly less agonizing than naming a full human, but still important. If you pick the wrong time period or geography, it may jar the reader. A Native American warrior will probably not be named Giovanni, any more than a medieval princess be called Lulu.

        Partway through my first cozy mystery, I needed a name for the kooky cruise director. I wanted to name her Lisle. I’ve always I liked that name, and we didn’t have enough daughters to inflict it on. As I mulled it over, I could plainly “hear” the character blurt “Lisle rhymes with weasel, and that won’t do for a public relations job, so I’m Cinci, from Cincinnati.” Cinci turned into a favorite character—and what a character she is!

        I’m all in favor of talking to myself– sometimes, it’s the only guaranteed attentive audience– but coming from a non-fiction background, hearing voices in my head that didn’t sound like my own was unnerving. I learned to listen to the characters speak as if they were already developed, just waiting for me to wrap words around their story.

           As you write, try listening to the character’s voice, envisioning them speaking to you. After all, names are meant to be personal, validating, and imaginative, within reason. I draw the line at ridiculous names, such as the little boy named Fruit Stand, and his sister, Celestial Being, called Bea.

       Life’s hard enough, without one’s own moniker being a handicap.

Nov 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

by Kari Diane Pike

Happy Thanksgiving! As a neighbor pointed out the other day, this is a day of giving thanks, and a day for giving. What are you thankful for? What are willing to give and to whom will you give?

Dear Hubby and I are hanging out in Utah for this Thanksgiving holiday. Two of our nieces chose this week to marry their sweethearts for time and all eternity. So bonus: We get to spend time with many different branches of our family all in the same week. Extra bonus: The most beautiful snow fall I have seen in many years. Great big, downy flakes drifted to the ground, piling up almost four inches in the three or so hours we spent preparing dinner and pie crusts and sipping hot chocolate and playing Five Crowns. Of course we had to step outside and celebrate...and take a picture. We even had enough on the ground to make snow angels.

I have been pondering on the virtue of gratitude lately, and not just because dear hubby answered a phone call from a member of the bishopric asking us to speak in church this coming Sunday on the topic of gratitude. To me, gratitude is a virtue that leads to the development of all the other virtues. Gratitude has taught me how to recognize trials as blessings all wrapped up in paper and string. Gratitude teaches me how to forgive as I recognize the role others have played in my life to teach me humility, patience, and charity - and who open my eyes to understanding and seeing that we are all children of a Heavenly Father who loves us and who wants all of us to return to live with Him someday.

I shared this quote a couple of years ago. I still love it:
 It is easy to be grateful for things when life seems to be going our way. But what then of those times when what we wish for seems to be far out of reach? Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be.
—Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Grateful in Any Circumstances
Life is magnificent!

Nov 18, 2016

Acrostic Poems and Gratitude

Photo attribution:
My friend Mary introduced us to poetry at our last Chapter Meeting (and at the NW Retreat, if you were there).  One of the types she introduced were acrostic.  Which, for me, is almost do-able. In an effort to broaden my horizons, and to celebrate one of my favorite times of year, I've written a few to share.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Thoughtful teachers who challenge my children
Hot cocoa on a cold winter night
ANWA sisters and brothers to lift me up
No more political posts!!
Kneeling to converse with my Father in Heaven
Friends who offer undying support
Unadulterated love from my family
Laughter until my stomach hurts


Turkey until I'm bursting at the seams
Holiday cheer fills the air
Apple cider warms the tummy
November frost nipping at our noses
Knee-deep in mashed potatoes
Sweet and savory delights makes mouths water
Gratitude is the attitude
Introducing young ones to Thanksgiving parades
Victory dance after football games
Icicles dripping to puddles in the snow
Not quite Christmas
Grateful for my abundance

Nov 15, 2016

Font Fun

by Terri Wagner

Because things have been so nuts lately I just thought I would share this little meme from Facebook. Picture worth a thousand words?

Nov 12, 2016



SPOONS   by Deb Graham

A little boy, about age eight, stood on Testimony Day in our ward at Church. He said, "I've been trying to think of my blessings, and today I thought about spoons." He went on to talk about his deep gratitude for spoons, of all the overlooked things.

He said he was glad he could eat his breakfast cereal with a spoon before Church, "because it's hard to suck Cap'n Crunch and still keep my Sunday shirt clean."  He talked about playing in the sandbox with his little brothers on Saturday, and said spoons were just the right tool for tunneling under the castle. He liked the soup his mother made for dinner last night, and said, “good thing I had a spoon, or those noodles could have gone right in my lap."  Spoons, he said, were the best thing ever for eating ice cream. “Just think of how much you'd miss if you had to use a fork, or chopsticks!"

 People in the congregation were chuckling by now, but it set me to thinking. I've never been thankful for spoons. I've hardly even given thought to spoons at all! 

Historically, I know forks were important. The Pilgrims only had a knife and a deep wooden spoon to eat with; forks were harder to make, thus more expensive and rare, and ownership of more than one or two was even considered a sign of pridefulness. Often only one fork was available per household, used by the cook for turning over dinner in the pot. And of course knives are essential; if people didn't have knives to eat with, manners would be out the window, along with the Flintstone-sized bones after dinner. No dainty bites for you! But spoons... hhmmm...

      I paid extra attention to spoons the whole next day. I used two for breakfast (I don't like hot cocoa in my Frosted Flakes). I used another two to make Et Cetera soup for lunch; a wooden one to stir, a smaller metal one to spoon leftover rice and vegetables into the pot. Oh, wait; I also ate the soup; that's three. I made Killer Chocolate cookies later on that day. Let's see; I used one spoon to pack the brown sugar, a measuring spoon, a wooden spoon to stir the chocolate chips in, and two teaspoons to drop the dough on the pans. I finished painting the philodendron vines on the wall by the laundry room, and used a plastic spoon to stir the paint. Repotting my teacup orchid required another plastic spoon. I cooked dinner, using two wooden spoons in the preparing, and a large spoon and a slotted spoon for serving, plus I set the table, one spoon at each place setting. I polished off the last of the lemon pudding before bed; that was the fluted spoon that I like best. That's nineteen different spoons---in one ordinary day!

          I'm a lot more aware of spoons in my life, but what other tiny everyday items do we overlook, things that make our lives so much better? Toothbrushes, erasers, tissues, buttons, soap? Think about it, next time you pick up a spoon, and in this season of Thanksgiving, count your blessings!

Nov 10, 2016

The Ultimate Weapon

by Kari Diane Pike

Recent attempts to broaden my reading horizons and (guilty admission here) a search for something to binge on on Netflix because I watched every episode of Gilmore Girls and needed something to tide me over until the new episodes come out, brought my attention to a particular theme common to nearly every genre: the search for the ultimate weapon (like a super soldier) - someone or something to defend and protect from or even destroy the enemy.

They need not look any further. I encountered a real life secret weapon last Sunday. Code name: "Sunbeams". Sunbeams (for those not familiar with vocabulary from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - Sunbeams are the children who are three-years-old, turning four) have the ability to enervate even the most experienced adult. They lure the poor patsy in with shy, dimpled smiles and coy giggles.  They peek from behind their parents' backs, wave their chubby fingers, and create a false sense acceptance. Once left alone with their common enemy,  Sunbeams synergize and zero in on their victim's greatest vulnerabilities. They take no prisoners. They paralyze and then suck their prey dry. Except for the tears. Sunbeams leave behind lots of tears. I should know. I was there. Me, a veteran mom with more than thirty-five years and nine plus more children worth of experience.

I knew I was in trouble when one of the four Sunbeams in the class declared: "Don't listen to her. Let's play pretend and I'll be the king and you can be the princesses  and the wizard and she (meaning me) can be the witch because she doesn't talk nice to us."

I had told them I was disappointed in them because they were using their outside voices and not listening to the story. I would have to talk to their parents, I said. They would be sad, I said. I guess I did lay it on a little thick. Plus, I didn't have food. Never  let yourself get trapped with Sunbeams without food or they will turn on you. Really, really fast.

I changed my tactics and we spent the rest of class time singing and playing "Button, Button, Who's Got the Button." Their parent's picked them up at the door. My husband took me to the car where I melted into a puddle of tears.

For some reason, I can't wait to go back. Maybe that's what makes them the ultimate weapon. The enemy actually wants to go back for more. I really do love those Sunbeams. Some days are easier than others. You can bet I will be better prepared from now on. I will go in armed with prayer, patience, smiles, love, and lots of snacks.

Life is magnificent!


Nov 8, 2016

Going Back to School

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

It's one of those days when I don't know what to write about. I started the day with a brilliant idea for a blog post, but by the time I actually came to the blog to write it, I'd forgotten what I had in mind.


It has been a crazy day. I have a list of things I must accomplish today. It started with seven entries, but now it's up to nine--ten, including one more thing I just thought of. I've only done three of them, but those were time-sensitive, so I guess that's a good start. I'm working on number four here. I have yet to renew my library books or pay my property taxes--which is a crazy story all its own about missing a deadline. Or do my school assignment, which, oh yeah, was what I was going to write about for my post!

Okay, having remembered the topic, I'll spill the beans:

I've gone back to school, sort of. I decided that I needed to learn some stuff about writing that I wasn't sure I had covered. Or mastered. So I'm taking a six-week online course called "Depth in Writing," aka "Writing with Depth," or just "Depth," for short.

It's a video course featuring Dean Wesley Smith, who is a hoot. I enjoy his style of teaching.

The course is one of many offered through WMG Publishing, which is a company out of Oregon run by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, two of my favorite writing mentors. Among Dean's non-fiction books on my shelf are Think Like a Publisher, How to Write Fiction Sales Copy, and my all-time favorite, Writing into the Dark: How to Write a Novel Without an Outline. I have several more of his books on my tablet as ebooks.

Kris Rusch just did a long and intense series on her popular blog about contracts, agents, publishers, and dealbreakers. That has resulted in her new book, Closing the Deal...On Your Terms: Agents, Contracts, and Other Considerations. It's currently available in Kindle. I hope it will come out in paperback soon, as well.

But back to school, so to speak. I'm a proponent of life-long learning, and have been for many years. The course I'm taking teaches how to take readers deep into the mind and life of a character. There are assignments, just like a regular class. I'd better get to this week's homework. See you in two weeks.

Nov 5, 2016

Publishing Update

by Cindy R. Williams

I have been posting about my publishing journey. There has been a sad change. I have two children's books ready to rock and roll but, my artist/illustrator bailed on me. Sad days. She gave my storyboard and supplies I had given her to another person to give back to me. Needless to say, I am disappointed.

So . . . these two wonderful children books are on hold. They will find a home, when it is their time.

In the meantime, I have a clean romance novella into Heidi Taylor of Shadow Mountain. It is part of a four part sister/anthology. Three of my writing friends wrote the three other sisters, Melinda Sanchez, Jeanie Davis and Joyce Horstmann. We call ourselves the DIP's--Diva's in Progress. Great fun!

I also have a proof of another book into Kathy Gordon at Covenant and will send her the edited file soon.

My dragon book is getting ready to fly out of my hands and computer.

This writing journey is fun. Someday my books will be out there. It's going to happen someway, somehow.

Watch for more updates.

Nov 3, 2016

My First Rejection Letter

I'd been waiting nearly six weeks.  I'd tried not to let my hopes get up, but it was my first query, ya know? Every night--who are we kidding--every few hours I'd check my in box, wondering if they'd responded.  Then I'd check the Spam folder, and any other folder the e-mail could have possibly been filtered to.  Just in case I'd inadvertently missed the acceptance letter, and the agent was waiting for me to respond.

No such luck.

You can imagine my open-mouthed surprise when I discovered a response tonight in my inbox. I'd been closing down my work computer and it was there. Poof! Just like that.

I read the e-mail. Then I read it again.

The agent was really quite kind, for a rejection letter.

I sank back into my office chair and stared at the screen, waiting for the burn of embarrassment to rush to my face.  Or a pit of shame to form in my stomach. After all, I had not meeting this agent's expectations. What other emotion is there after a rejection?  But shame and embarrassment didn't come.  That, of all things, is what shocked me the most.

I dissected my emotions, or lack thereof, while driving home, but I was still clueless when I walked through my front door.

I relayed my rejection to my daughter and she asked, "What are you going to do now?"

What was I going to do?  My story had been rejected.  Am I not as good a writer as I thought? Maybe I was right to doubt.

Maybe not.

I recalled an article I'd read before I'd even considered publishing.  The writer ranted about how they had a 1 in 10,000 chance of being published traditionally.  I remember thinking, "I guess that means I need to send out 10,000 queries. Thank goodness we have e-mail instead of snail mail."

To my daughter I said,  "I guess that means I have 9,999 queries to go."

Of course, it's more than that.  I'm pretty sure I know what I need to cut, and where I lost this agent in my story.  I lost her at the vanity scenes I'd kept because I wanted them, not because they furthered the story.

I'd submitted this story because it was good enough to be published, but knowing it wasn't my best work.  Now, I will go back and re-write it, not to be good enough, but so readers will fall in love with my characters the same way I have.

Am I going to stop doing queries? Nope.  Look at the incredible morsels of knowledge I learned from one rejection.  Imagine how much I could learn from several.  Besides, the more rejections I get, the closer I am to my goal. Only 9,999 to go!

Nov 1, 2016

When Is It Time?

by Terri Wagner

I have been blessed with the best dogs ever! Each one has brought a joy and delight to me that is truly indescribable. And I take pleasure in knowing through the gospel I will be reunited with the animals that gave such joy to me. I sincerely hope I can communicate better with them because some times I just don't know.

I'm facing an "I just don't know" moment right now.

Several years ago, I had lost my Golden Belle. She died far too young to me although she was 10. A friend called up and said I hate to ask you this but would you consider taking my children's yellow lab? She's less than two and my ex is divorcing wife two and will have to move into an apartment. My kids want Kota to go to a good home.

What could I say?! So the ex brought this beautiful golden looking lab to my office one afternoon. She seemed sad like she knew something was up. And he seemed heartbroken, that did not gell with what I had been told about his actions toward and in truth there some funny ways that took her years to work through. One was as a simple as she was terrified to come through a slightly ajar door. It literally took me years and it still makes me smile when she bangs on through the door these days.

She sat in the back of my car so sorrowfully. Once I got her home, she and my then-half husky half lab danced around each other in silence, then accepted the new situation.

Cassie left me too early too and it was just Kota for a while until another friend had another lab mix in need of a home. This lab Daisy and Kota are the same age. They adore each other. But Kota has arthritis very badly whereas Daisy is just noticeably less fast than before.

For some time I have been sneaking Daisy out of the house for walks since Kota really cannot any more. But last night she just seem to beg me to take her. So I modified the walk to the back field and let her take her time and rest a lot. It wasn't even a football field worth of a walk. But later on she paid the price for her walk, and I had to give her a stronger pain pill.

So when do you look into those trusting loving eyes and say to yourself it's time. If she could talk would she tell me? Dad wants me to do it this time. I am going to see how she is today, but I am afraid she is more ready than I am ready to let her go over the rainbow bridge