Friday, February 27, 2009

Cut! Cut! Cut!

Ooh! The painful cut! Yikes! I hate cuts. Just saying the word makes me cringe in terror and flee. Okay, so it doesn't, but it should! LOL!

Well, here we are. We've just finished our MS masterpiece and now we need to reread the thing again and cut, cut, cut... Yikes! Ouch! Run! So what i thought would be fun to do today, since Nikki opted to write our spiritual Sunday message this week so we swapped, is to add in our comments our favorite stuff that we've had to painfully cut from our manuscripts.
Okay, so I have so much from Pride & Popularity that never made the final cut. It's so sad really. I had a super hard time choosing just now which one to post... LOL! It's hard because no one will ever read this.
So the scene I chose was a random scene I had put in to show the relationship (just a glimpse) between Chloe and her dad. Once the book was all written, I realized I didn't need it after all. And it wasn't written in the same voice as the rest of the book, so it seemed awkward and out of place anyway... Even though I LOVE It! Okay so here it is:
Fully awake by the bright sun and curious to the world outside, I climbed out of my bed. As I looked out my bedroom window I tried hard to ignore the glorious flowers that beckoned me. It is days like these that I tend to forget that I am seventeen years old and to the rest of the world practically an adult.
As if by magic I could feel the gentle tugs and pulls of my imagination as it longed to transform into the shimmering fairy princess I used to be. Blake said I was a fairy queen. I wonder if he knew how close to the truth that was. Why did I hide my wings in the closet, anyway? Didn’t every girl my age have a pair of fairy wings hidden somewhere? Briefly I imagined what it would be like to show up to our four-wheeling spot on Wednesday with my fairy wings on.
That ought to shake them up a bit. Of course, I don’t think I’d be able to fit in Dillon’s jeep. They were rather large wings.
My father had made them one summer when I was eight years old. I watched as he had stretched and glued thin white pantyhose across the winged shaped wire. Then with a special spraying technique he had sprayed different colors of paint onto them until they resembled butterfly wings. My mom and I added touches of glitter that trailed in compliment with the curves of the colors. For a finished look, we glued a couple of large iridescent stones I had found in Mom’s flower vase onto the tips like moonstones.
They were the most beautiful wings any one of my friends had ever seen. All of them asked my Dad to make them some too. But Dad just smiled and said no. To date he has only ever made three sets of wings. For me, Cassidy and Claire. He says that we are truly his fairy princesses.

So what are some of yours? And as always anyone can post a comment and share with us, so don't be shy! LOL! It's your chance to let someone else read it! Jenni

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Update on my post yesterday

I don't think it was totally clear that the second example in my post was the right way. Sorry if that was confusing.

Everyone needs a Simon

So, it's no secret that I'm a huge fan of American Idol. I've noticed something, no matter how mean Simon is, his opinion seems to matter the most to the contestants. Why? Because they know he's always being honest. I've decided that everyone needs a Simon in their life. Someone who will tell you the honest truth about your writing no matter how badly it hurts. Because then when that same person tells you how awesome it is, you know it really is. Just make sure that along with your Simon, you have loads of Paulas to keep you going.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Exposition Masquerading as Dialogue

Jenn's post yesterday got me thinking about some of the habits I've had to overcome since I began writing. One of my bad habits was thinking that because I'm using dialogue in a scene I'm showing and not telling. Unfortunately, that is not always true. This short article from illustrates this common pitfall and how to avoid it. I'm happy to say that I wasn't quite as bad as this example, but oft times our flawed techniques are subtle, which can make them harder to overcome.

"As You Know, Bob." -- Exposition Masquerading as Dialogue

If your dialogue sounds too stilted, you may have exposition passing itself off as dialogue. Dialogue's one and only purpose is to elucidate tension between characters. It is not, ever, ever, to convey information. A bad example of what I mean:

Exposition masquerading as dialogue: "As you know, Bob, we've been stuck on this desert island for twenty years, eating only the coconuts that grow on the one tree and fish which we catch with our hands. We have several vitamin deficiencies, and you've been picking your nose this whole time. Stop it, or I'm going to kill you!"


Dramatized exposition, and one line of dialogue: Ted pounded the coconut open with a rock. It wasn't quite ripe yet, but he was so tired of fish, and his fingernails stung in the salt water where they cracked and peeled.

Bob sat on the beach a few yards away. He was picking his nose again. Again.

"Stop it!" Ted screamed and picked up the rock he had used to smash the green coconut into meaty fragments.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Life, the Universe & Everything

I spent last weekend at this Writer's Conference at BYU. It was literally the coolest thing I've done since deciding to start writing. I really don't think I can condense everything I learned there down into one post, so I think I will focus Totally Tuesday on conference posts for a couple of weeks if that is alright you you ladies. :)

As an overview--I met some of the coolest people. These Utah authors are down to earth, kind, patient and hilarious. They have great insights and don't mind sharing them. I was lucky enough to hang out with a few of the very cool ones all day on Saturday and on and off through the weekend. It was a blast!

Now... for session one of Conference re-cap--

YA/MG writing:

~ Show the audience what to think, do not tell them.
~ It is tempting to be preachy when dealing with these genre's. Do not do it! Kids can see right through it and the book will hit the floor before you finish the paragraph.

Most Vocabulary in YA is considered to be conversational but between two intelligent people.

Every character in your book should have a reason to be there. They all need motivations and rarely will you have a group of people that all agree on what their goal is. Some will do it for one reason some for another. Some are just along for the ride or because someone they like is doing it. Know their motivations and make them stay true to their cause. Dynamic characters are not robots, they will do the expected and the unexpected. Keep them human.

Suspense: Every genre has suspense. If not, there is no story to tell. Even day to day life has peaks of suspense... ask any author who is waiting for a response from an agent and they will agree with me. ;)

- Never withhold information from the reader that the viewpoint characters know
- Before you can build suspense, you have to make the readers care about the characters and what happens to them

Always enter a scene that is already in progress... never have your characters standing around waiting for something to happen, unless that waiting adds to the suspense.

Brandon Mull says: Keep your readers curious, that will keep them interested. You must follow a wave pattern with your suspense. It is all about tension and release in waves. Too much tension and it stresses the reader out and they put the book down, too much release and the reader gets bored and stops caring. It is an art, not a science--go with your gut.

I hope that made sense... let me know if this information is interesting and helpful to you and I will keep it up next week.

End Recap Session One. :P

Monday, February 23, 2009

Flush It!

I just recently had another coaching session with my Dad and he wanted to get caught up on the latest. I told him all the stuff I was doing and how I was getting discouraged. He was shocked! He asked what I was discouraged about and I told him that nothing was turning out as I'd planned. I finally heard back from 2 of the 4 publishers so far and one was interested in my parenting book idea (so I am now working on that proposal and writing the intro and first 2 chapters). I am also training for the L.A. marathon and I just ran 10 miles and it kicked my butt (it was very discouraging because it didn't feel good, it was one of the hardest things I've done). He asked me why that was discouraging and I told him that my worst fear was failure and I felt like I was riding the failure train all over again. I told him that I have tried soooo many things in my life that I seemed to fail....and yet I was glad I did them because it got me to where I was today! He them told me to write down what was holding me back/ discouraging me on a piece of toilette paper. So I wrote FAILURE in big bold letters on a piece of toilette paper. Then I was to go to the toilette and flush my failure down the toilette, let it go and move on! I did that and I actually felt a lot better. My writing hesitation is now gone, I ran the 10 miles and I am off the Failure Train and on the Success Express!!! So if you are feeling like taking a ride on the Failure Train....GET OFF and flush your failure/ fear / you pick a word for the way you are feeling and let it go, move on and take the Success Express with me. I've got a ticket waiting for you!!!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Beautiful Savior, Beautiful Arizona

I'm an Arizona girl, born and raised. I love Arizona! I love the growth and joy I've felt there and I will always miss it. Always. My hubby and I were married in the Mesa Temple. No matter where my family has been or where we're going... my heart will yearn for Arizona, but love where I stand. Complicated? LOL! Probably. But it's me. And since it's my birthday today, I wanted to share something of Arizona (a piece of me) with you. I hope you enjoy this, I'm sure you've already seen it--but enjoy again.

This slide show was taken with the cast of the annual Mesa Temple Easter Pageant. (Simply breathtaking! I love that pageant!) I hope you enjoy and allow the music to wash over you this Sunday. No matter where you are emotionally or what you're doing in your life that seems hard. I love the gentle reminder this gives us, that it doesn't matter. All is well.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater

This is so my, guys. Late. Ugh, sorry. I'm such a slacker! I hate it. So, in a desperate effort to save face, I am going to cheat and put up a post that I had on my other blog. Sorry for those of you who read it twice. :) I promise to do better next week!!

Agent's just not that into you.

Last night I was wrangled into going to see the movie, He's just not that into you. Well, I've been out of the single scene for a while now (thank heavens,) however, as I watched the movie, I couldn't help but think that this is perhaps a message we writers need to hear sometimes, hard as it is.

The Scenario (come on, you know you recognize this):

You find that dream agent, the one who makes your heart go pitter patter. The one who is so perfect for you that it makes you scream. You know, that one. So, you send him/her you awesome, fantastic query. WOO HOO!! The dream is on! You can't stop thinking about him/her! You can't stop gabbing with your writer friends (or just your own mind) about how much you want that agent!

Minutes tick by. . . then hours . . . then days. You check your email every few hours. And yet . . . nothing. You start to worry. Is there some problem? Have I done something wrong? You send your friends test emails to make sure that both your outbox and inboxes are working. And yet . . . nothing.

So you get sad. You wonder, what the heck? Why isn't he/she contacting me? Your writer friends assure you that they had this one agent who waited four weeks to contact them, but when they did it was with a full request. You hear the stories, but they don't make you feel much better. So, you drown out your confusion and frustration in a huge can of Dr. Pepper. (P.S. I kinda wish they made them this big. Wouldn't it be awesome?)

But, ultimately, don't we have to accept the one truth? Agent's just not that into you. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it sucks. But, if we can just embrace that fact, our lives open up to the healing powers of moving on. Isn't it a freeing feeling?

*This blog does not recommend the act of jumping from a cliff, no matter how free you feel, until you have consulted with your physician and/or spouse.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Interview with Heather B. Moore

I was lucky enough to be able to interview Heather B. Moore, author of Abinidi, via email. I read her book recently and really enjoyed it! Here's the summary from the back cover:

Raquel has a secret. As the daughter of one of King Noah’s priests, she enjoys a luxurious life and the admiration of powerful men. But her heart belongs to a commoner, a man with no earthly wealth but rich heavenly gifts. When King Noah demands that Raquel join his harem, she flees the only life she has known and marries her secret love. His name is Abinadi.
The couple finds abundant joy in their community of believers and in their firstborn son. But when the Lord calls Abinadi as His prophet, their faith is tested to the outermost limits. Abinadi’s commitment to the Lord requires them both to give their all—even unto death. Yet if Alma, the newest priest in King Noah’s court, chooses to overcome his troubled past and cleave unto the truth, their sacrifice may yield rich fruit.
With vivid detail and poignant emotion, this historical novel pulls readers into a fiery tale of love, courage, and faith that is difficult to put down and impossible to forget.

Heather has also written 3 other historical fiction novels in her Out of Jerusalem series. Check out her website to learn more about her.

Jenni helped me come up with some questions to ask her. I was real excited to get to know more about Heather and her writing!

How have you felt the Lord's hand in becoming an author?
Many times. Although I didn’t set out to write inspirational fiction or religious fiction—whatever the buzz word is today. I thrived on the challenge. At one point when I pretty discouraged at receiving rejections, I was praying for a “sign” if I should keep writing with nothing to show for it. The next day, I received a request for sample chapters from a publisher. I took it as my sign and continued to forge ahead.

What are some cool things you've gotten to do since you've become published?
One of the coolest things is to become friends with other authors. I’ve met some incredible people who are extremely talented. Also, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to groups about writing and/or my books. I always feel honored to get invitations.

What are some "not so cool" things you've had to do/give up since becoming published?
I’ve given up basically most of my hobbies. It’s just a matter of prioritizing. I used to make Halloween costumes, Easter dresses, Christmas dresses, for my kids. Not that writing is an excuse, since I know authors who still do all those things. I guess I traded one creative outlet for another. I’m also WAY behind on my scrapbooking. Like 4 years behind. But digital scrapbooking is giving me hope. Oh, yeah, and I’ve probably watched American Idol twice.

I feel writing is a huge spiritual experience, how do you prepare to get ready to write?
Honestly, I don’t have all day to let the writing muse inspire me. I don’t think many of us do. Balancing a family makes writing time very precious. So I start out with a prayer in my heart that what I’m writing will be guided. I’ve seen the fruits of those prayers when I’ve hit the editing process. I’ve sailed through relatively well, with very few revisions.

How would you describe your book "Abinadi" to a non-member of our church?
Actually, I think Abinadi reaches across all religions. Many of us—especially if we are converts to a church—have had to give up something to become a member of that church. This is the story of Abinadi. A man who refuses to deny his god. A man who gives up everything for his religion—including his life. Throughout history, there are many instances of religious controversy and holy wars. Abinadi is one man’s story.

Do you ever feel unequal to the task of writing stories that are based on the scriptures?
I’ve put a disclaimer in a couple of my books that first, I’m not a scholar, and second, my creative fiction is in no way meant to replace or supersede any interpretation of scripture. I wouldn’t have attempted to write Book of Mormon fiction if it weren’t for access to Book of Mormon scholars—one of them is my own father. So you could say I have a pretty good reference and I can feel confident that I’m staying on at least a believable or plausible course. If there’s a tangent that I think needs to be taken, I explain it in the Preface.

Have you ever wanted to write something outside of your normal genre, historical fiction?
You might be surprised to learn that I’ve written several other books (unpublished as of yet): a suspense novel, an 1840’s paranormal romance, and a WWII novel. The fourth is a thriller (titled Queen). I have it with an agent right now. It’s based on the search for the Queen of Sheba’s tomb. The research was very interesting since there are so many strange legends surrounding her life. No one can agree on where she lived and died. Some even dispute her existence. The Egyptians, the Ethiopians, and the Yemenis all have differing opinions. In my story, a renowned historian is about to uncover the true location of her tomb . . . but he’s killed. Other characters come into play and must pick up the trail of clues that reveal the truth about the Queen’s life and death.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Not until I was in my 30’s. I had just moved from California to Utah and a few of my neighbors were reading LDS fiction.. I’d never heard of it. I read a couple of books and wasn’t overly impressed. Then my sister-in-law recommended a book by Richard Paul Evans. I knew he was LDS but wrote national books. I read one of his books and it was like a light went on. He didn’t write historical, literary, mind-numbing suspense—it was just a classic story with heart. I’d read hundreds of books and thought—why not me?

How long did it take you to find an agent or an editor?
I wrote my first book in 2001. Three manuscripts later, I finally got a publisher at the beginning of 2004.

How has writing effected you as a mommy? as a Mormon? as a wife?
As a mommy, I think it’s probably made me more busy on some days than I want to be. After the second book (which I wrote under a tremendous deadline), I’ve learned to pace myself.. I used to write 2,000 words a day, but I’ve cut it in half and extended out the months to complete a project.

I didn’t set out to be a Book of Mormon author when I first started writing. In fact, if you would have asked me 6 years ago, I would have been shocked. There are times when I think my research has kept me on the straight and narrow because I’ve had to read scriptures on a daily basis—as a job!

As a wife, you’d probably have to ask my husband. I think he was pretty excited when I finally got my first royalty check. He’s always been very supportive, but he was glad my hours of work were starting to pay off in a small way (very small). He brags about me to a lot of people, but I know there are times when he would rather have me hanging out with him instead of going to another book signing. Over the years, I’ve learned to only commit to one or two events a month and to get more creative with book signings so that they don’t infringe on family time too much.

What advice would you give to new writers?
Critique groups, writers conferences, books on writing. Writing a novel is like going back to college. Keep writing, keep revising, and keep submitting. If you don’t let others read your manuscript and give you feedback, you won’t grow. And if you don’t submit, then you won’t get published. Set goals, then go for it.

Thank you, Heather for all your insight! You are such an inspiration to us beginning writers!

Be sure to read Heather's book! It's amazing!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I heart my proof readers

"Have you seen my glasses, hon?" I asked in frustration.

He looked up at me. "You're kidding, right?"

"No, I've looked everywhere. Do you think one of the kids moved them?"

He raised his eyebrows and chuckled. "Uh, Kasie, you're wearing them."


Yeah, that really happened. And now I'm going to relate it to writing by saying--proof readers are important. They see things that we can't (or don't want to). So my advice, find at least a few people in your life that will be honest with you and yet encouraging. In writer's group today we talked about how sometimes it's easier to see things in other people's stories even though you might have made the same mistakes in your own. And as hard as it is sometimes to hear someone tell you that your baby has flaws, it is always better than looking around in frustration for something that is right under your nose. Objectivity is priceless.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What do you want?

I've been thinking very seriously lately about what I really want from my writing. At first it started as a hobby; it was a way to express my feelings, or entertain myself. It was also a means of communication. I often wrote notes, or letters, or poetry and gave them to people I loved. I always found that it was easier to formulate my thoughts when I was writing them. Then suddenly I found that there were stories coming to my head.

I remember a few years back my husband took me to a Josh Groban concert for my birthday, and I couldn't get the music out of my head. All I could think about were the stories that might inspire songs like he sang. I imagined what the people would be like, what they were feeling and thinking, what motivated them. I found myself unable to sleep at night. I had to write down my thoughts, even if it was just character descriptions or scenery. Suddenly everything around me inspired thoughts of stories. A song, a building, a beautiful view, a funny conversation, a striking person, a strong emotion, it all made me want to write.

After a while the writing itself became the motivation. I felt so excited when I was writing. Seeing my stories come to life was giving me a natural high. Then as I got brave enough to share them I realized how wonderful it felt to see others enjoying them. Naturally this led to thoughts of publication. I started to wonder if I could really do it. Were my stories interesting enough? Had I written them well enough? I began paying closer attention the the mechanics. I joined a writing group. I started blogging with you all. I also began delving deeper into the world of publishing and researching what it takes to get published.

Now that I'm almost done editing and polishing my first book and about half way through my second, I'm seriously wondering if I've taken the time to figure out what I really want. Every step seemed like a natural progression, but I wonder if I considered all the implications of being published.

Fortunately, writers seem to be better able to maintain their anonymity than other people in the entertainment industry (unless you're Stephenie Meyer), and though writing is not likely to make you filthy rich or super famous, it will require certain things. For example, a fairly large amount of traveling at certain times. It would also require meeting deadlines and being accountable for contracts. In essence I would be choosing to become a working mom. Granted it would be the best working mom gig out there, but it would still be work. Now don't get me wrong, I grew up with a working mom and she was amazing! And I realize that writing from home is a whole different ball game than working a nine to five job. But the reality is that I would be adding one more thing to my life, one more obligation. And there would be good and bad consequences.

So I think what I've realized is that I need to know for sure that what I'm doing is right. That the sacrifices are worth it. I'm at the point now where I need to decide how to proceed because I know that once I make the decision I won't look back. I'll put all my heart and soul into what I choose and if that means never sleeping so that I can be a mom and a writer then that's what I'll do. But if I know what I want and that I made the right decision when times are tough or stressful, I'll have the assurance that I did the right thing.

It seems like every writer I've met so far knows what they want. They never seem to doubt it. I'm curious to know what some of your goals are.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Agents Work In Mysterious Ways

For this weeks Totally Tuesday, I am going to talk about my query letter. I sent out 25 of them last week and got 11 rejections. Something didn't feel right about it and I wasn't sure what. I ended up switching to a different query letter and tweaking it a bit. I really couldn't tell you why, but last night I just felt really good about it as I was sending them off.

This morning I woke up to two requests from agents! One requested a partial and one a full. Both seem to be really cool and I'm very excited! I know better than to get my hopes up, but this was a great response and I'm just happy for the opportunity.

So anyway, for those of you who asked, I am going to copy and paste my query letter so you guys can see it. To be honest, I really don't know why this one went over so much better than my other one, but who am I to question it? :)

Obviously they were personalized and I did put in something about why I was querying each agency... I did that the first time too though.

Dear Agent,

I’d like you to consider ORACLE, my young adult novel with a science fiction twist. This story is science fiction for people who don’t necessarily like science fiction—it is extremely character driven. In marketing terms—visualize X-Men meets Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. The manuscript is complete at 74,000 words.

Lexi Parker is telekinetic, and she hates it. Now, if only that was her worst problem.

Nope, that would be too simple for this fifteen-year-old. When a random desert thunderstorm sends Lexi to the world of Solara, she realizes her abilities aren’t so rare and freakish after all. Her power comes in a distant second on the weirdness scale compared to her experiences in this strange and beautiful world, such as:

~ Explaining that she isn’t a spy to a council of aliens

~ Watching her new friend pack a bag the same way Mary Poppins does

~ Drying her hands on a mini hurricane that invades her bathroom

She makes a deal with the Solarians—if they help her get home, she will help them find others with abilities like hers on Earth. After all this, Lexi is more than happy for life to get back to “normal”—then again, normal has never been Lexi’s strong suit. She never imagined what awaited her back in Oracle, Arizona would be far worse than anything she’d seen on Solara.

~ Getting knocked to the ground by a flying ottoman

~ Breaking a boy out of jail

~ Seeing lifeless eyes looking out from a friend’s face

All that—and she still can’t beat her sister at a game of Cups.

Maybe Lexi should’ve just stayed in Solara—but, it’s too late now. She must quickly learn to accept her own abilities and figure out how to use them. If she doesn’t, the powerful murderer stalking her will insure that no one on Earth who develops these powers will ever survive again.

I am a former marketing coordinator, a graduate of Weber State University in Public Relations, and the Public Relations/Activities Officer for the Utah League of Writers. This is a simultaneous submission

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Jenn Johansson

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sneaky Sunday

I find Sundays the hardest day for me... Not because of church! LOL! But because it hits me full force just how addicted I am to writing. Since it's the one day I've vowed not to "WORK" LOL! I've even thought about convincing myself that writing isn't really work, because it just seems so fun most of the time... but yeah, that never goes over well. I quickly realize that, okay, had I just been writing for "fun" the past 11 months, then maybe--MAYBE--I could get away with working on Sunday. But since I fully expect to get paid for these books and have them sold, I figure I better go ahead and keep the Lord on my side for this particular hobby! LOL! Hence my vow to never EVER work on ANY of my books that will be sold.

Grr... sigh, this is a hard day.

So, I try not to think of it as a wasted day more as a day the Lord intended, a day of rest. LOL! Hey, at least I get to lay in bed and read and catch up on other books, right? Besides, i have noticed that if I DON'T write on Sundays... the ideas and speed of my latest Manuscript just zoom full force at me the remainder of the week.

Hmm... Wait! Maybe I've tapped into something here? I wonder if that's my secret? People are always asking me how I can write so much. Even Nano I completed in three weeks this year (Without writing on the Sabbath Day) So what do you think? Is that my secret then? Because when I'm good and give the Lord His day, he gives me 6 more of almost uninterrupted writing bliss? Hahahah! OK, so not ALWAYS bliss, but you know what I mean! LOL!

So has anyone else notice this phenomenon in their own writing?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Valetines Day Love Letter

This post is dedicated to my husband, and every other man with a writer wife :)

On this, the day of love, my mind naturally turns to my husband. I could spend an entire post rattling off the many reasons why I think he is the BEST, hottest, most wonderful husband. (Believe me, I could.) But, I'll share that list with him, and spare you all the nausea.

However, I think that there is one thing that many of us writer wives and mothers can agree on. And that is the invaluable support of our men. I think each relationship varies, but there is a common thread of love and patience that husbands show to us, their wives.

It can be as simple as withholding that grimace when they come home (yet again) to a house in disarray. Maybe they'll clean up that house themselves, to give you time to write. How many times has that husband entertained the kids on a weekend while you are upstairs typing away? And how many times has he settled down with a book or a tv show in the evenings, when the two of you could be spending quality time, but you have been overcome with the need to finish that new chapter?

Sometimes, the support takes on a different style. Our husbands are our personal sounding boards. We discuss stories, characters, plot twists. Voluntarily, or not. :) But, sometimes your writing is all you think about, and therefore all you talk about. Further down the road, husbands read our stories, and give us honest feedback. That's actually a wonderful thing about a husband beta: he doesn't sugar coat. (At least, mine doesn't. :) But, I'm very grateful for it.)

And finally, husbands are there for us in the darker moments. When we get the dreaded writer's block. When our insecurities overwhelm us and we are ready to give up. When the rejection letters start to pile up. Our husbands are there, telling us to never give up on our dreams.

So, to all you wonderful husbands out there, we, your writer wives say, "Thank you!" We know that we might not live up to the dream of the Domestic Goddess, but you didn't want that anyway (right?) And that's why we love you. You are there for us, despite our flaws, helping us to achieve our dreams. And that's why we love you. You make the rough road a little more bearable, and a lot more enjoy able. And that's why we love you.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Synopsis writing!

My biggest block wall I've hit so far is called a synopsis! I started out writing a small paragraph summarizing each chapter in the most boring writing ever!! I recently took a workshop by romance writer Cathy McDavid about taglines, thumbnail sketches, and synopsis. The following definitions and explanations are what Cathy said (to the best of my memory, sorry if I mixed something up!).

Tagline is a high concept single line about your story. This line should contain the external conflict. We used Cinderella as our example: What if...a young peasant girl wants to attend the ball but she can't because she has nothing.

Thumbnail sketch builds from the tagline adding the heros general main conflict and black moment of the story. This is usually a paragraph.

Basic elements of writing a synopsis:
Set up/Overall premise
Main Characters goal
Black moment

One thing she talked about was using power words. These are words that convey lots of visual and emotional impact. Play around with your sentences looking for the best emotional reaction with the least amount of words. She also said to use the same tone in your synopsis that you use in your book. I'm really excited about trying out her method! To learn more about Cathy McDavid go to

Now for the exercise...write the most exciting tagline you can think of for your story. Play with the words, use power words, and have fun with it! Add your tagline to the comments. I will add mine later, the kids don't have school today and they are driving me crazy so we are leaving the house for a little while!! LOL! Can't wait to hear how exciting your stories are!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


One of my favorite books in the world is a book written by the late prophet Gordon B. Hinckley called "Standing For Something." In this book he has an entire chapter about how important optimism is, and I must say that staying positive has carried me through a lot of life's trials. I think it is an important attitude to have in both the writing industry and also in parenthood. I would just like to share a few excerpts from the book.

"My plea is that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life, we "accentuate the positive." I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment and endorse virtue and effort."

"We must walk with hope and faith. We must speak affirmatively and cultivate an attitude of confidence. We all have the capacity to do so. Our strength will give strength to others, and the cumulative, rippling effect will be tremedous......What wonders we can accomplish when others have faith in us! No leader can long succeed in any society without the confidence of the people. It is so with us in our daily associations."

I completely agree. When others have faith in me, I have more faith and confidence in myself. It is my goal to seek out the good more, to silence my criticism that seems to surface easier than my praise. I want to be the person that let's my children, my husband, my colleagues, and my friends, know that they can do and be anything they put their mind to.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Quotable Quotes

There is one quote that sits at the top of my blog, It's by Flannery O'Conner. You may have already read it. It's the best expression of why I write. It says, "I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say." That is so true for me. I can make sense of the world when I'm writing. I like to write letters to people to tell them how I'm feeling. I write in my journal to figure out why I'm feeling a certain way. I write fiction as an outlet for an excess of feeling or thought that has to be used up or it will drive me crazy and keep me up at night. :)

Good Quotes either express just how I feel, or enlighten me with a description of something that I didn't realize I felt until that very moment. Here are a few of my favorite quotes. I read them when I need a reminder of why I write, or how I should write.

So I would love to hear one of your favorite quotes if you would like to share.


Write from the soul, not from some notion of what you think the marketplace wants. The market is fickle; the soul is eternal.
-Jeffrey A. Carver

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.
-Henry David Thoreau

First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!
- Ray Bradbury

I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.
- Gustave Flaubert

Observe, don't imitate.
- John M. Ford

A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.
- Eugene Ionesco

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Totally Tuesday: Literary Agents

Jenni asked me to re-post this agents post I did on my blog last week. So enjoy and read carefully, there is a quiz after. :P

Agents are a fascinating breed. They have stringent dietary requirements which call for them to consume extensive amounts of caffeine and a healthy abundance of ghastly query letters daily.

They may look like the rest of us, but they should not be approached in the wild. When cornered they turn skittish and look for an escape. Becoming particularly apprehensive when any acronyms are used, such as WIP or MC. Oddly, they seem to be calmed by the use of SASE.

In order to tame one of these wild beasts, one must first approach from a distance. Writing down all of the reasons why this creature should accept your offering. Many of these approaches are dismissed with barely a glance, as agents are finicky. You may do research to decide what type of offering might most satisfy their cravings, but you will find that each one is very different. The only ingredient they will agree that you must have is something they refer to as voice. I looked all over my pantry--I can't find it.

If you are able to interest one of these creatures in what you offer, they will ask to see more. Here is the most puzzling part about their kind. If they truly like what you have written for them, they will agree to work with you--then they will take your offering and dissect it like a frog in a science lab.

How do you get one of these critters to feel that primal attraction for your offering?

You tell me, because I've been trying to figure that out all week and I don't think I'm any closer to having the answer.

Here are my questions for you ladies. Do you have a dream agent? If so, who is it? What would make an agent your dream agent? What qualities do you feel are most important in someone who wants to represent your work?

Monday, February 9, 2009

It's A Small World After All

Thanks for the public service announcement! That was awesome!

While I was reading the posts on my blog I saw that my dearest friend Gabby Hull may know Candice. Gabby is my hero, and I don't have many. She is the kindest, sweetest, most spiritual person I know. She is one of my best friends and I am very privileged to have her as a friend and guide in my life.
It got me thinking about how small of a world we live in and that is how I got the idea for this post! You might not have thought of this part of writing yet (I am learning this part the hard way). It is about finding a platform. What is that you might ask (I did)? This means gathering a following. If, like me, you thought writing and rewriting your book was it....this is regretfully only 1/4 of it! Advertising and selling your self is 3/4 part of the game! There are things you can do to create this platform now. Here are some easy, inexpensive (I'm all about spending as little money as possible) was of obtaining a platform. I love bullets too :) I also love anything that can be done in 3 steps or less!!! So here they are:

#1 Social Networking:

*Facebook- get an account and start connecting with friends from church, high school, college, work, friends of friends etc. This is a way to reach potentially thousands for free when your book comes out but beware! This can suck you in and take too much time with no results. Limit your time to searching for new friends and quick posts to keep yourself out their and a buzz going on about you.

*LinkedIn-Get an account and start connecting with the same as facebook. This is like facebook for the corporate world. This can also get you connections for an agent or publisher.

*Twitter and MySpace- Since you are all YA writers, this is your audience. You need to tap into it and get a following here as well. Post your blog, pictures little snippets of you book, anything that will spark interest. These are great ways to social network and help you get published. Publishers look for this kind of stuff when you send out proposals (querying is just the beginning of promoting yourself).

#2 Enter into writing contests- This is a way to get literary agents to sign with you. Make yourself known to them by these contests. It also gives you more of an edge with publishers. They are more willing to go out on a ledge with you because you have proven yourself.

#3 Write articles for your local paper/ local magazine etc., find somewhere that you can write and get noticed by more that just your friends and family.

These are just some of the steps that I have taken and they have really helped me reach more people. Try these, a little at a time and you will see how important this is! Remember writing is just 1/4 of the job. Promoting yourself and your book is 3/4!!!

Public Service Announcement

Ok, I know it's not my day, (Sorry Mary!) but I went to some workshops this weekend and found out about some online writing classes. First I went to a workshop by Laurie Schnebly Campbell--She is AMAZING! She is a counselor as well as a writer and she really delves into the emotions and psychological aspect of writing. Cuz let's face it...writing is MENTAL! Here are some classes she has coming up online:

Block-Busting: Putting the Joy Back in Writing - March 2-27, 2009 ($25)

Q is for Query
A is for Aaack! - April 6-17, 2009 ($20)

From Plot to Finish - May 11-22, 2009 ($55)

Those are just a few to start with. I also met an author named Connie who is contributing to an online

All the classes have fees, but they are much cheaper than writer's conferences and taking classes at the local community college. Plus, you can do them at home right on your computer! I hope this helps.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Staying Happy (Spiritual/Motivational Sunday)

I was criticized recently for not broadening my horizons when I read. I was criticized loudly and in front of a room of professionals. I tried to explain to them that I read for pleasure only... and that if the book doesn't uplift me in some way and make me feel better about myself or my family then why would I read it? One lady in particular groaned at this statement and fairly sneered at me. She comment back with a remark similar to, "But there are so many more things to learn in the world, so many more things you need to read about like death and anguish--"

"No I don't need to read about them." I chuckled.

"If you don't, then you're purposely hiding yourself up in a cocoon."

I smiled. "A cocoon I'm very grateful for."

The woman threw herself back and crossed her arms clearly thinking I wasn't worth speaking to.

I said, "Look, I don't need to read about murder and molestation to know that it happens, okay? I don't need to read filth to broaden my horizons. I only have a limited time to read anyway, so I try to surround myself with good things, good books to escape from the world--not to slam me back in it again."

The woman was still clearly not impressed. She had completely sized me up as a fluffy, air headed delusional girl, with way too many kids. "Well, suit yourself. But i prefer to know what is going on around me, I prefer to know all angles so I can form an educated opinion of all sorts of things, not live my life hidden behind some sheltered happiness and blossomed smiles."

In that moment I knew that I had seen more terror and known more trials than this woman could ever comprehend. I stood up. Threw my coat over my shoulder and merely mumbled to the room at large, "My husband has gone to WAR enough times for me to realize what this world is really about. I've faced fear head on, I think I prefer to stay uneducated. Excuse me." And then I walked out of the room. Jaws dropped as I went, particularly hers.

Never, ever judge someone by what they read! LOL! Or how many smiles and how much positive energy they generate. I think that truly positive people are the bravest. They force themselves to laugh in the face of danger. To confront Satan head on and smile. I also feel that they guard themselves from attacks and sneers, because they can purposefully switch those sneers to their advantage.

I think positive happiness is the magic potion that much of the world desires. Many think it's easy or comes more naturally to some. Maybe. Who am I to say otherwise, I'm uneducated, right? LOL! But, I do feel that it takes practice. A whole lot of practice. And something that does not come easily, but something you earn and scrape and claw and fight for to attain once you find yourself down again.

It's a conscious choice, that can become habit with practice, but still a choice nonetheless.

I choose to face this and still be happy.

I choose to face that and succeed even better than anyone around me thought i could.

I choose to face them and not only smile, but to walk away. They will not hurt me. They will not bring me down. I am untouchable.

See? Very brave. And at the same time the most successful of all the groups of people there are. The ones that maintain positivity and believe there is a purpose to what they are doing--succeed. The ones that succumb and listen to the whisperings of Satan, find themselves faltering and desperate to pick themselves back up.

I challenge you all to stay positive. Be brave and realize the Lord is having you do this for a reason. Many are called, but few are chosen. If you stay brave. If you stay positive, if you believe in what you are doing and continue you stay true to His teachings--the Lord will bless you beyond anything you could ever hope for. You will be chosen.

I always take it as particular flattery when i find Satan attacking me and trying to bring me down, making me believe something I've done, or written wasn't worth it. Muhaha! You know why? That signals to me--sets out a massive homing beacon actually--that it IS good. It's so good that the creepy guy himself is scared! And he's trying to derail me from finding what I need to do to catch the attention of others. To make sure it makes it and gets into the mass market where it can help others. Muhahaha! Bring it.

I revised Pride & Popularity no less than 10 times. TEN!!! And now I'm gearing myself up for another round of revisions from a publishing house in a couple of weeks. But you know what? All the times that I cried over P&P only drew me closer to it. I know just as much today as I did when i first started writing it, the Lord asked me to do this. He needs this. I will not let Him down.


Saturday, February 7, 2009


So, I want to start off by expressing how excited I am to be a part of this blog! Thus far, all of your posts have been funny, thoughtful, and inspiring. In other words, intimidating. I hope my Saturday posts don't drag the blog down too much.

(I also want to say that I find it very appropriate that I am getting this post up later in the day, seeing as this is an introduction to who I am. This is me, to a T: running a little late. *sigh*)

At any rate, let me tell you a little about Mormon Mommy Writer Me. In keeping with my theme of introducing who I really am, I'll give you the run down in bullet point form. Why? Because I love bullet point lists! :)

-I am a mother of two adorable kids. A daughter who is nearly five, and about as dramatic, charming, hilarious, and sweet as any kid could be. Also, a son, who is nearly two. He is cuddly, a bold explorer, often rowdy, and a big time ham.

-My husband and I are in a crazy state of flux. He's graduating Optometry school in four months, so we are trying to decide where we will live, where he will work. You know, little things like that.

-I have written two novels to completion. I am working on a third, and I have one simmering deliciously on the back burner.

-I write YA! And I love it!

-I started seriously pursuing writing almost five years ago. In the beginning, I began three different novels, none of them getting past page 40. Then, about two years ago, I began the novel that would become my first completed manuscript.

-It was YA epic fantasy. Unfortunately, it was really long and had a lot of plot problems, so I set it aside in the editing stage. Still, it showed me that I could finish a whole novel! And that was something I needed to know.

-My second novel is a contemporary YA story (with a "touch" of magic). I love it. I sent it out into the big, bad querying world in the beginning of October. I had some interest, but I've pulled it out of the market for a while. I'm putting my focus (and my limited free time) into my current work in progress. Which is . . .

-A post apocalyptic novel. Yeah . . . dark. But, I'm very excited about it.

Well, I think that's about it. Me in a nutshell. Hopefully in the future, I'll have more interesting blog posts. Maybe. I make no promises. :)

Friday, February 6, 2009

What Makes Me Special?

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post on my family blog titled, What makes me special? Ever since then, a minimum of one or two people every week end up on my blog by googling "What makes me special". I've been thinking about that, wondering why people would google that. What is our obsession with being special? Especially in our society where conformity seems to be at an all time high! I haven't figured out the answer, but I know the need to be special is there for all of us, especially when it comes to writing. Writing something new in this day and age where everything has been done before, is a tall order. The pressure can be intense and alot of times, we don't know what makes us special as a writer. This is something I've been struggling with in my writing.

I am taking an online Literature through my local community college as I strive to finish my Associates in Arts degree, finally! This literature class has been really helpful to me in my writing so far. I was reading one of the assignments in my textbook "Backpack Literature" by Kennedy & Gioia. The first thing that stood out at me said, "Whatever leads us to infer the author's attitude is commonly called tone." Hmmmm. That made me think, what does my tone convey in my story? The answer was: not my attitude towards my story. Which means something was wrong. The next thing that spoke to me was, "Style refers to the individual traits or characteristics of a piece of writing: to a writer's particular ways of managing words that we come to recognize as habitual or customary." BINGO!! Our style is what makes us special as writers. Most of you probably already figured this all out, but I'm a slow learner. I thought I could just write and the tone and style would just fall into place. And, well, it kind of did, but it wasn't the tone that I wanted and I'm not sure the style was really me either. So with a deep resigned sigh, I am going to rewrite the WHOLE story AGAIN! Word for word! This will be my third time doing a complete rewrite, not just editing, etc. But it must be done.

So here is a progression of my story. This is the first paragraph of Chapter One of my very first draft:

“Mikayla, are you ready?” She heard her mother yell to her up the stairs.
“Almost.” She shouted back as she applied the finishing touches to her costume. She smiled as she looked at the mirror to find a perfect maiden from the Renaissance era smiling back at her. Well, maybe not perfect, she thought again as she knew her less than average looks couldn’t be changed. But she looked past that for once as she twirled around to appreciate her dress that her grandmother had made for her. The dress had an empire waist, which help to enhance the barely more than nonexistent bust she had. At the age of fourteen, she was on the scrawny side, with not much more body than a boy. Strike that, even the boys her age seemed to be filling out better than her, she thought sardonically. But with this dress on, she could almost forget that.

Here's my first paragraph of Chapt. 1 of Second draft:

Mikayla always thought the tall fence around the wooden buildings were out of place in the desert landscape. She gazed at the Superstition Mountains that reared up nearby. They haven’t changed in the eight years she’d been coming. She knew that, yet they seemed different to her this time. They had always looked majestic to, now they just stood as a reminder of one more thing her grandmother would never see again.

Here's my new paragraph of Chapt. 1 of take Three:

The wind blew dust off the top of the Superstition Mountains down into the booming housing community of Apachie Junction. It was more like a suburb of Mesa where most of the inhabitants commuted for work. The other side of the mountains remained desert, seemingly untouched by time. Except for one thing.
Just off the highway, a dirt road led to a sea of cars, the Arizona sun glaring off the tops. The vehicles were parked in perfect formation in the makeshift parking lot that surrounded the misfit village, transporting it's occupants to another time and another place.

Ok, so your task today is to find at least one sentence in your WIP that you need to fix in some way. It doesn't have to be tone and style that you fix, but find a spot that just doesn't feel right to you and play around with some different versions. Post the sentence before you fixed it, then after. Let's see the change. Thanks! Nikki

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Mommy Wars

Dignity? Who Needs It

by, Kasie West

I sat down to check my e mail and smeared across the back of my hand was a dried booger. Yes, dried, as in, it had been there for a while. It would have been disgusting enough had it been my own, but it wasn’t. It was my two-year-old son’s. It would have been understandable had I not remembered exactly how it had gotten there, which would have been the case on any other day (there had been other days).

As I looked at this particular booger, however, I knew how it had come to be there. It had been bath time, it had been hanging out of his nose, and I had wiped it, (with my finger, of course, what else would I wipe it with?) and as I had gone to throw it away, it had disappeared. I thought to myself at the time, ‘Huh, I wonder where that booger went?’ And then just as quickly I had thought, ‘oh well.’

So, fast-forward to the now dried up booger. What would I do? Would I get a tissue for it, like I should have done when I originally saw it hanging out of his nose? Or would I let it sit for another few minutes while I checked my e mail? It wasn’t getting any drier or less disgusting, of course I waited. Which brought me to the question I asked myself a lot as a mother of four children under the age of ten—did I have any dignity left? And the answer I always came back with was—of course not.

What was dignity anyway? I was already checking my e-mail. It wouldn’t take much longer to jump onto a dictionary site, just to make sure I wasn’t selling myself short. informed me that dignity was “bearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect or appreciation of the formality or gravity of an occasion or situation.” I looked back at the booger—nope, not an ounce of dignity left.

I thought back, trying to remember at exactly what point, over the last ten years, I had lost it. I concluded that it wasn’t something that had happened all at once. It was a culmination of many experiences. After all, I had at one point been a very self-respecting individual. Or so I had successfully fooled myself into thinking for many years.

It wasn’t something I lost merely by becoming a mother. In fact, I can remember clearly my first child as a baby. I used a blanket when I nursed. When her binky would fall on the ground, I would wash it under hot water for several minutes. I would carefully check her diaper for any signs of a “stinky” by lifting it away from her leg and peeking inside. I even remember gagging when I was changing her diaper one time and poop came squirting out, landing on my arm. I must’ve used just short of a million wipes to scrub my arm clean.

When my first child was a toddler, however, there may have been little things creeping into my patterns of behavior that hadn’t been there before. Like the time I had gone to the grocery store and was trying to decide between two flavors of pop tarts. In my cutest little mommy voice I had said, “should we get the stwaberry or the booberry,” only to look over and see that my cart was empty. I had left my daughter at home with my husband. That was back when I was still trying to cling to my dignity, so I was thoroughly embarrassed when the man a few feet away gave me a strange look. I even felt the need to say, while laughing, “I thought I had my daughter with me.” In his eyes I don’t think that had made much of a difference.

Then my second child came. I was slightly more relaxed in my dignity. If my blanket slipped while nursing, it didn’t mark the end of the world. If her binky fell on the floor, thirty seconds under luke warm water seemed sufficient for disinfection. Checking the diaper became a job for my nose instead of my eyes.

The public humiliation seemed to come more frequently with the new addition to the family. My first child, perhaps in an attempt for attention, thought it was her duty to take off her diaper and streak through the isles at large, crowded, stores. When I had my bits of dignity left, it was very hard for me to hunt down an employee and say, “Um, there’s been a spill in isle four.” “What kind of spill,” they would inevitably ask. “Urine,” I would mumble before leaving as quickly as possible.

Then my third child came and I came to the realization that certain behaviors of practice previously attempted now seemed unrealistic. Using a blanket to nurse seemed impractical because by the time the baby was done, we were both sweating. If the binky fell on the floor, my own mouth provided just the right amount of disinfection. After all, I rarely had access to a faucet of running water. Was she poopy? A finger directly into the side of the diaper could find out quickly. Did that make you gag? Not me. In fact, I rarely gagged at all these days. Not even when my fourth child spit up directly on to my face, causing momentary blindness.

Public humiliation seemed to happen less these days as well. Oh wait…no…it happened more, I had just become less humiliated. Did it bother me when I walked through the isles at a grocery store with no children, but a large chocolate drool stain down the front of my shirt? No, because if I had put on a new shirt before I left, it would have been dirty by the end of the day too, and that would have just equaled more laundry.

Have I made proper reference to all bodily functions yet? Just making sure, a person lacking dignity would include every last one.

I finally went to the sink and rinsed off the booger. After drying my hands on a towel, I rubbed my finger across my now clean hand. It felt soft, as if I had applied an expensive mask to my skin, the kind they sold for a lot of money in the department stores. Who needed expensive masks when they had kids? And who needed dignity? Not me. I had so much more.


I love being a mommy. Have you all managed to keep your dignity in tact through the process??

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wacky Wednesday - *Warning, no writing related content is contained in this post*

Life is funny. I think by now most of us have figured out that if you don’t learn how to laugh a lot than you’re going to be crying. My problem is that that I’ve learned to do both in abundance, and over years my giggle and tear reflexes have become extra sensitive (probably from over use). The result is that I laugh and cry at the drop of a hat and at the most inconvenient times ( Jenni’s post on her school assignment got me thinking about this [I think she has my same problem, at least the laughing part ]). So when do I laugh? When I was young I would laugh when I was getting in trouble. I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful; it was just my way of dealing with an uncomfortable situation. I also tended to laugh when other people were getting in trouble. As a result, I have the high distinction in my family of being the only child out of six who was ever slapped. Yep, right across the face, but don’t remind my mom about that one. It scarred her emotionally. Not me, I think it’s funny (of course I do because that would be inappropriate).

Some of my other favorite times to laugh would include: during very quiet church meetings, when my husband is upset at me about something (okay when anybody is upset with me, really), during family meetings, and inevitably when it’s time to pray. Just recently I started a prayer in front of my entire husband’s family with the words “We are thankful.” No introduction, no requisite beginning, I just went right into the prayer and then realized what I had done. I was so embarrassed that I laughed for like ten minutes which was bad since the food was getting cold, and my father-in-law insisted I still say the prayer. So eventually I giggled my way through.

Crying is another story. I cry at all the right times, when I’m hurt or frustrated, when I’m worried about someone I love, when something spiritual touches my heart, and when I see anything moving, like the Olympics, or a T.V. commercial, or a sad cartoon. See totally appropriate. Right??

I’ve come to terms with my emotional defects. I’ve actually learned to embrace them. I think my philosophy in life is be happy, or be sad, but don’t just sit around somewhere in the middle. Life’s too short to be vanilla all the time. Unless being vanilla makes you super happy than just go with it. I no longer chide myself for feeling emotions. If I’m happy, I smile, laugh, and hopefully bring joy into other’s lives. When I’m sad I cry and allow myself to be sad. I no longer think of sadness as bad. It just is. I’m not suggesting wallowing in self pity all the time. I’m just saying if I’m sad than I’m sad! I just go with it. When I’m angry… I lock myself in my room and give myself a time out.

In the end both crying and laughing have the same affect on our bodies. They both release endorphins which are those feel good hormones. So, experiencing emotions make us feel good. We were created to feel, and I relish that fact!


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