Saturday, December 31, 2011

Saturday Stories and Book Review, Maria Hoagland

Today's guest for Saturday Stories is Maria Hoagland. She's also here for a book review so check it all out!

If, when you're finished reading, you'd like to learn more about Maria check out her blog here.

Saturday Stories

Q–Would you please tell us about yourself?
First off, thank you so much for having me on your blog! I’m so excited to tell you about my book. But about me…I’m just your typical LDS mom who likes to write. I’ve got an amazing husband and three wonderful teenage (or almost) kids. I earned a BA at Brigham Young University. I like to run when I make time for it and I tutor 8th graders in algebra. Oh, and I’m a type 1 diabetic.
Q–How did you get started writing?
Like many writers, I dabbled as a kid and teen and wrote a little in college where I majored in English. When my kids were born, though, I took a break. I didn’t even have the desire to write until my youngest started kindergarten. I guess I needed blocks of uninterrupted time—I admire writers who are successful when they’ve got little ones at home.
Q–Would you please tell us about your book "Nourish and Strengthen"?
One thing I like about this book is that so many people get different things out of it, so I am looking forward to your take on it. The basic idea is pretty simple—Chloe, an LDS mom with young kids, gets called as the Primary president about the same time she deals with the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Like many LDS women, she struggles with the feeling that she needs to be perfect in all areas of her life—physically, spiritually, and socially—by being the perfect wife, mother, friend, and Primary president. Diabetes becomes just one more added stress, one more thing she needs to be perfect at—keeping her blood sugar normal, which is impossible.
Q–What was the inspiration for this book?
My family and I have moved around a lot and one thing seems universal in talking to my friends—I feel like we, as LDS women, can be pretty hard on ourselves sometimes. I wanted to remind myself and others that doing our best is all that has been asked of us. We don’t need to be perfect yet. It’s a process that we are all still working through.
Q–How do you relate to Chloe? How are you two similar and how are you different?
There are many similarities between myself and Chloe, but one thing I hope all my friends know…I am NOT as judgmental as Chloe starts out being, though I must confess, we share many of the same insecurities. Chloe and I also both have amazing husbands (I wanted that close relationship to be a constant for Chloe in the book) and three children (I thought about changing the number of children, but it worked out well—too many children could have been confusing, and fewer might have made the end more predictable).
Q–What are some of the biggest misconceptions you've encountered regarding Diabetes?
There are several: That you get diabetes from eating too much sugar or the wrong kinds of foods. That if you have a pump, you must have it “really bad.” That you can’t EVER eat sugar.
Q–What is one thing you wish people understood about diabetes? 
Diabetics can live a normal life, just like everyone else. That being said, there are times I wish I could take a break from it, just for a little while.
Q–In what ways do you see your diabetes as a blessing to you and your family?
It definitely helps in teaching moderation. Although we don’t steer clear of sweets completely, every bite needs counted, so there is control in portion sizes and frequency.
Q–If you were trapped on a tropical deserted island with your hubby and kids which category would you fall under: Survivor, Swiss Family Robinson, Gilligan's Island? Why?
Assuming we weren’t diabetic (and therefore would have a chance of living), I’d have to admit that I’m a huge LOST fan. I love the complexities of the plot and the rich characterization. It would be fun to be on an island with mysteries to solve, but hopefully a little cleaner and less brutal.
Q–Since tomorrow is the start of 2012, could give us two resolutions you are making?
1. Write twelve more books this year.

2. Never keep New Year’s resolutions. Just kidding! First, I plan to finish book number two before the LDStorymakers Conference in May so I can pitch to an agent; and second, I want to run at least 400 miles in 2012, since I made it to 350 this year.
Q–If you had to describe yourself as an animal, which animal would it be and why?
I would have to say a cat. I love to find a sunny patch on a comfy couch and curl up with a book. (Though I’ve never seen my cat read.)
Q–What is one life lesson you've learned that you wish your 20-year-old self knew?
Enjoy the size you are because it only goes downhill from here! Other than that, I don’t think I have many regrets.
Q–What is your favorite candy bar and what candy bar would you only eat if you were starving?
Let’s see, as a diabetic, I should say that I don’t eat candy, but of course, that would be a misconception. IMHO, the worst candy bar EVER is a Babe Ruth. What a waste! No chocolate and what’s with that sticky stuff in the middle? But I have so many favorites…all with chocolate. Sometimes I want something simple like a Hershey’s with almonds, but usually an Almond Joy makes me happiest.

Book Review

Here's the Amazon blurb:
Chloe Taylor has the perfect life: a model’s figure, a husband who adores her, three healthy children. So why does she feel so much less than perfect? After losing forty pounds, Chloe Taylor is finally happy with her body. What she doesn’t realize is that she’s not the one in control. When Chloe is called as the Primary president, she discovers that managing the highs and lows of a chronic illness may be easier than the ups and downs associated with family, friends, and church callings. Consumed by her own challenges, Chloe fails to recognize the issues her friends are facing and is in danger of losing their friendship. As Chloe strives to develop Christ-like love for herself and those around her, she learns that outer appearances are far less important than inner peace and spiritual strength. But is she strong enough to face her most difficult trial yet?

Disclaimer:  I received a free e-copy of Maria's book in exchange or a review. No promise was made for a favorable review.

Review:  First, let me say that Maria nailed the whole church society thing. Nailed it. Chloe's difficulties were completely relatable to me and I guess I'm pretty judgmental because I could see myself doing everything she did; jumping to conclusions, giving people a few guilt trips. Been there, done that, regretted it. It was refreshing for me, in a somewhat new and large calling and still feeling overwhelmed and uncertain, to see Chloe's take on things and to realize our dilemmas weren't so very different and the way she ultimately chose to handle things is my goal.

Second, it is important to note that this book bears a heavy narration about diabetes. Not that that's a bad thing. For me it wasn't. I have a slight family history of type 2 diabetes and was extremely curious to see what the life of a diabetic looked like. Maria gets pretty technical, explaining insulin pumps and carb counting but for me that was a plus. I didn't want the disease glazed over, I wanted to know all about it and this book delivered.

I loved the villain, Mrs. Lewis and her perpetual belief that she knows and sees all and can run the ward better than the Bishop or anyone else for that matter. I also loved how Maria didn't just show Chloe's difficulties with the ladies with whom she served at church, she showed the back stories, explained why the characters acted the way they did that gave them all a very real feeling. I always try to tell myself that there is a history behind every frown, every angry glare and I think Maria did a great job of showing that in her book.

This book is educational, inspiring and fun and if you're not afraid of a little medical explanation here and there you might just want to go check it out, especially if you want to learn more about the life of a diabetic. Any leaders out there with diabetic youth in their class? This would be a great way to get a glimpse into what their life is like...just sayin.

Maria's book "Nourish & Strengthen" is available from these vendors:

Amazon (Kindle or Print)

Thursday, December 29, 2011


This Christmas season I have really been thinking about the role of belief/faith in our lives. Little children start out with such unwavering faith.  Just watch a child at Christmas time when they talk about Santa.  The fact that a fat man flies all night long, all over the world to shimmy down chimneys or drain pipes doesn't seem ridiculous to them at all.  Why?  Because they believe in him and all that he stands for.  As children grow up it becomes harder to believe in anything, not just Santa.  But we all long for that innocence again when we can just believe in things without having to question and analyze everything.  I think that's why movies and books with fantastical elements really appeal to our society as a whole.  As writers, our job is to take our readers into a world where they can suspend their cynicism and, even if it's just for a moment, believe in magic again like they did as children.
The problem with this whole process is that, we as writers, the ones who are supposed to make others believe in the impossible, often don't even believe in ourselves.  I want to believe in myself as a writer, I really do, but sometimes the doubts are too powerful.  I am getting closer to finding self-belief and a big part of that is because of the support system I have around me.  I have all of you, my writing groups, my friends, and most importantly, my family.  My husband and my children are my biggest fans.  I have been writing one YA series for about 3 1/2 years now, but they still encourage me to keep going with it and not give up.  This year at Christmas, I opened a gift from my 12 yr old daughter and found a cardboard box in the shape of a book.  She had painted the box and put the title of my series on the front along with my name underneath.  I couldn't help but tear up when I saw it.  She believes in my writing even though I've given her no reason to do so.  I don't have a long list of successes or references or accomplishments, but her belief is unwavering.  I want to have that kind of belief for myself.
This is when I ask myself what I do believe in.  The answer to that is, Christ.  I do believe he came into the world as an innocent babe to save us all.  I do believe that he was born to a virgin, and that angels came to shepherds in a field to tell them where to find the newborn king.  I do believe that Christ grew up and performed miracles on the earth, and that he bled from every pore in the garden of Gethsemane to atone for the sins of the world.  I also believe that after he died on the cross he was resurrected and overcame death. 
When I think of all the wonderfully fantastical things I do believe in, I realize I have it in me to believe that all things are possible.  With God's help I truly can do anything.
Belief makes the world a wonderful place! 
With that thought, I want to thank everyone who reads this blog.  I believe in each and every one of you and know that you can reach your writing dreams.

Don't forget that starting Monday, January 2nd we will be having our 3rd year blog celebration!  You won't want to miss it!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Writing on the Road

I'm writing this the day I should be on the road to a family visit for the holidays, but an unexpected ear infection (though it shouldn't 4 year old has one at least once a year) flared last night as we were preparing to leave for a 10 hour drive. So instead of leaving home at 4 am, I was consoling my son and waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in. And for morning so I could take him to the doctor.
We're leaving Tuesday now, but that gives me a chance to post. My question to you is this: do you write everywhere you go? I am going on a trip that involves lots of driving and hanging out. I've tucked a notebook into my things so I can write if the whim takes me. Does anyone else do that? I don't want to be rude to anyone, and sometimes writing feels rude, it's so solitary and internal. But I've put it off long enough, having been overwhelmed by the activities of the past couple of months. And I'm feeling it, that lack of creativity in my life. I don't know that I can stand it much longer before I'll have to crawl back into my writing hole.
So what are your writing-during-the-holiday plans? Do you plan on just waiting for the end of the break and then take it back up like a New Year's resolution? Or do you need to write everyday, and do it religiously regardless of the time of year? Or something in between?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Creative Time

Before I confess all my dirty secrets can I just say I have missed the Mormon Mommy Writer community.  I have had an interesting time since I took my hiatus.  I will get around to sharing with you all of the crazy events sometime. However, today I wanted to make a small confession of my bad parenting skills.

There was time, not so very long ago, when people carried on conversations with people who were in the same room without using their phones.  A time when playing a game of baseball meant taking a ball, bat, and glove outside.  It was also a time when kids had an opportunity to think, to create, and to develop without a screen in front of their face.  Don't get me wrong, there are still households that live by these same standards.  However, it is sad to see television, tablets, and phones taking the place of a good imagination.  Some children have been raise to expect constant entertainment.  Things have not always been this way.  When kids got bored they actually thought up ways to entertain themselves.

My mom laughingly recounts how sending me to my room as a punishment never effected me.  I would just sit on my bed even without toys dreaming up stories, imaging far off places, and creating my own entertainment.  I didn't need an app to entertain myself.   Within the corners of my mind, the possibilities extended forever.

Today, when I heard the sigh of boredom come from the backseat of the car, I handed my daughter my iPod touch.  After about 30 second she handed it back.  I asked her if she wanted me to turn on some music for her.  "No"  I ask her what she wants to do.  "Nothing."  What???  "I said I want to do nothing, Mom!"  Afterwards, she sat in the backseat quietly talking to her imaginary friends, and entertaining herself.  I smiled as I silently chastised myself for encouraging my daughters dependence on outside entertainment.

The episode reminded me, that I am guilty of pushing constant entertainment at my daughter.  We all need our creative time and in today's world that can be hard. 

How do you give your kids time to create?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Uh...Now What?

First, hope you all had a very merry Christmas. I certainly did! And I am pleased to announce that I am writing this blog post from my new MacBook (see it up there? Isn't it cute?). Gah! So excited! My hubby knows how to make a girl happy!

So, it’s the day after Christmas. The presents have all been unwrapped, the cookies are getting stale, and at least one new toy has probably been broken. The lines for customer service at Wal-Mart stretch out to the parking lot, our pants are all fitting a little more snugly, and there’s that lovely feeling of, “Now what?”

I’m also getting that “Now what?” after-Christmas feeling with my writing. My Christmas came in October when I finally submitted my book (whew!). I’m waiting on a reply, and rather than being productive, I’m twiddling my thumbs. It’s as if there’s a part of me that believes that if it’s accepted, it means I can do this. I can write. I have a future and it’s bright and here we go!

But if it’s rejected then…? What am I really doing?

I know it’s dumb, and I know I won’t stop writing even if it is rejected. In fact, I’ll probably start sending it to more publishers and see what happens. But I guess it’s like I’ve just been holding my breath since October. And my lips are starting to turn blue.

Now what?

There’s a part of me that knows I should probably get back to my novel. But it’s kind of lost its shiny newness (did I mention the broken toy and the stale cookies?) and when I think about it all I can see in my head is a big flashing neon sign that says, “WORK! WORK! WORK!”

I don’t like work. I like fun.

So far my writing successes have been short little things- a letter written for a contest, the Totally Cliché short story, some stories for the Friend magazine. All very quick and fun. Even the book I submitted was a compilation of (short) poems. My inner brat is saying, “Do I really have to write a WHOLE book? But that’s HARD! And it’ll take forEVER!” (Wah, wah, wah, wah)

So my question is this: How do I get over this post-submission slump? Is there any way to get the fire back in my fingers or do I just have to do the ol’ ‘power through’?

I would love some advice on this front, especially from you veteran novelists out there. Once you submit your work, then what? Do you hold your breath until your lips turn blue or do you delve into something new? Any inspiring words would be helpful! (even non-inspiring words wouldn’t be half bad!)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Transcendent Blog Tour

Hi! We're today's stop on the Transcendent blog tour. If you haven't heard, this is a collection of paranormal tales by various authors. If you're in the mood for some fun, clever paranormal reads, you MUST check out Transcendent.

Check out all the participating blogs:

There's a little mix up, where MMW is slated to be the 27th (but that's not my blogging day), so just note that I'm talking about Transcendent here today, and on my blog on the 27th. No worries.

Along with checking out the various prizes and contests on the participating blogs, you're definitely going to want to head over to Wendy Swore's BLOG to check out the prizes she's got going for the contest. Big, BIG prizes.

To encourage participation, I'm going to offer a free electronic copy of Transcendent right now! If you're not sold by that gorgeous cover, click HERE to read more about the book and the collection of stories. It's a guaranteed fun read, and the perfect little gift for yourself for the holidays.

I'm going to make it super easy. Just leave a comment and you're entered to win a copy of the Transcendent e-book. You have until Wednesday, December 28th, at midnight to leave a comment. I will post the winner next Friday, December 30th.

Good luck, and be sure to spread the word!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

MMW 3rd Year Blog Celebration!!!

--Nikki Wilson

Coming up January 5th, is Mormon Mommy Writers 3rd year anniversary!  We are so excited that we are having a HUGE celebration!!  When I say HUGE, I mean it!!  We have such wonderful readers that we knew we had to reward all of you for making our blog a success!  We are going to giveaway at least one item every day (except Sundays, but that means at least one day each week will have TWO items to be given away!!)  We will have wonderful prizes from authors such as J. Scott Savage, Josi Kilpack, and Janette Rallison!!  Be watching the blog and our Facebook page for more announcements!!  It will be AMAZING!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


What is creativity? When we are talking about fiction writing, we are usually talking about taking seeming unrelated things, smooshing them together in unexpected ways, and pulling a book out of your brain through the painful process of translating it from brain to fingers and onto the page.

But lots of time we take what has already been deemed a "classic" and see a whole new spin on it. How could we not, as we are different than the original creators? That doesn't make our efforts less original, though the source material is well known. Instead our efforts, combined with the strong foundation of the original work, can help us reach heights we couldn't achieve on our own.

In light of that, I'd like to present two videos from "The Piano Guys". They are Jon Schmidt and Steven Sharp Nelson, a pianist and a cellist, respectively. With classically trained musicians, it's almost expected that you keep to the canon of accepted classical music. But they have succeeded in taking it to a whole different level. One is a fascinating interpretation of "Carol of the Bells" in honor of Christmas. The other is a hilarious take on a modern classic. As you listen, see if you can pull inspiration from these classics, with a twist. Imagine what kind of twists you could create on something you know well. It could be just what you need to jump start your writing this winter. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Bookstore and Goodbye

I stopped by my local bookstore today to find a book on my daughter's Christmas list. And because I'm a Mom, I was multi-tasking. I had called our insurance to appeal a medication refill policy and after several transfers had finally reached a person who could DO something about it. I was not about to hang up. Not even for a stroll through the bookstore. "This will save me money." I told myself. (I can pick up stray books the way my sister used to bring home stray cats.) Call it a miracle, me checking out with only ONE book! I even avoided the entire section of Christmas books. That may not sound difficult, but the book I have written and pitched and am in the process of preparing for submission is a Christmas novel. I could spend an entire day at the Christmas book table. Maybe there's a name for the set of emotions that follow staring at books similar to the one you've written, the main difference being, of course, the books you're looking at are published and being sold. Melancholy comes to mind. I didn't want to bring that on today. Thankfully, with one hand holding the phone and the other holding the one book, I proceeded directly to check-out.  I'm not a fan, though, of remaining on my cell phone while interacting with other humans. As I approached the cashier, I made the risky  move of putting my phone on speaker and then mute. (Risky because I didn't want to hit that 'end call' button.) I set the phone down and explained I didn't want to be rude, but really had to stay on the phone.
The cashier smiled and said, "Oh it sounds like you're on hold."
With the hold music as my soundtrack I answered,
"Yes, in more ways than one."
I walked out of the store thinking about my writing. My novel is waiting. For me.
Goodbyes are not my thing.
Writing is, and that's what makes this even harder.
I love the ladies at MMW and plan to visit the blog often,
as for contributing, I'm taking a break (that's code for crying into my pillow)

I hesitated to tell that little story and give the impression that leaving MMW was a decision I came by on a whim a few hours ago. It's not. I've had several major family & health changes in the recent weeks that require me to rearrange my priorities and time.

Thank-you to the awesome followers, readers and great comments.
Thank-you to the MMW ladies.

Monday, December 19, 2011

All About ME!

My cute little family last Easter. FYI, the littlest is actually one of happiest kids you'll ever meet- I don't know what she was so worried about in this photo. Do you like the angel on my shoulder? Ha!

Hello, MMW readers! I am so thrilled to be joining the team here. Any time I get an opportunity to write, I am one happy gal!

As you might notice, I have a marked propensity toward exclamation points! When my son first started writing complete sentences in first grade, his teacher noticed the same thing. She mentioned it to me and then said, “Well, knowing his personality I guess it kind of fits.” Yeah, he comes by it honestly. We’re an easily excited bunch around here. ;-)

So here’s my Top Ten Things to Know About Kasey

1. I am a Virginia girl! I live in Richmond, Virginia. I love being less than 3 hours from the beach, the mountains, and our nation’s capital.

2. I have a great husband who works crazy hours installing home security systems. I never know when he’s going to be home, but it’s worth it because I can be a stay-at-home mom to my 3 awesome kids.

3. Number 4 is on the way! I’m due in July. Praying I have no reason to wear a swimsuit next summer.

4. I’m a “runner”. Which means I jog verrrry slowly and do crazy things like 10ks every once in awhile. Mostly it’s to make up for the way that I eat. I ride horses (when I’m not preggo), play the flute and sing. I am also into crafts and I have an etsy shop.

5. I have 3 personal blogs that I created mostly to have opportunities to write. The one I keep up with most consistently is The Beautiful Thrifty Life (tips for frugal homemaking). The other two are The Silly Mom (parenting tips & tricks) and Making It Up As I Go (anything that doesn’t fit in the other two categories: rants, tangents, etc.).

6. I started writing when I was a kid, convinced I’d write the next bestseller before I hit the sixth grade. I got as far as several journals half full of text that sounded like they could almost be very badly written books.

7. College completely messed up my writing skills. After college everything I wrote sounded like a research paper (I got my BA in Historic Preservation).

8. A couple of years ago my good friend from high school, Amber Lynae, mentioned this blog to me on facebook and MMW suddenly rekindled that dream I had of writing the next bestseller.

9. At the end of October I submitted my FIRST manuscript to Deseret Book. It is a collection of fun poems for LDS kids entitled, “The Grocery Store Under My Bed.” Still waiting………………………. *sigh*

10. My goal for contributing to this blog is to have FUN and get us talking. 300 followers? Where are all the comments, people?

So now it’s your turn. Yes, you. I know you’re just a silent lurker, but I don’t care. You’re a writer, aren’t you? If you’re a writer, then write me a nice comment! Tell me the first thing you ever wrote that made you proud. The first thing that made you think, “Hey…I just might be a writer!” Go on! Tell me! I’ve spilled my guts here, it’s your turn! I’ll even make you a deal- if I get at least 10 comments on this post then I’ll tell you about the first thing I ever wrote that made me proud. (If not I will assume that nobody cares about the first thing I wrote that made me proud and write some other post for next week.) Deal? Awesome, see y’all next Monday!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Guest Post and Call-out

Today I've asked fellow writer JoLyn Brown to do a guest post / call-out. That's right she's issuing a call for stories. Check out what she has to say, who knows, you might be interested in answering her call for stories.

A Call for Stories
JoLyn Brown
I grew up in a rural town in Utah. We had a small peach orchard to work and lots of family nearby. I've always liked listening to stories and some of my family members were very willing to share theirs. I especially enjoyed hearing the same stories from different people. They always had their own little spin, something they noticed that no one else did. It felt like a puzzle I was putting together bit by bit. Somewhere in that time I started to write, and threads of my family's lives began appearing on the paper. It seems that a love of their stories got in my blood. 

My interest in stories about true-life experiences has continued to grow. Another of my favorite topics is stories about women in the Relief Society doing relatively simple things and unknowingly starting a chain reaction for good. Sometimes, after hearing an experience, I would think, "Someone ought to put together a book of stories like those." It took a while, but I finally thought, "Well, no one's getting around to this. Maybe it's something I can do." 

"A Circle of Sisters" is the result of that change in thought. With the help of some amazing authors and friends, I put together a proposal along with several of my own stories. I am excited to report that both Covenant and Walnut Springs publishing companies are interested in seeing a completed project. 

Now, I am issuing a call for stories. If you have a story to share, please write it up and send it to me. I am looking for true experiences told in first person that tell how you were changed for the better by the Relief Society. 

Our lives are all interconnected, a circle of sisters with so much to give. Just like with my own family's stories, your perspective and how your experiences changed you is an important piece of the bigger story, the story of the Relief Society. This organization is making a difference, day by day, one sister at a time. 

There is so much inspiration and hope to be found in sharing these experiences. Did a sister show up at your house at just the right moment? Did you take on a calling in the Relief Society that you didn't think you could do and find that you were blessed somehow? Have you ever tried to serve someone and found they were serving you instead?

You can send your stories to For complete writers guidelines, please take a look at the submission guidelines at I'm so excited to read your stories. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Where I Explain How Sewing is Like Writing...and How it's Not

by Cheri Chesley

This week is the only week I've had a chance to work on the dolls I wanted to make for my girls for Christmas. So, EVERYTHING else has been put on hold. I mean, literally. Last night we had canned food for dinner. Even though I have to put the project away before they come home, it takes so much out of me that I'm basically exhausted for the rest of the night.

I think, as writers, we all have or have had a project that consumes us. A friend of mine has been writing a book secretly and it has her so sucked in she doesn't even take food breaks. She's almost done, writing at that feverish pace.

Sewing these dolls has taught me about writing. Because I basically liken everything else in my life to my writing aspirations.

One--there is a pattern, and it's most helpful to stick to it.

Two--there will be times when you will likely feel in over your head, and definitely feel out of your depth. You may even HATE the project while working on it.

Three--You will make mistakes, and you will not be able to gloss over them. You will have to fix them. **Case in point, sewing the legs on backward. Even though they were double stitched and involved an impossible contortionistic maneuver to even sew in the first place, you will HAVE to fix that or the baby's rear end will be where the belly should be, and it looks so wrong.

Now, here's where writing and sewing differ:

One--With sewing, you should fix the problems as you come across them. You don't want to finish the project in a "first draft" phase just to take it apart and fix it later. **Case in point, I was NOT about to stuff those dolls and then try to fix the backward legs.

Two--Patterns are great for sewing. Structure is essential for writing. I can't follow the pattern of Harry Potter or Twilight in my writing and expect that level of success. With sewing, the pattern they give me in the package will only help me if I use it.

Three--It's a sewing machine, for crying out loud, not a keyboard. The sewing machine will likely give you more impulses to curse than the keyboard. Maybe. **Case in point, when I sit down to my keyboard and type, words show up on the screen. When I sit down at the sewing machine to sew, sometimes there was as much backtracking as progress. Ugh. And I won't tell you how many times the stupid fabric snagged.

Finally, I will close with this similarity: both sewing dolls for my daughters and writing books are labors of love. And, oddly, I am experiencing a similar issue with handing my girls their dolls that I have when I send my books out into the world. They won't always treat them with care. They won't look after them or appreciate them as much as I would hope. I know not everyone who reads one of my books is going to love it. I'm just hoping, considering how much of my own near literal blood went into these dolls, my girls will at least appreciate the sentiment.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Introducing Our Newest MMW!

If you look to the sidebar, you will see that our Monday slot has been filled. (That doesn't mean you can stop applying, though. We need to fill another spot soon!) Our new blogger is none other than Kasey Tross! She was the winner of our "Totally Cliche" short story contest and has the first story, "Alice in Clicheland", in our new e-book! Here's a sneak peak of the wonderful things we can expect to see from our newest addition. Be sure to give her a nice warm welcome!

Guest Post: A Mormon Mommy Writer’s Conversations With God by Kasey Tross

Two months ago I finally completed a writing project I’d been working on for over a year: a collection of LDS children’s poetry. It was a long, fun, occasionally maddening project that taught me a lot about my relationship with God as a writer (did you know he’s an awesome editor?). Today I thought I’d share some of our conversations with you. Perhaps you have had similar experiences with the Divine Editor Upstairs.

(author’s note: I am not crazy. I do not hear voices in my head and I do not profess to hear the voice of God. These conversations and the words used in them are based solely on my interpretation of impressions I have had during my writing sessions.)

Me: I don’t even know if this project is worth it. My goal was fifty poems and I feel like I’ve just barely squeezed out the twenty-eight I have. God, seriously, is this even worth my time?

God: If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t still be talking about it.

Me: Oh, right.

God: Here are five more poem ideas for you. Stop whining and get to work.

Me: Wow, awesome! Thanks!

(6 months later)

Me: God, these poems are good but they’re not great. I don’t think I have it in me to make them great.

God: You're right, you don’t. Not yet, anyway. That’s why I’m here.

Me: Oh.

God: You have natural talent, Kasey. Listen to me and I’ll teach you how to use it, and together we’ll make them really great, okay?

Me: Okay!

God: Good. Now stop whining and get to work.

(a few weeks after that)

Me: This poem is impossible. I’ve tried fixing it every way I can think of and it’s just not working. What’s the deal?

God: [silence]
Me: What else rhymes with love? Dove, glove, shove…

God: [silence]

Me: I’m too tired. I’ve already edited 3 poems tonight. I’m going to bed.

(the next night)

Me: Back to this poem. Love…

God: Above.
Me: ABOVE! Yes, thank you! It seems so simple now! Why didn’t I think of that yesterday?

God: Because you weren’t supposed to edit this poem yesterday. I had it scheduled for today. Remember what I said about you and me working together?

Me: Right, sorry.

God: It’s okay, you’re still learning. Let’s keep going. Bring up that poem about Christmas- I’ve got a few ideas for you on how to smooth it out.
Me: Thanks, I would love that!

(a month after that)

Me: Lord, I think it’s finished. Is it finished?

God: It’s wonderful, Kasey. Thanks for working with me. I love you and I’m so pleased with the work we’ve done. Just remember that no matter what happens when you submit this, we’re in it together and my will will be done.

Me: So it might tank?

God: It might, but just remember that if it does, it’s supposed to. It will mean I might have another lesson for you to learn.

Me: I’ll remember that. Thanks for teaching me how to listen. You’re a great editor, Lord.

God: I’ve had some practice.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Little Gift

I love the music of Christmas. It brings people of so many different cultures together to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Here is one of my favorite Christmas songs. It's an Irish tune that is less familiar to most people around here, but is just gorgeous. Enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

More E-Book Developments

We are writing in a very unique time. We are witnessing a revolution in the printed word and must keep up with the latest. The newest thing I just learned about is something Kindle direct publishing is putting into place. They are offering incentives to authors who are only published through them and opt to allow their books to go into the Kindle Lending Library. You can learn more about it here.
What are your thoughts on this and Do you think this will change the writing world? Why or why not?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday Stories and a Book Review, Chanel Earl

Today's guest for Saturday Stories is Chanel Earl.

Q—Would you please tell us about yourself?
I spend most of my time taking care of my two beautiful daughters, with the help of (I'm biased here) the most wonderful man in the world. I try to nap every day, I read when I get the chance, and I always have a messy kitchen. I work as a developmental writing teacher at Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington, Indiana.
Q—Would you please tell us about your book, "What to Say to Someone Who's Dying."
This book is a collection of five short stories that ended up all being thematically related. And while the theme is death and loss, I feel that the stories are more hopeful and reflective than depressing. I hadn't intended to collect these stories into this book when I wrote them (a process that took over five years), but as I was finishing up the last story and reviewing all of the material, they seemed to belong together.
Q—Where did the ideas for these short stories come from?
Of course, I found inspiration in many places.
The inspiration for "One Hundred Breaths" came while I was walking through the park with my newborn daughter. It was such a safe and beautiful park, but my mind started wondering what kind of dangers could lie beneath the surface. A minefield?
The inspiration for "Beekeeping" was a story I heard on my mission in Germany. There was a member in the neighboring town who had actually used honey to stick a piece of his thumb back on after it had been cut off. That story was so good I couldn't resist writing a version of my own.
Q—Have you written any other books, poetry, etc?
I worked for the Sanpete Messenger Newspaper as a writer during college and published an article in the Wasatch Journal while I worked there as an intern. I have also published various short stories, essays, poems and academic articles online and in print. For a listing of many of my publications, you can check out my blog (
Q—How did you get started writing?
I don't really remember. Is that a fair answer? I have stories dating back to first grade, I think, and a personal journal that I began at age eight. I think I have always been a writer.
Q—What is one Christmas tradition that you couldn't live without? The one that makes Christmas feel like Christmas?
Giving and receiving presents. Just tonight I wrapped up some gifts for my family. I love wrapping presents and making them look good. I love it when people open them, especially when they are surprised.

Q—What is the strangest thing that has ever inspired you to write?
I heard a weird conversation at a tracks stop in Salt Lake City, right next to See's Candies. When I got home I wrote down what I remembered:
He was upset.
Do you want to squeeze my arm? she asked.
No, I don’t want to hurt you.
Just do it, it wont hurt.
He squeezed, trying to calm down.
Wait, she said, squeeze this one, this is the arm I do heroine with, I can’t feel anything anyway.
He squeezed again.
It’s not squishy, he complained.
Look, I’m going to go get a sucker, do you wanna come?
No, I want something to smoke or something squishy to squeeze.
Well, I’m getting a sucker.
Q—If you were given round trip tickets to anywhere in the world (and safety wasn't an issue--regardless of where you chose to go) where would you go and why?
Germany. I haven't been back since I was a missionary and I would love to visit the people and to see the land in a new way. 
Q—Peanut or plain M&Ms?
Peanut butter.
Q—If you could create your own world where anything was possible, magic, fairies, etc. how would it differ from our own world?
Hard question, I am pretty happy with the world, but I have always wanted to live in a world where I didn't have to sleep. And superheroes would be great to have around sometimes, but it seems that they all come with their own team of super-villains to battle and that doesn't sound very good. I would love to see magic, but I don't know how I would change the world if I were in charge. Hmm, maybe I will have to figure it out and write a book about it. 
Q—Colored lights on your Christmas tree or white lights?
Q—If you could re-write the ending to any book or movie what would it be and why?
I would change the ending of almost every book or movie to include some sort of montage or afterward that tells how the characters end up years later. I always want to know more.

Book Review

Disclaimer:  I was given a free copy of the book "What to Say to Someone Who's Dying" in exchange for a review. No promises were made for a favorable review.

What to Say to Someone Who's Dying
by Chanel Earl

Book Description:

A young boy searches for answers.

A family adds, subtracts, multiplies and divides.

A girl and her mother pass meaningful moments together.

An elderly German woman tends her bees.

This debut collection of tightly written prose weaves together themes of loss and family as well as the hope peculiar to youth. In this slender volume, author Chanel Earl presents five stories of acceptance and resolve that ask questions about love and the beauty of life, while exploring the many faces of grief: the grief of children, parents, those set to die and those left behind.


What is death? How does one cope with loss or prepare for their own departure?

These are just two of the timeless questions answered in Chanel Earl's book What to Say to Someone Who is Dying. The stories don't dwell on the act of death itself, rather the relationship each character has with loss. Each character's unique take is powerful and left me thinking long after I had put the book down.

Each of the short five stories in this compilation were intriguing in their own right. Truth be told I was hoping the first story could stretch on into an entire book it was so well written and so thoroughly entertaining. I wanted to know more of the story behind the ghost young Justin meets, discovering more about the who this dead soldier is and hoping that he can find some peace. I did feel a little let down in not getting more of this story but seriously, if that is THE ONLY bad thing I have to say about the book...that I wanted more...I think that's pretty good.

I was particularly touched by the story Lorelei Remembers and the struggle of a young girl turned old woman and how she comes to grips with death. Her views on death stem from her first experience and the simple explanation given to her by her mother. This explanation affects every death she experiences from that point on and really shows the reader how much influence our youthful experiences have in molding our ideals and expectations. It made me think a lot about my first real experience with death and how it altered my life, how it colored the lens through which I see such loss. It also made me think about how I will one day explain death to my own children. Very powerful.

This short-story collection is wonderful. I enjoyed every minute of it and would encourage everyone to go out and get a copy for themselves. It is well worth your time. Chanel has a wonderful gift with words and I hope to see more from her.

Chanel's book is available in e-book form at Kindle and Smashwords or in hard copy at Amazon or Createspace.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Again

Friday has always been my favorite day of the week, and I can't even tell you why it is now. Maybe it's because it means the week is finally OVER. It's been a crazy one filled with holiday shopping and surprising trips to the hair salon. If you want to know more about that one, you can read my POST on LDS Writers Blogck from yesterday. That was a hairy situation; bad pun intended.

Like everyone else, I wake up with goals. I'm going to write this morning. I'm going to pay bills and then write. I'm going to get that shopping done and then write. I'm going to go to the post office to mail all that stuff and then write. I see you've uncovered my theme.

Here's what I need to say: I'm going to WRITE and then do....

My characters talk to me all day, but I rarely take the time to work on the story. Yes, I know December is holiday hectic. And I did finish my Tyrant King edits in November. I have been writing/editing. Working. But, let's face facts. It's the 9th of December. I haven't written more than half a page on Consequences. I should be halfway DONE by now.

I think the reason for my sudden panic is that, in only a week, it will be the FRIDAY BEFORE WINTER BREAK, that dreaded day in the life of all writing moms which signifies 2 full weeks of no school. This means the kids are home. And it's cold, so they don't spend a lot of time outside. They are full of holiday spirits (read hyper here) and just can't wait for Christmas to come. No writing happens during this time. And it shouldn't. It's a time for family and each of us should be able to treat ourselves to holiday cheer.

But it means I only have a week to get any writing done to last me through the end of the year.

I have glorious plans. Sigh. My plans. I'm going to get everyone off to school/work and then write in the morning. No, I'll write at night when everyone has gone to bed. That never works. By the time I get them all in bed, I'm exhausted. Plus, there's that looming fact that I have to get up at 5:30am to get my son up for Seminary. 5am and I have never been friends. Ever. Besides, my husband is home by the time the kids go to bed every night, and he either wants the computer or to spend time with me.

He's a great guy. But I don't get any writing done when he's home, either. I love spending time with him. I don't want to take away from that. It is awesome that, after 16 yrs together, we still crave that one on one time. There's a lot of mental health related reasons why I've simply chosen to accept that part of my life. It's good.

Okay. I've spent a little bit of time here ranting about the reasons (read *excuses*) why I'm not writing as much as I want to be.

Now comes the part where I just buckled down and DO IT.


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