Sunday, July 31, 2011

One Person CAN Make a Difference

Late last night, just before heading to bed, I stumbled across this story on a friend's page.  I was so touched and moved by this little girl's plight, I immediately Tweeted and added it to my own FB profile.

CLICK HERE: Through tragedy, one 9 year old girl gets her wish to save thousands

Here is proof, that even after we die that our legacy still lives on.  Now, through this tragic accident this girl's wish is allowing so many other people to forget about their trials and remember the other wonderful sons and daughters on this earth. To remember why we're here.  Not just to go through our daily trials and learn to accept the plan of our Father and move on... but to also inspire, help and uplift one another.

What an amazing example this was to me.
And may I always have cause to think of all the people around me.
May I always remember the higher, greater purpose, for why I am here, now, at this time.  Because the Lord trusts me and knows I will make the decisions that could change lives forever.

Thank you, Rachel, for teaching me that even the smallest people can make a difference too.

Jenni James

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday Stories, Connie Sokol

Today's guest for Saturday Stories is Connie Sokol. Connie Sokol is a mother of six, a national and local presenter, former TV and radio host, and columnist for Deseret News. With her left toe she has authored Faithful, Fit & Fabulous, Life is Too Short for One Hair Color, and Life is Too Short for Sensible Shoes. Mrs. Sokol marinates in time spent with her family and eating decadent treats.

Wow, I just get tired reading about all she's done (except for the decadent treats part)! Definitely someone who knows how to manage her time well.

AFTER you read the interview, if you want to learn more about Connie and her writing check out her website here.


Q–Tell us about yourself.

We are a high energy, loving and loud family—think lioness with tiger cubs, but older. Our biggest challenge is being quiet at the dinner table—we literally set the timer for anywhere from two to five minutes for “Quiet Time” (attempt at silence) so that my husband and I can actually eat. We’re the Sokol Bunch: six children—three boys followed by three girls—ages 18 down to 6, and they are absolutely scrumptious. Our family motto for years has been “Work hard, pray hard, play hard,” which also comes with a fabulous family mission statement that no one else in the family remembers, but which I spent many months poring over. 
Q–Tell us about your book.


Faithful, Fit & Fabulous: Get Back to Basics and Transform Your Life in Just 8 Weeks is a long title for an amazing book. I can say that because a) I didn’t choose the title, and b) I didn’t write it by myself. It’s been 10 years in the making, of working with women and families and helping them see simple ways to make profound changes in their lives using basic gospel principles. The concept is to get back to the basics, for women to tidy up 80 percent of their lives in 8 key areas (don’t even think about doing 100 percent yet). The areas include holy habits, a personal plan, joy in womanhood, balance in motherhood, fitness & fabulousness, organization, healthy relationships, and financial savvy and prosperity. Every chapter is truly a gem. I’ve simplified principles and practices that get results and help women finally feel they have some control and joy in busy daily life.  

Faithful, Fit & Fabulous will be available for sale on August 8th!
Q–Why did you write this book? What was your inspiration?


Being one step from insanity. Many years ago I had had four children in six years and felt absolutely overwhelmed. I’d come from a dysfunctional background (okay, who hasn’t) but I wanted to know the best way to “do life”. So I read everything I could get my hands on, the most significant being the scriptures. And honestly, that’s where the answers are. We’re still to seek for truths out of the best books, which I did, and combined basic gospel answers with specific temporal practices. It’s been such a blessing! I’ve experimented upon the word, as it were, and done a lot of testing on my guinea pig family. But I’ve found key things that can work for everyone. For example, through implementing some simple organization principles, I saved 26 hours a week in my typical daily routines (cleaning, cooking, etc.) I used that newfound time to speak and write about the very things I was learning and developing. 
Q–As a person who is struggling with the “fit” part what are a few tips you could share?

It’s a change of perspective more than anything. It’s realizing you’re not denying yourself when you choose health first—you’re giving yourself opportunities, time, energy, everything. The kicker for me was that I’d lost and gained 25 to 30 pounds several times over the past several years doing exactly the same habits. Finally, I figured out a few things. I addressed emotional triggers. I incorporate lifestyle habits—called the Basic 12—to a point that I felt good and learned to listen to my body. It wasn’t until I could understand my personal body signals that I lost weight and kept it off. 
One quick tip that I love and use all the time is from a friend who does pageants: she says, “two bites of anything.” This works! I can’t STAND diets, they don’t work, and this whole constant denial of food only triggers more emotional food issues. We can all deal with a couple of bites of anything (as opposed to everything, very important difference). When we put food in the proper balance in our lives (as in, stop obsessing about what you ate, can’t eat, want to eat, will eat, should have eaten) then we start to live. This “two bites” thing is great—on July Fourth I had movie popcorn, soda, Junior Mints, frozen yogurt and went out to eat a few times, all of it obviously not my typical menu. But happily, I just had a few bites of each snack and normal meal portions. It was great—I don’t feel denied and food goes back to its proper enjoyable place.   
Q–What’s your guilty pleasure?

I seriously have no guilty pleasures, it’s all open, and I encourage women to do the same thing! But I am picky about my decadent treats. I like organic or European chocolate (preferably with almonds), those Ritter square chocolate thingies—wow, I have to hide them from my husband. Being from Scotland I’m a diehard Cadbury’s fan (roasted almond). And Gloria’s in Provo has the most fabulous desserts (detailed unpronounceable Italian names but the one that has white and chocolate cake with Italian cream and Nutella—to die for). I like whatever I eat to be high quality and I’ll wait for it. I used to consume half a bag of chocolate chips in search of that taste, but now I’ll wait until I can get what I want. And when I eat it, I enjoy every bit without any guilt whatsoever.
Q–What is one thing you were surprised to learn about yourself as you became a mother?


How much I still, to this day, don’t know. I’ve had six children, so you’d think I’d feel pretty informed, but there are always curve balls. I can remember with my last child when I asked a neighbor a question—though, due to early motherhood Alzheimer’s, I can’t recall the actual question—but the neighbor’s facial expression and my feelings were the same—shouldn’t I know this by now? You know things—a lot of things—but it’s always changing up. My feeling is that it’s all a plot to keep us from sleeping well for our entire lives.
Q–Tell us about your work as a TV host, radio host, and columnist for Deseret News?
I’ve felt so blessed to be able to have some great opportunities in the media. I LOVE doing radio and TV, it’s like being home,  and I’ve been grateful to work with excellent people. But the biggest thing I’ve learned from these experiences is that there are always opportunities. Many women will have an enticing offer before them and they’re ready to jump into it—even if it stresses out their family—because someone told them it’s a “once-in-a-lifetime” chance. It’s likely not. I’ve been very careful for many years to keep things part-time, or to listen for when it’s time for me to start or stop something (and that’s HARD, especially when it’s going good!) Everyone’s situation is different so it’s vital to go with what works for you and your particular family. My first priority is what’s best for my own family, because this time is not about me and all that I can do; it’s about them, helping my children see and know who they are and what they can do. That doesn’t mean I can’t do anything—in fact, we’re counseled to keep creating and developing, thank goodness. It simply means enjoy, do, and create, but be vigilant that it’s not at the expense of your family. 
When KSL asked me to host the new women’s radio show “Ask a Woman”, I said I couldn’t do full time, from 3 to 6 p.m., like they were asking.  After a few weeks of prayer and thought, I knew the solution:  I said I could do two days a week, from 12 to 3 p.m., because that’s when my baby usually napped. And it worked. The radio execs chose three hosts instead of one to “job share,” so that each of us could put our family first and still be able to contribute to women. It was an amazing experience.  
Q–What other books have you written?


Three books—Life is Too Short for One Hair Color and  Life is Too Short for Sensible Shoes are a collection of my family columns for Deseret News. The third book, Are You Ready for a LIFEChange? is a how-to on creating a personal life plan with examples of how other women have created them, what stops us from moving forward in our lives, and how to get unstuck.
Q–How do you find balance with your writing/publicity, church work, and your family?

Relying on my Father in Heaven and being very, very creative! I always tell women to look for the hidden time chunks, ones that we don’t immediately see. For example, when my daughters took ballet and art lessons, I used that time to write, and only write. I would type while in the teachers’ homes as my girls did their lessons, and it added up to about two-and-a-half  hours a week. It sounds like a drop in the bucket, but with that time I wrote the first three chapters of “Faithful” and submitted it for publication. Later, I added in time when my youngest when to preschool and ultimately wrote the entire book. Mostly, I take my little Acer with me everywhere so that if I’m waiting for someone, I’ll write for that 15 minutes. I’ve learned to be disciplined with myself and my time, which can sound annoying but it’s not. The dangling carrot of living my ideal life keeps me focused in an enjoyable way.
Q–If you were trapped on a deserted island with an unlimited supply of coconuts and water what would be the one food you would miss the most?
Pasta. Specifically, Gloria’s homemade ravioli with the salsa rosata sauce. Perfecto!
Q–What is your favorite picture book to read to your children?

We read a lot of different books so I’d have to do more than picture books, though The Napping House is my favorite. Two of our ultimate books overall are Beatrix Potter collection and Angelina Ballerina books, because we attempt the British accent while we read (which, of course, sounds like a cross between a German and a Russian, but it’s all good).  Right now I cuddle and read with each of the girls at different times—I just finished Gail Levine’s The Fairy’s Return and Other Princess Tales with my oldest girl, and am reading The Sweet Shoppe Mystery with my second oldest girl. So fun!
Q–What is your favorite blog to visit and why?

Besides yours and mine??? Rockstar Diaries is one I like simply because it’s beautiful to look at, has great values, and I know and love her http://taza-and-husband.blogspot.com.
Q–How have you cultivated the gift of writing given to you by your Heavenly Father?


Not always in fabulous ways! It wasn’t until last year—LAST YEAR—after writing a column for Deseret News for four years, having completed three books, and written basically since I was able to hold a pen, that I sat in my first writing conference and like an AA moment thought, “I’m a writer.” Epiphany!  But I can say I’ve tried really hard to fill myself up with good things—music, media, people, scriptures, etc.—so that I can allow whatever is good to come through my particular window pane of expression (speaking, writing, creating). Right now I’m writing a romance novel because I want women to have a good clean read with an exciting plot and characters who actually develop as human beings! And it’s so fun—I find myself laughing out loud at scenes (I read awhile back that Jane Austen also did this—which made it not embarrassing because now it was obviously artistic). Truly, my greatest desire is to help women and families lead more fulfilling and joyful lives, because we can. So often we just don’t understand what that looks like to us, day to day. So my writing is really an attempt to distill down all that I’ve learned from wiser people, truths, and life experience, and put it in as simple and doable a format as possible. That way women can desire more, read how to begin, do it today, and see a difference. 



Thanks for joining me today, Connie! I want to grow up to be just like you!

I'm apprehensive saying this because it's something I rarely do and I don't want to set a precedent I can't/won't maintain, but I AM going to go get her book so I can figure this out because I feel like I'm not even treading water anymore, rather gasping for breath as I struggle not to drown!

If, like me, you're interested in purchasing Connie's books, there are a few links below.




Friday, July 29, 2011

Your Turn

by Cheri Chesley

I'm sure I'm not the only author to have a cache of half-started stories that never see the light of day. So, we're going to have some fun with it today. Here are two story-starters--stories I was inspired to start after a writer's conference last year but did nothing with. I'm getting you started; all you have to do is pick one and post in your comment the next step in the story. Ready? Go!

1. Emily adjusted her hat on her head and her hand brushed the flower that had started to hang over the rim. She’d been so proud of that white flower when she’d put it on her hat that morning before boarding the train, but hours in the sun and heat had wilted the blossom so that it clung pathetically to the hat. On tip toe she scanned the faces of the people waiting for the train to pull to a stop. A few faces jumped out at her, some bringing hope and others despair. One of those men would be her future husband. Emily swallowed the knot in her throat and tried to smile.

2. Anna looked at herself in the mirror one more time. She fingered the veil where it hung at her shoulder and sighed. She’d always imagined her wedding day would be the happiest day of her life, but instead she felt overwhelming dread.

Most importantly, have fun with it!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Read any good e-books lately?



At the beginning of the month I read a post on a blog about one Author's decision to indie publish. I definitely suggest you read that post, you can follow this link.
I was so impressed with the author's confidence in her book that I bought it that very day. It was reasonably priced, so I figured it couldn't hurt. I started reading it and didn't want to stop. It was a wonderful read and restored my faith in self-published e-books. But don't take my word for it. Read the description and then read it for yourself!


It's been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.


Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.


Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.


Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels' stronghold in San Francisco where she'll risk everything to rescue her sister and he'll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.


Recommended for ages 16 and above.


BLOG REVIEWS:


"You will be swept up from page one and begging for more when the last page turns.” - Book Blogs


"Susan Ee has created, not only an extraordinary apocalyptic world but amazing characters within it." - Me, My Shelf and I


"...one of the best books I’ve read in a long time! I would definitely read this book over and over again." - Jagged Edge


"Disturbing, yet engrossing, scenes that had me wanting to turn the pages faster than I could read." - Bookish Ardour


"Angelfall is a wonderfully written dark fantasy tale...I loved reading this book." - Paranormal Muse

So what e-books have you read lately that you felt were worth the price?  Be sure to leave your suggestions in the comments section.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It's All In The Attitude!

I had a writer friend share today that her manuscript, her baby, her true labor of love was rejected today. This was doubly hard to hear because the agent had deliberately sought her out and requested her work. I so feel for her. Her book is fabulous. Great writing, a huge family saga/drama of the style of Rosamunde Pilcher. Just stellar. But I guess she wasn't to the taste of the agent.
It's hard, because this industry is so subjective. We try so hard to get our ducks in a row, good plot line, careful crafting of sentences, checking and rechecking for grammar, spelling, wordiness. Those are things we can control. But once we let these children go, we have no control over how people will react to them, what attitude they may have as they read our stories.

Another writer friend (Thanks Stephanie!) posted this on Facebook today and it reminded me yet again of how important it is to find the right attitude to filter life through. Laugh, snort, and enjoy (I did!) and remember that we are supposed to "act, and not be acted upon".

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bedtime Block

I have lots of stories inside my head. I am a writer. I want to write all these stories. But...I'm TERRIBLE at telling bedtime stories. I've written two children's books, so you'd think I have it in me.

It doesn't help, of course, that my son is so particular about his stories. If he grows wings in his story, then he might scream "This is not a flying story!" Or the garbage can may be allowed to grow legs and try to eat him. And a tree may grow legs without protest and also try to eat him. But the moon growing legs and trying to eat him?? Forget it! Not a lot of license for creativity here.

Yet, he BEGS me for stories in spite of my constant failures to produce. Tonight he asked me for one, but we'd already had a very long, drawn-out bedtime. I told him that I just didn't have it in me, but I would think about it and tell him one at breakfast.

So tell me ladies! Give me some good bedtime story ideas because I'm all out!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Watch Me

While *fanning* one of the many girls who had fanned me on Wattpad yesterday, I came across this saying on her profile:


There are so many who tell you that you can't. What you've got to do is turn around and say, "Watch me."


I was instantly struck by this, and immediately shared the quote on my Twitter and FB accounts.  Loving the feel of the strength of the words.   They were so strong and so true. 

The only one stopping us from reaching our goals and dreams is---> us.  We choose whether to listen to the negative influences in our lives.  We dictate our own confidence and belief in ourselves.  

I write because the Lord asked me to.  My publishing story, while full of trials, will not put me off of my goal.  I will be who the Lord needs me to be.  I will make a difference.  

When I wrote the words: Changing the World One Book at a Time--our motto--I never once believed it wasn't a possibility.  The change begins now.  With us.  Don't give up on your dreams, you are needed more than you realize... and you WILL make a difference.  You know it, as assuredly as God knows it.  You are his light to the world.  

Shine.  

--Jenni James  

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday Stories, Elizabeth Mueller

Today my special guest isn't really a guest at all. Today's guest is our very own Elizabeth Mueller!

I was so sad to see Elizabeth leave our blog but she has been super busy with her upcoming novel and all of us at MMW are so excited to see Elizabeth's success. We can't wait to see her book in print. CONGRATULATIONS, Elizabeth! You go girl!

Elizabeth is here today as part of her book blog tour. As a special treat at the end of this interview Elizabeth has included an excerpt from her upcoming debut novel, Darkspell. After you've finished reading the interview and the excerpt I'm sure you'll want to learn more about Elizabeth. So, go here to check out her blog and here to check out her author website.


Q–Tell us about yourself.

It is important to me that I live according to Heavenly Father’s standards and let my light shine as brightly as it can. I haven’t really thought about this until recently, but since growing up in an abusive home, I’ve always invented stories of characters who struggle, fail, and then come out victorious. I would have to say that’s how my life has been, and I seem to thrive on barren ground; the Lord knows me best.

Q–You're debut Novel Darkspell is coming out soon. Would you tell us about it?



“Winter Sky believes she is everything ordinary . . . until she is kissed by Alex Stormhold.

“As seer of Stormhold Coven, Alex is sworn to be Winter’s protector against the darkness that hunts her.  Violently thrust into a magical realm she always thought impossible, she stumbles upon a disturbing secret of her own.


Will love prove thicker than magic?”

I’m having an Interview Blog Tour in July. My book releases fall of 2011, but I will most definitely hold a Book Tour as soon as the details of its release is finalized!

I have the option to “reserve” your signed copy as well!  (Click here if you'd like to reserve your signed copy today.)

Q–You have an amazing blog following! How do you do it? How do you connect with so many people?

Thank you, Lisa! First off, I follow as many people as I can so as to get myself out there. Bloggers are nice friends who normally follow you back. I also make it a point to always leave comments, but not just any kind of comment, but something that is from my heart. Something that I would share with a friend in reference to the post.

Another thing is I’ve made it a point to join bloghops, blogfests, and hold my own contests as well as host blogger’s contests and/or review their books for them. I enjoy helping others and don’t mind using my blog as a means to their success!

Q–How do stories come to you? Where do you get your inspiration?

My stories can come from anywhere—from a sunset, a phrase, a rock, a tree, an emotion, a song . . .

Darkspell, for example, came from Gail Carson Levine’s Writing Magic. You can find the writing prompt on page 4, 5th one down. And in my novel, you can find it within the first 30 pages!

Rock Star was inspired by a piece of heavy metal music as my hubby and I were driving home—sorry, I can no longer remember which one it was. But as I listened, I wondered how a rock star would handle an untimely death and an unlikely love.

Eros was inspired by the silly little cupids from Night at the Museum, Battle of the Smithsonian. Hm, I thought, Cupid in modern times?

I have an active imagination that runs wild with me—especially when I pray and do what the Lord wants me to do!

Q–Where is the one place in this world you plan to visit after you’ve become rich and famous from your books?

I’m hoping that I do become rich and famous; it is my entire goal to help others with my success because without Heavenly Father, I couldn’t get anywhere. What better way than to help others with the gifts He’s so generously blessed me with?

One thing for sure is that I would love to visit all the temples in the world.

Q–If you could create any magical mythical world in a book where creatures and people could look and act like anything you want, what would they look and act like?

There would be elves, centaurs, mermaids, vampires along with their foes. They would be graceful beings with talents ranging from natural elements to the unearthly. They would be just like you and me, fighting for what they believe—not always succeeding, but always striving.

Q–If you could have any magical ability what would it be and why?

That’s a great question. To be bluntly honest with you, I wouldn’t because it would interfere with God’s plans.

Q–Finish this sentence:  “The hardest part about writing is...”

…finding the time to do it! I get so caught up in it I wish I could clone myself to carry out all my other duties.

Q–If you were at an all you can eat desert buffet where every sweet creation known to your palate was available, what would be your weakness? What desert would call to you for seconds and thirds?

Ooh, you had to ask, and I’m hungry right now! Yikes! I LOVE a hot brownie at the bottom of a bowl and vanilla ice cream melting on top. I also love practically anything with cherries…

Q–Are you a cat or a dog person?

Definitely cat. Dogs are too clumsy and boisterous for my tastes! :P

Q–What is the most valuable piece of writing advice you’ve received?

It was from my husband who loathes writing, but it came straight from a blessing he gave me when I was struggling:

“Don’t worry what others think or say about what I do. The only ones I should care about is my Father in Heaven, my husband and my children.”

It is SO freeing!

Ultimately, Heavenly Father is the only one who really matters.

Q–If you could be any character in any book you’ve ever read, who would it be and why?

It would be Aud, from Giants of the Frost by Kim Wilkins. Aud endures such agonizing tragedy, but her reward at the end is so elating, it gave my heart wings!


Q–Of all the characters you’ve ever written, who reminds you most of yourself? Were you shocked to discover the similarity?

Pentulla from my high fantasy novel, Tragic Innocence reminds me of myself—she struggles through her trials, then figures out who she is and decides to stand up to fight for what she believes in no matter the consequences.  It doesn’t shock me because I felt such kinship as I wrote her story. She is an elf.

Q–How can we learn more about you and about your debut novel Darkspell?

Please join me in my celebration for Darkspell’s fall release all July long! A pre-book launch party if you will. Click here for details.



Thanks for the interview, Elizabeth! I can't wait.


Excerpt from Darkspell....

Alex reached out and took my hands. A spark of magic passed between us. I didn’t resist and his gaze deepened. Another wave tore through me and I felt his powerful drive to protect me and the desire to share the rest of his life with me. I could see forever, eternity was wide and deep.

I would never be alone again.

Having tasted Alex so strongly, so close, so dear, left me empty; a starving sensation that could only be filled by him. I had no idea he felt so intensely for me. His love washed away all doubt from me.

I leaned into Alex as my world spun fast on a crooked axis. I breathed him in. I was intoxicated with his burning hold, I was so alive. Every sound was louder, the wind richer as it flowed through me. I was so free, so alive, so untainted by any wicked thing. I closed my eyes, shivering with desire, and imagined the breeze encircling us; bringing us to our feet and drawing us closer like a child’s ribbon.

Just as I opened my eyes, he whispered, “Listen, Winter. Listen to me.”

He brought me to him and gently pressed my face to his heart. It was a wild thing, trapped and yearning to be free. My blood sang and my eyes drifted closed. It felt as if my feet lifted from the ground. One hand was soft in my hair as he caressed my back with the other.

“How have you come by such magic? Such power to control? Can I come into your world? Can you teach me?” I trembled, savoring every sensation. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wish Rebecca a Happy Birthday!

My friend, the one with breast cancer, is having a birthday today. In my opinion, this is one that ABSOLUTELY should be celebrated to the enth degree. I mean, if she were up to it, we'd party all night long. There's something about having a birthday while fighting breast cancer that just SCREAMS celebrate.

As you know, I'm donating my book and e-book sales proceeds to help her pay her medical expenses. Here's a LINK to her blog. The last few posts talk about her 3rd round of chemo, the obedience of Abraham, a necklace she made for my daughter's birthday (including pics) and little old *me*. Check it out!

Here's a quick LINK to my blog where I've posted all the links to buy copies of my books and ebooks. (All the links are also on my sidebar, so it's super easy). If you haven't purchased yet, today is a great day to do it. If you have, please take a few seconds to share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or even your own blog. Let's make this an extra special birthday for Rebecca!

Thanks!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Introducing the Publishing World

Every so often I run into new writers whoknownothing about the world of publishing or even what it takes to get published. I've been researching the publishing world so long that sometimes I don't even know where to start. My question to you today is this: What links to websites/blogs or books or magazines helped you to understand the publishing world and what it takes to get published? Put your insights in the comments. Don't be shy, your links may be exactly what a new writer needs to hear!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My First Ever Writing Retreat

This past week I had the fabulous opportunity to go to a writer's retreat hosted by ANWA. 30 women in a gorgeous cabin for 3 days of writing and sisterhood.

For me this was a huge step in admitting that I'm taking this writing thing seriously. I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels like if you're spending money on something, especially money on myself, it had better be worth it. And frankly, I wasn't sure if I was worth the nominal fee to participate. I've struggled so much with my writing lately, with little confidence that my writing was worth the effort and time away from my family. And I've never finished anything of real substance. Maybe part of this writing experience has been figuring out who I was as a writer, that as much as I'd like to be a pantser and not have to go through the "work" of writing an outline (even a loose one), I'm too much of a navigator. I need to have a road map, even a vague one. I've also realized that I've let my internal editor run rampant, instead of keeping her in her place for the end of the work. I take so long to finish something (and get discouraged and quit) because I'm so afraid to break the rules. And by the rules I mean things like not using adverbs or passive voice or purple prose. I try so hard to make the first draft be perfect, I get frustrated when I have to rewrite it because it suddenly doesn't fit in anymore.

So now, after my writing confessions, for me to go to this retreat was a real step forward. I had to commit to hours of writing because I had no excuses to NOT write anymore in a place where all my needs were met and I had no one to care for but myself.

I had to learn to let go. To write and write and write and not let my editor say much of anything. It took a while. She's used to being in charge, that editor. So by the end of the retreat I was writing pure dreck, telling and adverbing all over the place. BUT...............the words were on the page, to be massaged and edited later. And not being afraid of writing the garbage, because I have no problem editing the yuckiness out. It's only when I think it's already perfect that I resist the idea that I need to edit. But if it's already gross...eh. Who cares if I have to edit? And I can do that later, at my leisure. I don't have to do two jobs at once, writing and editing. It's like driving and talking on the phone at the same time. We think we can do two different things, but we can't focus completely on either one, and end up doing both jobs poorly.

In the end I was able to write thirty pages, a BOATLOAD for me. It was great. And it's garbage. But it's MY garbage, and it's on my PAGE instead of floating in the ether in my head. And that is something to celebrate, a small victory that makes me think that there is hope at the end of this writing tunnel.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Now Let's Be Honest

About two months ago, I bought a new swimsuit which I unabashedly wore about my in-laws' pool on many occasions. It was black, with gold accents, and in one piece (so a hard find). I was proud of my purchase. Although aware of a strong history of bad fashion sense, I never suspected my swimsuit anything less than simple and elegant.

Then my sister, after visiting me (and swimming with me), called me up to ask my swimsuit size.

"Why do you need to know?"

"I'm buying you a new swimsuit."

I considered this a very nice gesture (not necessarily a hint) until I went home this month and went swimming with another sister...who saw my black suit with gold accents...and who said thank goodness I was getting another because that one looked like an old lady's swimsuit from the 80's.

(But come on, aren't the 80's in now?)

And all those times I paraded around my in-laws in this suit, and nobody said a thing! Apparently we're not on "your swimsuit is ugly" terms yet.

I've been thinking about honesty in my writing. Being honest with myself when I need to stop a project...or start a new one. Honesty with myself when I'm writing a scene that I know won't make the cut, but I write it anyway because it needs to be written, even if I'm the only one who ever sees it. Honesty that this writing journey is going to take an enormous amount of time and devotion, way more than I dreamed starting out. And honesty with myself when I need to know if I have what it takes, if I'm willing to devote that time.

Yes.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday Stories, Ellen C. Maze

Today's guest for Saturday Stories is Ellen C. Maze, Christian Vampire author extraordinaire. This interview was a lot of fun and I found myself laughing out loud as I read her answers--that's always promising!

I met Ellen through her publisher TreasureLine Books is also the home of Elizabeth Mueller and Silvina (S.B.) Niccum.

After you've finished reading this interview you can check out Ellen's self titled website here or, if you feel so inclined, drop her a note at ellenmaze@aol.com.


Q–Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Little ol’ me? Oh, my! I would rather discuss my babies…my books, but if I must, I’ll see what can be said about Ellen C. Maze. I am a left-handed person, who bats right-handed. My favorite pastime is writing fiction. My second favorite pastime is reading fiction. My favorite fiction is my own (heehee), but I have many, many favorite authors, including Frank Peretti, Stephen King, Ted Dekker, Elizabeth E. Little, Angela Dolbear, Krisi Keley, Teric Darken, Pete Turner, and Kerry Nietz, just to name a few. I am a fine artist and supplement my income by selling my artwork all over the world. I don’t think of myself as anything special, yet I long to share the work of my hands with anyone who appreciates its beauty. Today I hope to share my novels with your readers!


Q–You’ve written a few books. Would you please tell us about them? (Make sure to let us know which one is your favorite.)



RABBIT: CHASING BETH RIDER (2009) is the tale of a lovely young novelist who finds herself being hunted down by vampiric killers. Whoever thought writing a bestseller could be so dangerous? Click here to read more about Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider.



LOOSE RABBITS OF THE RABBIT TRILOGY (2010) 20 short tales featuring the characters of RCBR, giving titillating backstory and delicious detail that was left out of the novels. Click here to read more about Loose Rabbits of the Rabbit Trilogy.



RABBIT LEGACY (2010) is Book Two in the Rabbit Trilogy. Beth Rider and friends are on the run from a maniacal and bloodthirsty miscreant determined to bring the Rakum race back to their former glory. Click here to read more about Rabbit Legacy.



FECKLESS TALES OF SUPERNATURAL, PARANORMAL, AND DOWNRIGHT PRESUMPTUOUS ILK (2010) is an anthology that I edited, featuring 20 short stories from 9 excellent authors. I contributed 11 of these stories (why not? I’m the boss, right?) Click here to read more about Feckless.



THE JUDGING (2010) is Book One of The Corescu Chronicles; a creepy tale of a priest-turned-vampire who justifies his bloodlust in the name of God. What happens when you want to do the will of God, but are cursed for all eternity? Click here to read more about The Judging.



DAMASCUS ROAD is Book Two of The Corescu Chronicles and it just came out May 2011. How far would you go to protect the innocent? The Judging star, Tony Agricola, will sacrifice everything—even his soul if necessary—to prevent an impish vampire from turning his attentions to the world around him. Click here to read more about Damascus Road.

You asked which is my favorite and that’s easy… my favorite is the one that just came out! All of my novels (so far) have 5-star ratings, which I hope means that folks are picking up what I’m putting down. I love Damascus Road because I find it provocative as well as humorous in parts. The banter between the protag and antag makes me chuckle, and the police detectives on the case offer plenty of chuckles in between the horror. I love a book that can balance these elements—like real life. We have both!

Q–You call yourself a recovering vampire/horror fanatic. Would you please tell us how you reached this diagnosis and what steps you have gone through to recover? Is there a 12 step, say goodbye to blood suckers, program out there? I’m sure at least one of our readers is in denial about their vampire addiction and could use some intervention.

I may have misspoken; I was only kidding myself. If I were truly recovered, then I wouldn’t write about vampires so much. I have six novels out and three in the works and all of them deal with some type of vampiric behavior. I’ll tell you what I might have been delivered of: unoriginal vampire plotlines. Every single one of my series’ will introduce vampires in a fresh, new way. Never boring, and always titillating, my vampire tales not only drag the reader through the dark recesses of the monster’s mind, but also lift them out of the muck with an expertly woven message of hope.


Q–I see that you have a BA in Psychology with a minor in Sociology. I can only imagine how helpful such a degree must be in writing. How has this education come in to play in your stories?

I only want to get inside your head. My psych training makes me weird and spooky and always digging around in the reader’s subconscious. I want to manipulate the reader into disappearing into my stories. When I mail out signed copies of my books to readers I write inside: “Welcome to my imagination.” Cheeky, I know, but I was always a HUGE Willy Wonka fan. 


Q–Which do you prefer....plain or peanut M&Ms? (Or are you like me, a rogue who prefers the peanut butter ones?)

PLAIN M&Ms only, please! Send immediately to c/o Maze, PO Box 67, Holly Pond, AL 35083!!


Q–Please tell us about this hamster called “Nacho” who resides on your head as you write. Is he your muse? What role does he play in your creative process?



Nacho has been with me since the beginning. Wayyyyy before I ever wrote a line on my first novel, Nacho was hitting the road with me to art shows. When I began to write, he stayed by my side and in his own way helped me along the publishing road. When he is balanced on my head, all of the universe is in order, and my creative process moves forward with glee. Recently, I acquired Wally (a koala bear), and he and Nacho do NOT get along. There’s some jealousy there. It’s sad.


Q–What role does your Christian influence have in your writing? Why do you choose to include Christian themes in your work?

“Write what you know.” Have you heard that old adage? Well, I know the Lord and I know vampires… why not work them out together? The reason I do this is two-fold. One, I’m compelled to write my fiction. It’s like breathing to me. And since I dwell in the secret place of the Most High—that means God is behind it. The second reason is that people are encouraged in their faith when they read my fiction. Yes, it’s bloody, and gory, and provocative—but isn’t the Bible? God’s ways of teaching us about Him are not limited. I am not one to shorten His arm, so when He leads me to write a fiction work that glorifies Him and leaves His children pondering…I do it!


Q–If you could be any character in any book that you have read who would it be and why?

I am going to assume you mean “fictional character” and say Van Helsing. I would have enjoyed discovering Dracula, becoming familiar with him over dinner, and then destroying him for the good of all mankind. That doesn’t mean I kill all the vampires in my novels. No, I love them too much. I have to leave some alive. It’s only fair…


Q–Pretend you have just been told that owning cats is illegal. What would you do?

Oh, that’s a no-brainer. I’d get more cats! Then I’d build elaborate hiding places for them in my walls and under the floor boards and I’d painstakingly train them to be quiet whenever they heard me say, “Oh no!”


Q–How did you get started writing?

I have been writing since I was a wee little child. My mom has saved stories that I wrote in elementary school. One short story written when I was 9 was entitled: Mrs. Frog, about a lady frog and her troubles. At 12, I wrote Skelo and the Big House, about a roach who escapes the Raid Can only to be poisoned by his parents who bring a new toxin back to the nest on their backs! 


Q–Of all the books you’ve read, which ones have influenced your writing the most?

Again, I will assume you refer to fiction (as for non-fiction, I always resort to answering The Holy Bible), and I say Dracula by Bram Stoker. After that, I’d list They Thirst by Robert McCammon. These two books led me to writing about vampires and I love to still read these today. I’ve read each at least 20 times, maybe more…


Q–Who is Beth Rider and what do the Rakum want with her?

Poor Beth Rider. She is flying high on new-found fame with her Christian vampire novels, when out of the blue at a late-night book-signing session, she is attacked by a Rakum. This vampiric race lives alongside ours with a demonic origin that only their leader is aware of. They are not the living dead, but another race altogether—and they have no knowledge of God. When some of their people read Beth’s novels and begin to ponder their creator and their leader’s true motives, the Rakum in charge decide to destroy the young author. Thankfully, she is aided by a disaffected member of their people and the race is on!


Q–Finish this sentence:  “The scariest thing I ever....”

…saw in the theatre was The Exorcist. The devil is real, and movies about him give me the heebie-jeebies!”


Thank you for allowing me to visit you today. I have truly enjoyed myself! I want to offer an open invitation to any of your readers to contact me via email (ellenmaze@aol.com) or my website. I’d love to hear from you!

I would also love to give a heads-up on my next novel, coming out, God-willing, in the Fall of this year. Here is a little blurb about it:

The Indwelling of Tory Blessing: A Novel

What if you discover your father was an Old Testament god?

What if he had arranged for you to marry his successor on your 18th birthday?

What if, in order to comply, you had to volunteer to be possessed by eight evil spirits?

Tory Blessing wants to fulfill her father’s last wishes, but the more she learns about to what she is agreeing, the less inclined she is to obey her destiny. 

Teric Fornisi, the last of the fleshed Baals, is destined to marry Tory to propagate the reestablishment of his people. As the child of Teric’s predecessor, she must comply, or else. No other woman on the planet will do.

Gokhan At, Tory’s assigned guardian, did his best to raise his ward in the ways of the Baalim, but when she meets her fiancĂ© for the first time, the two do not hit it off at all and his plans soon go to rot. 

Does Tory have a choice? Or is she doomed into a matrimonial union with a demon? Finding and then reading her deceased mother’s diary, helps Tory learn of the love her father had for her mom. Why isn’t Teric more like her father, and if she decides the marriage is not in her best interest, will she be allowed to leave?

Hang on for a wild ride through my imagination as I weave Old Testament theology with modern Contemporary Speculative Fiction into a vampire tale that will leave you gasping for air and longing for more. I am Ellen C. Maze; welcome to my world.


Thanks for stopping by Ellen! I had a great time with this interview.

If you're interested in purchasing any of Ellen's books, check out the links below.....








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