Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Knowing When It Is, Well, Garbage.

So I am writing a story for our ebook. I have the blessing/curse of not having it judged. I have to do the judging myself. And in the process of writing and editing, I have written (or am in the middle of writing) 3 different stories. Completely different ideas and execution. Why, you ask? Because the first two were garbage. This third one I am cautiously optimistic about. I think I finally have the right tone, subject, and overall vehicle for what would be best for the book.

We all do this judging and rejecting. But I'm not talking about those moments where you're sure everything you've ever written is total yuck and deserves to be flushed. No, I'm talking about a reasonable, intelligent, well-considered opinion on whether or not you should continue with a project.

That can be especially hard when it's a full length novel that you've polished to a blinding shine. I think that's the fear of many a writer, that you get to that point of I AM DONE only to realize that while YOU may be done, the story is not. And that you may not have the ability at the moment to improve it to where it needs to be to be truly saleable.

I remember reading an article by Orson Scott Card years ago. This is after he'd won multiple awards and accolades and was a full time writer, making his living from his books. In this article he talked about how there was a story that he wanted so much to write, but didn't think he was capable of doing the story justice. So he put the half done story away for YEARS, until he'd learned enough about himself and people and life and everything else he needed to put into that story. And then he wrote it. And he saw where things had gone wrong before where he'd never been able to pinpoint it the first time.

I hope I don't have to do that. I don't have time, for one thing. But for another, it's a short story. It's a different art form than a novel, but by the nature of it's "shortness" it can be easier to edit and keep control of the story arc.

So wish me luck. I'm diving back into the trenches, and I'd better be dragging a full-fledged story out with me on the other side.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August Pumpkins

I walked into Walgreens this morning and do you know what I saw?
Pumpkin decorations, my friends, pumpkins.
I know I've been out of the routine of things for a while (including blogging),
But I didn't think it had been that long.
I had to double check the date in my mind.
Yep, still August. School has started here in AZ,
but the high temperature today will be 110 degrees.
So I did not buy any fall decorations.
But I have been thinking about seasons.
I know Mother Nature does provide clues that the seasons are changing,
but sometimes they still sneak up on me.
Like putting my youngest on the school bus,
I knew it was coming. I'd done this before.
Then the bus drove away and there I was,
ready or not, in a new life season!
All I have to say today is whatever season you're in - enjoy!

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Story to Silence Them

I began teaching CTR4 today. Technically, my husband and I began teaching CTR4 today, but he taught Elder's Quorum this Sunday leaving me in a much-too-small room with eight small children.

Oh my.

Is it me, or do they always have that much energy? Anyway, they aren't shy. That's for sure. My son is one of those eight small children. Has anybody ever taught their own child Primary before? Okay, they may have all seemed wild, but my son seemed especially so.

Here is a small sampling of their boundless energy:
Climbing on chairs.
Turning upside down on chairs.
Jumping off chairs. (Actually, this one -quieter- girl would occasionally and suddenly JUMP off her chair, and as she landed on the floor her dress billowed out around her, creating a pink-flowered mushroom which the other children would gather around and proceed to kick.)
More talking.
Climbing on windowsills.

It wasn't a surprise that my lesson didn't go so well...until...until...I read a story. Then there was absolutely no climbing, no jumping, and no noise. A story. That's all it took. And that, my friends, is why we do what we do.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Recipe for Ice

Chloe as Pippi Longstocking
My four year old daughter gave me the cutest recipe on how to *cook* ice yesterday while I was canning/preserving some black beans in my pressure cooker.  For those of you who follow me on facebook, then you may have stumbled across my many cooking/food/recipe posts.  I love the kitchen. I find cooking a science.  It's chemistry.  I love the way adding one little spice can completely change the flavor and experience of the dish.

So I experiment a lot.  :)  Especially when I find something I've missed.  Or read a recipe that uses an ingredient I'd never considered before.  I soon as I'm able, I cook that same entree the way I always have, then add the new ingredient, and watch it come alive.

I find this when I read books as well... I'll read something and if it strikes me as brilliant, the way a phrase is used or a sentence is structured, or the way dialogue is written, I implement it.  Immediately.  I love learning new ways to enhance my writing and helping my books reach another level.

I still have a lot to learn.  A whole lot.
Which is why I've posted this recipe from my daughter.  I figure this is something you all may find useful.  lol!
I LOVE it!  If I ever write a cookbook, this recipe will definitely go in it--

How to Cook Ice:

4 yr old: Mom! Look! I learned-ed how to cook ice! I did! I did! Watch, Mom! Are you watched-ing? Are you? O-Tay. See? See this? I put-ed the water into the ice thingy thing and then--look! Look! Tada! You puted-ed it in the fa-widge like this. See? By da milk, the milk makes it sooo colder, mom. Den you shut the fa-widge and dance for a long, longer time, singing some songs, den when you are done you have ice!!

See what I mean?  I think I know why my ice has been taking so long to cook, I've forgotten to sing and dance.  :)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Be My Editor

by Cheri Chesley

I want to share with you my contribution for Totally Cliched, and I'm going to ask a favor. Because I'm moving, and am incredibly pressed for time, I'm going to ask all of you to help me edit it for the book. This is my "roughly polished" version, which means there's room for improvement. And it's short. Please don't hesitate to take it apart so I can make it the best it can be.

A Fairy by Any Other Name
By Cheri Chesley

Once upon a time there lived a beautiful—yet sadly overworked—orphaned princess named Rose. She hadn’t a friend in the world, except the sweet forest creatures who would keep her company every afternoon when she went to draw water from the well. Her evil stepmother insisted on a bath every evening, and it took Rose hours to gather enough water and heat it to just the right temperature to satisfy the cruel woman.

One afternoon, however, as Rose approached the well, she saw not a single forest creature. Instead an old, bent woman sat by the well. Being naturally polite, Rose greeted her, then lowered the bucket to draw water from the well. As she lifted the heavy bucket, the old woman spoke.

“My child, could I trouble you for just one tiny sip of your water?”

Rose obediently filled the dipper and handed it to the woman. “Hello, kindly fairy.”

The woman looked at her, then instantly transformed into a stunning fairy. “How did you know?”

Rose shrugged. “When I, a sad and troubled maiden, find myself helping an old woman I naturally assume she’s a fairy in disguise, testing my character.”

“Ah,” said the fairy, “then how did you know I was kind?”

“All fairies are kind,” replied Rose. “Everyone knows that.”

“Well, let’s get on with it then,” said the fairy.

“Ah, me,” said Rose, and sighed.

“Lovely child, what troubles you?”

“I don’t like to complain,” said Rose. “In fact, life would be perfect, if it weren’t for my evil stepmother making me slave for her day and night, and her horrible knights who belch loudly whenever I draw near. I only desire to restore my family’s dignity, and rule my kingdom as I rightly should.”

“Naturally,” said the fairy. She tapped her teeth with her finger. “Why don’t you run along and get yourself into some mischief so a prince can rescue you and claim you for his bride?”

“How do you know a prince will come to my rescue?” Rose asked.

The fairy waved her hand. “There’s always a prince or two roaming about looking for a wife.” She pointed with her wand. “Why don’t you take that path there, into the forest? It looks dark and gloomy enough. Meanwhile, I’ll flit around and see if I can’t find your prince.”
“How will you know where to send him to rescue me?”

“We fairies have our ways,” she said. “Don’t you worry about that. And, for goodness sake, child, take your hair out of that silly braid. You want to look your best when your prince comes.”

Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Rose thanked the fairy and set down her bucket. As she walked the path that led into the gloomiest part of the forest, she threaded her fingers through her hair, gently combing the long, golden locks into soft waves that fell smoothly down her back.

Before long, Rose came to a brightly lit clearing. In the middle of the clearing sat a handsome cottage with a low fence around it. A sign that read, “DON’T FEED THE GANDER” hung on the fence. Beside it sat a sack of feed, and, on the other side of the fence, a white goose tried her best to get to the sack.

“You poor thing,” Rose said, immediately filled with compassion for the animal. She hurried to the fence and picked up a handful of feed for the goose. As she fed it, a large gander came around the side of the house, squawking loudly for his share.

Rose had pretty much surmised what was up. “Well, what’s good for the goose, I suppose, is good for the gander,” she said. She picked up another handful and tossed it toward the squawking fowl.

Instantly, the door of the cottage burst open. There stood a woman who could be nothing other than a witch with her long, hooked nose, sallow skin and stringy black hair. “How dare you ignore my warning!” the witch screamed. “Now I will punish you!”

“Here it comes,” Rose said, trying just a bit not to feel excited.

“The next thing you eat, no matter what it is, will cause you to fall into a deep sleep,” said the witch with an evil cackle. “You will only awaken by true love’s first kiss.” She raised her arms. “Now go! Flee!”

Rose wasted no time. The witch smelled terrible anyway, and the silly gander wouldn’t shut up long enough to eat his grain. Rose ran from the clearing and deep into the forest.

She soon came upon an apple tree. “Might just as well,” she said to herself. “I could be like princes . . . oh, what’s her name?”

Rose picked a shiny apple, cleaned it on her skirt, and bit deeply into the skin.


Not far away, the fairy had spied a young prince on horseback and changed to an old woman with an overturned cart.
Being naturally chivalrous, the prince dismounted his horse and offered to help her. As he set her cart to rights, she said, “My dear boy, I wish to reward you for your kindness to me.” She consulted her notes. “Deep in the forest, you will find a beautiful maiden asleep under an apple tree. If you but kiss her, she will awaken, and you can take her for your bride.”

“My word!” exclaimed the prince. “I happen to be in search of a bride. My father, the king, bade me never to return to the castle if I do not come back with a wife.”

The fairy couldn’t help herself. “When did he do that?”

“Why, just this morning,” said the prince. “What marvelous luck I’m having.” He thanked her and mounted his horse. “Now, which way did you say this maiden lies sleeping?”

The fairy pointed. “But I must warn you. Barring the path is the evil witch who cursed your maiden. You have to defeat her in order to claim your bride.”

“Never fear, old woman,” said the prince. “I shall prevail!” With that, he charged off toward the forest to rescue Princess Rose.

The fairy sighed. “Why is it the princes never recognize a fairy in disguise?”


The prince rode his magnificent stallion all the way to the witch’s cottage, which he found easily. Ignoring the goose, the gander, and the sign, he marched straight into the cottage and threw a handy bucket of water on the witch. Naturally, she melted, as witches do, and the prince turned and marched right back out again.

He mounted his horse once again, and raced to the sleeping maiden’s side.

He found her, just as the old woman had said, sleeping under an apple tree. Enraptured by her beauty, and her glorious hair spread like a wave upon the grass, he slid from his horse and slowly approached her. Bending to one knee, the prince gazed at her a moment before leaning down to place a chaste kiss on her perfect, pink lips.


Rose opened her eyes to find a handsome man staring at her. She smiled. It had worked!

“What is your name, sweet princess?” he asked.

“Rose,” she said. “But, how did you know I am a princess?”

“What else could you be?” he asked. He offered her his hand and helped her stand. “Except, you must now consent to be my wife. I will never be content until you agree.”

“Of course I consent,” Rose said. “And we shall live happily ever after.”

“Was there any doubt?” The prince helped her onto his horse, mounted behind her, and together they rode into the sunset toward his castle.


I hope I made you laugh. :)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Interview with Susan Ee, Author of "Angelfall"

With our new short story e-book getting ready to be published, we've been a bit obsessed with self-publishing e-books.  A month ago I read an indie (independent) published e-book on kindle and was instantly taken with the quality of this book.  I knew that we would all want to know how she did it.  Luckily, Susan Ee agreed to do an interview on our blog.  Be sure to give her a nice warm welcome!

1.    Your indie-published e-book, “Angelfall” is beginning to have great success.  As most that read this blog are aspiring authors we are all curious about what it takes to write a successful book.  What would you say are the important parts of writing one?

Thank you so much for having me on your blog!

I highly recommend that you work with characters that you want to work with for at least a year. Same with the world they populate. If it's a series—several years. 

Write the story you would love to read, not the story you think will sell the best. If the story and characters draw you that strongly, then there's a good chance that others will feel the same way. It's also a way to ensure that you get something out of that writing time regardless of the sales. If you enjoyed your time inside your story, then it's roughly the equivalent of spending time reading a bunch of good books. So if you love developing and writing your book, your time investment is guaranteed to pay off at least a little, even if it takes awhile for your story to find an audience.

2.    How many drafts did you write and how long did the writing process take you for this book?

My beta readers received draft #10. The version that's on sale is draft #16. It took me about a year to year and a half from start to sale. There were several months total when I didn't touch the story for various life reasons and to give myself a little space from it so that I could "see" it again. I expect the next book to take less time.

3.    I’m really impressed by how well edited and polished “Angelfall” was.  Did you do all your own editing or did you hire an editor to help?  Would you recommend that someone who is indie-publishing look for an editor?  (If you edited yourself…are you for hire?  LOL!)

Thank you! An indie author should definitely work with at least one editor. There are two distinct types of editing—story editing and copyediting. I had six beta readers in two rounds of feedback to help shape the story—that was effectively my story editing process. For copy editing, I went through three passes. I had a volunteer copy editor who did the heavy lifting. Then another volunteer reader caught some inconsistencies and errors. By that time, I had had enough time away from the manuscript to be able to see the sentences again without my eyes glazing over, so I combed through it a final time. 

4.    Right now, it looks as if you only have your novel out in e-book format.  Are you looking into indie-publishing bound books as well?  What made you decide to start with e-books first?

The e-book market is what prompted me to try out indie-publishing. It's the new and exciting area that I want to explore. Yes, Angelfall will be out in print soon, but that's a secondary consideration for me, since there really isn't a special indie market for print books the way there is for ebooks.

I hope to have Angelfall out in print (as well as in the iBookstore) within the next couple of months.

5.    When indie-publishing, all the marketing and promotion responsibilities lie with the author.  What aspects of self-promotion have you found tough or intimidating?  What parts have you found to be fun or easier than you thought?

There was not a single aspect of self-promotion that I didn't find intimidating! But author chats and interviews are actually pretty fun. It's interesting to see what readers are curious about. It's also a fabulous feeling to see a blog review of your book by a blogger who absolutely loved it!

6.    Did you make your own cover or did you hire someone to do that task for you?  

I hired a cover designer. I held a contest for the best cover design and picked the one I liked best. I knew it was perfect for Angelfall as soon as I saw it. :)

7.    What advice would you give to writers who are considering indie-publishing their own e-books?

Make sure your book is as professional as a book released by a big publisher. Make sure your cover, your blurb, your formatting, your story editing as well as copy editing all meet professional standards. Sometimes that may mean you need to hire a professional to do that for you, otherwise, you'll have to make sure that you and your team of volunteers take the extra time and effort to present it in a package that readers are used to seeing. Then, test it out by asking people what they think.

Most importantly, take the time to polish your story. Get feedback. Revise. Repeat as needed. Do this until you can't stand it anymore. Then let it sit on the shelf for a bit to give yourself some distance before you read it again.

8.    Do you have any other published works?  How many books are in your e-book series?

I have short stories that have been published via traditional magazine publishers such as Realms of Fantasy. I also have a short story in an anthology (The Dragon and the Stars) that is currently a finalist for the AuroraCanada Awards in

Angelfall is part of a series that is at least a trilogy. It is undetermined at this time how many books will be in the series. I'm looking forward to finding out myself! :)

9. Tell us about your novel, "Angelfall".

The super short blurb is: 

A warrior angel, a kick-a** girl and the end of the world—a dark fantasy adventure.

The book description is:

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.

Thank you so much, Susan for stopping by on our blog!  I'm confident your book will continue to be a great success!
To read about Susan's decision to self-publish click here

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Insecurity and the Writer

Now I don't know about you, but I could totally relate. Insecurity is the BFF of the artist. We drain something from our souls, sometimes drip by agonizing drip, then throw it to the world, praying that someone will appreciate it.

I know this video is completely staged, but the truth in it shouts like Sue Sylvester with a bullhorn. Artist of any kind, whether they be writers, painters, or actors, all want the subjective public to like them, to see their work and say YES!

I want to add something, though. The other day, inspired by Lisa's post, I pulled out my iPod and started reading. I felt inspired to look in the Doctrine and Covenants. And I read this:

1 Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.

2 Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.
3 Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;
4 For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul;
5 And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.
6 Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.
7 Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.

I couldn't help but draw parallels to my writing. I do feel called to this work. I know that I need to do this, that the Lord has given me this as a calling for my life. How can I do anything but step forward?

For me, verse 6 stood out as the perfect blueprint: having faith in the Lord and his gifts right at the beginning, and being virtuous in following the commandments and staying close to the Lord through prayer and scripture study.
Then knowledge, or doing the research for my books and learning all I can about the writing craft, but remembering temperance, that I cannot run faster than I have strength and there must be moderation in all things.
I need to have patience with myself, with the process, with publishing, as well as showing kindness to all that I come in contact with during this journey.
In godliness, I need to remember that I am an example, a light on a hill. What I write represents not only me, but the God I profess to follow.
Charity, or giving of myself through this work is the only way to find myself-- "He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." Matthew 10:39
Along with that I need to remember not to boast of myself, but of my God who has given me these gifts to serve Him.
And last, but certainly not least, I must be diligent. I must work. I must write. I must DO. I cannot follow all these other things and not DO the work.

But what does he promise in verse 7? "Ask, and he shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." So I have no need to fear or feed the insecurities of the natural man, for this, ALL this, is in the Lord's perfect hands.

Monday, August 22, 2011

What's in the Bag?

So a sippy cup leaked in my purse last night, and I thought about the contents--soaking--as I removed them. And how much a purse can say about a person.

One size 6 girl's shoe. Where the other one is, I do not know.
My day planner, which luckily escaped water damage, and which is lovingly titled "my brain"
One diaper and a HUGE package of baby wipes because I'm took lazy to only take a few out, which makes my purse WAY too heavy
A few toy cars that kept random baby in Relief Society happy yesterday
One million dollars in cash...yeah right
That naughty leaky sippy cup among other things

What is in your MC's purse? diaper bag? pockets?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lesson 8: CryBaby

I teach a writing secrets class for teens over here.

Many of them had expressed I taught them how I was able to make them cry in my stories that they've read and how they can use this 'secret' to help them.  

Saturday, I posted-- Lesson 8: CryBaby.  The message is a good one so I thought I'd post the secret here as well... and offer you the same Homework Homefun assignment.  

Tell me about an instance in your life that was sad, or emotional that you can use to show emotions in your stories.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Smiley Faces All Around

Motivation is a very slippery thing. While I was at my writer's retreat this summer, one writer's group told about their monthly goals and how they reward the completion of those goals with a smiley face on a chart. I thought this was a cute idea and shared it with my critique group. Now I'm sharing it with you. Would you like to get a smiley face for monthly goals completed? Maybe you just need an extra push to help you accomplish all that you want to accomplish. Getting a smiley face on a public blog may give you what we all need every once in awhile, recognition for a job well done. Maybe there will be a drawing as well for those that completed their goals for the month. I will have to work out the details, but what do you say? Who's in? Now the goals don't have to be lofty or even all about writing. Research counts and can be anything. For my non fiction book about balancing body and spirit, part of my research goals was to participate and complete a sprint triathlon. So work outs counted towards my writing goals! Also, writing blog posts, journal writing, scripture reading all count for me towards my writing. Maybe your goals one month will be to learn more about the craft of writing or more about publishing. Or maybe your goal is to just write 25 words a day. Whatever your goals, you deserve a pat on the back for completing them.
So if you want to join in, leave your writing goals for this month in the comment section. I will keep track of who shared their goals and in a month, Thursday, September 15th, I will ask you all to report on your goals. Of course this means I will have to share and report my goals as well. Its only fair right?
My goals this month are:
1. Edit three short stories from our Totally Cliche contest.
2. Finish Editing my short story for the ebook and send it out for more critiques.
3. Read and give an overall critique for a friend's sci fi book.
4. Wake up early and write something every morning before taking my daughter to seminary.
5. Complete 2 more chapters in my YA Fantasy story.
6. Get over to the WriteonCon website and read/watch some of the classes that will help me improve my writing.
Yes I have some lofty goals this month, but if I don't finish them all, I will roll them over to next month and just take a straight lined face for the month! Lol! Can't wait to see your goals in the comments!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

WriteOnCon---Are Ya Doing It?

This post will be short because I am up to my eyeballs in a writer's conference. What writer's conference, you say?
THE FREE ONLINE ONE FOR KIDLIT. There. Was that big and bold enough for you? Am I yelling yet? (Sorry, I'm actually writing this around midnight and I'm kinda loopy. Don't recommend it.)
This is the second year for WriteOnCon. It's totally free, but they are asking for a few donations.'s just chock full of writers, agents, pubbed authors, the works. It's great fun. It goes through tomorrow (that's Thursday) and even after all the live sessions are over, all the info will be up online for the next year or millennia, so you can peruse the information at your leisure. I just like participating in the craziness. It's not quite as nuts as an in person conference, but who can beat sitting around in your PJs to pitch to agents?

Monday, August 15, 2011

When Things Calm Down, THEN I'll Write

Is that what you tell yourself? When life gets crazy (which let's face it, is MOST of the time) you fall away from writing yet figure it'll pick back up when your life settles a little?

I'd like to tell myself that my August is too busy for writing. But no, I have to be honest with myself because it's really that my 2011 has been crazy so far, and my writing hasn't been what I thought it would be this year.

But really...REALLY, it's just life as a mom that doesn't slow down. Ever. So I have to figure out how to carve time out of mom-life better than I do right now. Because I want to be a mom and I want to write. I go through seasons of writing and seasons of momming, when I seem to do one better than the other. How do you find time? Do you still manage to snag that moment when life turns topsy-turvy?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I'm an Author

My book came out this week.  I'm an author.

It's slowly making its way to the stores.  It's even on kindle and nook now too.  I'm an author.

This past week I've spent several days talking with a potential movie producer ( a man from where my books are set) discussing my vision for the series, etc.  How best to incorporate the community, and how much we can give back to them locally.  I'm an author.

I got my first one star review, yesterday.  That's all it was--just one star--no review, just the star.  I guess those are the best kind because you can convince yourself it was given on accident.  I'm an author.

I've had to already go through final edits of my second book.  It will go to press either this week or next.  They want it printed early, so it can catch all the great reviews before it's released in October. They're rushing the cover now.  I'm an author.

Meanwhile, opportunities for me to sign and speak have been coming in... now, it's just trying to coordinate and figure which times are best, etc.  I'm an author.

This is what it really feels like to be a published author.

You know, I always wondered what it would feel like, even before I'd ever decided I wanted to write, I wondered what this would feel like... and guess what?

I feel the same.  The exact same.

I'm just me.  A busy mom who's now all of the sudden a lot more busier.  (If that's possible.)  I'm still the same happy.  I'm still the same sad.  I'm still the same, well, everything.  It wasn't a magic publishing wand that suddenly made me more of a person, more of a daughter of God, a better, more successful woman.  Nope.  People treat me differently--but I'm still the same.  Same insecurities, same securities, same worries, same hope and faith.  Same overwhelming love for my Heavenly Father.

I'm just me.  I'm an author.

Friday, August 12, 2011

What Bad Hair Teaches You

by Cheri Chesley
(this is not a recent picture--her hair is much longer now)
Last weekend, I spent over $30 on hair repair items for my daughter. She spent an extra couple of weeks in OK with her Papa, and swam almost every day--and ran out of conditioner and didn't tell him she needed more. So she spent most of that time without conditioning her hair.

It came back the texture of straw. Seriously.

Because she's been working so hard to grow her hair out, I opted for helping her fix her hair rather than going and getting it cut short. Although, you have to admit, she looks pretty darn good in an A-line. See?

As I spend day after day obsessing over when to give her the next conditioning treatment, having her wash and condition her hair with products I don't usually buy for myself, I'm reminded of the editing process. I know--I'm such a WRITER! lol

See, many of us--and I'm one of them--want to go through our manuscript 2 or 3 times before pronouncing it perfect! Done! As good as we can make it! But, like these conditioning treatments my daughter and I are doing, it can take a dozen or more work-throughs before we're really done with a project.

I'm slowly learning this. I submitted my sequel to Cedar Fort, happy that it was as good as I can make it, until I heard back from them with suggestions that I make some changes and resubmit before they'll consider offering me a contract. See, they knew it wasn't up to par. And, looking back, I know it too--now. :) After letting the project sit for a month, I realized many holes I'd missed and lots of ways to make the story deeper, more compelling and overall more interesting. I'd gotten the bare bones of the story down, but I needed to embellish.

That has to wait until the summer is over. And, now, after we move.

I want to be a better writer than I am. This will take patience. Like my daughter's hair will also take patience, time and effort to get it back to a semblance of normal. I'm still learning; I'll probably always be learning. But that isn't really a bad thing.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Epitome of Perserverence

When I was a sophomore in high school, I had been accepted into the honors English class. I was ecstatic. The class was a lot more difficult than I had thought, but I loved everything I was learning. At the end of the first half of school I was getting a C in the class. The teachers policy was to withdraw any students getting a C or lower and send them to the regular sophomore English class. I was devastated and did what I do best, I cried. With tears in my eyes I told the teacher I would rather get a C in his class and learn what I'm learning than get an easy A in another class. He relented and let me stay. He probably regretted that decision, especially when I turned in a 1 1/2 page report with the first page missing. (I cried and laughed hysterically at the same time when that happened!) Anyway, what I'm leading up to is that in my high school yearbook that year, my English teacher wrote this, "You are the epitome of Perserverence".
Many times during my quest for being published, I have pulled out that yearbook and read those words. Of any profession out there, writers are the ones that need to be the epitome of perseverance. We. Cannot. Give. Up!
Here's a link to an article about the author of "The Help" and her story of Perserverence.

Be sure to share your story of Perserverence and what inspires you not to quit!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

School Is In Session

My kids go back to school today. Four of my five are now full timers, with my youngest just a year away. This has been a really short summer for us, since in Utah we didn't go back until the end of August. Once we even waited until September. And since we just moved here, all of our normal "hang with family on this holiday or that birthday" went out the window. We're still adjusting to living in AZ, I guess. And while I love my children, having them all home, all the time, got a little (read: a lot) challenging. So I have to admit when my sister-in-law posted this on Facebook the other day, I just had to share.

I honestly don't know if I relate better to the father or the kids. There is supposed freedom in having them out from underfoot, but the reality is that my kindergartner has never done preschool and now he's full day. He's going to need some TLC. And my youngest has never gone a day without his brother who is only 17 months older. He'll get his fill of having the computer and TV to himself in about 4 hours and then he'll be bugging me to entertain him. So writing time by myself will not be as forthcoming as one might suppose.  So here's my question to all of you Mormon Mommy writers out there: what kind of schedule do you set up to make the most of those hours you have free? Because you know those hours aren't really free. They're waiting for you to fill them with chores or friends or a whole host of other things that will zap your writing time into smithereens.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Of Sugary Things

First of all, I LOVE LOVE Megan's post from last Monday (when she filled in for me--thanks, Megan). That last paragraph? I'm going to frame it, I think, because I need to read it every day.

Secondly and on a much lighter note, I would like to share with our readers something NOT to do with your four year-old child. If you are having a stressful week and you give your son more fruit snacks (and other sugary things) than usual, and your baffled son asks you "WHY?"...don't tell him you are giving him those things because you are stressed out. BECAUSE, when the stressful week is over, and you are trying to feed your son better things, it might go something like this:

"Mom can I have soda?"


"But, Mom, you are REALLY stressed out. Can I have soda?"

(The answer is still no.)

So there is a level of honesty we must keep in check with our children because later they might use it against us. (Funny, but I think my kids eat more sugary things when I'm stressed than I EAT when I'm stressed. How does that even make sense? Guess it keeps them quiet.)

So how do you keep your kids in check when life gets crazy? More TV? Send them out back? Lock them up?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thanking My Heavenly Father for Unanswered Prayers

I've had a few reflective days where looking back on it all I'm so grateful for the little unanswered prayers in my life.  Those prayers that were so huge and desperate at the time... in the end, saved me so much more heartache.

Like the time I begged the Lord to let me stay in my beautiful home in Chatteris, England, even though the promptings to leave could not be ignored and eventually we did.  Moving when I was 8 months pregnant.

Or when I begged the Lord a few weeks later to not take my husband to Iraq until after the baby (our sixth) was born.  So things would work out and he could see her.  When she was a week overdue and my husband left, and the doctors were not able to induce me due to complications, it was when I nearly cursed God.  Nearly.  I felt it was the hardest thing I ever had to do--be over nine months pregnant with so many children and say goodbye to my husband.  I was scared, and angry... and in a new place where I knew no one.

Only to find a week later and a prolapsed umbilical cord... Had I not moved, had my husband stayed, had anything at all been different--so many little miracles in a row--I wouldn't be laughing with my 4 year old today.  They say it was a miracle she survived at all... I know for a fact, had my husband been there or had I lived 30 minutes from the hospital in my old house, my life would've been so much more miserable than it was the few weeks before.

My Heavenly Father knew, that even though he was breaking my heart, I really, really wanted to have a baby in my arms, more than I wanted my husband there to witness her death or a beautiful house to bury her nearby.  He knew much more than I did--

And it was this lesson, the lesson when I nearly cursed my God, that I realized no matter what unanswered prayers I'm given, no matter what trials, or disappointments come my way, I will realize and see that I do not know the big picture, that my Heavenly Father does love me and watches out for me.  I will never (nearly) curse Him again.

I also realize and own the fact, he could take anyone I love at any moment... but if he did, it would be okay.  Because each day is a blessing with them.  Each moment a precious gift, and I will be grateful for all the gifts and learning opportunities I am given--even if they are for just a moment.

So just remember, if the burden you carry seems too hard at the moment, and you feel as if you're asked to do too many things you didn't count on, be grateful.  Get on your knees and thank God for every trial in your life.  Because you do not know what would happen if things were different.  Had you stayed in that home.  Had your husband continued to work for that company...

Or had your book been published when you thought it should've been.  Lol!  He has his hand in everything.
Everything happens for a reason.  Be truly grateful for all those reasons.  And every unanswered prayer.

--Jenni James

Psst!  It's finally here!  My book is finally here!  I held in my hands on Thursday at my very first signing.  (it was at a booksellers convention, for buyers from around the US, Canada, England, etc. to decide if they want to sell my book in their store.  I'm very happy to say Pride & Popularity will be in stores very soon! Eeep.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Journaling with meaning

Well, as you can see by our side-bar, the poll to vote for our ebook cover is closed. And the winner is...

Didn't Jenni do an awesome job with it!?! A big thanks to everyone who voted and to Elizabeth and Jenni for all their hard work with the covers.

Now, onto real meat of this post. On our Facebook page this question was posed by Stephonie K. Williams:

Can I submit a request? I was just given an assignment last night from my RS president to teach a class on creative journaling. Despite being an author my journaling habits are lackluster at best and written for myself. I was asked to teach "how to make our journals more interesting so that our posterity can laugh and cry along with us". Quite frankly my google-fu is failing me. Does anyone know any tips or suggestions on what/how to teach this, failing that any ideas on how to get me out of doing this? ;) Thanks.

First off, Stephonie, I love that one of our readers sent us a question. LOVE IT! I hope more of you feel free to do that. In fact, I'd like to offer an open invitation to all our readers to visit our Facebook page and pose any questions they have for us and one of the MMW contributors will answer it, or maybe it will just be me since I'm taking the liberty for speaking for everyone but all these gals are so great I'm sure any and all of them would be more than happy to have the opportunity to answer your quandaries.

Secondly, I love the idea of having a class on creative journaling. I'm the RS counselor over the activity previously known as Enrichment Night and I think I might hijack this idea and use it.

I have been fortunate to have had grandparents who kept journals. From this I can tell you what not to do and what to do. Every journaler (totally not a word) will inevitably write entries that could be filed under  Seriously Boring category. Some more often than others. Now I must make a qualifying statement here by admitting that a lot of people just aren't blessed with the desire or perhaps ability to use more than a few small words to make a point. For example, I have an ancestor who kept a daily journal but the entires rarely went farther than who came by to visit and who they talked to on the phone. There was no substance given to these entires; really it was a glorified visitor's book (you know, the one's you sign when you visit a small town museum or a family history library). This kind of journaling is so stagnant that the reader must force themselves to keep digging for the much hoped for treasures that make all that boring reading worth while. To those of you who don't think you can manage a journal entry longer than two sentences, this is what I have to say to you. WRONG!

Journal entries don't have to be long, but they need to have some substance. Something to satiate the appetite of the reader (I know, it's a little scary somethings thinking about people reading our journals but hopefully we'll be dead by then and I promise you, we won't care at that point.) If you find the substance part hard, here are a few suggestions:

Journal Q & A
If you want to make your journal matter to your posterity you need to ask yourself a few questions. First, what questions do you wish you had asked your parents, grandparents, etc. (people who have died and or whose memories are forever lost)? For example I wish I had had the opportunity to ask my grandfather more about his childhood, about his parents, about the games he played in his youth, about his siblings, about the death of his brother, about the relationship he had with his uncle, about how his family lost their farm during the Great Depression, about the war and what it was like to learn on the front lines that your wife had a baby. These are only a few of the questions I'd love to ask but sadly, I can't get those answers; the opportunity has passed. I get sick to my stomach at times thinking about all the questions I wish I'd asked people and how sad it is that those answers were right there at my fingertips and now they're gone forever. I think most of us have many such questions we'll never, in this life, know the answer to. Those very questions are a wonderful thing to include in our own journal!

Now you might be saying, "Hold on, this sounds like doing a personal history, not a journal" but give me a minute. Take these questions and write them down on a piece of loose paper. Write down all the questions you wish you could ask any ancestor you have then take that piece of paper and stick it into the front of your journal. Then, on days when you're drawing a blank about what to write, days when there just isn't any substance to your thoughts, let alone your pen, you can pull out this piece of paper and answer one of those questions for yourself.

If you want to take this step even farther you could ask your children, siblings, friends, spouse, etc. to write down some questions they have for you or some things they would like to know about you. You can add those questions to your list.

Embarrassing Moments
Who wants to own up to the day they accidentally walked into the men's bathroom at Shopko? Certainly not me, that's why I haven't included it in my journal yet, but I plan to! How about the time you accidentally tucked your skirt into your pantyhose and nearly flashed everyone who had the pleasure of standing behind you? While such moments are the kind that generally make us want to crawl in a hole and die they usually turn out to be hilarious with a few years (or maybe decades) of perspective. Write down the humiliating stuff! Show them that you wanted to die of embarrassment, too.

On a side note to this, one theme I feel very strongly should be included in EVERY journal is that of growth and overcoming trials. Some of the most inspiring stories to me are the ones that help me feel less alone; the ones that take my trials ant put them into perspective.

Look at it like this, when I was a teenager (and a 20 something) I was convinced I had to be perfect in public and in front of my family. Mistakes mortified me, no matter how simple they were. Sadly for me, I couldn't keep myself from stumbling time and time again. Now, in my ubber wise old age of 32, I realize something significant: Mistakes are what bring us together, not set us apart. They make us human. When the lady playing the piano in Relief Society messes up it makes me feel so much better about screwing up myself. You see, she isn't phased by it. She keeps on playing and sits down and doesn't have a second thought about it and I don't think any less of her just like I know my posterity won't think any less of me for having accidentally tucked my skirt into my nylons when I was 14 and then paraded through the chapel in front of all the kids my age from my high school!

The more embarrassing the moment, the better. These moments are what make us human and more relatable. Nobody wants to read about someone whose life was all sunshine and roses. We want to see that a few thorns and bloody wounds aren't the end of the world. We want something to inspire us and help us keep going when times get dark and the way unclear.

In my journal I make an effort to include every phase of a trial. Every phase with my feelings and emotions honestly portrayed. While my trials in life have been relatively simple compared to many, I still think it is important to document them. Not only does this help my posterity but when I read back I am more able to see the personal growth I have experienced.

For example:  Recently, I had a family member who underwent a significant trial. Had I lived far away this trial would have been merely difficult to watch but I live very close and the perpetrator of this trial lives in my ward and holds a fairly high priesthood calling. This has been excruciating to deal with. Even though it has been months I still struggle with it and I make sure to include it all in my journal. I want my children to see that the path to forgiveness isn't easy and can take months, perhaps years. I want them to learn from my experience so that maybe, one day, when they're struggling with forgiveness they can find the path a little easier because they can look at the steps I trod.

As I have struggled with this event I have prayed for help to learn forgiveness. When I receive an answer during scripture study I include the scripture in my journal entry. When I receive a piece of wisdom during a gut-wrenching prayer session, I include that inspiration in my journal. When I find myself slipping back into vengeful thoughts (this happens far too often) I include that, too. The whole sordid, difficult journey to forgiveness is there for all to see and hopefully, for all to learn from as well.

Also, some trials can take years to see clearly. With the gift of time and age often the difficulties we face in our youth can be put into perspective. Include that perspective. When you realize something important about your past include it in your journal but make sure to include the details behind the realization so the reader can see the whole picture.

Wouldn't you love to know the recipe for your great-great-something-or-other's favorite pie? Maybe their favorite bread recipe? How about knowing what their favorite song was and what the name was of their favorite pet? Favorites are little gems that help the reader feel a more intimate connection to the one who wrote the journal.

Here are a list of a few fun things that you should make sure to include in your journal:

Favorite Recipes
Favorite Color(s)
Favorite Song
Favorite Candy Bar
Favorite Movie
Favorite TV Show
Favorite Quote
Favorite Prophet
Favorite Photograph
Favorite Poem
Favorite Story

The list could go on and on but I think you get the point. When you include these favorites tell a story with them. Share your Grandmother's roll recipe and tell why you always make it at Thanksgiving and how integral those are to making that holiday special but how hard it has been to give them up because your husband and several children have Celiac Disease. Tell how your favorite color makes you feel. Tell what emotions or memories you associate with your favorite song (on the flip side of this you could tell about a song that hurts your heart to hear and why--like the song that kept playing on the radio station during the three hour drive to your cousin's funeral). Tell why President Monson was your favorite apostle ever and how you didn't have as hard a time as many after President Hinkley died transitioning to a new prophet. Tell. The. Reader. Why!

Really, I could go on and on and on and on and on about things to include in your journal but I'd better end before your eyes get blurry. Before I end let me share a few more ideas:

Be a Missionary--Share your Testimony! Tell the reader why you believe what you believe. Were there any experiences that solidified your testimony? Was there a special scripture that helped you gain a stronger conviction? What made your testimony wobble? How did you recover? Certainly we will all have posterity that will fall away...use your journal as a missionary tool for them.

Newspaper clippings. Did you have an article in the newspaper? Did your picture appear in the newspaper or a picture of someone you love? Did something important in history or in your life happen that was immortalized in a newspaper? If so, cut out the item and past it into your journal along with a description or story and your feelings or emotions!

Pictures. Scrapbooks and photo albums aren't the only places to include pictures. Sometimes a good photograph can tell more of the story than any of your words ever could. Make sure to include pictures!!

Messages. I make the assumption my children will read my journal so there are times I write a literal message directly to them. Often I include this after I have related an experience about them or something that I believe will help them. As a parent, I know some of their weaknesses and at times I get a glimpse of something I believe will be a trial for them later in life so I address this in my journal. I tell my kids how proud of them I am and try to highlight things that I believe will help their self-esteem and self-worth. Seeing my name in my grandmother's journal was neat, even though it was just to say I came to visit. How I would have treasured to be able to see (or read) what her feelings were for me. How did I make her proud? What advice would she have liked to have given me? A personalized message for your posterity is a gift they will treasure forever!

The pen can leave wounds deeper than a sword. I know a woman who went through her hand-written journals and type them up, omitting anything she thought her children might be hurt by. Evidently she was extremely honest and laid her thoughts out on the table, so to speak. Life happens, children make mistakes, we get frustrated, things get sticky. These moments should not be excluded from the journal to spare someone's feelings any more than we should omit the name of the perpetrator (unless the offense is a private one then by all means, omit the name). Really, everyone reading your journal will be well acquainted with someone's not so shiny behavior and by leaving out their name are we really sparing anyone? Leave in the name but take care as you share the information not to be mean or vindictive. Express sorrow over their actions and your pain and grief but make sure, if they ever triumph (which hopefully they all will) to express your pride in their ability to conquer their demons. Simply put, tell the story, but take care not to do it in a way that will hurt someone because at this point, your words have great power and you don't want that power to destroy anyone; especially since you won't be around to mend the damage.

The End!
Journals give us an opportunity to speak from the grave. Why not take advantage of that? Why not tell those we love the things that perhaps weren't appropriate to be uttered vocally at the time but were best written down after we are gone and our life has taken on new meaning to those we love?

The good, the bad, and the ugly should all be included in our journal but one thing should stand out above and beyond anything else and that is our relationship with the Savior. If we truly have a testimony of this gospel and we truly believe in the Plan of Salvation than we should make sure that our journals reflect our relationship with our Savior and our love for Him. We should make sure we use this sacred and special opportunity to let the Spirit bear witness to our posterity of the truthfulness of the Gospel and witness to them that Jesus Christ is our Savior and our Redeemer and the author of our Salvation.

Anyone else have ideas for Stephonie?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Give Yourself a Break

I'm taking the kids to Lagoon today. It's our Stake Lagoon day, so we get to get in for a discount, and there's a dinner. Pretty sweet deal. It's also the only way I can afford to do it, so it works out.

I have learned, in recent years, that play is as necessary as work to family success. It's a cliche (and we've had enough of those lately, lol), but the family that plays together, stays together. It's really true.

So what do you guys do to play? How do you take your breaks?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How Bejewled Blitz is a necessary learning tool for writers

Yes, I believe Bejewled Blitz on Facebook is a valuable and vital tool for any writer. Yes, I also believe in rationalizations if possible. But hear me out on this one. Have you ever gone to your bejeweled leader board on FB, only to find it dominated by other writers? Why is that do you suppose? Most people probably think writers are just wasting time and procrastinating their writing. But what we are really doing is actually helping us to write better novels. Here are some lessons writers learn from playing Bejewled Blitz...lots:
1. You don't have time to think, just let the mouse/muse take over. Zone out if you will and just go with it.
2. Don't always go for the obvious move. Be patient and let the different jewels/plot lines build up to make a more dramatic outcome.
3. Don't spend precious time thinking about what you should have done. Sometimes a missed opportunity leads to a better opportunity. This is true in life as well as writing. Don't find yourself thinking about what you should have done in a scene, save that for the rewrites otherwise you will stall out and waste precious time.
4. Go for the big moves. Don't be afraid to wait for the bigger, better points. Look for ways to manipulate the board/storyline to get the biggest effect.
5. Sometimes you just have to blow it up! Letting some jewels/plot lines blow up, makes room for more opportunities and bigger pay offs.

All these are important lessons in writing. So important, in fact, that I often dedicate hours at a time to let these lessons sink in. So next time you see me at the top of your leader board, you will know that I am just dedicating myself to my writing education!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

To Begin Again

I've written this blog post this morning about six different times. I kept going off on tangents I didn't really want to go on, and couldn't figure out how to get it back on track. See, I had an initial paragraph that I was going off of, a "slice of life" experience I thought would be a great opener. But after so many failed attempts, I realized that the opening paragraph is what was leading me astray. As much as I had struggled and polished that first paragraph already, I had to let it go and erase it completely and start over.

This is one of my biggest fears when it comes to writing. I'm so afraid of getting to a point where I've written myself into a corner that I don't even get to the corner in the first place. I get a few chapters in and then see the "possibility" of a corner, so I get discouraged and go on to a new project. Because I don't know about you, but when the work is so hard to begin with (and writing a first draft seems to be like pulling teeth without anesthetic for me), I can't stand the idea of having to discard a huge chunk of writing because I'd gotten off track. Sigh. Definitely something I am going to have to overcome if I ever expect to get published.

What are your bugaboos? What keeps you from finishing your WIP?

Monday, August 1, 2011

No Fear

I have a small confession to make. I am a "So You Think You Can Dance" addict. I like to pretend that my body can still do (as if it ever could, lol) the glorious things these dancers do.

I'm posting a link to one particular dance, and after it's over, THEN read on, because there will be spoilers.

So that LEAP!!! The parallel I'd like to draw to "the leap" is that is how we should be into this exploration and expansion of our talent. We know that it's been given to us by God. We need to be throwing ourselves into it, knowing we'll be caught, because the Lord would never have given us these talents only to drop us at our moment of greatest vulnerability. So live! Write with gusto and no fear, because in the end, we will always be caught.


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