Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday So What: Shortcut To Get Published

How do you get published? This is one of those super obnoxious chicken and the egg type questions. In an effort to get a book published, authors often run into the wall of platform and previous works.
Agents and publishers want to know that you have an audience. That people like your work. That you actually already know how to write. You know, the stuff you put in that all important Bio part of the query letter.

 In other words to get published, you have to already be published.

There's always the slush pile. You can get picked out of inbox sitting on an editor or agents desk. It happened to me. This is one of those lightning striking kind of things though. Right place, right time, bottle ready to catch that lightning.

But there is another way grasshoppers. Take a shortcut and build up your credentials. Enter Contests, start a super popular blog, submit short stories and essays to magazines, find places on the web looking for content writers.

Today I'm going to plug the first shortcut: Contests.  One in particular. In case you've been living under a rock...
Mormon Mommy Writers blog is having a contest.
 We are looking for personal essays, short stories, poems,  haiku, limmericks (just kidding), but you get the idea. The subject pertains to the title of our blog. Mormons, Mommies, and Writers. Write about one or all. You don't even have to be a Mormon or a Mommy to enter. Just a writer. Winners and honorable mentions will be published in an anthology.

So enter hopeful writers. What do you have to lose? Nothing. What do you have to gain? A publication credit. Something to put on that bio section.

Good luck! For more contest info use the above link. Submissions must be received by July 31.

Yes, in case you were wondering, I am a judge. Feel free to try to brown nose by becoming a follower of my other blogs Finished being Fat and Heavens to Betsy!

Friday, June 29, 2012

It's Friday Again

So, lots has changed here in Oklahoma since I last checked in. I started a new job--part time cashier--that is great and necessary (and honestly it's a miracle I even got hired) but it DOES significantly cut into my writing/editing time. While I try (still) to sort out my new schedule and fit writing in there somewhere between family, work, and the intense physical pain related to being on my feet all day, I thought I would share some fun things with you all.

First, my wonderful and talented editor got the final edits back to me for The Tyrant King. I'm almost halfway through the manuscript, and I have three whole days off next week to finish my corrections and send the book to my incredible friend Karen for typesetting.

Then, GASP--we will have a book!

Second, because I missed my planned June 20th publication date I posted the FIRST CHAPTER FREE on my website. Check it out and enjoy!

If you're new here, The Tyrant King is the sequel to my traditionally published first novel, The Peasant Queen. You can check TPQ out HERE or--if you haven't yet--read the alternate ending HERE.

That's all the goodies I have for you this week. Maybe next week I'll have details on my actual release date for TTK--and I will definitely share the information about my blog tour this September.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sometimes You Have To Be Cruel To Be Kind

...and I'm not just talking about critiques.

One of my critique 'besties' was giving me advice about my writing the other day.  She pointed out that the main character in my story was too protected.  That he was living in a bubble.  I realized immediately that she was right, and as I contemplated on the point, I began to see a pattern that extends back through all my work.

I take my protagonists and I wrap them in comforters, seal them in bubble wrap, and then tuck them carefully into a cushinoed box, before placing it on a high shelf.  They watch their story unfurl, but from a safe distance.

You see I like them, and I don't want them to get hurt.

The problem is, as the author, it's our job to dangle them over steep foreboding precipices by the tips of their bleeding fingers.  Our readers expect us to bring them as close to the edge of ruin and danger as we possibly can, without suspending belief.

Because then they can bring themselves back.  Because then the reader cares about our protagonists as much as we do.  Because then we have a story to tell.

What my friend pointed out was not new information.  It's not a radical idea, and yet I had never applied the notion to my own writing.

Now I understand - sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

Anybody have a pin?  I have some bubbles to go pop...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


My total and complete apologies for the tardiness of this post. I left home today for our annual ANWA retreat, three days of writing and writerly companionship with 30 other women. The retreat is being held in Show Low, AZ, and is only about a 3 1/2 hour drive from my home. I was also in charge of getting several members of my local chapter up here.
Which would explain why my battery was dead this morning when I got in the car. I had a moment of complete panic, then started calling around until I found someone nearby to come give me a jump and get me to the repair shop so I could be on my way.
I also finished, late last night, getting my daughter ready for her Pioneer Trek this weekend. And I'm leaving my 13 year old son in charge during the day while hubby is at work.
As you can tell, it's been very busy. And I could have easily said there was no way I could leave this week. But I came to this last year, and had one of the best and most rejuvenating times writing and filling my writing bucket. I couldn't stay away. I've been looking forward to this so much I could barely stand to wait.
So we got here late, but we got here. And I would have completely forgotten this post, only Nikki is also here, and reminded me. Such is the life of a scatterbrained writer.

So here's the question: What do you do to refill your writer bucket? Retreats? Conferences? Reading blogs? Writing blogs? WRITING?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dating in a Book Store

I do it, I'm rather certain you do it, and everyone else probably does it as well.  We judge books by their covers.  I am not saying there are not books out there with horrible covers housing a great story, I'm not even saying that a gorgeous cover can't house a real lemon.  However, a cover matters.

I am not certain if I have ever mentioned that my years in college were spent getting a degree in advertising and marketing.  I don't know if it is for this reason or just common sense, that I know the phrase "You can't judge a book by its cover," is a phrase that needs rebutted.  You can judge a book by its cover; however, that is not to say that you have judged it fairly.

If I arrive at a bookstore without any recommended purchases in mind, the first things I do are beeline for my favorite genre then start browsing the covers.  If the cover appeals to me then I pick it up to read the blurbs.  It is a game of dating.  There has to be an initial attraction before the getting to know you normally commences.  Maybe the initial interest comes from a friend's recommendation.  Like being setup.  But how often, or how willing are we to blind date our books?  Just go to your favorite genre grab a book that has its spine toward you and purchase it cover unseen.

What do you look for while you are prowling the book store aisles?  
What makes your heart quicken? 
 How do you make your pick?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Freelancing: How to Make Money With Your Writing

Things have been a little tight around our home lately, and I'm not just talking about how my clothes are fitting, though that's certainly a concern as well...

Is my friend Jenn not an awesome photographer? She sure knows how to help a fat woman's self-esteem, I tell ya.

Yes, baby #4 is due within the next few weeks and my husband has had his hours cut at work, so those little gears in my brain have been churning, trying to figure out what I can do to help close the budget gap. 

Granted, I'm going to have my hands full (literally) very soon, so I don't think I'm prepared to delve into a new career quite yet, but I thought that now might be a good time to start doing some research about what it takes to be a freelance writer. In the process, I thought I'd share what I've learned with you, dear readers, because chances are good that there are other Mormon Mommy Writers out there who would like to use their talents to contribute to their family income.

Fortunately, I have two lovely blogger friends who answered my e-mail inquiries and both realized the genius of my questioning and deemed it worthy of a post, so I'll just send you over to them! 

The first is from Brandi-Ann Uyemura. She describes herself as, "a full-time freelance writer, associate editor for Psych Central and a columnist for The Writer and Beliefnet Health." She blogs about freelancing, working from home, and writing in general. You can find an excerpt of my e-mail to her and her kind and thorough response here: Reader Q&A: Advice for a Beginning Freelance Writer

The second kind mentor is LC of Mommy Multitasking (a blog which I think should have a much larger readership because she's a great blogger!). LC is a work-at-home mommy of 2, so she has a great perspective on balancing writing from home with little ones. She took my request very seriously and gave us not one very informative post, but a whole series of FIVE posts about freelancing! Here they are for you to read and become enlightened:

A BIG thanks to these ladies for covering all the bases for me and taking the time to answer all my questions. I feel like when the time is right I will have a good jumping-off point should I choose to follow a freelancing path. 

Have you ever done freelance work or considered freelance writing as a potential source of income? Please leave a comment and share!

By the way, do NOT forget about our fantastic writing contest! If you are considering freelance writing, either now or in the future, a contest win is a GREAT addition to your resume. You have until July 31st to submit your entry- come on, give me something to read when I'm up all night with my newborn!! ;-)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Unexpected Blessings

     This month we have had the opportunity to travel to Utah to visit friends and family.  It is a 15 hour drive, plus time for stops.  With 3 young children and a dog, we were braced for a hectic, long day of travel.  We traveled as far as Moab, which is about 3 1/2 hours from our destination, and camped for a couple days before completing the drive.   Our kids and dog traveled so well and we made such good time that for the drive home we decided to go the whole way in one day.  Risky, but we figured we could do it.  Even though we didn't leave as early as we wanted, we started out well and were positive about the day... Until about an hour into the drive when my daughter threw up all over herself!  Ahh!  Luckily it was just before we entered Spanish Fork Canyon, literally the last possible place to pull over before the canyon.  So we pulled into the gas station and began the cleanup process.  While I was inside with my poor girl getting her into some clean clothes, two families pulled into the gas station to wait for the rest of their caravan.  When I saw them as we were walking back to our car, I had the thought to ask them if they happened to be LDS and if so, if there was somebody willing to help give our daughter a blessing.  I suggested this to my husband who had already had the same thought.  We were very blessed to find that they were indeed LDS and did have a worthy priesthood holder willing to help give a blessing.  I struggled to hold back the tears (I'm a baby when it comes to spiritual matters) as my husband and this willing servant of the Lord blessed my daughter to be healthy for the duration of our trip.  On top of that, when we thanked this young man, he said in return, "Thank you for the opportunity."  He truly felt it an opportunity to be a help and a blessing to those in need and it greatly blessed our lives that day.   We climbed in our van and continued on our journey, keeping silent prayers in our hearts that we would get through the day without having another similar incident.  I sat in the passenger seat looking out the window at the lovely Utah mountains as we drove through the canyon, and the thought came to me, Maybe we needed a delay.  I don't know why, I never will, but I couldn't shake the thought that something needed to happen that morning to delay our journey, and it could have been something much worse than a sick child.  I am grateful for the Lord watching over us that day, putting people in our path that could help, and protecting us from whatever may or may not have happened.   We ended up making great time, with happy children for the most part.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saturday So What: Mommy Writer's Guilt

I have an epic case of Mommy Writer's Guilt. I am neck deep in revisions and the changes that I thought would be easy, have ended up altering the entire structure of my book. Characters are falling by the wayside.  Lost and forgotten.  Including the two most important characters... my kids.

I have an almost 3 yr old and a 5 and half yr old. I'm worried that for the last week and the next one to come, they are orphans. My husband is going to school full time and in the middle of finals. When he's home, he's locked in his office.And I have spent at least 40 hours this week making the editorial revisions. Trying to meet my deadline in a week and a half.

If I don't lock myself away, then I am constantly distracted by the screaming and guts flying everywhere. Don't worry-- it was just the Teddy Bear's. He pulled through the reconstructive surgery. If I wait until they are asleep, I can only make it until 10 oclock before my brain turns to mush.

To make matters worse, next week I start school again too. For five hours a day, the little ones are going to be shipped off to grandma's, summer camp, or whoever else I can get to take them. I feel horrible. Up until this year, I have been a stay at home mom who's main task of the day was making sure the kids had bathtime.

 I am used to spending every waking moment with my kids. They still follow me to the bathroom. Now I'm seeing them less and less. Normally, I try not to let my WIP take time from my kids. I write during preschool or dance class. But schools out, and the deadline is looming.

Am I just making excuses by saying that it's only temporary? Just another week and then when I'm home.. I'm all theirs? Or am I horrible mommy neglecting my kids?

Do you struggle with writing and other pursuits getting in the way of family time? What do you do? Any thoughts or comments would be appreciated. Sorry that this isn't my normal upbeat kind of post, but I wanted to share what I was feeling.

Hopefully I can survive the next 8 days, but if not, you can read me post mortem :) This week's posts are De-Sensitivity Training for the Zombie Apocalypse and The Incredible Shrinking Catwoman.

Friday, June 22, 2012

I Slept In But I'm Calling it Research!

This week has been one of huge adjustments to my personal schedule. Monday I started a part-time job, and getting home late and exhausted every night has messed up my mornings. My great plan to be up at 7:30 so I can have a morning with my kids and start work (writing) at 10am got flushed.

But I haven't given up. Neither, apparently, has my brain. (I'm really hoping once I adjust to the schedule I'll get up and write again.)

Early this morning I started dreaming about a fantastic new main character. I'm going to blame my sis-in-law and our feverish plotting of our joint blog tour this coming September--her first book and my second-ish--because MEL writes about pirates. Yep, you guessed it--I had a pirate dream.

My main character was amazing. Feminine but tough, sassy but stylish. She had a best friend who disapproved in an I-love-you-and-don't-want-to-see-you-killed sort of way, and also the best friend hated seeing the main character dress like a man as she did before battle. And the MC had a love--a man who supported her and felt she ruled his world. I think he was a pirate too, or at least a privateer.

The world they roamed was one of fantasy--like Earth of old but with some definite extras. So describing it was a mixture of the familiar and unusual. And she had a ship and a loyal crew. But one flaw my MC has is she relies heavily on being underestimated--and you know that's the sort of thing that will come back and bite her in the end. Eventually someone WON'T underestimate her, and then she'll really be in trouble.

I woke up a few times during the dreams but was always able to refresh her in my mind. So I lay there for extra long trying to iron out the details I wanted to keep--and pull some essentials from my subconscious. Like her name. Which, unfortunately, has been lost in the recesses of my mind.

So, yes. I slept in this morning. But I'm calling it research. :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Is it really Thursday?

I have to apologize that my post is so late today.  I've been sick this week, and trying to get ready for my son's fifth birthday party this weekend, and the end of the school year next week, among other standard life needs and demands on time.  I spent thoughtful moments brainstorming this morning on a possible topic for this week's post - for tomorrow.  I just came on to check for inspiration from today's contributor, and realized, "Oh my goodness, today is Thursday!  I'm supposed to be today's contributor!"

I really don't know where my head is.  I swore today was Wednesday.

So for lack of time and in a panic, I'm going to share a quick thought with you.

On Sunday, as my children and I were preparing brunch for Father's Day, I stood at the sink with my two oldest, who were helping wash up a few dishes.  We were enjoying a cheery conversation, some uplifting Sabbath music, and the joyous spirit that comes with celebrating the wonderful Father's in our lives.

As I was reflecting on the very topic of family, my daughter turned to me and said, "Mom, I feel like you're lucky to have us as children."

My heart about melted, because I couldn't agree more.

It was just another one of those moments when you realize how important the role of parenthood really is.  And why we must learn to balance our lives.

Have a lovely Thursday evening!  I will see you next week, hopefully better prepared.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The First Door

So I've been working on a chapter by chapter synopsis of my current WIP. I finally figured out that I needed to give myself permission to know the whole story beginning to end. I've written (pantser style) into the middle so many times and gotten stuck, this time I knew a new way to finish the story was necessary.
Well, I'd gotten to the middle in the synopsis about a month ago, but reality came crashing through. I'd put it aside, not sure where to go. Yesterday, though, it finally came to me that I'd reached that point where my main character had reached the first door. What is the first door? It's that point where your main character has to make a choice...a choice that will change everything, a choice they can't take back. They walk through that door and shut it behind them.
When I realized that, and understood what choices my MC is going to make, it changed everything that comes after. And it opened all new avenues where the ideas are flowing fast and furious. And suddenly I can't wait to run with it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Alien Invasion

I don't know what is up with me recently but I keep on thinking about alien invasion. I told my husband just the other night that if there were a world wide attack like War of the Worlds, I might want to have been in that first group of victims that never had to run in fear just got killed before they knew of danger. My husband said he would want to be the one to hunt down and kill the invaders. I found that an accurate response to both of our personalities. I stress too much and would not handle such a circumstance very well. My DH has played his fair share of Halo and other video games Therefore his easy confidence in himself leads him to trust he is prepared for battle.

Today I visited the local botanical gardens and enjoyed a guided tour. Our guide pointed out a statue of an eagle that whose sculptor and donator remains unknown. I informed my sister that it really is a pod sent my an alien race planted for a future attack. Because as an creator of word art I refuse to believe anyone could stand to put so much effort into their work and not want recognition.

Ok I know I sound like a total loon. I am not really worried about an alien invasion. I honestly don't know why it has been popping up into my thoughts randomly. Maybe it is because the MiB3 movie trailers. Maybe there is a story in there somewhere. But for now I will focus on my current work in progress. Maybe I will play a few levels of Halo to be prepared. ;).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Review: Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire by Rafe Esquith

I was visiting my mom over spring break this year and we happened to run into her neighbor, a mother of 6 (7?) who homeschools her children. We got to talking about homeschooling and educating our children in general, and I told her that though I do not homeschool, I have always left it open as an option should I feel the need arise (either because of a child struggling in school or school turning into a negative environment for whatever reason). She recommended that I read, "Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire" by Rafe Esquith. She told me that he was a remarkable teacher and that reading his book had really inspired her to be a better teacher to her children.

Well, even though I don't technically homeschool, I am always interested in ways to teach my children at home, and I love motivational books, so I decided to check this book out.

Let me say, I can understand where she was coming from with her positive comments about this book! I found it to be very motivational and inspiring, and in fact I think that every teacher in America needs to read it and learn from this guy.

Disclaimer: Rafe Esquith is slightly crazy. Like, gets-to-school-at-6:30am-and-teaches-through-recess-and-lunch-and-doesn't-go-home-till-after-6:30pm-and-even-teaches-on-Saturdays-and-takes-kids-on-weekend-field-trips crazy. That kind. Dedication with a capital "D". I understand that most teachers can't do that- they have lives! But here are a few things I did pick up from Mr. Esquith that I think we as moms can appreciate and benefit from:

- The 6 Levels of Moral Development. Watch this short video and you'll get a very good idea of why this guy's such an amazing teacher. If only I could figure out how to get my kids to understand this...

- Education is about life, not about grades. Esquith constantly demonstrates in his book that the activities that take place in his classroom are not about getting good grades or even mastering the subject matter- they're about taking responsibility, learning teamwork, organization, and problem-solving, and building life skills that will benefit you as an adult.

- Subjects are not mutually exclusive. Esquith teaches math with music, literature with history, and so on. He recognizes that every moment the students have in his classroom is a precious moment that should not be wasted, so he makes the most out of every lesson and activity.

- Tests are sneaky. Esquith does this great exercise to prepare his kids for standardized tests: He puts a math problem up on the board, say 247-89 = ?. Then he writes a. b. c. d. He asks students for answers to put next to each choice. First c. 158 - the right answer. Next, d. 336 - that's for the kid who added instead of subtracted. a. 178- for the kid who forgot to borrow correctly. b. 258 - for the other kid who messed up the borrowing. He teaches them that they might do the problem and get an answer that's listed under the possible options, but they still need to double-check their work because the people who make the tests know all the pitfalls and put trick answers in to catch them. Smart!

- Get out of their way. Esquith constantly emphasizes in this book how independent his students become under his guidance. He truly teaches them to take ownership of their own lives, their own education, and their own problems. He reminds us that we're raising adults, not children.

- Expect more. Esquith asks, Why shouldn't a 5th-grader get passionate about Shakespeare or create complex works of string art or learn to read music? Kids have a greater capacity to learn and understand than you might think.

These are just a few of the great tidbits I got from this book. Really, my only criticism of the book (aside from the fact that the intensity of his methods are simply not reasonable for most teachers) is that he didn't go into more detail, like with the 6 Levels of Moral Development- he never really explains how he implements this level of thinking and reinforces it during the year. At times I felt like he wrote this book like his hair was on fire! I certainly hope to see more from him in the future (although he's so busy I'm not sure how he even got this book written- which is probably the reason why it was so succinct!) because I feel he has a lot of great insights.

Overall, it was a great read that definitely gave me a lot to think about, and I bought it for my kids' teachers as their year-end gift. I will probably also purchase it for their new teachers next year at the beginning of the year, because this is the kind of thinking I'd like to see more of in our classrooms. I truly feel like teachers, just like anyone else, get stuck in a rut and need to open new avenues in their brains. Books like Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire are a great way to do that.

 Do you homeschool? Have you read this book? What do you think of Esquith's methods? How do you feel about the condition of public schools in our country? Will you be doing any educating at home with your kids this summer?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

I'm All Alone...and Happy Father's Day!

  This marks the third and last week of writing solo for me. Ashley has been on a trip with her family and has been busy, busy, busy. I'll be honest, I have a new respect for all you solo writers out there. I have learned a little about myself as a writer these past few weeks, the number one thing being I don't think I was meant to be a solo writer. As co writers Ash and I are able to kind of hand off our work when we have brain-dead moments or writers block. We are able to share our creativity and expand on each other's ideas. One of the other things I've learned is that writing is not quite as fun for me when I'm not doing it with my partner. A good portion of the satisfaction and joy I get from writing really comes from the experience of sharing it with my sister.
  Now, on to the important part of this post.

  Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. I know this is typically a blog for the mommy writers, but there's plenty of daddy writers out there too.
  I'm going to take this opportunity to spotlight my own dad. I really believe I have the best dad in the world. When I think of my dad I often think of The Giving Tree. My dad would give his kids, as well as others, everything he has. He has given his children and his wife all we could ever want, we never went without. My dad taught us. We were never very good at having official Family Home Evening, but we did sit together as a family and talk. My dad often taught us at the dinner table. Some of my favorite memories are sitting around our table as a family laughing and learning together. My dad has always been such an awesome example. One of the greatest things my dad has done for our family is love my mom. My dad has truly cherished my mom and in doing so taught my sisters and myself how we should be treated.
  Now I'd like to brag a bit about my husband. He is a wonderful, amazing father. He adores his girls. He will play Barbies and drink "tea" from a little fairy tea cup. He does everything a good daddy should do. And, like my own dad, my DH adores me and treats me far better than I feel I deserve. He is the kind of husband that would move heaven and earth if it would make me happy. He is a man of integrity and a worthy priesthood holder. I hope and wish every woman could have a husband like mine. 
Happy father's day to all you dad's out there!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Saturday So What: Revisions

Today, I am searching for the vision in revisions. I'm currently working on three different books, each of them in a different stage of the the revision process.

Finished being Fat, is in the line edit stage. No thought required. Just fix the grammatic mistakes, a few word choices here and there.. and voila. Done.

Trouble's on the Menu, is in the editorial revision stage. That's where my editor has read through the manuscript, accepted it, but has a list of changes she wants before it goes to press. These can get really nit picky or broad. Most notes are content based. One in particular has me eliminating an entire character from the book.  I'm not gonna lie, it hurts, and it's a lot of work. There's an element of pride involved. Finding out some of the things you thought were clever turned out to be lame. But I have to change it anyway. Why? Because they're paying me to and my contract says I have to. LOL

House of Emerald is so much trickier. It's still in the pre-submittal phase. I'm working on it with my critique groups and a beta reader or two. This is where I need to find the vision. My vision, because everyone else has one as well. I have notes that say I need more description, I have notes that say I am using too much description. If I followed every single critique I've gotten, my book would be a mess. It's easy to take everyone's advice as law. But it's not. It's an opinion. And in the end, I need to weigh them and then trust my gut and incorporate some of the suggestions.

Revisions can be tough. It's really easy to get lost, but the best advice I can give is to remember one thing. It's your book. You make all the decisions until you sign that puppy over to someone else.  And even then if you really believe something, there's a bit of wiggle room. Trust yourself and your vision. At the same time, realize that sometimes you have to let a few favorite lines go for the good of the book.  Make a separate word file and cut and paste them over there. Never know when they might come in handy.

Thanks for reading. You can pick up a few pointers on character voicing on my blog post Tut, tut, looks like rain. Or read about the post marathon let down in ... now what?  See you next week.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Right Brain, Left Brain

I feel like this post is a bit Dr Seuss--One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.

Once I had a bestselling author explain to me that he can't write and promote books at the same time. For him, writing required the creative side of his brain where promoting (marketing) required the more analytical, businesslike side. I'm not a bestselling author by any stretch of the imagination, but I totally understand what he means.

For me, it's writing and editing.

Drafting that first pass of any manuscript requires you to let loose your creative side, to plot, dream, challenge, and grow that part of your brain.

Editing, however, requires a more detached, analytical view of your work. You can't afford to LOVE it while you're trying to FIX it. Some things have to change; others need to be ditched completely.

This month I have divided my time up between writing and editing. Between working on edits for one book as I get them back from my editor, I'm working on the first draft of another book. And it's HARD. I find myself trying to draft while having a serious plot block (like a writer's block, but with the plot--not knowing what comes next), or going back through what I've already written to answer a question--like what is the character wearing--and wanting to edit it as I go. It takes an extreme sense of control to not give in to the impulse. Yes, I'm still working on it.

Yesterday I had an awesome breakthrough about my plot problem and I'm so excited to charge right through the current block.

Who's willing to bet that tomorrow I get another round of edits back for the other book? :)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

It Will Make More Sense

My husband and I were introduced to a new game at a friend's house Sunday night.  It's a card game called 'Killer Bunnies' that we'd seen before, and being avid 'board' gamers (or card games in this case), we had seen it in the store and wondered if it would be fun.

Our friends pulled out the important cards and took ten minutes to explain the somewhat straight forward/ somewhat complicated rules and card purposes.  Then the uttered the phrase that I think gets said just about every time you teach/learn/see a new game.

"It will make more sense as you play."

I've said it before, I've heard it before, and it's completely true.

Sometimes no matter how clear and thorough you try to be with an explanation, the best way to learn a new game is to play it.

I can't help but feel it's true to writing as well.  We can and should read and research and learn the somewhat straight forward/ somewhat complicated rules grammar and pathway to publication.  But it isn't until we actually sit down and right that all the pieces come together, skill and talent merging, to allow the task of writing to make sense.

And if you're looking for a fun new game, I recommend Killer Bunnies.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Seeing it in a New Light

I am a huge Les Mis (the musical) fan. I was squealing with delight to hear that they were making the musical into a movie with an incredible cast. Hugh Jackman is playing Jean Valjean. Anne Hathaway plays Fantine. I could go on and on. Here is the trailer. You can see for yourself.

But what I wanted to share was a conversation I had with my sister this past weekend. My sister is in theater, graduated in vocal performance, does musicals in Southern California where she lives. She, too, is a rabid Les Mis fan. For her and her theater fans, this musical is almost sacred. And Anne Hathaway's performance here, according to them, is not up to "theater" standard.

I would agree with that, but I also disagree with the premise: that because Les Mis was a musical, that is the only way it should be performed. On stage, by stage performers. I loved this trailer, and I loved Anne's vocal performance of it. Film is so much more intimate a setting. It would be too much, too over the top to have these actors performing these songs as they would if they were on stage. (The Producers, anyone?) The performance has to be so much bigger, so much broader, so that the last person sitting in the worst seat in the house can feel like they're right in the middle of the action. On film it's the opposite. The actor has to be subtle, they have to bring in the audience by the gentle nuances of their face and voice. So in my mind, this trailer promises fabulous things, because it will bring you right into the heart of the story and music without pushing you way with its intensity.

That's what having other people read your work can do for you. It lets you see where you maybe over reaching or where you may have been so subtle that your character is flatlining. And it's good to have people from all walks of life read it. Other writers, people who just like to read, your Mother who will just say it's marvelous (because we need that too). So get it out there. Let them read it. And learn to see your sacred baby in a new light.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Unforgettable Characters

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine insisted that my life would forever be incomplete until I read one of her new favorite books Demons at Deadnight by A&E Kirk (a mother and daughter writing team). 

I loved that it was a family writing team, since we at MMW get to here from a sister act here.  But the story, sucked me in from the very very beginning.  The main character's unique voice made me laugh and cheer her on. And the group of teenage boys, The Hex Boys, are so adorable.  I finished the book a week ago and I keep opening my kindle wanting to read more.  I am not certain when the sequel will be released but it will make the top of my to read list when it does.

I hope my characters will be as memorable as A&E's.  If you haven't read Demons at Deadnight I insist.  You will fall in love.

Under Contract

We talk a lot on this blog about finding time to write, making time to write, squeezing writing in to our hectic mommy schedules, and making our writing time productive. This week I came across a great article that gave me a new perspective on this never-ending conundrum of the writer.

Being a writer shares a lot with being a mom and a housewife. It's something that requires work, but we technically have no boss, receive no paycheck (yet!), and have no real set schedule. By definition, the fact that we're creative means that the idea of structure makes us a little bit uncomfortable. It defies the process, right?

Hmm...think again.

I picked up my "O" magazine this month, and while flipping through the pages I came across the article, "A Contract of One's Own" by Aimee Bender. To make a long article short, Bender talked about how she came to sign a contract with a friend who is a writer.

She would write five days a week for an hour. As a firm reminder, every day, when she finished her hour, she would e-mail me one word: Done, and at some point during the day, I would e-mail back Check

Bender talks about the reasoning behind this arrangement, which makes perfect sense to me. She writes, "Writing every day can be a powerful action, a gesture of belief in one's own imagination..."

YES! Love that.

She also said, "...the more I can externalize the ritual, the easier it is to submit to it. It's all a declaration against the regular dread I used to feel all the time when I wasn't writing."

When you "externalize the ritual" and put it into someone else's hands (even if that "someone else" is a contract on a piece of paper) then you eliminate the questions that slog up your mentality when it comes to writing- you don't have to worry about the how, the when, the where, the why, etc.- you've already spelled it all out for yourself. You don't have to find the time, you've made the time. Bender writes,

The integrity of the system itself is actually more important to me than the daily content, because content will return, and it mostly just needs a reliable container in which to put itself. 

If you do something like she did with her friend, and make a contract, a promise to yourself, then you give your dreams, your vision, and your creativity a "reliable container." If you're thirsty and you believe it will rain, you put out something to catch the rain. If instead you wait for the rain to start then you might be too busy doing something else to catch any of it and those precious drops will slip away.

Ironically, this is the way the rest of the world works. This is why companies have times that employees clock in, and set days and times for events, and have routines and schedules. We see it in other aspects of our lives as well: we don't arrive at church on Sunday morning hoping they get the Sacrament squeezed into the 3-hour block- it's a ceremony with a dedicated time slot, no variation, just like every other church meeting.

Bender writes that, "guilt and dread are, after all, creativity killers." Standardization of your writing time removes both the dread (because when it's writing time, it's writing time, period.) and guilt (because when you're not doing it you're not supposed to be doing it).

On the other hand, she also mentions something I'd never thought of- she says that when her time is up, it's up, regardless of whether or not she's 'on a roll'. She believes in "leaving the work when the going's good so that there's excitement when the writer sits down the next day."

I apologize, I know this was a long post, but this article excited me and I wanted to share my thoughts on it with all of you, in hopes that you might find some inspiration for accomplishing your writing goals this summer.

I would be happy to be anyone's "contract partner" if desired, and I would love to have someone do the same for me (taking into account that I will need some "maternity leave" next month!). The basic "Writer's Contract" is available online at

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I’m Raising a White Rabbit

   This morning as I was rushing my girls to get ready for church a thought occurred to me, a thought that comes to me whenever I’m rushing to get somewhere. 

I’m raising a white rabbit.

   I realized that today, like most days when I’m trying to get my kids ready and actually leave on time, that I say “we’re going to be late” or “hurry, hurry!” about a dozen times.  What kind of impression is this leaving on my kids? The answer?  Let me share a little story with you.  Not too long ago I told my girls that we would be going to the grocery store.  I instructed them that after they finished breakfast they would need to get bathed and dressed and then brush their teeth.  Like the good little girls they are they finished their breakfast then went upstairs to get in the tub.  The morning went smooth with no real issues (go figure, we weren’t on a schedule!) In not much time they were dressed and ready to leave.  *A little side not here, whenever we go anywhere we have to doggy proof our house because our beloved creature, Maverick, gets a little anxious when we leave.  Lets just say he’s a nervous eater and a little high strung when he’s by himself.
   So my girls were ready and heading out the door when my oldest turns and shouts back in to me while I’m doggy proofing “Mom! We need to hurry.  We’re going to be late!”  She said it with such desperation, as if the world hinged on us getting to the grocery store “on time.”  I sighed internally and explained to her that we were not late, that we did not have to be at the store at any particular time, and that we were OK.  It was at this moment that I realized that most of the time when my girls are getting ready either my husband or myself are not far from them urging them to move quicker so we wont be late. So much so that any time we get ready to go anywhere my oldest just assumes we need to hurry or we’ll be late. I’ve been trying to be better, trying to take a breath and realized that it’s OK to be a little late sometimes, life will go on.  Don’t get me wrong, we should be on time to church, or appointments, or any other obligations we have, but I think in the hubbub and stress of our high paced lives we forget that in the midst of all our rushing sometimes our children get lost in the confusion of the race.  What’s the solution to this problem?  I have no idea.  However, I have made it a goal that even if we are late I will not let my anxiety affect my children.  It’s kind of a lofty goal, but it’s something I’m going to work on and strive towards.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Saturday So What: How Do You Write a Book?

So What am I doing today? This morning, on June 9th, I am running a marathon. It's my second. I still think I'm crazy.
So What am I doing tomorrow? If I'm still alive, I'm writing a book. It's my third. I still think I'm crazy.

Every once and awhile I get really overwhelmed and think What the heck am I doing? The massiveness of the tasks I'm about to do freak me out. Running for 5 + hours straight? Who does that? How is it even possible? And writing a whole book? Making up worlds, characters, plots?  Who the heck do I think I'm kidding here?

Sometimes I'm at the beginning, looking ahead, and the end seems so impossibly far away. Other times I get lost in the middle, tired and weary of the journey. When I finally cross that finish line, I look back in disbelief and ask how I got here.

How do you run a marathon? By moving forward, one step at a time.
How do you write a book? By moving forward, one step at a time.

It's the same principle. If I look entirely at a project with macro vision, it looks too big and I want to run away screaming.  If I break it up into sections, a mile here, a chapter there... it's doable. Marathons have training schedules, so should books.

Start small with just a concept. A central conceit. Then build on it. Add your characters, build your world around them. Give them problems, tensions, peril. Now that you have a basic concept of where you are going... go. Take it one chapter at a time. Don't worry about the 25 chapters (miles) ahead of you. Focus on the one you're in. Then move onto the next one... and the next. Before you know it, you're at the end.

So when people ask me for advice on running a marathon or writing a book, the advice is the exact same.
Start at the beginning and keep working towards the end. Pace yourself and never give up. You'll get there eventually, I promise.

Come visit my blogs to learn about Facebook Faux Pas, and more about my marathon

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Write Away

I think 'busy-ness' is a common ingredient in the lives of women.  I know that most of us wear many hats daily, all of which are important, fulfilling and demanding.  As Mormons we hold callings (sometimes more than one) that occupy a good deal of our thoughts, time, efforts and creative energy.  As Mothers (and wives) we are always on call, meeting the needs of children at different developmental stages and who face different trials and challenges.  Many of us are also fully immersed in someway in the workforce (on top of the very important career of motherhood).

So sometimes, being a writer gets overlooked, shelved, or put on the back burner.  The stories and characters and worlds that beckon to us have to whisper in the quiet recesses of our mind until we have the ability to reach out and work with them.

I dedicated a lot of (okay most of) my spare time in the evenings these past few months to working on a first draft of a novel, often sacrificing sleep and staying up way too late to reach a word count goal, or flesh out a scene I desperately needed to finish.  Now that I'm done that draft, and the project has been shelved for a breather, I've turned my attention to projects and household maintenance that got somewhat neglected during that time.

Suddenly, I realize I've stopped writing altogether.  I'm not ready to start revisions, and not in the position to start a new first draft of a different project.  So, I ask myself, how do I keep the flow of writing going, when I don't have a WIP?

Here's some ideas I had (and I would love for you to share yours as well):

1. write a blog post
2. write in your journal
3. write a letter to a friend (or missionary)
4. write a short story
5. write an entry for the MMW contest
6. ask a child to tell you a story and write it down
7. empty the thoughts in your head onto paper
8. write out a prayer
9. write a letter to a politician about a cause you believe in
10. write thank you cards to friends, family, neighbors or teachers who inspire you.

One thing I know for certain - if we didn't truly love the exploration of words, and the interplay of story arc and tension - if the characters in our heads weren't as real as the flesh-and-blood friends we know and cherish - with all the other hats in our closet, we wouldn't be doing this.

So write away, dear friends, write away!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Contest and Recharging your Batteries

On last week's post I had a comment asking for more information and clarification on what we are looking for in our "Mormon, Mommy, or Writer" contest. To restate, we want fictional short stories under 4000 words, personal essays, or poetry relating to one or any combination of all three aspects, Mormon, Mommy, or Writer. We thought in general this would lead to submissions of an uplifting nature, maybe "Chicken Soup for the Mormon Mommy Writer's Soul" or some such. That's not to say that it couldn't be something completely different or off the wall. And just because we were thinking one way doesn't mean we would automatically exclude anything that didn't fit in that mold. We tried a tight mold last time, and found it too restrictive, so this time we were hoping to give a greater leeway to encourage more submissions. We just want to see whatever you have to submit! Send it in!

On to other matters. I'm sure you might have noticed that the past few posts by me tended to revolve around how overwhelmed I've felt with the activities that arrived with a bang in May. And while I enjoyed it all, it was very tiring. And I missed writing a lot. I sometimes have guilt when I can write and don't, choosing other activities, but this time I deliberately put it all on the back burner, knowing that I would not have time to write, and if I did write, I would feel guilty over ignoring the other things I needed to do. So now that I'm at a point where I can take a break and start writing again. My characters have waited impatiently, indeed. There have been many whispers about possibilities that I longed to write down. And coming back to it has been refreshing. Though I was so busy with other things, it felt wonderful to write and think seriously about where my story is going again. And I found that deliberately pushing it aside when it didn't want to be, I have a renewed passion to get it finished.

So though I don't recommend doing it the way I did, think about how you can recharge your batteries for a certain story. Because sometimes you just need to do it, even when you don't think so.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

If I Owned a Big Publishing House

First of all this is Nikki filling in for Amber today. I'm so glad to be back. Be sure to tell me hello in the comments. I've missed posting so much! My first matter of business is to tell you who won the contest Amner announced last Tuesday. And the winner of "The Most Important Catch" by Jaclyn M. Hawkes is ... ARIELL LARSON! Congratulations! Email us at mormonmommwriters at gmail dot com. Now comes my blog post where I ramble about my ridiculous thoughts. (I'm sure you've missed that! LOL!) If I owned a big publishing house... If I owned a big publishing house I wouldn't be afraid of Amazon one little bit.  Why?  Because fear is a debilitating emotion that undermines success.  But instead I would be determined to show them just who they are dealing with.  First of all, I wouldn't be contracting less authors and books, I would be publishing more books!  This means that every writer I sign is one less writer that Amazon can make a profit off of.  Also, if I can't beat Amazon at their game, I would join them.  Instead of turning my nose up at self-publishing, I would open my own department.  If writers had the choice of self-publishing (publishing on demand) through Amazon or through a division of someone like Simon & Schuster, I'm pretty sure Amazon would lose every time.   I would also start a partnership division where writers can purchase publishing services like covers, and editing.  Again, if writers have the choice between buying services from a reputable publishing company like Random House, the number of scammers posing as publishers would go down because no one would want to use them!   For e-books, I would give the readers what they want.  I would have ebooks available in all varieties of prices.  Since I have two new divisions of self-publishing and partnership publishing, I would have a variety of books to put into different price ranges, in most cases, allowing the author to choose a price range based off my projections of where they would do best in the market.   For agents, this would mean they could sign more writers and help them find the publisher with the best services for their book.  Plus, agents could find writers on places like Wattpad and Authonomy finding those gems that could make it in traditional publishing but I would also give agents a small finders fee for sending me writers that would be a good fit for my partnership publishing.   For book stores like Barnes & Nobles, I would suggest computers or screens on the wall dedicated to POD books that they can order through the website and pick up in store without shipping fees.  I would also suggest having a bigger online review page like Amazon.  The way to make it big is to offer free e-books to readers to write a certain number of reviews and ratings.  Then taking these reviews, the book stores can stock a certain number of POD books on their shelves based on the ratings received.   For readers, this means having more choices and more power in the publishing world.   For writers, this means being able to have more doors open allowing more avenues for your creative stories to blossom.   Now I am just a normal working mom who writes on the side and my notions and thoughts may be a bit on the naive side.  But it seems to me that the first big publishing house to adopt some of these ideas will leave Amazon shaking in their boots.  Why?  Because right now, writers and readers would rather deal with publishers and bookstores whose whole focus are books.  Not a company that also sells toilet cleaners on the side.  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Because You Don't Know What You Don't Know

Have you ever learned something new that made you stop and say, "How in the world did I not ever know about this before???"

I had one of those moments last week when I came across a documentary on North Korea. I was curious about it because I once had a friend in the military who had served on the North/South Korea border and I'm always hearing about Korea in the news and Lisa Ling was involved with the program and I think she's really cool. So I watched. And I was SHOCKED.

For those of you who are not familiar with the situation in North Korea, you would probably be as astonished as I was. Imagine the world of the Hunger Games only worse- much worse. In the simplest of terms, it would appear (though it's hard to say because this "inside look" was just a small percentage of the population) that the entire country has either been brainwashed to worship one man, a communist dictator, or they are so afraid of him that they don't speak out even if they hate the man. There are no cell phones or internet allowed in the country; the only images or photos displayed anywhere are of this leader; the only books are those written by either this leader or his father (the dictator before him) and should anyone dare to speak one false word against this man their entire family will be killed. There are concentration ("work") camps all over the country, children are dying every day of malnutrition, and the only communication that comes from North Korea is propaganda in which every citizen is pictured as being happy-go-lucky and thankful to their great and wonderful leader for the beautiful life he has provided for them.

Lisa Ling traveled with a talented doctor who was teaching surgeons there how to perform a simple surgery to reverse blindness caused by cataracts. He gave many patients their sight, and when they were able to see, what did they do? They fell down and worshipped the image of their "great leader", praising him and thanking him for giving them their sight, promising renewed devotion.

At the time of filming, Lisa Ling was told that she was the only American in the country. No other countries even have embassies there. They have essentially shut out the entire world. (Can I insert here how brave I think Ms. Ling is?) The borders of the country (the "demilitarized zone") are a death trap of land mines and electrified barbed wire fences. The dictator has basically imprisoned an entire country of people.

So...what does this have to do with writing?

Well, I had another little epiphany this week when I was working at my children's school. I was just out in the hallway, taking down artwork, and I watched these little second-graders scurrying around from one thing to another, and I thought about how much they learn in a few weeks' time and how remarkable that truly is. They start out the beginning of the week not even knowing what a fraction is, and by the end of the next week they're taking tests on it.

I thought to myself, "What do I learn in a few weeks?" I suddenly felt a little bit sad, because I knew that even though I have aged and my brain is not as nimble as these sweet little 7- and 8-year-olds, I still have that incredible capacity to learn. What am I doing with it?

So, to sum up, ladies, this world is full of knowledge. We might think that as women, wives, mothers, and writers, we know all that we need to know. And perhaps we do. But does that mean that we're done learning? I'm talking about more than just trying out that new method for making bread or that new parenting technique- these things are important, and certainly should be a part of our daily learning. But I would like to challenge all of us to thirst for more. We live in a big world, and there is so much for us to learn. You don't know what you don't know, and once you find out...well, it could change your whole outlook.

I challenge you to make this summer your summer of learning! Follow your curiosity, let it lead you to increased knowledge and increased awareness of your world.

Have you ever been shocked to discover what you didn't know you didn't know?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What's Writing Without a Little Music?

     Ashley and I grew up surrounded by music. We both had piano lessons. Ashley plays the flute and oboe. I played the clarinet and still play piano when I find the time. We grew up with a mom that sang to us, a grandma that had a song for ever situation and occasion, and a family that cherishes music and it's influence.  I believe that the kind of music we listen to is as important as the kinds of books we read. Music effects us just as much as the words we read. It touches us and influences our moods, connecting with our emotions.  I love a wide variety of music from classical to country to oldies & rock n' roll, and alternative rock and most everything in between. I love new stuff as well as  the old. My favorite is what I call "happy summer time music." These are the songs (could be any genre) that make me jump and dance around my house with a big goofy grin on my face. (I'm sure if the neighbors could see me they'd think I was a little nutty...but that's OK!)  I have found that when I'm writing, certain music helps my brain to work smoother, allowing ideas to flow. Sometimes the kind of music I listen to when I write is determined by what is going on in my current WIP. Other times I find the best music to listen to while writing is the music playing in my mind. (does that make me sound too crazy?!) When I write or think of the story I'm working on I see it playing in my mind like a movie, and in my experience there's never been a good movie that didn't have music playing.  Is there a certain song or kind of music that helps you write?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Saturday So What: Busting Up The Writer's Block

As I prepared for this week's So What, I literally said to myself, Eh... I got nothing.
Ugh. How do you get past Writer's Block?
Bing! Lightbulb. The absence of inspiration was an inspiration in itself. So today's post is dedicated to breaking up the giant brick the stops the flow of ideas.

First thing to know is that it's not just you. Don't panic. It's normal and it happens to everyone.
Second thing to know is that it's not permanent. Your brain has not been erased. Think instead of it like a kink in the hose, something stopping all your brilliant ideas that are just waiting to flow into your brain.

These are the things I do to unkink the hose. First I try to remove myself from all the stressors in my life. This usually means going for a run or locking myself in my writing cave and throwing a box of cereal at the children. If that's not enough, I will write down on a pad of paper all the things that are occupying my brain, taking up valuable creative space.

Next step would be to just write. Anything. Blog posts. Journal entries. Letters to missionaries. I actually like to write useless unimportant things. Something I can truly be creative with. This weeks exercise was writing a grocery list... if I was an alien on a planet of fish people.

Sometimes to the only way to find something is to stop looking. Like when you lose your keys and you search frantically for hours. When you give up and do something else, like laundry- voila it was in your jeans. Stop looking for your own inspiration and enjoy someone else's. This is my absolutely-works-ever-time method. Reading a favorite book or watching my favorite movie. It gets the juices flowing when nothing else does. Being immersed in someone else's creativity tickles my own I guess.

What do you have to add my list. I wanna know. I would also love any suggestions for topics for future So Whats.

You can read more of moi and my balancing act of life, and my awesome ideas for portion control.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The More I Learn

The better I will be (hopefully). :)

My primary focus lately has been on editing. The learning curve got so steep I almost fell off. Seriously. I put what I thought I knew into The Tyrant King, had test readers and self edited it until I didn't think I could do any more to it. Then an actual editor got their hands on it, and it's a whole new ballgame.

First off, I don't know nearly as much as I thought I did. That one wasn't must of a surprise. It's kind of like all the rules I was following were for mainstream fiction and not so much for fantasy. You actually write fantasy a little different.

I also have a huge problem with repetitive words. Not the same word every time, but sections of the story where I use a word over and over. Not too easy to do a whole MS search for those when they vary with each section. (no lie, I also had a lot of repetitive words throughout the MS that I could search and replace) And the word "said." I was told it was pretty much an invisible word, but, apparently, you can use invisible words too many times.

I'm not saying any of this to freak you out. And you can't really use my editing experiences to take apart your MS. All writers are unique. I'm only using these examples to illustrate what I don't know.

Most of you are aware I have a traditionally published novel. The problem there is that I learned almost nothing through their editing process. (which is actually something else I suspected) I also think that contributed to the fact that they didn't accept the sequel. Looking at my MS from an outside POV I'd have to say I probably would have thought it had too many problems to publish.

Editing is golden. Even though the learning curve is steep, I'm really getting a lot out of it. Not that any of this is easy. It's hard to feel like you've got the best thing you can do only to have someone pick it apart and tell you everything that's wrong with it. What I am learning, though, is that what I thought was my best wasn't. Yet.

Now if only I could work out my comma handicap...


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