Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Shack

The Shack, by William P. Young, is an interesting book. I didn't enjoy it, largely because it centres around the murder of a little girl, and as the mother of three daughters I found that distressing. I also felt that it was essentially the author's unusual and controversial religious views dressed up as a novel. (There has been considerable outcry about the doctrinal content, with one commentator calling it "deeply troubling" and "undiluted heresy".)

But it seems to me that it is unique in fiction, in that it is in fact a sermon turned into a story.

I read the Wikipedia entry for The Shack with interest. Here is it, slightly edited.

The Shack is a Christian novel by Canadian author William P. Young. The novel was self-published. The Shack went largely unnoticed for over a year after its initial publication, but suddenly became a very popular seller when it debuted at number 1 on the New York Times paperback fiction best sellers list. Its success was the result of word of mouth promotion in churches and Christian-themed radio, websites, and blogs. As of May 2010, The Shack had over 10 million copies in print, and had been at number 1 on the New York Times best seller list for 70 weeks.

But maybe The Shack isn't quite so unique. My new book, The Saved Saint, does something very similar. It takes two characters with conflicting (and controversial) religious beliefs and describes how the relationship between them breaks down as a result of their religious differences, jumping between their points of view in alternate chapters to show how each experiences any particular event. Maybe it's not stretching the truth too far to say that it's a sermon (on tolerance) dressed up as a novel.

There are other similarities too. The Saved Saint is also self published because my usual LDS publishers didn't want anything with characters critical of the LDS church, and Christian publishers didn't want anything with characters who were uncritical of the LDS church. And secular publishers don't touch anything to do with religion.

The Saved Saint has also had something of a shaky start, going largely unnoticed to date. Although, in all fairness, it's only been a week since it was published.

So I very much hope the comparisons with The Shack don't end there. While I am sure there will be some people who think of it as "undiluted heresy" (diluted heresy I'll admit to) I dream of the day it makes the New York Times Bestseller list.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Talking Tuesday: With Author C Michelle Jefferies

I am looking to continue some of our author/writer spotlights with today's Talking Tuesdays.  Today we are lucky to sit back and chat with Author C. Michelle Jefferies.  I hope you will enjoy getting to know a little more about her as well as her debut novel Emergence.

Q: Who are you? Tell us what makes you tick.
I’ve often described myself as a write-at-home-mom. A forty something mom of seven, that loves to write. I say write in loose terms right now. I’m chasing a two year old who I have nicknamed destructo boy who makes writing almost impossible. I’m learning that good things come from tiny little snippets of free writing time or to tolerate the mess in my office because at least he isn’t trying to launch himself out of a chair to the floor while I work at my computer. What makes me tick? Hmmmm not as easy of an answer as it seemed earlier. I write because of two things. One, I love writing I love the flow of words and how they sound both in my head and out loud. I love how words look as you fill a blank page. Two, I have a very bossy main character named Noble who doesn’t let me forget that I am writing his story. He’s stubborn and incessant but also a good companion.

Q: I've read that you wrote your first 189 page novel in 10th grade. What was it about? Have you gone back and read it?
The monstrosity that is my very first novel is a strange concoction. It was about a rebel member of a “super team” (Think Avengers in the 80’s. Maybe more A-Team. Maybe not.) who struck out on his own leaving the team behind. I’ve gone back and read it a few times feeling thankful that I know how to write now. LOL I still have it, it’s special and marks the beginning of my writing career. When I was writing it long ago I had a cold at one point in time and took some cold medicine with alcohol in it and then wrote a chapter. Um yeah it was weird. In green pen too.

Q: How have you managed the tough schedule of being a mommy writer?
Some days are better than others. Years ago, when my six-year-old was a baby I could do anything I needed to because he was mellow and happy. This new baby is the energizer bunny on steroids. I get very little time to myself and spend most of my time keeping him from killing himself. I covet, protect, and celebrate naptime.

Q: This month is a big month for you. Can you tell us a little more about your novel Emergence? What inspired the story?
Emergence is about, an atheist assassin who is called to be a prophet, and how he deconstructs all while insisting that the “Hell” he’s being dragged through doesn’t exist.
I had a 100K manuscript that I was shopping but kept getting the same type of rejections. I went to my critique partner and asked for some brainstorming help and we started to do the “what if’s”. One of those what if’s was to make the story a “personal triumph” story, so we started to play with it. The next suggestion was to use a different character for his wife, giving him motivation to do what he needed to do in the story. I fought the changes for weeks, to the point I was sick to my stomach and the original wife character protested the idea by walking out of my head. She came back of course but she wasn’t very happy with me.

Q: What do you feed your muse?
I mostly read. I also bake and craft things. Sometimes on the rare occasion I watch a movie or TV, if I watch TV it’s Burn Notice.

Q: Share the most valuable lesson you have learned on your writing journey.
Learn to love revision, rewriting and editing. The only thing they can do is make the story better. While the story skeleton is created in the rough draft stage, the true fleshing comes out in the revisions and polishing of that rough draft.

Q: Where is the one place you would travel if time and money were not an issue?
I’d go to Canberra Australia where Emergence is set. I want to stand on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin where my main character gets shot at. To take pictures of all the places he interacts with in the story. I’d have to stop in Kyoto Japan on the way home too.

Q: Any words of advice for the Mormon Mommy Writers reading today
Never ever, ever, ever, give up!

Hit man, Antony Danic, has never killed an innocent man. At least, the corporation he works for has never given him a reason to think otherwise—until now. Reeling from a series of complications and troubled assignments, the assassin is desperate for some downtime. As he sits on a white sandy beach in Tahiti watching his wife play in the waves, he can almost feel the ten-day vacation start to ease his tired muscles and calm his racing thoughts—until a messenger from his employer delivers a death threat.  In a matter of seconds, the hunter has become the hunted. As he scrambles to find a way out of his “till death do us part” contract, he’s faced with the decision of a lifetime. Continue with business as usual and kill another innocent man—or do what’s right, even if it puts his family in jeopardy.

More About the Author

C. Michelle Jefferies practically grew up in a library, and she spent her early years reading books with her mother. When Michelle was ten, she realized she wanted to write stories instead of just reading them. In high school, she met another writer, who inspired her to write a full-length book instead of just short stories. Michelle finished that 189-page handwritten novel the summer of her junior year. She married her best friend and put her writing on the back burner while she focused on raising her seven children and volunteering as a breastfeeding counselor in her community. When her children were old enough for her to spend a few hours on the computer without them burning the house down, Michelle returned to writing and hasn’t stopped since. She can often be found writing or editing with a child in her arms or under her feet. With a passion for secret agents and all things Asian, she writes technical suspense and futuristic thrillers about bad boys turned good, all while beating herself up in karate class as she works toward her black belt in tang soo do.

Contact Information
Facebook: C Michelle Jefferies – Author
Twitter: cmjefferies

Hope you all have a Happy Halloween.  And if there are any other authors/writers who would enjoy being under the Mormon Mommy Writer's microscope, contact us at to set up an interview.

Monday, October 29, 2012

If a Mom Were In Charge of the Presidential Debates

Election season is upon us with a vengeance as we come into the home stretch, and I don’t know about you, but watching those debates really did a number on my sanity.

There were some good moderators, but I’ve decided this is what we really need:

If a Mom Were in Charge of the Presidential Debates

Mom: “Governor Romney, can you tell me more about your plan for the economy?”

Romney: “Well, let me tell you about what President Obama has done with the economy and why it’s not working-“

Mom: “No, Governor. I didn’t ask you about what President Obama has done, I asked you about your plan. Please answer the question.”

Romney: “But over the past four years-“

Mom: “No, we’re not talking about the past four years, we’re talking about the next four. Answer the question or I will put you in a time-out. Do you understand?”

Romney: “Yes, but-“

Mom: “No buts. You’re done. Time-out. Now.”

Mom: “President Obama, you better wipe that smirk off your face or you’re going to be sitting over there right next to him. Understand?”

Obama: “Yes ma’am.”

Mom: “Good. Now what do you have to say about the economy? Choose your words carefully, Mr. President.”

Obama: “First, let’s remember that I started my term with the economy in a tailspin- it was a mess because my predecessor-“

Mom: “Excuse me, but there is no need to start talking about your predecessor. We’re here to talk about you and what YOU’VE done with the economy, not your predecessor.”

Obama: “Well, I know, but-“

Mom: “Mr. President, you should know by now that I’m not a fan of ‘buts’. Now answer the question or time-out. Period.”

Obama: “Okay. The economy. Well, Governor Romney has said that his plan-“

Mom: “You’re done. Go to your room, and when you’re ready to talk to me about YOUR plan, then I’ll be happy to listen.”

Obama: “But-“

Mom: “Again with the buts? GO!”

“I am very disappointed in the two of you today. I want you both to think about how you can take responsibility for your own actions instead of spending all your time blaming other people. Let me know when you’re ready to do that.”

Harsh? Perhaps. But you’d better believe I’d get them to cut the crap and actually tell us something useful.

Just sayin’.

P.S. Yup, this is how I deal with my kids. I don’t let them get away with much. I’m a mean, mean mommy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Salty Popcorn

   This weekend we've have had a lot of rain. We knew it was coming. My husband, who majored in meteorology in college, has been tracking hurricane Sandy and keeping me posted on its predicted path.   Knowing that we didn't want to battle the weather, my husband and I decided to stay home and have a movie marathon. What could be better than snuggling on the couch with your sweetie and watching movies?
  No rainy day movie marathon is complete without popcorn. As I waited on the couch my DH popped us some popcorn in our air popper. (Air popped popcorn is SOOOO much better than the microwave bag stuff. Mostly because you can add your own butter.) Once my hubby plopped down on the couch next to me we started our movie, and of course, started shoveling buttery popped goodness into our mouths.  After a few handfuls, however, my pace slowed dramatically.  The popcorn was very salty.  When I asked my husband about it he explained that the steam from the popcorn was clogging the little holes in the salt shaker, so he ended up just pouring some out from the other side.  This resulted in overly salted popcorn.  As I sat watching our movie and eating very salty popcorn the lesson from last week's Sunday school class popped into my head.  The class had discussed how we as members are the "Salt of the Earth."  I'm not going to go into the details of this lesson, although it was a great lesson, but there was one aspect that kept coming back to me.  They had used an analogy describing salt and its flavor enhancing properties in recipes and compared it to us, as Latter Day Saints, and how we should be missionaries, giving "flavor" to the world around us and enriching people's lives.  The thing that struck me as I chewed on the ever increasingly salty popcorn was that, sometimes too much salt is not a good thing.  Now, I'm not saying too much of the gospel is bad.  It's not, you can never have too much of the gospel in your life.  What I am saying is I think sometimes we get a little too excited with our proverbial salt shakers and maybe get carried away sprinkling our salty goodness on others.  My husband can tell you from his own experience going to high school as one of the few non LDS kids up in Davis County UT that sometimes too much can really be TOO MUCH. 
   Having lived in Virginia for a couples years now, not having everyone on my street be LDS, and being surrounded by people of all different faiths has taught me that the best way to "enhance the flavour" of someone's life is to not pour it on all at once, but instead sprinkle salty goodness a little at a time.  Mostly, I believe in living by example, and providing opportunities for people to ask questions.  I feel like if I try and explain everything I believe all at once it's too much, it becomes way too salty.  So much so that the person I talk to wont want to take another bite, and certainly wont want to try it again.  That's not an effective way to share the gospel. 

   I encourage all of you, in your writing, and in your day to day lives to have a prayer in your heart and let the spirit be a part of your daily lives, so that when you have the chance to spread the Saviour's salty goodness you'll know just how much to use.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday So What: The evolution of God

Caution: This post reflects my own personal views and does not necessarily reflect the other MMWs or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
New SVG image The discussion at my house lately has become very much, So What to do about God? My husband and I view the topic a little differently. Though we were both raised Mormon, my husband has opted to take a more agnostic view towards God. He is a scientist and has trouble logically reconciling God and the natural laws of the universe. His attitude for the past 10 or so years has been one of  "I really hope there is a God, but I doubt it".

For my part, I like to consider myself an intelligent, rational woman. Like my husband, I too am extremely logical. My thoughts on God have evolved over time -- from a blind faith and literal Genesis interpretation to a more personal understanding of Heavenly Father and all his creations, rooted in doctrine as well as science. Evolution DID happen. Evolution STILL happens. Fossil records and DNA evidence are irrefutable -- even BYU teaches it. (That's where I learned to love the subject) Millions and millions of years ago, chimps and humans had a common ancestor. That does not mean humans were ever chimps. Or that chimps will ever be humans. That also doesn't mean that God was absent in the process. 

Yes, I can believe in evolution and God. A God that created the universe, surely had to build the laws on which it exists. As humans, we do not start as perfectly formed beings. We begin life as a sperm and an egg, a compilation of cells and chromosomes. The embryonic process to becoming a recognizable humanoid is a bit faster than evolution, but it is still a process. Perhaps God gave birth to his ideal human form in the same way. Starting out as a collection of single cells. The process of evolution might be a mere day to the Lord, as opposed to the eons we see it as. 

A lot of wonderful Mormons and Christians disagree with me about the whole evolution thing. And that's okay, everyone is entitled to believe whatever they choose. And so far, in my marriage, my husband and I have approached it much the same way --  agree to disagree. But now we have kiddos. What are we going to teach them?

This is the crux of what we are struggling with.  Lest you get the wrong idea, my hubby is awesome, and has no problem with the fact that I take my kids to primary. But they are going to get bigger and smarter. One day they are going to ask their daddy why he doesn't go to church and if he believes in God and Jesus Christ. What should he say? And what if, when they are old enough to take Jr High science, they learn about evolution and come to the same conclusion that my husband has -- as opposed to the one I have?

Thoughts or advice anyone? Mormons and evolution, or raising kids with one active parent... I will take any  experiences you are willing to share. 

Other posts by Betsy this week: The Courage to Start and The Skank-ification of Halloween

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Other Side

If you've picked up on any underlying current in my most recent internet activity, it would likely be something akin to apathy. Or disinterest. Or something equally negative.

The truth is, I've been going through some stuff that I am just now beginning to get over. Or, at least, I'm starting to see the light from the other end of this tunnel.

And I'm pretty sure it's not a train.

Most (righteously living) people are aware enough to recognize that when they are on the right track, the correct path, making good choices, etc--is when the adversary starts up the pitching machine and lobs curve ball after curve ball right at your head. And because I'm human, I can only take so many hits before it starts dragging me down.

So here's where I spill it all out.

Back in March I went to my dr for routine testing. And learned something was not quite right with the results. But I lost my insurance at the same time and didn't have the money to go back and find out what it was. Also, if it was something serious I would have no way/help to pay for treatment. So I waited. I got my part time job at DG which came with health benefits and got around to retesting at the dr in September. With the same results.

So I went to see a specialist. Now, the results themselves don't mean anything. In all that's medicine--these results could mean any one of 200 things and only one or two of those possibilities are life-altering. Rationally speaking, there wasn't anything to worry about. Uh huh.

In the mean time, I've been promoted twice at work and have had to devote more time to the store and less time to my family and my writing. And it totally stinks. I've also had a very dear woman in my life have to have radiation treatments for breast cancer--and my heart has been hanging out with her and her family, along with a fair portion of my brain.

So, to add it all up, I've felt like a bad mom for missing so much of what's going on in my kids' lives, I've had the added stress of health concerns and worries for my friend, I've been working my tail off (I wish) and then having no energy to write. And Wed night I had a new health issue crop up that is literally a pain in my behind. Ugh. And most writers out there know how grumpy we tend to get when we're not writing regularly.

The specialist called today with my test results. And suddenly the sun was a little brighter and the birds were singing in the trees. I'm going to be okay. There's nothing to worry about. We're going to follow up with further testing at 6 months and 1 yr to be certain, but I'm in the clear.

Now I'm going to step through the other side of the tunnel and into the light that my life can be.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Are You Dressing Up Your Characters?

The other night I was rifling through the dress-up bin, looking for a potential Halloween costume for my two-year-old son.  When I found this elephant costume, it seemed like the perfect thing - just his size, simple, warm and ready to go.  And then I asked him to try it on.

If you can read his body language, you might guess what he thought of that idea.

Apparently dressing up is not his thing.

I recently read Stephen King's memoir On Writing.  One of the ideas he presents really got me thinking about the way I approach characterization in my writing.  I've always believed that truly profound characters have the ability to be autonomous, or think and act for themselves.  I may have one idea for how they interact with the plot of my story, but they have a completely different plan.

I know it may sound a little crazy, but there are even times I've had to wait for characters to name themselves.

Well, in King's book, he discusses the importance of honesty in writing.  He acknowledges that characters, situations, plot lines and other aspects of our work may not always match up with the status quo, or our own worldview, and, as he points out, that's okay.  In fact, it's much better if we dispel with our own notions and allow our characters to portray who they really are.

We can dress them up, but that doesn't make our writing stronger.

So in honor of October 31st, remember - it's okay to let your children parade around the neighbourhood dressed-up for Halloween.  But let your characters be themselves - your writing will be better for it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


As you may know (I've mentioned it often enough) I've just written a book called The Saved Saint intended to promote greater tolerance, friendship and understanding between Latter-day Saints and Evangelical Christians.

And very timely it is if this article in the Baptist Times is anything to go by. We Mormons are used to this sort of abuse, of course. From Governor Boggs' extermination order in 1838 to the declaration by megachurch Pastor Robert Jeffress that “Evangelical Christians should not vote for Mitt Romney because he’s a Mormon, therefore not a real Christian,”  it's a case of same old same old.

So it's good to remind ourselves that not all evangelical Christians subscribe to these views. Some already know that people who worship and follow Christ as their saviour are entitled to be called Christians  even if they happen to attend a much-misunderstood church. My co-author on The Saved Saint is just such a Christian, and when I brought the Baptist Times article to her attention, she responded by writing this letter to them. Which, by the way, they are going to publish:

Dear Sir

I have to say I read the above article with deep disappointment.

I became a Christian, over twenty years ago, as a disengaged single-parent, through the love and acceptance I found within my local Baptist Church, who cared more about my heart than my words.  I became a founding member of a Mayland Baptist Church before a new career opportunity moved me to London and I joined Bonneville Baptist Church, now All Nations, in Clapham South. I currently attend a Vineyard Church, where I am Outreach Pastor, but maintain my Baptist links by studying with Spurgeon's College through distance learning for my theology degree. In composing my response I wanted to ensure that you understand my deep, deep respect and love I have for the Baptist tradition of Christianity.

It is this respect that has led to my disappointment that you would be prepared to print such an outdated and one-sided article as that titled Evangelising Mormons by Bobby Gilpin, printed on 17th October.  The arguments he uses against The Church of the Latter Day Saints are outdated and ill researched. President Snow served from 1898 to 1901, well over 100 years ago, I do not feel it is fair to try to influence people's opinions on any organisation or denomination by quoting such historical leaders, I am sure I would not have to look too hard to find many other Christian quotes from the period with all kinds of opinions from a wide range of subjects we no longer agree on. Quite apart from anything else our own doctrine says that God became Man, he was called Jesus.

The quote given from The book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 25:23 'For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.'

 is actually akin in meaning to the Biblical Isaiah 64:6

'All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.'

It is basically saying that no matter how brilliant we are we still need grace  in order to be saved.

My understanding of  President Spencer W Kimball's rather damming statement that Mr Gilpin quotes is in fact the LDS equivalent to our own denomination's discussions on James, one cannot simply live as you like, sinning with impunity saying 'its ok God forgives me anyway.'

One of my closest friends is a member of The Church of the Latter Day Saints and, you can be sure, I looked carefully into their doctrine to see if she needed to be 'saved' however, given that all Churches have some incorrect doctrines as an inevitable consequence of the fall, I took my criteria from Romans 10:9-10:-

'If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. '

Using this criteria and having had frank discussions with my friend and her husband and having visited her church on several occasions I can say that the Latter Day Saints I have met never stop declaring with their mouth that Jesus is their Lord and they believe wholeheartedly that God raised him from the dead. There are many things I disagree with within the LDS doctrine and I will not be joining their church however I strongly recommend them to you as Christian brothers and sisters with much to teach us about forgiveness and forbearance.

I praise God for the gift of evangelism He has given to Mr Gilpin but I would like to see him concentrate his efforts on the many, many millions in our world who are truly without Christ and also to hold 2 Tim 2:14 in his mind as non-Christians, seeing those they consider Christians arguing are not pulled towards the Father but rather have their preconceptions about the hypocrisy of the church confirmed and harden their hearts just that little bit further.

Thank you for taking the time to read this reply and I look forward to seeing more balanced and up to date articles appearing in your publication.

Yours in Him

Hellen Riebold

And that's why we wrote The Saved Saint together. You can buy it via this link.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Confessions of a Procrastinating Scatterbrain

Focus has never been a talent of mine.  I am easily distracted, which partly explains why I spend entirely too much time on Pinterest and Facebook instead of writing.  It took me 18 month to finish painting my dining room.  I get half a load of laundry folded when I all of the sudden remember that I should have put a check in the mail.  I rush to complete that only to see the spider webs outside our front door that need removed.  I go to get the broom, but see the chandelier I was spray painting is ready for another coat, and I should really do that so it can have time to dry.

By the time, my husband gets home, I have half accomplished, or intended to do a million things.  Yet nothing gets completed.  Needless to say, I have a problem.  This scatterbrained unfocused problem bleeds over into my writing.  I have recently rediscovered, that my biggest problem is a lack of structure.  My lack of goals leave too many options of things to be done.  Unfortunately, this often leads to nothing getting done.

To aid me in my housework, I have some friends, who are helping establish routines.  I need the accountability. 

In an attempt to improve my writing, I have committed to no longer approach my writing with the same reckless abandon I have used that has my house and brain in complete disarray.  I can not be a panster.  I am going to gain focus through outlining the scenes to get me through the story.  I have read some great posts I will link to from a couple of authors and their opinions about structure bringing fun back to the writing process.

If anyone else there is struggling with the side effects of being a procrastinating scatterbrain and is ready to get out of their mess of half completed chores just leave a comment.  You have found yourself a support system.

Two great Posts

How I increased my word count while DECREASING my writing time


How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day

Monday, October 22, 2012

When God Closes a Door...

So, up until yesterday I was all geared up for NaNoWriMo. I had decided that now would be the time to get that fun story out of my head and onto my computer. I had started outlining, was planning on some character sketches this week, had already done a little preliminary research, warned my husband that I would be MIA for the next month, etc. I had decided that by December first I would be able to say, “I wrote a book."

And then I got the call.

Our stake has decided that, due to the prohibitive cost of travel with current gas prices, they are going to forgo the usual every-fourth-year Youth Conference trip to Palmyra, NY for the Hill Cumorah Pageant and instead put on their own pageant closer to home. Something on a grand scale- something epic and profound- two hours of music, costumes, dramatic lighting, the whole bit. The catch? They need a script. By December 15th. And they need someone to help the youth write it.

And so this post is brought to you by the new Script Writing Committee Chairperson for the yet-to-be-titled pageant to be put on by the youth of the Richmond Virginia Chesterfield Stake.

It’s really hard for me to be disappointed about NaNoWriMo because I know in my heart that this is what God wants me to do, and I know from experience that when I put God’s plans for me ahead of my plans for me, I usually end up in a much better situation than if I’d followed my own dinky ideas.

So I’m jumping in with both feet. My favorite part was when the High Council member who asked me to head up the committee said as he was leaving, “By the way, the Stake President feels the Lord has a very important message He wants to convey to the youth of our stake through this pageant. If you could pray about it and keep that in mind as you work on it, that would be great.”

Kasey’s Pageant Script Writing To-Do List:

1. Talk to God and find out what He’s trying to tell the youth.


Anyway, I am once again truly humbled by the way the Lord works in my life. I believe that the reason He planted that seed of desire in me to do NaNoWriMo was because He had this in store for me, and He needed me to mentally prepare myself for the pressure of doing something huge in a very short amount of time. He’s sneaky like that. But it’s okay.

People write books all the time. But epic pageants that bring a message from God to the youth, their friends, and an entire community? That kind of thing doesn’t happen very often. And I’m thrilled and privileged to be a part of it.

Now excuse me while I go panic...

Just kidding.

Kind of.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

I Believe in Santa Claus

   A couple weeks ago I met up with a friend, I'll call her Miss Ella, to walk our girls to preschool together. As we walked, Miss Ella told me she was upset because she thought one of the other moms from preschool was mad at her. Apparently, Miss Ella's daughter, we'll call her Sally, told another little girl that there was no Santa Claus. The other little girl's mother was upset about this. Miss Ella did not understand why the other mother was so upset. She said to me, "I'm not going to tell my daughter to lie, there is NO Santa Claus, no magical little elves, or flying reindeer. It's just ridiculous. I won't tell my daughter some lie." In the limited time we had on our walk home from the school, I told her a little bit about how I, as a Christian, can tell my kids that there is a Santa Claus. I told her that we believe that he stands for, or represents Christ, bringing love and blessings to us. He is an example and a reminder of those who brought gifts to Jesus. Miss Ella answered that she knows that there was a St. Nicolas that did good things and gave to people, but that didn't mean there was any use for all of the magical flying reindeer and such, she refused to lie to her daughter, and didn't see how other people could do that.

   Later, over the next few days, I thought a great deal about this. Why do I tell my children there is a Santa Claus only to have them find out later what the truth is. Is it a lie? And if it is, then what am I teaching my children by lying to them? Here are the thoughts I had:
First, I was told as a child that there was a Santa Claus and when I got older, never felt that I was lied to. To me it was part of the fun. Second, to imagine and to believe in the magical, fantastical things is natural to childhood. It helps us as children understand things about life and the world. I also feel strongly that when you are allowed to believe in magic and fantastical things as a child, it helps you, as you grow up, to have faith in things that are hard to understand.

   If we teach our children too young not to believe in all those fairy tales and magical stories simply because they are not true or they are not possible, then how much harder is it going to be to teach them that Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and 2 small fish? It is very hard to believe in a miracle if you've never learned to believe in the impossible.

   We have a book called "I Believe In Santa Claus" by Diane G. Adamson. It is a beautiful storybook comparing Santa Claus to Jesus Christ. In the back of the book, the author writes, "Strong beliefs in Santa Claus in the tender years are said to foster traits of goodness, helpfulness, and the desire to bring joy and happiness to others. These are all attributes of the Savior and espousing these traits in our own lives not only contributes to a healthful living but also helps us to become more Christlike."

I believe in Santa Claus.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday So What: Comma-Kaze

So I got the first round of edits back for Finished being Fat. It has confirmed what I have long suspected -- I don't have any clue how to use commas. And judging the contest entries, I don't think I'm not the only one.

Some people use commas like sprinkles, liberally dotting them around like decoration. Others have the opposite problem, the dreaded run on.  When you read through your own work, it's not really that big a deal. You know your own voicing, you know where you meant to pause. But when you read other people's work, you need those phrasing road signs.

I still have a long way to go, but here are some comma guidelines I have picked up.
*  Use a comma when starting with an introductory action. Example: Jumping of the cliff, Jaime prayed for a miracle.

*  Use a comma to separate to short but independent thoughts with a conjuction. Example: The man was gorgeous, but he was a little tall for my tastes.

*  Use a comma to separate 3 + items or actions in a series. Example: She ran, walked, and limped her way across the finish line.

*  Use a comma to set off parenthetical elements, parts of the sentence that aren't strictly necessary and could be removed. (see what I just did there?) Here's another example: Your mom, the oldest and grumpiest lady I have ever seen, slammed the door in the girl scout's face.

*  Use a comma between complimentary descriptions.  I like the rule that if you can put an and in between them, you could probably use a comma. Example:  He was tall, dark, and mysterious.  As opposed to the She was a little old lady. Notice you don't use a comma in the second example.

*  Use a comma for a break in thought, or to add contrast and set a piece apart. A lot of people think this is the old, put a comma in wherever you pause when reading. Not so, there is an actual reason for it. Example: I didn't like what he had done, though not my problem anymore.

There are many more uses and misuses of the comma. But these are the ones I find myself abusing the most. 

What about you? Are you a comma-kaze? Or a grammar nazi that has total comma control?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Never Stop

Just a few short years ago, I was pre-published. Yes, that's what I call the time before my first book came out. And yes--I made that word up.

I remember being on the other side of published--shooting for that star and praying, wishing, hoping, for some level of success. Taking my rejections in stride because that was part of the process, and each rejection was closer to an acceptance, right?

I learned so much then. And, three books later--I'm still learning. Why?

1. Because publishing is an ever-changing industry.

2. Because my goal with each book is to be better than the last.

Three books in, I still feel like a newbie. I remember being impressed by people who'd published one or two books and thinking that someday it might be me. Now it is me, and I don't feel that I've learned enough.

I haven't learned how to manage setbacks as successfully as I'd like.

I haven't learned how to manage my time better. Yet. That one kills me. If you ever go back through my posts, you'll see the common thread of making new goals, rearranging my schedule again--all to fit in more writing time. I have SO many ideas running rampant through my brain, but there's precious little being done about it. (*note--this leads to cranky Cheri, who is unpleasant to deal with, even for me.)

Sure, I'm still hopeful for that "breakout novel" that will catapult me to my success. But the pressure is huge. First I have to write it. And then I'll have to top it.

I'm pretty sure that's where my fear of success is hobbling me. I want it. Need it. And I go pretty good for a stretch until I fall flat and struggle to regain my footing. My stretch was this summer. Now I'm struggling again.

There's no magic formula to being a successful writer. There's just writing. Actually doing it. You write and write and eventually turn out something worthy of print. The window of opportunity isn't just going to open up for you to have time. You MAKE time. If it's important, you do it.

It is important. I feel it to my core. Why can't I do more of it?

But, I do promise this: I will never stop. I may stumble. I may flounder. I may go weeks or months without a new chapter making it to paper.

But I won't quit.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

How To Succeed At NaNoWriMo

One of my blogging weaknesses is responding to reader comments.  I see each one, appreciate the time and effort it took to stop and say something in response to a post, but I rarely leave a reply of my own.  Last week's post, in which I expressed my excitement for the upcoming NaNoWriMo, inspired me to do a follow up post on the subject.  Instead of responding individually to the commenters, I am going to address some of the excitement and anxiety that NaNo naturally brings.  I could feel it between the lines of the readers who shared a comment, and I experience it as well, with each day that draws us nearer to November.

I’m still a relative newbie when it comes to NaNo – this will, after all, only be my fourth year with the challenge (and I only officially completed it in 2011).  However these past few years have taught me a more about the opportunity, and I would like to use that knowledge to encourage any readers, as well as my fellow writers, who may be standing on the edge of the pool wondering if they will like the water, or if they can even swim the full length.

How do you make National Novel Writing Month a successful experience? 

How do you balance the busy life of a mother/wife/employee (whether you work from home or outside the home)/pre-Christmas/American Thanksgiving?

How do you get any sleep?

I hope to shed some light on these questions with a few important points:

As in other aspects of life, the definition of success is something only you can set.  True the NaNo challenge is 50,000 words in 30 days, but that doesn’t have to be your finish line.  You can set for yourself whatever goal you choose, and whatever most reasonably meets your life situation.  Two years ago I had a newborn, a toddler, a preschooler and a husband working 80 hours a week.  I made 14, 000 words and then celebrated, because it was 14,000 words I wouldn’t have otherwise written.  What goal is most reasonable for you and your life circumstances this year?

 Remember that NaNoWriMo is an opportunity to establish habits.  If you write everyday of the challenge, you have to pass 1700 words a day to finish in time.  That’s more than I typically write in a day (I’m closer to 1000 words), but the excitement of writing with friends and colleagues and the support of family helps push me forward.  Finding writing buddies and include your family in your plans.  Don’t go it alone!  This is very important.  If you don’t know anyone, look me up – my NaNo name is milagirl.  Don’t ask – old story.  I also find the straight red line is a useful tool in meeting word count – I like to see my word count follow it.

Above all, don’t become discouraged.  The true spirit of this challenge is to bring us together as writers, and give us an opportunity to accomplish something for ourselves.  Write daily, with routine, and be accountable to your friends.  Help others along.

And what I believe to be the most important advice of all:  Don’t read what  you write – expect it to be rough!  This is a good exercise in pounding out a rough draft.  It may taste awful on your tongue when you read it aloud in December, but that’s what editing is for!  Allow yourself to achieve quantity over quality – just for now.

Believe me, you’ll thank yourself later.

I found a couple of other good articles on NaNo here: 

5 Tips For NaNoWriMo Success

Getting Ready For NaNoWriMo

If you are interested, check them out.  See you next Thursday!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Publishing with a Purpose

Next week I'll be self publishing for the first time. I've written a book which for various reasons (see this post if you're curious about what those reasons might be) cannot be published by my usual publishers. Or indeed, any publisher. So now I'm having fun trying to get to grips with Kindle Direct Publishing and Createspace and any advice anyone can give me on either of these would be more than welcome.

For me, this book is important. Not because it's got my name on the cover (been there, done that) or because I might get some money from it (writing doesn't pay well) but because, for the first time, I've written a book which has a job to do. This book isn't just for entertainment, it has a message. Not to put too fine a point on it, I want this book to change the world.

I was asked to write The Saved Saint by a friend I will call Jeannie, because that's the name I chose for her in the book. Jeannie's son, Harley (also not his real name) had returned from his mission and shortly thereafter joined another church, declared himself to be a born-again Christian, and introduced a spirit of contention into the home. There had been arguments and angry words as Harley criticised and belittled the faith in which his parents had raised him, and Jeannie was at the end of her tether. Knowing that I was a writer she asked whether I might write their story in order to help them both come to terms with what had happened.

I was happy to oblige, although I did give up halfway through due to finding myself without the necessary experience to write certain scenes. Fortunately an evangelical Christian friend who is also an author was happy to come in as co-author, write the scenes I couldn't, and ensure that the book was fair, unbiased and factually correct from the evangelical perspective. And now the book is finished and we're very pleased with it.

So, as I said, this book has a purpose. Several purposes in fact.

  • I want it to educate mainstream Christians about what "Mormonism" actually is, and what it isn't, and what day-to-day life as a Mormon is like. About the Mormon spiritual experience, and how it feels to be a Mormon, especially one under attack.
  • I want to educate Mormons about evangelical Christians. I want to show that not all of them think that we're evil cultists, and that we often know very little about them.
  • I want to show that some people who call themselves Christians, on both sides of the divide, really don't behave like it. That there is good and bad in all churches, primarily because there are good and bad people in all churches.
  • I want to show all readers that arguments, conflict and insults achieve nothing good. On the contrary, they destroy families and drive away those who might be interested in coming to know Christ and those who are new and uncertain in the gospel.
  • I want to start an honest and friendly dialogue between Mormons and Evangelicals about the many issues raised in the book. (I've set up a Facebook page for that purpose.)
  • I want it to help the real Jeannie and Harley, and other families like them, to come to terms with their differences and learn to accept each other's religious choices.
  • I want readers to be entertained and to enjoy reading a well-written and interesting novel with characters they care about. (Okay, so this one has been a purpose for every book I've written.)
So apologies for the shameless plug, but I hope you'll look out for this book on Amazon from next week. The Saved Saint by Hellen Riebold and Anna Jones Buttimore. And do let me know if it fulfils any one of these goals for you.


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