Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Things I will Never Be

Once all my kids are in bed the house is quiet, and I can hear the quiet sounds that would regularly go unnoticed.  Last week, in the quiet hours, I descended a flight of stairs and could hear a creaking noise every other step.  I do not have a loose board every other step.  No, I have a creaky knee.  I am not even thirty yet and I creak.  A thought immediately came to my mind, "Well, there goes any chance I ever will have of being a cat burglar."  With creaking joints, I would lack the stealth I would need to get around.  So the writer in me started thinking about how certain professions have age limits on them.  Of course age is relative to how well you care for your body as well.

In the random track of my stream of consciousness, I pondered on how setting boundaries for ourselves also determines what we can achieve.  If we think something is unachievable then we will naturally not try.  I wondered how many great things that most would think impossible were achieved because the achiever never even pondered that they could fail.  We need to stop putting limits on our abilities and let our abilities carry us to the unachievable heights of yesterday.

Now I am not saying I am going to try to overcome my creaky knee to become the next Robinhood.  But I am definitely going to stop mentally discouraging myself from my writing and fitness goals.  I can be great and so can you.  So get out there and sore to heights you never thought you could.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Welcome to the World, Teeny.

So on July 20th I fell madly in love.

Here she is, her nickname is Teeny.

She is a very peaceful little soul. She is a fabulous sleeper and doesn't really cry much. The other kids panic when she really cries hard because it's such a rare occurrence. I have to explain to them that it's normal and she's okay.

BIIIIG yawn.

She doesn't even spit up. She measures right up there with Mary Poppins. Practically Perfect in Every Way.

Anyway, I'm madly in love with her and thrilled at all the sweetness a newborn brings. Love the warm snuggles, the tiny breaths on my neck, the feathery soft hair under my lips when I kiss the top of her head. The skin that's so soft you can barely feel it, the tiny fingers wrapping around mine, the little goat-like noises she makes when she's hungry. 

Ah, the joys of mommyhood. Sometimes it's not so bad of a job. :-)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Right Word

I am so sorry for the late post. I feel like this summer is spiraling out of control. I've had family in town and my thoughts have been elsewhere. 
   Last week my parents came into town. It's the first I've seen my mom in a year, and two years since I've seen my dad. As I hugged my dad he said something very simple, yet it struck me so profoundly. He said, "I've missed you so much." I know this might seem silly, and I supposed it would be the expected thing to hear a parent tell their child after such a separation, but he didn't just say he missed me. He said he missed me SO much. I realized how much power and emotion a tiny, seemingly simple word can express. It got me thinking about my writing and I found myself asking "Are we using words that convey the emotion we are trying to express in our story?" or "Is there a word that works better than what we've used?" The right word can be so important. To be honest it's something I get hung up on more than I'd like to admit.
   The next night I was in bed thinking on this same thing and a similar thought came to me. "Are these words that I'm trying so hard to find giving the right perspective?" I know as writers we all want the reader to not just understand the concept of our story, we want them to be submerged in the story, feeling what our characters feel. Isn't that why we write? To share the amazing stories going on in our heads? I know that's why Ashley and I write. After all this late night thinking with all these thoughts zipping around in my brain in a very jumbled manner I finally came to the conclusion that I need to work on bringing what's going on TO my character. I know that sometimes it's easy to loose some of the excitement when a story is told in third person and the juicy wonderful emotions can become dry and boring when everything is being narrated. My personal writing goal is to find and use words that bring all that breathtaking and exhilarating emotion right into the spotlight where the reader can drink it in and experience it for themselves.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday So What: Pioneer Day Pancakes

 My husband is diabetic with horrible heart burn. One of my good friends, Caleb Warnock, has been pestering me to start cooking with natural pioneer yeast. He claims this stuff will dramatically help my husband's health if I start cooking with it. To quote him, Natural yeast flattens the glycemic index, takes away heartburn and acid reflux forever, helps prevent or reverse gluten intolerance and, in some cases, full-blown Celiac’s disease, turns natural phytic acid into an anti-oxidant, controls allergies, and turns flour into a yeast that is both pre-biotic and pro-biotic. Natural yeast is amazingly healthful and free  That sounds like a really tall order, but his research seemed sound and he's got a book all about it coming out in a few weeks, 
My New Book!The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast: Breads, Pancakes, Waffles, Cinnamon Rolls and Muffins 

One problem though... I don't cook.

In honor of pioneer day, I decided to give it a try. I already had some yeast start Caleb had given me. He gives the stuff away to anyone that emails him. I had his recipe. I had a picture of the end result. I've even taken a bite of one of his waffles, the same thing basically. We had the exact same ingredients and preparation, but mine ended up looking something like hockey pucks. The taste wasn't a whole lot better.

I had all the basic elements correct, but somehow I missed in the execution. The same thing can happen in writing. We can have the best concept, lovable and engaging characters and a plot to die for. But if there's something amiss in the execution, the story can leave a bad taste in our mouths. So should you toss the story and your whole writing career in the trash along with my burnt pancakes?


Both the natural yeast and the writing have big pay offs and are worth the work to hammer out the kinks. Though this particular batch of pancakes wasn't salvageable, your story might still be. Let those solid characters sit for a while and let yourself get some distance and grow as a writer before you tackle it again. If your story recipe is good, it's worth it to try cooking it up again.

If we can learn anything from the pioneers it's that the journey can be tough and push us to our limits, but the end is worth the work, blood, sweat, and tears. Where would a lot of us be if the pioneers had decided it was easier to stay home?

Thanks for reading everyone and keep writing.
If you are interested in learning more about natural yeast, you can hop over to Caleb's blog.

If you want more from me, you can visit this week's posts Heaven's to Betsy! Game of Life and the Definition of Failure.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Please, a Little Help?

In the exciting craziness that is the last few days of actually launching a novel, I have a question and I NEED your help. This is the back cover for The Tyrant King:
What does this mean to you? Does it interest you in the story? Are you worried about what the devastating loss may be?

Because I know the story, I can't tell whether what I think may be a potential flaw is actually a flaw. Or whether it's misleading. And whether I want to purposely mislead my readers (if it is misleading to them) so that when they read the book they will be relieved.

Or if I'm maybe worrying too much about it. :P

Input, please. I'm grateful for your expressed opinions.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Copyright Law and Google Images

I read an article this week by an author named Roni Loren, who discusses her experienced with being sued for using a google image without permission on a past blog post. 

Essentially, she was under the impression, as a writer/blogger, that if you use an image on a blog post and credit back to the source, it was considered Fair Use under copyright law.  I have to say, that was my assumption as well.  When I add images to blog posts, I simply cite the source (webpage) from where I got it.  Now I know, it is illegal.

Some time ago, she was contacted by the owner of an image she had used with a legal notice to remove it, which she promptly did, feeling bad that she had unknowingly infringed on the photographer's copyright.  However, despite her immediate action, she was sued by the photographer.

In the article, she discusses many of the misconceptions that bloggers have about copyright and fair use.  It is definitely an area I will also be furthering my own education in now.

She also shares some links to resources that provide free images for public use, such as Creative Commons (though some of the comments on her post suggested even there, one should be careful).  The best advice she had to share was simply - assume it's copyright, then ask permission.  You never know, the owner of the image just might say yes!

With 99% percent of bloggers probably using images the way I was until now, under the same misunderstanding, the chances of one individual blogger being sued are relatively small.  However, as this author points out, would we want our work, our stories, posted without permission, whether that person gave the proper credit or not?  I think the bigger issue, for me, is whether what I've been doing is honest or not.  Since the answer to that is a resounding, no, I am going to spend time going through my blog posts and removing 'googled' images to be replaced with images of my own making.

And then I think I will make a disclaimer that any image on my blog is free for sharing.  Hopefully that makes up for all the copyright infringement for which I have been guilty up until this point!

What is your take on this issue?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Oh What Do You Do in the Summertime, When All You See is White?

The "white screen of death", I mean. On my lap top. Meaning I can no longer access my WIP until I have someone fix it. I'm very stressed. It worked fine the whole time I was at my retreat, and I didn't get all my chapters that I'd written onto Google docs. Just one. Out of four. Shame on me for being lazy, and now I'm reaping the rewards if it.
And then we went on vacation, and I didn't write. And now I'm getting kids ready for school and trying to dig out from the chaos of going through old clothes, toys, and random clutter so I can feel like we are attacking this school year head on.
So what does one do when faced with a computer shortage? I turn to pen and paper. Scary thing, that. But I like this notebook I have, filling with notes and ideas and possibilities for this story. I've realized I don't brainstorm or create outlines of any kind via the computer very well. The organic nature of pen and paper seems to appeal to my creative side. I'd never thought it would work for me, but it seems to be, at least this time.
There's something else I do in the summertime--mid August, in fact. It's call WriteOnCon. It is a FREE online writer's conference for children's writers and illustrators. So picture books through YA is the focus. And did I mention it was FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE? Go check it out. Tuesday and Wednesday, August 14-15. Authors, agents, and loads of crazy fun and info. In fact right now there is a contest being sponsored as part of it that with the first page (450 words) of your completed MG/YA, you could win $1000 and possible representation from Catherine Drayton. Did I mention it was free yet?

Go. Check. It. OUT. NOW.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Seasoned Writing Cycles

The warmth of summer gives breath to my soul.  It lifts me and lightens my worries.  And leaves me wanting to be with friends socialize while the children run and play.   The quiet moments when all is still, I escape into a book.  My word count is more tranquil in the summer time.  I am busy soaking in the atmosphere, trying to capture enough sunshine to get me through the winter. 

Do you have a less productive season for writing?

Monday, July 23, 2012

I'm Not Being Lazy- Everyone Else is Just Smarter Than Me

You may have noticed that lately that Mondays are looking more like sign posts than blog posts- I'm simply directing you to someone else's blog or article that I've found and telling you go read that instead.

There are a few reasons for this:

1. When I read things, I think, This is great! This helps me so much! Everyone else needs to read this too!

2. Why listen to me pretend I know what I'm talking about when you could go read someone who actually does know what they're talking about?

3. At the moment I am writing this, I am at least 13 months pregnant and trying to prepare some posts for my imminent demise. Directing you to other people is just easier.

I hope you all really know that #1 is the main reason, and I also hope you enjoy this new gem I've uncovered for you, from, of all places, Oprah.com. It is an article entitled, "4 Reasons You're Not Writing the Book You're Meant to Write". It's got some great advice on how to defeat those sluggish-y feelings that are stifling your inner bestselling author, and how to kick down that writer's block and just get writing again.

You're welcome. :-)

*UPDATE* Baby Tross is here!! She arrived at 9:28 on Friday morning and we are both happy and healthy. Photos and more details to come following my blogging maternity leave. :-)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

To the Someone(s) Who Stand Behind Us

   We believe one of the most important aspects of our being a Mormon Mommy Writer is the Priesthood-Holder Daddy Supporters that stand with us. When I told my husband that I was going to write a book with my sister, he was supportive from the very beginning. I thanked him one day for being so supportive of this crazy idea. He basically said he felt that he would be stupid not to because if he didn't he would really regret it when we are successful and famous! It makes me happy to know that he believes in me, and it gives me courage to keep going when I have so many doubts about this whole process.
   For us our husbands play a significant role in our writing. Even though they have little to do with the actual writing process they are the silent courage that keeps us going, the constant encouragement when we feel we're no good. They have made our dream their dream, and by doing so they have brought it to life for us.
    We have learned how vital it is to have a support system in the writing world, someone who can do a final read-through, or offer suggestions, someone to give us the courage to put our thoughts out there. Sometimes it is just to have someone to understand that the reason the house is a disaster when he walks through the door is because we spent hours on the phone talking and writing together.
   There are so many days when we feel that we are like little kids among adults in the writing community, we wonder if we'll ever grow up to be like all of you! But our stalwart husbands stand by our side and say, "If you want it, go for it!" 
"I give council to husbands and wives. Pray for the love which allows you to see the good in your companion. Pray for the love that makes weaknesses and mistakes seems small. Pray for the love to make your companion's joy your own. Pray for the love to want to lessen the load and soften the sorrows of your companion." -Pres. Henry B. Eyring

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday So What: Do you have a case of the T.M.I.'s?

 With the advent of social media, sometimes we all suffer from the TMI's (too much information). Does the world really need to know what you had for lunch today? Or how many times your kid went peepee in the potty (guilty).

Setting that aside, as a writer do you suffer from TMI? And I'm not just talking about inappropriate info either. Are your stories overfilled with choreography or mind numbing detail that doesn't provide insight or advance the plot? Do you describe the scenery to the last tea kozy? Describe the meal to the last crumb? Not every action needs to be shown.

 But Betsy, my character has to eat! True, but your character uses the potty too, but we don't usually narrate that.

As writers, I think we fall in love with the world that we have created, and we want everyone else to see it as vividly too.  We can fall into the trap of writing every moment out just as we see it in our heads. From which hand reaches for the salt shaker to the color of the marble flecks in the counter.

 Don't get me wrong, details are good. Especially slightly odd or interesting ones.  Done right, they can give depth and mean more than just the surface words. But too much, and those little pieces of the real meat of the story get lost in the filler. Think the story version of the 99 cent hot dog. Where's the beef?

Until next week, join me on my blogs as I plead for a civil political season (yeah that'll happen), in If you can't say something nice. And see if your eating habits resemble the family dog in Fighting Fido.

Friday, July 20, 2012

It Takes Time

Fifteen years ago yesterday, I labored my firstborn son into this world. As I watched him blow out his candles yesterday and open his gifts, I realized the incredible young man he's becoming was not an overnight event--but a process.

There was a time when I worried about this boy. He was 9, 10, 11 years old, and had issues with keeping secrets, sneaking food, and hiding things. And that was at home. At school it was even worse. This was the boy who wanted to quit school in the middle of 3rd grade. We talked with him, counseled with him, spoke to his teachers, his bishop, we prayed for him. We did everything we knew how to do.

Then he turned 12 and things began to change. It was a change that came from within him, something we nurtured and encouraged any way we can. Now he is shining from the inside out, showing the world the wonderful person I always knew him to be.

He is one of my most important WIP's.

Because everything in my life leads back to writing, I couldn't help connecting this to the process of creating a book. You start with that initial draft, that first creation--and let's face it we may secretly know there are flaws but, for the most part, we're in love. It's beautiful; perfect--our babe in arms. Then you start revising (raising) your little babe and find flaws.

A stubborn streak.

An issue with school, either academically, socially, or both.

These aren't fatal flaws, but sometimes working through them can be so frustrating we may consider throwing in the towel. But we can't, of course. We must push through--we must work with the issue and (hopefully) make it work for us rather than against us. Many times we are inspired or buoyed up by an outside influence. Many times we can't make it through without them.

Whatever you are doing with your life--raising a child, writing a book, or both--remember that it is a process. There will be ups and downs. There will be times when even a tiny part of you wishes you could give up. But right now I'm seeing glimpses of the future, and I'm pretty sure it's all worth it.

I'm not done with my son--or any of his siblings. :) I'm still in the trenches of high school, pre-dating questions, middle school, training bras, shaving and please, dear heaven, use your deodorant! But motherhood, just like writing, is my higher calling.

And I'm sticking with it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Granola Inspiration

Just a quick thought to share with you today.  Inspiration can strike in the strangest of places.  The other day, I was opening a box of pumpkin flax granola (yes it's as good as it sounds) and something on the inner tab caught my eye.  When I took a closer look, I realized it was the following quote:

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant."
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Perhaps I'm getting too caught up in the daily word count race, and let myself get too discouraged by not meeting certain goals when I planned.  Instead I need to focus on what I'm building - even if it is a slow, and sometimes painful process.  Day by day, I'm planting seeds.  And I have to plant, before I can harvest.  It is the natural order of things.

I don't know why the idea struck me with such force at that moment.  It's certainly not new or original, but it was what I needed at that moment.  And from a box of granola, of all places!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book Review: Caribbean Crossroads by Connie Sokol

As soon as I found out the main character's name in Connie Sokol's book CARIBBEAN CROSSROADS was Megan, I was all in. And when I realized that she had dark brown hair and brown eyes, I wondered, "How did Connie know?"
Of course, that's where the similarities end, but not the fun. I gobbled this book up in a few hours, enjoying every minute of it. This light summer read, with her fully realized hero and heroine made it unputdownable. And yes, I just made up that word.

Here is the blurb:

New college grad Megan McCormick just got dumped. Hard.

Swearing off men and relationships, Megan is coaxed into performing on a cruise ship where she meets the star performer, Bryant Johnson. Handsome and charismatic, he looks like trouble, but she can't deny the intense attraction between them.

Urged to find a wife and run the family lumber business, Bryant is torn between his family's expectations for his life and his own. However, when he meets spunky, but love-skittish Megan McCormick, settling down doesn't look so bad.

Just when Megan begins to trust again, and Bryant makes some big decisions regarding his future, her former fiance returns with a malicious surprise, taking Megan and Bryant to their own CARIBBEAN CROSSROADS.

Megan is a fully realized character, with real traits and honest flaws that sometimes makes you want to hug her and sometimes shake her. And Bryant is the same, though with his own set of real characteristics. I became fully invested in their lives. I never felt like they fell into a familiar romance novel trap, the "silly misunderstanding that would only take one real conversation to fix" situation. 

The secondary characters were real as well, and often surprising. Ms. Sokol never fell back and relied on stock, cardboard characters to fill her story. I felt like they all had their own stories waiting in the wings. 

All in all, a delightful read, 100 percent real (and CLEAN). I would hand this to my teenage daughter in a heartbeat, no qualms at all.

Connie Sokol is a mother of seven—a national and local presenter, and a regular speaker at Education Week. She is a monthly TV contributor on KSL’s “Studio 5” and regular blogger for LDSLiving online. She is a former TV and radio host for Bonneville Communications, and columnist for Deseret News and Utah Valley Magazine. Mrs. Sokol is also the author of Motherhood Matters, Faithful, Fit & Fabulous, and Life is Too Short for One Hair Color, as well as talk CDs and podcasts. Mrs. Sokol marinates in time spent with her family and eating decadent treats. Visit her website at www.8basics.com/

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Inspiration from Stephen Covey

Many of you may already know that Stephen Covey, the author of one of the best selling self-help books, passed away yesterday due to injuries sustained in a bicycle accident which occurred in April. 

As a writer, I am very inspired by not only what he accomplished in publishing, but also the message he shared with the world. 

My Facebook newsfeed has been glittered with Stephen Covey's motivational thoughts and quotes.  Each one shares profound truths.  However, there was a picture displaying the 5 emotional cancers that I want to share with those who stop by and read MMW today.

I think this visual really hit me because I was still pondering a Guest post by Beth K. Vogt that I read over at Rachelle Gardner, a literary agents's blog.  Publishing is not a Three-Legged Race.  Why do we always feel the need to compare?  To compare is to belittle.  Because in comparing yourself to others, someone will come up short.  And the truth of the matter is you are usually, as Elder Uchtdorf said, "comparing [y]our weaknesses to their strengths."

We need to stop it.  Stop hurting ourselves and others.  I have been lucky to acquire many author friends over the past few years.  They have different strengths and abilities.  When I start trying to mentally compete with them, and ask why I am not up to their level in my writing, I will quickly become discouraged.  I forget to celebrate the strength and gifts that I do have.  I begin to feel worthless.

I realize there is little truth to the pit I dig for myself in those moments.  I am anything by worthless. 

We must rid ourselves of the emotional cancers and stop allowing them to have power over us.  Celebrate the success of those around us. If you have allowed them to ruin relationships, I hope you can turn things around and begin a road to recovery. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Characters and Plot Development: A Few Insights from Author Sarah Gruen

I just finished reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I will warn you that there were a few sketchy parts in the beginning- it's written from the point of view of a 21-year-old male, so he has some thoughts I'd rather not know about. I kept reading with one eye open, so to speak, prepared to abandon ship if necessary, but once the story picked up, the trash blew away and it was a pretty good read.

Anyway, I found the story riveting and I really liked the way the author developed the plot and the characters. I was thrilled to find a "Conversation With the Author" section at the end, and I thought I'd share a few tidbits from that that made me think.

I like to write flawed characters. I take a warts-and-all approach to everyone. People, for some reason, are more forgiving of my older warty characters, but my thirty- and forty-year-old characters are just as warty if you look at them closely. Annemarie, in the Riding Lessons series, certainly- it's my intention that people will feel like throttling her on occasion.

Once I thought back over the book, I realized she was right. There were several characters that really turned me off when I first "met" them, but eventually many of them earned my admiration. But that didn't mean I didn't want to still smack them every now and then. This made me think of my own WIP and ask myself, How 'warty' are my characters? Are their flaws easily visible? Does my reader want to give them a good throttling sometimes? To love 'em, you gotta hate 'em a little bit too.

Q: How do you approach plot? Do you outline and work out the shape of the story in detail before you write, or do you leave that until revision afterward?

A: For Water for Elephants, which was the first historical thing I've written, I did all the research ahead of time. I needed to feel that I knew the subject matter in and out. 
I hate outlining. I hate outlines, hate them, hate them.
I usually know what the crisis of the book is going to be, though I don't know how I'm going to get there. I try to make it bad enough that I don't know how I'm going to get out of it. And when I get there, I have to get out of it. I just get myself geared up, and I write every day and see what happens. 

I love the fact that she knows the crisis without knowing how she'll get out of it- I find that a very organic approach to writing, because really she's taking the story from the point of view of the character- they don't know how they'll get out of it either! I think that probably makes the resolution process much more natural and believable.

 I found that to be true in this book, and I realized after reading it that there were often so many loose ends and so many ways they could be tied up- either for the character's benefit or detriment- that I was compelled to continue reading and find out what the final outcome would be. And really, isn't that what makes a great plot?

Now that I've finished the book I'm intrigued to see the movie. I'm definitely glad I read this book first, though, because it is infused with layers that I'm sure weren't able to be captured in a 2-hour film. However, I feel it was definitely conducive to film adaptation because there is a strong main storyline that is very "Hollywood".

Hope you enjoyed this little peek into the mind of an author- have you read anything good lately that has taught you more about "the craft"?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I have a problem...

  I don't know how many of you have seen the PBS program Word Girl, but there is a character that I constantly think of. 

  This is Lady Redundant Woman.  She has a tendency to be extremely redundant. I can't honestly tell you her role in the show because I, myself, have only seen the show a couple of times, but the time I did see her I cracked up.  I could totally relate to the whole redundant thing.  Ash will often times read through something that I have written and respond with "You've used *(insert word/phrase/expression here) a lot." I will then go back and reread and realize that I have been quite redundant.  Like all things, I feel like admitting I have a problem is the first step to overcoming it.  I've been working harder on my usage of synonyms, but I'm so glad I have a partner in writing to point out all my reoccurring redundancies. :)

  What are some of the little issues that creep into your writing?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Saturday So What: Endorsements

Welcome to my nightmare of the week. Okay, more like my nightmare of the month that I have put off until this week. So What frightens me and sends me straight to bed at 8:00 pm rather than staying up and getting it done? Seeking endorsements for my book, Finished being Fat, that is due to go out to the printers in a few months.

So why have I put it off? Because I'm scared to death of asking someone to read my book and give a positive endorsement of it. What if they don't have a positive endorsement of it? What if they think it's the most poorly written book that should never have been published in the first place? *pant, pant*

It was one thing to send it out to agents and publishers, but now I'm sending it to other authors that I know and respect. I actually care what they think! What if they hate it? The thought makes me want to hurl as I type.

The Power of Positive Book EndorsementsThis trepidation has kept me from sending out the emails and ARC copies for weeks. A thought occurred to me two days ago. I'm worried that no one will endorse my book. Well, if I don't ask... no one will endorse my book.

So I put my big girl pants on and sent out some requests. We'll see what comes back. In the meantime, when you are asking for an endorsement, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. If you have a connection, use it.
If you know the person you are asking on let's say an acquaintance level, remind them how you know them. Or that you know a friend who suggested they might be interested. A person will be much more willing to help out if they know who the heck you are.

2. What's in it for them
In your letter or email, make a brief and succinct case why it would benefit them to endorse your book. At the end of their quote will be a tagline, reciprocating one of their books or website. Or you could have a marketing link to their products on your website.

3. Make it easy
Make the process as easy as possible for them. Offer to write a few examples that they can choose from and add their tagline to. People are busy, and might not have time to deal with coming up with a good blurb. If it's in front of them, they might be more willing to help out. This really especially applies to non-author type people who might not know how to craft a good blurb.

4. Give them the book
Send either a hard ARC (advanced reader copy) or a digital ARC to them and thank them for their time. A lot of times an ARC isn't polished all the way yet and may include grammatical errors still. (guilty!) Just remind them that it still has to be edited by your publishing company. If you are self publishing, it should already be a pretty polished draft.

And lastly...
Remember the worst that can happen is they say no. It might have nothing to do with you. They might have a contract that doesn't allow them to endorse books by other publishers. They might be busy. They might be jerks. But you'll never know if you don't ask.

If you have credits in the field of fitness, weight loss, or body image- or have a PHd after your name...and would like to give me a blurb for either my website or the book, give me a buzz and we'll chat.

Otherwise see you next week. Visit me at the Finished being Fat blog and Heaven's to Betsy. I warn you, its a wee bit controversial this week.

Friday, July 13, 2012

It's me, Kinda

I was really debating posting here at all today, since my internet connections last about 20 min and I worked this morning and have literally been at the computer fighting internet and password issues for 2 hrs.

But, as it turns out, I do have something to share. :)

As the release for The Tyrant King gets closer, I've been furiously working on the back cover copy for the print book. You know, that's where you usually find what the book is about, maybe a snippet from the book itself to draw you in, perhaps a little about the author.

Happily--and largely because Facebook could not distract me lol--I have revised my back cover copy to a point where I am happy with it. I don't know why things like book summaries, descriptions, back cover text, or query letters are the hardest things to write, but they are. So this is a huge leap for me to actually be *happy* with my text. I really hope you are, too. :)

Her heart paused, but Krystal remained defiant. “You lie. You would never do such a thing to my child.”

            “You think not?” He laughed again and she drew back. “I’ve sworn an oath to annihilate my dear cousin’s present and future, take over his kingdom and his crown, and fulfill my father’s dreams. And you think I would hesitate to murder his offspring? Come now, Krystal. I know you are smarter than that.”

Krystal’s peaceful life as queen of Fayterra is shattered when a stranger arrives with a connection to Jareth that threatens to change everything. Soon her loved ones are threatened, her people are under attack, and Krystal must face a devastating loss.

As the future becomes bleaker and the mystery continues to unravel, Krystal’s enemies will learn just how far she will go to defend the people she loves.

And if you haven't had a chance to check out the FIRST CHAPTER, don't miss out!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Stalling Out

So I'm going to level with you:  I'm in a funk.  I've essentially stalled out of first gear at a busy intersection trying to turn left into oncoming traffic.

Okay, so maybe it's not that bad - I was trying to elicit an emotional connection that you may be familiar with - if you've ever had that experience, you understand just how quickly you can become panic stricken and freeze.  When you try and find first gear in a car your not totally confident driving and you wonder what you're doing behind the wheel.

That's the same feeling I'm having about my writing.  Because I look at things I have written in the past, and think two things.

1. What was I thinking?  I wrote that?  That's terrible!  I'm so glad I didn't show it to very many people...

2. The panic that causes the 'figurative' stall - when I wrote that, I thought it was good!

I was having a conversation about this with my very talented critique partner (who also happens to be my sister-in-law) Stephanie Humphreys, and she gave me, as usual, some very good advice.

(Now forgive me, I'm ad-libbing from memory here.)  She said, "Everybody looks back on earlier work and sees it as weaker.  It's what proves that we are growing as writers.  If it was the same as our current writing, we haven't progressed."

I was so grateful for that advice.  Grateful enough that I felt my emotional muse restart the car and shift from first to second gear.

Growing is good.  It's okay if the things I write don't come out perfect the first time.  I learned to drive a manual car in a parking lot without any obstacles, because that's how you learn a skill like that.  And you stall, and rev and make embarrassing mistakes, even at busy intersections.  That's learning to drive.

Why should writing be any different?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Plotting, Structure, and I'm Not the Pantser I Thought I Was

In my search for a way to overcome my inability to finish a story, I've read several book on plot and structure. And through all my reading it became clear that the subtext of all these books was "If you try to pants your way through this, if you don't know how to structure your novel in your bones, you will be rewriting until the dawn of the eternity."

So here's my little confession. I decided a long time ago that I'd rather be a pantser because it "seemed" easier than plotting out and organizing a novel before hand. Yes. I am lazy. But after years of failed attempts, I realized I just didn't have the imagination to pants a story from beginning to end.

So with my latest WIP I've been working through a synopsis, chapter by chapter, to give myself a blueprint of sorts to make this writing thing hopefully go a little easier.

A couple of weeks ago I enjoyed the cool confines of a gorgeous cabin for the ANWA southwest region retreat. Three days of writing and classes and associations with my fellow writers. I loved every second of it.
During the retreat, Tina Scott gave a class where she broke down a book I'd purchased earlier this year, called Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. I recommend it, along with Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. Both of them explain in step by step detail how to set down before hand what you need to create a compelling and exciting story beginning to end.

Though I'd read the books, having her pull out the important parts made me realize where I was going wrong in my storytelling. I wasn't writing to or away from major points in the story, places where the MC had to make a decision that changed everything for them. And I needed to figure out the rough word count of when those elements need to make an appearance. For me, aiming to write about 80,000 words for a YA paranormal, that means the 1st major plot point needs to happen around 20k, the Midpoint at 40k, and the 2nd plot point at 60k. And everything needs to work towards those points, building tension, or away from them, because of the reaction of the characters to that decision.

Epiphany! It finally clicked! Hallelujah! Right after class I wrote down on a single sheet everything that happens at those major points, plus a few key moments before and after to help me remember what I'm writing toward.
Now I can break down the novel into these smaller, more manageable bits and it won't be an overwhelming task I had supposed to finish a first draft.

I hope.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Up to My Elbows

For me, great books are the ones that let me get my hands all up in the action.  I don't want to be told a story about a girl who reached inside the pumpkin she was carving and pulled out an ring box.  I want to experience the excitement and surprise without the emotional distance.  I want to be elbow deep in pumpkin guts, figuratively that is. 

Watching a roller coaster speed down the track while listening to the screams of the riders can be enjoyable. However, it does not compare to sitting harnessed in your seat with the anticipation growing stronger as the people below grow smaller, looking more like ants scurrying through their farm.  The climb continues until you are certain you will reach the heavens before the summit.  The ascension stops creating a silence full of both fear and excitement.   Your life and your lunch hang in the balance.

Ok. My description is quick, but you get my point.  There is a difference between being on that coaster through the stomach turning journey, and being told it was the best coaster ever. 

Telling is a common problem, I see it creeping into my drafts more often than I am happy to admit.  David Farland shared a great Kick in the Pants post recently on reasons we should not put this emotional distance between us and our readers.  So hop on over there for a kick and then start writing from stories your readers can experience.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Are You Stuck in the Middle?

If you’re at all like me, you get a great idea for a story, you think up some fabulous characters, then you figure out the end, then you’re stuck trying to figure out how to get your characters from Point A to Point B, which just seems like a lot of sigh-inducing work.

If you feel that way, I’m going to recommend this great blog post to you: Rehabilitating the Reputation of the Middle by Deren Hansen over at Utah Children’s Writers. He talks about the importance of that middle- it’s the keystone in the arch that holds it all together, giving you a secure and worthwhile journey from Point A to Point B. He also reminds us not to stuff our middles with fluff. Good for Winnie the Pooh, not so much for our stories.

Is your WIP stuffed with fluff or packed with juicy revelations??

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Let Freedom Ring

    With many of my friends' husbands coming home from deployment this month, and many more (including my own) getting ready to leave later this year, Independence Day has a deeper meaning for me than in the past. As we sang our National Anthem this past Sunday, I pondered over those things that it stands for, the freedoms and blessings that I enjoy as a citizen of this country.

    "Oh say, can you see, by the dawn's early light, ...."

    The words to this precious song are rarely sung by my own mouth. For me the words usually go more like this: 
    Seven years of marching band, playing our national anthem at every home football game, many pep rallies, and other performances have ingrained this in my brain and muscle memory. It helps me to remember that the celebration of our freedoms and those things our nation is built upon is not just a celebration for a single day. It is something to be remembered every time we participate in any event, gathering, or church service.
     I have also spent many years playing in community music groups, symphonies, bands, and church related groups. They have given me the opportunity to play for many occasions including national holidays, remembering our veterans and those who currently fight for our freedoms. I'm sure all of you will agree that words are very powerful and that writing is a great expression of the soul. For me, music speaks much louder than words. A great speaker may stir my soul, but music moves my soul. It brings tears to my eyes to sing, play, or hear these great works of music. I am grateful to have these great reminders each and every day of the blessed country I have to live in and be a part of. It gives me a great desire to take more part in the decisions that are made that will have lasting effects on our country's future.
    Let us remember that this is a Promised land. Let us declare, shout, and sing our praises to God, and express our thanksgiving for a blessed nation, not just on the Fourth of July, but EVERY DAY.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Saturday So What: Everything I need to know as a writer, I learned from Buffy

My husband and I have been indulging recently in last year's Christmas present... the full series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD. I'm sure I don't have to tell you this, but the show is brilliant. Joss Whedon is a freakin' genius. It is my fervent belief that if every writer watched Buffy, the quality of books would vastly increase. Here's what I learned.:

1. Witty irreverent dialogue makes characters interesting. Even the unlikable ones.
Principal Snyder is not a character you should like. He constantly causes problems for our heroine.  It would be easy to cast this character as a throw away. Just a boring voice of authority. Instead, Whedon has given him some of the best lines, making him worth watching instead of a snoozefest.
Principal Snyder: That's the kind of wooly-headed liberal thinking that leads to being eaten.
2. Sidekicks are almost as valuable as the protagonist.
Where would the Scooby Gang be without Willow, Giles and Zander? These characters are all essential parts of story. They add meaningful support as well as comic relief. Often sidekicks are relegated to very surface personalities. It's easy to fall into the stereotype trap. The fat best friend, the nerd, the snotty cheerleader.. you name it and it's been done. They don't grow. So take it farther, make the audience care and give your sidekicks depth. Think of the growth Willow had throughout the series.

3. Angel was the original Edward from Twilight
And Joss Whedon did it so much better. Edward comes off as too good to be true. He has no flaws. It's obnoxious. And unrealistic. Angel is awesome because he has issues. He's not perfect, we don't always like him; but in the end, we all root for him anyway. Have you ever had a relationship that was all sunshine and roses? Where the only problems between the two of you could be worked out through a little DTR (define the relationship). Didn't think so. Buys make you cry. Love makes you cry.And sometimes... true love doesn't conquer all.

4. Sometimes life sucks.
Throughout the series, Buffy goes through hell. How often do we read books where the main character is never in any real peril. Nothing bad really happens to them. Buffy got the crap beat out of her on a weekly basis. She doesn't often get what she wants, but she does what is needed. Don't be afraid to hurt your hero. If there is no true peril, the story isn't interesting. And if it's obvious that the hero will come out all peachy keen... why would we keep turning the page?

There are so many more lessons, but I think I'll leave it on just one final thought. Fun. In every Joss Whedon project I have ever seen, it is clear that he has fun. Look at Buffy, Firefly, Avengers... they do well and have cult followings because he has fun with his writing. When the writer has fun, the audience can't help but join in.

So until next week, live by my personal author tagline -- Having fun on the page

Friday, July 6, 2012

The FUN Part!

We spend a lot of time as writers talking about the hard stuff--learning your craft, honing your craft, editing, writing drafts, querying, writing query letters, wait, I had a point here.

Oh, yes! The FUN parts of writing.

It's different with every writer, really, but here are the two parts of writing that I love.

One, the first draft. Where you're meeting your characters for the first time, throwing them into tough situations and finding out what they're made of. Great fun, great stuff. I can do it in a month if I push myself. And I have.

My other favorite part of writing is still relatively new--seeing my work in print. It's like magic. It gives you a feeling you've never had before, even if you've published before. Every book is new and each experience is sweet.

I'm sitting, at this moment, on the cusp of that second experience. The Tyrant King is being formatted for printing/e-books. Literally tingling in anticipation of the magic. For those of you who don't know (or don't remember lol), this has been a while in coming.

I submitted my manuscript to the publisher of my first book last year. They sent it back requesting changes. No big, they did that with my first one. The changes took me longer than I'd planned, but I eventually sent it back to them. And waited. Though I harbored some doubt, I was reasonably confident they would publish me a second time.

Boy, was I wrong.

On the anniversary of the day The Peasant Queen was ACCEPTED, The Tyrant King was REJECTED. By then, I'd listened to my doubts enough that I'd determined to self publish it. To that end, I hired an editor and got the wheels turning for the cover art and lined up my friend to help with formatting and typesetting.

Still, the rejection hurt. It was hard to take, even though I had an alternative plan and was already moving forward with it. After several months, I can say now that I'm glad they rejected TTK because it's SOOO much better after being taken apart by a seasoned editor.

In just a few weeks, I'm going to be doing the new book dance with my hubby and kids. It's those moments that help make all the hard work worth it.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Say It With Me: I Am A Writer

I attended a class at the 2007 LDS Storymakers Conference presented by Tristi Pinkston.  I can't recall the name of the class, or the synopsis of the material it covered, but I will never forget the experience of that one hour with Tristi, because it held for me the 'wow' factor of that event.  You know - the one opportunity you walk away from saying, "Wow - if nothing else had gone right, that moment made this whole experience worthwhile."

I remember Tristi reflecting on the pull we feel to writing, and tying it to our eternal nature.  She suggested something I'd never really considered before: that we were probably writing long before we came to Earth; that we were developing these interests and talents as we prepared for mortality.  Quite possibly we sat in on lessons with Shakespeare.  Perhaps we listened to a panel by Austen and Dickens. 

The point, speculation aside, is that life is just a step in our eternal progression.  We didn't just pop into existence and decide to string words into stories.

When she made that point, I felt an instant connection to the idea.  Yes.  I was a writer before I was born.  More importantly, I am a writer now.

Sometimes I think we forget or undermine the importance of that little idea. We think, "I'm not a writer because I'm not published," or "I'm not a writer, because I'm still learning.   Yesterday, my six-year-old daughter reinforced the concept.

She announced she was going to write a book, demanded some paper and disappeared for almost half-an-hour.  When she returned, she handed me a fully illustrated short story anecdote of her experience with the chicken pox this past spring.

I read it aloud, gave her a hug and said, "Sweetie, you're a writer!"

She gave me one of those 'teenage' looks and said, "Yes mom, I know."

From this experience I learned some very important lessons:

1. If you want to write a story, sit down and do it.  She had an idea, took the initiative and finished the project.
2. If you believe you are a writer, you are a writer.  Nobody else's criteria, accomplishments or understanding matters.  More importantly, if you are writing, you are a writer.

So say it with me:  "I am a writer."

Now close your browser and get to work.  (But don't forget to stop by tomorrow for the next great MMW post!)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Declare Yourself!!!

Today is the 4th of July, the day we celebrate with family gatherings, picnics, and fireworks. For most of my life the Forth has been filled with preparations for these activities. But in my (cough) maturity I've realized that it is not just about those things. It is a day commemorating the moment 236 years ago when the original 13 colonies declared they'd had enough of arbitrary decisions from a kingdom an entire ocean away determining the lives, liberty, and happiness of those independent colonists with no consideration for what their needs were.

So today I give you the Declaration of Independence, the document that began the movement of our country into a cohesive unit, separate from the rule of King George III of England. I found it very interesting as I read it how many of these same freedoms are now being infringed upon, both by others in the name of law, and by the government itself.

I'm not suggesting we declare our independence from the United States of America. What I am suggesting, however, is that we stand up for all righteousness. We know where the lines are drawn, and what we believe.

 Stand for truth. Stand for righteousness. Stand for liberty. Stand and be counted.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Interview: Orson Badger

This is Nikki again coming out of my retirement to introduce you to an amazing writer!
I'd like to welcome a friend of mine who wrote an awesome Science Fiction epic called, "Exodus: Leaving Home".  He agreed to do an interview with us! Please welcome Orson Badger.

1. Tell us about yourself and when you started writing.

I was born in Ogden, Utah and lived there until I was five. My father later took a job in Denver, Colorado and moved our little family to what is known as the, “Mile High City,” where we lived until I finished the fourth grade. That summer we moved back to Ogden, Utah where I lived until 1984.
In 1984 I served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I had the opportunity of serving the gracious people of Pusan, South Korea. Upon my return home I married a beautiful woman and moved to Seattle, Washington where we lived for twelve years. In 2000 I relocated my family to Boise, Idaho. Then after the tragic events of 911 and the severe economic stress that followed, I decided to finish my education and pursue a Masters Degree in Architecture at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho. Since graduating with a Masters degree in 2006, in an effort to remain employed my family and I have lived in Orlando, Florida, St. George, Utah, New Orleans, Louisiana, and presently, we reside in Casper, Wyoming. If you hadn’t figured out by the vagabond nature of our living habits mentioned above. I am married to the most kind and patient woman ever placed upon the Earth.
I started writing in grade school after learning to read. I constantly made little books by taking a small stack of paper and folding it multiple times, stapling it in the center and then I would write and draw various stories that, at least to me, were interesting. I had two passions, one was sketching/drawing and the other was writing. Both competed for my time until the art of drawing won out. Throughout my teenage years I continued to polish my artistic skills and I could always be found drawing sword and sorcery themed images. During this period of my life I read ravenously all sorts of books but my mainstays were fantasy and science fiction. It wasn’t until years later when I wrote a paper in college that I realized I really enjoyed writing. Then when I lived in Louisiana after starting to read a critically acclaimed sci-fi novel and finding it filled with four-letter words and graphic sex, I said to myself, I can write exciting sci-fi better than this and feel comfortable recommending it to my children. So I began writing in hopes of helping to take back the sci-fi culture that has become filled with offensive and politically correct garbage.

2. Tell us about your book.
Since 1992, I became politically engaged. Freedom, and the fact that this precious gift from God is slowly being taken from us, has been in the forefront of my mind. Exodus: Leaving Home is book one in the epic Exodus series of a near-futuristic Earth where people have allowed their freedoms to be stripped from them and now they find themselves living under a tyrannical hyper-restrictive world government. (Sound familiar?) In the series a group of freedom fighters, in the spirit of our forefathers, seek to find freedom from tyranny by setting out on a quest to recapture their lost liberty. Morstyn, a psychotic villain, and Miah, his Biowired juggernaut spy, do all they can to stop the freedom fighters from succeeding. I suppose the story is a combination of all my favorite epic literature and movies, including religious texts. In a way it is written for my children because I not only want to entertain but I want them to understand how precious freedom is and what could happen if it continues to erode.

3. What authors inspired you to write science fiction?
I was probably about six or seven when I read my first sci-fi book. The Golden Apples of the Sun, a short story compilation by the late great Ray Bradbury. I remember having a hard time at my young age grasping the stories and the mature prose but the final tale, The Golden Apples of the Sun, fascinated me. I’ve been a fan of sci-fi ever since. Star Wars came out when I was about twelve and the sci-fi/fantasy genre just got into my blood. In high school Tolkien was a major influence along with Terry Brooks. Stephen King helped me with understanding suspense and how interesting characters are written. Tom Clancy’s fast-paced military action kept me entertained on long plane flights when I traveled for business. More recently authors that influence and inspire me are Frank Herbert and his rich epic series Dune, David Brin’s delightfully weird Startide Rising, Alistair Reynold’s mind-blowing Revelation Space Trilogy, Robert Jordan’s seemingly never-ending Wheel of Time Series, David Weber’s Honor Harrington Series, and Vince Flynn and Brad Thor’s political thrillers. There are probably others but these I remember most.

4. How much time do you spend on research for your books?
It seemed like all I did for Exodus: Leaving Home was research. I started to write and soon found out there were a lot of things I didn’t fully understand. I used to hate math and I’ve never been very proficient but I found myself solving all types of complex math formulas for the story. There were all kinds of questions that I needed to understand. Here are just a few. At eighty degrees below zero how soon will frostbite occur? What are the long term effects of zero gravity on human physiology? What are the various ranks in the military? What jargon does the military use in combat? When does the sun rise in the month of May in the Arctic Circle? What are the ranges of current radar technology? How long would it take to travel to a distant star at a certain speed? How do you figure out population growth over a period of time? What would it be like to live on the moon? These and many other questions needed researched and I found myself at times enjoying the learning so much that I had to force myself to get back to writing the story.

5. What are your writing habits?
I work full time in architecture so I have to organize my time effectively. I usually wake up early and get to work an hour or two before working hours and find a quiet spot to write. At lunch I wolf down some food so I can spend most of the time writing. As I said above I have a very patient loving wife and she allows me to spend a few hours on weeknights and write while she goes to bed. On Saturday I wake up around 5:30 and write until everyone gets up. Sunday I rest. The technique I use is antiquated but it works for me. I start my initial draft the old fashioned way by writing with a pen in long hand in a composition notebook. Once that’s finished then I transfer the story to the computer.

6. What snacks/drinks give your super writing powers?
My sweet wife has gotten me addicted to this wonderful blended fruit shake in the morning. At first I was reluctant…very reluctant. But I tried it one day and soon found my mental clarity and focus enhanced. It consists of a banana and a half and usually some other fruit like strawberries or peaches, a little water, nuts if we have some, and maybe a carrot or apple with half a lemon, peel and all. It’s really quite good. The other snack I really enjoy is pizza, although I’m not really sure it enhances my writing ability I couldn’t live very long without it.

7. How many times do you edit your books?
I find that editing or re-writing a story is actually where the writing really begins. Once I slog through the arduous task of just getting my ideas down on paper then I can really begin to make sense of the mess; working out the continuity and contradictions, develop the characters, and check story details. I re-write until I can read the story and it makes sense to me, usually about ten to twelve times. Then I spend a lot of time checking for typo and punctuation errors. It’s amazing to me no matter how thorough you think you are and how many times you check there always seems to be a typo that shows up.

8. Why did you choose self-publishing over traditional publishing?
I haven’t entirely given up on traditional publishing…yet. I initially sent my book to a publisher and when I found out how long it was going to take for me to even hear back from them I said to myself, I can’t wait that long! So I decided to go indie while waiting for publishers to respond. I have an extensive background in graphic design and art, so for me it was a fun project to design the cover and the layout of the book. The big downside to independent publishing is the lack of marketing resources. Although listening to authors from both sides of publishing I’m not so sure that even with a traditional publisher all writers’ books are marketed equally.
9- What type of music if any do you listen to while writing?
It depends on what part of the story. Most of the time I have movie soundtracks playing in the background to help inspire me. But sometimes I find that type of music distracting and have to listen to ambient type music, usually its real strange atmospheric stuff that prods me into thinking about space travel, planets, stars, and things of that nature. While other times I need complete quiet to work out complex scenes and situations.
10- What are you working on now?
I’m right in the middle of re-writing book two in the Exodus series, Reprisal. I hope to have it available sometime in November 2012. In this book a bunch of new and exciting characters will debut along with the lovable and despised characters from the first. Questions posed in the first book will be answered and new questions will be asked. In this part of the story I’ve tried to weave into the story, in an entertaining way, some of the world issues that have been happening in the past few years against an epic backdrop of moon bases, space travel, and military action. If you enjoyed the first book this promises to be a great ride.
Thank you for joining us, Orson!  Everyone be sure to check out his book. If you or someone you know loves science fiction, they will love this book


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