Sunday, June 30, 2013

Yay Summer Vacation!...Oh, Wait....


     When I was younger summer vacation was THE thing I looked forward to.  I spent all school year excited for summer time bliss, the freedom to do what I wanted and spend the days with friends, and bask in the warm glow of sunshine and contentment.  When I grew up a little bit my view didn't change too much because I was actually working at a school, so I was able to experience that same excitement and energy in the anticipation of summer break.  When I became a new mom every day seemed the same, so when summer came it just meant that it was warmer, my life didn't really change a whole lot.  As my little babies became little girls I heard other moms talking about how they dreaded summer break.  I could never wrap my head around this.  How could you not be excited to have your kids home with you all day after having them gone so much of the day at school? 
     This last year was my first taste of having a child in school.  My Baby Bug went off to Kindergarten.  We both loved it.  My daughter truly thirsts for knowledge and really loved going to school.  I enjoyed having a little more free time and more one-on-one time with my Baby Bear.  All this being said, I still looked forward to having my Bug home all day again and being able to spend more time with her.  Well...I am here to make it known to the world that I have once again learned not to judge or think critically of all those moms who said they couldn't wait for school to start again.  I find it much like the epiphany I had about those moms who were dragging kids through the grocery store in mismatched clothing and food goobers smeared across their faces, one day I just realized I WAS that mom!  I have become that mom that looks forward to school starting again.  I find myself asking how this happened.  Only a year ago I had both girls at home EVERY DAY and it didn't seem like such a big deal.  How is it that one year of school can change that?  Now, from the moment my girls wake up (which is WAY too early) I'm desperately trying to tread water in the whirlpool of life.  There are moments when I have clung to Pinterest like some kind of life preserver, searching for activities to keep my little ones busy while I scramble to get one or two things accomplished.  I feel my sanity slowly unraveling.  Oh, and my writing?  Yeah, not happening.  There are moments I hardly feel like I have time to breathe.  Please tell me, all you more experienced mothers, that it gets easier as your kids get older, lie if you have to! Just kidding, I know life is never really going to slow down, at least not while my kids live at home, but I do hope that I am able to get myself to a point where I know what to do with myself in the midst of all the chaos. 
All that being said, I really do love having both my girls home and I treasure my time with both of them.  I feel very blessed to have them.

What are some of your favorite summer activities?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday So What: Revision treadmill

I hate treadmills. Truly I do. You huff and you puff, but you get absolutely nowhere.

That is precisely how my week felt while I was writing my work in progress.  I'd set the lofty goal of 1500 words per day. But something was wrong, it just wasn't flowing like normal. I knew exactly where I was going with my story, but it just felt . . . off.

So I spent the last four days rewriting and revising, changing the POV and tense of the first four chapters. We are talking ten hour days people! Yesterday, I lost my marbles. I swore to leave the writing to people who could somehow make sparkly abbed vampires sell millions. What was the point of spending so much time and getting nowhere? My word count only advanced about 1000 for the whole week.

Then today, I had an epiphany. My story felt stilted and unnatural in 1st person present tense because I was so uncomfortable writing it. Same thing in 3rd/past. But when I finished the rewrites in 1st/past, the words stopped being ink on a page. They came alive.

That led me to the next and more life altering epiphany. Sometimes I spend a lot of time doing something without moving forward, but that doesn't mean I'm not moving up. The treadmill work doesn't get me the marathon race medals I love, but it makes me healthier and happier--in the long term, because running on it still sucks. Revising doesn't add the big numbers to the word count, but it adds to the immeasurable quality of the work. And on the days I want to beat my head against the wall after putting my daughter in time out for the 20th time, I am gaining patience. Probably.

I guess the point is that we are always moving until the moment we give up.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Stuff I Wish I'd Written

I'm a fan of the show "Elementary."  I like the characters, the premise, the writing.  I get so absorbed, I don't try to text, check facebook, or do anything else while I'm watching.

I felt the same way about "Lost."   Even though the last two seasons involved time travel and some wonky magnetism, the writing was riveting.  I felt like I knew these people.  They were multi-faceted and complicated.  I cried when Sun and Jin drowned. I cried when Juliet died.  I cried when the series ended.  I still miss that show.  

I felt the same way about "Home Improvement."  I could relate to the character Jill, a frazzled mom with three boys, trying to work, then returning to school.  Her POV was realistic, and she could have been my best friend.  

I feel the same way about the movie "Mr. Holland's Opus."  Richard Dreyfuss is stellar as the beleaguered music teacher who really wants to compose, but finances and family dictate that he maintains steady work.  So he takes a "regular" job and writes when he has a minute (sound familiar?)  I love this man.  His dedication, his frustrations, his humor.

These are a few of the projects I think are well written. When I run across a piece of work that moves me, it often runs through my mind, I wish I'd written that.  Quirky characters, tragic characters,  sacrificial characters, funny characters...these are my favorites.  I love realistic dialogue and surprise endings. 

Most of the stuff on TV these days doesn't interest me.  Most current movies don't interest me.  Most of what I read is nonfiction.   But, now and then, some wonderful and soul-stirring characters cross my path and stay with me.  Like Jonny Lee Miller's Sherlock Holmes.  Jack and Kate and John Locke.  Jill and Tim Taylor.  And Mr. Holland. 

I'm so grateful for good writing.  It keeps characters alive.

What do you wish you'd written?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Snippet from The Saved Saint

It's a while since I've shamelessly plugged my latest book, The Saved Saint, so please permit me the indulgence of doing so today.

The Saved Saint is based on a true story. It's about learning to accept and respect someone's decision, even if you don't agree with or even understand it. It's about learning to love a person even when you disagree with them. It's about the two-centuries-old antagonism between Latter-day Saint Christians and Evangelical Christians. Alternate chapters are written from the point-of-view of the LDS mother and her rebellious born-again Christian son.

Here's a sample scene. In it, Jeannie and a friend, Scott Baker, are visiting Harley's new church for the first time:

The random twanging and wailing of the musicians had now formed into noise which actually had a semblance of tune, and the thin woman seemed to realise that it was time to stop goading the visiting Mormons and do whatever it was she liked to do in this place. “Um, can I talk to you some more afterwards about the Mormon Church?” She asked. “I want to tell you about a few things you might not know about it.”

“Of course,” Brother Baker said, astonishingly munificently. “But only if you are prepared to use its proper name. The word “Mormon” is just a nickname applied to us initially by our detractors. It is important to us to use the full and correct name of the church, so if you’d like to discuss it then I’m happy to do so on those terms.”

The woman looked blankly at him. “I thought it was called the Mormon Church,” she said after a confused moment.

Brother Baker shook his head.

“Then what is it called?”

“Might I suggest,” Brother Baker said coolly, “That if you claim you are going to tell us things we don’t know about our own church, we might be more inclined to take that seriously if you actually knew our church’s name.”

We (my co-author and I) are confident that we have stuck a balance between the two church traditions perfectly, because we've had a Mormon complain to us that it's biased in favour of the mainstream Christians, and mainstream Christian complain that it's biased in favour of the Mormons. Most reviewers, however, seem to feel it's perfectly balanced.

Intrigued? Here are the links to buy it, or download a longer sample:

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Circle of Sisters- With a Story From Yours Truly!

Last year I was invited to contribute a story to this truly wonderful anthology book, “A Circle of Sisters.” Jolyn Brown has compiled 50 true inspirational stories that speak to the heart and make me proud to be a woman and a member of Relief Society. 

When I got my copy I started reading because I was curious to see how my story would compare to the others, but I kept reading because I couldn’t put it down! Every time I picked it up I told myself I’d just read 2-3 stories but they were like potato chips and I would end up reading at least 8-10, addicted to that wonderful feeling of the Holy Spirit that came with each and every one.

The stories are short- most just a couple of pages- and each one will warm your heart and reaffirm your testimony in the power of sisterhood. This would be the perfect gift for a woman who has recently been baptized (or will be soon) or a young woman about to enter the Relief Society. Or, you can be like me and just get it for yourself so you can read it anytime you need a little pick-me-up! :-)

“A Circle of Sisters” is available through and

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday So What: Young Chefs Review

A few weeks ago Christina Dymock asked me if I would participate in her blog tour and post a review of her book, Young Chefs: Cooking skills and recipes for kids. I jumped on the opportunity because, as I have bemoaned often, I have the kitchen skills of a fifth grader. I was given a hard cover copy in exchange for an honest review.

So let's start with the cover and formatting:
Young Chefs By: Christina Dymock
Very attractive. The book is laid out in easy to understand sections of terms, skills and recipes.  The recipes are divided into food times (breakfast, snack, etc.) and then have little labels on whether or not adult help is needed, and a toolbox icon indicating the skills and utensils needed.  I really appreciated the way that worked.  It's very easy to see at a glance whether this recipe will end with me or my children setting the kitchen on fire or losing an appendage.

The glossary is great and informative. My problem comes in the "Skills" section. There are a few basic ones, like measuring solids, liquids. Taking a pan out of the oven. Cracking an egg. These skills are taught with easy to understand instructions and pictures. But I just don't feel that there enough of them. Six, if you don't include the knife how-to which doesn't have pictures and basically says keep your fingers out of the way and have an adult present. I would have like to have seen a photo showing the cat's paw curled under fingers. Then after going through the recipes (all of which look nummy and fun) I think a few more skills might have been nice to help prepare a new elementary chef or their newbie mommy.

But the lack in skills is made up for in the recipe section with plenty of good-looking easy to follow recipes even my 6 year old and I could manage. (I recommend the Cherry Chocolate Cheesecake Bars on page 106)

Overall Review: 
This is a good book for young elementary age children who are just venturing into the kitchen. Good for moms just venturing into the kitchen too. The back of the book says "Kids in the kitchen don't have to make a mess -- as long as they know what they are doing". That's just not true for me and my daughter, we still made a mess. But I like to think of the mess as being in direct proportion to the fun we had together. The book itself is well written and expertly laid out to be convenient and eye catching. Don't expect your child or you to be able to be the Next Food Network Star after reading this, but do expect some family bonding time followed by the boost of a little kids self sufficiency that they can make breakfast for themselves.
4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, June 21, 2013

When Life Gives You Lemons...Opt for Chocolate Cake

This title just popped into my head and it's taken me a little while to figure out what it means to me. First of all, let me just say that May was a terrible, horrible, no good month! There was a death in the family, another family member in the hospital, my grandpa's house had to be repaired after a water pipe burst, and the end of the school year brought dance recitals, band concerts, NJHS ceremonies, and lots to do at work (since I work at a school). Plus my husband and I were asked to be a Ma and Pa on our Stake's Pioneer Trek. To say that writing didn't happen in May is an understatement. At the end of May, I was at the end of my rope. Life had definitely thrown me a lot of lemons and I didn't want them!
June started with a lot more promise though just as busy. The biggest thing that happened was the trek. I was so nervous about it. I hadn't been exercising and I was going to have to find a good
attitude to display and fast! I did a lot of praying and then just trusted that the Lord would help me to be the person that I needed to be for this task. We walked 13 rocky miles the first day and the women's pull was crazy hard. But something happened in those 5 days that I find hard to explain. Despite how hard it was, the trek wasn't a trial, it was a very big blessing. It was like finding a big slice of chocolate cake just for me. So I asked myself many times what was the difference between the hardships of the month before and the hardships of the trek. My answer is: MY attitude. In May I saw lemons everywhere and bemoaned my bad luck to have so many hard things happen to me. On the trek I used faith that the Lord would lead me forward and instead of seeing lemons, I recognized the chocolate cake the Lord was offering me.
My goal for the rest of the summer is to ignore the lemons that life throws at me and to look for chocolate cake instead. This includes my writing. Instead of seeing all the reasons I can't write, I will see all the reasons I should. I will re-prioritize and change my attitude and put my faith in the Lord to lead me where I should go. This will make me a much happier person! Because, let's be honest, lemons are never as good as chocolate cake! So why settle?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Has Anybody Seen Mandi???

So....this is a little embarrassing, but I've been missing from my regularly scheduled posts for several weeks now, and sporadically before that.  The last time I posted I made a call out for good penny pinching recipes and tips from you, our good readers, but sadly, never received a single one.

That, however, is not the reason for my lack of appearance.  I have to admit I am not one to take commitment lightly or to brush of the tasks I have been entrusted with.  I don't mean this as an excuse of any form, but I did figure I owed you an explanation for my MIA status, which has become more of the rule, rather than the exception.

I am expecting!  And while this is my fourth baby, and I'm no stranger to the difficulties of early pregnancy, for some reason I have struggled more with staying on my feet this time around.  I'm having extreme difficulty keeping up with my regular routine, extreme difficulty staying up past 8pm (just after the other three kids fall asleep) and extreme difficulty even remembering the little details.  Like that I was supposed to write a blog post last Thursday.  And the Thursday before that.  And... well, you get the picture.  And writing?  It isn't happening.

I'm three months now, due in early December, and starting to feel slightly more human with each passing day, and hoping the ability to regain a sense of 'some' normality comes with it.  Either way, I'm very excited that the Lord has entrusted me again with the opportunity to welcome one of his precious children into my home.  The writing, I guess, can wait...

I'll see you (hopefully) next Thursday.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Difficult Words

One of my very favourite authors is Bill Bryson. I loved him when he was still just a travel writer and I read the side-splittingly funny Notes from a Big Country. Bill Bryson is American but is married to an Englishwoman, and has lived for many years in both countries, so he's pretty much the authority when it comes to comparing their foibles and idiosyncrasies. I recommend all his travel books.

He is also a journalist, however, and has written several books about the English language. I wish his book Shakespeare: The World as a Stage had been around when I was struggling through the second year of my English degree because it would have made my study of the bard much more interesting.

One book by Bryson which I keep close to my desk is called Troublesome Words and I recommend it to all writers. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that no one should attempt to write anything without having it around to refer to. It's indispensable in explaining the difference between acute and chronic, affect and effect, (and that's only in the As) and being Bill Bryson he can also explain which one to use depending on which side of the Atlantic you happen to reside on.

I'd like to add a few more troublesome words to his list however, all ones I seem to have come across a lot over the last few weeks:

Strait / Straight: Strait means "difficult", especially in terms of being narrow or awkward. So the channel of water between Anglesey and mainland Wales, near where I used to live, is called the Menai Straits not because it is a straight line, but because it is narrow and difficult to sail along. Straight means without a bend, angle, or curve, or direct:. Thus it is the strait and narrow path (KJV) because it is cramped and maybe rocky or steep or strewn with obstacles. (And the band, and idiom, are Dire Straits because it means extreme difficulty.) I saw most recently that someone had referred to a "straight jacket" when you will now realise it is actually a straitjacket.

Decimate does NOT mean to utterly and totally destroy, despite being used in that sense on several episodes of Stargate SG-1 (which is, in every other way, wonderful). It means to destroy a tenth. It was a punishment used in the Roman army among rank or file soldiers where they drew lots and one in every ten was killed. So if a town is decimated by, say, invading aliens, 90% of it is left standing and unharmed.

Literally means really or actually and suggests that you are describing something exactly as it happened without exaggeration. So if you say, "I was so angry I literally bit her head off" I would marvel at how you were able to accomplish that unusual murderous feat, but probably wouldn't visit you in jail. Unless you really, actually, mean what you say, ("I'm literally freezing" is fine if you are in the advanced stages of hypothermia) then please use figuratively rather than literally.

Revert is one I am seeing more and more now, often in email which say things like "I will check the situation and revert." Revert actually means "to return to a previous state" rather than "to reply or get back". This apparently new usage is Indian in origin. In the English spoken  on the Indian subcontinent it seems that revert has long meant reply and this usage is becoming more common elsewhere. Maybe it's an interesting example of language being a living thing that changes and evolves, but I can't help asking "revert to what?"

This has been a public service blog post.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Motherhood and Writing

By Nikki Wilson
You get to hear from me twice this week. Which only makes sense since I missed my post a couple of weeks ago. But I will make this post short, maybe. I just want to share a link to a post by Shannon Hale about juggling writing and motherhood. How you fit writing into your life as a mother will vary for each of us. This is something I'm struggling with right now in my life. I don't know why I thought that once my kids got older they would be more self-sufficient. I guess in some ways they are but in other ways they are even more needy. This past year was filled with football games, cross country meets, wrestling tournaments, track meets, dance recitals, band concerts, and various other activities. No I don't have to be at every one of them, but I also know that this part of my childrens' lives is but a short time. I want to be a part of those memories. But I also want to show my children that with hard work and commitment, you can accomplish your dreams. I'm still trying to figure out how to balance it all which will require a lot of trial and error. I just need to remember to be patient with myself and to trust that my journey is unique to me and my family. And I just have to trust the spirit and do what feels right at the time.
What ways have you found that help you balance being a mother and being a writer?

Monday, June 17, 2013

WIP on the Brain

Two weeks ago I wrote about “laying concrete”, and forcing yourself to work on your WIP and write even when you really don’t feel inspired. I have been doing my own concrete-laying by setting- and meeting- word count goals each week, with my mom as my writing accountability partner.

One of the things I’ve discovered during the past few weeks I’ve been doing this is that I’m finding that just the act of writing is helping me to keep my WIP on my mind, which means that even when I’m not sitting down pounding the keys, the story keeps percolating in my mind, surfacing at random times when I’m doing other things. It might be the way an author creates suspense in a book I’m reading, or the way a character acts on a TV show I’m watching- small things that I probably would not have made note of had I not been consistently working on my book.

So, just in case you needed another reason to JUST WRITE ALREADY, here’s another one for you: God is leaving inspiration laying all around for you, you just won’t recognize it unless you’re in Writer Mode. How do you get in Writer Mode?


Go. Do.

:-) Kasey

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Hug a Dad

I am really excited about this Father's Day because my dad is in town to celebrate with us.  It is because of that that I am going to make this short and sweet so I can go spend time with my family. 

Take a moment to think of, or better yet, thank a dad.  Whether it's your own dad, your husband, or a neighbor.  Let's thank the fathers in our lives for the efforts they make for their families and friends. 

I am lucky to have such an amazing father.  I am grateful for him and his example and influence in my life. 

I'm also lucky to have the greatest husband I could ask for.  He is such an amazing father to our girls.  It is such a blessing to have these men in my life. 

Happy Fathers Day!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Saturday So What: Thotful Spot

This week I got an email asking me where I get my ideas from. I don't have a muse like Anna's "Bob". What I do have is a Thotful Spot, ala Winnie the Pooh.
There are times when I just need to "think think think". Whether I need to come up with a new idea or my story is collapsing with me in the middle, there is one spot that I can always count on to find my answers. My bathtub. An odd place, but admittedly, it is a really nice bathtub. When I remodeled my house I told my husband to do whatever he wanted with the kitchen (its really small as a result) the master closet (we don't have one) as long as I had the master bath of my dreams. A Kolhler double soaker tub with overflow. Bubbles, jets and water up to my ears. 

It might be magical. For real. The fountain of youth novel concepts. I'm considering drafting my will so I can be buried in it.

But the whole point is that everyone needs a thotful spot. A spot clear of kids, bills, spousal demands, or work. A sanctuary just for you. A place to let your mind relax so that creativity can come.

So I want to know where you get your best ideas.
The toilet?
A beach?
The beach you dream about while on the potty?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Writing and Re-writing

Here I am, scatterbrained about writing again.  (I initially posted this yesterday instead of my regular Friday.)

I thought by the time I wrote this post, I would have made some progress on my WIP.  (I wrote in my last post about not having worked on it lately.)  But, alas, no.

I did work on it, but I lost the new work to cyberspace.  For some unknown reason, a three-hour chunk of words disappeared this week.  Right after I crafted it.  I saved it and closed it, then went back in to add a last-minute thought.   And it wasn't there.

I looked everywhere I could think of.  I refreshed the page.  Nothing.  That block of material was gone.  It was midnight, so I thought maybe I was just brain-dead, and the recent work would appear the next day.

It did not.  Days later, I still can't find it.  I've moped and griped and prayed that God would make it appear, but so far...nothing.

Years ago, I lost seventeen pages of a novel I was working on.  Seventeen pages.  It made me sick.   Because I was younger and had the time, I sat down and re-wrote all of it in an afternoon.  I was obsessed about getting it all back. 

I'm not so obsessed this time.  I'm surely disappointed that my time and effort have been swallowed by an unidentifiable source, but it crossed my mind today that maybe that chunk of work wasn't that great.  Already, I'm thinking, when I re-write it, I'm going to make changes.  Maybe writing at midnight isn't the best idea.  Maybe scrolling through facebook the hour before writing isn't the best idea either.  I don't know.  I write in fits and starts between care taking and doctor appointments and endless errands and laundry.  I should be happy I get anything written at all.

And I am.  Most days nothing gets lost.  I have a computer that works well (I hope I didn't just jinx that.)  I have loved ones who support my love of writing.  I have eyes that pick up most typos and a good thesaurus.  I have fingers that work.

So, with a deep breath, I'll start over tomorrow.  I'll try to conjure up what I tapped out last week, only make it better.  I'll roar at the cyber monsters to not eat my stuff.  I'll write, whether it gets lost or not, published or not, whether it's good or not.

Because that's what writers do.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?"

A blog interviewer asked me what I was worst at as a writer. Easy. Coming up with stories.

That's a Big Deal. It's rather crucial to the whole book writing thing to actually have something you want to write about, and something important to say to your audience. My problem is that I love writing and I can imagine individual scenes, characters and conversations, but I'm not much good at coming up with the initial idea.

Not a problem, though, as you'll see when I go through all my novels. (1-6 are published and 7-11 are still to come although they are all started and at least 20,000 words long already):

  1. Haven. Suggested to me by my editor at Covenant, Valerie Holladay.
  2. A World Away. The sequel to Haven, so also Val's idea.
  3. Easterfield. Okay, this one I came up with all by myself! I was reading Pride and Prejudice (again) and realised that just a generation later, Mormon missionaries were arriving in England. I wondered what the Darcys and Bingleys would have made of them when they marched into Meryton behind the militia. So I wrote the book (although I didn't set it anywhere near Netherfield.)
  4. Honeymoon Heist. I started it so long ago (the stolen currency it mentions was originally in pesetas, so I must have started it before 1999) that I don't remember where the idea came from. So it might have been me I suppose.
  5. No Escape. Suggested to me by a work colleage, Debbie Barratt.
  6. The Saved Saint. I was asked to write this by a friend who features as Jeannie in the book.
  7. Emon and the Emperor. The idea and name came from a friend, Ryan Tench, and other ideas within the book came from Phil Edey, my official muse.
  8. Finders Keepers. The idea was suggested by my friend Milena Junior.
  9. Random Ramblings. A collection of short stories, most of which are as a result of writing club challenges. Others were suggested by Phil Edey, or are fan fiction.
  10. Horses Born with Eagle Wings. Based entirely on lyrics and titles from Queen albums.
  11. Blackwood. Inspired by the TV series, Charmed, plus a mid-Essex village.
So if you want to be a writer but don't know what to write about, ask a friend!

Monday, June 10, 2013

What If?

What if this guy was real?

Have you ever played the “What If” game? When I was in high school, we used to joke that it was the “Wouldn’t It Be Cool If” game, mostly because my very imaginative brother was always saying, “Wouldn’t it be cool if...” and then finishing it off with something like, “that tree over there suddenly came to life and starting knocking down all the other trees because it was mad about something but then we got it to calm down and it gave us rides all over town?” or “we were the only ones at this amusement park and we got to be in charge of the rides and we could just ride the roller coasters over and over and they wouldn’t even stop them in between so it would be like riding a roller coaster that lasted for like, an hour?” Of course, his were usually more creative than that, but you get the idea.

Anyway, I was thinking about this on Saturday because I had the super duper fun awesome opportunity to go PLAY at Kings Dominion (amusement park here in Virginia) with 4 of my friends from high school, including our own MMW Amber Lynae. It was like the aligning of the stars or something that we all could be in the same place at the same time, because I don’t think it’s happened since high school...or maybe when one of us got married...anyway, it’s been awhile.

Well, Amber and our friend Alicia and I were standing in line for a ride called, “Flight of Fear.” We weren’t sure what to expect, because it basically looked like a warehouse on the outside, with these signs saying things like, “Paranormal Investigations” and stuff like that. The line went through the door, and then wound around a bit inside one part of the warehouse, but then when you went around this one corner there was a giant spaceship inside. That wasn’t the ride- it was just a decorative thing you went through to get to the ride, which turned out to be an indoor roller coaster.

So we got up to this spaceship and were kind of joking around, like, “Oooh, we’re going to be abducted!” Then Amber said something like, “What if this is actually a real alien spacecraft and the theme park is just their cover?” And I said, “Yeah, they just found a storage warehouse on the edge of the park and added some stuff on the outside to make unsuspecting park visitors think it was a ride, and that’s how they lured them in...” Alicia joined in on our imagining as we proposed different experiments the aliens might perform on us and we all kind of went, “Oooooh...” like the little green monsters in Toy Story (“A visitor! From the outside! OoooOOooooH").

We had just played a little game of “What If” and it was a great way to get our creativity going and get our brains bending into unfamiliar paths. I realized that this would be such a great tool for writer’s block, and a perfect game to play with kids, especially if you’re waiting for something, like we were.

So this summer when you’re standing in a long line at an amusement park with your kids, or sitting at a restaurant waiting for your food to arrive, or waiting for the “adult swim” to be over at the pool, play your own game of “What If”...and see where it takes you....oooOOOoooH. ;-)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

My Two Greatest Fears As a Writer

The other night I had this really awesome dream.  It was action packed with fun adventure all mixed in.  In essence it was a bit of a twisted fairy tail, kind of like Hansel and Gretel only completely different.  I woke up needing to write down every scrap I could remember.  Then I had the thought "I should write about it on the blog!"

 But two big fears about writing took hold...

You see I have two major fears when it comes to writing and sharing my ideas.  The first one being when I get a new idea I become very possessive about it.  I'm afraid that someone might steal my amazing idea and I'll just be left with the appearance of being a copy cat or just that of a completely unoriginal writer.  My second fear is that if I were to share my amazing idea no one else will think it's amazing, which could crush morale and confidence.  So what do I do about it?  Well, I act like a greedy hording little squirrel and I keep all my ideas to myself, only sharing them with my co-writer, Ashley. 

Does anyone else feel this way?  How have you coped or managed these fears and feelings?  I would love to hear ideas and insights, because as a writer that REALLY DOES want to get published I'm going to have to share all these ideas eventually.  How do I get over this?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Saturday So What: A Change of Perspective

Recently, I've been beta-reading and macro editing a few peeps manuscripts. Today, I thought I would share one of the most common mistake I found in them -- narrating outside of perspective.

Whether you are writing from 1st person or 3rd person, you still have a point of view. You can't cheat and go outside of it to tell your story.

Changing POV's is another post entirely, so don't get your quills in a knot. I'm talking about the following.

Jane felt unsure. She hoped John was in love with her as well, but she just couldn't risk exposing herself.
John, had finally had enough of Jane's waffling.

Did you catch the problem? In this chapter at least, I am in Jane's head. That means I can only share Jane's feelings, not John's. As the writer, I can show John's frustration, or Jane can infer it from her own feelings, but I can't blanket state his feelings as fact-- because I am not in his head.

Perspective mistakes can also be physical descriptions. This was one of my favorites.

She was coming. Without any spare thought, I dove onto the bed, clamped my eyes shut, and feigned sleep. She came creeping into the room, silent like a cat, but much more sinister. The thin smile on her lips promised revenge that had been long awaited.

Catch that mistake? The MC's eyes are closed. She can't see anything! She would need to narrate in her head, or use the other sense as to what's going on.

This happens all the time, a first person character describing action that is going on behind them. Or from another room. Or describing what they look like. You can't see yourself, so you can't say that red crept across your face.

Sometimes it really sucks to be limited to one POV, I know. Sometimes it would be so much more dramatic to jump heads and give the big bad's reason d'etre (the why). It may take a little more craftwork to get the emotion and info you need across, but it's worth it in the end. You'll keep the reader engaged and into the story from page one until the very last  .

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wonderful Words

I love words. They are the tools of my trade, and I love having so many to choose from, but actually I just love the way they sound too. There are some words which trip off the tongue and which are a joy to say - tributary, fluffy, coupon. (The Welsh words cynffon and bysedd trump them all, though. Welsh has the most amazingly satisfying words I know.)

Some words not only sound good, but have good associations which make them even more spirit-warming, "chocolate" being the obvious candidate. I also love the evocative word "Exogenesis", not only because it has such an exciting and mysterious meaning, but because it is the title of one a symphony by one of my favourite bands (Muse), and the name of an episode of Star Trek. "Epiphany" is another delightful word. Some words are just funny - "discombobulated".

The English language has the richest vocabulary (ooh, I like that word too, vocabulary) in the world, with over twice the number of words of its nearest rival, and new words are appearing in the dictionary all the time - much to the disgust of purist Scrabble players. I recently saw a quote which referred to "these troublous times". I've no idea whether "troublous" is a real word (troublesome, surely) but it sounds so nice that it really should be.

BBC News recently surveyed people about their favourite words. "Spelunking" was in there (exploring caves) as were "runcible", "tatterdemalion", "mellifluous" and "sepulchral". Excellent words all!

What's your favourite word?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Talking Tuesday with Author Brian McClellan

I am excited to get the opportunity to introduce Brian McClellan and his debut novel Promise of Blood to any of our readers who haven't  heard of him yet. 
Author Brian McClellan
Brian lives in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife, two dogs, a cat, and between 6,000 and 60,000 honey bees (depending on the time of year).

He began writing on Wheel of Time role playing websites at fifteen. Encouraged toward writing by his parents, he started working on short stories and novellas in his late teens. He went on to major in English with an emphasis on creative writing at Brigham Young University. It was here he met Brandon Sanderson, who encouraged Brian’s feeble attempts at plotting and characters more than he should have.

Brian continued to study writing not just as an art but as a business and was determined this would be his life-long career. He attended Orson Scott Card’s Literary Bootcamp in 2006. In 2008, he received honorable mention in the Writers of the Future Contest.

In November 2011, PROMISE OF BLOOD and two sequels sold at auction to Orbit Books.   Book one hit the shelves in April of 2013.

The Powder Mage Trilogy
Book One
Field Marshal Tamas’ coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving.  But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and greedy scrambling for money and power by Tamas’s supposed allies:  the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces.  Stretched to his limit Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail.  Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth.  No modern educated man believes that sort of thing.  But, the thing is, they should.

Having a series launch in April, while submitting book two keeps an author busy.  Luckily I pulled Brian away from his writing and revisions long enough for an interview. 

MMW:  I read that you started writing about 10 years ago. Was there any particular event or story that started it all for you?

BMc: When I was around fifteen or sixteen, I really got into Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books. I found that there was a decent online community and I joined thousands of other fans writing and sharing fan fiction.

I went through that phase pretty quick—no more than a few months—but it taught me that I quite enjoyed writing. My mom signed me up for a week-long summer writing class at BYU. Everyone really seemed to love my stories and I decided that maybe I wanted to do this for a living.

I've been working at it ever since.

MMW:  Are you an outliner or a pantser?

BMc: Definitely a mix. I like to make a general outline before I start the book, and then I work off of single-chapter outlines as I go. That being said, if things don't feel right for the narrative I will veer off those outlines without hesitation (and I frequently do).

MMW:How long did you allow the idea for Promise of Blood to mature before you began writing?  How long after beginning were you ready to begin querying?

BMc: I brainstormed for several months, maybe even close to half a year before I started writing. The writing itself took me about five months.

I actually sent out queries only a week after finishing my first draft. This is a BIG no-no. Agents only want to see your most polished stuff, and I knew that. My logic was that it would be several months before I heard back from anyone and that would give me time to polish.

Imagine my surprise when I started getting partial manuscript requests less than a week later. A week after that, I had two offers of representation.

I don't think I've ever told my agent that. Mostly because I can already see the head shake she'd give me.

MMW: The process of finding an agent and publish is one of the most stressful times for writers.  How did you navigate through the process?

BMc: Finding the agent was abnormally quick for me. Everything I had been taught was that it would take me forever to find an agent and then forever for her to find a publisher.

So I psyched myself out for it. I went through days of nail-biting before I managed to calm down and tell myself that it would be months and there was no use worrying... and then I got that quick turnaround where seven different agents asked for sample chapters.

The most stressful part for me was that my agent wanted to edit the book with me and she really put me through the ringer. I must have rewritten over half of Promise of Blood by the time we were finished a year later. During that time I lost my job, was unemployed for six months, got a minimum wage job that I hated, and then a better job—and so I'd gone through so many highs and lows that I thought my hair was going to turn gray.

I got through it with frequent talks with my agent and with the loving support of my wife and family.

MMW:You attended the Orson Scott Card writers boot camp.  Please share with our readers the impact this experience has had on your writing?

BMc: It was a very good experience. I met many talented writers that I'm still in contact with today and got to go through a rigorous week of writing that helped prepare me to be a full-time author (even though that last bit wouldn't come for six years).

MMW:Are there any other writing blogs, books, conferences, or podcasts that you have found particularly helpful?

BMc: I absolutely adore Chuck Wendig's Terribleminds blog, but he uses a great deal of very strong language. If you feel you can get past said language he gives excellent advice for writers of all kinds.

I like to listen to the Speculate! podcast, as well as Brandon Sanderson's Writing Excuses. Both of those are cool ways to get inside the heads of various authors.

MMW: What is your advice to our readers who hope to see their own work in print?

BMc: Same advice I always give: keep writing. Don't give up. There are lots of highs and lows in writing and sometimes it seems like the lows vastly outnumber the highs. You have to push through it.

Thanks, Brian.  We appreciate your time and advice.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Laying Concrete

Today, I am going to do something uncomfortable, but necessary. Today I am giving you permission to

be a lousy writer.

Don’t panic- we’re not going to stay lousy writers. In fact, letting ourselves be lousy will make us much better later on, promise. Let me explain.

Last year in the writing workshop I attended with Jason F. Wright, he taught us that when you sit down to your WIP, don’t go back and get lost rereading everything you’ve written so far. It’s a waste of time. He said our stories are like sidewalks, getting us from Point A to Point B on a solid, smooth surface. Ideally, we want them to be beautiful brick sidewalks, carefully laid with lovely bricks in a creative pattern. Or maybe some kind of a colorful mosaic utilizing recycled pieces of glass and seashells. Depends on your story, I guess. But there are some days when we’ve just run out of pretty glass and seashells. Or we just can’t figure out how to make a creative pattern with the bricks. Sometimes we are just feeling uninspired and tiiiiiired. These are the days when we just have to lay concrete. Plain, gray, boring, flat, uninspired concrete. We have to just plod along, type words and just keep writing.

You know that saying, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right”?


I say anything worth doing is worth just doing so you can just get it done. If you think you can’t do something unless you do it just right then you will paralyze- yes, paralyze- yourself into inaction. Time to toss the perfectionism out the window. 

I mentioned last week that I was going to be setting an accountability goal with my mom, and I did- 3,000 words due to her by Saturday at midnight. Well, I flew through the first 2,400 like a girl on fire (this girl is fi-yaaaaahh, this girl is on fi-yaa-aaaaaaah) but then something happened and I just kind of fizzled (this girl is...lukewarm cooooaaals...*cough*). Fortunately, that number- 3,000- was looming. That deadline- Saturday at midnight- was fast approaching. There was no time for pretty sidewalks. It was time to pull out the cement mixer and lay some boring, ugly concrete. So I did. I just wrote. I didn’t care how it sounded, I just used my characters’ names and the setting and blah-blah-blahed my way through it. Mission accomplished.

There are times when the inspiration simply isn’t there, and no matter what we do, we just can’t force it. But it doesn’t mean that we should give up. You know what happens- you think, “Gee, I should work on my story...but ugh, just not feeling it today.” The next day, the same thing happens. Then the day after that. Before you know it, weeks have passed with no progress, then months, then you get caught up in all the other stuff you have to do and your WIP is gathering dust in a file on your computer (you know, virtual dust. It’s made up of extra bytes and stuff.).


Don’t let a week pass without spending some time on your WIP! It’s okay if you feel uninspired. It’s not always fun. Sometimes it’s *gasp* WORK! These are the times when you just have to lay the blasted concrete, make a path, and call it a day. A sidewalk is a sidewalk, people. There will be plenty of time later on to make it pretty. Today, just get it down. Put the fingers on the keys, type the words, lousy though they may be. 

I won’t judge, promise. Just lay the concrete. Be lousy. You have my permission. GO!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Keep Up the Good Work

     I had a completely different post in mind for today, but as I sat down to write my mind is so full of other thoughts. 

     I am so grateful to be able to have a place to share my writing thoughts and learn from others. I feel like even if I never have any of my work published I'm still so lucky to have the opportunity to share with others who enjoy the same passions. 
     I have loved all these posts my fellow MMW have been writing this last while. I am especially gratefull for Kasey's Clicking posts. It's been such a great reminder to me, especially when I hear about all these horrible and sad things happening all over the world, to keep my thoughts positive. I don't think any of us can reach our full potential if we are weighing ourselves down with our own negative thoughts. 
     Over the last couple weeks I have had plenty of opportunities to feel frustrated and down. I've spent a lot of time praying for help to keep myself positive. As I would ponder on these things happening in my life I would get the same impressions and thoughts: It's EASY to despair and give up. It actually takes a bit of work to stay positive, but if you let the frustration in it becomes a slow leak, pushing the goodness out as it fills you with negativity. 
     We can't afford to let the negative stuff take over our lives. There's so much good in all of us that we can offer the world, all of which would be snuffed out if we gave the darkness and hardships of the world the opportunity to take us down. 
     Whether in my own writing struggles or the challenges of life, this message has been made very clear: Work hard, do the right thing, not necessarily the easy thing, and we all need knuckle down and put our best efforts into overcoming what waits for us in the future. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Saturday So What: Just a thought

I have been crazy busy with a yard sale, both yesterday and today. And now I have a couple of truckloads of stuff to take to DI. In these two spare minutes I have, I wanted to leave you a thought.

If you got out of bed today and gave somebody a smile, or a hug - you have been a force for good.

Doesn't matter if you didn't get the laundry done, dinner on the table, or a chapter written in your manuscript.

Acknowledge what you DID, not what you DIDN'T.


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