Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Morning

     Happy Easter to all of you.  I hope you are all having a wonderful Easter.  I also hope that each of you has the chance to reflect on the reason we celebrate this wonderful holiday.  I have heard so many wonderful words about Christ and the Atonement today, I hardly feel adequate to say more. 

     Let us all remember and keep close to our hearts the amazing gift that has been given to us.  Let's not allow a day to go by that we don't partake of and cherish this gift, because with this gift we are never alone, we can never be truly hopeless, and we can never be without purpose.  I have never felt more loved than when I think of the love Christ has for me and for each and every one of us.  For Jesus Christ to know of the agony that awaited Him and still want to go through with it all proves of His enduring love for each of us. 

I feel like there is no greater knowledge than this:
 
He is risen!
 
 
 
    

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Saturday So What: Writing Easter Eggs

Tomorrow is Easter, and  today tons of kids are going to their local parks for Easter Egg hunts.


Did you know that all over the world, everyday, people go on Easter Egg Hunts? Not searching for the pastel boiled eggs that stink if you happen to forget where you hid them. Instead, they are looking for little things hidden by directors, gamemakers, and yes- authors, in their favorite media. An Easter Egg in this sense could be defined as a little goodie placed in books, games or film that don't add to the plot, but add humor or an extra dimension to the story. They are usually not obvious and only a reader who is paying attention will find them. Think those golden eggs in Angry Birds. Disney is famous for their "Hidden Mickeys" in all their films, and even in their themeparks. They also have a habit of making jokes or references to favorite stories or characters from other books.

A good writer will do this too. A book can be enjoyable as a surface read, but it's really fun to add things - like little treats or even signposts- that you might only catch after reading once. It can be like a really subtle foreshadow. If your story is one of betrayal, then in one scene your MC might have a famous book on the nightstand that has a similar theme.

If you are doing a retelling, Easter Eggs are a great way to pay homage to the original work. I did this a lot in my book, House of Emerald. It's a twist on Oz. The story stands on it's own, but for any fan of Baum's original work, their are lots of fun little twists and references to his odd world. Talking dinnerware, hammerheads, and other fantastical things. On one level for the average reader, it aids me in world building a fantastical place. For a lover of fairytales and Oz, it keeps the reader on their toes looking for more things they recognize. In fact, aside from my narrative voice, the use of Easter Eggs with humor is one of the main reason my agent picked me up.

So get yourself noticed and start playing the Easter Bunny in your own writing.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Climbing Mountains

Last week was spring break for me and my kids. My husband even took the week off so we could have a nice staycation. We planned a few fun things to do as a family. One of those things was to take a hike up a small mountain one morning. I've been on this hike before and I didn't make it to the top. I probably could have made it, but I told myself I couldn't, so I didn't. It didn't really bother me that I didn't make it to the top. It was still a good exercise and beautiful view at the point I reached, so I told myself that was good enough. This time was different.

This time as we started out the hike we all broke up into pairs. The two older kids quickly took the lead and went on their way. Then the younger two were behind them, then my husband decided to stay behind with me. I told him he should go ahead with the other kids that it didn't matter if I made it to the top or not. Then he said, "Nope, we make it to the top together or we don't make it to the top at all." Suddenly I imagined he was talking about our marriage. Then the thought crossed my mind that I didn't want to be the one that gave up on us. Would I really think that it would be ok to say, "Well we made it to 18 years, that's good enough, it's just too hard." I would never think of doing that to our marriage, yet I do that in lots of areas in my life like climbing mountains and writing just to name a few. This appalled me and I realized I needed to quit being good enough and start reaching for my full potential. But I wasn't sure I really wanted to start with this mountain! LOL! But as I climbed the mountain, it became symbolic for me as I related it to writing in my mind.

When I first began the hike my body did some major rebelling and I began to think in my head that I would never make it to the top.

In my writing, there are so many things I have to sacrifice to make the time to write and so many revisions I need to make to get my books to the level of perfection I expect from them that I tell myself I'll never get published.

I had to change the revolving thought in my head fast, I told myself I had to at least try. I would never know what I could truly do unless I tried. So I kept one foot in front of the other.

I reminded myself that the only way I will fail for sure is if I give up. So I resolved to keep putting my story down on paper one word at a time.

The climb got more difficult the closer I got to the top. I had to take lots of breaks but I knew it wasn't a race. I just needed to reach the top eventually, it didn't matter when it happened.

It's easy for me to try to compare myself to friends that started writing when I did. I see so many of them published and moving on to the next mountain in their writing careers while I'm still struggling with writing a finished book worth publishing. But I need to remember that it's ok for me to go at my own pace. When I get published isn't as important as proving to myself that I can produce something I'm proud of.

I found the spot on the hike where I had stopped last time and I realized I had chosen to give up. As I passed the spot I wondered how much farther I would make it this time. Then the thought came that I would make it just as far as I CHOSE to make it.

There are so many times that I have stopped writing because I told myself I couldn't because of various reasons. I tried to convince myself things were good enough and that I didn't care that I had stopped. But this month I started working on one of the projects I had quit writing only to ask myself why I had stopped. It wasn't nearly as bad as I had thought it was. I'm approaching the point in the 2nd draft where I had stopped rewriting it. Which means it will be a lot more work than the first half was because I won't just be editing, I'll be rewriting. But I have already made the choice not to give up on this story. I'm actually quite motivated to get to that point and pass it. I'm not wondering how much farther I will get this time, because I have already made the choice to keep going until it's done.

At one point on the hike I turned a corner and my husband told me to look up. He pointed to the summit of the mountain a little ways ahead of me. On top of that beautiful peak were my four children. They began waving and telling me I could do it. I couldn't wait to share that experience with them and to celebrate the fact that I'd made it! My body was so much stronger than I had given it credit for. I was the only one getting in my way of accomplishing that goal and enjoying the view.

I see all my writing friends, published and unpublished as my cheerleaders. Some of you are on the trail right beside me encouraging me to keep going and some of you are published urging me to meet you there so we can share that accomplishment together. But most of all I know how proud I will be of myself to reach my goal of getting published. Of proving to myself that I could do it. Proving that I
could get out of my own way and make it happen.




  Enjoying the view from the top is quite satisfying. So is knowing that I have so much more potential to unlock. Of course that means I have a lot more mountains climb in my life before I reach it!!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Double Oops!

Anna, looks like you're in good company.  With it being spring break, kids and hubby off school, my days of the week have been slightly scrambled.  Apparently it's Thursday today (instead of tomorrow, as I spent a majority of the day believing).

So I'll leave you with an interesting thought on writing, that I found reading the following article.  This is what the author, Daphne Gray-Grant had to say about the concept that "...writing is talking on paper."

Imagine sitting in a coffee shop and chatting with a good friend. Do you stumble for words? Do you struggle to express yourself? Of course not! Now picture yourself standing in front of a room of 500 people without any notes. Can you talk easily now? Probably not—even if your subject is something with which you're very familiar. What's the difference? It's perception.
 
With a friend, you are relaxed. In front of an audience, you're worried about being judged.
And that's the problem when we write. We imagine people judging us. We worry about making mistakes. About being boring. About not succeeding.

I'll see you next week.  Hopefully, with my days all straightened out...

Oops


We all fail once in a while. That's part of life.

When I was doing Weight Watchers I kept a little food diary which I had to show to my leader each week. On it I would track how much I had eaten, and how many points I had left. More often than not, the word "Oops" would appear toward the end of the day just after lunchtime. My leader asked what it meant.

"Out of Points" I explained.

And yet, I did lose weight with Weight Watchers. Not as much as I should have done (and you can bet I've put it all back on) but those Oops days didn't entirely halt my progress, they just slowed it down.

Well, yesterday was an Oops day, not because of anything I ate, but because I forgot it was my turn to blog. In my defence I'm not at home going about my daily routine in cold, snowy England at the moment. I'm on holiday in Florida, getting sunburnt and soaking up the American culture.

So I've got up early (well, earlier than I needed to) to pop in this quick post (hoping it's still Wednesday somewhere) before Mandi posts hers. And what I really wanted to say is that if we fail to reach goals, whether in weight loss, blogging, writing or being superwoman, it's not the end of the world. In fact, it's a lesson learned, a principle reinforced, and our human side asserting itself. And we can always say Sorry. (Sorry!)

NaNo and Sprints and contests are all very well, but they often serve just to make us feel we've failed when we can't make the requisite word count. We don't all have to be perfect all the time. I'm certainly not.

Writing next week's blog now though, and scheduling it so that I can't forget!

(P.S. If you want to follow my adventures in American culture, go to www.annahitsamerica.blogspot.com, where I am, somehow, remembering to blog each day.)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Talking Tuesday: watching "The Taste" makes you a better writer



This past month I spent wasted time watching an ABC series "The Taste". Chefs and home cooks alike competed to determine who could craft the best dishes. Each week the Judges had to determine who continued on by tasting one carefully crafted by from each contestant.

Perfecting any recipe requires time and thought, as well as skill. There must be balance in the core ingredients as well as the spices. I admit that I am not a culinary diva, but I do alright. However, I rarely follow any recipe with exactness. Our mealtimes have included the fair, the bad, and the tasty.

Since I wasted spent my time watching tv instead of writing, I decided to let it help me, and maybe you, to cast our stories properly.

If each character equalled an ingredient in your recipe, then some would play a more central role than others. If those characters aren't carefully crafted to reach the readers, it can be as disastrous as a bite of undercooked chicken. To prepare a bite full of depth, each ingredient must have a purpose and perform well. When casting our stories, each character must have a purpose and open up a new insight into your world. While it is important to have a large enough cast to add variety, you must be sure you aren't just adding filler. JK Rowling did this well. She had a very extensive cast, yet each character felt real, and opened up more of the Potter world.

Another thing, I learned was about writing/cooking for your audience. The panel of judges held four persons with very different ideals in what makes the best bite. The French man appreciated the bites that had a French feel, and others, preferred more exotic tastes. However, there were a few contestants that were able to find combinations that were pleasing across the board. Not everyone is going to relate to the cheerleader, not everyone will relate to a businessman. But you can have aspects of different characters that allow the readers to find themselves within your world. It is then that they are ready to sit down and take in the whole dish.

The key to a great bite or a great story isn't about overloading. It is important however, to make sure you have included enough careful selection to flesh out all aspects of your world. It is through this that you will have a robust and winning story.

Remember characters are not bought at a drive thru. Don't stereotype. If you just pick any character off the menu with out consideration will will wind up with readers regretting their order and forgetting who is who. This is why developing each character individually with backstory is important. However, don't make the mistake of thinking the entire backstory of each character must make it into the story.

Have you mastered the recipe of characters for your WIP?



Monday, March 25, 2013

Pavlov’s Dog Drooled on My Laptop (How Conditioning Can Help You With Your Writing)



Our sweet octogenarian dog, Buck. This is what happens when he decides to nap in the girls’ room.

        In my recent studies to improve my “craft”, there seems to be one thing I keep reading over and over again: habit. You must make your writing a habit.

I love what Tiberghien says about this in her book, One Year to a Writing Life: “A person who writes has the habit of writing. The word habit refers to a routine, but also to a stole, to a costume befitting a calling.”

The reason I love that quotation is because it made me think a lot about another thing I seem to be reading everywhere that, while not usually expressed in these exact words, is “associative learning.” Stephen King says that to be a writer, you must write (duh, we all know that, we make ourselves crazy trying to find the time). But he also says that you need a writing place. A place of your own. (Doesn’t have to be big. He wrote his first bestseller in the corner of a laundry room.) And you need a time of day. An hour or so that is dedicated only to writing. 

So, place + time = habit. 

Which brings me back to this idea of associative learning- think Pavlov’s dog. The dog got into the habit of receiving food every time a bell rang, thus the sound of a ringing bell conditioned his mouth to water. I have always been fascinated by this concept, and I find some version of it in most self-help books/programs.

For example, one of FlyLady’s most important rules is to get dressed every morning to your shoes. She says, “Your shoes tell your brain it’s time to go to work.” It’s true. I am much more likely to get up and go do the dishes, put the laundry away, or vacuum if I’m wearing a pair of sneakers. My brain is conditioned to know that when I am wearing sneakers, I will not be lounging around on the couch curled up with a good book (no shoes on the couch). Those shoes are my “stole befitting a calling.” Well, if you can consider the laundry a calling. I prefer to call it a pain in the neck, but that’s neither here nor there.

I think that Stephen King’s place + time formula is the same idea. If you make a habit out of writing in a certain place at a certain time then your brain begins to connect those things with writing and when you go that place at that time, your brain will automatically go into writing mode. No cajoling, pleading, begging, or hair pulling from you required.

Here’s another example: I once read an article on how to combat insomnia. One of the recommendations was to make sure that your bed and your bedroom were used only for sleeping- not reading, not eating, not hanging out surfing the web- just sleeping. That way, when you get into bed your body automatically thinks: bed = sleep time. The article said that if you can’t sleep, get up and do something else and then try again (otherwise your brain will associate your bed with not sleeping).

Writer’s block is kind of like insomnia, right? I think the same principle should work. 

        Now, most of us probably don’t have the luxury of a whole room dedicated only to writing, but it would probably benefit us to at least choose a place (Stephen King recommends somewhere you can close the door) and a time that is only for writing. 

Place + Time = Habit = Writer (that’s you)

One more example? How about the studies they’ve done where people remember information better when they take the test in the same place where they learned the information? I have no supporting evidence for this. I just read it somewhere once. But it’s true, promise.

So here’s your assignment this week: pick a time and a place. I am planning on digging out my craft room/office to use for this exact purpose. Leave a comment and tell me about your time and place. Then when I’m in mine becoming a writer I can imagine you in yours becoming a writer and we can all become writers together. It’s a beautiful thing. ☺


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Who Knew?

     Have you ever stopped to look at your life and realized it is nothing like you thought it would be?  In some cases some may find disappointment in this analysis.  I hope that for most of you, you find joy and are grateful for where you are in life.  As for me, I sat thinking over my life the other night after having a "write night" with a friend.  I had mentioned that I had never seen myself as becoming a writer, nor had I ever planned to be one.  I never took any creative writing classes, or any other classes or lectures that would help teach and prepare me for the world of writing.  The dream of being a writer had never been in my mind.  However, the road of life never seems to go the way we really plan.  When I look at my life as a whole I see the general idea of what I wanted, a family, a home, and the ability to stay home with my children.  However, I definitely didn't plan on all the little ordeals my family has gone through, but who does?  I look at all the little events leading up to where I am now, and in hind sight it all makes sense.  I never would have chosen the trials I would have to go through to get to where I am, but trials are truly like the refiners fire, they make us what we are meant to be. 
   I'm so glad that life has lead me down this current path, to things new and unknown.  I'm so glad to have the opportunity to learn and grow, and hopefully give back to the world in a positive way.  I can't help but be excited as I look to the future and wonder what sorts of things will come my way, what opportunities lay undiscovered, or the grand ideas that sit waiting.  I am excited for all of you and for the possibilities that linger just out of sight. 
    

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saturday So What: In memorium

This week, two extraordinary spirits returned back to our Father in Heaven. One is an MMW whom some of you may know, Mary Walling. The other a dear childhood friend, Ariane Dunlavy.


Over the past few days, I have seen Mary be cyber eulogized in our Yahoo group. All the emails had a kind remembrance or remark on what a sweet and caring person she was.

This morning I went to Ariane's funeral and shared memories and stories with her friends and family. Every person there had something to share, but they all had a common theme: selflessness. Even in severe pain in the final progression of cancer, Ariane would ask how the other patients were doing in the chemo room. She would smile, wear bright pink leggings, or say something that would bring everyone's mood up. She was more concerned with the nurses that cared for her than herself.

These women have touched so many lives with their thoughtful love and friendship. And as death has a way of doing, it made me think of my own mortality.

If I were to pass away, what of my life would be remembered? What have I done to leave a smile on someone else's face? How should I be living my life everyday?

I started to think of how much time I spend on truly trivial things when I could be serving others. Of how often I worry about my looks or the cleanliness of my house. I have been to a number of funerals, and no one has ever gotten up and said, "Oh ____ had such a nice clean home. It looked straight out of a magazine." or "______ finally fit into those size 6 jeans."

It is not what we do for ourselves but the interactions we have with others that changes the world. And so I think about what I've done this week. How much has been to maintain the status quo of my life and how much has been devoted to making someone else's status quo a little bit better?

I invite anyone who has lost someone to comment below. How did that person leave this world a little better than they came into it?

Friday, March 22, 2013

THE BIBLE Miniseries

Has anybody been watching The Bible series the past few weeks?


I got into it a bit late, but I kept hearing about it, so I finally tuned in.  I was immediately drawn in by the intensity of it.   It's brutal and powerful....and sad.  There are moments of beauty and uplift, but mostly, for me, the stories are agonizing.

Daniel in the lion's den, Herod's order to kill babies under two, John the Baptist beheaded, various crucifixions, wars, and invasions.  I keep shaking my head at the brutality of the human race.   Greed and lust and power drive everything.

It's crossed my mind several times, I'm so glad we don't throw people to the lions anymore, or thank God the days of crucifixion are over.   But, I remember that at one point in this country, slavery was accepted.  I watch the news and see horrific stories of school shootings and children sold into sex trafficking.  All I can think is, how God must grieve.  Methods of torture, abuse, and killing change over the centuries, but we're just as capable today of hatred and evil as we were in biblical times.

It would seem over the decades, we would learn how to get along.   Why don't we learn from one civilization/generation to the next?  We've certainly seen enough of the same atrocities repeated.  Our memory is clearly shallow.   And scripture tell us, the human heart is easily corrupted.

We are really fairly weak creatures, easily seduced by greed, lust, and power.   We also tend to live in the moment, which further fuels our fleshly tendencies.  On the face of it, it seems we're doomed.

Thank God for God.  In The Bible, He pursues His people and repeatedly proves He is trustworthy.

God still does that today.  His work hasn't changed since the beginning of time.  Poet Francis Thompson calls Him "the Hound of Heaven," because God's grace is relentless in trying to transform our hearts.  He pursues us always.

It is so reassuring to know this.  Otherwise, watching The Bible - and living - would be unbearable. 


p.s.  Are you watching The Bible?  What is your take on it?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Self-Editing Your Manuscript - A Good Reference



If you're looking for a fantastic reference while editing your writing, I found the following book to have some very useful advice from some seasoned editorial professionals.  Here are some of the main points I gleaned from this book:

  • Probably my favorite rule from the Show Vs. Tell chapter is RUE: Resist the Urge to Explain.  They talk about the importance of showing all the elements of good writing, and using telling sparingly and only when necessary.  If you are editing a section of text that feels like a textbook explanation of character history or setting, try to rewrite that information into description, action or dialogue.  There are some good examples of how to do this.
  •  
  • Give the characters views of the world, rather than your views through the characters eyes.  This is where really knowing your own characters comes in handy.  You might not include their most embarrassing moment in the third grade, or list their favorite flavors of ice cream for the reader, but the more you know about your own protagonists/antagonists, the better you show the world through their eyes.
  • To help edit dialogue to make it sound more natural, read it out loud.  The book suggests that you, "...bring your ear into play when editing...dialogue is an artificial creation that sounds natural when you read it...the eye can be fooled, but the ear knows."
I'm only half done reading this editing guide, but already its packed full of sound and useful information.  Some of the points the authors make I've heard before, but its still nice to have reminders, especially as I'm getting deeper into my first round of edits on my manuscript.

What about you?  Have you read any good writing craft books lately?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Funny Mistakes

Snapped in my gym recently.
Visions of everyone getting naked to avoid becoming overheated!

Those of us with a fair-to-middling grasp of grammar, vocabulary and sentence construction are occasionally blessed to come across little mistakes in the writing of others which lead to a wry chuckle. Here are a few I found recently.

“In order to make this change as inconvenient as possible we have included with this letter a map detailing the new venue.”  (NHS Blood Donation Service letter)

"These naïve bookends will look delightful in any room in the house." (Christmas catalogue)


"...recently had surgery leaving my hands and arms in a weekend state." (Freecycle)

"...vowel of celibacy." (Facebook discussion about the Pope)

"this is one of the deceases I have, unfortunately" (Facebook)

"Online criminals have Mac owners in their sights and must not be complacent." (Computeractive magazine)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Talking Tuesday: Imagine


My message for today is short and simple:  Look at the world with wonder.  Let it excite your imagination. It is ok to be silly.   See the world through the eyes of a lion, a fish, or a bird.  When you get stuck in your work in progress take a moment to write on other writing prompts.   Just keep extending your imagination.  You will be amazed at the worlds and stories you will find. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

You are AWESOME. (You might just not know it yet.)

A few weeks ago I read this AMAZING post called “Drops of Awesome.” Now, I know there are some of you who might not take the time to click over there to read it (even though I STRONGLY encourage you to) so I will give you a brief synopsis here.

Do you ever think about writing and have that little voice in the back of your head that says, “You’re going to work on your book? Well whoop-dee-do. What, are you going to pound out 500 whole words today? Well isn’t that exciting. That puts you on track to finish this book sometime around...never. Especially when you count in the days and weeks and months that you won’t even look at it. You’re not a writer. You’ll never finish this stupid book. Why bother?”

Do you ever hear that voice in other aspects of your life? You think about inviting one of your kids to sit down and read a story with you, and that dumb voice says, “Nice. So you think that will just erase all those times you ignored her while you were surfing facebook? Ha, right. Don’t hold your breath for the Mother of the Year Award.”

I think we all know whose voice that is, and it’s like poison to our spiritual development. In the post “Drops of Awesome”, Kathryn Thompson says that we can combat those negative thoughts. She says that every time you think of doing something good and then do it, it’s like a “drop of awesome” in your bucket. Pick up that dirty sock on the floor instead of stepping over it like the last 10 times you walked past? Drop of awesome. Stop doing the dishes for a second to look at your son’s new Lego creation? Drop of awesome. Write 1 more sentence on your WIP? Drop of AWESOME.

When we make good decisions, the bad ones we might have made in the past don’t matter. In that moment, you are awesome. Who cares if you haven’t written a word in 8 months? If you sit down today and write something- anything- in that moment you are someone who writes. Drop of awesome. So what if you are always behind on the laundry? The moment you put a load into the washing machine you are someone who does laundry. Drop of awesome.

In her post, Thomspon talked about sharing this lesson with some young women at church:


As an object lesson when I was teaching this to the teenage girls at church, I gave them each a small dropper and I put a 2-quart bowl on the table. I told them that throughout the lesson they would get the chance to put drops in the bucket for every Drop of Awesome they could think of that they’d done. I promised them that we would fill the bowl to overflowing by the end of the lesson. 
With about 5 minutes to go, we had barely begun to fill the bowl and the girls were looking around at each other nervously. The promised overflow did not look likely. Were they not awesome enough? 
At that point, I pulled out a large pitcher labeled ATONEMENT and poured water into the glass bowl until it was spilling out all over the table and the towel the bowl was resting on. The class went silent.

You are AWESOME. You just don’t know it yet. But God does.

Every once in awhile we get to see what our drops of awesome have amounted to. I had one of those moments a couple of weeks ago with my kids. It was a hectic morning- I had to go to two awards assemblies at school for the kids, it was the day before Valentines Day so I was trying to get some special things prepared at home and making sure the kids had their cards for their classmates all ready, and life was just a little crazy. Well, I went to the school for my son’s 3rd grade assembly first. He received awards for the honor roll and excellent conduct (yay!) and then they announced the children- just one in each class- who were chosen by their teachers to receive a special Core Values Award for being responsible, trustworthy, kind, and positive. My son was chosen from his class. Wow! My heart swelled!

Later that afternoon I came back for my daughter’s 1st grade assembly. She too received awards for honor roll and excellent conduct, and she too was chosen by her teacher to receive the Core Values Award from her class. Um, DOUBLE WOW! My heart was ready to burst, not only from joy for my two little ones, but from relief that okay, maybe I’m not such a lousy mom after all. Maybe these kids really are becoming the people that I try so hard and hope and pray they will be every day. It was such a validation to know that of all the 20+ kids in their classes, they each stood out to their teachers as really good kids.

My heart was also touched by the fact that God gave them to me to be their mother. How blessed am I??

So today ACT on those good thoughts and IGNORE that stupid niggling voice. Put some drops of awesome in your bucket and BE awesome. Because you are.

(By the way, this also reminded me of this post by our own MMW Amber.) :-)

Just did my post. Drop of awesome.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Busy Little Bees

     The other day I was attempting to catch up on a pile of ironing.  Ironing is not my favorite chore to do...in fact it is one of my least favorite things.  However, I find if I listen to something it makes the time go by faster.  Usually I listen to one of my many Pandora stations, but this particular time I decided to listen to this past conference session.  There was one talk in particular that stuck out to me.  I think it was from the Saturday afternoon session, it's called "Be Anxiously Engaged."  The part that stuck out to me was about honey bees. 

     Honeybees are driven to pollinate, gather nectar, and condense the nectar into honey. It is their magnificent obsession imprinted into their genetic makeup by our Creator. It is estimated that to produce just one pound (0.45 kg) of honey, the average hive of 20,000 to 60,000 bees must collectively visit millions of flowers and travel the equivalent of two times around the world. Over its short lifetime of just a few weeks to four months, a single honeybee’s contribution of honey to its hive is a mere one-twelfth of one teaspoon.
     Though seemingly insignificant when compared to the total, each bee’s one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey is vital to the life of the hive. The bees depend on each other. Work that would be overwhelming for a few bees to do becomes lighter because all of the bees faithfully do their part.
 
     I was amazed when I heard this.  When I've thought of honey I always had an image of globs and globs of golden honey inside a beehive, like in Winnie the Pooh, but I had never considered the seemingly small contribution of the single honey bee.  The more I thought on this the more I realized that we as Mormon Mommy Writers, and even more so as writers dedicated to writing GOOD WHOLESOME literature we are like the little honey bees.  On a singular level our contribution to the massive pool of literature may seem so small, maybe even unnoticeable at first, but as a whole, as a group working together towards a common goal we can have a huge impact.  I firmly believe that we can make a difference in peoples' lives with our talents, especially when we work together.  I know some days I wonder if it's really worth the effort that we have put into our WIP, and we haven't even started down the publishing road.  It can be a bit discouraging, but I have come to the understanding that IT IS WORTH IT.  Don't get discouraged.  Even the smallest amounts help add to the "honey pot."
 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Saturday So What: Story Soundtrack

I am an auditory person. I love books on tape. I learned to play piano by ear. I will more often than not cry faster from a sacrament musical number than a talk.

That's why it's no surprise that when I write I have to have a story soundtrack - a playlist specific to the project I'm working on. It's full of songs that put me in the mindset of my characters. Things that incorporate the theme and capture the emotional goal of what I'm try to say with my words.

I learned this while writing my first book, Finished being Fat.  Since it's about learning to finish and recounts a lot of my marathon training, I used the songs that are on my running and exercise playlist. Funny thing happened, the songs put me in just the right place. I was right there, sitting at my desk, but simultaneously struggling to run my first mile.

I picked my running songs because they motivate me. They make me feel like I can do anything. But I also discovered that they can keep me on track. Whenever I hear Kelly Clarkson's, My Life would Suck Without You (first song on my playlist) my feet move without me thinking about it.  A tad bit inconvenient when I'm trying to drive.

I think it's like that experiment with Pavlov's dog, where the pooch knew it was time to eat every time he heard the buzzer. I can use this little bit of psychology to my advantage. Recently, I had been having some trouble being efficient.  I would watch TV, Facebook, email, and do everything but write during my writing time. Now, I use my story soundtrack each time I sit down at the computer, and my brain effortlessly switches into writing mode. I only listen to that soundtrack while I'm writing, that way my brain only associates it with creative work time.

If you are having trouble with blinking cursor, or worse, staying away from distractions of Pinterest and Twitter, try the soundtrack. Let me know if you guys do this or if I'm just kinda crazy. It might be both, but I'm interested to know who else soundtracks their stories and if you use it like a muse, to increase productivity  or drown out any negative self talk.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Guest Post--David Farland

--Nikki

Plotting Tools–a blog post from David Farland                                                             

David  David Farland is an award-winning, New York Times Bestselling Author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and the International Book Award for “Best Young Adult Novel of the Year” for his fantasy thriller Nightingale—among many  others.
Recently Dave released a book geared toward writing titled Million Dollar Outlines. In it he discusses how to write a novel or screenplay that has a wide readership, giving it the potential to become a bestseller.
Some of his past writing students that have gone on to success include #1 New York Times Bestsellers such as Brandon Mull (Fablehaven), Brandon Sanderson (Wheel of Time), James Dashner (The Maze Runner) and Stephenie Meyer (Twilight).
Along with providing writers with outline and audience analysis methods, Dave also offers 28 “plotting tools” in Million Dollar Outlines. A plotting tool is basically a technique that can make your story more exciting, interesting, satisfying, or complete.
Today, Dave is going to share one with us:
milliondollaroutline coverCrucibles
When we talk about writing, there are three kinds of crucibles—crucibles of setting, relationship, or condition. We’ll talk about those in a moment, but first we need to define, “What is a crucible?”
In metal-smithing, a crucible is a container used to hold metal or liquid as it boils. For example, to melt gold, one takes a heavy bowl made from steel and sets it in a fire. The steel, which can withstand higher temperatures than gold, doesn’t melt. But the small container quickly becomes super-heated, so that the gold liquefies in moments.
In fiction, a crucible is any setting, condition, or relationship that keeps characters (such as a protagonist and an antagonist) from splitting apart.
By forcing these characters to remain together, we may sometimes create an almost intolerable atmosphere. It allows us to super-charge the relationships, raise the heat.
For example, imagine that John and Mary have been married for years, but have grown apart. They decide that they don’t love each other anymore. The logical thing for them to do would be to divorce and split up, right?
But there’s no story in that! The characters could easily resolve the situation by leaving—so as a writer you need them to stay together.
So imagine that John and Mary have grown apart, but both love their six-month-old daughter. Neither is willing to end the relationship so long as they risk losing the child. Now you have a crucible, a binding force that keeps the two together.
But there are different kinds of crucibles. Maybe it is a child. But maybe you could do the same by putting them both in a car and having them get stuck in a snowstorm. The car is a different kind of container from the relationship, but both work to keep the couple together.
So here are the three different types of crucibles.
resonancebook (1)Crucibles of Setting
A setting may act as a crucible. You’ve all seen comedies where several people are stuck in a cabin in a snowstorm, and each of them is at the other’s throat. You will also quickly remember the movie “Snakes on a Plane,” even if you’ve never seen it. A crucible of setting might be a story set in your characters’ workplace, on a ship, or in a small town. The important point is to keep the characters together as much as possible, and to let personalities rub against one another until their tempers boil.

Crucibles of Relationship
You can never escape your family. You might try, but often the family relationship is a crucible. A child wanting to leave home is in a crucible in the same way that a father who must pay child-support is in a crucible. Any two people who are married are in a crucible, as are any two people who happen to just be in love.
I recall a fine western when I was young about two heroic cowboys who are both in love with the same woman. They are forced to band together to rescue her from a kidnapper. The men hate each other, and as the audience gets to know each man better, they both come to vie for our affections.
Soldiers in a squadron will find themselves in a crucible. For example, in The Lord of the Rings, those who had joined the Fellowship were thrust into a crucible—a small band of men forced to band together for their own protection.  It may be that your character finds himself fighting beside someone he detests—a murderer or a rapist—and yet he is unable to walk away from the conflict.
A crucible may also be your conflict with your culture. We’ve probably all known various folks—Catholics, Jews, Muslims, etc., who try to leave their religion behind but can never stop talking about it. But it doesn’t have to be your religious culture. My father ran away from the Blue Ridge Mountains to escape the hillbilly lifestyle. I had a girlfriend who left her fine home in Southern California because she despised her family’s wealth. In the movie My Big, Fat Greek Wedding, we have a girl whose main conflict comes about when she is embarrassed by her ethnic roots.
Crucibles of Condition
An intolerable condition may also be a crucible—such as an illness that two very different characters may join forces to beat. We see this type of crucible used every week as Doctor House tries to solve the latest medical mystery. But you can also set your characters up to fight an economic or political condition—the hunger in India, the tribalism of North Africa.
The condition might be something as mundane as crime in the streets. Policemen who despise one another are often found joining forces to fight drug lords, rapists, and other types of crime.
So as you form your story, consider how you might strengthen your conflicts by developing one or more crucibles.
To learn about the rest of Dave’s plotting tools, or how to write for a wide audience, you’ll have to check out his book: http://www.amazon.com/Million-Dollar-Outlines-ebook
Here are some of the reviews it’s received so far:
“Mr Farland didn’t write a book about outlines; at least not only outlines. This book shows you how to write a book, story, and screenplay from blank page to your first million. I can only imagine better instruction from Mr Farland in person, and plan to take one of his workshops based on the strength of this work alone.”
—Big Nate, Amazon
“Actually, I have a book on novel outlining which has like 5 stars ratings. It is way boring. I just couldn’t get through it. So when I learned David had written a book on outlining, I knew he could do the topic justice…and make it interesting. . . . Since David wrote this, I KNEW he had something UNIQUE to teach, that is, his viewpoint, his experience and his SYSTEM. Plus, I knew his conversational, no fluff way of writing/teaching would drive me, compelling me to devour it. And it does.”
—C. Jack
Can you think of any more examples of crucibles? Can you see a way to strengthen your own story by adding a crucible? Leave a comment and let us know!
      

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Finished Being Fat by Betsy Schow

Yes, I'm reviewing a book by our very own Betsy, who is currently enjoying huge success with this book and the media spotlight that goes with it. Hope that's allowed. I'm relatively new here and haven't read the rulebook yet.

Guess what? It's completely deserved.

If you've ever read any of my blogs you'll know that I give honest reviews. I care nothing for the feelings of an author: if I want to tear a book apart, I will. Yes, I've lost friends that way. So I don't say this lightly. It's a great book. 

Admittedly it's not what I expected. I expected a diet book, with motivational tips, calorie charts and maybe the odd recipe. But you know, I've read enough of those, I really didn't need another one. This was much more useful. It's essentially Betsy's story of success, but beautifully and honestly written in a way which means that anyone facing a few too many pounds can really relate and apply her life lessons. Most importantly, written in a way that doesn't leave you in an anguish of jealousy at her success.

I took a lot from it, primarily "I can do hard things", but also many little nuggets. I can now run a mile (just one at a time, mind you) in twelve minutes. I had no idea, before reading Betsy's book, whether that was good or not. Now I know that for a woman in her mid-forties with sixty pounds to lose, that's not terrible. I have realised that it's OK to enjoy running. I had been convinced it was a horrible chore and the rush of triumph I felt as I staggered off the treadmill at the end (I run indoors) was just the endorphins. I had a lightbulb moment as I read that I like running, just as Betsy does. And now I might endeavour to do more of it. (But probably not a marathon. I'm aiming to run 5km by the end of the year. Thanks Betsy!)

I don't have a problem with finishing things (starting is more of an issue for me - maybe "Started being Slim" would be my book) and I don't have many of the challenges Betsy has faced, and yet the book was perfect for me, and was entirely what I needed. If Betsy can do it, I can do it. And so can you.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Talking Tuesday: Write, Write, Write

Success is not something handed over, it is something earned.  If you are to call yourself a writer, you must write.  When you only think about writing the stories; you are not a writer, you are a thinker.  I admit there are times and seasons where being a thinker has helped me create deeper plots.  However, the one thing that makes a writer successful is writing.

Occasionally, success in writing if found quickly, but more often success is found through hours, days, and years spent clicking the keys.  Only after many "The Ends" have been written.  It has been said by many, the best way to become a better writer is to write.  Fill every blank page, until finally one of those pages will be discovered.  Persevere.  Do not expect your first story to be your ending, let it be your beginning.  If being a successful writer if your dream, then set your butt in a chair, start writing, and don't stop.


Monday, March 11, 2013

On Criticism

It’s something we all have to face as writers: criticism.

I have decided there are two things a writer needs in order to deal with criticism, and you might think they are contradictory, but if you have them in balance, then you’ll be able to handle criticism with ease. The two things are these: humility and confidence.

So, humility. To put it simply, you have to accept the fact that even though you might be a very good writer, there will always be room to improve. Even Stephen King relies on beta readers and editors. He knows he will write things that just won’t work, things that don’t make sense to the reader, and that he will get wordy and carried away sometimes. We all do. It’s a fact. And that’s why we need people around us who will tell us so, and why we need to have the ability to admit we are less than perfect.

The best thing about criticism? It makes us better. I have never submitted something for a critique and come away from it without finding some way to make my work better. We all have a form of “shelf blindness” when it comes to our work. It’s the same kind of thing as people with body odor who don’t notice because they’re used to it. It’s just the way life is.

So, in a nutshell, you’re not perfect. And that’s okay. Deal with it.

The second thing you need is confidence. To put it simply, you have to remember that not only are you not perfect, but nobody else is either. That includes those who critique your work. They might make suggestions, but at the end of the day, it’s still your work and you need to have enough confidence in yourself to say, “I see what they mean by that comment, but this is my work and I am choosing not to change that particular thing.” That doesn’t make you a snob or a bad person- it’s your work, not theirs. You are allowed to respectfully disagree.

Keep in mind, however, that if you have an editor or an agent who has agreed to represent your work, then in a way it becomes theirs too, so you might want to bend a little bit more with their suggestions; but even so, remember it’s your name people will see on the cover, so if it doesn’t feel true to you, then don’t do it- just be prepared for the consequences.

So, the next time you send one of your WIP babies out in the world to be judged, remember that it will probably get picked apart a little bit- and that’s okay. That just means it’s growing and getting better. But also remember that you still have the right to take it back and give it a cuddle and tell it it’s awesome and know that it is. Because after all, you made it. :-)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Tense Question

One of the most exciting things about being a writer, to me anyway, is getting a new idea and having the story flood into your mind and see a whole bunch of seemingly random pieces just fit together perfectly. This happened to me this week. I woke up and the story just played out in my mind. I knew I had to write it all down before I forgot anything. As I started putting words to this story I discovered I was writing it in first person, and not just that but it was present tense. I was kind of weary of this because my preferred style of writing is in the third person. I felt a little out of my element, but I wanted to stay true to the story and the character as she told me her story.

So my question for all of you is:

Does it make a difference to you when reading a book what tense it is? Or if it's first or third person? What about writing, do you have a preference?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Saturday So What: Blinking Cursor

I sit, staring at the blinking cursor.

There is nothing left. I have given everything that I have, everything that I am, and I'm not sure another original thought will ever come into my head again.

I have fallen off the pedestal, cracked the veneer, and all my dark thoughts leak out until they coat every inch and suffocate me.

And still it blinks. I am alone except for that bedeviled cursor. It's unaware and uncaring of my distress. Unfeeling towards the expectations that crush my shoulders and push me to my knees.

It is there that he finds me, gently reminds me that I am never alone. When I fall, he will lift me up. There is no dark corner of my soul that his light cannot penetrate.

In that moment, I am no longer empty.

The cursor stops blinking as it moves across the screen.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Making Friends

"Make friends with the problems in your life."

This suggestion is from my current daily devotional, Jesus Calling.

I had to read it twice.  And then a third time.  My mind resists such a crazy idea.  In my flesh, I want to get past my problems, or have them vanish.  My first thought is never, Oh, good, another headache.  Come on in.

I kept reading, and of course the author's wisdom is revealed further down the page:  God uses everything for good.  I read that twice as well, as a reminder.  God uses everything for good. 

Even headaches.  Especially headaches.  Because, when we're having an issue, that's when we're most likely to turn to God.  When life is lovely and stress-free, we, well, I get complacent and forget God still runs the show.  I assume it's my stellar navigational skills that brought such peace to my life. 

Then, a headache barges in and disrupts my rhythm.  I groan and sigh, but eventually, I pray.  The headache - illness, tragedy, loss of any kind, or (UGH) a leaking bathtub - takes me back to the source of life, and I remember I'm not really in charge of diddly-do.

I know this, I do, but I get so weary of the work headaches bring.  They're rarely easy, or short-lived, or, in case of the leaking bathtub, cheap.  I don't know why this surprises me.  God never promised me easy, short-lived, or cheap.  He did promise to grow me up.  By its nature, the road to spiritual maturity is arduous, unrelenting, and costly.

I still choose it.  Even though I whine often.  Headaches do bring me to the throne, where God can pull me into His lap and assure me, "You're not alone.  Together, we can do this."

So, I will try to remember to view the struggles of this life as "friends."  Annoying friends, but friends who show me the truth.  I guess we can't have too many of those.





Thursday, March 7, 2013

Characterization: Who Cares?


Have you ever read a book where you feel like you don't really care about the protagonist(s) by the time you finish (or don't) the story?

Have you ever written a character that makes you want to scream, "Who cares?"

There is a very basic principle in the art of characterization.  In a very awkward, wordy way, you could say it like this:

It doesn't matter what your character cares about, if you don't care about your character.

Okay, so an interesting philosophy.  But how do you apply it to your writing?

One possible approach is to look at the reactions of your character to the event in the story.  If your story is rushing through the action of a scene, but we never see it from the emotional, physical and intellectual viewpoint of a unique POV character, than we don't have anything to connect with in the story.  The natural reactions of the character are what allow us to connect.

So, every key or crucial moment in a scene needs an internal reaction from your character.  

Not every moment:
 (if the hero unlocks a door with a key, we don't need every intimate detail of that moment unless it is crucial),

...but the ones that move the story ahead:
 (if the villain is on the other side of the door ready to pounce, we need to feel any pain or emotional horror resulting from being surprised or ambushed - not just have the actions of the event described).

It's just like that science law: action = reaction

When my kids scrape their knee or pinch their finger in a drawer, they don't come to me first with a tale of what happened - its always preceded with their reaction of hurt or pain.  First the ouch, then the explanation.  And as parents, we care about the emotion. We care that our child hurts, then we want to know why.  If it were the other way around, we'd have to muster some sympathy for the drawer.  Or the sidewalk.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Open Doors



I've just noticed something very significant. My sci-fi/fantasy book is currently under consideration by Harper  Voyager (a division of HarperCollins), Random House and Tor Macmillan. Three of the big six. Not only that, but it was submitted directly to them. I don't have an agent, but all these publishers are open to direct submissions for the first time in, oh, maybe decades.

Well, sort-of. Harper Voyager opened for just a couple of weeks last October, and apparently received 4,500 manuscripts which they are still working through. Random House have started four new imprints for ebooks and it is only those imprints which are open to submissions. And Tor Macmillan are only open to submissions in the UK.

That leaves just three of the big six still closed to authors who don't have an agent. Or does it? Hachette are now open to submissions in Australia, and Simon and Schuster are invited unrepresented authors to submit to their self-publishing arm, Archway. It all leaves me wondering how long it might be before Penguin are inviting all and sundry to submit their manuscripts.

More than that, it leaves me wondering why.

I have a theory, and some evidence to back it up. Many of my writer friends who have been, and continue to be, very successful, are seeing their sales drop considerably. Some sold ten thousand or so copies of each new book a few years ago, but are now selling fewer than two thousand, and yet their publishers are still quite happy with this level of sales. Why aren't those publishers calling the authors into their offices to discuss the problem and come up with new marketing strategies or just better books? I think publishers now expect to sell fewer copies of each book they publish.

Thanks to the ebook revolution anyone and everyone who has written a book (whether it is any good or not) can now publish it with no cost and very little effort. They don't even have to bother asking the bookshops to stock it: anyone can have their book for sale on Amazon alongside the latest blockbuster by a well-known author. These self-published books are often considerably cheaper too, and there are a lot of them. A lot. Millions.

Unfortunately the number of readers, and the amount of money they have to spend on books, is about the same as it always ways. Maybe even less, given the worldwide recession. With the market flooded with cheap Indies, readers have more choice than ever before. The result is that their custom is very thinly spread, and authors and publishers get a smaller bite of the cherry.

So what I think is happening is that the major publishers are fighting back. Authors are not beating a path to their door (via their agents) any more, because it's so much quicker, easier and more fun to self-publish. No nail biting waiting for the rejection letter, no bruises to the ego, a glossy, beautiful book up on Amazon less than a week after you type "the end" and an amazing 70% royalties! Who can be bothered with query letters, submission guidelines and years of editing and proofing for a paltry 15% these days?

The major publishers don't want us to self-publish, though. Not only do they need us to keep their business going with a stead flow of good books, but they can't risk one of those Indie authors being the next E.L. James [crosses self] and selling more copies of a self-published pornfest novel than they can of the literary and thoughtful work in which they have invested heavily. If there is a book out there which is about to be the next Twilight or Hunger Games, they need to be publishing it, not the author. [Note to any publishers reading this: there is, it's called Emon and the Emperor and I wrote it. I'm happy to send it to you.]

Here's more evidence: I'm seeing more and more publishers' websites which explain in depth the advantages of traditional publishing over self-publishing. (Professional editing, expert cover design, wide distribution and a full marketing support team, essentially. But for me the main selling point of traditional publishing is validation.) The publishers are now trying to sell their product to us, rather than the other way around. That tells me something.

It's an interesting and really rather wonderful time to be an author and I look forward to seeing the changes that come next.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tuesday Talkings: Writing on the Run

I am not a runner, but for the past 6 months I have be training and running events.  So far I have done a 5k and a 6k.  In two weeks, I have an 8k.  Regardless of all the time and money I put into participating in these races, I still hate do not love running.  Running on race day is easy because the crowd inspires me to push harder.  Running on my training days sucks.  Some days I get a friend to run with me and that helps to keep my mind occupied.  However, on days when I am alone it is easier to convince myself to give up sooner.

Recently, I have discovered that listening to Writing Excuses podcasts is a close second to running with a friend.  This weekend I caught up on most of season 8.  They discuss some great topics.  I particularly was intrigued by Season 8 Episode 8 Writing and personal health.  Robison Wells joined the group to share his struggles with mental health. And the group also talked about physical health and brought up standing desks.

The idea of a standing desk had never occurred to me.  I guess I must live under a rock.  For some reason the idea really intrigues me.  When sitting at my desk or even in my bed with a lap desk, my back often becomes sore.  Could this be the cure?  Brandon Sanderson even told how he made a tread-desk.  He can walk and write at the same time.  How cool would that be?  I would have to writing time to fit my training in.

When the muse strikes, a writer can spend hours sitting in one position just typing away.  We sometimes forget that even the task of writing can bring about physical aches.  It is paramount that we take care of our health, both mental and physical, so that we can be successful in using our talents.

Do your writing habits need an update?
Have you considered a standing desk?

Monday, March 4, 2013

How Did That Happen?!

I missed a week. Oops.

Yes, for over a year I have faithfully delivered my Monday morning blog post to MMW, even throughout my pregnancy and delivery of my Teeny, and yet last week I dropped the ball.

What happened?

Well, it was a couple of things, actually. First, I had several posts scheduled for a few weeks- that’s when you write them ahead of time and set a date and time for them to be posted- and I thought I had one set for last week so I didn’t think about it. Well, clearly I didn’t.

Also, a week and a half ago a friend of a friend asked me for help on a project for his company. He runs his own copy writing business and he had a huge project that he wasn’t sure he could complete. The project had to do with couponing, and he knew that I write and I do couponing, so he asked for my help. Since things have been a little bit slow lately with my husband’s work and we needed some extra money, I agreed. Especially since the amount he was talking about was enough to pay our mortgage. Twice.

Yeah.

So anyway, the project has turned out to be MUCH bigger than I expected, and I am basically working on it every spare moment of every day. Even every moment that’s not spare- I’m forcing moments into the day. By the time I’m done I will have made NaNoWriMo look like a cakewalk. It’ll be about 50,000 words in 2 weeks. 50,000 words requiring serious research.

Yesterday on facebook I wrote:



It’s happened. I’ve crossed some kind of a threshold into an alternate copy writing dimension in which I’m writing things like this (about how to save money with your fireplace): "If you don’t want to see your savings go up in smoke, fire up a few of these hot tips:"

*facepalm*

Oh. dear. It’s the beginning of the end. Somebody save me from myself.

I have already spent too much time on this post as it is. I will hopefully be back next week with a decent post.

Gah.

Pray for me!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Mother's Influence Over the Future

     For the past while I've been thinking a lot about the kind of people I want my children to be when they grow up.  I started making a mental wish list of the skills I hope they have, experiences I hope they encounter so they can learn certain life lessons, and their over-all attitude towards life. This may seem like a "duh!" kind of moment for a lot of you, but I realized that most of those things on my wish list are things that I have a huge influence over.  For example, I hope my girls know how to sew, so that someday they will at least be able to mend their children's favorite toys.  Well, that is something I can teach them.  More than that even, by taking the time to teach them this skill (or any other skill for that matter) I am given opportunities to spend time with my children one on one and strengthen my relationship with them.  It also creates memories that hopefully my children will be able to carry through their lives and reflect back on. 
     Another item I have on my wish list is a love of reading and writing.  Right now my older daughter loves to read.  She takes every opportunity she can find to read.  I want to nurture that so she will always have that joy of reading.  My younger daughter loves to tell me stories.  She can make up the craziest, silliest stories and I can tell by how excited she gets while telling me that she really loves to do it.  In hopes of keeping that excitement alive in her both my girls and I will make up stories to tell each other at bed time.  They usually are based off one of the many stuffed animals cluttering their beds and we come up with a little adventure for them.  Sometimes we'll throw in some random obstacle or introduce another stuffed animal to join in the story.  It has become a fun game that my girls really like to do. 
     I also hope that my children will have the chance to help people so that they can see what a blessing it is to serve others.  This is something I have a LOT of influence over.  Our church provides so many opportunities to serve, but there are other ways to serve as well.  I've set a new goal for myself to seek out ways my whole family can serve others and provide an example of love and charity for my girls. 
   One of the most important traits I want my children to have as they grow is a positive attitude.  I must teach my girls to smile in the face of adversity and seek out the positive in our daily lives.  By being positive myself, I will be a living example to them and hopefully embed in them the importance of seeking out the simple joys in life. 
   I know as parents we all must have dreams and aspirations we want our children to achieve.  I hope we can all realize the role we are called to to help them attain not just our dreams and but their own as well. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Saturday So What Spotlight: Jaleta Clegg

It's that time again. The first Saturday on the month, and we get to make a new friend. Jaleta Clegg is going to share what helps her say So What, when times get tough. Now that I'm the primary chorister, I have the overwhelming urge to sing the Welcome song. "We welcome you today to ... um... bloggery?"



Jaleta Clegg was born longer ago than she'd like to admit. She has filled the days since with raising a horde of children, tending various pets, cooking, cleaning, laundry, piecing quilts, making costumes, crocheting, and of course writing. She has numerous short stories and two books in print and a third book coming mid-April. Since real life is too exhausting, she creates fictional worlds where aliens abound, sinister forces lurk, magic can be real, and the happy ending eventually happens. Her day job involves starship simulators, lots of schoolchildren, and an inflatable planetarium. Find more at www.jaletac.com or www.altairanempire.com for her series.



Poisoned Pawn: The Fall of the Altairan Empire Book 3 (coming April 2013)
With their own ship and freedom, life is sweet; until Dace disappears and Jasyn learns the truth about their new copilot.








My Inspirational Quotes

I used to tape various papers to the walls around my desk. They were my inspiration for those days when I need an extra boost. I've misplaced many of them due to painting walls and rearranging the house. They contained thoughts and ideas I needed. I've since misplaced those papers. Here are the ones I can remember. Now to print them out and tape them to the walls around my desk again...

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Sing like no one's listening.
Work like you don't need money.
Dance like no one's watching.
Love like you've never been hurt.
Live like it's heaven on earth.
(Attributed to Mark Twain, Alfred Souza, and William W. Purkey, among others)

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:31)

“People are like stained - glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”
(Elisabeth Kubler-Ross)

I wanna be a bear.
If you're a bear, you get to hibernate. You do nothing but sleep for six months. I could deal with that.
Before you hibernate you're supposed to eat yourself stupid. I could do that.
If you're a bear, you birth your children (who are the size of walnuts) while you're sleeping and wake to partially grown, cute cuddly cubs. I could definitely deal with that.
If you're a mama bear, everyone knows you mean business. You swat anyone who bothers your cubs. If your cubs get out of line, you swat them, too. I could deal with that.
If you're a bear, your mate "expects" you to wake up growling. He "expects" that you will have hairy legs and excess body fat. Yup! I wanna be a bear.
(author unknown)

A man need not run faster than he has strength.
(Mosiah 4:30)

Some days, you just need a little extra to keep you plugging through. What are your favorite pick-me-up quotes?

***


Friday, March 1, 2013

Truth and Light

By Nikki Wilson

For the past few months, I've been rethinking my decision to be a writer. I have four kids (three of them teenagers in Jr. high and high school sports and other activites), work 6 hrs a day, and have so many responsibilities I sometimes think that maybe this just isn't my time to be writer. I went to the temple a couple weekends ago with my husband and while I was there, I let my Heavenly Father know that I wanted to do whatever He wanted me to do. If that was to quit writing and focus more on my family and other responsibilities, I was ok with that. I understand that everything has a time and a purpose. I left the temple feeling good, but still not knowing if I should quit writing.

Last weekend I went to the ANWA Writer's Conference in Mesa, AZ.   It is truly an amazing conference that I love to attend. I was able to attend a class by Chris Schoebinger, editor at Shadow Mountain Publishing (a division of Deseret Publishing). His class about "The 5 Things You Should Know Before Submitting to a Publisher" was amazing. But the part that touched me the most was at the end when he said that he felt impressed to say something he hadn't said in his previous class. He talked about how as people of faith we have a responsibility to write. We were given this talent of writing for a reason. Because our faith is a part of who we are, whatever we write, truth and light will shine through. The people of the world need this truth and light and we can be the instrument to bring it to them. Tears streamed down my face as he spoke and I knew this was my answer. I still didn't feel equal to the task. After all, there are so many better writers out there. (Yes, I was being self deprecating) After Chris' class it was lunch time and time for the BOB (Beginning of Book) Contest awards. This year I actually took my own advice and got brave enough to enter the contest. (I prefer to put them on and judge them instead!) I entered the first 500 words of my non-fiction inspirational book "If I am a Temple, Why Do I Feel Like a Condemned Building?'" and my Young Adult fantasy book "The Knight of Dreams". I wasn't really expecting to win anything to be honest. But when my non-fiction won second place in that category I was ecstatic and very grateful! I was feeling truly blessed at that moment, I didn't think it was possible to feel any better. Then after they announced all the winners in each category they announced the grand prize winner. This is for the entry that received the most points out of all the entries. I was in complete shock when they called, "Nikki Wilson for 'The Knight of Dreams'!" I truly couldn't believe it. I had convinced myself that I wasn't good enough to win contests or even get published. But here again was another message from my Father in Heaven that I matter. My words matter. With His help (and a really awesome critique group) I truly can write words that will shine with truth and light. I feel humbled by these experiences and the knowledge (I get repeatedly) that God loves me and wants to make me into the best person I can be.

(To read my winning entries go to my blog.)

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