Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday's Word: Read

 Today is leap day. It's like getting an extra day for free. We should all take advantage of this free day, and READ!!

And we as authors should, for the most part, read in the same genre as we write. This is essential. If you are not reading the same genre as you write, then you may want to evaluate your "to read" list. That's not to say you can't deviate once in awhile, especially when it comes to reading the books of your associates.(What goes around comes around).

But even more important than reading in your genre, is just reading. When I started writing, I thought I didn't have time to read. I went a whole year without reading a single novel while I worked on my first book. I look back now and see how ineffective that decision was. Now, I realize that by reading others' books, not only do I give my brain a renewing diversion, but I see what I like and don't like about their writing style or story presentation, and learn from it.

"Read! Read! Read! And then read some more. When you find something that thrills you, take it apart paragraph by paragraph, line by line, word by word, to see what made it so wonderful. Then use those tricks the next time you write."

That charge to writers happens to come from novelist W.P. Kinsella, but in fact he's echoing centuries of good advice. Numerous other authors, past and present, have stressed the importance of reading to a writer's development. I've listed just a few below.

For a man to write well, there are required three necessaries: to read the best authors, observe the best speakers, and much exercise of his own style.
(Ben Jonson, Timber, or Discoveries, 1640)

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
(Richard Steele, The Tatler, 1710)

Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.
(Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, 1849)

Read everything--trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you'll find out.
(William Faulkner, interviewed by Lavon Rascoe for The Western Review, Summer 1951)

  • If you read good books, when you write, good books will come out of you. Maybe it's not quite that easy, but if you want to learn something, go to the source. . . . Dogen, a great Zen master, said, "If you walk in the mist, you get wet." So just listen, read, and write. Little by little, you will come closer to what you need to say and express it through your voice.
    (Natalie GoldbergWriting Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, rev ed., 2005)
What genres do you like to read? Are they similar to what you like to write?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday's Word: Timing

I finally got that long awaited phone call that all authors look forward to from the day they pen that first page of their novel. A publisher called me and said they wanted to publish my book. Covenant Communications has offered me a contract for my novel I Cannot Serve Hitler (working title). The book is a work of fiction, but it is based closely on the life of an actual LDS boy who was forced to be a Hitler Youth and fight in the German army at age sixteen.

I'm really excited about the prospects of this work finally becoming available for people to read. I've been working on it for over two years now. So then why did I not feel like jumping for joy after I hung up from that phone call--like I have envisioned for the past six years? (That's how long I have been writing seriously).

Timing. I had to hurry and cut the phone call short because I had to take my daughter to a doctor's appointment, so I didn't get to savor the call. On top of that, I've got my first novel coming out in a month. I made the decision to self-publish it just a few weeks ago, and I'm scrambling to get my ducks in a row to make it happen. Major stress. Especially because I'm learning as I'm going, and making mistakes. Now I have an other manuscript to format and comb over, as they want it in a timely manner even though it won't be scheduled for release until 2014, (sigh). Also, my current WIP sucks and needs major revision if I'm to have pages to take to my weekly critique group.

Tip for all of those authors out there that are anticipating that ever-important phone call and want to savor its long-awaited sweetness: don't answer the phone when you are stressed. Let them call you back another day.

I'd love to hear stories of  when other writers got that call. Whether it was to you, or an author friend of yours, what was it like?

(The picture shone won't be the cover of the book, but it's one that the gentleman I interviewed for my story gave me to learn more about the Hitler Youth).

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Announcing my Book Release and my Book Cover

Finally, my first book is coming out. I'm launching it on March 24th. Keep posted for more details to come. I thought I'd share with you the blurb on the back cover, as well as my book cover. Tell me what you think, and/or if you'd be willing to help me with some of my promotions.

Hattie is barely twelve when her pa’s “business adventures” disrupt her family and move them to the new town of Tropic,Utah, nestled in the shadows of old Ebenezer Bryce’s Canyon. Her pa views the town as opportunity. Hattie is hopelessly shy and views it with apprehension; she dreads the task of making new friends. More than anything else, Hattie wants to be like her father—not afraid of meeting new people, talking to strangers, and standing up for herself. So it is with trepidation that she accepts her pa’s challenge and promises to make new friends.

Hattie forms more promises as she struggles to make friends, finding companionship in places she wouldn’t have expected and learning that there is a difference between complaining and standing up for oneself.

Promises is a heartwarming story of friendship with a touch of mystery and adventure set in the days before Bryce Canyon became a national park. Drawn from the memoirs of Hattie Adair Jolley and her children, it is a realistic glimpse into the past and a delightful story for readers ages eight to eighty.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wednesday's Word: Encouragement

Last week I returned home from my critique group ready to toss my year-old manuscript in the trash. My group had just got through slashing and marking up the first 100 pages, and I truly thought it was hopeless. A day later, one of the sweetest ladies you could ever hope to meet--and a fellow member of my critique group--sent me an e-mail, telling me she admired how I could take so much criticism and still plow forward, and that she really like my story despite all that was said. The next day I went to the LTUE writers' conference and received encouragement in the form of ideas. As I shook off the shackles of discouragement, pieces of my story fell into place and I had a clearer picture of what I needed to do to my story. I even became excited, for I could see the true potential of what I had. But that could have never happened without encouragement.

Words of encouragement
are as precious as gold.
That "your work has merit,"
needs to be told
to you as a writer,
and your fellow writers too.
What goes around, comes around,
so encourage others what ever you do.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Getting in the mood . . . to write

Valentine's Day is all about love and giving and/or receiving gifts that express that love. Or in some cases, put you in the mood for love. Therefore, I found it very fitting that my post today on The Writer's Dojo talks about getting in the mood to write, and how it boils down to loving your story.

Hop on over to and check it out. And don't forget to become a follower and take advantage of the daily writing tips that will help you on your way to become a ninja writer.

And don't forget that today is also LOVE YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE DAY. Support this great cause by buying a book (other than on Amazon). My husband gave me a Barnes and Noble gift card for Valentine's Day. I can't wait to go and spend it. But now I'm in the dilemma of what book to choose. I think I've narrowed it down between Brodi Ashton's Everneath, Shannon Hale's, Midnight in Austenland, or Divergent, by Veronica Roth. Any suggestions?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Love your local bookstore this Valentine's Day

I just want to encourage/remind everyone to love your local brick and mortar bookstore this Valentine's Day and buy a book. An author friend of mine, Lisa Asanuma has spearheaded this movement. I think it's an awesome idea and is worthy of all of our support. The last thing we need to have happen in this ever-changing world of ours, is to have the traditional bookstore disappear. We need to hold on to these havens where a person can go and skim the pages of a book, feel the crisp new pages between their fingers, smell the aroma of a new leather binding, and shop in the old-fashion way. This one day surge of book-buying might not change the world of publishing, but it will at least make a statement. Check out Lisa's blog for more details.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wednesday's Words: Life, The Universe, and Everything

The LTUE (Life, the Universe, and Everything) Science Fiction Symposium begins tomorrow. This gathering is a great opportunity to rub shoulders with fellow science fiction and fantasy authors, and hone your skills even further, (for an amazing low cost for a writer's conference). I attended my first LTUE conference four years ago when it was actually free. At that time it was still held in an upper floor of the Wilkinson Center on the BYU campus. It was a rather small, intimate gathering. But in the last four years it has grown significantly. This year it is being held at UVUU in the Sorensen Student Center.

This growth only reaffirms what Orson Scott Card said in his keynote address in 2008. He mentioned that there was a disproportionate number of science fiction writers who were LDS. His explanation for this anomaly was the fact that the LDS religion contains so many elements that already sound like science fiction to those outside our faith, (i.e., a war in heaven/pre-mortal life, miraculous power of the priesthood, worlds without numbers, our potential to become like God, etc.), that we just have to write what we know.

 Those of you who write science fiction and fantasy, there's still time to sign up. You don't want to miss this.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Ninja Instructor--ME?

I've just taken on a role that is both exciting and intimidating. I will be one of five instructors helping the amazing Ali Cross to teach aspiring authors to be ninja writers.Ali has been inspiring writers for the past year or so on her own blog, comparing the writing process to that of becoming a ninja. But recently she has created a new blog dedicated solely to the ninja writing journey, The Writer's DoJo. This past Saturday, Ali more or less kicked the blog into full motion by hosting the first NiNoCon, an interactive, on-line writer's conference. I attended several sessions and found it very helpful and informative.

If you are interested at all in the process of writing, you'll want to follow the blog, The Writer's DoJo. Every day will offer a new tip, inspiration, and/or motivation, etc., to assist authors on their journey toward becoming the best writing ninja they possibly can.

I have the dubious honor of being the instructor to post the first of many lessons to come. It is on the topic of meditation. Hop on over and see what meditation and meat & potatoes have in common.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wednesday's Word: Blank

I've got major writer's block today.

I sat down at my computer this morning to read my e-mail and realized I had nothing ready to post on my blog today. My mind drew a total blank. Nothing of substance came to my mind about which to write. Nothing had impressed me this past week. Instead, my life had been barraged by discouraging things happening to people close to me. My brother-in-law lost his job and was forced into early retirement at age 60. My teenage daughter has mono and is in her second week of staying home from school, struggling to keep up with her homework. My son, who is on a mission in Alaska, after five months in Barrow with -50 degree temperatures and little to do because the town didn't allow tracting, just got placed with a companion who has the dubious title of being the most disobedient in the mission. To top it off, my son's  girl friend sent him a dear John, telling him she's getting married in April.

No wonder my mind is blank. It's trying to rest; it's seeking for a pocket of calm. Nothingness is better than turmoil.

Is this possibly why we as writers run up against writer's block? Is it maybe our creative preservation saving us from putting junk down on the page, making us wait until our brains are ready to function when we finally have something worth sharing?

Having taken some agronomy courses in college, I understand the value in letting farmland lay fallow periodically. It makes the ground more productive for the following season, even more so than any amount of added fertilizers can do. Perhaps the seeds of our imagination are the same; before more can be sown, our brains need periods of rest; rest from being forced to make sense of the crazy world around us--or the fictitious one we're creating.

If something is blank,
that is not always bad.
If the page is empty,
it's not really sad.
It's just taking a rest,
waiting for something worthwhile.
To be empty is better
than to be lacking a smile.