Saturday, December 30, 2006

Keeping It Clean

By Keith Fisher

Because of Christmas and other things, I have been piling stuff on my desk. I sat down tonight in order to write my daily quota and starred at a blank page. I looked around at the stuff. (It was organized, it really was) Have you ever heard the adage: a pile for everything and everything in its pile?

As I was saying I was starring at a blank page. Suddenly, I remembered a note I had written to myself, a note about a plot twist that I was planning. I searched for the note. I asked myself, "did I put it under this pile or that one." When I discovered something I should have dealt with a week ago, I decided it was time to straighten up.

I put everything away, made room for my new books, vowed to build the new shelves I’ve been planning, and paid the bills. It was very liberating. When I emptied the trash can the title for this blog came to mind.

Now admit it, You were thinking of something else when you read the title weren’t you? When I was through, I sat at my clean desk with plenty of elbowroom, looked at the beautiful framed pictures I received for Christmas, and heaved a sigh of relief. I began to write this blog and the words started to flow.

The thing I wanted to share with you is for the past week or so I have had difficulty finding time to write and when I did, I had a hard time organizing my thoughts. Now that I feel comfortable, I can write again. With all the things that take up my valuable writing time, I feel lucky to have a moment for writing. Sometimes it helps to clear the piles of stuff away. (Both physically and metaphorically.) You never know. It might work, it couldn’t hurt.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Importance of Being Prudish

By Keith Fisher

In November I wrote a blog about the Christmas season. I was thinking I would hurry and get a plug in for Jesus and get back to writing my normal subjects. Since then there have been so many wonderful blogs about Christmas I realized I am in the presence of great writers who are in touch with the true meanings of Christmas. Read on, dear reader and enjoy. Since today is the eve of Christmas Eve, I hope all of you will take a long moment and remember Jesus. Share a little joy and tell someone you love him/her.

Shortly after my mission and before we got married, my wife and I attended a movie. We were on a date and we went to see a popular movie of the time. It wasn’t rated R but it should have been. It was a good movie directed by John Houston but about halfway through the movie there was a scene with nudity in it.

In my defense I will say, I was shocked. Several people got up and walked out. I was proud of them. We were sitting next to the wall in a packed theatre so I didn’t leave. I chickened out and I still wish I had joined them. The movie had a good theme and a life’s message that everyone should learn. But was it necessary to tell it in a crude way?

I’ve heard people called prudes because they didn’t like an art exhibit that displayed paintings of nude people. I have heard people make fun of Utah County, Utah for their moral laws. I have heard the complaints of producers, directors, and actors about the need to protect their work from those who would cut objectionable material from a movie.

The other day, I bought a recently published used book, written by a very prominent author. It was a suspense mystery. I’ve never read anything by this author before. I wanted to read it because I’m leaning toward writing in the genre and wanted to learn something.

(If you know the Identity of this author, please keep it to yourself because I don’t want to give him/her publicity).

Anyway the book had a great start. In the prologue, the author in first person, told about a man being poisoned from the point of view of the victim. Then the book went down hill. In the next chapter, I was getting into the story learning information about the characters, and the author threw in a (not very graphic) sex scene.

When I realized what I was reading, I was shocked. I have been reading a lot of LDS fiction lately and I felt violated. I felt cheated, I was pulled from my "spiritual plane" then I remembered the book was written for the national market and the author didn’t know any better.

Or did he/she? I began to wonder if he/she put the scene into the front of the book in order to persuade the reader to read further. "What a cheap trick," I thought.

A few years ago, there was a big fuss over an effort to cut a questionable scene from a popular movie. I was able to watch that movie because my wife had the remote control and she knew where the scene was. Unlike the movie, I don’t know if the book is good without the scene, because I’m a little afraid to read it. It only cost two bucks so I’m not out much. Maybe I’ll give it back and let them sell it again.

Now the question I’m left with, and I ask you, is this a good thing? Is sticking my proverbial head in the sand a bad thing? I believe that we as writers tend to write about the things that influence us the most. So how can we influence others for good, if we don’t try to avoid questionable materials?

It’s hard to keep our balance if we straddle the fence too long, but if we don’t straddle the fence how can we avoid the complaint that LDS fiction is too preachy? The statement was, "We must be IN the world-but NOT of the world."

What do you think? Post your comments and we can have a discussion.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Through Deepening Trials

By Keith Fisher

I’ve been burning the candle at both ends lately. I didn’t intend to light the other end. It was lit for me. Now the middle of the candle is being held over another flame. Is it possible to burn a candle in three places?

Sound familiar? It ought to. Such is life in the 21st century. In doing a special project as part of my work recently, I discovered a story that can be a great inspiration to us all, especially to writers who long to see their name on the cover of a book. Those who work hard only to receive rejection after rejection.

There was a family living in Worcester, England in the middle nineteenth century. They were part of the group of United Brethren who Wilford Woodruff baptized. Right after they were baptized they had a son and named him John.

What a great blessing, to have a son, surely a gift from God for their obedience. During Elder Woodruff’s second mission to England they visited the aforementioned young family and spent the night. As mobs always do, they came calling after everyone had gone to bed. The young father, noticing the mob, went out to meet them, locking the door behind him.

The mob wanted the brethren, the man refused, he was beaten in his front yard until he was unconscious then he was left for dead. When the mob left the young mother went out and dragged him indoors and cared for his wounds. The next morning Elder Woodruff advised the father to immigrate to Zion as soon as possible.

They began the preparations and met opposition at every turn. Their crops failed for two consecutive years and they were forced to sell their home at auction. Then one day while taking goods to sell in town, the father’s horse spooked, causing a wreck that crushed the father’s leg. He remained in bed for a year then died in 1848.

In severe circumstances the mother worked long hours making clothes for men and John worked carrying bricks to help out. They were mobbed and beaten because they wouldn’t deny their faith.

Finally in 1856 they started their journey across the ocean. They became part of a company and after they landed the company proceeded to Iowa City to get a handcart and make their way across the plains.

It was the 15th of July when the Willie Handcart Company left Iowa City bound for Zion and this young family, with Mother leading them, fell in with the company.

After arriving in Salt Lake City, John’s mother was advised by church authorities to take her family to Salt Creek (Now Nephi, Utah) but John had to remain behind another year because his legs and feet were so frozen it took that long for them to heal.

Time passes and this same John was blessed with a very large family. He owned several mills including a plant up Salt Creek Canyon that manufactured plaster of paris. What truly great blessings he was receiving.

But as you may have already guessed John was a polygamist and he was a prominent man therefore a target of federal marshals. For safety and sanity sakes he accepted a call to move his families to Mexico and help built several colonies down there. They had a hard trip but they arrived safe in Diaz, Mexico in 1889.

In 1890 John returned to Nephi to sell everything. On the return trip, he built a house in Arizona for one of his wives and her family. He then continued on to Diaz. When he arrived, he was called on to help settle the Pacheco settlement. He moved several of his families to Pacheco and built grist and molasses mills and houses for his families. With that done, John became suddenly ill with pneumonia and died.

Now, before you think this is a tragedy. You must realize that John’s descendants are numerous and they equate his name with the word blessed. The families had to come back to Utah during the Mexican Revolution. His posterity is scattered all over. You may be one of them.

We all have trials and discouragement but if we keep our eyes focused on the goal we will attain what we seek. We must remember the blessings and relish them because it’s the memory of those blessings that can carry us through the trials. Keep writing and keep submitting

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Pass the Popcorn and Leave the book at home

By Keith Fisher

I didn’t want to. I wouldn’t have, if I hadn’t seen the others. When they billed it as the final chapter I was incensed. The author used nine volumes to develop those characters. How could they do it justice in three?

If you haven’t guessed, We saw The Work and the Glory on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It was well done, a good work, and entertaining, but you are better off never reading the book. I realize that a movie is never as good as the book and the author is at the mercy of the producer when it comes to certain details, but as a writer, I was disappointed.

When I write a story, I develop my characters as I go. The reader generally doesn’t get the complete picture until the end of the book. If I have written the story correctly, the reader will keep reading to get the complete picture.

The aforementioned book was that kind of book in nine volumes. Some may say that each volume should be written in stand-alone form. (Not a continuation but the same characters, different plot). That may be true, but the book in question was written in a way that the characters weren’t fully developed until the ninth book. Some say it’s still not finished. Such is the risk when you write historical fiction I guess.

You know what I mean. Whether you liked the book or not, whether the story was written correctly or not, whether it had errors or not, isn’t the point. The point is that the author wrote it in nine parts and the Joshua that we had at the end of the third movie isn’t the Joshua we had at the end of the ninth book. He had no right to be. He hadn’t passed through the trials that he did in nine volumes. And where was Olivia? I missed her.

I knew something was up when the second movie not only departed from the book, it departed from Church history. It seemed to me that it was made that way in an attempt of getting a broader audience and when it didn’t work, the screenwriters did a masterful job of pulling it together. The movie is worth seeing but I would suggest you throw what you know about the book away because the movie departs from the book. It also helps to look past a few facts, particularly who did and who didn’t go on the Zion’s camp expedition.

If I can’t see the whole series, I want to see a movie from the Children of Promise series, The faith of our Fathers series, or even the whole Chronicles of Narnia (not just the Lion Witch and the Wardrobe). Of course what I really want to see is the movie version of the Eternal Tapestries series. What is that you ask? Wait until I get it published.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

The Thanksgiving Day Shuffle

By Keith Fisher

How was your holiday? If it was anything like mine, you had a great time. We met at my parent’s, had dinner, and for the first time in a long time the whole family was together, so I took a picture. Then I took another one because there were several that shaded their eyes from the sun.

"OK" I said. "I’ll arrange it so you won’t have to look into the sun." After the hassle of the picture, (and I was surprised that everyone actually stood for it), we waddled back in the house and languished in the glow of a great meal revisited. The battle over the best napping position ensued and was settled in first come, first served order. The rest of us took mental naps as a result of the brain shut down, caused by the drug that a turkey produces naturally. (I wonder why we never see whole flocks of turkeys taking naps at all hours).

After the nap, those of us who could stomach seconds did, and the rest of us prepared for the Shuffle. "What is that?" you ask. During every Thanksgiving holiday, there is a point when being thankful passes and being greedy begins. It’s the point when a few stout hearted and perhaps weak-minded individuals begin to peruse the sale ads and plan their strategy for the next morning. I begin to remember the Christmas lights that must be traditionally hung on the house the next day.

The rest of us start asking each other what they want for Christmas. That question always turns to thoughts of what we want for ourselves and magically, without warning the shuffle has begun. The brief moments when we shift gears and go from Thanksgiving season to Christmas season. The moment when the world pauses to get a second wind.

Over the course of the next few weeks we will:
Be bombarded by more Christmas music than we can stand.
Send and receive more mail than we have all year.
Eat more homemade treats than is prudent.
We’ll go in and out of more stores than we ever knew existed.
There will be parties and dinners and tolerating our in-laws.

All of this madness will come to a climax on the last night of the year when we make resolutions that we will NOT spend so much, next year. Providing we can talk the merchants and banks into forgiving our debt, otherwise it will be a moot point.

Before you think I have a man named Ebenezer in my family tree, or that I live on a mountain peak looking down on the world, let me explain my tongue in cheek:

Having a birthday in December, I used to get frustrated over people playing Christmas music and putting up lights before my birthday. I had issues when birthday presents were wrapped in Christmas paper. When I got older, I overcame it. I realized whom we were remembering and that HIS birthday is more important than mine. I love him so much that my heart is glad that we can celebrate his birth.

We all know that we tend to get lost in the Thanksgiving shuffle. With all we do during the season, we tend to think of December 25 as a busy day, the day when the shuffle shifts gears and goes into return and exchange mode. Of course, we reverence the Savior, but the shuffle overshadows the purpose and the shuffle, begins earlier every year.

So before we turn it into the Independence Day Shuffle, I for one need to pause more and remember the man. To step away from the season and find peace. Perhaps turn the day back into a day of worship. Jesus is the light of the world. He did for us, that which we could not do for ourselves. He deserves our unending gratitude and love.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Staying in Sync on the Farm

By Keith Fisher

Have you ever noticed in the early days of the church, most of the important meetings were held in the winter or early spring? I wondered about that, until I realized that most of the first members were farmers.

In the spring, farmers did chores and mended tools, but mostly they waited. They couldn’t do anything in the fields until the fields dried out. In the summer, farmers were busy weeding and doing the chores that provided a living for their family. In the winter, they survived. If the weather got bad they were cooped up for days with nothing to do but read and play games.

It’s no wonder that Joseph picked the spring to go into the grove and pray. After a winter of reading the scriptures, he must have been anxious to get out and try out his new found wisdom.

I was reflecting on my writing habits the other day, and I remembered when I started writing. It was in the dead of winter. There wasn’t much I could do out-of-doors and I hated to waste time watching TV. For a few years this was my habit. I would put out a rough draft over the winter and polish it as I found time in the spring.

After a few years, I discovered a desire to get closure for my characters. A year or two later, I got serious about writing. Now, I write every day sometimes into the wee hours of the morning.

With the approach of the holidays once again, I am observing another anniversary. I celebrate my awakening to the joys and sorrows of writing fiction. In March, (the early spring), I will attend the big meeting, (writer’s conference), I will be renewed, I will be ready, I will be a published author . . . well I can dream can’t I?

Anyway it’s time to write the family newsletter and shut myself up in my office. This winter I have six books in the works. I hope to get one of them finished. One book is written and waiting approval. When you read this blog, Thanksgiving will already be over, but let me wish you a happy one anyway and just for good measure, I wish you a happy productive winter. May you emerge in the spring among the hibernating critters with your finished book in hand and a publishing contract to sign.

To paraphrase, I hope your holidays are full of joy.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Editorial Blindness

By Keith Fisher

First let me apologize for the poor way this is written. Here at LDS Writers BLOGCk we have a group where we meet and review each other’s blog before we post it. I for one have benefited immensely from this relationship.

Normally I tend to capitalize things, and I repeat words to the point of distraction. I used to write "started" a lot. Now I use the word "that". I am so glad that Nichole has eyes to notice that. (You see I did it again.) Connie and Gaynell constantly ask me to explain my meanings, Cindy, (I mean Inky) should be an English teacher because she catches things that I should know better.

Darvell is an inspiration, Wendy helps me see things in a different way, Karen gives me ideas, and it’s a blessing for me to be associated with these people.

Now that you have read this far, have you spotted any errors yet? I couldn’t ask my friends to look this over because I have been in a crisis since last Thursday and didn’t get it written in time.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I have editorial blindness. I can look at a whole page of manuscript and not see any mistakes. Then I have what I call a slap myself on the forehead moment, when I see colored marks from an editor. I fix the mistake and move on. I think those moments are getting fewer and farther between. (It’s a good thing. I was getting a headache.) I am getting better, but I don’t think I will ever outgrow an editor.

That’s the beauty of a writers group. At Authors Incognito, I have friends that can see what I missed. We’re tolerant of each other because we know how many mistakes we make ourselves. We all have editorial blindness to one degree or other. For those of you who don’t know, Authors Incognito is the writers group who sponsors this blog. You can join by attending a LDS StoryMakers writer’s conference.

Those of you who don’t live on the Wasatch Front may not have heard the commercial that says, "You have a friend in the diamond business". For those of you who are members of Authors Incognito I would say, "You have a friend in the writing business," Even the authors will help out.

This was going to be a piece about the approach of the Christmas season and the shameful way we commercialize it. Maybe I’ll save that for another time. Until then, feel free to comment and tell me how many errors I made. It will make my friends feel good to know they have been so helpful to me. Comment anyway, I love to see responses, it always makes my day.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Getting My Butt Out of the Chair

By Keith Fisher

In all the seminars I attend on the subject of writing, there’s one thing they have in common. Writers will always say, you have to get your butt into the chair. It’s a quaint way of saying don’t procrastinate or waste time, just do it.

Today I want to turn that saying around to make a point. It’s a point I’ve made before, but I’m going to elaborate.

In my day job, I spend eight hours a day glued to a computer. I don’t move anything but my head and my hands for hours on end. I often don’t take breaks because I’m trying to finish a job. Then I come home, take care of family needs and glue myself to my chair to write.

My daughter told me there is a name for people like me; she called me a numb-butt. It’s the modern equivalent to the couch potato. I never thought of myself in those terms because what I do is exercising my mind. I don’t sit on a couch being entertained.

But you know . . . She may be right. How many times have I had to stretch out the kinks after spending too long in the chair? I don’t think I’m alone either. I think that the American couch potato is being replaced by numb-butts. Those who spend hours working in front of a computer then drop into bed late each night, exhausted because they have stretched their mind to the limit.

In my schedule, which should be called the best-laid plans of mice and men. I have carved out time for my writing. I also penciled in time for gardening, exercise, daddy/daughter dates, husband/wife dates, work time, and church time. Often I get so caught up in writing that when my scheduled time comes, I’ve already been writing for hours.

Those of you who know me well, know I can use all the exercise I can get so, I need to tell myself to get my butt out of the chair. What good will it do to get my books published if I can’t enjoy book signings and other activities? I don’t want to be published posthumously.

So I resolved to do it! To stop procrastinating and make sure I get out of my chair and get moving. I’ll still do the writing; I’m going to do my research while I’m out of the chair. I plan to carry a CD player and listen to books on CD. Maybe I can give my dad a run for his money on the number of books he’s read. I talked about that in another blog too. If your characters are dragging you in, and chaining you to a chair, maybe you should make a resolution too.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

It’s That Time of Year Again

By Keith Fisher

Each year the primary children in our ward gather at the church for a Halloween party. It’s directed by the young men/young women organizations. I look forward to it because of the trunk-or-treat.

If you’ve never participated in this ritual let me lay it out for you. Years ago it was relatively safe for parents to let their kids run wild in the streets on Halloween. Now, because of sick-minded individuals, it’s no longer an option. Someone developed the idea to have a trunk-or-treat so parents could feel that their kids were safe.

That’s a great idea isn’t it? Well it would be, except the kids in our neighborhood still do the Halloween night ritual. I’m so glad I live in a neighborhood where I know all my neighbors. Even with that, I still wouldn’t let my kids go out without supervision. But I digress, let’s get back to the trunk-or-treat.

The way it’s done is simple; you take a car, truck, minivan, SUV, and in one case this year, a Moped with the seat up. Back it up to the sidewalk, decorate it and provide the candy. It is fun for the adults to compare how artistic the decorations are. We had a good time with ours as you can see from the pictures. this one was ours

One of the families has always brought animated decorations for their trunk. This year, they
brought a new one. It looked like a little kid with a jack-o-lantern head. When someone approached, it would shift it’s weight from side to side and move it’s arms a little. Something about those actions made me fall in love with it. Did I say it’s cute?

I watched the cute little guy for awhile and my writer’s eyes took over. I dreamed up a scenario where the cute little thing spent Halloween night on someone’s porch greeting visitors. Everyone loved it. Then at midnight it turned evil and went on a Stephen King type of rampage throughout the neighborhood, starting with the death of the owners of the house.
Those who handled the estate put it into a box. Then on the following Halloween . . .

I was reciting this scenario to one of the guys in my ward and he said, "You ought to be a writer."

"Hmm," I said. "I think I am." He didn’t hear me and I didn’t want to get into another of those discussions so I let it go. I turned into my contemplative thoughts as I often do, and I said to myself, "No I ought to be a published author of fiction."

I may write the story of the cute little serial killer someday. But it’ll have to wait until I finish my other projects. In the meantime, I’m going to find a cute little guy for Halloween but I’m going to chain him to the porch, maybe keep a shotgun handy.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Writers Block at 9,000 Feet

By Keith Fisher

I couldn’t bring my computer. Well, I guess I could’ve but I’m one of those who didn’t know you should remove the battery from a laptop while on house current so my battery only lasts about 50 minutes. Because of my daily writing habit I wondered if I would go crazy without my computer.

In a half-hearted attempt at appeasement, I brought a wire bound notebook. I figured I could make notes of the ideas I might have. I also threw in a few books to plan a Priesthood lesson I was scheduled to give.

I was going camping. My brother had planned his hunting trip and I didn’t want him to go alone. It turned out that my dad came too and we spent a large amount of time shooting the bull and solving the world’s problems while my brother was hunting. My brother brought Dad’s camp trailer so I was left alone in mine.

Have you ever tried to concentrate on a plot when someone is sitting next to you? I felt a need to put down my notebook and talk . . . so I did. I didn’t get my writing done.

After we ate the Dutch oven food I cooked and we said good night I went into the trailer and opened my notebook. Nothing happened. I tried to make notes for my lesson but I couldn’t keep my mind on it.

I realized if I had a generator, I could’ve brought my computer. At least I could watch a DVD on it. What do you do when you’re camped at 9,000 feet during your writing time and nothing comes to mind? I couldn’t even play computer games. Did I mention I was alone in a camp trailer? Who could ask for a better set up than that? I was having the weekend that most writers can only dream about and my mind wasn’t co-operating. What would you do? I gave up!

I finally decided to go to bed, thinking I would at least get caught up on all the sleep I’ve been missing. Have you heard about the best-laid plans of mice and men? The air was so dry and I was running the furnace. I woke at midnight with a dry throat and a worry that I would be sick by morning. I boiled some water and leaned over the steam while I made hot chocolate.

When my hot drink was ready, I sat down and looked at my notebook. I thumbed through the notes I made before and they started me thinking about the characters in one of my books. It isn’t the book that I have been currently working on. Suddenly my characters were dictating to me and I was putting it on paper, not my computer screen.

Three cups of hot chocolate and four hours later, I decided that I’d better go to bed. I was happy when my head hit the pillow. I forgot about my sore throat because I was thinking about my characters.

I spent the rest of the weekend writing about those characters, the ones I didn’t intend to write about. I learned that it’s a good idea to have two stories going in case you get blocked up with the one you’re working on. It can get confusing, but characters are like children if you pay attention to one, the other will get jealous and try to take center stage. Then all you need to do is write it down.

I learned something else that I had forgotten: There is something peaceful about quietly putting ink on paper but reading it is another matter. My writing is readable when it is done on my computer. I’m looking forward to Christmas with an Alpha Smart in mind. Then I'll be able to read what I write even if I’m camping when I write it.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Across Generations

By Keith Fisher

Have you ever sat down to write something and you know exactly where you plan to go with it? You get into what you’re writing and suddenly a thought comes that’s much better than your original thought? That’s how this blog came to be.

Many years ago, my father and I had an adversarial relationship. Perhaps the word is too extreme but I was a wayward son and he was doing his best to keep from cracking my skull.

Sometime after my senior year in high school, he somehow discovered a better way of dealing with me. It brought us closer and we became best friends. His loving the sinner, not the sin approach made me realize I could be a part of his family even with all my problems.

For many years we had long "bull sessions" where we would talk about hunting and fishing and cars. When I came back to church, we talked about religion. After I got married it turned into gardening and greenhouse techniques with a little hunting and fishing added. In 1986 Dad had an accident on the job where he fell 90 feet, hitting solid objects on the way down. He almost died and I had to come to grips with what I would do if I lost him.

He made it through, but he had to retire from his career as a welder and old age is gradually setting in.

Now his major problem is an eye condition that has left him unable to see well enough to hunt, he can’t tie his own hooks onto his fishing line, he pulls weeds by feel and he asks me to come and weld for him.

As we are fond of saying in the church, the Lord closes a door but opens another. Dad has been given a blessing: He signed up for a service that sends him books on tape and he sends them back when he is through. In the few years since he signed up, he has read more books than I ever have. When I come home from a writer’s conference, I tell him about the new author friends I’ve met and he orders their books.

Now we talk about literature and what I am writing, the plots that I am developing, the problems I am having with a character, and we critique other writer’s books together. Recently we took a car trip and listened to a book he was currently reading. Through all this I have been aware of what was happening and I just wanted to express my gratitude for our evolving lives.

We now have a new way of being best friends. Our "bull sessions" have continued and the sharing means a lot to me. Literature has a place in our society but for me, it keeps me close to my father.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

No! I wanted to keep that one!

By Keith Fisher

I'v'e been out of town and wasn't able to write the blog I wanted to write so I used this one that has been floating on my hard drive for a few weeks. I hope you'll enjoy it and I'll be back next week with the profound one. (At least I hope it will be)

Not too long ago, Big Blue and Mr. Gates took some of the first steps into what we called the information age. I know there were others involved but if they want recognition, they can send me an email. After all, There’s plenty of blame to go around.

Since then, we have progressed. We have reached a point in our sophistication that allows us to tell someone how bored we are at any moment during every day. We can ignore our teachers, even our boss, as we send text messages into cyberspace.

Using email, I can have someone send me a message and I will be able to read it in an instant. I can also delete an unwanted email that I never asked for. Junk emails or "spam" as we lovingly call it today, has gotten out of hand!

During the time of the "dark ages", before email and cell phones. If we were solicited, we could leave the store, throw junk mail away, close the door on salesmen, and never think about it again. We didn’t have to worry about an indecent proposal or read words that we never heard outside of a poorly supervised locker room. There were even laws that governed telemarketing, limiting what could be said on the phone.

In another Blog, Jeffrey R Savage told of a wonderfully funny way of dealing with this problem: look it up at six LDS writers and a frog the link is on you right.

Most internet service providers offer a filter. We can set our filter to limit words and block certain senders. It is a great feature, but have you noticed the sleazy dregs of our society will change the spelling of certain words, and change their ID so they can get their email through the filter.

I would admire that kind of cleverness except one thing: What kind of bonehead really believes that if I take steps to reject their email in one form, I would buy what ever they are selling if they put it another way? Basic sales and marketing aside, I should have the right to be sold on my terms not theirs.

I mention this because I was the recipient of an email that I really wanted to keep but in my mindless haste, I deleted it along with the spam. In my mind I began to conjure up a scenario where a publisher sends me an acceptance email and . . . "Oh no, that was from my publisher!" Or worse, Someone gets your business card or bookmark and reads the "really cool" email address you set up for yourself. The one that is "perfect for you", and sells it to the spammers.

As I said above, there are filters, but should I have to bother? They don’t always work the way we want them too anyway. I want a button . . . a way that I can send a tiny robot that tells the sender that I am not interested. The second time, he zaps the sender with an electrical charge. Every time that sender changes the subject and sends it again, the robot uses more voltage. You could recognize who the spammers were then. They would be the ones that have the frizzy hair and the zap marks on their cheeks.

Many authors use email to announce the release of a new book or news that will affect their readers. Please understand I think this is a good thing. But they always make sure that their fans know they are going to get an email from them. And they never sell email addresses to others. We need to keep this in mind when we are famous authors.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

Beauty Can Make You Cry

By Keith Fisher

As writers we frequently talk about how good it feels on those rare moments when we are "in the zone". Those stolen moments recharge our spirit and give us a sense of fulfillment.

We create worlds full of people who overcome the trials and hardships of mortality. They follow their destiny and do it with style and grace. We often look back over something we have written in amazement that it came through our fingertips.

We live in the hope that we can create beauty to touch the hearts of our readers and bring tears of joy. The printed medium has limitations however.

Have you ever wondered what a movie would be like with only the acting and dialog? Even in the days of silent pictures, the movie houses hired piano players to enhance the film. They learned music can build suspense to a climax that can make you jump. It can make you love or hate a character. And even if the movie was terrible, the end music will make you glad it is finally over.

Beyond the movie soundtrack, have you ever found tears in your eyes when you hear a beautiful piece of music? It is during those times when the music touches your spirit and you are given a brief glimpse into the love and peace that will be eternity.

Musicians have it easy. Their audience needs only to hear to be moved.

As writers our job is harder. We have to make our words so compelling our audience will invest
the time to discover the world we have created. Then if we have done it right, our "in the zone" moments will shine and the beauty we have written will touch our readers hearts and make them cry.

In order to do this, we must learn, practice, and experience, polishing our craft so that our fulfillment will show in our writing.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Wise Old Tree Root

By Keith fisher

At one time in our life, my wife and I were living in a one-and-a-half-bedroom house with a nice yard. It was in a great neighborhood and we liked the ward. Since the house was too small for us, we decided to remodel.

I wanted to keep my garden space so the plan called for a second story. In order to accomplish that, I needed to shore up the foundation. (Now don’t laugh). Since I had to dig around the foundation, which was on top of the ground, I decided I would dig a basement by hand under the house.

(I asked you not to laugh.) I’m sure you can imagine some of the problems that arose. I was even knocked to the ground and partially buried by a giant dirt clod (about 4 feet by 8 feet by 2 feet). I was more careful after that.

Anyway, the point is, that while I was digging I discovered many wonderful things; cool rocks I haven’t Identified yet, tools and antique gizmos that were left behind by 90 years of occupancy, I even found a can of arsenic that was almost full. That sounds like the makings of a good plot for a book doesn’t it?

One of the things that I found was an old root, suspended in the ground between several rocks. I was resting between shovels full and looked it over. It occurred to me that there was a great object lesson in that root. That old root was once young and trying to grow perfect and round and in a straight line, but because of the rocks in its way it grew crooked. The real lesson for me was the flat spots where it had forced its way between two hard objects. It continued to grow even though it had to change the plan.

There are many lessons we can learn from the root but here is one that you may like: when plotting our stories we often write ourselves into a corner. We get to a point when we know our plot won’t work or it’s too unbelievable. We need to remember the root and grow around it. Make our story fit and take it in a different direction. When we discover we can’t go around it, we must make it work by going back and rewriting the beginning. In that way we are like the root as it flattened out and filled the small space between the rocks. The root fulfilled a purpose and overcame obstacles that were placed before it.

I finished the foundation, but never put a floor in that basement. I didn’t finish our renovation plans. Instead, we moved two blocks to the north. When we moved, I brought that wise old tree root with me. It sits on a shelf above my desk and reminds me of the changes I must make, to be the writer (the person), I want to be.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Clearing out the Cobwebs

By Keith Fisher

Twenty years ago, I lived for Saturdays. It was my special day. Weekdays were okay and Sundays were great because I could worship, serve, and rest. But Saturday was the day I could do my thing. I enjoyed camping, fishing, and extra curricular activities but most of all I loved yard work.

My routine was great until other things began to take over my Saturdays. I started planning family reunions, teaching Dutch oven cooking, and cooking for groups. Yard work got shuffled to the back burner. Although I enjoyed the other things, I felt the pangs of regret when I saw the weeds in my lawn. I started referring to my once beautiful garden, as a "weed patch" and I kept promising that next year it would be better.

Recently, on Saturday morning I woke up and bolted out the door. I had a free morning so I planned to try and salvage my "weed patch". After mowing the weeds and testing the sprinkler system, I started with the easy jobs. I discovered my yard needed far more than one day to get it back into shape but I was working on it.

Far too soon, I had to put my tools away. I remembered a prior commitment. Before getting ready, I sat at my desk to make some phone calls and eat my sandwich. Of course, I turned on the computer and opened Word as always. Glancing at my project folders brought to mind the scene I‘ve been planning. "It’ll only take a few minutes," I said.

I was in heaven. The words were flowing from my fingertips faster than my mind could formulate them. I had reached a state of nirvana that I dream about, but can’t quite reach during my usual writing time.

It was beautiful. The things my characters were saying amazed me. They were solving their own problems and neurosis’. I was having a great day. Then, I remembered my appointment. With sweet sorrow I dragged myself away from my desk and rushed to one of those other things I mentioned above.

I began to wonder if the yard work is really that important to me. If I could write every Saturday, as well as I did the other day, who cares if my lawn grows to be four feet tall? Maybe I could schedule my life so I could write on Saturday morning. Of course as some friends have pointed out, I would probably get a visit from the lawn police.

Then I discovered a connection. Maybe the yard work had the effect of clearing out the cobwebs in my brain.

I thought about my weekdays and how I come home from work and try to write after a long day of filling my brain with cobwebs.

"Aha," I said. "Maybe if I schedule my yard work for an hour before I write . . ." You know where I’m going with this. I can have my cake and eat it to. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Even if it doesn’t help me to be a better writer, it’s better than having the neighbor’s Virginia Creeper vine take over my house.

(Note: I wrote this in advance and as I post it this morning I have to postpone my yard work due to rain and colder weather. Perhaps I can clean out the basement storage? No, that would be too scary. I heard there are things growning down there.)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Good Business Practice?

By Keith Fisher

I sat at my desk the other day, intent on finishing the edits to my manuscript submission and something crossed my mind. In the business world, it is common to hand out business cards so your clients and contacts will remember you and your contact information.

Over the years it has become almost second nature for me, to hand out a business card or a hat or something to those I do business with, so it occurred to me that I need an author’s business card to put in the package with my manuscript.

Being one of those people that won’t let unfinished work dissuade me from starting a new project, I started work almost immediately on the new card. Of course I needed a copyright free image so I spent some time on the library of congress website. (That’s part of my day job anyway, so I wasn’t really wasting time).

After finding four images that I liked, I couldn’t decide which to use. Naturally I tried them all, but which style and design worked best? About half way through the style thing I remembered I had a program on my old computer that would help me. My daughter wouldn’t let me use my old computer because it’s now her computer (at least she thinks so).

I spent some time finding the software and setting it up to run on windows XP. When I finally got it running, I was making really cool business cards. Now I need to take my design to a printer in order to do it right. While I was fine tuning my business card, I read parts of LDS Storymakers Publishing Secrets and realized that "Oh yeah, I’m going to need book marks and stickers and flyers and…"

I know that I need to wait for an actual cover picture of my book in order to do those last things, but I started to play with designs. I came up with an awesome bookmark that lists the titles of the seven "soon to be released" novels that are in various stages of development. I also listed my website on the bottom.

That created another problem. I don’t have a Keith Fisher the author website. I always planned to start an author site but I was waiting until after I get published. It occurred to me that it would be better to have the site running now. That way, a publisher can check it out. Which brings us back to the reason for business cards.

I know a little about Html and using software to build a website so I spent the better part of a week working on the site and tying it the other sites I work on. I knew I needed server space so I went shopping for that. I knew I would need greater security so I began to study the ins and outs of scripts. (A monumental task for me.) I want my site to be really cool like Rowling’s or Dashner's, not like the other sites I’ve done…

Did I mention that I haven’t finished the editing? To be fair to myself I did do some writing. I had a great idea about changing the hook in one of my novels. It’s really cool, and it gave me the solution to the mystery. Now I know how it turns out… did I mention I need to finish those edits? Well maybe tomorrow… I am reminded of a scripture in Ecclesiastes, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven".

All of these things are good business practices but I need to get my edits done. Wish me luck.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Cooking up a Bestseller

By Keith Fisher

As I have mentioned before, I’m a Dutch oven cook. My wife and I have traveled around Utah and Wyoming competing in Dutch oven cook-offs for many years. It can be an ego boosting experience to win one of those competitions and realize that you have done well and other people think so too.

At first, we never thought much about it. We just did what came naturally and we prepared the food the way we liked it. Then we found we had to make it look pretty. Sometimes it seemed that we were being judged more on artistic ability than the taste of the food. We were lucky to be blessed with an idea of what good food tastes like, and I was blessed to have an artistically talented wife.

At this point I could tell you about some of the things that I have seen others cook but I don’t want you to salivate all over your keyboard. I could tell you about the way that I slow cook a pork roast to make it so juicy, that when you slice into it, the juices run and it’s so tender it almost disappears on your tongue. But I’m not going to do that (grin).

Besides this is a writer’s blog.

During our second year of competition, we noticed a nice little lady who attended almost every cook-off. She visited with all the cooks and watched what they did. She asked questions and tasted the free samples. She took notes in her constantly changing notebook.

Her note taking wasn’t unusual in itself. We often had spectators taking notes about how to make this or that, and how many coals to use for which size Dutch oven. Those people would go home and try our advice, perhaps build a cooking table like mine, or just get the courage to get their cast iron out of the basement, remove it from the box, and try it out.

What on earth does this have to do with writing?

Then one year at the World’s Championship competition, We discovered the same little lady who had taken so many notes was cooking and she was very good. A couple of years later, she and her daughter won the World’s Championship.

When am I going to get to the writing part?

When my friend took first place, I listened to one of my Dutch oven peers as he told me "She is good because we taught her everything we know." He seemed disappointed, like his secrets had been stolen, but I chose to look at it another way. I agreed with him that she had learned from us, but I pointed out that she had improved on our collective wisdom and made it better. I consider it to be a great compliment to know I had a small part in her success. The beautiful part is, she has gone on to help those who will listen, and she continues to take notes.

As writers in our little circle, we help each other and we learn from the masters who consider themselves one of us. If we are smart, we will take notes. If I ever amount to anything in the LDS publishing world, I hope that all my published author friends will consider it a great compliment because I admit, other than blessings from our Father, I owe it all to them.

Saturday, September 2, 2006

In the Palm of Her Hand

By Keith Fisher
One day at work, I was involved in a "what will happen in the new Harry Potter book" conversation. I enjoyed listening to all the theories and conversations about plots and who has done what in which book. I came up with the totally off the wall suggestion that Harry is re-living his life and in reality he is his father and Hermione is his mother. "Ew," was the comment expressed at my off the wall plot.

You should know that I’m not a fan Harry Potter . . . Before you decide that I’m weird and string me up for misbehavior, think of this: I‘ve seen every episode and all the Star Trek movies. I glanced at few of the books too but I don’t enjoy them as much as the video media.

I have been involved in many discussions about Star Trek and seen others turn away with grins on their faces because of our obsession. The conversation about Harry Potter was like that except we kept getting more people into the conversation and no one was shaking their heads or turning away. I have a working knowledge of Harry Potter because of what I hear people say about him.

I was listening the other day when I was struck by a realization. I thought about the series of HP books and all the mania that has risen from them. I watched as my friends recited this or that about HP. And I thought about the author. What a great sense of power she must feel to have the reading public in the palm of her hand.

She is successful, not because of the money she has made, or the castle she lives in, and certainly not because of being published; she’s successful because she created believable characters and made everyone care about them. Not only do they care but they obsess. I learned a lesson about my own writing while I listened: I realized I want my characters to come alive for my readers as they have for me.

So to that end, I attend classes and conferences, read books and write. Now that I’ve got your attention,

Chapter One
"Shut up and go to sleep," said one of the boys as they passed by. She looked like a cornered animal, ready to strike out at anything that came close to her. Denise noticed the girl because she had shared a class with her in high school. Denise thought her name was Amy.

Crouched on the ground with her back against a large stone, Amy had beads of sweat on her forehead. Her hair was matted and dirty, like she had been rolling in the dirt. She was crying and clutching her jacket as if it were her lifeline. Her eyes were wide open as if she was frightened by something Denise couldn’t see.

Feeling sorry for Amy, Denise kneeled down next her to try and help. She turned and glared at Denise as if she were waiting for an attack. Denise carefully stretched out her arm and tenderly touched her cheek to wipe away a tear. The action was met with a shriek and a backward lunge that caused Amy to bang her head on the rock.

If Jeffrey R Savage can do it in his blog, I ought to be able to do it here. Seriously though, How am I doing? Do you want to read more? Do you care what happens to these characters? What was your opinion of the boys who passed by?

I want to be remembered for what I wrote like the author of Harry . . . what’s her name? You know . . . the author with the castle? Oh yeah, J.K. Rowling.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

An Holy Calling

By Keith Fisher

Many of you have callings in your ward or stake. Some have more than one calling. Everyone has been called to be a parent, a child, or a brother or sister. I want to discuss a calling that LDS writers have but they may not know it.

Recently I was attending Sacrament meeting as several of the members of my ward were released and other members were called. Some of them were shifted from one job to another. A few of the positions were left open giving our Stake Presidency and Bishopric time to fill them. When this happens it is always an interesting time. There is much speculation in regard to who will be called to fill which position of authority.

While sitting there, it occurred to me that I wouldn’t be called to fill any of those vacancies. I heaved a great sigh of relief knowing that I wouldn’t be asked to step out of my comfort zone this time. Suddenly I had an epiphany. I realized that I was given a calling years ago.

As writers, it is natural to labor under the delusion that we will someday be another J.K. Rowling or Dan Brown. Many would like to be Mark Twain. But the truth is the odds are against us, and writing in the LDS market won’t net us the number of readers that J.K. Rowling has. In other words: Don’t quit your day job.

With that in mind, what is the purpose of the inspiration? Why are we awakened in the night by a concept that touches our hearts so much, we must write it?

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy he cautioned the young man to never be ashamed of his testimony and remember he had been called with an holy calling to do the work. 2 Timothy 1:8-9 Perhaps we can paraphrase that and have a little fun:

Be not therefore ashamed to be a writer for our Lord: Who hath saved us, and called us with An Holy Calling.

Many of us have been inspired to write. We have stories in our hearts that if told correctly, will touch the hearts of many with comfort and love. I suspect that those who have chosen to write in the LDS market were given a calling. Like many callings in the church, this calling is not easy. In fact, it can take time away from family and career. Magnifying this calling will leave you with a sense of fulfillment and joy.

Many of the published LDS authors not only write pearls of pleasure for those who have been touched by the spirit of which they were written, but the authors also speak at firesides and other venues, spreading the good news of the gospel. That description sounds like ‘An Holy Calling’ to me.

So there it is, I know that many of you will be published soon, if you haven’t already. I can think of no better way to make a living than to write good works that are not necessarily LDS doctrine, but good works for which you can be proud. When you cash that royalty check or get that rejection, you might consider that maybe . . . just maybe . . . You were called of God before the foundations of the world began. If the Lord decides to help us make a living at it, then that would just be icing on the cake.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Looking at Life Through a Writer’s Eyes

By Keith Fisher

Have you ever watched the look on someone’s face as you try to explain why you love to watch people? (Connie Hall did a wonderful job of explaining in her recent blog). Have you ever watched a person’s expression and thought of a whole scenario that will explain it? When you were a child, did you love to play make-believe? Did you ever look close at a clump of grass and see a whole world that exists below your feet?

Have you driven someone crazy by asking them questions about their area of expertise? Have you sat down to write for ten minutes before bed and suddenly realize that it’s 3:30 AM and you have to go to work in three hours? Have you skipped the second hour of church while you wrote down an idea you had during sacrament meeting?

If you answered yes to these questions chances are you look at life through a writer’s eyes. Now that you know about it I recommend you expand the talent God has given you and write down the story you created in your mind. The stories you created while playing make-believe will be great middle-grade fiction that will delight the teenager in us all. Think about that clump of grass and imagine you are traveling through Tolkien’s Mirkwood Forest. That little stick down there is a huge log that must be crossed. How is your character going to do it?

When you get to work after only three hours of sleep, remember that wonderful feeling you had when you were in "the zone". It was almost like when you spent hours digging in that dirt pile with your toy trucks. Or when you invented whole life stories for your Barbie and Ken or GI Joe and played them out to conclusion before bedtime.

If you are concerned that you have an illness or something and you just found out about it, don’t worry, you do . . . but it’s treatable . . . And there are support groups that will help you. Just associating with like-minded people will provide validation and education that will help you know that you are perfectly normal for a writer.

You will find that your writer’s eyes allow you to look at life and see things other people miss. Things that open up myriad of concepts, plot twists, character traits and sometimes whole stories, not only can be, but will be gleaned from a simple experience. Remember who gave you the talent and never abuse it. Keep your content clean and uplifting. Build others, the way Your Father in Heaven has helped you.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Living Happily Ever After

By Keith Fisher

Have you ever wondered what happily ever after means? In the old days, stories always ended with "And they lived happily ever after". Or for the not so imaginative was the plain old, "The end".

I am about two weeks away from finishing the final edit before submitting my manuscript to a publisher. (Give or take a few weeks.) I have been living with this particular manuscript and the characters therein, for about 10 years.

When I started writing I had the whole concept in my head. I knew how it would end and I knew where it would go. I was wrong! I soon found out about plot holes and character dictation. The book I wrote is a pretty good mystery story but I didn’t submit it. Fifteen years later, I’m glad I didn’t.

Over the years, I have learned what good writing is and what it isn’t. That first story is a good story but not well written. I have plans to rewrite it and hopefully turn it into a thriller but I have many other projects in different stages of development and I’m not sure which characters will want their story told first.

The book I am finishing has been submitted and rejected before. But then . . . it’s really not the same book. After the first rejection I rewrote it. After the second rejection, I began to get help. I felt that it was a good story, and I felt I had some talent. I knew I lacked the knowledge that wise old authors have, so I consulted with them. I found their books in the library and let them teach me.

From Sol Stein I learned how to capture a reader in the first sentence and keep their attention at the end of a chapter. There were many lessons learned from him and others. Of all the lessons I learned, perhaps the most important lesson was realizing that I look at life "through a writer’s eyes". I discovered obvious flaws in my writing and I got to work correcting it.

I have been associating with good people who want to write in the LDS market and they have been teaching me volumes. They force me to relearn lessons I should have learned before.

Now I feel the book is ready. It’s basically the same story I started with but it has evolved. The characters have asserted themselves and they have grown. They are living "ever after". Not necessarily happily, but ever after just the same. And I cannot bring myself to write "the end" because I know it’s not. The story will begin again every time someone turns to page one and begins to read. My characters WILL live ever after, sometimes sadly, but then, it all turns out OK, in the end.

Saturday, August 5, 2006

“That Which Does Not kill Us”

By Keith Fisher

Years ago, while serving a mission, I heard a sister missionary say that she loved when things got hard and she was persecuted because it always meant there were tremendous blessings on the way. In other words the trials brought blessings.

I have been noticing lately that many of my writer friends are having trouble. Something comes along that takes them away from their writing. It usually comes in the form of life and time spent with the family but sometimes it is more severe.

We all know that trials are part of life, but those trials can persuade us to curtail the tranquility we achieve while we write. So not writing can cause more stress than the original trial. I have heard it said that writing is life for the writer. I believe that everyone who has ever had a character come alive will agree with that.

If our writing is necessary for survival, then it only makes sense to suspect that some of our trials are designed to keep us away from our life’s blood. Of course we can also remember the teachings found in Ether 12. Moroni was giving a lesson on faith and said: For ye receive no witness (or blessing) until after the trial of your faith.

I have a friend that recently experienced this kind of trial and she gave me permission to use her experiences in a blog. She was called as camp director one week before girl’s camp. It took three weeks. One to prepare, one to camp, one to clean up. Then her son got baptized and you know how that takes your attention. Then was her anniversary, a huge ward party, a 4th of July breakfast, all of which she was in charge of. Then that night, her sons almost burned down the house while playing with matches. Thankfully everyone was OK. Then there was a four-day family reunion that she was in charge of. On top of that she got stuck and wrecked her van.

All of that is interesting when you consider that she is waiting for word from a publisher about the novel she sent. Eight weeks and counting. Of course she may have gotten word or a rejection even as we speak, but the point is that we should give the Lord a chance to bless us.

I, for one need to hold to the promise and remember another quote: That which does not kill us will only make us stronger. I hope I can always remember the sincerity of that sister missionary when she told us how happy she was to have trials.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Bragging About Your Baby

By Keith Fisher

How many of us when asked about our children would say, "He/she is a good boy/girl but they are just like the other kids." Would we say it different if their life depended on how much we brag about our kid?

This has become a real dilemma for me. Not that I have trouble bragging about my kid, (My daughter is more talented than yours.) but bragging, even explaining about my book can be hard.

Last weekend, we were the hosts for a block party and someone asked whether I plan to write a cookbook. Since I was half of the 2005 Grand Champion Team at the World Championship Dutch Oven Cook Off, it is a question many people ask. (See I do know how to brag.) I told the inquirer at the block party I had been approached by a publisher for that reason, but I was going to try and use that submission to bring attention to my novel.

"Do you write fiction?" he asked. It surprised me that he didn’t know, because after letting the secret out, I’ve been embarrassed to have so many people know about my investing so much time without a clear return on my investment. I have yet to be published so many folks think I am deluding myself.

Yes, I write contemporary LDS fiction, I said. Then the inevitable next question, "What have you written?"
"I am in the process of writing five . . . right now I’m getting ready to subm . . . well, it’s a story about a girl who . . ." That’s my dilemma, how do I sum up a complex story in a few words that will intrigue someone and make them want to read the book?

Yes, I have trouble writing query letters. It was easier when I could send in the whole baby, bath water and all. Also, in order to submit to Cedar Fort we are asked to fill out a marketing survey and send it with the submission. It’s an easy form to fill out and I am more than happy to say I will do everything I can to help sell my book. There is one question however, question number four . . . I copied it here:

What does your book say that no other expert or author says?
It’s a fair question. I realize that the question is designed to assess the writer’s belief in his/her self. When I start to answer, I’m sure I have a dumbfounded, "deer in the headlights" look on my face and I am left feeling as I did at the block party.

I know the very life of my baby hangs in the balance, and my stage fright causes me to wish my latest book was more unusual. I want to say: "You have to read the whole story to get the full impact." Then I look at other books and ask the question in light of what other writers have written.

I have discovered that many stories, albeit they are told differently, are pretty much the same. So I came up with an answer to question number four, although I won’t put it on the form. Tell me what you think.

I told this story as it was given to me. I’m sure that other writers could tell the story, but the inspiration came to me, not to the other writers. Like the missionary who just happens to be in the right place at the right time, with just the right personality, I told this story in order to touch the hearts of those who need solace and to hold the attention of many others.

My daughter may never be valedictorian or become President of the United States, but she has the potential of touching hearts for good and making others feel good about their lives. My book will do the same.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Other Mormon Pioneers

By Keith Fisher

In my blog last week, I mentioned the writers that were published before the market got so tough. It is those writers I would like speak of again today.

Like many of you, I remember going to an LDS bookstore and seeing the scriptures and many non-fiction books about the scriptures. There were other things as well like construction paper, carbon paper, and pictures that depicted the Savior. The fiction books, if there were any, were "G" rated novels that were safe for children to read.

Then came a revolution. Many brave souls started to write fiction, about LDS people or LDS subject matters. There were artists who began to paint, songwriters who expressed their love of the Lord, and many people who followed there dream of being published.

Much of the fiction from that time was mediocre by today’s standards. I re-read many of those works looking for ways to improve my writing. I often stop to examine whole chapters and notice some rule has been broken. I resist the urge to use a red pencil out of respect for the book.

The other day, I was re-reading a work I enjoyed about twenty years ago. I became incensed, wondering how that writer got published when I’ve been rejected for breaking the same rules of good writing. Then I went to the public library with my family.

While I was there, I picked up a copy of a new book by an author I met at a writer’s conference. I am learning from that book too. I have found plot twists that completely astonished me. Something the other author was unable to do. While I was perusing the shelves, I turned a corner and discovered a surprise. Taking up almost two shelves, were books that were written by the author that I had criticized.

I have enjoyed his stories. I have learned the lessons he taught me, but I had no idea that he had written so many books. Then it happened: I realized that although he and many others have broken many of the writing rules we follow today, they were pioneers. We trudge in their footsteps and creep along rewriting, restructuring, and discarding our latest inspiration because it doesn’t quite work.

So in the spirit of the Pioneer Day season, the time that we celebrate our Mormon pioneers, I say hooray for the pioneers of LDS Fiction. Without them the market would not be what it is today.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Finding Four Leaf Clovers

By Keith Fisher
Do you remember four-leaf clovers? When I was young, they fascinated me. In every patch of clover, on every lawn, there were billions of three-leaf clovers, but a true four-leaf clover was rare and considered lucky. Some believed that four leafs were a myth. I knew they were real because I had seen one.

I’m not talking about the clover that grows in alfalfa fields. They are huge by comparison and may have four leaves. I’m talking about the patches that grew in lawns.

It became an on-going quest to find a four-leaf. Sometimes we spent hours lying on our bellies over a patch of clover, looking for the Leprechaun’s leaves. There were many clever lads who would remove two leaves and put two stalks together, providing the illusion of a four-leaf. But if you looked closely you could tell that it was a fake.

We didn’t notice at the time but clover patches were also rare in lawns. When I grew older and I had to take care of my own lawn. I learned that clover is an undesirable lawn weed. Growing up can certainly change a person’s perspective.

When I think back on those lazy summer days and our quest for a lucky charm, I realize the lessons of life that I learned: Persistence, perseverance, patience, hope, organization, sharing, humility. I also learned to talk with my friends.

As the memories of my youth begin to fade, the lessons learned while lying on the lawn are still there. In my writing I have learned (through rejections) to have patience, to be persistent, to keep looking. Just like looking at every three-leaf to find one four-leaf, I am learning to look at every word and every sentence while editing. I am noticing the poorly constructed sentences of the clever lads, those who were published before the LDS market got so tough. I am realizing that I need to learn to do better. Above all, I am learning from all of you, my writer friends. I learn from your wisdom.

The one lesson that I didn’t learn in a clover patch, the thing I have needed most as a writer is overcoming my pride when I realize that an editor is right. My writing has improved from the support of a writer’s group and I realize that any success that I attain will be (in part) due to my writer friends.

Saturday, July 8, 2006

Killing Two Birds with One Stone

By Keith Fisher
Many years ago, I was a kid. I new I was a kid because I had to do what I was told by a woman who felt a certain responsibility for how I turned out. Of course I still have to do what I’m told by a woman who feels a certain responsibility for me, but the new woman has greater power.

Getting back to when I was a kid; I remember working hard in the garden and feeding the animals. Or was it working hard at getting out of work? Well, that’s another issue. We had great times as well. My friends and I would often pack a lunch in the morning and go exploring for the day. We explored the gravel pit, the old house, the canal, the sand dunes, and the turkey ranch. There were fishing trips to Utah Lake too.

Life was grand in those days but one of the most poignant memories of my kid hood was when my father sat down to read to us. He stretched out on the couch and we stretched out on top of him. In a few days he read the best book of all time.

I have been reading the Chronicles of Narnia with my eight-year-old daughter. While reading this and other books, I have learned some things about writing, about my daughter, and about me. Mostly I re-learn lessons. Like when she was two and we read the little red hen story. Oh how I wish the hen realized who gave her the seeds, the water, the farm, and who made the seeds grow.

What does this have to do with writing? Well, we all know that we must read to perfect our writing. I am trying to kill two birds with one stone. I read to my daughter and learn how other writers write. I am crossing Genre but I still learn. Oh, and the best book of all time is an obscure novel called The Ghost of Dibble Hollow by May Nickerson Wallace. I remember the story of that book. My daughter will remember what we read as well, but I hope she will remember me the way that I remember my dad. Through it all though, I will learn something.

(I pulled the book off the shelf after writing this and re-read it. My daughter wasn’t interested in it but for me it was research. I discovered that there is another way to spell cookie and Wallace used it.)

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Midnight Editors

By Keith Fisher

I wish I were the kind of editor that I am in my sleep. Sounds strange don’t it? Read on. About two days ago I went to bed after editing 20 pages of my manuscript. I was so full of it. You might say I had red ink running out of my ears. I rolled into bed about 1 or 2 AM (It’s like the difference between 95 degrees and 100, when you get to that point, who cares how hot it is). Anyway, I had no trouble falling asleep since I was tired and thinking of my character at the time.

At that point I’m a little fuzzy on the details as you might well imagine. Life gets pretty unclear at 3 AM or so (as I said, 3 or 4, who cares). I was talking to someone and corrected my syntax. Do you think that is strange? I think not. After all I don’t want an editor marking up my dreams with a red pen.

Now before you think I’m crazy, you should know, I woke right up and started a debate with myself. Should it be worded this way or should it be the other way? I got up to go to the bathroom (an older person’s thing) and I continued the debate. When I came back to bed I had it all worked out. I was satisfied that I had saved a bunch of red ink and the time of an editor. I was able to fall asleep again knowing that the world was safe.

With all that debate, you would think that it was one of the hardest words of all time wouldn’t you? A word like snuck versus sneaked or how do you spell tomato? Well . . . I like to think it was one of the mysterious words, but the truth is . . . I don’t remember the word . . . I was asleep at the time.

Have you ever corrected the grammar of a newscaster as they spoke? What about the scriptures? Are you plagued with midnight editing? If you have any of these symptoms don’t worry. It means you’re a writer, you’re getting better at the craft, and unless you start correcting your spouse’s speech, then you’ll be OK.

Just be careful and don’t let anyone see you arguing with yourself. It would not be good. When you are a published author, look me up. I will be staying in this spacious white room with soft walls, soft everything. (Smile)
I’m really not crazy I’m a writer. (Smile)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

New Blogcker: Keith Fisher

By Darvell Hunt

In case you haven't noticed, we have a new blogcker at LDS Writers Blogck: Keith Fisher. We would like to officially welcome him to our group. I expect to see great things from Keith, both here on the blogck as a regular staff writer, as well as in the publishing world.

"If at first you don't succeed, hire another writer." -- Author Unknown. (Sigh. Just like me.)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Standing on the Precipice

by Keith Fisher
It is an honor to be asked to write this blog. I have sat in awe of the other writers as I have read their words and never dreamed that I could measure up to those standards. I also hope you will show me the errors in my writing and chalk it up to my imperfections.
Back in March, while I was attending the LDS StoryMakers conference, I enjoyed the lessons and speeches given by the authors. They were there to lend a hand to us young upstarts. I am still digesting all the information I received.

I was pleased that there are so many people who feel a need to write. They don’t just need to write, but they want to write for the LDS market. It was gratifying to be with kindred spirits that have made some of the same covenants that I have made. I enjoyed a comment made by someone (and I hope I quote it correctly).

"It is so nice to be in the company of people who understand me when I say, I’m having a hard time getting my characters to be reverent in Sacrament Meeting."
I think that Ben Bracken said it best: After sitting through Tristi Pinkston’s class on dealing with inspiration in our writing, he was asked how the class went. He was obviously touched and said, "What can I say? It was like being in church." I think he was saying that he felt the spirit, and he was right.

That evening, Janette Rallison spoke to us and I enjoyed her thoughts. During and after her talk, I was given insight that I have attempted to share with others. I want to share it with you because I think it may encourage you, as it has me.
Unlike others, I did not Always want to write. In fact there was a time in my life when I intentionally avoided it. Like many of you, there was something prodding me, something (or someone) that pushed me toward the belief that I could tell a good story. Now here I am, a middle aged man, trying to learn grammar lessons that I should have learned in High school with characters who won’t leave me alone until I tell their story.
Getting back to Janette’s speech; She acknowledged that we may wonder why she would come and try to teach us how to be her competition. She explained that she had a personal reason for doing so and told us what it was. She had been involved in a public debate about decency in children’s literature and felt a need to have more people like her on the side of light, more authors writing books that reflect righteousness.

When I thought of the increasing numbers of those who have a desire to write in the LDS market and those who are LDS that publish in the national market, it occurred to me that perhaps we are all standing on a precipice being prepared to help fight the battle. To spread the love and good news of the Gospel, even if we do no more than keep the content clean.
For want of a better image, remember the movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind when all those people suddenly had the same desire?

The thought that I may be of service in a small way gives me encouragement. It certainly explains why after 30 plus years, I suddenly had a desire to write. And why I still want to, after 15 years of struggling.