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.