Saturday, December 27, 2008

So this is Christmas

by Keith Fisher

In 1971, John Lennon recorded a Happy Christmas song that always haunted me. Here are the lyrics from the first stanza.

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young

Every time I heard, "And what have you done?" I always thought about whether I’ve done my part to end war and poverty. Every year, I came up short. Each year, after the dust settles and the wrapping paper goes in the trash, I look out at the abundance and I know I could do more. There was far less this year than years before, but still, I could do more.

But this year, I was struck by another meaning: Another year over and a new one just begun. I look back on my writing year and I’m happy. I’ve got four books finished one at the publisher, one in critique group and the other two in the wings. I’ve started plotting another book and I’m writing three blogs a week. Getting paid for writing. Things are looking up. A new, year has just begun and I hope that this year will be the one that I look back on as the year it all came together.

Christmas was two days ago, the world is shifting gears for New Years but I’d love to play Nichole’s game.

My favorite Christmas stories are not published per se. They are from family history and bear remembering. Like the time in Southern Alberta when my great grand parents, ordered Christmas from a catalog. Shoes for the kids, it was all they had. Christmas Eve came, and no shoes. They received word there was a package for them in the post office in Cardston, but the storm was too much. The kids would be devastated. My great grandmother prayed. Suddenly a man appeared on the porch. He was completely covered in snow, but he’d brought the shoes for Christmas. He was their neighbor and was coming home from Cardston. He felt inspired to go to the post office.

As for the other stories about Christmas,

A Christmas Carol.
It’s a wonderful life.
Luke II
Polar Express
National Lampoons Christmas Vacation

I know. The last one is a movie. And it’s unusual, but it brings a smile to my face and often, that’s just what I need.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Found Lincoln on My Couch

By Keith Fisher

I spent a lot of time as a child, lying on my back gazing at clouds. I’d imagine wild animals, odd shapes, and people’s faces. I’m sure you did also. It seems to be a childhood occupation on summer days. How many of you also spent hours making faces out of a floral print on furniture? How many of you looked at wallpaper and saw people staring back at you? I remember the old man with the long nose, and the elephant with square ears. My childhood was filled with images of this kind.

Recently, I caught myself staring at the floral print on our living room couch. There was a hole in my plot, and I sat there brainstorming, when it happened. The image of an old man grinned, and pointed out other images from the recesses of my mind. The experience reminded me of my childhood and the vivid imagination I once had.

I was delighted to see how many faces inhabited our couch, but then, my adult mind began to erase those shapes. The floral print returned and my mind went back to the task at hand. I discovered, however, that every time I used my imagination to solve the plot problem, the images returned.

A week or so later, I sat in the same place at a different time of day. The light had changed, and a different shape appeared. I looked at a representation of Abraham Lincoln, not the man, but the carving on Mount Rushmore. I realized the images change in relation to the environment, and my mindset. I recognized the need to exercise my imagination is essential to good writing.

So how do we tap the wonderful power that turns clouds into creatures? I thought of an exercise that works for me.

Look at the picture I attached here. What’s going on? Well of course, you say, it’s when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. But, look at the picture. Why is Jefferson standing? What’s in the clutter on the floor? I see crinkled and torn parchment, a discarded quill pen, and a book. One of those discarded parchments has a seal on it. Is it important?

Why would Jefferson discard an important paper with a seal on it? Books were expensive in those days. Why would these men toss one on the floor? What’s in the book?

Look at the faces. Adams looks distracted. Franklin looks displeased. Jefferson looks almost like he’s going to cry. And why is there a model of a ship on the shelf?

There isn’t much written about the actual writing of the declaration. We can make judgements based on what we know about these men, but if we examine other pictures. Wherever we find them and try to answer the questions, the foundation of a story will take shape. Our imagination will kick in.

It might be as simple as picking a path through difficult terrain in the forest, or finding the best fishing hole in a picture of a mountain stream. Whatever your imagination conjures, the story will be there. Write it down. If it’s really good, and the lighting is just right, you might be writing the next great American novel. Even if it isn’t, remember the satisfaction of spending the day making images out of clouds. That’s what writers do everyday. The satisfaction comes in using your imagination. Each one of the people in the picture below has their own story. What are those stories? Use your imagination.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week

Saturday, December 13, 2008

And Do it with Words

By Keith Fisher

I’m a graphics guy. I may have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. I was a kid at the beginning of the media revolution. Television in all its glory was just getting started. I sat in a dark room with the whole school as we watched parts of President Kennedy’s funeral (at least I think it was) on a black and white screen with terrible reception.

You might say, I grew up with the medium. I remember seeing many of the classic TV shows in first run, not re-run. Add movies, radio, vinyl records, and printed media to the mix and I was a media junkie. It all had an effect on my upbringing. Now we have so much more and the internet. We should be an educated people.

I recently commented on Sariah Wilson’s blog that I look for a graphic example to express my point in a lesson or talk. It’s all because of my media upbringing. I used a clip from the original StarWars to emphasize a point about seeking the spirit. I used Pinochio to show that the Holy Ghost will help—just whistle. I show Church videos that are made for the purpose of illustrating the lesson, and I use those videos, or parts of them, to illustrate other points.

A thought about this occurred to me this morning, when I was reminded of the latest session of my critique group. I often feel the need for further explanation when someone questions some part of my story. At those moments I wish I could use a graphic. If I could use graphics in my novel, the point would be expressed exactly as I wanted.

Alas, you say, I have missed the point. As a writer it’s my job to produce the graphic, and do it with words. If I do it right, my book could be the graphic someone holds up to emphasize their point.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

P.S. I’m giving away a Chuck Wagon Dinner bell at another blog. Come and play.

See, I'm hooked. I used a Graphic.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Don’t Forget the Shackles and Chains

By Keith Fisher

I’m the kind of person who has many different projects going at the same time, and every project has a pile. I sat down at my desk to write the other day, and began to look around. The piles had grown so high I couldn’t see over them, and I couldn’t remember what some of the stacks were for. Oh what a wonderful excuse for procrastination, and I took full advantage of mine.

My writing time was spent shuffling papers and making to-do lists. I leaned back in my chair and said "Ah, now I can write." I placed my fingers on the keyboard and the great concept I’d planned to write had evaporated from my mind.

As writers, I’m sure we have one thing in common. We all dream of the that perfect writing space. Be it office, studio, or game room. I always loved the television depiction of Dave Berry’s office on Dave’s World. An abundance of space, pinball machines, toys everywhere. I often put a picture on my desktop at work. It shows a castle, perched on a cliff, overlooking the Rhine River. What a great writer’s retreat. I’ve also shown pictures and talked about the oval office on this blog.

In all of my dream spaces, including the tower of a lighthouse, I have a comfortable couch that I can lie down on, and work out plotting problems. It’s also for talking to my kids. At a writer’s conference, Willard Boyd Gardner told the story of his office. He’d written Race Against Time, in pieces here and there at the kitchen table and so forth. When the book was published, he decided he needed an official writer’s office. So he built one. When he went in there to be alone and write, he found he needed the distraction of having the kids underfoot. He dragged the toys into his office and brought the kids in.

Currently I have an office I share with my daughter. It’s one way of keeping an eye on her internet use. There are pictures and plaques and awards on the walls. (There’s never enough wall space.) All in all, It’s cramped, but it’s not bad. I still want that comfortable couch, but it’s not bad. Still, I ask myself, how I can get inspiration for those great, new ideas, if I’m in the same old surroundings?

Don’t get me wrong I write in there. But lately I’ve been cheating on my office. I run away carrying my laptop. I find unusual places to write. I drive up to the mountains and support my computer with the steering wheel. I find parking lots with unsecured networks to post my blogs and check email. I write in cafĂ©’s.

I’ve been reading Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. She recommends several unusual and exotic places to write. If I write in airport terminals, or the mall, I am never in need of a character. If the protagonist needs to talk to a police chief, I look around the room until I find the person I want. Then I describe that person.

When I do family history research, and I write about my ancestors, it often lends credence, if I happen to be in the places where my ancestors had the experiences I’m writing about. The same is true for the mystery novel. It’s hard to describe the smell of a place if you’ve never been there.

Putting authenticity aside, however, It’s great to get out of the office. I could redecorate or add on into the carport, but that would be procrastination. I’m reminded of the lyrics of an old song,

Come Saturday Morning
The Sandpipers Words by Dory Previn and Music by Fred Carlin
Peak chart position # 17 in 1970
Featured on the soundtrack of the film The Sterile Cuckoo starring Liza Minnelli

Come Saturday morning
I'm goin' away with my friend
We'll Saturday-spend till the end of the day-ay
Just I and my friend
We'll travel for miles in our Saturday smiles
And then we'll move on
But we will remember long after Saturday's gone

It’s Saturday morning. I think I’ll take my character friends and run away. By the end of the day, I might have a good first draft of a new novel.

Good luck in your writing---see you next week.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Few Thoughts

By Keith Fisher

In thinking of subjects to write about, I had many things come to mind. Now that Black Friday is over, it’s Christmas. I wondered if I should write about that. I could write about politics and the feeling of being singled out and excluded because of your political views. I read an article about a man who was fired because of his support of Prop 8. The article raised concerns about making people feel they can’t have a dissenting opinion. I understand that feeling, and I want to tell you it’s nothing new. But this is a writing blog.

I could write about the economy and the bait and switch that retailers use on Black Friday to get you into the store. What’s next with them? Will they lock the doors once you pass though, and not let you out until you buy something? Then there is the person in the store who knows they have financial problems but they buy anyway, putting it on a credit card, adding to their financial woes. But this is a writing blog.

I finished reading the Summons by John Grisham this week and I’m reading Abinadi by Heather Moore. I also started Pontoon by Garrison Keillor. Maybe I should write about those books. I liked the Summons although I figured it out in the first chapter. Maybe that’s what Grisham wanted us to do. Abinadi is all I expected it to be. Moore has a talent for bringing scriptural characters to life. Keillor is the master of the complete character, and he writes almost poetically. If it weren’t for his adult language and descriptions I would recommend him.

I had a friend ask me how my blog is going and I said I was stewing about it. She suggested I talk about stew and the analogy of a plot. You know, like a stew, a plot needs to cook a long time in your head for the flavors to blend together. So the subplots mesh and the characters know their place in the plot. Good analogy, but not what I want to write about.

I finished, and sent one of my manuscripts to a publisher. I’m waiting to hear back while I edit another. It seems the edits never end, but I don’t want to talk about that either.

I dreamed a book the other day. I woke up and drafted it. It’ll be a good story when I write it. Life is like that you know, plots and characters stand in front of us everyday, and many of us are too busy writing to notice. Also, an old friend contacted me and told me her story. What a great plot her story makes. She said she will write it, so I promised myself I wouldn’t steal it. I seem to be getting more ideas than I could write in a lifetime. Still, I have resolved to write every one of them. Life is good when you can find bits, pieces, and whole plots in the scenes that pass in front of you.

I still don’t know what to write about this week. But when I look above, I find Ive already written my article.

I did want to say few words to those who read our blog, and comment. Thank you for taking the time to read. I hope I can strike a nerve inside that will please you. To those who read and don’t comment, thanks for stopping by. Because of your visit we know we do not write in vain. To those who are struggling to become an author, Come in, sit down, and take your shoes off. You are the reason why write this blog. If we can write anything that will inspire you, and build you, then we have accomplished our goals. As a popular television character, Red Green, is fond of saying. "I’m pulling for you. We’re all in this together."

At this time of giving thanks and remembering our Savior, I’d like to pause a second and thank Him, the giver of all blessings, for a desire to write. To tell stories and create worlds. It’s the best job there is.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Giving Thanks—Getting Blessings

By Keith Fisher

How do you like the new look? Some of our group felt we were in need of change. Leave comments and tell us what you think.

Over at another blog, I’ve been talking about giving thanks in a series of blogs about Thanksgiving. Since the big dinner is this week, I thought I’d mention a promise. "He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold" (D&C 78:19).

Is there a specific blessing you are supplicating God for? Show gratitude to Him by giving yourself to others. I know it’s hard to look past the turkey and stuffing, but there are people in need in your life. If your kids asked you for a dollar and didn’t thank you for it, how eager would you be to reach for your wallet next time?

May all the joy and happiness of the season be yours this year, and may all your associates be blessed because they have known you.


Just a quick note about last week’s blog then I’ll stop talking about it. I received a comment from Kent Larsen (here are his credentials). It was a great comment. I would like to clarify a few things.

Thanks for sharing Kent. You asked if I remember John Jakes. Yes, sir, I do. In fact, I loved The Kent Family Chronicles when it was new. It is a wonderful treatise on the birth of America and early US history. Im sure you know he is still selling new books.

I'm sorry, if I gave anyone the impression that I want to "throw out classic literature." Nothing is farther from the truth. In fact I want people to learn about, and have access to every book ever written. In the sixties I read Child's Garden of Grass, Breakfast of Champions, Catcher in the Rye and many other books of the time. Have you read Kurt Vonnegut? His books are full of, in your words, . . . "great ideas--social criticism, messages about how society should form itself and act".

Perhaps he’s not a classic author because he is also a little controversial, and not to everyone’s taste.

In my short life, I’ve discovered people are either interested in something or they aren't. I totally agree with you about Dickens. I love the way he talked about people in need. I love Victor Hugo for the same reasons. It never ceases to amaze me, however, how many people love to watch Les Miserables in the play, but they never catch the spirit of it, and they never begin to use their blessings to help others.

The point I’ve been laboring over is not bashing classic literature. The point is that literature shouldn't have to be literary. I want people to stop judging popular fiction by the yardstick of the English teacher. During the time that many of the "so called" classic authors were writing, Mark Twain wrote popular fiction. Plain and simple—you don't have to search between the lines to find the social lessons. They hit you square in the face.

Twain was compared to the authors of his time and found lacking, but many people read his stories because they liked to read them. For whatever reason, they liked them. I don’t like Mary Shelly’s Frankenstien, and I don’t like much of Ernest Hemmingway. I have friends who love Twilight, but I don’t. I have friends who hate The Children of the Promise, and Hearts of the Children series’ but I love them. The point is everyone has different tastes.

As for the question, will reading popular fiction lead to reading the classics? Maybe not, but forcing a kid to eat Green Beans at the dinner table probably won’t teach that kid to love green beans. Likewise, forcing a kid to read classic literature because of the great life’s lessons contained therein probably won’t teach them to love the beauty of it, or even teach them the lessons.

Thanks again for letting me rant, and Thanks, Kent, I like the way you think.

Good luck in your writing—see you next week, and don’t eat too much on Thursday.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Judging a Book

By Keith Fisher

There is an author’s event today. Several LDS authors will be on hand to sign their books, offer encouragement, and be your friend. Most of these authors have never been recognized nationally, like Stephanie Meyer, or J. K. Rowling. I very much doubt any of them will be compared to Herman Melville, Mary Shelly, or Rudyard Kipling. Although, some of them should be compared to Mark Twain, he’s one of my favorite authors.

I’ll tell you about the event in a moment, but first, I want to talk about an argument that ensued at work the other day. My friend is an English major and has strong opinions about many things, but so do I, so we get along. I got involved after overhearing a discussion about Twilight. The movie, by the way, comes out in 5-days 19-hours and 8-minutes (according to Nichole’s counter at the moment I write this).

Anyway I believe his statement was, "No LDS author has written good literature." Or something like that. I thought about all the national market authors I’ve heard about who make six figures a year, and many people don’t even know they’re LDS. Of course, his response condemned the use of a monetary yardstick. He wanted to talk about "literature".

I’ve written before about a Dead Author’s Society. And I’ve been critical of the so-called classic literature that school kids are forced to read. My friend wanted to compare all fiction to Moby Dick, because the lessons learned about life are priceless. Then he went on to condemn Twilight.

I tried to persuade him to realize that a book is worthwhile if it gets people to read who never would have before. The discussion turned to Harry Potter and others. We went around and around, as you might guess. I asked him how he can discount the fact that J. K. Rowling probably single handedly influenced thousands of people to turn to books instead of movies. More people are reading today than before, none of them, I’m sure, would’ve considered reading the classics.

So, if we judge a book by the yardstick of how it changed or helped the lives of those who read it, Stephanie Meyer, J. K. Rowling, Brandon Sanderson and Janette Rallison along with dozens of LDS writers, should be ranked with all the so-called, classics authors. When all is said and done, the classics of the past were popular fiction in their day. Maybe in 75 years Harry Potter will be a classic too.

LDS writers, although sometimes not celebrated as such, are writing books for the masses. Books that can help the readers improve their lives. Thanks to popular fiction, those readers are more inclined to read Moby Dick than ever before. The classics are coming back. People are reading them because they want to, because a popular fiction novel persuaded them to make the journey into the satisfying world of reading.

The event I spoke about is at a new independent bookstore. Provident Book/Humdinger Toys. 661 W State Pleasant Grove, Utah There will be drawings and fun stuff. Look here for a signing schedule.

By the way, when pressed, my friend admitted he had never read Stephanie Meyers books or J. K. Rowling’s. Also, the counter now says 5-days 17-hours 18 minutes, but I don’t like vampire books, just thought you’d like to know . . .

Good luck in your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Writing is Continuing Education

By Keith Fisher

In the interest of being accurate, and not wishing to have my manuscript rejected on grounds of doctrinal correctness, I did some heavy research this week. To say I learned a lot would be an understatement. I discovered so many things about the subject that I’m beginning to think of myself as knowledgeable.

After a while, I began to reflect on the things I know, and how I acquired that knowledge. I, like all of you, learned the basics at my mother’s knee. Crawling around the floor of the house helped too. I went to grammar school and learned my readin, writin, and arithmetic just like everyone else. There were other lessons I learned there too. Lessons like, how to play sports and how cruel kids can be to each other.

All through our lives we force knowledge into the onboard, computer hard drive we call our brain. Some of the learning, we considered useless information, but we crammed it in, and regurgitated it on a test paper. Some of that knowledge remains, some of it leaked out years ago, and some of it resides in our head, just out of reach. "Why can’t I remember that?" we ask.

The scriptures, and the prophets, have admonished us to be constantly learning. Most of us, however, can’t afford the time and money it takes to attend college or adult education classes. We end up collecting facts from the media, or office gossip. Many of us read books. Whether we read fiction or non-fiction, we learn things.

What a great advantage we have as writers. Even if the stories we write are pure fantasy, there is always some degree of research involved. I remember writing a scene once, where a man accosted a woman while she was holding a baby. I became concerned that the baby would be crushed. Also, I wondered if it were possible for her to extricate herself from him in the way that I had written. Using my wife and a teddy bear, I conducted some experiments to find out. I had to rewrite the scene, but my research had shown me an answer.

With all the research we do as writers, isn’t it great that we can continue to learn? Facts go into our hard drive that we later call up and use as an obscure fact somewhere in our story. If, in our writing frenzy, we have a character quoting from the bible but later, find out the quote was really from Shakespeare, we can be glad for research. If your character gets arrested, isn’t it nice to know that at some point before the cops take him away, they must read him his Miranda Rights?

After all the research I did this week I have developed a new appreciation for study and for the hard drive in my head. I’ve filed and categorized facts up there for later use. I just hope I can retrieve it all, when in the coming years, I get old and scary.

Good luck in your writing—see you next week

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Remembering the Writer Within

By Keith Fisher

I ran away from home last week. Pressures and interruptions became overwhelming, so I packed up and hit the road. No, I didn’t hop a freight train, or put my thumb out on a freeway onramp. I made up my mind that I would finish my edits, or die trying. I hooked up the trailer, found a quiet place, and spent the weekend plowing through the final chapters.

Did you ever see the Twilight Zone episode where a man wishes to be the only man in the world, just to avoid interruptions, to get caught up with work, and he gets his wish? My weekend wasn’t like that. In the show, the man spends about twenty minutes, gets all caught up, then gets so bored he goes out of his mind. It took me twenty-five minutes just to get organized.

Partway into my task, I noticed something. I was alone. I looked around at nature and back to my manuscript. Something happened to me. Without the hustle and bustle of dealing with everyday tasks, I found myself transported. I was living my story again. My characters visited me and brought back the clear picture of where we were headed in the book. The red ink marks on the papers returned to what they were. The marks were only a guide, not some daunting and overwhelming testament of my lack of writing abilities.

I was writing again. My soul became connected to my story and I sailed through the pages correcting was’s, putting commas in where needed, taking them out where they were not. Most importantly, the side notes, written in red ink, became only a minor disturbance, because I knew what I had written, and why I wrote it in the first place. I added words for clarification and fixed those things that confused the reader. I was on fire.

After what seemed like a short moment, I discovered my back was sore from sitting too long, and there was a gnawing hunger in my stomach. I stood up and found that working at a booth style dinette in my camp trailer, may not have been the best choice for me. Being overweight, the table is too close to my mid-section. I grabbed a piece of lunchmeat, slapped it on some bread and returned to my torture chamber.

Being engrossed in the work has its own rewards. I never noticed my aches and sore muscles until I took a break. Then I found I was caught up in my story, solving story problems while cooking, plotting and planning while I stretched my legs outside.

After three days of living like a full time writer, I returned home. I was a new man. The petty problems I’d ditched, were still there, but my family was glad to see me back. Life hasn’t changed because I ran away. It’s still just as pressing. I’m not more capable of handling stress. I’m not a better writer, but in the time I went away, I re-discovered why I became a writer. My characters reminded me.

Of all the lessons I learned from my "Personal Writer’s Retreat" the one most valuable to me is, never let everyday responsibilities detract from your writing. I must return to the well, if only for a moment, in order to remember the pure joy of writing from my soul. To rediscover why I became a writer, to listen to my characters, because they know . . . they know, why I became a writer. After writing that statement I guess my retreat really was like the Twilight Zone episode. Maybe I did go a little crazy. But then again, maybe I always was, or maybe . . . I’m a writer.

Good luck in your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Reach Out and Grab Em—Steal Their Sleep

By Keith Fisher

Since I work nights, it’s sometimes necessary to take a nap in the evening. I was attempting to do that the other day, when something happened that taught me a lesson. I turned on the television to relax for a minute and I saw the first few minutes of a Boston Legal rerun. I never watch that show but it was Captain Kirk, what can I say.

How does writing in the LDS market relate to Boston Legal, or Captain Kirk? In almost all of my writing books, I’ve read tons about grabbing the reader’s attention in the first five to fifteen words. The writers of the Boston Legal I was watching followed the rule. They introduced four or five story questions in the first two minutes. They captured my interest. I needed to know how it came out. Fifteen minutes later, I forced myself to sleep, and I might not have, if I didn’t need to work that night. Well, there was that one particularly crude joke.

As writers, we can learn a lot from television. The lesson taught by the show I mentioned, if learned, can help me sell books. If I can grab an editor or reader’s attention in the first fifteen words, I can keep them reading the rest of the book. If they finish the first book they will came back for others.

The Earth had fifteen minutes of life left in it. That’s ten words. Doesn’t that make you want to find out why? What happened that doomed our home planet? If the Earth will be gone, what has, or will, happen to the humans who infest the planet? These are questions that would make me want to read more. Did I pique your interest with the word infest? I always find it interesting to see writers struggle with this concept. I wonder if they realize they are writers and that’s what writers do. We take the reader on a journey through the land of impossible outcomes and we bring them back again. If we can do that, writing something that grabs attention in fifteen words should be easy.

I know, I know. We worry that our intriguing first lines aren’t as intriguing as someone else’s lines. How can we possibly know what kind of story questions will excite which editor? Not every editor will be interested. In the long run, all we can do, is write the best book we can, cross our fingers, and toes. Sooner or later someone somewhere, will like it.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Perfect Clarity

By Keith Fisher

In my day job, or the job I do when I’m not writing, I’m a Digital Preservation Specialist. It’s a glorified way of saying I digitize old records. Anyway, most of the time, I operate a machine that scans microfilm. It captures each frame at 200 images per minute. If my parameters aren’t set right in the beginning, there are many problems that can arise. For instance, if you don’t take time to set the focus, clarity on the whole roll can suffer.

There are times when I find a photographer’s camera has drifted off and the focus goes out of whack in the middle of the roll, but generally if I get the focus right, before I start scanning, the rest of the roll will be clear.

Writing is like that. If I establish my characters, and set up the scenes in the beginning, I can sit back and let my characters tell the story. As a reader, I hate to get halfway into a book and find the characters doing something they just wouldn’t do.

But the big problem I have in my writing, is when I make assumptions that the reader has a working knowledge of situations my characters are involved in. For example, I have a character in one of my books who plays pool for money. The first time I took it to critique group, I had to explain some of the finer points of playing pool. The Ladies in my group needed to have it explained, so I had to rewrite it, and that brought clarity to my story.

I’ve also noticed, as LDS fiction writers, we make many references in our books that only LDS people understand. It’s true we are writing for the LDS market, but I think we can benefit from taking the time to analyze our writing form other’s point of view. That, if you haven’t already realized, is one of the greatest advantages to belonging to a critique group.

My critique group helps me with their experience. I can bounce ideas off them, each member has different expertise. With their help, I can set my parameters, and write my book to the ending. Like the film rolls I scan, everything will have perfect clarity.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

catch you tomorrow

by Keith Fisher

I came home from camping and don't feel well. I'll post my blog tomorrow. thanks for your interest, readers are great! Sorry I'm late. see you tomorrow.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Blogging . . . It might be a Bigger World than You Think

By Keith Fisher

This blog is dedicated to the struggle of being published in the LDS market, and in the past, I’ve stuck to that format. Today, for a brief second, I beg your patience. I’ve been experiencing a bit of a dilemma and I need to talk about it. No, it’s probably not what you’re thinking, but it caused a debate within me and it’s time to put an end to it.

In the past, I’ve taken a tongue in cheek platform for talking about books, the mechanics of writing, and of getting published. I’ve tried to share my struggle in the hope it will benefit others who are trying to break into the exclusive fraternity of being a published author.

A few blogs ago, I wrote about a book that impressed me and I talked about how I’d like to write books that touch people's hearts. I wrote my blog in my usual way. The book was a romance, and as a man, I have a standing joke about the romance genre, when in fact I read as many romances as I do mysteries. I try to diversify my reading and get a feel for what’s out there.

After writing the blog, I fielded a comment by someone who writes romance. She demanded I tell the world the name of the book I’d just read. Now, as most of you know, I left the title out, because of my style of writing. It was my joke.

The comment, and what followed, gave me cause to think about what I write, and how I write it. At that time, I visited a blog that is supposed to be about writing. I found an article dedicated to an extreme political point of view. I commented, and expressed another, perhaps softer point.

Having piqued my interest, I went back to the blog, to see if my observation had stirred discussion. I was shocked to find my comment had been deleted. Now, if my opinion had been mean spirited, or abusive, I would understand. I wondered if I had offended.

All of this gave me cause to ponder my words. I wish I’d saved a copy of what I wrote. I’d like to analyze it. As it is, I’ve been contemplating the nature of what we do in these blogs.

As you might imagine, part of being a writer is reading. We must read, and we must read all the time. Another part, is promotion, a writer needs to get out there and promote his/herself long before being published. To this end, many websites and blogs about writing have been born, and as with the need to read, a writer should stay apprised.

Part of promotion is offering a piece of myself to the public. I would be foolish to attach my name to something volatile. If my intent is not clear, then I have shown myself in a poor light. At the same time, I need to realize that mine is not the only, or best, conclusion and if I’m going to write about politics or religion, I should expect differences of opinion. If I don’t want to deal with those differences, then I should turn off the allow comments section.

One final note, then I’m going to go back to writing about writing: I enjoyed my friend, G. Parker’s blog last week, and I whole-heartedly support my leaders, but I would like to add something to what our religious leaders have suggested.

If you’re going to blog about your beliefs in God and your views on political issues, you need to know you’re opinion will be attacked. Gird up your loins, you have entered a battlefield.

Good luck with your promoting and your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Last Trimester

By Keith Fisher

Recently, I sent a cool photo in an email to a writer friend of mine. She sent back the one you see in this page. Not only was this the better picture, but it gave me an idea for a writing concept.

I heard a lecture for gospel doctrine teachers once. The subject was the book of revelations and the symbolism contained there. The instructor was talking about the silence in heaven and suggested a way of understanding it. He said it’s more like a "pregnant silence". Like something is about to happen and we are all waiting with baited breath.

In the picture, what’s about to happen is obvious. A special person is about to make an appearance and is already trying to expand the environment. For all unpublished writers, this is a great analogy of our work. We have gone to the (writers conferences) doctor's appointments. We have done the exercises (extracted adverbs and flowery descriptions). We take our medicine (scrap the bad in favor of the good), and we continue working and promoting, because we know we will get a contract. We are not sure when it will come, but we know it will.

A friend of mine got a contract in the mail the other day. A publisher wants the book. The offer came after my friend submitted many different stories. In a way, this book has been waiting to be delivered. Like the baby in the picture, it has been struggling to be born.

The bottom line here is that any of us can be published. All of us are like the mother in the picture. We're waiting for a marvelous event. Hang in there—try to relax—the baby (book) will come, but just as with the birth of a child, after the excruciating pain, the real work of promotion and sales begins.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Writing for the Fun of It

By Keith Fisher

When I started writing fiction, I was getting up at five a.m. Mostly, because my restless mind wouldn’t let me sleep longer. I had a stressful job and the workload seemed overwhelming. Every morning I’d show up at six, even though I didn’t need to be there until eight. I would go home each evening and run my house design business. My home office was stacked with blueprints and books on standards, codes, and beam stress.

One night I came home and turned on my computer. Instead of CAD, I loaded word and began to tell a story about a young girl who gets an unbelievable job offer. Is there a hidden price to pay? Are there secrets best left undetected? Will she choose the life of a rich recluse, or follow her dream of being a star?

At the time, I didn’t have any houses to design, so each night I went home and told more of the story. I finished it three months later. In the world of published fiction, at one hundred thirty-six pages, my book stood out as a mediocre first draft. I thought it was fantastic because I had lived the story in my mind. I never considered the reader, and whether others would want to read it too.

As I mentioned last week, in the interest of getting publishing credits, I put the first book aside, and started another book. It wasn’t until after my second book got rejected, that I realized I didn’t know anything about writing a book. I could plot a good story, but I was a terrible wordsmith. I also discovered an increased desire to tell stories. I found myself plotting whole books in my head, from beginning to end while attending sacrament meeting.

I was hooked. How could I turn my back on this? I began to seek help in books about writing, and to rewrite my second book. I created lives just outside my realm. My characters came alive for me and I continued to struggle and tell their story. My day job had become manageable. The stress hadn’t disappeared, but I found release in solving the problems of a character in an impossible situation.

After a while, cheap software products made it easier for homeowners to design and draw their own houses and I didn’t have the necessary resources to build my design business so I put the blueprints away. The design standards and engineering books got moved to a higher shelf. The writing and grammar books came down to a shelf within arm's reach. My office gradually transformed into my writing space.

In 2005 I lost my job, and every time I asked myself what I should do, it kept coming back to, finish my book. I was in the middle of re-writing my second book and writing my third. I submitted my second book to a different publisher. It got rejected—I was devastated—I kept writing. I attended my first writer’s conference in March of 2006 and felt gratified to know there were many others, just like me. I discovered I was normal.

Now that I’m about to submit my sixth book, I look back over the long list of works in process. I have fifteen books in different stages of development. I have been taking chapters of my first book to critique group. I’ve re-written it several times. The last time I took it apart and rebuilt it from the ground up. I hope you will like it.

With all these books I’ve started, you probably guessed, I like writing more than editing. I still have ideas come to me in sacrament meeting, and everywhere else I let my mind wander. I get excited about a new idea and if I can’t persuade someone else to write it, I start drafting it. I write for the pleasure of writing.

I used to mentally walk through the rooms of houses I designed. And see it transformed into the real thing. Now, I launch my mind into a story I have written, walking through scenes as if I was there. Like when someone built one of my houses, my stories will be books and I'll be thrilled when people read them. I want to touch hearts with my books, but in reality, I touch my own heart every day.

Jeffrey S Savage, in his blog, said: . . .writing should be a joy in and of itself. If you don’t love doing it, why bother? I love doing it. I hope you do too. If I looked at my writing with a feudalistic view, I might be tempted to quit. Again from Mr. Savage: Seventy percent of getting published is how well you write. The other thirty percent is pure dumb luck. I write for the fun of it. My completed story has its own rewards.

However, like driving past a house I designed, seeing one of my books on a bookstore shelf will be icing on the cake.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Expanding Horizons

By Keith Fisher

I finished reading a national market book this week. I think I’ll keep the title a secret, since it was a romance and I have an image to uphold. Anyway, I discovered something interesting.
We all have different reasons, but some of us write for the LDS market. The blog you are reading, in fact, indicates that. As for me, I consider it a calling.

I started writing in the LDS market because, as a neophyte, I assumed it would be a good vehicle to get my national market stuff published. I had written a book for the national market, and I thought it would be easier to get publishing credits through the LDS market first. Then get more attention in the national market. So, I wrote another novel.

Neither of those books has been published. About Three years ago, I attended my first LDStorymakers conference. It was great to hear prayers said in that setting, but I had an epiphany. I looked around at my fellow laborers, and felt we were all perched on the edge of a precipice waiting for God to use us. We were ready to influence humanity for good. I wanted to be part of that. I wanted my books to touch hearts and change peoples lives.

So I began to write for the LDS market. Who knew it would be so hard to get published. I continue to hone my skills and I watch LDS writers cross over to the national market. Would that I could write full time and quit my other job.

Then I read the book I mentioned above. It ripped my heart out. I’m still recovering. With IV’s in my arm, and heart monitors making sure I’ll pull through. In a small way, the story touched my life, but it wasn’t an LDS market book. I thought of all the books I’ve read in my life, and remembered how some of them touched my life in one way or other. Most of them were written for the national market, and many of them were not best sellers.

Even with this revelation I still consider it a calling to write in the LDS market. But I’ve decided to dust off my first manuscript and rework it, or toss it. Either way, I’m going to write for both. I think the key for me, will be to keep it clean and work towards touching hearts for good. I don’t want someone reading one of my books and attaching the word Mormon in a negative context to it.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bringing Up Baby

By Keith Fisher

I sat on the stage in the Multi-stake conference the other day and watched a young mother come into the cultural hall and sit down. I assumed she was a mother because she clutched a baby to her chest and tried to calm him.

The act of her embrace spoke volumes to me. She protected her baby and it was obvious she’d come between him and harm with her dying breath. Also evident, was her quiet joy in her responsibility. She was at peace with her decision to be a mother.

I glanced to the other side and noticed another mother. Her toddler strained to get away and explore the wilds of the cultural hall. It had to be an effort for her to let him explore, keeping him at arms length, ready to snatch him back, if need be, before he got too far from her.

There was another mother behind me. Her boy wanted to climb the ladder on the back wall that leads to the storage room above the stage. This mother waited patiently while her son tried his ability to climb the rungs. But she kindly established the rules of how high he would be allowed to climb. She pulled him off the ladder each time he went higher than she felt comfortable with.

After a while I noticed a mother on the front row. With two returned missionaries, her family is in transition. They stand on the edge of adulthood. Soon she will enjoy the blessings of weddings and grandchildren. Her family will expand and her joy will be full.

It occurred to me that as writers, we are all mothers. Our infants come in the form of a book idea not yet drafted, an article, written but not ready for publication. We tend to protect that work. We would never allow another person to read it. We need time to perfect it, to let it grow.

After a while, with a lot of hard work, our toddler takes on a life of its own. It wants to explore paths you never intended it to go. As a good mother, you listen to the characters. Ideas come to you that would make the story better, but it would change the story and would mean painful revisions. You keep the story at arms length, letting it take you to different places, but ready to pull it back when it goes down paths that would make the story too long or would confuse the reader.

Later, we're ready for others to read and offer suggestions. We take it to our critique group, but like a mother, we establish the rules. If we feel comfortable with the suggestions made, we can write them in or keep them out, if we don't like the suggestions. We are the mother, and we decide how high our baby can climb. You never know, with too many revisions it might fall off the ladder, and become a weak story, with no chance of ever being published.

After a life of revisions, editing, and total re-writes our baby is ready to be published. It goes on a mission and converts some, but it touches the hearts of others. It brings joy into our lives, but it’s not the end. Just like the mother with a family of children ready to expand. We will have a family of stories in different stages of writing. Each one getting ready to be published, getting ready for their place in the sun.

Keep writing, have faith, nourish your stories and like children, they will make you proud.

Good luck with your writing---see you next week.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Which Book First?

By Keith Fisher

I’ve been helping a friend plot a book lately, answering questions like, what do I think would happen if . . . I’m glad to help, and hope my suggestions are of value. With all the talk about my friend’s new book, I found myself wishing I could write it. I’ve been doing edits until they are coming out my ears, or leaking from my brain through some other opening.

Anyway, I’ve discovered I like writing more than editing, (go figure). I’m on a deadline and my book is almost done. I’ll keep you informed.

Editing is a necessary thing, but writing, especially plotting, can take me to the heights of imagination. I can go to exotic places and be an unusual person. I can take myself back into my own past and do it right this time. I like solving plot holes and conjuring alternate ways of achieving a happy ending. I like it more than deleting was’ or spending hours in a thesaurus looking for non-repetitive words.

My preference for writing vs. editing became evident when my critique group finished my current book and I tried to decide which book to bring next. I looked through the writing folder in My Documents and found all my works in progress. As I’ve mentioned before, I have several books in different stages of development.

The first week of critique, I brought the first chapter of The Trophy, a finished book, but it needs revising. It’s a story about a woman, and I knew the ladies in my group would make me put in more emotion. So the next week, I brought the prologue and first chapter of All That Glitters, a book that’s only half finished. The story is about a man who deals with outlaws and such during the California gold rush, but as I said, it’s only half finished and I don’t have time for free writing right now. Remember my editing deadline?

I considered all my other books. Two are finished but need revising, others are, as I said, in different stages. I went back to The Trophy because it’s ready, and I didn’t want to confuse my group too much.

So here I sit, with three edited chapters in two books and I can’t get to those revisions until I finish with the book I’m on deadline for. It feels sooooo good to write this blog. At least I can ignore my deadline for a little while. But I’ll have to work through the night to make up for lost time.

I must admit, however, I am grateful. I have been blessed with a vivid imagination and eventually I’ll have learned enough to write things correctly the first time. Until then, thank you my friend, for allowing me the opportunity to stretch my imagination a little. I hope I have been helpful.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Oh, No, Not another Blog

by Keith Fisher

Yep, another blog. I’ve been on LDS Writer's Blogck since 2005, and I created The Camp Cook in Your backyard for Dutch oven and Camp cooking. I'm also, the author of three current websites, but they aren’t interactive. I needed a blog dedicated to my writing career. An author's drawing card—a place to post book reviews, and contests.

Since I'm almost finished with, The Bed and Breakfast, I'll need a place to keep you informed of the progress as it goes to the publisher. I also, intend to post articles for inclusion in magazines and Newsletters.

So, I launch this new blog knowing full well that there are perhaps a million writers sites. So, check back often. I need the support. I hope to show what it's like to look at life, through my writer's eyes.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Farworld Blog Tour

By Keith Fisher

We are seated in six ancient, animal skin covered armchairs. The sides of which, level with a sitting man’s biceps, allowing the occupant to completely rest his arms. The walls of the circular room are fashioned from 2000-year old cut stone. The floor is polished marble. Above us, there is a domed lattice ceiling with a stained glass window at the apex. Images depicting the sun, moon and the stars artfully adorn the glass panels.

The chairs form a circle around an 18-inch high crystal table. I look up from the images displayed in the crystal to see five companions. To my left is Gorgan the Magnificent. He is the fifth ruler on the Council of Non-Magical Worlds, and he just celebrated his 136th birthday. To his left is Cedric of Herwon, a bright young wizard credited with discovering the three planes of magical existence. Along with his youth there is a little arrogance. He’s agitated, he wants to finish our business and get out of here.

Cialice Magenta sits on my right. She fought bravely at the Battle of Gilhead, rescuing her teacher and killing his captors. She is also my close friend. On her right is Master Therapass, a powerful wizard from Farworld. Directly across from me is the celebrated novelist, J. Scott Savage. He seems to be worried and confused about why he is here. I wonder if his friend, Master Therapass has explained it to him.

As for me, I’m the faker, the usurper. I’m what J.K. Rowling, a writer from Earth called, a muggle. I have no magical power, but that’s okay. I doubt Mr. Savage does either. By virtue of my non-magical status, I have been chosen to officiate in these proceedings. I clear my throat. "Lady and Gentlemen, we have come . . ." I look around. "Some of you, from great distances, to discuss the fate of the magical world, and to examine the charges against Mr. J. Scott Savage."

Master Therapass clears his throat so I turn to him, but he remains quiet. I turn back to Mr. Savage. "You have been charged with conspiring with the Dark Circle, to wreak havoc on Farworld and on its sister world, a non-magical world called Earth. How do you plead?"

"I’ve brought my wizard attorney, (what’s your name again?) ah, right, Richard Bumblestump, to represent me. Okay, he’s not really a wizard. In fact he can’t even do simple card tricks, or the thing where you pretend your thumb is broken in two. And he’s not really an attorney either. Okay, fine, he’s a homeless guy I picked up on the way to the trial. But he does have a black jacket and white shirt—if you wipe away some of the grime."

"Anyhow, he says I should plead not guilty."

"Further more," I continue, "We received testimony from one Mr. Chet Hawkins. He said you wantonly and willfully wrote this book." I hold up my advanced reading copy of Farworld-Water Keep. "This exposé of the workings of the magical Farworld, and the connection it has with Earth, reveals too many secrets kept from non-magical worlds. How do you answer, Sir?"

I whisper with my attorney, but halfway through our consultation he wanders off toward the restrooms.

"Well it looks like I’m representing myself here. So I just want to say that while I did put the words down on the paper, I was only recording events as I witnessed them. I believe that gives me some sort of 5th amendment protection, doesn’t it?"

I turn back to my notes. "Also, and perhaps the worst crime of all, I have a letter written by a Mr. Bonesplitter. He claimed you have continually and maliciously placed Marcus Kanenes into his hands, and it is all part of your attempt to overthrow the magical world. Is this true, sir?"

"Are you seriously going to believe a man who turns into a snake at the most inopportune times? Not to mention the fact, that he has been known to go by at least one alias. I think he’s just embarrassed about the whole underwear incident and is trying to blame me."

"I’m more concerned with the problem he caused." Gorgon says.

"What problem is that, sir?" Master Therapass asks.

"The magical infection the book will inflict on the non-magical world." He picks up my copy of Farworld. "I’m not sure the non-magicals, especially people on earth, can deal with the truth about magic."

"Not to mention the threat of the Dark Circle." Cialice says. "Where did you get that information, Mr. Savage?"

"Ahh, here lies the crux of the matter. You, Mr. Gorgon, seem to be under the impression that there are such things as non-magical folk. I, on the other hand, posit that there are only people who have discovered their magic and those who have not. I don’t believe Mr. Bumblestump, for example has ever discovered his magic. Or if he did, he has long since forgotten it. Isn’t it our right, no, our duty, to help everyone on Earth and Farworld find their magic? I believe that is the only way to stop the threat posed by the Dark Circle and anyone that would seek to hold the rest of society down."

"Never mind that," Cedrick says. "Mr. Savage, I understand the book will be released for sale within a few weeks. Is that true?

"Guilty as charged."

"Well then, my colleagues, it’s a moot point." He looks from face to face. "Even Merlin, wouldn’t be able to stop it now." I glance at Cialice. Judging by her face, she hates being called colleague by a young man. Cedrick continues. "The thing we must do now is, practice damage control. Do you plan to continue telling the story in other books, Mr. Savage?"

"With my last dying breath."

"Listen," Master Therepass raises his hand in a stopping motion. "I know you are worried about Scott’s book. You think it comes too close to revealing the whole truth about the magical world. However, I think its time for that revelation. Other authors from Earth have been revealing bits and pieces of the truth for years. I would call your attention to the work of J.K. Rowling. She brought our world into the limelight, and the people of Earth are embracing it." He paused and looked from person to person at the table.

Therepass continues. "I say we praise those authors, including J. Scott Savage. I believe it’s time our two worlds combine against the threat of all dark forces everywhere. We can co-exist."

I turn to Gorgon. His face reminds me of a child who has eaten something sour. "It flies in the face of thousands of years of conventional wisdom, but perhaps it is time we work together. Personally, I get tired of practicing the damage control Cedrick suggested."

I poll my colleagues and find agreement. "Well, Mr. Savage, it appears we have decided to grant you freedom to tell the story. Please, try to teach your fellows that magic is not to be feared, and help them be brave and stand against darkness. I glance around the circle for one last vote of consensus. "Do you have anything you wish to say in closing, Mr. Savage?"

"Thank you, Master Therapass. I appreciate your support. People of Earth and those of other worlds, don’t let "reality" stand in the face of what you believe. One day we are going to discover that these other worlds are not as distant as we think. And when that day comes we must have discovered the magic inside all of us."

"Thank you, and now I must go in search of Mr. Bumblestump. I think he may have locked himself in the janitor’s closet. I hate to think of what he might have done in the mop bucket."

"Thank you Mr. Savage. You have given me hope. Perhaps someday I will discover my magic as you say I can. I also wish to apologize for saying you have no magical power. Obviously I was wrong. You most assuredly have the magical powers to make a well written, well told story."

Farworld-Water Keep
writen by J.Scott Savage

Available September 13 2008
you're invited to the lauch party! for more information go to

Learn about the magical world and follow Marcus, Kyja, Mater Therepass, Riph Raph, and others as they jump between Earth and Farworld in an effort to defeat the evil Dark Circle. Begin the journey that will change your life.

First, Find the Water Keep.
Take courage--the magic is inside you"

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Going to the Store

By Keith Fisher

It’s been kind of hectic lately. I’ve been trying to finish the edits on my book and my day job is always disruptive. I work graveyard shift, so sleep can be elusive. Anyway, because of an unsettled week, I’ve been pressed for a subject to write about in this blog. So, out of desperation, I thought I’d tell you about my trip to the grocery store.

The guests were invited—the Dutch ovens were ready. I wanted to cook something special, something my guests would enjoy. So I went to the store to decide what it would be.

Walking through the doors, I spied the coolers and made a mental note to pick up a bag of ice on the way out. I stopped and chose a cart. Not that I planned to fill it, just lean on it, as I walked down the aisles.

As I always do, I turned to the right and headed for the produce department. Starting with vegetables is probably left over from my low-fat/no sugar/no salt period when I avoided the rest of the store. It just feels right to start there, and go counter-clockwise through the rest of the store. I checked out the broccoli, then the cauliflower, lettuce, carrots, and fruit. It’s a good thing I got a cart.

Next, I moved past the deli. I paused, thinking, maybe I ought to buy something already prepared, then I could serve it in a Dutch oven and get back to editing. No, I couldn’t take credit for somebody else’s cooking. I turned my head and passed quickly. In the bakery, I picked up a couple of loaves of bread for home, and perused the cookies, cakes and pastries. I must resist.

I remembered my purpose and delayed the trip down the aisles of canned goods to go directly to the meat section. I needed to decide on a main dish. After that, I could make up my mind about side dishes.

With that decision made, I went back and wove in and out of the aisles, looking for different ingredients. I chided myself for picking things up for the house.

I needed only one or two more things when something stirred my memory. I realized I could change my plan and cook the meat with another sauce. But then I’d have to change my side dish from baked beans to potatoes, but the whole meal would be better.

After a short debate, I went back to find more ingredients, keeping the other ones in case I changed my mind again. Finally, I shook my head and proceeded through checkout. I racked up a small fortune on my credit card, but visions of a perfect dinner made it worth the cost.

Writing is very much like this. When plotting a story, we shop for ideas. We want our book to be perfect to excite the reader. So we go shopping for the meat of the plot—the basis of the whole thing. We pick up other, non-essential elements along the way, things that we can use somewhere, even if we don’t use them in our current story.

It must be original, so we avoid copying parts of other books, but like the pastries, we admire what other authors have written and learn from them. At this point we remember our purpose and look for the basic premise, or the meat of the story. Sometimes an idea comes to us without thinking, but other times we are left reading newspapers, looking for ideas. Similar to inspecting different cuts and types of meat.

With our idea in mind, we shop for details, what will our characters be like? How can we put them in certain situations? We search for side trips, and secondary story lines, we look for ingredients that will compliment, not deter the plot. We find nuances that enhance, and make the story interesting.

Sometimes when we’re almost finished writing the first draft, we think of another, better way to write the book. Sometimes a character rises up and explains the holes in our plot or suggests a better way to tell the story. They even suggest new characters. At that point, we go back and make adjustments. We file away the discarded bits, because we might need them in another story—we might put them back into the current one.

When we’re finished making notes and shopping for elements we go to checkout. We have written our first draft, and we’re ready to write the story, confident in our ability to combine the ingredients. We pay the price, an investment of time and talent. We’re secure in the knowledge that our dinner/book will be delicious and wonderful. We smile, because we know the ending and we can’t wait for others to discover our story/dinner.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

My New Office

By Keith Fisher

What do you think of my new office? I found this picture on the internet, and I fell in love—I must have it. Of course I’d get different furniture. I’d keep the desk, however, since it’s over 128-years old. I’d restore the hardwood floors, because the new owner had them replaced in 2005 with a contrasting pattern of quarter-sawn oak and walnut, and I don't like the way it looks. (not shown in this picture)

I’d get six overstuffed leather armchairs and arrange them in a circle around a coffee table, then I’d light a fire and invite my critique group. When I get stuck with a plot problem, I could step outside the French doors and pace on the veranda. I could swivel in my desk chair and stare out the window. The secret doors would lead to my library, filled with a million books. The other one would of course lead to the . . .ahem . . . well, you know where.

Seriously I’ve got to have this really cool shaped office. What’s that you say? I won’t have time for writing? I’ll have to do what? And I’ll have to do what for several months? How many babies would I have to kiss? Then commit to how many years? I’d have to do what in Iraq? Are you sure?

Uh . . .never mind.

This is a picture of President Reagan’s Oval Office taken in 1981. I still think it would be a totally cool office, but with all I’d have to do in order to use it, I’d better learn to be happy with what I’ve got.

I’m almost finished with the edits, and I’m ready to start another project. Cross your fingers, and look for the release of My Brother’s Keeper. You’re going to love this book.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I've Only Just Begun

By Keith Fisher

There’s a tradition started years ago, to frame the first dollar made in a new business and hang it on the wall for good luck. Not being one to mess with tradition, I scanned my first royalty check, printed it, and hung it on the wall of my office. As a freelance writer I’m in business for myself and I can use all the luck I can get.

I glance at the check now and then to remind me, writers do get paid for all their hard work. While staring at it the other day, I was reminded of another tradition.

In 1970 Richard Carpenter made an arrangement of a Roger Nichols/Paul Williams song called We’ve Only Just Begun. He gave it to his sister Karen to sing, and it became one of the most popular Carpenters songs in history. The song quickly took on a life of its own. All through the 1970’s and into the eighties it was one of the most popular songs played at weddings.

Indeed, it was written as a wedding song, Richard heard it on a television commercial for a bank. The video showed a couple getting married and starting a life together.

Here’s the lyrics:

We've only just begun to live,
White lace and promises
A kiss for luck and we're on our way.
And yes, We've just begun.

Before the rising sun we fly,
So many roads to choose
We start out walking and learn to run.
And yes, We've just begun.

Sharing horizons that are new to us,
Watching the signs along the way,
Talking it over just the two of us,
Working together day to day

And when the evening comes we smile,
So much of life ahead
We'll find a place where there's room to grow,
And yes, We've just begun.

If we, as writers, rearrange the lyrics to fit our needs, we can draw strength from it:

I’ve only just begun to write
A white page with promises
A bright idea and I’m on my way
And yes I’ve only just begun.

We could continue adding things like, talking it over with my critique group. Or something like, so many books to write—I’ll find the words and make them flow.

My little good luck symbol has come to represent more to me. I glance at it with renewed determination. I intend to be a published author of adult fiction. I intend to publish in the LDS, and national markets, books that can change hearts and bring peace to those who read them. I will succeed, and yes, I’ve only just begun.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Blog Tour: Surprise Packages.

By Keith Fisher

Written by best-selling LDS authors: Nancy Anderson, Lael Littke, and Carroll Morris, Surprise Packages is the third in a series called The Company of Good Women. It’s a must read, and should be added to your list today.

When I met Carroll Morris at the LDStorymakers Writer’s conference in 2007 I was impressed. I wanted to read Almost Sisters just to find out how three authors could write three different characters and knit them into a book without the seam showing.

Nevertheless, when the chance to review this book came up, I doubted I could do it justice. Being a man, I’m not a big fan of women’s fiction, but I found it fulfilling. I love the blend of characters, the way they fit together in the narrative works well.

The concept of three women meeting for the first time at BYU education week and becoming friends for life, is intriguing. With the diversity of the characters, the series provides a peek into the hectic lives of women everywhere. The desire of most women to be connected, and the everlasting friendship through it all, will be satisfied in the pages of these books and Surprise Packages is the icing on the cake.

You can find all three books in the series by visiting here, here, and here. You can read sample pages by clicking here. Visit the Crusty Old Broads website here.

In an interview with the authors, here are some of the questions I had:

Surprise Packages is the last in your trilogy, The Company of Good Women. Tell me what makes your trilogy unique.

It’s the story of three women in three different parts of the country and their quest to become Crusty Old Broads—written by three women from three different parts of the country who are self-professed Crusty Old Broads! Readers praise it for offering a realistic—but hopeful—view of the issues faced by LDS families.

Where are you from?

Lael is from Pasadena, CA; Nancy is from Sandy, UT; and Carroll lives in Green Valley, AZ.

What were the biggest challenges you faced as co-authors?

1. Merging files and making corrections. On the first book, Lael was the manuscript master. For the last two, Carroll took on that job.

2. Literary liposuction. The story of each character—told completely—would have filled its own book. So cutting the text without gutting the story was a challenge.

3. Writing the third book of the series. We knew where we were going in the first two books, but none of us had written ahead in book three. We had only general ideas about where it would go.

4. Making the series add up to something. We wanted our readers to finish the series feeling that they’d been changed by the time spent with Deenie, Juneau and Erin. We hope they will periodically read the series over, like visiting old friends.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

That no matter what situation a person is in any moment, the story isn’t over yet. Never, never, never give up—on others or on yourself!

Do you three have a new project in the works?

We have an idea for a book that will have the same format as the series—we’ll each write from the viewpoint of a character. It’s a stand-alone novel set in Powell, Wyoming, during World War II. But it is on the back burner while we’re working individual projects.

Putting the testosterone aside, I am glad to read this book. Good luck in your writing—see you next week.

PS I decided to take my comment out of the comments section and put it here:

Have you noticed the cover art? In the first book we get to see the feet of the ladies from the front. In the other two, we see them going away. Do you think its symbolic?

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I feel honored to be tagged for this one. It seems to lean a bit toward the femine so I didn't think I would be tagged. I was tagged by my good friend, Nichole for the camp cooking blog and by my other good friend, Kim for the ldswritersblogck. This is going to be fun.

1. My Kitchen sink.

You should know I'm outdoors a lot. this is where I wash my dishes while camping or cooking Dutch oven.

2. inside my fridge

We were cooking for a large group

3. My favorite shoes
I have three. one for church, one for everyday, and one to mow the lawn. I have boots also, but you asked for my favorites.

4. my closet
You didn't expect to see my clothes did you. this is my favorite closet . . . in the carport.

5. My laundry pile
The hamper in the bedroom, and no, they're not all my clothes

6. What my kids are doing are two, The other one must have been out chasing a mouse or something

7. My favorite room . . . I have three.

My three favorites are; my camp trailer, front porch and home office. All of which are my favorite writing place.

8. My most recent purchase

An extention cord to plug my computer into a cigarette lighter. So I can write in my trailer. unfortunately I can't get enough power.

9. Fantasy Vacation:

This is Josi Killpack I love her office, but I can write anywhere and I prefer a mountain cabin with all the ameneties.

I also like the Hot Tub Idea on Kim's blog:
Then there is the sublime:

10 Self portrait
Just kidding
Isn't it scary? I keep wondering who the old guy is. Hope you had fun looking into my private life. Keep in mind it isn't really like this. I can't remember who has been tagged for this so If you wnat to do it feel free. For now, I'm going to Tag C.L. beck, Darvell Hunt, and C. Loreen Hall.

Good luck guys. It really is fun. but if you decide not to do it. Thats okay, I understand completely.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Beats Me Up

By Keith Fisher

I'm sorry for the late hour, but I just got back from fishing.

Recently, at critique group . . . well, let me go back. When I first began to write seriously, I wrote stories with more exposition. I read a few books that told me to use more dialogue. Then I learned not to use so many attributions. Also, having a lot of blank, white space on a page was a good thing because the reader can read it quickly.

After attending a conference I knew I should avoid talking heads so I used meaningful dialogue. Stuff that had meat in it, none of the:

"Nice weather today."
"Yes it is."
"What are you going to do today?"
"Don’t know—what about you?"

To be fair, I didn’t use that kind of dialogue anyway.

Then someone pointed out I need more beats, and I started to add them, and add them, and add them. Then at critique the other day, you guessed it, too many beats. I was devastated. I came home and pulled the books out. I studied everything I could, trying to figure out where I went wrong. I knew my dialogue was lacking because I’d been reading it. I added the beats to show what my characters were doing. Then I realized there is a fine line.

According to Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King:

Beats are little bits of action interspersed through a scene, such as a character walking to a window or removing his glasses and rubbing his eyes—the literary equivalent of what is known in the theater as stage business. Usually they involve physical gestures, although short passages of interior monologue can also be considered a sort of internal beat. Pg. 102

The line between perfect dialogue and drivel is fine, but it can be felt. When you read what you wrote and it sounds like mechanical clickity-click-clack, it needs more beats. If it sounds like you are saying, said too much, lose some of the attributions. The fine blend of beats and attributions can be heard when reading aloud. Like a musician can hear when a string is out of tune, writers and readers can hear when dialogue is out of tune.

I am learning to stay away from attributions. I’ve removed them almost entirely. I use beats instead, but I use them only when the reader can’t tell who is speaking or when the conversation becomes too mechanical. I’m learning to use beats like playing my guitar. I can feel when a string gets slightly out of tune, and I’m becoming a better writer.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.