Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Killing Of . . .

By Keith Fisher

I flinched as my finger pulled the trigger. The stolen pistol bucked as the blast made my ears ring. The bank teller fell—no, she flew backward from the velocity of the hollow-point bullet.

Do I have your attention? In order for a new novel to be successful, it must have three things. A great hook to entice the reader, cliffhangers to keep the reader reading, and an ending that makes the reader think about your book for a week.

Did you ever notice the number of new blogs being created? There must be hundreds everyday on the subject of writing alone. I was blog surfing the other day, and discovered something about myself. I have a list of blogs I always visit. But I read them because my friends write them. For the others, I noticed a tendency to skim the first line. If it doesn’t hold my interest, I move on.

So I looked at my own blogs with a cold, critical eye, and I have to admit, most of them would make me move on.

We were in a minority when I began to blog here at LDSwritersblogck. There were fewer sites that talked about writing in the LDS market. Since then, I’ve heard many sources say you must start promoting yourself and you must establish an Internet presence. Consequently most of us blog because we plan to sell a book someday. We’re promoting ourselves in an effort to develop a readership.

So maybe we should hook the reader with our blog. I’m going to try.

Good luck in your writing and blogging—see you next week.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Captains Courageous—Dead Authors Society

By Keith Fisher

Remember two weeks ago, when I suggested a dead authors society? Well, someone suggested I actually do it. I am reading the old classics, so I think I’ll call it DAS for short and occasionally tell you what I think of an old book.

I read Farewell to Arms until the dialogue put me to sleep. I haven’t given up on Hemmingway though. I loved the movie version of Old Man of the Sea. I will read something else before I make a judgement. I have been perusing Frankenstein by Mary Shelly and I read a collection of Mark Twain’s humor and loved it. I am currently confused with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but I really loved Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling.

Kipling was a man who knew how to write. He is my new hero. He could write the way his peers wrote, in what we call the classic style. With the twenty-dollar words, the flowery descriptions, and literary prose that is almost poetic. But Kipling had something the others didn’t have—he told a story well. After all, did you read The Jungle Book.

In Captains Courageous, We learn about a spoiled young man who gets pitched overboard from a cruise ship and ends up working on a fishing boat for several months before he returns to his rich family. The experience straightens him out and he gleans many lessons from his experiences. As you can tell, I loved it.

Now for the other stuff . . .

I was writing a blog for this week and then decided to talk about Kipling. I still feel the need to write the other one, so I’ll attach it here.

When upon Life’s Billows

By Keith Fisher

There’s a tendency for a writer in any market to get discouraged. It may not feel okay, but it’s normal. A writer spends so much personal time working and slaving over a manuscript, only to have it rejected by the first busy editor or publisher that comes along.

What about the writer who never finishes? He/she looks at the mountain of edits and re-writes and sees only the task ahead, with no end in sight. Those writers sometimes give up and the world loses the next great novel, hearts that where meant to be touched, won’t be—what a shame.

I looked at the hymnal at church last week and read the lyrics to Count Your Blessings page 241 Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The second line says, "When you are discouraged thinking all is lost . . . count your blessings see what God hath done." This may help you . . .I hope it does . . . but remember: sometimes thinking of all you owe God can depress you. Do what I did, and glean the right message.

The point is to get on your knees before God. One of the members of my critique group blogged recently about the need to include our Heavenly Father in all we do. If we start by counting blessings, God will help. Discouragement and doubt will not overtake us, and our manuscript will be published—people’s hearts will be touched.

Either that, or God will suggest a different book to write, but you will know how blessed you are. The important thing is to never give up. In the fourth verse of the hymn we read, "Do not be discouraged; God is over all."

Good luck in your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Another Stop on the Blog Tour

By Keith Fisher

It’s my honor to review Tristi Pinkston’s new book, Season of Sacrifice, but first I need to make an announcement:

I’ve been asked to blog for the site. I will be blogging twice a week on the subject of outdoor and camp cooking, with emphasis on Dutch oven and cast iron.

A few years ago, a major cast iron cookware manufacturer said there are more Dutch ovens sold within three hundred miles of Salt Lake City than anywhere else in the world. Don’t you wonder why here, instead of somewhere else? where are those Dutch ovens?

I think a lot of them are being stored with all the seasonal and camping equipment. They get hauled out to warm up cans of stew or chili on the deer hunt. A few get used to make biscuits while camping, but I believe the majority are still in the box in food storage lockers, waiting for the day when the power goes out and the gas gets shut off.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but wouldn’t it be easier if you were already familiar with your cooking appliance? In the blog, I hope to show you how to use your Dutch oven and enjoy the smiles on the faces of your guests and campmates. In the process we may learn some things about throwing back yard and block parties that will make you a legend.

I love to cook outdoors and I hope to transplant that love into your hearts. Stop by often. Put your feet up, dinners ready.

Now for the book . . .

I’m not sure how it happened, but Nichole and I decided to split Tristi’s blog tour between us. I am going to review the book today. Nichole is planning to interview her on Thursday. I’m having second thoughts now. I think I’d rather ask the questions . . . just kidding. It really is an honor.

In an effort to avoid a corrupted opinion I haven’t read the other reviews, so if I repeat something already said, please forgive me.

You may have heard that Season of Sacrifice is a work of historical fiction about the Hole in the Rock pioneers. Tristi used family history, historical research, and gut feelings, to tell this poignant story of her ancestors and their part in a historical event. It’s the story of Benjamin Perkins and his wife Mary Ann Williams, but it’s really a story about Sarah Williams, Mary Ann’s sister and Benjamin’s second wife.

Polygamy was, and is, a hard issue. I think Tristi should be commended for the truthful and respectable way she wrote those parts.

As I read the story, I began to feel a common bond. Some of my ancestors were neighbors with Tristi’s in Wales. They were coal miners too. The Perkins’ were called to settle in San Juan. My ancestors came from Wales by way of Yorkshire England to Utah, and were called to help settle Southern Alberta, Canada.

Also, my wife is a direct descendant one of the sisters who married John Rowley. You must read the book to know what I’m talking about. Find a copy at

In my family history collection, I have many books written by relatives that attempt to tell the stories of my ancestors. None of them do it the way Tristi has. Her talent of writing is certainly a blessing for her ancestors.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Dead Authors Society

By Keith Fisher

There is a popular movie from 1989 staring Robin Williams called Dead Poets Society. It is a heart wrenching story about a group of boarding school students learning about life through appreciation of the great poets. Using that premise, I’d like to start a Dead Authors society. Like the movie, we could meet once a week (probably online) and discuss something (good or bad) we found in an old book. Maybe I’ll start a new blog—I’ll let you know.

I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but I avoided reading the classics in high school. Of course, I also avoided most of my homework in those days, I read Tom Sawyer and Future Shock, but I missed out on Moby Dick, Grapes of Wrath, and others.

To make up for my ignorance, I’ve been reading classics mingled among the other things I must read. I discovered an interesting thing while reading the Great Gatsby the other day. Although there is a good message and the book is a great treatise of the jazz age, F. Scott Fitzgerald filled it with flowery descriptions that probably earned him high praise in his day. Now he is dead, it’s time to take a look at his work under the desk lamp, and analyze it against the fiction of today.

One of my pet peeves is when I read a book written within the last twenty years and find the author committed one of the unforgivable sins. I constantly criticize myself for committing these sins because I know if I don’t change things like weak plot, POV shifts, and too much description, my book won’t be published. So, I’m left wondering how the book in question got published because it’s so much harder for us today.

Here I am, reading a classic—a book that is supposed to be an example of good writing—and those same feelings crop up. How did this guy get published? To be fair, I enjoyed the descriptions. Fitzgerald’s metaphors and similes are fantastic. I may write down many of them for future blogs, but does Gatsby hold the attention of a modern reader?

To be honest, if I wasn’t listening on my MP3 player at work, I might not have ever finished the book. Readers have such a short attention span today, a book must be near perfect to survive. An author cannot allow a reader to set a book down, or it won’t be picked up again. I’m afraid the classics would never hold up under the standards of today’s market. My friend thinks they would, but with all the rules for hooks in the first paragraph, etc, I still think my editor would find many wrong things.

So, high school students hate to read those books, while English teachers point to them as examples of great literature. It’s no wonder that many students quit reading after high school. Lest I give you the wrong impression, I must say it was hard to write during those times also. Readers took more time reading, and they scrutinized the prose. They held a paragraph in their mind for days, twisting it over, marveling at the symmetry.

But, my twenty-first century mind keeps trying to rush the author. It says, "Get to point already—I haven’t got all day." I found the classics are better if someone reads them to me. Don’t you love the way the narrator speaks in DickensA Christmas Carol? I love to listen to it again and again. Words were not taken for granted in those days. But when I read it, I skip over those words in order to get to the meat of the story. Perhaps if we make high school kids listen to the story they might enjoy it more, but then, how would they learn to read?

Since I haven’t made any real point here, you might wonder which side I’m on. Like any good editor, I must offer praise as well as criticism. I hope we all learn to savor classical prose. It may be a better example of good writing than the entertaining stories we write today, but it would never make it on the best seller list. That’s okay though, most of the classics already had their day in the sun.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Writing Out of Time and Place

By Keith Fisher

While thinking about what I want to share with you this week, I analyzed my activities for last week. I hoped to find a lesson I’d learned that would help you in your quest to be published in the LDS market.

It was a busy week. I wonder how I survived. My wife and I cooked in Dutch ovens for the whole fourth grade, teachers, and parents as part of the Utah History unit. We made about six gallons of beef stew, six cobblers, and five 14-inch diameter cornbreads. There were 130 people, and I’m still sore from all the hard work.

Of course I learned a few lessons at the LUW spring workshop on Saturday, but my friend is going to blog about that and I don’t want to compete.

I think the big lesson for this week occurred to me in my critique group. I learned about perspective.

How many of you remember bench seats in cars? Did you know that bucket seats used to be a luxury? Unless your car was a sports car, bucket seats had to be ordered special. It never occurred to me that my readers might not know that, when I had a character slide next to my protagonist and put her arm around him. "What is she sitting on?" was the question someone asked.

Later in the week, I asked a friend to review a short piece for me and it became painfully clear that my frame of reference came from events that happened before she was born, therefore she didn’t understand my point.

I realized my writing should be tailored to the understanding of everyone. I must never assume that everyone understands. I don’t have the figures, but I bet that more than half the population has never heard a vinyl record played, or even seen one. (What’s a vinyl record? Ask your grandparents.)

I was listening to MP3’s at work today and realized I was rocking out to music that was recorded ten years before most of my co-workers were born. Yes, I feel old, but more to the point, I can’t write about Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band without explaining who they were. Or talk about Gerald Ford without bringing up Richard Nixon. Time seems to forget impotant connections and events which will be forgotten in future generations.

Before any of you youngsters start feeling superior because your language and references are cutting edge, I have some questions for you: What will happen to the colorful expressions of today? Will anyone understand them in ten years—what about twenty? Chances are, very few people will remember Hannah Montana, or understand why her concerts sold out so fast. If we want our books to survive through the generations, perhaps we should consider our words carefully. Or at least watch out for dated material.

Good luck in your writing—see you next week.