Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Day After

By Keith Fisher

Over the past few days on the blogck, you’ve been favored with many Christmas wishes. Since the big day is over, I’ll restrain myself. As the sun makes an attempt at poking through the mist this morning, I’d like to offer my hope for your recovery. Dig yourself out from the pillows and blankets and face the new day.

Okay, move the crumpled wrapping paper aside, lay down and take a nap.

As I mentioned on Facebook this morning, It’s interesting how we can suffer from a hang over without ever drinking a drop. Between the joy in the eyes of a child, and the smile caused by a gift you gave. All the candy and cookies, and Christmas dinner, love and sadness from missing departed loved ones can overwhelm us. Toys shared, and those broken, persuading Aunt Jane to have the last sip of sparkling cider, and the five year old who wants a big piece of meat for dinner, even though you know he’ll never eat it all.

All these things, although, joyful, can drain us. So, when you finish your nap, and assess the damage to your messy living room, take a moment and remember Jesus. He is more than just “the reason for the season”. Jesus Christ, the Savior of all, offers a hand to everyone. Whether we’re rich or poor, bound to sin or free from it. He is there if we will only believe Him. If we take His hand He will lift us.

Then, with our eyes on Him, we will notice a peaceful Joy enter our hearts. We’ll have a renewed desire to serve others, and in the service, we’ll notice the so-called hangover is gone.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Our Creative Destiny

By Keith Fisher

We have a porch swing in our backyard. It’s just a bench hanging from an old swing-set frame. Last summer, I set down to relax and a slit-second later, I was lying on my back with parts of the swing scattered over me. After the initial shock, I found humor in the situation, but I still wonder if God was teaching me a lesson in humility.

It was old. The wood had rotted, and the nails were rusting through, to the point of falling apart. Using some of the pieces as a guide, I improved the design and built a new, stronger, one.

After hanging it, I sat down and admired my work. My mother came over, and I persuaded her to sit and admire it to. Somehow I got roped into building one for her, for Christmas. So, You might guess what I’ve been up to lately.

I have a problem with my mother’s swing, however, I have to design and build a support frame. Mom’s house is like many others these days. It doesn’t have an overhang big enough to hang a swing from.

My frame will be beautiful, but I worried about it supporting the weight. I used to design houses so I have a working knowledge of board stresses, but how do you figure weight variables for a three-person bench when you have no idea how big the people will be? Needless to say, I’ve been doing some thinking. I finished the bench part yesterday, and while it was on the sawhorses, I sat and admired my workmanship.

I love the feeling I get from building something from scratch with my own hands, but it made me think. Why do we create? Why do writers, write? Why do painters, paint? What is the attraction in writing a song and having the whole world sing along? Hey, that rhymes.

Realists would say it has something to do with ego, and in the case of some authors, that may be partially true. On the other hand, I’ve seen very humble writers who are the first to admit their dependence on other people’s help. Truly humble people are like that, thinking of others first, but what drives them to follow the creative urge?

Is it merely the satisfaction of a job well done? What about those who have a burning desire to write, but their finished manuscript gets rejected? Or the person who sits down to sew a shirt and makes one sleeve shorter than the other? It can’t be easy to hear laughter during a piano recital, after you’ve made a mistake.

It seems like something happens in the mind during creation. It fills the soul with endorphins and taps into what I believe is our creative destiny. A few years ago, I built a deck with an intricate series of angles spilling onto each other. I had some trouble with one of the angles and showed my frustration verbally. The neighbor heard me, and asked if I needed any help. I said, “No this is my therapy.”

In my writing, I’ve had moments when a plot comes together, or when a sudden flash of inspiration hits. We often say these are the times when our characters speak to us. These are the golden moments, the therapeutic seconds when we feel rewarded.

God has given his children many talents. Some of us are better at one thing than others. With hard work, we can develop any talent we choose. If we look at our rejected, finished product, we will see the parts where we reached our moment of clarity. It was the moment when we approached our creative destiny.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Before the Dawn


A book review by Keith N Fisher

Like every writer, I have a long list of books to read. It’s one of the secrets to becoming a good writer. And, like every writer, I shuffle titles up and down the stack. Add magazines, critique chapters, and blogs, and my reading list grows. The books I read first, usually depends on whether I’ve been asked to review them or not.

I often read books for research, or to learn how other writers write, but many books get on my list just for reading pleasure. This one practically jumped into my hands the other day when I was between books.

Before the Dawn, came out in 2007, and I felt compelled to read it. Dean Hughes is one of my favorite authors, but that’s not why I wanted to read the book. The blurb from the dust jacket intrigued me, but it’s still not why I felt drawn to this book. Now that I finally got a chance to read it, I know why I was compelled.

We’ve all read books that affected us in one way or another. Before the Dawn touched me. I learned valuable lessons about pride and the secret needs of others, but mostly I learned a private lesson, one I’ve needed for a while.

From the book jacket:

When the Bishop calls Leah Sorensen to be relief society president, her first impulse is to assume he is joking. “They’d all vote against me if you put my name up,” she tells him. “And I’d vote with them.”

Also from the jacket:

They say it’s always darkest before the dawn, But will morning ever come?

You can find this book here or here. I liked it. I hope you will too.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Let it Snow, Rain, or Sleet. And Bring In the Fairies


By Keith Fisher

I heard groans from some of my friends when they heard it was going to snow. I must admit it wasn’t much fun shoveling the most recent batch of it this morning. While I was out there, though, I debated plot scenarios in my head. Sometimes I argue with myself out there, working out a problem. When I do that, however, I frequently check to see if anyone is listening. I can’t afford to be committed to the booby hatch, (although I bet I could get some writing done).

Also, While shoveling this a.m., I reflected on my childhood and the magic of snowstorms. I grew up in a house next to a hillside vacant lot, so when it snowed, I waxed the runners of my sled and patched the holes in my inner tube. I loved the snow, and I loved winter.

Now I’m an adult and a writer. I still find myself staring at fresh fallen snow with a sense of wonder. I love the way it hides the brown grass and the leaves I didn’t get picked up.
Have you ever sat on a ridge gazing at a forest of pine trees covered in fresh snow? Then, while you watch, the sun comes out. The sparkling splendor of the fairytale world can take your breath away.

I experienced a similar feeling the other day, when, as a writer, I parked in the overflow parking lot of the Provo Utah LDS temple. I set my laptop on the steering wheel as I always do, but I spent fifteen minutes gaping at the view before I could write. The sparkle in the sunlight was fabulous.

The real attraction of snowstorms, or any storm for that matter, is the possibility of being able to write without feeling guilty about taking the time. I can’t do yard work while its raining, and sleet makes it almost impossible to walk outside. I can escape into my manuscript, holding a cup of hot chocolate, and follow my characters into places of their choosing, and not worry about yard work or even hanging Christmas lights. I give myself permission to be a writer.

Now, I’m sure that some of you, especially mothers, will bring up housework, and the many tasks that must be done for a family regardless of snow. Well, in my perfect world, fairies exist, and they like nothing more than to help. In my imagination, my children are fairies and they can’t go outside during the storm anyway. Then when the housework and fighting is finished, the storm clears, drawing the kids outside for awhile, giving you time to climb into the world of your manuscript.

Like I said at the outset—childhood was, and is, a magical time. I hope you can steal a moment for yourself. Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Finding Inspiration

By Keith Fisher

There are many places writers go to for inspiration. I’m not talking about ideas that come from outside sources, such as the baby born on a plane coming into Salt Lake the other day. What a good writing prompt that is. Also, a headline on Yahoo intrigued me. I didn’t stop to read, but it was something about an American woman being charged with murder in Italy. In the picture she looked like a nice girl. I could let my imagination soar with that one, but that’s not the kind of inspiration I’m talking about.

Recently, I discovered that every writer has doubts and fears. For some writers it can be debilitating. Even the most talented, are afraid of failure. In Ralph Keyes book, The Writer’s Book of Hope, he writes that on the day The Great Gatsby was published, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “I am overcome with fears and forebodings. . . . In Fact all my confidence is gone.”

Keyes also wrote about a condition all writers have, called AFD Syndrome. He calls it the three-legged stool we sit on when writing. Its three legs are Anxiety, Frustration, and Despair. It seems writers are prone to bouts of self-doubt and depression. Who can blame us? When we place so many people in a position of judging us? Not to mention the constant fears that our manuscripts won’t see daylight past the veritable slush pile.

It sometimes doesn’t help to actually get published either, the example of F Scott Fitzgerald illustrates this. We writers are a strange bunch.

It’s normal for a writer to fear the keyboard. But writing is the occupation we have chosen, and we need to recognize our anxiety for what it is. We call it laziness, procrastination, evasiveness, writer’s block, giving up all together, and sometimes arrogance.

The trick is to work through it. To keep going, even though your whole being cries enough! I can’t take it anymore. Keyes told the story of a young man who, after getting many rejections, went to the garage, put a hose on the tail pipe and started his car. After his death, his mother pursued the publication of his book. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and has sold over a million copies.

Perhaps that is an extreme example, but it illustrates the mood of a writer sometimes. The point is to keep trying. I have a tune floating in my head. I can’t remember who wrote it. Essentially the chorus is, keep trying. Never give up on you.

I came away from a writer’s conference, a few years ago, with the feeling of confirmation. I felt I was meant to be a writer. I considered it a sacred calling. To touch hearts and improve lives through my stories. Since then, I have been to the depths of despair over my choice to pursue what, until the conference, had only been a way of relieving stress.

But, I now have a renewed sense of self-worth. What happened? I finally caught on to what my critique group, and a good friend, has been trying to tell me about a problem in my writing. Also, I heard about a study conducted with writing teachers across the country. Almost invariably, the students who were the most talented, the ones everyone marveled over, the shinning lights on the horizon, quit writing. This is not a hard and fast rule, but for the most part, successful writers are those who keep writing. No matter what, they steadfastly pursue the dream.

So, I ask you, where do you get your inspiration? What motivated you to pick up that pen, typewriter, or sit in front of that computer? Whatever it was, try to remember it. The dream lives. There are myriad stories about successful writers who got rejected thirty, forty, even hundreds of times, before getting that book deal. The problem, however, is dealing with anxiety, frustration, and despair. (Notice I didn’t say overcoming it?)

I read, . . . the depression J K Rowling suffered when writing the first Harry Potter book, inspired her to create the dementors who, vacuum out happy memories, leaving only desperate ones. Recognize anxiety for what it is, and deal with it. Everyone has it. Don’t let it stop you.

On a final note, when a miracle happens, and they do, all time. When the miracle of publication happens, don’t stop. You will be tempted to believe it was fluke, and you couldn’t possibly do it again. Don’t believe it! Your writing voice has resonance, or you wouldn’t have been published in the first place. You have many more stories to write, get busy and write them.

The definition of a “good writer” is one who keeps writing. Even when the barking dogs are seemingly all around you, waiting to take your head off, Keep writing, never give up on you. Then, on a good day when you remember why you started to write, the fact that you are doing, what you set out to do, will bring comfort. You will know why you are a writer.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What Day Did You Say It Is?

By Keith Fisher

It’s two days after Thanksgiving? So, that’s why we went to Grandma’s for dinner. Unless you live in a vacuum, I’m sure you knew about the day and Black Friday.

I hope you find joy in retrospect. For some people, the day when we pause to thank the source of all our blessings is not always a day of rejoicing. Whatever the reasons, some folks are left with feelings of neglect and abandonment. May we remember those left out, and help bring them into the warmth of blessings unending.

This play on words serves to remind us of the higher purpose in the holiday. Showing thanks by giving makes me happy. Happy Thanks and Giving. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

Along with the start of interminably repeating Christmas music, comes the day we call Black Friday. I’ve been known to make a few disparaging remarks about that chaotic madhouse of scrambling shoppers. But in this year of economic upheaval, and loss of hope, I ask the question. What if, after all the hype and preparations. What if nobody showed up? What if people read the door buster announcements, but decided they couldn’t afford anything extra, and stayed home?

I didn’t want go to the store yesterday, but I had to pick up some pictures. Rather than feeling stress, I felt strangely cheered to see people buying things. The checkout line seemed tolerable because, those folks demonstrated their faith in the economy, by purchasing things they hope to be able to afford.

The experience didn’t increase my desire for new toys, I still can’t afford it, but the Christmas tradition brought hope. I’ll try to ignore my claustrophobic feelings, (and no, that’s not a fear of Santa Claus). Who knows, I might even make it through the season without getting sick of the music.

Good Luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Perspective

By Keith Fisher

note: when you finish, check out the link at the bottom

Did you ever find yourself relearning things you should’ve remembered? As I get older, it becomes a ritual. I think it’s the reason lessons and sermons at church tend to repeat. Eventually we’ll get it, and incorporate those principles into our lives.

I realized the implication one day, when I read a repeated blog, here on this site. I knew it was repeated, because I wrote it the first time. Never mind, that it was better than mine. At first, I felt miffed. Then, I realized I repeat myself, all the time, in this blog.

As I said above, its good to repeat lessons, and review notes from classes, workshops, and conferences. Today I'm going to repeat. But I have a new twist.

While going over edits from my critique group, I remembered the comments made about a particular part. I wrote.

The razor blade was new and cut well. Brady could hardly tell he was shaving.

The comments directed me to remove it because it’s not important to the story. I listened, considered the counsel, and agreed with them.

Later I reflected on why I’d written it. Let me try and explain. To a man who shaves with a blade, the statement indicates it’s a good day. It says life is good and I feel great.

Considering my critique group are all women, They wouldn’t get it. Although they shave their legs, they’ve probably never faced a new day by staring in a bathroom mirror, lathering their beards, and dragging a dull razor over a tender chin.

Then, I thought about those men who’ve never used anything but electric razors. They wouldn’t get the point either. Of course there are children, and men who never shaved. Many people could read my book, and never get the point.

The image is powerful to me, because I know how it feels to have a good, clean, shave. It’s even more powerful, when I consider how hard it is to shave a full beard without cutting myself. It can be done, but it’s not a great way to start a day.

So I realized imagery is subject to interpretation, and an individual perspective. If I want you to know that Brady was having a terrific morning, I need to find a universally understandable way of writing it. It’s all about life’s simple pleasures. The feel of warm water on your skin while taking a bath, the taste and feel of sugar as it melts on your tongue, and sitting back on a soft recliner after a hard day of strenuous work. Your muscles begin to relax, and your whole body feels like it would drift away.

If your reader has never experienced these things, he/she won’t relate. Considering perspective is vital in our work of showing, instead of telling.

Good luck in your writing—see you next week.


PS check out my review of An Angel on Main Street by Kathi Oram Petersen at A Writer’s Eyes

An Angel on Main Street


A book review by Keith Fisher

When you buy your short stories and novelettes to give as Christmas gifts, this year, I suggest you take a look at Kathi Oram Petersen’s new book, An Angel on Main Street.

This blurb from the back cover says it all.

Micah Connors promised his mother he would be good in their new town. But with Christmas only three days away, being escorted home by the sheriff does not bode well. Can the towering officer be trusted not to tell what happened?

Perhaps the ramshackle stable that has appeared on Main Street will sidetrack him from spilling the day’s events—or maybe his interest in Micah’s widowed mother will do the trick. The last thing Dawn Connors needs is to hear her son is in trouble. She has enough to worry about with her husband gone and her daughter, Annie, ill.

Even though Micah has told his sister the rustic structure in the middle of town is simply part of the town’s holiday decorations, Annie is sure that unseen angels are building the crude stable—which means baby Jesus is coming, and he can make her better.

Terrified that his little sister might die, Micah vows to find the baby Jesus for Annie, even if it is only a plastic doll. But as Micah gets nearer to his goal he finds angels are closer than he ever would have believed.


Aren’t all miracles supposed to happen at Christmas? It’s that time of year again, and this book will help you get in the mood. As a reviewer, I’m obligated to give an honest opinion, and I found a few mistakes, but it’s a Christmas story and will help motivate you to give of yourself for the season.

You can find your copies at the fine bookstores. Also, at the Covenant website.

Softcover 6” X 9”
112 pages
ISBN 978-1-59811-721-9

God Bless, and happy holidays.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Blog Tour Stop and Other Stuff

By Keith Fisher

Good Morning Dear Readers! And that is not just a greeting, All my readers are dear to me. It has been an interesting week, and, I’m sure, you can say the same about yours.

I have a couple of things to write about today, but first, let me get the blog tour stuff out of the way. Oh, by the way, what do you think of the new portrait?


As many of you know, Heather Justesen, (who used to blog on this site), has a new book out. I reviewed it on my other site A Writer’s Eyes. Go and read what I said, BUT, wait until you finish reading this blog.

Heather is holding many contests and give-away events to kick of the launch of the book. Visit her website and blog for more info. She also has a cool trailer out. Her book, The Ball’s In Her Court, published by CFI, is now in Deseret Book, Seagull Book and Tape, Barnes and Noble, And many other fine book stores and websites. Go see my review, and pick up your copy today.


Now, let me thank you for reading. Let’s be honest, there are times in a struggling writer’s day when we get discouraged. It’s normal, part of the game, but knowing someone is reading makes it all worthwhile. Having those readers come back, is like putting frosting between two Graham crackers. (Did you notice the way I avoided a cliché there?)

I would be terribly ungrateful if I didn’t say thank you dear reader.

Recently, while posting my status on Facebook, I thought of a metaphor that helped me. I had grudgingly decided to take my novel apart and put it back together. I remembered the time I rebuilt the carburetor in my truck. I was in high school, and took it apart, more out of curiosity, than anything.

I put all the pieces in a parts washer, and made them shine. I needed new gaskets, so I bought a kit. When I attempted to put it back together, I found I couldn’t remember where everything went. I panicked when I found the kit instructions weren’t clear enough to understand. To make matters worse, I found new pieces in the kit that didn’t match anything I’d taken off the part.

It took a full day to figure it out, and it helped to realize the kit was universal for many different carburetors and the extra pieces weren’t needed. I learned many other lessons that day. Perhaps the most important was, the order in which the pieces go back together makes all the difference.

My current work in progress has some great elements. The concept is sound, the characters are growing, but but unlike the carburetor, there are problems and I need to take it apart. there are extra pieces I don’t need. Also, by writing important facts before establishing groundwork some of it needed explanation. In some places I tried to cheat the assembly, by leaving parts out. I also had problems with charactor motivation.

Now I have all the parts strung out in my head, and on my spreadsheet outline. I have the instructions I get from critique group, and books on writing to help me. I’m cleaning the parts by going scene by scene, character by character. Adding and subtracting. Hopefully, I’ll end up with a carburetor (book) that will function. Like the carburetor, my book will feed the fire of propulsion. My readers will be driven on a voyage of discovery. The plot and concept will change their lives.

Good luck with your writing, and don’t be afraid to take it apart. The pieces were made to fit. Our job is to examine, experiment, and put it together the right way. Like my carburetor, long ago, it will function, but unlike my truck, your book will last forever. See you next week.



Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Ball's In Her Court


A book review by Keith Fisher

As a member of Heather Justesen’s critique group, I’ve battled with her over comma placement and the logistics of plot lines. She’s a good writer, and I’m pleased to offer my review.

Other’s have said how excited they are, and I too, have been looking forward to the release of her new book, The Ball’s in Her Court. Reading this first book in a saga of interconnecting characters reunited me with players I came to know in later books. Although, Heather has written stand alone, non-series books, I couldn’t wait to read about the characters of the saga, and find out where they came from.

In critique group, we’re currently reviewing another in the series and the characters remain true. I feel we have a history together.

The Ball’s in Her Court is a great beginning, and will leave you with a sense of peace. The reader is taken on a journey of sorrow, and through feelings of self-doubt. Bringing us, in the end, to the destination of a healed heart.

I’m proud to recommend The Ball’s in Her Court to everyone. If you don’t already have one, you will find it at a bookstore near you, or at Amazon.com.
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc.; 1st edition (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599552345
ISBN-13: 978-1599552347

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Selling Yourself


By Keith Fisher

I started a new book this morning. Since I’ve been bogged down with rewrites lately, it felt great to focus on different characters for a while.

As a wannabe published author of novels, I want my book to be perfect, and I keep finding plot holes. As I fix one problem, another manifests its ugly head. Most of my time is spent agonizing over how to fix it. In a book with several characters and plot lines, it means going back and changing every thread. Needless to say, I’ve been getting discouraged.

So, It was refreshing to start something new. Most of my friends have been bragging about their experience with NaNoWriMo this year, making me jealous. It’s like being a recovering alcoholic surrounded by people talking about a drinking binge. I love the feeling of getting lost in artistic expression.

Ali Cross told me she periodically drifts back and forth to her different projects. When one gets stale, she works on another for a while. I told her it’s a great idea, and it’s a method I used to employ. With all the projects on my hard drive, I should never get bogged down or discouraged, right? Well, I can think of a few reasons, but those thoughts serve as examples of things to avoid.

There is a lot to be said for focus. Many writers need to concentrate on one thing at a time in order to accomplish the task. Most of us wish for the days, not too long ago, when a writer worked in seclusion, perfecting a masterpiece. In those days writers wrote, agents sold, publishers promoted.

While attending my first writer’s conference, The stark reality of what it means to be a writer today, forcefully hit me. I’ve worked in sales many times in my life, and it’s not one of my favorite things to do. Self-promotion has always seemed prideful, like loud arrogant people.

In the publishing world today, things have changed. Writers write, sell, and promote their books. Some publishers have adopted cost-cutting policies that sound like subsidization. Because of the competitive nature of the business, writers are expected to rise to a level of perfection never achieved in earlier generations. To use a cliché, the bar has been raised.

Now I admit, writers need to be committed, and take a pro-active part in promoting their book. It is, after all, their baby. So, when your project gets stale, and you need a break, start promoting yourself.

There are myriad ways to promote your self, both active and benign. I learned a lesson while attending the book launch party for Am I Not A Man written by Mark L Shurtleff. Because I know his editor, I know being Attorney General for the State of Utah didn’t get him published. I’m sure it will help sell a few copies of the book, however.

Now, I know. I know you were also taught to be humble, and we all can’t run for office, but do you like making friends? There’s a difference between a network of business contacts, and a network of good friends who happen to be in publishing.

Go out of your way and attend book launch parties. Go to book signings, and writer’s conferences. I met a publishing executive at a workshop recently. I think we became friends. Our friendship probably won’t result in a book contact, but I made a friend.

The important thing to remember is motive. I’m sure you would be more willing to help a genuine friend, before helping the phony who gives you lip service. Be willing to provide sincere help to your friends and they will help you in return. I hope to sell several copies of my book because people know me, and I am their friend. The rest of them will sell, because the story is well written.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Hallows of Writing Characters

By Keith Fisher

I’ve noticed an interesting trend in my critique group lately. We’re naming characters after each other. It’s fun to see what kind of person will get my name next.

Tristi used it for the son of her main character in Secret Sisters. He’s a good man, and I like him. Nichole wrote a character with my first and last name. He’s a very intelligent kid, so I’m flattered. I guess I should worry, though, if a villain gets my name, is it a sign that I’ve offended them? I resisted the habit, for a while, but I succumbed the other day, and named a character after Kim. I’m so ashamed.

I think every writer models characters after parts and pieces of people they know, or have known. I’ve heard writers say they use rotten in-laws as antagonists. What a great way to get even for unkindness. Be careful, however, your nemesis might figure it out. Even if you honor your friends, the line between offence and flattery can be thin. You never know who might be offended.

Most us, when we write, put ourselves into plots we would never be able to live in real life. It would be easy to name our protagonist after us, because, aren’t we really playing make believe? Which brings me to the point.

I went to the Halloween parade at school yesterday. I took pictures of some of the more creative costumes. The originality fascinates me. There were the standard witches, goblins, and super heroes, but some of the mothers put a lot of creative effort into the design. One little girl played the part of an old lady. She not only looked the part she acted it out perfectly.

All Hallows Eve has turned into a wonderful holiday. We can be anyone, go almost anywhere, and do almost anything. For one night, we can be all the characters we write about. At times like this, I wish I wrote fantasy.

Good luck with your writing—Happy Halloween—see you next week.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Meat & Potatoes, Corn, Peas, and Beats

By Keith Fisher

No, I didn’t spell it wrong. Let me explain, but first, Theres a book lauch party in Fillmore today. Click on the link at the bottom.

In critique group this week, we heard a story about a writer who explained the need of adding potatoes to a manuscript. In the simile, the manuscript is dinner, the dialogue is the meat, and the narration is the potatoes. Some writers are carnivores and their meat is spectacular, but they have to go back and add the potatoes for a well-rounded dinner.

That is the syndrome I’ve fallen into, chopping the narration, making the dialogue stand-alone.

In Writer’s Secrets, published by LDStorymakers, Linda Paulson Adams compares the bits of narration to the glue that holds the dialogue together.

I was told in critique group, parts of my dialogue needed beats. This is a common suggestion for me. I know what it means.

In the book, Self-Editing For Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King, we learn. 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.

When beats were mentioned, the lady who’d told the story about meat and potatoes said, “hey what are beets?” We had a pot luck dinner at critique group this week. So, by the time we got to my chapter, It was late, and we were getting loopy. We all leaped to the comparison of the meat & potatoes story, and the beats. Someone said something like, “Beets? Okay, lets get our vegetables strait.”

We were left with explaining the concept of beats, not beets. I always think of rock n roll. The beat makes the rhythm easier to play. Beats interspersed with good dialogue keeps the reader going, and removes the stumbling blocks.

Whatever vegetable or binder you prefer, leaving them out makes a reader stumble. If it’s hard to read, it’ll get tossed. But Keep in mind, as Linda Paulson Adams said, using too much glue, can ruin the project. Beats, potatoes, or beets can also be overdone.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Come to the book launch Click on the picture and I'll see you there.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

All Hallow's Eve


By Keith Fisher

It’s that time of year again. I’ll be getting dressed up to sit on the porch reading or writing while the kids come and help themselves. A couple of years ago, I read Harry Potter, dressed as see no evil, hear no evil . . . well, two out of three ain’t bad. I put some funny teeth in my mouth, and taped a head on each shoulder. One head wore a sleeping mask. The other wore headphones. All three heads wore wigs. The costume was cute, and I got a lot of reading done.

Last year, I dressed in lights and did some writing. This year has me stumped. Not the costume, but the writing. My work in process has kicked me in the behind many times. It’s currently called The Bed and Breakfast and I keep finding problems. The ladies in my critique group have been patient lifesavers.

My Brother’s Keeper has been sidelined. In my efforts to be a good writer, I ended up making the narrative choppy so I need to take it apart and rebuild it. Eternal Tapestries has gone through at least a dozen rewrites, and I’m waiting for inspiration. Each rewrite made it better. Soon, it will be the story I wanted it to be.

The Trophy is written, but I put it on the back burner while I worked on The Bed and Breakfast. The Only Key, All that Glitters, and Shadow Boxing are in different stages of development. They’re waiting for other things to be finished. Season of Promise, a sequel to Eternal Tapestries, is written, but I’m going to add more to the story.

There are thirteen books in my project file and eight other projects that are only story ideas, so far. There are three short stories, a dozen articles, and a pile of published blogs. There’s a stack of books I need to review and another stack I want to read for fun.

So I contemplate. What should I write on my porch this year? As you can see, this blog isn't about goblins and spooks. Since Halloween marks my progress over the year, this is and update about my projects.

Stick with me and come along for the ride. I’m in a learning period right now, but I expect to come through it with many fruits of my labor. At least, The Bed and Breakfast, My Brother’s keeper, and Eternal Tapestries will find a publishing home.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Am I Not a Man

A book review by Keith Fisher

Since I was given an advance reader’s copy of Am I Not a Man--The Dread Scott Story, and asked to read and review the book, I’ve been captivated. The story behind this, perhaps, the most famous court case in United States history brought tears to my eyes.

I must admit I had preconceived notions about the book. With Schindler’s List, Dances with wolves, The Work and The Glory, and countless others. Many books play upon our sympathies, and I was prepared for yet another, but I found the effort in research was obvious throughout, and a refreshing weaving of fact was presented.

I delighted in the staging of a conversation between two of my personal heroes, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. They both regretted making compromises in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution respectively. The hypocritical feelings of many were expressed in that conversation, along with other story lines throughout the book.

The thing that impressed me most, however, was the way the story leads the reader into the realization that our country was given two opportunities to abolish slavery. Both were during the drafting of two of our greatest documents.

Since those warnings were left unheeded, it becomes clear, through the reading of this book, the hand of a Higher Power took matters into His own hands. Dred Scott was the instrument. His lawsuit was the catalyst. Abraham Lincoln was the instigator.
Yes, I recommend the book to everyone. The expressed humanity will delight you---the historical information will educate you.

I’m told there will be illustrations in the hard cover release, but I became curious. I searched the Library of Congress, and found the attached newspaper article. It illustrates the attention the country was giving the case. This is a family of obscure slaves that turned the Supreme Court upside down, and helped set in motion the emancipation proclamation

You can preorder your copy here
You can read about Valor Publishing here

Saturday, October 10, 2009

To Sequel or Not to Sequel

By Keith Fisher

In Hamlet Act three, scene one, is perhaps the most famous question in all of literature. To be, or not to be. That is the question. In this poignant scene the character is debating the disadvantages of suicide. Kind of like the theme song of Mash, Suicide is Painless, but I digress.

I was in the zone the other day, and working on my story was thrilling. The song, Back in the Saddle Again, written by Ray Whitely, and played by Gene Autry & The Cass County Boys comes to mind.

So, there I was, writing pearls of literature, when I realized I left two story lines open-ended. When I wrote the draft, it didn’t bother me. In this book, I’ve written over twenty-five characters, six POV’s, and fifteen interlacing story lines. So, to leave a few plots finished, but not ended, didn’t seem bad.

Suddenly, one of the characters showed me plots and stories leading in different directions than the ones I had planned. In the beginning, I never intended to grow this particular character. Her name is currently Sharon, but I’m sure she wants to change it. Anyway, I intended that she would have a short part in the story and move on. As the draft unfolded, Sharon ended up getting more depth and sympathy from me. I ended her story on a positive note and led the reader to a natural conclusion.

In the zone the other day, Sharon wouldn’t leave me alone. I now have three interlacing plots for a sequel and I am left with a choice. To sequel, or not to sequel. That is indeed the real question. If I don’t write the sequel, I have to go back and re-write the direction Sharon’s story went. It wouldn’t be hard, take out a couple of minor characters and send Sharon back to New York, but she doesn’t want to go.

Now, I sit here, staring at the plots I drew on my whiteboard. I’m getting more excited to write the sequel than I am about finishing the original. Sharon smiles as I write that, because she knows me. She knows I won’t let it go . . .

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Remembering an Old Friend

By Keith Fisher

In my life, something often happens to make me pause and reflect. I never know what it will be, the birth of a child, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one. In March, I had one of those experiences, and since I’m the author of this particular soapbox, I want to use this blog to tell you about it.

During my daily trip to the hospital to visit my dying father, I crossed the lobby to the elevator and bumped into a woman I hadn’t seen in at least twenty-five years. She was the mother of my good friend, Sterling, and I tried to help her remember me.

She told me her son was dying of cancer and he lay in ICU upstairs. I stepped into the elevator to visit him on the way up to see my dad. My mind went back to the seventies, to a time when life was a mixture of parties. Before I grew up and rediscovered the Church.

I met Sterling, right after he’d been discharged from the service. Another friend told me Sterling had once been his Sunday school teacher, and Sterling had served a mission too.

My friend seemed aloof from all that, and he loved to party. He personified the saying, eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. I quickly discovered he was generous to a fault. It didn’t matter if I didn’t have money, if Sterling had some, we partied. Sterling got a job driving a truck and he took me on a few trips with him.

One time on a trip to phoenix, we spent a week in a motel waiting for a load. I learned a lot about picking grapefruits on the motel grounds, and I learned a lot about my friend. We finally got a load out of San Diego, and headed south. Sterling pulled over in the middle of the night on the way to Yuma, climbed into the sleeper, and told me to drive.

I was nervous, I didn’t have the right kind of driver’s license, but I drove an eighteen wheeler, with a two-stick transmission. That’s 5 on one and 4 on the other. I learned from watching him, He slept and I grinned, a lot. Yeah thats me driving the truck. I was 24 years old, and I still had hair on top.

In the hospital, Sterling was hooked up to dozens of machines. I barely recognized him through the oxygen tent and his body was resting. I was at a loss. What do you say to a dying man you haven’t seen for over twenty-five years? His Nurse said he’d had a hard night, and a bad time of it, so I let him sleep, intending to return. I never did.

With Dad dying upstairs in hospice, my thoughts were directed toward my family. Dad died shortly after that, and I was assigned to make funeral arrangements. I had to write an obituary and take some pictures to the mortuary, but I happened to glance at a newspaper and found a death notice for Sterling. It listed birth date, death date and the time of a graveside service. No funeral, no obituary, no frills whatsoever.

The service was scheduled for that day, and I still had to request the grave opening for Dad. I dressed in a shirt and tie, and went to Sterling’s service. What a day! I stood there watching a few relatives and church members. They seemed surprised to see an old friend. There were two of us.

We waited for half an hour and finally, Sterling's body arrived. His mother opened the pressed cardboard casket and we said goodbye to a man who’d been one of my best friends.

We lost contact with each other over the years. I got religion and went on an LDS mission. He drove truck and got on with his life. When I knew him, Sterling had dozens of friends. At the service, I wondered where they were. I talked to the only other old friend and he told me he hadn’t seen Sterling in four years. In order to quit drinking, he had to distance himself from Sterling, and the bad influence.

He confirmed what I already knew. Sterling was a good man. He really cared about people. He worried about his nephews and his sister. Sterling gave away more money than he ever had. Here was a man who, even with all his faults, deserves to be remembered. I decided to write this memorium. I'm just sorry it took so long.

Now, I visit Sterling’s grave and I wish he could be remembered the way he deserved. I hope his old friends will think of him now and then. I look at the grass-covered earth that is his final resting-place and I think of a poem by Sam Walter Foss. It’s in the public domain so I will include it here:

House by the Side of the Road
By Sam Walter Foss

There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the place of their self-content;
There are souls like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze the paths
Where highways never ran-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Let me live in a house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner's seat
Nor hurl the cynic's ban-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I see from my house by the side of the road
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife,
But I turn not away from their smiles and tears,
Both parts of an infinite plan-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead,
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
And still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.

Let me live in my house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish - so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner's seat,
Or hurl the cynic's ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

My friend Sterling wasn't perfect. but then who us is? He served a mission for the right reasons, and he served his country. Sterling was kind and generous, Sterling was a friend to man.

In memorium



















Sterling Franklin Larsen 1951-2009

Good luck my friend. May all your roads be paved and may you find the sunrise over the next hill.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Wuh Tey Pebla


By Keith Fisher

“She leaped up from the bench, fell on his neck, and kissed him.”

Does this sentence seem wrong somehow? Does the title of this blog make sense? I’ll talk about the title in a minute, but the sentence was written into my WIP and I brought it to critique group this week. The whole group found fault with it.

Heather said it was old language. “People don’t write that way anymore.”
Tristi said it sounded biblical, and unless I’m writing scriptures I should think about changing it. I must admit, the scriptures are probably where I got the phrase, “fell on his neck”. I wrote the phrase to avoid repetitious words, but I also, thought it sounded clever.

This isn’t the first time my group found a problem with my old speech patterns. I usually cover, though, by saying I’m and old man, what do you expect. It makes me realize I use phrases and figures of speech that just aren’t used anymore. Some of my dialogue comes from the time period I grew up in, but there are ways of talking that are getting discarded in academia.

I recently attended a writer’s workshop and listened to Annette Lyon talk about grammar. Besides being the author of There, Their, They’re-A No Tears Guide to Grammar, she’s a self admitted word nerd. Words and proper use, is a hobby for her.

In her class, she answered some of the most pressing questions such as me/I, also Em dashes, en dashes, and hyphens. When Lay/lie came up, I was reminded of the LDStorymakers Conference when a man said some of the old conventions are being dropped in the publishing industry.

So, in this day of quick emails, and text messaging, I wonder if technology is causing us to lose our ability to communicate properly. It’s true. We have lost the art of letter writing. When I read simple letters written in the nineteenth century, subjects of which would be sent in emails today, it’s fascinating to read the language. Much better than books I read, the letters are almost poetic.

There was an episode in the original Star Trek series that emphasizes my point. The Enterprise crew encounters a world where the inhabitants speak simple English but nobody, except the chief, can read. At one point he speaks the sacred words from an ancient parchment. He starts by reading “wuh tey pebla” or something like that. Well, of course Captain Kirk recognizes it and begins to quote, We The People. The society had suffered atomic warfare and lost their language over many centuries.

I know it’s important to communicate with my readers. So, in my speech and writing, I’m endeavoring to keep up, but I still let old speech patterns, and sixties language slip into my writing, but I wonder about the rising generation. My daughter adds colorful messages to her sentences that I didn’t understand at first. Things Like BTW, OMG, TMI, and FYI. You may recognize these as short ways of text messaging, but I don’t text. Like the lost art of letter writing, how long will it take for us to eliminate words? Will our children pick up a copy of A Tale of Two Cities, for example and not be able to read it?

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

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Prayers That Bring Miracles


When I was asked to review Prayers that Bring Miracles, by Stephen M. Bird I never dreamed it would be just what I needed. I must admit, I’ve heard the story before. Published in 1997, The book is timeless. Brother Bird walks the reader through a story of when he was a Navy Chaplain and teaches valuable lessons about prayer.

The lessons, when understood, will help increase faith in getting answers to life’s questions, and help with trials. Above all, in my opinion, The lesson, that God loves all of us and wants to give us wonderful blessings, is the most valuable piece of information in the book. The fact that anyone of any religion can talk to his/her Father in Heaven like someone conversing with a close parent is very comforting.

I recommend this book to everyone and I hope you will find peace in troubled times.

Too Much to Say

By Keith Fisher

I was asked to write a review on Prayers that Bring Miracles, by Stephen M. Bird, but I am full of it this morning . . . I mean I have too many things to write about. I’ll get back to the review in a moment, but first, let me express my condolences to fellow blogcker, C. LaRene Hall. Her mother passed away, and even though these things are sometimes expected, or a relief, It’s still hard to say goodbye.

I attended a writer's workshop on Thursday and recharged my batteries. It was wonderful to see all my friends and network with fellow writers. As you might have guessed from my blogs of late, I’ve been re-evaluating life’s choices, and the workshop presenters managed to give me a renewed sense of direction. I believe again---I can be a writer---I can touch hearts.

I need to write about two friends, but I’ll save that for another time. Perhaps on my other blog, A Writer’s Eyes. But for now, I wish to pay tribute to L.T Elliott. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but she has a wonderful capacity to build others. Like everyone, I have a list of blogs to visit each day, and invariably, I find her leaving positive comments, making the writer feel good.

Laura, (L.T), has touched my heart at times when I wanted to chuck the whole thing, and I want to show my gratitude. I got a chance to give her a hug at the workshop, I hope she knows how much I appreciate her support.

Now, the book report. Bet you were thinking I had forgotten?

When I was asked to review Prayers that Bring Miracles, I never dreamed it would be just what I needed. I must admit, I’ve heard the story before. Published in 1997, The book is timeless. Brother Bird walks the reader through a story of when he was a Navy Chaplain and teaches valuable lessons about prayer.

The lessons, when understood, will help increase faith in getting answers to life’s questions, and help with trials. Above all, in my opinion, The lesson, that God loves all of us and wants to give us wonderful blessings, is the most valuable piece of information in the book. The fact that anyone of any religion can talk to his/her Father in Heaven like someone conversing with a close parent is very comforting.

I recommend this book to everyone and I hope you will find peace in troubled times.

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

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Out in the Garden

By Keith Fisher

My mother used to sing a nursery rhyme when I was a child and now, she’s taught it to her grandkids. It clearly shows I’ve gone off the deep end.

Out in the garden picking peas,
thought I heard a chicken sneeze.
He sneezed so hard with a hooping cough,
he sneezed his head and his tail right off.


I’ve been working in my yard this week. It was time to try and reverse the neglect caused by several years of Dutch oven cook offs, and Saturday morning editing sessions. I've run into a few problems in my task. One problem I faced was a weed that had taken over and put down deep roots. I worked for two days to dig it out and I swear I heard it laughing the whole time.

Now, there are many object lessons we could take from my weed, but after digging and pulling on that stump, I’m too tired to think of any. I'd like to take the day off, find a shady place, maybe a hammock and a cold drink? Well, It was nice to dream. If you need me, I'll be in the garden . . . uh, pickin peas . . . uh, wrong time of year.

I want to leave you with a wise quote I paraphrased from The Peace Giver, by James L Ferrell.

“The Lord isn’t saying it will be easy . . . He says, pulling free from the sinfulness that has kept us bound may well be like taking up a cross and carrying it on our backs. But by that image he reminds us we are not in this alone and we do not have to carry it forever. For the One will take it from us, and with it, the burdens that weigh us down.”


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

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Waiting for Inspiration



By Keith Fisher

“Where do you get your ideas?” I think everyone has been asked that question. It inevitably seems to follow the announcement that you are a writer. I suppose, everyone who dabbles in artistic expression whether they paint, design, or make rock art, fields that question.

Back in 1980, After working as a carpenter/house builder, I decided to become an architect. I enrolled in the Drafting and Design program at UVCC. As plans often are, mine were interrupted by a sudden desire to serve a mission for the LDS Church. I was twenty-six, and I got married right after returning home.

I never became and architect, but I started a part time, home design business. Some of the houses in my area started out in my head. People asked me where I got my ideas. Of course my designs were pretty standard, and they followed traditional building practices of the time. I did, however, put something original into each one.

To make a long story short, (too late), I don’t design houses anymore, because what I did, can be done by any homeowner with a computer. I still play with home design, though, and I’ve re-designed my house many times. It releases creative energy. For a brief moment, I’m back building walls and walking through the house on my computer screen.

It had been a while, but I sat down the other day, and redesigned the deck I’ve been planning for years. It took me away from the daily grind, and I escaped into the world or house, I had created. It made me think of last week’s blog and my reasons for escaping into the worlds I invent in my stories.

Creative release takes me back to the safe world of childhood. When I played make believe. Perhaps this is the answer to the question. For me, ideas come at unusual times, and in strange places. The idea for my book, Brother’s Keeper, came while sitting in church. The whole story, beginning, middle, and end suddenly popped into my head. I began the outline. I wrote the prologue (almost verbatim as it is now), before the meeting ended. It was a great game of make believe.

You see, playing make believe is the key. I loved the game as a child, and I never stopped playing it. I play it every time I design a house, and I play it, when I plot a story. I have a million story ideas in my head, and I know how each one plays out. The problem for me is writing them correctly.

If you’re a writer who writes correctly, I hate you . . . just kidding. Seriously though, If you have trouble plotting, and you’re waiting for inspiration, try making believe. If you can’t remember how to play, ask your children to teach you.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.




Saturday, September 5, 2009

Remembering

By Keith Fisher

It’s quiet now. The whole house is asleep, so I rise from my bed in my vain attempt to write, hoping to find words that will inspire. I marked an anniversary recently. It was twenty-seven years ago, when I first tried to write a story on an old typewriter. Nineteen years ago, I began to write biographies for family history, and twelve years ago, when I came home from a stress filled day at work, locked myself in my office, sat in front of my computer, and started to write serious fiction.

After awhile, my neck muscles loosened and I found myself carried away, so to speak, on wings of my imagination. I revisited the world of make believe, where, as a child, I spent hours making life conform to my desires. I was in charge. People and events followed my will.

The next night, I returned to my keyboard. I picked up where I left off, and found myself putting my characters in places, and situations, I never expected them to go.

I was hooked by the third night, and I found treasure in the experiences of my life. The story I’d written turned out great. It ended up with 45,000 words, and it became my pride and joy, my offspring.

When I finished, my neighbor agreed to take a look at it. She had editing experience and I didn’t have a clue, but I was a talented guy. I could do anything, and I could cook too.

You can imagine my dismay, when she tore my manuscript apart. My pride fell. I didn’t understand half of the things she talked about, but I knew, (I knew) my story was good, and I could write it any way I wanted. After all, what did she know?

As time went on, I wrote another book. I swallowed my pride, and perused the writing section in the public library. I read about the right, and the wrong ways to write, and I got better at it. I submitted manuscripts, always, with the same results. I did, however, get a rejection recommending a conference or workshop.

I attended my first writer’s conference in 2006 and heard someone talk about how good it felt to be around people who understood. Yes, it did feel good, and I began to believe I could be published. I learned many lessons that day, and adjusted my writing. I improved, but there were still problems.

Through it all, I knew belonging to a critique group would help me, but nobody invited me. So at the LDStorymakers conference 2008, I did the inviting. We met and established our critique group. We had two published authors. One member was a beginner. Another talented, member had worked on a newspaper, and there was me, (the mediocre wannabe).

There have been changes. Because of time constraints one of our group can’t come, and a new member lives out of state. I’m the only unpublished writer. Everyone else is either published, or they have contracts.

Now, I write three blogs and try hard to post a positive thought on Facebook, but I remember the sound of that old typewriter, and the pressure I had to apply to each key in order for my words to appear on paper.

It’s been a tough road. For some reason, it’s hard for me to balance all the rules and still be able to write the story I want to tell. A friend said I’m a much better writer than I used to be, but with my latest rejection I got a very nice letter. It mentioned the changes I need to make, but to be honest, I’m not sure I understand all of it. Part of what they mentioned occurred as a result of following the directions of other editors.

So, I rise in the morning with great intentions of writing, hoping I can make the changes that will finally transform me into a better writer—good enough to be published, good enough to make a reader want more. Next year, I will have been writing for twenty years. I think I’ll throw a party and invite all of you.

I’ll continue to try and put all the pieces together, attempting to tell the stories that run through my head now, like a continual stream of soldiers marching. They pause briefly, making sure I note their presence on the stage of my mind. I will keep writing, because I have no choice. It’s part of me.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Peace Giver

A book review by Keith Fisher

At the suggestion of a friend, I read the book. It surprised me to find it was fiction. With the title, and the cover art, I thought it would be a non-fiction book about Christ. In my opinion, the gospel message contained in the book could not be written except in fiction.

The Peace Giver, Written by James L Ferrell, and published by Deseret Book, is the story of a marriage under siege. When Rick, the protagonist, and his grandfather, explore some of the ramifications of the atonement of Jesus Christ, Rick discovers truths he’d never thought of. The message may surprise you, as you learn what it really means to have a pure heart.

The doctrine in the story rings true and the reader will learn valuable lessons. I would recommend this book to everyone. While reading, I put myself in the protagonist’s place and learned things about myself I never knew. I believe you will too.

For more info and an interview with the author go to Meridian Magazine.
You can find a copy of the book and most fine bookstores, or at Deseret Book.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

There's a Formula for That



By Keith Fisher

In college, I learned about formulas. If I needed to find out the length of C on a right triangle I used, A2 + B2 = C2. For area calculations, Width in feet x Length in feet = square feet worked for me. Later, as a house builder, I figured concrete in cubic yards this way, Width in feet x Length in feet x Thickness in feet / 27 = Volume. Of course there is the famous formula, E=MC2. Or, energy equals mass multiplied by the speed of light squared. Of course it’s a little difficult to understand. Follow the link to hear Einstein explain it to you.

But I digress . . .

When the ladies in my critique group told me I’m not writing a romance, but women’s fiction, I asked them to tell me what romance is. To subsidize my lessons, I consulted a book called How to Write Romance, published by Writer’s Digest and edited by Romance Writers of America.

I found many answers, but my group said it has to follow the formula.

1. Boy meets girl.
2. Boy gets girl.
3. Boy loses girl
4. Boy gets girl back.
5. They live happily ever after.

“But what about Nicholas Sparks?” I said.
“He doesn’t write romance,” They said.

Having read Nights in Rodanthe, I shook my head. Okay, I admit it’s a guy thing, but I always assumed that when two people meet and fall in love, it’s romance. I learned that because Sparks ends his stories with a tragedy, its not considered romance.

“So what about Bridges of Madison County?” I asked.
“Not a romance,” They said.

I learned that even though a story could have romantic overtones, it has to follow the formula.

During this time of learning, I watched one of my favorite old movies, Father Goose. Starring Gary Grant and Leslie Caron. The role Cary plays is completely different than his usual suave and sophisticated leading man. He’s an alcoholic, anti-social, society drop out. He gets tricked into becoming a coast watcher on an island in WWII.

Enter the leading lady. She appears to be the opposite of him. So much so, they begin to hate each other. While watching the movie, I suddenly realized, the ladies were right.

The movie is classic, and it follows the formula.

1. Boy meets girl.
2. Boy hates girl.
3. Girl hates boy.
4. They fall in love.
5. They get married.
6. They almost lose each other.
7. They come back together for the final scenes, when we are assured they will live happily ever after.

Okay, so, even though my book has romantic elements, it is women’s fiction. I can live with that, because I’ve noticed that women are more critical than men, and if I write my story correctly, I will have accomplished something.

Of course you’ve noticed there are formulas to follow in every genre. Just like the Pythagorean Theorem helps me find the length of the hypotenuse on a right triangle, following a genre formula will help me plot my book. If I get it right, I might have a bestseller on my hands.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Wise Old Tree Root

By Keith fisher

Years ago, we lived in a one-and-a-half-bedroom house with a nice yard. It was in a great neighborhood and we liked the ward. Since the house was too small for us, we decided to remodel.

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

(I asked you not to laugh.) If you lived where I did, I bet you’d laugh all the harder, because there are more rocks than dirt. I think you can imagine some of the problems that arose. Things like, how to transfer the dirt from under the house, Where to dump it, and how to keep the whole house from falling into the hole.

With a little ingenuity and a lot of help, we managed. I jacked up the house and supported it on a steel beam, and we felt safe. We lashed three lodge poles together and made a tripod with a rope pulley, then we filled five-gallon buckets with dirt and pulled them out the hole with the rope. Each bucket was emptied into a dump bed trailer my dad built. He found a hillside in need of backfill, and got permission. I never counted the loads but there were many.

I spent a lot of evenings and Saturdays under my house with a pick and shovel. One day, while under-mining the dirt face, I accidentally freed a giant dirt clod. I didn’t get out of the way in time, and it knocked me to the ground. Partially buried, I managed to wriggle out from under the clod, but I took better safety measures after that.

In the digging, there were many benefits and valuable lessons. I learned about cave-ins and found a cheap solitary way of getting exercise. I got a lot of thinking done too. There were many discoveries some impressive, some only entertaining, but we found cool rocks We still haven’t identified, tools in good shape probably left there by the house builders. We have antique gizmos left behind over 90 years of occupancy. I even found an almost full can of arsenic. Sounds like a good plot for a book doesn’t it?

On another day, I dug out an old root. Whichever tree it came from had long since quit getting water from it. The reason, I suspect, was because the house was built on top. Whatever the reason, I found it suspended between several rocks, and sat down to analyzed it.

I thought of dozens of object lessons that my root could teach me. Tree roots, like the above ground limb counterparts, want to grow round and straight, following the path of least resistance. My root was once young and thriving, trying to find the best source of water for the tree. But it had to sort through a path of obstacles.
It grew crooked, and there were flat spots, where it forced its way between rocks barely one-sixteenth of an inch apart. It continued to grow even though it had to change its course, and it changed itself. It grew through the hard and adverse parts and kept going.

Yes, there are many lessons to learn from the example of the root, like not letting adversity win. Or being movable, teachable, and having an open mind. The lesson I’m currently learning is about Jesus and the atonement.

I’ve learned that each of us can compare our lives to my root. We have scars and bends, places where we barely squeezed through. Life was never intended to be easy. But if we repent and believe Christ, the atonement will make our lives perfect and new. We can be like a new tree root, round, straight, and beautiful.

Then we’ll begin to see ourselves as God sees us, children of a loving Father in Heaven.

I finished the foundation in my house, but I never put a floor in that basement. We pushed aside our renovation plans, and moved two blocks to the South. I succeeded in creating a great root cellar. When we moved, I brought a piece of the wise old tree root with me. It sits on a shelf above my desk and reminds me of the lessons I must learn in order to be the child God wants me to be. The person, I want to be.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Collecting Brownie Points

By Keith Fisher

So, My wife woke me at three am. She forgot to take care of something at work, and it was haunting her. Like a good husband, (which I’m not), I got up and went to help her. I needed some brownie points.

I tried to write a blog when I got home, but my mind wouldn’t work. I tried to go back to bed, but my body kept telling me it’s time to get up. At seven am, I went to help my wife move some things from my in-laws house. (More brownie points).

My neighbor baptized his son this morning, and I promised to make baked beans in a Dutch oven. I had to rush home from my in-laws, and dig out my stove and pots and everything else. I got it done on time, and took the pots across the street. (More brownie points).

Now I’m sitting here writing this blog, trying to think of something to say. I feel I’ve put in a full day already.

I’ve pondered the purpose of many things in life, lately. Such things as adversity, children, and covenants have come to mind. Also, life’s choices, like education, career, and whether I should be a writer or not. In all my rambling thoughts I’ve come to some conclusions.

In some eastern religions the concept of Karma is prevalent. Essentially it means that whatever good or bad we create will determine our fate in the next life. Now, I don’t believe in reincarnation, but I do believe in an after life, and the good or bad I create will determine my state in worlds to come.

In my philosophy, I like to think Karma is, stated simply, whatever goes around—comes around. In other words if I do good for my fellow man, someone will do good for me. If I am bad to my fellow man, it will return to me in kind.

One thing I’m absolutely sure of, however, is Christ suffered, not only for sins committed by the sinner, but also for those who have been sinned against. If another person wrongs me, and I don’t forgive, I am essentially telling Jesus I don’t believe. All the brownie points in the world can’t save me from holding a cancerous grudge.

Those who have sinned against us don’t need our forgiveness. The Savior took care of that. We, however, must forgive, in order for our hearts to be pure. As the scripture says, blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Thanks for letting me ramble this morn . . . uh, I guess it’s afternoon now. Have a great weekend.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

On the Flip-Side

By Keith Fisher

In my editing this week, I found a spot where my group didn’t understand what I had portrayed. My character sat alone by a fireplace, and she did the, on one hand or on the other hand, routine. Of course that’s clearer than the way I wrote it.

Simply put, I meant, when we have a hard decision to make, we say, "On one hand, this will happen. But on the other hand this . . . In Fiddler on the Roof, the protagonist uses this method of decision making all the time. Eventually he is faced with a decision that rips his heart out. "There is no other hand!" he says.

In thinking about this, I was reminded of a common saying some people born in the eighties don’t understand.

In the fifties, and sixties, (the heyday of vinyl records), music in the home, mostly came from the radio or three kinds of records. 78’s, LP’s, and 45’s or singles as they were called. 78’s were a bit smaller than albums, but they played at seventy-eight revolutions per minute (RPM). LP’s were albums, containing several songs. In order to be able to get more use out of limited space, the record played at thirty-three and-a-third RPM.

The third kind, the 45, played at forty-five RPM. It had a larger hole in the center to facilitate playing on a Jukebox. It was called a single, because it had a single song on each side.

During this time, radio station personalities (Disc Jockeys), almost never played 33’s. The record companies sent singles to radio stations, hoping for airtime. Songs became hits mostly because of program managers scheduling, and disc jockeys playing them.

Because of that, record company engineers put the best song on the "A" side of the record. Since they wanted to make money they put a lesser song on the other side, or flip side. If they had another great song, it would go on another record. That way, they could sell two records.

Occasionally, the second, or "B" side of a record became a hit too, but that almost never happened. If, (heaven forbid), the "A" side got ruined. Because of scratching, or a little sister played it so many times it wouldn’t play any more. Then the fan either threw the record away or turned it over to listen to the flip side.

So, today, if you hear a speaker refer to the flip side of an issue, now you know what he/she means.

Often, we’re given choices in our lives, and we usually chose the best course. We spend our time building, making a hit out of our life’s choice. Then something happens that devastates us. Something takes away our hit. It forces us to either throw it all away, or look at the flip side. We must turn our record over and try to make the best of the "B" side.

I believe God takes an active part in our lives, and if we’ll only trust Him, He will show us how to make a hit out the flip side. This blog isn’t about writing today, but it’s for those who struggle. And to those who make hits out of their life by building others, May God bless you.

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

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Day Dreaming in My KItchen

By Keith Fisher

Back in the late nineteen-eighties I started recording movies and special programs from television. In the back of my mind I imagined a condition where, for some reason we couldn’t get television reception. I would have plenty of things to see as long as the VCR worked.

We now live in a more high tech world. We have DVD and digital television. In our house we have many television sets, (All analog). Three are connected to a box that converts from digital. The others sit idol. I never realized how much I depended on a TV signal in the kitchen while making dinner. Now that signal is gone, I miss it.

While making lunch the other day, I watched one of those videos I mentioned, and I remembered my thoughts on having videotapes to watch because there is no TV. I never realized there were so many great shows in the past. I’ve found a new way of procrastinating.

I turned on a Bonanza TV movie, while making breakfast and sat there in my kitchen for two hours. (I had to see how it came out, didn’t I?) Anyway I watched a character that showed me an object lesson.

The character, played by Dirk Blocker, is a newspaperman. Even though he hates violence, he continually puts himself into harms way. An intriguing story piques his interest and he has to find the facts.

When I’m writing, I often feel like that Dirk’s character. I let my protagonist lead me into uncertain places and outcomes. I have to see where the story can go. Like the Bonanza character, I get into trouble and have to start over. Sometimes I fall into a hole and I need help to get out. That’s when my critique group throws me a rope.

Even with the holes, I prefer to let my characters take me on a journey. Like the movie I watched I have to find out how my story ends.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Getting it to Sink in



By Keith Fisher


Congratulate me. Last week I finished writing my current work in process. This week, I edited it, and started re-writing several segments because my critique group felt a character needed different motivation.

Also this week, I got word from a publisher. Because they have a similar project in house, they passed on the publication of my book, My Brother’s Keeper. The editor said some very nice things about it, and I took that as affirmation.
I didn’t go into a tailspin, which shows I’m learning. I quietly submitted it to another publisher. Wish me good luck. The story is very LDS. So, if it gets rejected, I would have to re-write the whole thing for the national market, or put it in a drawer.

I’ve decided to hop on the bandwagon and talk about critiques again. I belong to several groups. I am the only male member of a group that meets weekly. I’m also the most inept at providing help for my fellow writers. But I do my best to contribute something worthwhile.

Another group is this blog. We look at each other’s work and offer suggestions. But I never seem to get there in time to offer assistance. I am repenting of this, and my ineptness.

In my Real Time group, I bring a chapter every week and put the red marks aside until I finish writing the book. Then, during my edits and re-writes, I go through the valuable red marks my friends have graciously provided.

I call these red marks valuable, because of the diamond like influence those gems, have on my story. Whether it’s a capital in the wrong place, or repeated words. It could be redundant sentences, or things that don’t make sense. Some of the red marks add commas some take commas out. Because of the ineptness I mentioned, I’m sure my pages receive more red marks than others.

While going through the red marks this week, I noticed something fascinating. In my drafting, I had already changed some of the corrections. It means that I am learning. Then the thought occurred, there are several things that my mind refuses to learn. I still capitalize in places I shouldn’t. I add "that" and other pet words, and the repetitive words make me sick.

So I offer this suggestion, get out of the trap. Learn from your mistakes and reprogram the onboard computer in your head. Get it to sink in. Become a better writer.

Another thing I’ve noticed in my re-writes is, I really am a better writer than I was in the first chapters. So, I’m learning. I just hope people will endure with me long enough for me to grow. And please, my friends, have patience with my procrastination. I promise I will be a better critique buddy.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.