Wednesday, December 29, 2010
For many years, in my genealogy hobby, I’ve lamented over not having photographs of my ancestors. The frustration grew stronger each time I learned of a picture in someone’s possession that wasn’t being shared.
If you are like me, you know the names and a little information about ancestors through several generations. I worked to confirm that research and find histories. I looked for personal information in unusual sources such as, historical accounts of areas, personal journals of neighbors, church records, etc.
Finding a picture of them, or of a home they lived in, made me ecstatic. I could relate a visual image to my ancestor and it made that person’s life more real to me. Seeing a face helped me forge a deeper connection to them.
I’ve never finished that project, partly because of lack of resources, partly because of changes in my life, but recently, I had an opportunity to work in the receiving part of a thrift store. (I know that’s a long sentence).
Anyway, while on the job, I noticed dozens of old documents and pictures come in. We had no way of tracing the people in the pictures, and no way to store it all. Because we knew that people often donate things by accident, we’d keep the pictures for a week, hoping they would be claimed. One day I perused the pile of throw-a-ways and found the negative of the picture above. I couldn’t tell who it was, but the mustache looked familiar somehow. I rescued the negative and brought it home to scan it.
Now, I stare into those vaguely familiar faces. They aren’t my ancestors, but they are somebody’s. In light of my quest, I’m saddened by the generations of some families who get tossed out each day. Either, by those who don’t care or they just can’t put a name to the face. Really sad, is the scenario of indifferent executors of wills tossing labeled family history collections.
My mother tells a story of her grandpa burning a stack of old papers and pictures. He’d lost the capacity to remember who they were. She cringes when she thinks about it today, so she’s gone through most of everything she owns and marked who the people were. She writes down the relevance of a document, so her posterity will know.
So, I ask you. Do you know who these people are? I hope to find a family member who recognizes the faces, then I can give them a piece of their family history.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
As we hurry along through our hectic daily lives, isn’t it nice to have a day to catch up? I don’t mean clearing off your desk, or even emptying your “in” basket. I’m talking about the pause the world takes at this time, each year.
I once saw an episode of a TV show called Fraggle Rock. It illustrates my point. The writers took the premise of the longest day of the year, (Winter solstice), and made the whole world shut down, on that day. Everyone, and everything gradually wound down, then reset, and the world was fresh and new again.
What you celebrate on December 25, doesn’t matter, or even if you celebrate at all. Isn’t it nice to have a day when the world shuts down? Well, mostly. I have to work this year, too.
Lately, I’ve been hearing people correcting others. They claim we should say happy holidays instead of merry Christmas. It’s all in the interest of political correctness. I used to say happy holidays because the term encompassed all the special days at this time of year. Now, I’ve soured to it.
Okay, If I remove the “MC” words in favor of the “HH”, will I be offending those of us who have to work, and can’t take a holiday? The list of taboo words, in our society, continues to grow. I suppose the reason is, we don’t want to offend any special interest groups, and frankly, I can’t keep up with the changes. When it comes to Christmas, I’m more worried about offending Jesus than a special interest group.
Back in the sixties, when they made A Charlie Brown Christmas, there was a big fuss over the Christmas play portion of the show. The producers were concerned about delving into the baby Jesus, thing. I’m so glad, they let Linus narrate the true meaning of Christmas, aren’t you?
Now, there are many people, who would point out the pagan beginnings of the holiday, but as for me, Christmas is for remembering my Savior. It’s a chance to take a moment, take stock, and reset my life. It’s a bright spot during a season of drudgery and despair. Whether, you are Christian or not, giving gifts, singing songs, family gatherings, and even the feast can cleanse the soul.
Like Fraggle Rock, our world has one day a year, when it shuts down, resets, and continues.
As for being politically correct, may you come to grips with what ever you believe in, but try to show tolerance for others, and stop trying to force the rest of us to espouse your cause. I love Jesus and I can’t fathom how that would effect you at all. You can believe what you want, too. It’s call freedom. I will try to remember the preferred way you wish to be addressed, and you can call your holiday whatever you wish. Let me have my preferred names as well. I could say, have a lousy winter season, but I choose to wish you the best. May you have a Merry Christmas.
Good Luck with your writing—see you next week.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Because of those issues, I’ve had to start over and build a new career. Don’t get me wrong, I’m doing okay. Getting out the chair from sedentary jobs has been beneficial, and the new skills I’m learning have been challenging.
During my visit, three people independently asked if I was still writing. I said yes of course. Then after the last person asked I considered the question on a deeper level.
Of course I’m still writing. How could I not? A couple of years ago, on this blog, I wrote about the need we all have to write. Some of us pretend to quit but always come back to it. For many of us, writing is a core desire. To echo what I wrote then, I have a friend who signs every email with the words, writing is life.
In my new job, I meet many people who claim they just can’t function without that first cup of coffee in the morning. I’ve known others over the years, who can’t relax without that glass of wine or the beer after work. These are indications of addiction and illustrate my point.
I can’t quit writing. Ideas and plot lines float around my head and must be released onto paper, so to speak. Every day something presents itself that must be written down. Once, I have written it, I can move on through my day.
To be fair, I do have friends who are great writers but they just don’t have the all-consuming desire to write. I understand. I seem to function just fine without a cup of coffee and I don’t need a beer or a glass of wine to relax. In fact the older I get the easier it is to fall asleep. So it’s okay to not be driven. On the other hand, I cannot quit.
I told my friend at the old job, that I would always write. Even if my books were never published, I will write them. I cannot not, write. With each new twist my life takes I keep my writing with me. Like a bundle tied to the end of a proverbial stick, resting on the shoulder of a transient, I keep my writing close.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
A great idea for a new story came into my head the other day. The premise, beginning, middle, and end lay themselves out for me while I watched the local news. Then, a few hours later, another idea popped up and I wrote it down, too.
I added those ideas to the myriad other drafts floating in my project file, many of which will never be completed. I’m just too old to write them all. Maybe I’ll bequeath them to my friends so they can write the stories in their own way.
Ideas often come to me like that. It’s how I write. I look over the drafts in my project file and see what excites me the most. The problem lies in being equally excited about more than one story at the same time.
Have you ever written a book, knowing it was given to you through some kind of inspiration? Like the idea that came to me from television news, it falls into your lap? Then, after laboring to write it correctly, you discover someone else had the same idea.
My friend complains that almost every time she starts a new story, a particular famous author writes it too. It’s almost uncanny. One of my current works lost most of it’s luster when I discovered a similar book written by a successful author and we both started writing at the same time.
Why does this happen? I wrote a song once, and then heard it on the radio. There were a few differences, but some of the phrases were exactly the same. I wondered if my lyrics had been stolen. I began to take steps to copyright my work. I even had a notary sign off on some of my songs.
The truth is, there’s something in the wind—always has been. Some call it muse. Others say there is a mystical force that governs creativity. I believe that God wants certain stories to be written so he inspires everyone. Sometimes there is more than one writer listening.
In everyone, there is a magnum opus, a life’s work that defines who we are, and what we believe in. I take comfort in making a difference in other people’s lives. I don’t always succeed, but maybe if I listen to the inspiration, and work hard, I’ll be the one who gets to write the next great book.
Good luck with your inspiration and your writing. See you next week.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
I read Harry Potter out of self-defense. When I started, everyone was waiting for book six to be released. Speculation about the plot was the subject of every conversation. I didn’t understand what they were talking about, because I hadn’t read the story, or seen the movies.
I read the Sorcerer’s Stone expecting to get the facts. I didn’t expect to be entertained. That genre has never been my favorite, but I kept reading because the characters were well drafted, and I wanted to know what happened next.
The Philosopher’s Stone was published in 1997 and came to the United States as the Sorcerer’s Stone in 1998. Who knew the profound affect it would have on literature and a whole generation of movie buffs.
Harry Potter has been part of our culture during the whole lifetimes of this year’s seventh graders. The author wrote great characters, expanded by some wonderful actors. I love the way Bellatrix taunts Harry with the chant “I killed Serious Black.” The actress personifies the homicidal evil that exists in the character.
Who didn’t cry when they saw Dumbledore fall from the tower, even though we all knew it was going to happen? The characters of HP will live in our memories, like the great tears shed by Hagrid as he carried Dumbledore’s body to the tomb.
I went with my family to see the seventh flick the other day. After the previous movie, The Half Blood Prince, I was convinced the producers would screw up The Deathly Hallows, too, but it wasn’t too bad. Since my wife hasn’t read the books, I found myself answering dozens of questions about the plot.
The experience made me wonder when I went from curious reader, to connoisseur of Harry’s world. My little perusal into the magical realm has turned into much more than trying to keep up with conversation.
With the size of the final book, the movie producers determined to spread it out over two movies. I wish they had done the same with some of the other books. I felt cheated when certain scenes were left out of the movies, but I read the books. My memory of the story is much richer because I read the books.
Next year, we’ll get a chance to see the final movie and the world will have to move on. Somehow, though, I don’t think it will. Harry’s world will be part of my culture forever and I tip my hat off to the author. Personally, I can’t wait to find out how the producers deal with the last chapter. I want to see Harry’s world, nineteen years later.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
When I served a mission in the Maritimes of Canada, I celebrated four Thanksgiving Days. Two, on the third Thursday of November and the other two, were celebrated in October. Canadian Thanksgiving was a great day to get together with members and investigators and have a great traditional dinner. The US traditional holidays lost something in the translation.
On one of those US holidays, I invited my district for a picnic in Victoria Park. I’m sure the natives wondered what the crazy Americans were doing in the park in November, but we enjoyed the privacy.
On one occasion, I asked my friend what Canadians celebrate on Thanksgiving. He stated, “The same thing you celebrate in the States, I guess.”
“Oh? You had a group of pilgrims eat dinner with a bunch of Indians, Too?” Of course I was being facetious, but the truth is it’s always a good idea to take a moment and remember your blessings. Especially in light of who gave them to you.
This year, I sat in the restaurant buffet surrounded by three hundred of my closest family and friends and pondered the eating part of the holiday. My mother had decided to have Thanksgiving at Chuck-A-Rama. My brothers, in turn, complained about it for different reasons. With the exception of the long lines, I didn’t care one way or the other.
I had roast beef and mashed potatoes, (one of my favorite meals), and considered our traditions. Then I noticed the characters who paraded in front of me, on the way to the food tables. I’ve mentioned my inclination toward watching people and writing a story to match their actions. That is what I did, then it was time to go. My wife took me and my daughter to a movie and that was Thanksgiving.
What do you do with your non-writing time? Take a look around you. Is there something happening in front of you? Can you use it in your current work in progress?
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
I’ve been feeling selfish and self-centered this week. Those are feelings, not conducive to my writing. If I were participating in NanoWriMo, I would be failing my goals. As it is, I’ve fallen behind on my blogging projects and my novels.
Normally, locking myself away would be good for writing, but I’ve started a new work schedule. I’m back working the graveyard shift, and I’m having trouble keeping my days straight. I missed a dental appointment because I assumed it was Wednesday when it was really Thursday and I went to bed thinking my appointment wasn’t until the next day.
Okay, enough about me and the onset of old age. Seriously, though, When you work nights, it’s hard to feel a part of the rest of the world. Schedules get out of kilter, and you spend a lot of time with your self. Time to consider what you want to be when I grow up.
So, It’s Saturday, and I thought I had more time to write this blog. I’m trying to penetrate the fog of writer’s block and think of a topic that will delight and inspire you . . .
I attended the Utah County, League of Utah Writers meeting the other day. Tristi Pinkston taught about self-editing and explained some of the reasons why humans write like we do. I’ve been blessed to be in a critique group with her. She can see the humor in ever split infinitive or dangling modifier.
Also, this week, I’m grateful for our new bloggers, Cheri and Karen, they are breathing new life into this venue and helping writers overcome the struggle. Take a moment to thank them for their efforts.
Well it’s almost the time to rejoin the realm of the night creatures. I have to get ready for work. When you hear that bump in the night, don’t worry. It’s only me trying to navigate the unfamiliar surroundings of a new job.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
I grew up during a time when nobody locked doors. Well, we sometimes locked the house, before leaving on a trip or extended visit elsewhere. We didn’t worry about picking up hitchhikers, and beggars were truly needy.
Whatever the cause, the world has changed. We lock everything, even if we’re only going to be gone for a second. We lock the door in traffic to prevent carjacking. We’ve learned that I’ll work for food isn’t always true, and hitchhikers can be a threat. There is one, however, who beckons.
When I think back, trying to analyze how we got to this point, I come up with many factors. Not the least of which, is our media addiction.
I know many people will take exception, but when we were kids, we looked to the media for direction. Hairstyles, dress, and even our taste in music was influenced by those we watched, read about, and listened to.
The funny thing is the fact that it’s always been that way. In the late nineteenth century, Brigham Young addressed the problem of young women following the trends from back east. In answer to it, he and his peers created the Young Women’s Retrenchment Association. It was the forerunner of the Mutual Improvement Association in the LDS Church, and is now simply Young Women’s and Young Men’s.
The point here is that even in the isolation of Utah in the eighteen hundreds, media influence was prominent in shaping our society.
Now, before you start thinking I’m condemning the media, you should know I’m a writer. I want to be one of those influences.
Today, we take our cues from myriad sources. Each one adds another piece to how we think, feel, and act. No, I’m not suggesting we’re sheep following every would be trendsetter, I’m suggesting it has an effect. Even if it only influences our reaction to a man holding a sign asking for a ride. But, there is One, Who beckons.
We live in a scary world because we made it that way. We watch a scenario played out on a TV crime show, and lock our doors against that ever happening to us. We see plenty in real life, too. How many of you have seen a person holding a sign saying, I’ll work for food and noticed the food donations, hidden away so the person can pursue the real purpose of panhandling money from sympathetic souls. After all, there is one, who beckons.
Then there is the person in need, whose car breaks down but we don’t dare stop and help because we’ve heard stories of people being carjacked, or worse. One day, I figured I could use all the good karma I could get, so I helped a couple of guys and was struck by their gratitude. The inference in that is clear. Very few of us will stop and help. Now, if the truth were known, I had second thoughts. What if they pulled a gun and stole my truck?
As writers, we must be careful. The proverbial Pandora’s Box was opened long ago and can’t be closed. What we choose to write, however, can be a haven from the storm. In a world with highly dramatic TV programs and books that offer more of the same, we can’t ignore all of it in our writing. Much of what we write will echo the media or we won’t be read, but we can control where the emphasis is placed, and to what extent we pursue the negative.
You see there is a Man, a Wayfarer, who beckons us to take him in. He struggles to strengthen our hearts. He will provide shelter from the storm, peace in a trouble world. He can use our help. Every writer, actor, and newspaperman has been given a talent. We can use that talent to follow the crowd, or we can do our part to enrich our brothers and sisters.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Did you see The Wizard of Oz? When I was a kid, I watched two or three times and didn’t know it was in color. It was big entertainment on television for Thanksgiving, but we didn’t have color TV.
When that movie came out, color was expensive and it was an untried medium. The producers made the decision to show the Land of Oz scenes in color, I assume, because it was a fantasy world. The effect was marvelous but there was a downside, too.
One problem was in the translation. In my case, I didn’t get to see it in a theater, so I didn’t see the color effect. Another downside was the transition back to the real world. It went from a brilliantly beautiful land of color back to a drab, colorless world. It makes you think that Oz is a much better place than real life.
The latter downside isn’t really a problem. It’s normal in fiction. As readers, we want to visit fantastic worlds and meet heroic characters. The first downside, however, is a big problem.
How many times have you watched a movie or read a book and been lost? I admit, there have been many times for me. I’ve found if I don’t watch or read carefully, I miss the premise and the plot gets lost in the translation. There are other books that never explain the premise, though. In those cases, I shake my head and feel cheated out of the time it took to read.
Writers can be strange. We live in a world of our creation. Real life is often interrupted by a thought that leads to a plot twist or character quirk. Then we make mental notes to use it in our next writing session. With all the consideration that goes into drafting, writing, and editing a book, we have the premise down pat. Nobody knows more about our creation than we do, but the reader hasn’t been there before.
When The Wizard of Oz switched from black & white to color and back again, it was an innovative and magical effect. But it was lost on a generation of the television watching audience. When a kid living on a farm in Nebraska reads your book about the mean streets of New York, he’s going to need some reference that helps him relate. Especially if he’s never seen a television.
I know the odds of that are slim, but the point is valid. Your audience can’t enjoy your book if they can’t relate.
I’ve enjoyed a few obscure books lately. I say obscure, because I loved them, but others didn’t. When I analyzed the reasons, I discovered a common reference I shared with the author. I could relate in a personal way, but others couldn’t.
Don’t let your book go on the obscure list. Get help from proofreaders and try to imagine all the potential readers. Ask yourself, will they understand?
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things that a man needs to believe in the most: that people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love, true love, never dies... No matter if they're true or not, a man should believe in those things because those are the things worth believing in. -Hub McCann in Second Hand Lions-
I’m Hub McCann. I’ve fought in two world wars, and countless smaller ones on three continents. I’ve led thousands of men into battle with everything from horses and swords to artillery and tanks. I’ve seen the headwaters of the Nile and tribes of natives no white men had ever seen before. I’ve won and lost a dozen fortunes, killed many men, and loved only one woman with a passion a flea like you could never begin to understand. That’s who I am.
As you know, I've been writing women's fiction. Part of getting it right, means I must write a love story that moves another human. Lately, I've been admiring love stories. These two quotes written by Tim McCanlies, the author and director of, Second Hand Lions, are admirable. When you consider the fact they were delivered by Robert Duvall, the effect is priceless.
Consider what Hub said above, that true love never dies. Why is that? Love is love, right? Either you're in it, or you’re not. Do people fall in, and out of love?
Now consider the opposite. Is hate so strong that it cannot be conquered? If we concede that love is good and hate is evil then we can overcome hate. To quote Hub McCann, above, . . .good always triumphs over evil . . .
In our dealings in life and with our fellowman, Perhaps we would do well to remember which is the more powerful emotion. In movies and all fiction, there are two constants that must exist. Love and hate, if they are written well, the story will move the masses.
But to answer my own question above, There is love, so powerful it cannot be overcome. Time anger, and hate cannot change it. Foster that love and you will conquer all evil.
Consider these two scenes from Murphy’s Romance with James Garner & Sally Field. I’d rather go with the Love, rather than the hate. What do you think?
Friday, October 29, 2010
I used to drive a pickup with two gas tanks. Rather than fill both tanks (too expensive), I kept five dollars worth in the back tank. That way, I’d always have enough in an emergency. I could run out and switch to the reserve in order to get to a gas station.
One night, I filled the front tank and went to a meeting at the church. When I came out I couldn’t get the truck started. I tried everything but couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Finally, I switched tanks and drove home on my reserve. I discovered later, the pump in the front tank had malfunctioned. I was glad I had the reserve to run on.
In my writing this week, I hit a wall. I’m writing the ending to a sequel and I have three different ways I could go. The end is clearly set in my mind, but I’m not sure how to get there. It’s frustrating because I’m so close to the finish. Also, I’ve been preparing the first book for submission, but editing doesn’t give me the creative boost I get from free writing.
Like my second tank, I have a project file on my hard drive. It’s full of books in different stages of development along with ideas and drafts. Like switching tanks, I wrote a great chapter for my next work in progress. I went back to editing with my creativity renewed. Now I can figure out what to do with my story.
I think we all have plot ideas and outlines in our heads. We can use them as a reserve like my gas tank. Developing those bits and pieces of plots can help whenever the creative juices stop flowing, and progress slows down. Besides, it’s nice to have a reserve when an editor asks what else you’re working on.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
I couldn’t put it down. When I received my advanced reader’s copy as a door prize, I hadn’t intended to read it, let alone blog about it. I glanced over the first page, however, and became intrigued.
The novel, written by Jack Weyland, is the latest in a long list of his work. It’s the story of a young couple who became friends trying to stump a dictatorial professor in college. They are concerned that his beliefs about God and the origin of man will poison the other students. Being returned Mormon missionaries, themselves, they find they must stand up for their own beliefs.
I realize my copy is an uncorrected proof of the book, but I found a few plot holes, and the similarities to Love Story don’t stop with her calling him Preppy. Still, I enjoyed the book and recommend it to readers who want a clean love story, with good values.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
As writers, we’re charged with finding our voice. At conferences, in books, and in critique group, I discovered what voice is. If we compare the writing of famous authors, we’ll find examples. Such as: A paragraph written by Kurt Vonnegut, is vastly different than Mary Higgins Clark. Also, there is JK Rowling versus Ernest Hemmingway.
The difference isn’t in the genre alone or even writing style, it’s the way the author said things. The words they used, and the way those words are arranged. They are distinct like personality. Of course, If that personality spawns catch phrases, or situations that turn cliché, many readers get tired of it and move on to other books.
A few years ago, a new writer gave me a portion of a book to critique. I was honored but quickly discovered errors in formatting. The writer had broken many of the rules we follow in our craft. I began to make notes on the pages, but about halfway into it, I realized I wasn’t correcting mistakes as much as I was restructuring the sentences. I was adding my voice, instead of letting the writer use her own.
Many ventriloquists, like Edgar Burgeon, can cast their voice across a room and make it appear to come from something or someone else. Like the ventriloquists, I found myself putting my words into another writer’s manuscript. I was changing the voice in the name of editing.
Often, we get good feedback from our critique group and others. Even though I sometimes argue, I’ve learned to trust my group. There was a time, however, before I found my voice, when an edit like the one I mentioned above, would’ve set me reeling. I would’ve tried to match the voice of the editor. Since then, I’ve learned a good editor doesn’t mess with voice. They point out grammar errors, and suggest formatting changes.
If you get an edit that attempts to change your voice, don’t let it throw you. Ask a trusted friend if they think the edit corrects voice or if it really is needed. If you’re trying to find your voice, picture yourself telling the story to a large audience. How would you tell it? What words would you use? Grammar and formatting can be fixed later. Express yourself and before long, you will find your own way.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
I watched part of a documentary on PBS the other day. It made me think about my life and evaluate the whole of it. My sense of humor kicked in, and I discovered I’m on the cutting edge of a trend.
I was born at a time before modern educated scientists discovered fancy named causes for genetic defaults, and family tendencies. I always suspected there were certain genes that made one family unit more prone to certain things, while people with other genes had different inclinations. Environment played a part too, but now I’ve learned there is a group of perfect people who claim to know all the secrets and if the rest of us don’t follow their example, we have no hope of ever being happy.
By now, you’re probably wondering what I’m getting at, and I’m trying to figure a way of telling you without appearing to solicit a response from you. Also, I don’t want to offend my dear friends who have found their perfect way to live.
You see I was a fat kid. There! I said it. From my earliest recollection, I was always bigger than my peers. It came in handy, though, while playing football and wrestling, and people learned I was not to be messed with. As I grew up, I gained and lost weight. Sometimes, I exercised, sometimes I didn’t. Life went on.
On the television program I referred to, the narrator tallied huge numbers of Americans who were overweight. That makes me trendy. As a kid, I was out of the ordinary. Now I’m part of the movement. Did you ever hear Barbara Mandrell sing the country music song, I Was Country, When Country Wasn’t Cool? That’s how it feels to be on the cutting edge.
I could live with having so many people join my trend, but the narrator also pronounced a death sentence over us. It seems I’m one of the walking dead. One person said that anyone 100-lbs or more, over normal weight was morbidly obese. Then, that person proceeded to tell us what a healthy lifestyle should be like. Did you catch that word, morbidly? I wanted to ask her what normal is?
In the nineties I practiced a stringent program of diet and exercise. I did pretty well, but I noticed that others did better than me. Still, others weren’t as successful. The reason, I discovered, was because everybody’s metabolism is different. That means there are no, all inclusive, lifestyle directions we can follow. I think, however, if you eat healthy and exercise, you will happy, but you have to determine what that means for you.
As writers, we hear a lot of advice from teachers, mentors and other writers. There are many tried and true routines for writing, but just like diet and exercise, there isn’t an all-inclusive method that works for everyone. If you are struggling, I suggest you take the advice that works for you, and file the rest for future reference.
I had a friend, growing up, who could eat all the wrong foods, all the time. He never gained an ounce. In fact, he remained the same size into adulthood and is still thin. I envied my friend, but over time, I learned that some things came easier to me, than to him. In like manner, I know writers to whom, writing seems to come easy. Rather than begrudge them their talent, however, I celebrate my opportunity to learn from them.
I can discover the good or bad ways of my craft. I take heart in knowing I don’t have to follow any example, besides there are things I might do better than them. Both in writing, and in life.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
I did two days of job workshops and a licensing test this week. Finding time to write and do the things that refresh my soul was difficult. Do you sometimes envy those poor souls who sit on mountaintops? I mean the metaphorical gurus who escaped society and wait for someone to make a pilgrimage to ask the meaning of life. Those guys have nothing to do but ponder the important questions and impart their wisdom.
During busy days when I try and carve out writing time, I do envy them. It seems, however, that whenever the planets align themselves just right, giving me time to write I worry about the future and taking care of the necessary things of life. I long for time with nothing to do but write.
I’m sure retirement (if I can ever afford it) will be a nightmare of epic proportions. Unless I can inherit a box of cash and have all my obligations taken care of.
With that being said, I carved out a morning to write this week and things fell in line. My characters formed a committee and pushed away my worries. We wrote several chapters on the sequel to The Hillside. Now, I have 85,477 words and I only have three or four chapters left to write.
I tell you this, not to brag, (well, maybe a little) but to express my gratitude for the opportunity of artistic expression. Can you imagine life without something to fulfill your need to create?
Some people fill the need by building empires. Some dream of the perfect heist, then after they get caught, they dream of the perfect prison break. I get to do all three in the pages of my manuscript. I’m grateful for the blessing of writing and this week, I’m grateful for the morning when the planets aligned, and I was able to write.
Maybe someday I’ll be that guru sitting on the mountaintop of my front porch or a camp trailer near a lake. I’ll rise in the morning and make perfect paragraphs. Then, if someone comes asking the meaning of life, I’ll hand them the scriptures, and go back to writing. Then when I finish the scene I was working on, I’ll give my visitor a cup of hot chocolate and talk about life.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
I attended the Book Academy writer’s conference this week. It was good to see old friends and meet new ones. The classes were great, but I gravitated to the ones designed for those who are already published and those about to be.
It was great to make notes from Josi Kilpack’s presentation about launch parties. I believe she was the first author to initiate that venue in the LDS market, and I enjoyed listening to her experiences.
Because of a nerve in my leg, I couldn’t sit very long on those chairs. So, I spent the last breakout session in an armchair downstairs, writing a chapter for my work in progress. It felt good to get that one finished.
When the time came for the prize giveaway and final send off, I sat down at a table and continued writing. Being interrupted wasn’t surprising. I enjoy the networking that happens at those events. I was, however, surprised by a few writers who asked me what I was finding on the Internet.
“I don’t use this computer to get on the Internet.” I said. When I explained I was writing, many of them seemed shocked. On man was particularly fascinated that I would use the time at a writer’s conference to write.
Isn’t writing what its all about? My friend even brought a laptop. He said he did his writing on his other computer. One man said it was a good idea and he would have to bring his computer next time.
I couldn’t believe there were writers who didn’t carry scraps of paper with them to write down a paragraph that pops into their head. Moreover, I felt sorry for writers who are chained to a desk. Writing must be drudgery for them.
I’m blessed to have my laptop, even though it’s a pain sometimes, but I can also write anywhere with pen and paper. I’ve written segments on napkins and the backs of instruction sheets. I wrote between the lines on a meeting agenda once. I’ve found I must write whenever inspiration strikes or I lose the thought.
Last year, I posted a blog here, about writing places. Go check it out. In the meantime, good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
In the Broadway production of Les Misérables, the character, Fantine, sings a song that always touched my heart. Life has not been kind to her, and things go from bad to worse. In I Dreamed a Dream she remembers a time before things got so crazy. I can relate to that. Many of us remember our childhood and high school, with fondness. They were better times—the good old days.
I’m not an opera fan, but in Les Misérables, there is hope. I believe that if more people caught the author’s message of the golden rule, and caring for our fellow man, there would be peace. Suffering will have ended and all our dreams could be fulfilled.
A few years ago, I dreamed a dream of the future. I had finished one book and started another when I lost my job. I tried to imagine life from that point forward, but I couldn’t find any path to follow. My options seemed limited, nonexistent, in fact. I used my severance and paid off the car loan setting our finances in order.
I hit the streets and the Internet, with a vengeance, but nothing turned up. When I took my problem to God, I got a response, but it didn’t make sense. Finish the book. I argued that writing in the LDS market would never support my family, but still, I felt I should finish the book.
While looking for work, I rewrote the manuscript I’d been working on and submitted. Yes, it was rejected, and I was devastated. I doubted my answers to prayer, and I tossed the manuscript against the wall. Soon after that, in a last ditch effort, I began to attend writer’s conferences.
I’ve told portions of my “How I became a writer” story, before. So, I won’t bore you with all the facts, but with the help of a great critique group, I’m a better writer than I used to be. I still wonder about the council to finish the book, but through it all, I dreamed a dream.
I’ve been paid for articles and blogs, but I haven’t made a living at my avocation. My “day job” has changed, but writing has become part of me. When, as it does for all of us, my world came crashing down around my ankles again, I had a story to work on. Writing has kept me relatively sane, and I dreamed a dream.
In my wild imaginings, I saw my book in the hands of a reader. The story was compelling and the characters were lovable. My years of late night typing and enduring discouraging remarks culminated in the reader’s comment that they loved the story.
Recently, I sent a manuscript to some dear friends and asked them to be brutally honest. I needed fresh eyes to proofread, The Hillside, before I submit. The gratifying comments I’ve received are a partial realization of my dream. The rest of it will come when a stranger approaches me and tells me how much they loved my book.
On that day, I will know what I’ve always suspected. Finishing that book and those I’ve written since then, has been an act of claiming a blessing of love that’s been waiting for me.
Hold onto your dreams. Believe in them. Concentrate on them. It might be a long time before they are realized, but I know it will happen for me, and it will happen for you, too.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
In my critique group this week, we spent the first little while chatting about personal things and the subject turned to our characters. We talked about how they won’t leave us alone. They keep revealing parts of the story, driving us crazy with suggestions.
As this kind of conversation usually does, it sounded like an encounter group of patients talking about the voices in their heads. Sitting across the room, the husband of one of our partner’s, listened with great joy and mentioned our neurosis.
Then, he added how interesting it was that we all knew who each other was talking about. We have an intimate knowledge of the people in each other’s heads.
The experience got me thinking about the number of characters we’ve discussed over time in our group. We lived with them, we laughed with them, and we cried with them. Sometimes, we’ve died with them. Over the course of it, I’ve learned a lot from the way my partners write, and the ways they relate to the voices in their head. Moreover, I’ve grown close to my partners as I draw strength from them.
Recently I wrote about the need we all have for interaction with other writers. If for nothing else, then to discover a connection with other people who are like us.
Last year, I received an invitation to attend The Book Academy. It’s a writer’s conference sponsored by Utah Valley University and it’ll be held on Sept 30 this year. In critique group, I discovered none of them could make it. I’ll be alone. So, if you see me, stop by and say hi. I’ll be absorbing the atmosphere, the camaraderie of other people with voices in their head.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
A lot has happened during the past week. I wanted to write about the disaster of a wildfire that happened near my home, but I found another subject. Well, I’ll get back to that in a second, but first, yes, the National Guard started it. Yes, they should be responsible, but those houses border wild land.
Its tragic to lose your memories and your property to fire. I join in mourning for the loss, but I want to express something not mentioned on the local news.
Most of us only dream of owning a home where we could step outside our back door and be in wild spaces. The homes that burned down were like that. When your property borders public land you run a risk. Wild fires are bound to happen, especially in an arid state. You can’t make me believe the possibility never crossed the minds of those homeowners.
The story of a wildfire coming over the hill, and threatening a whole town, is spectacular news. Our media sources are going to talk about it, and they are bound to search for different angles to tell the story. We can let ourselves be sucked into the junk or not. Our government has admitted responsibility. It’s time to move on.
As for the homeowners let me offer my condolences, but please remember you had to know there was a danger. I live on top of an earthquake fault. My friends live in a flood plain. Others live next to dangerous roads. We take the risks, but if our homes are destroyed by a natural disaster, who are we going to sue, God?
I know it sounds harsh in light of the loss of personal possessions, but if that fire was the result of a lightening strike . . . well, you get the picture. It is a tragedy for which, you have my sympathy.
On another subject, I found a brief moment of joy this week that I can’t talk about. It’s personal for me and for those who shared it with me. I had been feeling down, and I stepped out of my comfort zone to help another human. As promised in the scriptures that they would be, the results were a blessing to me.
Later, I pulled into a parking lot and noticed two guys tipping a motorcycle back up onto its wheels. A small truck stood by with the tailgate open. I felt the urge to offer help.
With a huge puddle of oil on the ground it was obvious that bike wasn’t going anywhere under its own power so I offered to help them get it into the truck. I found out one the guys had been in a bike wreck earlier that day, so I helped the other guy lift the bike into the truck.
I felt great and I reaped the rewards of being of service. I walked back to my truck with a warm feeling in my heart, and looked around. There were dozens of unhappy people looking on, hanging on the fringe of helpfulness. I felt sorry for them.
Many of us muddle through our lives, wishing for this or that, mostly complaining about the cards we were dealt. We tend to watch our fellow beings with a blind eye, oblivious to the opportunities for true joy and happiness. The chances to help others are all around us, and I, for one, need to stop fretting about misfortune and take the opportunity.
In teaching the parable of the Sheep and Goats, Jesus said, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. I learned many lessons this week. Now, if only I can remember to apply them.
God, please, grant me the serenity to accept the one I cannot change.
I wish you, Joy and Peace.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
I need a personal secretary. This person would be someone who keeps track of my life little compensation, besides my gratitude. I would never forget a commitment again.
One of those commitments was a wedding, and it was last night. I remembered there was something about the date, but in my rush through life, I couldn’t recall what it was. I woke up at three am and it hit me. My mind remembered I had a wedding to attend so I began to make plans for leaving work and driving out there, tonight.
Suddenly, to my horror, I realized it was last night. Now, I sit with egg on my face. I’ve committed a social crime of epic proportions and there is nothing left to do but slither off into my hole, never to surface again.
My friend, Debbie, was blessed with a kind heart toward animals. I think she preferred them to humans. When I met her, she had several dogs, a horse, and other friends. They became her therapists as she told them about her problems. Her love was reflected in the loyalty those animals showed to her.
She called me one day to tell me one of her dogs had died and she couldn’t bring herself to bury it. She asked if I would take care of it. It was an honor to be trusted enough to show the kindness required for her best friend.
With all of life’s twists and turns, I lost contact with Debbie, until I discovered her on Facebook one day. She told me some of what she’d been up to and how proud she was of her kids. It was like opening a closet door and finding memories, shut away, and long forgotten. I realized I had a life before the life I have now.
When Debbie found out I am a writer, she told me to write about the old days. I considered it and realized, I already do. Every scene is a conglomeration of my life events. Every character is a composite of everyone I ever met or observed.
Now, my friend got married, and I missed it. God bless you, Debbie. I hope you’ve found the happiness you’ve been looking for all these years.
As for you, my writing friends, the blog I intended to post today, will be better by next week. Maybe I’ll have my secretary edit and polish it.
Anyway, good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
I’m sorry I missed posting something last week. I was in the middle of studying for a test, but now, I’mmm baaaack.
I grew up in a college town. Well, to be technical, it is the town next to the college town. When I was young, We had several opportunities to use some of the facilities at the university. I worked on my swimming and lifesaving merit badges at the university swimming pool, bowled in the campus lanes, and did family history research at the university library.
After high school, I had no desire to attend college. I went out in the world of making a living with very little idea of what I would do with my life, I went to work in the construction industry because the money was good, and I liked the work.
As time wore on I went to college, (not the university). I studied to be an architect. Prior commitments (an LDS mission and a marriage) changed my plans, and I never finished my degree.
Now, I joke about being fifty-two years old and I still don’t know what I want to be, when I grow up. Through it all I found writing. It provides a release for me, but everyday, my lack of education looms over my success, and makes me wish I had taken a different tack.
I visited the University again this week. I had to take a government test and I think I did very well, but I arrived early and while waiting for test time, I discovered something I never knew.
Those of you who earned an MFA or took writing classes will probably laugh but I discovered the building where the writing courses are taught. There was the writing fellows group, the writing honors classes, and the university press, to mention a few.
There were old style park benches under shade trees outside. I was able to sit, write, and absorb the academic air. I like that building. It was built in a time before architects started cutting back to meet budget restraints. There is a grand staircase in the main hall made of hardwoods, delighting my soul.
Okay I was impressed, but I lamented my life. I began to imagine spending my time in that building earning my MFA, if I had discovered my passion for writing during high school.
So, I solute those children who attend courses in that building. Yours, is a great opportunity to roam those hallowed halls, networking with fellow students who will someday be your contemporaries in publishing. Look at them and realize you might be sitting next to a future bestseller.
Don’t be surprised if you see an old man in the morning, with his laptop sitting outside, trying to write a perfect sentence. It’s only me absorbing the ambiance, playing catch up in my chosen occupation. Take pity on me, though, as I rush back to the visitor’s parking trying to get to my other job on time.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
I had to take a big test this week. Hoping to get it right, I’ve been studying hard for a while. I missed posting my other two blogs because I was concentrating on my studies. Now, the test is over, and I’m left with that hollow feeling, I get, After cramming thousands of thoughts and ideas into my brain, only to regurgitate them onto the test paper, never thinking of them again.
Well, the test might not be over, since I’m still waiting for one of my scores to come out, and I might have to take that part of the test again.
Have you ever wondered why church leaders tend to repeat the lesson’s they teach? Do they think we’re so dense, we need constant reminders in order to remember the lesson?
After taking my test, and relearning things I committed to memory years ago, I think that might be true, for me. :)
Seriously, though, Why do we go back, every Sunday, wearing our guilt like a badge of surrender, only to be reminded of what we are not doing? I think one reason is God’s children have been given the opportunity to follow or not, and we need a reminder to apply the concepts in our lives in order to be saved.
Also, I was reminded this week about writer’s conferences. Some of us have been perennial attendees at many of them. Why do we go and listen to the same concepts again, and again?
Here, at the LDS Writer’s Blogck, many of us labor, trying to write something that will help our readers in their quest to be successful. I’ve noticed that we tend to repeat concepts, why do you read?
I don’t think it’s the learning, because many of the lessons are something we’ve learned before.
While pondering these questions, I recalled a conversation, when someone mentioned the reason they attend the conferences was for the networking with other writers. That’s when it hit me. We cram for a test in hopes of recalling the facts. We go to church, attend conferences, and read the Blogck, in an effort to be recharged.
Everybody, eventually, experiences a drain in their resolution batteries, and it helps to know there are others who struggle, too. We do those things to strengthen our resolve. To get a charge that will carry us through, over the mountain of discouragement.
I hope to see you all at the next conference, but in the meantime, keep reading our blog. We will try and provide the right current so you can recharge your batteries. At least, we can give you hope in realization that we are all in the same boat.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
About thirty years ago, I was into backpacking. I used to traipse around the mountains in my area at a time before there were so many people out there. It was my way of getting off by myself to think and renew my soul.
One particular day, I was blazing my own trail with a full pack, in an area I’d never been, and I started climbing a steep hill. With every step, I could feel my ancient backpack straining against my shoulders. I’d used that old backpack in the High Uintas primitive area when I was a boy-scout and it had become pretty thread bare by then.
It was a long climb and I was inches from the top when suddenly, both shoulder straps broke and my pack slid back down the hill. I stood there at the top, watching my backpack go all the way to the bottom. I sat down, feeling like giving up and going home. How could I carry a backpack with no straps?
After a while I climbed back down and examined the damage. I don’t remember how I jury-rigged the straps, but I started back up the hill leaning farther forward this time. I camped at the top of the hill and went home the next morning. Finding new straps led me to shop for backpacks. Eventually, I purchased the top of the line backpack from the time period.
The new backpack was like a good friend. Now it hangs on the wall in my basement and hasn’t been used in years. It’s a dinosaur, but I will never part with it.
I was with some of my successful writer friends this week. We chatted about everything from writing, to baking bread. After a while a non-writer came in and was being introduced to us all. He turned to one of more successful friends and said. Well, I don’t remember the words, but the jest of it, for me, was, so, as I understand it, you are the one who is a real writer since you’ve got all those books published.
The conversation went to a listing of publishing credits for everybody. None of which were mine. I sat there looking at my writing career in much the same way that I did my old backpack.
There are forces at work, all the time, trying to destroy each one of us. Our belief system is under attack and that includes belief in our self. Most of us believe our life is a big test. We agreed to have the trials we face in hopes of gaining greater glory in eternity. I think everyone of us has stood back with an eye toward eternity, and wondered if we really agreed to what we are going through. With all the reversals and trials I’ve had to endure for the past two years, being introduced as a nobody was like loosing my backpack at the top of a hill.
While sitting and looking at my backpack, I considered leaving it there. After all, it left me didn’t it? I couldn’t do it though, It had been a good friend and it contained some of my newer gear. While examining my writing career, I did the natural thing and thought about abandoning it. I ran through the list of reasons for my lack of success, not the least of which are the time conflicts placed in my path.
Finally, I realized it’s in my blood. I’ve written through all the trials, and it has become second nature for me. I went back down the proverbial hill and jury-rigged my career. I think we all have those moments, whether we are published or not. It helps to have a support system and all of you are. Thank you for reading this blog. I know there are some of you with much greater trials than mine. I hope I can do something to help you along the way.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
It’s been a tough week, but I’m not complaining. I know that everybody experiences opposition. Life was never supposed to easy.
When I sat down to write, my mind went blank. I drifted away into parts unknown, places where I could have everything I wanted. Places where nobody imposed anything on me.
Fortunately my current novel is in a place where the characters have taken control and I can write in that direction. Anything new is good right? Even if I have to delete it later? I do, however, like the stuff I wrote this week, but it’s in the place where we find out who done it. I have so much information to impart, I’m trying to decide the best way to tell it. Should I have the guilty party explain in monologue? Or perhaps an explanation from the agent in charge will suffice?
Well, as I said at the outset, I’m not complaining. I’m just explaining why my blog sucks this week. I felt it was important to be consistent, just to post something. Thank you for reading and commenting. I’ll do better next week. I hope your work is going well. Keep writing no matter what happens. Here is a picture to help you reach your happy place. Maybe you could write about it.Good luck with your writing—see you next week
Thursday, August 26, 2010
It has been a knock down-drag out fight in our country lately. Contenders on both sides have strong opinions. Some of those opinions are in error, some are justified, all, are felt deeply and those feelings are approaching the boiling point.
It’s really surprising that so many married couples are still together, because compromise and working together for the common good, seems to have disappeared in the world.
I overheard a conversation just before church last week. Well, I had no choice but overhear, because the person was standing right next to me, and talking to another person behind me. The whole while, a member of the bishoprick stood at the pulpit waiting to begin the meeting.
People. Please remember there is a time and a place for your opinions. Also, those within listening distance might not agree with you.
Now, I realize this article might be incendiary to some, and it probably won’t even be read by most, but I plead with all of us. No issue or belief is important enough to alienate another human being.
Yes, the gloom and doom that has been predicted will happen. But only as a result of the My way or the highway attitude. The constitution is strong and has survived hundreds of years of compromise. The only way it will be brought down is by the claims of unfaithful zealots who are unwilling to allow for the happiness of all the people. The intent of the framers of that document clearly expressed compromise, because every single member of that congress made compromises on the original content.
Going back to my friend and her comments about socialism and communist regimes, Please keep in mind there were some who believe that’s exactly what happened in our country when the previous president forced the patriot act down our throats. Because of that move, The National Security Administration now listens in on every phone conversation and reads every email sent to, from, or in the United States.
If you haven’t grasped how important that is, let me explain. You’re privacy no longer exists. Some people are okay with that, stating the end justifies the means. You see it’s a matter of prospective. Depending on who the president is, and your opinion of him, the executive order can be good or bad depending on whether you like having your personal conversations monitored, a government health care program, or the building of the Panama Cannel.
It’s not socialism, communism, fascism, or monarchy. It’s an example of our president working to get something done in the face of disagreement on both sides.
The beauty of our country has always been in the way we can utterly disagree during an election, but then put it behind us and agree to work together after the election. Even if we hated the policies of an administration, we could look forward to the next election.
Which brings us to the plight of my good friend. As I understand it, he’s been working on a project with an investor. When the economy went bad, the investor pulled the funding. Who can blame them? Hard times make you want to convert all your assets to gold and wait for the storm to subside.
Now, I could go on and on about what caused our current financial state in our country, but suffice it to say, greed unchecked, feeds on itself. The greedy develop a sort of tunnel vision, shutting out any other needs but their own.
When I asked my friend if there was anything I could do to help him, his answer was. “Convince my investors that it’s safe to invest.”
What a monumental task that would be. Our government is trying to do that very thing. The previous administration gave tax rebates in an effort to boost the economy. Historically, government spending has always been the policy for economic recovery. Reagan did it, Nixon, Carter, Ford, even George Bush Senior.
The Roosevelt administration fought to increase confidence. The president faced the problem with an optimistic attitude and he persuaded investors to believe in recovery. Abraham Lincoln was faced with the task of rebuilding our country after deep divisions and economic upheaval tore it apart. But he convinced the people it could be done.
Whether you agree with, or hate our current president, should not affect whether you believe in our country or not. If you’ve given up on that belief, that sense of patriotism, then there are no battles to fight. If you believe the constitution will fail, it will. If you believe our economy cannot recover, it won’t.
But on the other hand, if you believe in our country and the fact we are all in this together, we will succeed. If you are willing to put your greed aside and follow the golden rule. Work with politicians instead of threatening them, then we will recover. There really is a bright spot on the horizon, but if we refuse to focus on that goal, worrying about the needs of the one instead of the needs of all, then the light will go out and we will receive exactly what we have been expecting.
I believe negative words and emotions feed on themselves. I also believe positive feelings are contagious. It grows lighter and brighter until the perfect day.
For those of you of a religious vein, Bruce R McConkie, a leader from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, referred to the days of tribulation preceding the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. In a nutshell, he said that if there are enough righteous people in the world, the Lord will stay his hand. In other words, if we will forget our petty interest and follow The Savior, we can have a bright future.
With all my heart, I believe we can.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Who’s your favorite girl character on The Brady Bunch? I will admit, mine has always been Jan (Eve Plum). I don’t know why, maybe it was because we were the same age, but lately I’ve been watching the reruns, and paying particular attention to Cindy (Susan Olsen).
You might ask, why is Keith writing about Cindy Brady on the LDS Writer’s Blogck? In answer to that question, I might suggest that I’m doing character research, but I’m not.
I’ll get to the writing part in a second, but first I’ve got to ask, have you ever seen NCIS? With my schedule, I don’t get to watch much television, but I’ve discovered I like that show. Yes, it has flaws. Even some writing flaws, and much of the technology they use, is really in development stages. Some of it is science fiction. I like NCIS because of what I call the family dynamic. The characters mesh well together like a family and it keeps me coming back for more.
One of those characters, Abby, (Pauley Perrette), has me captivated. The first time I saw Abby I felt I knew her. “Where have I seen her before,” I’d ask myself. I watched several shows before it finally hit me.
It’s uncanny. If it wasn’t for the black hair and tattoos, Abby would be an older version of Cindy Brady. I mentioned it to my wife and now she can’t see past it either.
I did a superficial search on the Internet and found pictures of Susan and Pauley. I discovered they were born about eight years apart and I compared the pictures. Look for yourself. Can you see elements of Cindy in both actresses? With all the similarities, I’ve started writing my own scenario for NCIS. In my version, Cindy Brady grew up and rebelled. She died her hair black to stand out from her sisters. The tattoos are a sign of the rebellion. She changed her name and went back to college. Now, Cindy, uh Abby, runs the NCIS lab.
This is the beauty, and the curse, of being a writer. My mind tends to re-write plots I see in the movies and on TV. I wince because of the mangled sentences written for radio and TV news. Since I’m not an English major, or a grammar expert, if I notice, you’ll know it’s bad.
Lately though, my struggle has been in writing for women in the LDS market. As many of you know, I write women’s fiction, and if it weren’t for my, (all women) critique group I wouldn’t be able to do it.
This week, they reminded me of my need to be in my female character’s head. If for no other reason, than because female readers want to know those things. Also, my group loved the romantic scenes I’d written, but they all suggested it wouldn’t get published in our market. Not that it was too steamy or anything, I just need to change a few words and tone down the desire.
Such is the nature of writing in this market. I take encouragement in knowing my group loved the romance. Now to tone it down a bit and get into the heads of my character’s more. It seems I’m too subtle, how do you show motivation?
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Hymn number 1 in the LDS hymnbook has a very soothing first line.
The morning breaks, the shadows flee.
I was sitting on my front porch this morning, thinking about all the problems in the world. There is much to worry about, if you’re in a mind to worry. I have a friend who worries to the point of being fearful. Many of the extreme right wing talk show hosts are turning rabid in their hatred. People are losing their jobs and prices are going up.
But as I sat on my porch, I glanced at a blue pansy flower while the whole world waited in great expectation for the advent of the sun. As I gazed at the pansy, the sun came up and light beamed through the branches of the weeping birch tree. One of those beams hit my pansy and briefly illuminated it, and all its glory.
I thought of the first line of the hymn and realized there is hope. Seconds later, the sun shifted, and the beam faded. The flowerbed was plunged into shadows, but other elements of my garden were highlighted.
Most children live in a world of innocent bliss. Unless it’s pointed out to them, they really have no idea about the problems in the world. Current events consist of who’s it in hide-n-go seek. They talk about the great catch Billy made in the vacant lot football game.
For one brief moment, this morning, I watched the sunlight dance on one of God’s creations and the flower was beautiful. I felt like a child. I didn’t care what was happening outside of my front yard. Then I returned to my supposed adult world and went on my way.
I know things will work out in the end. Our problems could disappear if we could only look past our selfish need to be right. Battle lines have been drawn. Many good folks have given in to the, My way or the highway mantra. Remember the time when the only argument was whether Johnny tagged Jimmy at home plate or not? When Jane spilled the juice, but Mary got blamed for it?
I’m not suggesting we all stick our head in the sand. We can’t escape our problems in a game of kick the can. We can, however, stop taking ourselves so seriously that we can’t recognize the right of others to express their opinions, too. We could stop spreading our disconcerting propaganda and start believing in our ability to work together.
In life, there will always be beautiful moments. The morning does break and shadows do flee, but we must be ready and looking for it.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Did you ever hear the old story of a guy painting a floor with such intensity, he doesn’t notice he painted himself into a corner? He stands up. The door is on the other side of the room. The only window is too far away to reach. He looks at all that wet paint, knowing he will have to walk on it, in order to escape his predicament. Of course, he could wait for the paint to try.
This is a great metaphor that explains what happened to me this week.
I’m told there are two kinds of writers. There are outliners and there are by the seat of your pantsers. I suppose that’s true because many writers are variations of the two. I’ve been known to do both. Usually, I hold the outline in my head. I know the beginning and end. I plot the middle as I go.
Most of the time, I know the specific points I must write and the plot twists I will throw in, but for the most part I write by the seat of my pants letting my characters tell me what they want to do.
Such was the case this week. I started writing a transition chapter. (The chapter that brings the reader from point A to point B and gets them ready for the killer plot to follow). I was in the Zone, high on endorphins, or whatever they are, when my character said something I never intended for him to say.
I know you’ve all been there, and I’ve written about this before. Like the floor painter, I’ve learned if I keep writing, ignoring my escape to follow the new path, then I end up painted into the corner. At that point I must decide whether to rewrite the old parts, or discard the stuff my character wants.
Both choices will leave paint on my shoes and possibly spoil the story. “But,” I tell myself. “The new plot turn is so cool, I wish I’d thought of it before.”
Well, my writing must be improving, because this time I made a mental note and wrote down the alternate plot idea. Then, I started debating. If I had continued to write the plot, I would have gotten to a point of no return, where the agony of extracting any part of it would’ve killed me. It seems I’ve trained myself to stop and analyze which is the better way.
I used to be a true seat of my pantser, and there are some stories I never outline, but I’ve evolved into what I call a counselor style of writing. I sit and let my characters bounce ideas off me and together, we make the story work. There are still times, however, when I end up painting myself into a corner. In those times, I take it to my critique group.
Ultimately, it’s my decision, but its great to get input from someone who isn’t a figment of my imagination.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Do you remember the episode of MASH when Winchester joined the poker game and won every hand and took all the money? It drove the other players crazy because of his skill in convincing them he had a better hand no matter what. Then someone figured out that Winchester whistled a classical tune, every time he bluffed. It was a nervous habit Winchester didn’t know he had, and the other players used it to defeat him.
In the world of draw poker, a card player quickly learns a valuable lesson about facial expressions and nervous ticks. Most learn to use the same facial expression no matter what cards they hold. It’s called keeping a good poker face.
The really great players learn to use different expressions to lead the other players into false belief in a facial tick that doesn’t exist.
I learned a valuable lesson about myself this week I’d like to share with my blog readers. Long ago, I discovered I feel better about myself if I can help others feel good about themselves, so I try to speak kind, building, words to my fellow beings. Some times it lifts my mood just to see the confused look on strangers faces.
I can imagine what goes through their head. Why is this person talking to me? Is he going to steal my wallet? He is going to beat me up? Why is this person talking to me? It’s truly joyful when I can succeed in getting them to say something nice in return.
Even with all the good feelings I get from the application of my campaign, I have truly bad days. There are times when life seems to cave in on me like the crumbling walls of a neglected adobe structure, left in the elements for hundreds of years.
We are entitled, aren’t we? To feel down occasionally is normal, isn’t it?” At times like those, how many of us realize our poker face needs improving? I found out the hard way that while internalizing my agony, I tend to alienate others. A co-worker came up to me and asked if I was okay. I thought the question was a bit odd. How did he know I was having a lousy time of it?
It seems another co-worker had said something to me and I was short with him. Truthfully, I don’t remember even being greeted, but my bad mood and personal issues had taken control. I can just imagine how my face looked.
I submit, and this is the lesson I learned, We need to develop a poker face in dealing with others. We are all going to have bad days now and then, but unless we’re having a crisis, perhaps we can show a face that is pleasing. Unless they are in our head, people we meet don’t know there is something bugging us.
I want my poker face to be something that supports and builds others. Then I can turn my day around through the joy of making them feel good about their lives.
I had a nice talk with my co-worker and I thanked him for being my friend. Life is grand, but I need to learn to let it be.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Boy, how do you follow all the excellent blogs we’ve had this week? It’s great to see a full line up, and the guest blogcker segment is always good. I stand in awe with fingers poised over my keyboard, waiting for something to come into my head.
I had the opportunity to be counseled the other day. It was in regard to my career direction, and was extremely helpful to bring my life into focus. My mentors, with their lack of understanding, pointed out that my writing career might never bring any returns.
Now, I’ve been paid for articles and blogs, but I’m aware, as you are, writing in the LDS market will never make me rich. Well its possible one of my books could cross over to the national market, but there just isn’t a lot of money in LDS fiction. So, I agreed with my mentors.
After the meeting, I felt I’d betrayed myself. Why did I agree with them? My writing means more to me than mere money. If I don’t believe in myself, who will? A man has obligations to his family, but he can still dream—can’t he?
My mind traveled back to the 2006 LDStorymakers Conference when Josi Killpack said. “Get used to the fact you are a writer.” She went on to tell a story about somebody she knows who wouldn’t take her authorship seriously. After getting a few books published they still tried to convince her it was just a hobby.
I believe, if you put words together in hopes they will find their way into another heart, you are a writer. If you wake up, and rewind your dream in order to edit it, you are a writer. I make mountains out of molehills, jungle landscapes from a patch of grass, I am a writer.
A few years ago, I listed freelance writer on my income tax form as my first occupation. Even though I made more money at my day job, I was proud of being a writer. I consider it a church calling.
Because of the wheels I’ve put in motion, my life might take strange turns from here. I might not have enough free time to write, but I will be a writer until I die. I look forward to signing one of my published books and handing it to my mentors.
“See,” I will say. “I might not make a lot of money, but it proves I am a writer, and if it helps God bring souls to Christ, my life is not a waste.”
Still, if I work my tail off it could sell 5,000 copies. Why not, since the world is my oyster. Remember you are a writer too.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
I don’t have a Dead Author’s Society review today. I don’t have a special new book to report on. After commenting on Facebook the other day I’m determined to keep my mouth shut, again. So today I’m sitting in the public library catching up on a little writing time.
I have a subject I’d like to talk about, but keep going to the end. You can read the update on my writing projects. I knew you were interested. Well, even if you weren’t, I’m going to tell you about it anyway.
Do you remember the words to the theme song of Cheers? If you missed the eighties, Cheers was a popular television sitcom about an alcoholic bar owner, along with the crazy antics perpetrated by his customers. Anyway, the song goes, Listen to it here
Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you've got
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot
Wouldn't you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they're always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
Our troubles are all the same
You want to be where everybody knows your name
By Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo
Does it sound good? Would you be shocked to learn that most of us already have a place like this, it’s a place called the family. I know there are circumstances where home and family, are hostile environments. Unfortunately, church can be likewise, but for the most part, your family can be for you, what the customers of Cheers were to each other.
Besides church and family, I’ve known a few places like Cheers in my short life, but I’ve, also, learned that sometimes I need a quieter place. A place to be alone and think. We all need a place where there are no expectations, and no distractions. We need a place where clarity seeps into our psyche.
I had a deadline so I came to the library, but I remember a solo backpacking trip about thirty-one years ago. I spent all day off the beaten path, following deer trails and breaking the bush, so to speak. I climbed a peak in the middle of nowhere, communed with nature and enjoyed the beautiful view.
Something touched my heart that day, and I fell to my knees in gratitude for the opportunity to see such beauty. After my pounding heart settled down, I heard myself think. My thoughts were focused in honest reflection of my life’s direction. I was able to move forward with clarity.
Because of urban development, that place no longer exists, but I can go to a similar place. Not by backpacking, or climbing peaks. I can go there by leaving my electronic gizmos in the car, finding a quiet place, and turning my thoughts away from problems. Some people get there through fishing. Others whittle.
Before long, while focusing on nothing, clarity occurs and I realize the solution to my problem.
Try my solution and carve out a little quiet personal time for yourself. Let me know how you get to your quiet place.
Now, the update, I’m currently working on the sequel to The Hillside. With 40,725 words and 153 pages, I’m about half way done. I still don’t have a name for it, but I sat down with a white board the other day and listed all the things I still need to write in order to tell this story.
The Hillside is in the hands of the proofreaders. I think you’ll like the book. With nine different points of view, and several characters, it tells the story of the owner of the Hillside Bed and Breakfast and the quests who stay within the walls. It’s women’s fiction, but there are elements for all readers.
I’ve been drafting a new story called Star Crossed. It’s the story of high school sweethearts driven apart, then coming together later in life.
The other books on the list continue to sit on the back burner. I write this blog and two others each week and love to review new books.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
How do you like the new look? Yes, you’re in the right place. This is the LDS Writer’s Blogck. We lost the use of the other template and needed to make a change. I like what Nichole has done.
She’s the one that holds us all together you know, and I applaud her.
This blog, dedicated to writing tips and the struggles associated with getting published, was created by a group of Authors Incognito Members. At the time, there were few blogs about writing, even fewer discussing the LDS Market. After the LDStorymakers Conference in 2006, Darvell Hunt asked for volunteers and the first post went out on April 26.
C L Beck posted about the name Blogck, and it was off and running. The first posts were by Darvell Hunt, C L Beck, Heather Justesen, Nichole Giles, Connie Hall, W L Elliott, and Danyelle Fergusen. Karen Hoover, and Gaynell Parker were next.
I joined the team on June 24th when Danyelle bowed out due to time restraints. I got the Saturday slot and began to try and spread the message that you are not alone in your writing struggle.
Over the past four years, we’ve had bloggers come and go. I’ve been late a few times, but I’ve never missed a post. Some of my blogs have inspired some did not. It’s been a rewarding experience for me personally.
Now, with the semi retirement of Ali, we have opened up the Monday slot for guest bloggers from Author’s Incognito, and I think it’s working out great, don’t you?
Other writers might come and go in the future, but you can rest assured, the Blogck will be here to encourage you. As I stated in my first blog on this site, we all are standing on a precipice, ready to march forward with stories that will delight and inspire. Many have gone forward, many will follow as God uses his army of writers to bring souls to Christ.
Since we have so many followers, I know we are being read. One thing I’d like to know, however, have we made a difference? Do we encourage you to keep going? Please leave a comment and let us know.
In the meantime, good luck with your writing—see you next week.