Saturday, March 27, 2010

I'm Late!

By Keith Fisher

I'm late, I'm late for
A very important date.
No time to say hello, good-bye,
I'm late, I'm late, I'm late
I'm late and when I wave,
I lose the time I save.
My fuzzy ears and whiskers
took me too much time to shave.
I run and then I hop, hop, hop,
I wish that I could fly.
There's danger if I dare to
stop, and here's a reason why:
I'm over-due, I'm in a rabbit stew.
Can't even say good-bye,
hello, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late.

These lyrics sung by the white rabbit, in Disney’s version, of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, describes my feelings today. My friends will tell you I’m notoriously early. Almost everywhere I go, unless I get delayed waiting for somebody, I like to be early, but today, I feel late.

I have three blogs to write this morning, so I woke at six, went back to sleep for (just ten minutes), and woke at 8:30. the City of Orem is holding an auction of stolen goods today and I planned to go and see if they had anything stolen from me. I didn’t make it.

I suppose it started last night when I staid up to watch a PBS Frontline story, about the economy and unemployment. I realized that all the people they were spotlighting, and those at their networking groups, were all over fifty. Since I’m back in the job market, I realized I’m late. Too late to start a new career, and I have too much experience for an entry-level position.

After the Frontline show, I turned to an interesting movie I’d never seen before about the Vietnam War. The story was about a seventeen-year old, Vietcong soldier named HO. An American officer, played by Beau Bridges told the story from a diary he’d found. The American had been the kid’s prisoner. Anyway, I got caught up in it, and was late getting to sleep.

All of this lateness causes me to think about my most recent book. I’ve heard editors talk about finding similar stories on the slush pile and they publish the first one they received. So, I feel pressure to get my story sent in. I write with a sense of being late.

Often, I feel a purpose in my writing. I feel like there is someone out there, who needs to read certain parts. I’m sure we’ve all had a book, song, or movie that touched our lives and influenced us for good. This is my purpose, and I don’t want to be late.

Then I realize, the stories that touch my heart usually don’t come to me, until long after the premier or launch. Like the movie I saw on television last night, I read stories at just the right time, for me. Perhaps, if my story is meant to touch a heart, it will find that person, whether I get it published now, or later. But, still, I’m rushing to get it to market. I’m late!

On another note, Our very own DN Giles is holding a book launch today at 1 p.m. click on this link to read my review and find the launch information.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

The Sharp Edge of the Knife

A Book Review by Keith Fisher

. . . but I wanted to see them punished for what they had put my husband—and my entire family—through. So I told the bailiff, “Yes I’ll talk to him.”

That was when Mel nearly had a fit. . . . “Honey,” I said, stroking Mel’s cheek. “The man is behind bars, and I’ll be standing next to an armed guard. You don’t have to worry about me.”

. . . He looked down at my belly—which was roughly the size of a basketball.
“I’m glad to see your baby is okay after all I done. Please, please forgive me.” To my horror, Gayle broke down and sobbed like one of my children . . .

The anger I had borne for the last several weeks drained away as I looked into Gayle’s tormented eyes. Suddenly all the things I wanted to say before were completely inappropriate. I was struck silent . . .

This excerpt from The Sharp edge of the knife is only part of a larger story about grace under fire. This story about Mel & Jeneal Peterson, and the car jacking that threatened Mel’s life, is full of great examples of how God watches over us. It’s a good read for anyone.

My Friend, Nichole Peterson Giles (DN Giles) has taken this true story and added depth of feeling that helps the reader experience the story. The narrative, written in two-character first person point of view, is masterful.

You will find your copy at Amazon, or on the author’s blog. The launch party is happening today March 27 at Eborn Books in the Provo Towne center, 1 p.m. Ask Nichole to personalize it for you.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

D. N. Giles (Nichole)

Since I’m scheduled to review, The Sharp Edge of a Knife, by D N Giles on Saturday, I felt it would be nice to chat with her today.

D N Giles (Nichole) is also the co-author of Mormon Mishaps and Mischief, but her chosen genre is Edgy YA Fiction. She writes a weekly blog on LDS Writer’s blogck and many others. She’s been published in The Friend magazine, and Highlights. She’s a member of Super Edits critique group, and a good friend of mine.

Nichole, how are you?

NG: Fantastic. I’m so excited about the release of my new book.

KF: Since you write YA Fantasy, The Sharp Edge of a Knife is a departure from that. What inspired you to write this story?

NG: Actually this particular book is based on true events that happened to my grandpa. Not long after he died, my grandma gave me a copy of his life history for Christmas, and I read it all in one day. There were several things about his life that I knew little or nothing about, but this particular incident really stood out to me. I couldn’t seem to let it go. That’s when I knew I had to write about it. It’s almost like my grandpa was in heaven whispering in my ear, telling me to get it done.

KF: As I’ve read this story about Mel, your grandfather, I’ve been impressed by his courage and his humility. Do you think he’d be embarrassed by all the attention? What do you think he’d say about the book?

NG: Probably. He wasn’t the kind of man who liked to talk about things like this. He really never made a big fuss about it, even when it happened. I think it was about all he could stand to talk to newspaper reporters and police and FBI agents. But I’d like to think he’s proud of me and this book, that he’s happy with the way I wrote it and that it’s being published. I feel like he is, so it must be true, right?

KF: I’ve heard biography writers say they felt close to their subjects. Did writing the book bring you closer to him? Tell us about it.

NG: Yes, it absolutely brought me closer to him. There was so much research involved in this, and so many things that none of us really knew. I really feel strongly that I had his help in finding the details and in writing the entire story.

KF: I understand you had the opportunity to interview one of your grandfather’s kidnappers. What was that like? Were you scared?

NG: It was so strange! Totally surreal. It wasn’t really scary because I only talked to him on the phone, and we were hundreds of miles apart, but it was definitely the most unique conversation I’ve ever had. He was actually very nice to me, seemed repentant and regretful. He kept apologizing and telling me how my grandpa changed his life. Only he kept calling him my dad. Which felt strange, but I ended up just going with it rather than correct him. I was all about finding facts.

KF: Your grandfather must have been a great man. In the book, you showed some of that change. Perhaps there was purpose in the experience for him.

I think we all have family traditions and stories that get repeated. When and how did you first hear this story?

NG: Wow. I’m not sure. I remember I was fairly little. And it wasn’t so much a story as it was a statement. Something like, “your grandpa was kidnapped once. That’s why we never pick up hitchhikers” kind of thing. But I have a vague memory of hearing that story on the road as we moved from Nevada to Utah, which means I was probably around six.

KF: I loved the way you portrayed your grandmother. Is she still with us? What if anything has she said about your book?

NG: Yes, my grandma is doing really well, actually, and I hope she sticks around for a long time to come. She was actually the first person to get a copy of my book besides me. She was completely instrumental in helping me research and in telling me her memories of what happened. We dug through her basement one day and found all the newspaper articles and a court subpoena, which was the very beginning of all my research. This book wouldn’t exist without her help. (Hi Grandma!)

KF: (Yes, Sister Peterson, I Drink to your health. You must be very proud of Nichole.)

I’ve read most of your work, and I know you write great fantasy. With the success of Mormon Mishaps, and now this book, do you see yourself writing another one like this? Tell us about what you are working on now.

NG: As far as writing in this genre, we’ll see. This particular book was a labor of love, but also required a lot. With this book, I had to write it because it wouldn’t leave me alone. And if that happens again, I’m sure I’ll have little choice. Otherwise, I’m working on several other things that take up all my writing time.

All my current projects are young adult paranormal or fantasy, and I’m really excited about breaking into the YA market. But the idea of doing a second Mormon Mishaps is not completely out of the question either. We’ll see.

KF: I noticed you’re offering a session with your critique group as a prize in your contest. Tell us about that, and tell us how being a member of a critique group has helped your writing?

NG: Critique groups are so important to the writing process. Other people can help you see important details you missed, can point out obvious plot holes, and just make you an all around better writer and author. My critique group (ahem) is especially great. Spectacular, fantastic, and a complete privilege with whom to be associated. Each member has a specific strength that I’ve come to rely upon to help improve my writing.

KF: Thank you very much, by the way, for the interview. I’m sure others have asked you the standard questions. So I’ll ask just one more. Give us one word that best describes you, and tell us why.

NG: One word? I’m a writer and you’re giving me one word? Hm. How about determined? I was determined to find the details for this book and get it written and published, and now it’s about to launch. Now, I’m determined to move forward with my next few projects and I definitely will.

KF: That’s a good word for you. I’ve seen that determination all the time and you inspire me.

The Sharp edge of the knife can be purchased at Amazon and other fine bookstores. The actual book launch is slated for March 27th at Eborn books in the Provo Towne Center mall, Provo, UT, 1-3 p.m.

She’s promised treats, prize drawings, books, and more. See you there, but stop by here first, and read my book review.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Taking a Deep Breath

By Keith Fisher

Usually I write a blog in a word processor, edit it, and post it on the web. But I only have a few moments this morning. Please excuse my writing errors.

This morning, I'm off, to the World Championship Dutch oven Cook off. As I've been writing a series of articles about the event, my mind has drifted back to my days of Cooking competitions, then I remember how much work it was to prepare. There is, however, a plan in the works. There might be a Champions Challenge Cook off in the future. All the past World Champions will be invited to compete against each other. I'll let you know how it turns out.

On another note, Click on the image to read my review of Dangerous Connections, by Julie Coulter Bellon.
I went to a book launch this week. I should have gone to others, but I had too many commitments. I attended the lauch for five authors from Valor Publishing. Daron Frawley, Michele Ashman Bell, Karen Hoover, Tristi Pinkston, and Kimberly Job.

The books are wonderful, and I will be reviewing some of them in the future. As you might know, Two of those authors are pretty special to me. Kimberly has been my great friend. I was probably as proud of her new book as if it were my own. Tristi, is also my close friend. They are both members of my critique group, and I've seen there books come into print from some of the nuts and bolts.

Also, if you didn't know, My friend Candace Salima was driving a car with Tristi as a passenger. they were on their way to the book launch, when a truck sped through a red light and totaled the car in which Tristi and Candace were riding. They will be okay, they had minor concussions. They are each, seeing chiropractors, and they are getting massages to relieve the pain.

The point I'm making is they both continued to the book launch and spent the evening with us, doing business.

You might not know that, Scott, Kimberly's husband lost his grandmother in Idaho. The funeral was this week and Kimberly wanted to be with his family. They were at the funeral, but they missed out on family time to be at the book signing. Then they came back to be at another signing on Friday.

These people are great examples to me. Many people, especially my church members look at my writing career as a hobby. You can get an idea of that by watching their eyes when I talk about a book I'm working on. It's hard to explain the pull I feel to write. to get published, and in the LDS market. I felt I could touch people's hearts.
Anyway, to see the kind of dedication I saw this week inspires me. Writing is more than a calling. Its a way of life for many of us. The business of books is a career, like any other. When I wonder if I'm spinning my wheels trying to get my books published, I can look to my heros and keep going. I can look the detractors in the eye and wink at them. I have confidence I will succeed.

Then, when I'm speaking at a fireside, of book club somewhere. I'll look back on my struggle and be grateful for the journey.

Well I've got to get going. A cook off awaits and I want to park close to the building. Good luck in your writing---see you next week.

Dangerous Connections

A book review by Keith Fisher

When I saw the cover, I knew I wanted to read this book by Julie Coulter Bellon. The Bio hazard symbol, gives you an idea of the plot, but Bellon weaves a tale of intrigue into the story that literally prods the reader to turn the pages.

As a writer, I read many books, a few of those I can’t put down. This is one of those books. As a critique group member, I’ve learned to read with a critical eye, and I admit, I found a few places that I would put red marks. However, the story carries the reader past those marks, because you need to find out what happens next.

Bellon, wrote an intriguing first chapter. Okay, I’m going to give you a spoiler alert here, because I need to talk about the story a little. A doctor, who’s been serving in Iraq, is on a plane coming into Paris and a woman is about to have a baby. Julie wrote that scenario in a way only a woman who’s had a baby could write it. I felt that I was there coaching her. The intriguing clues and red herrings start then and continually increase throughout the tale.

Of course there is an inevitable love story, and Bellon builds the relationship gradually more like real life. She created a strong female protagonist with a male sidekick/love interest who is subservient to her. Several times, I wanted him to stop asking her what they were going to do next, but it works.

If I were to give stars, bullet points, or whatever, I would give it a good rating. I recommend this book to everyone. It’s a great example of mystery/suspense, and women’s fiction. The story will keep you turning pages, as the plot unfolds.
Thank You, Julie, for letting me read your book.
You can find info about Julie, and the book here
Also at Deseret Book

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Creating Lord Voldemort

By Keith Fisher

Have you ever wanted something bad enough to be willing to do anything? I’m not talking about Almost anything, I’m talking about a desire so intense you would throw your life away?

Recently, on another blog, my friend wrote about passion. Her words made me think about the driving force behind what we do as writers. Then, I realized the subject was multifaceted. I considered the ramifications of the depths our passions can take us.

Life is full of temptation. My religion tells me it’s all part of God’s plan. It truly is the choices that define us. Have you ever wondered where some of those choices, if left unchecked, could lead?

In Harry Potter we read, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." Let’s use that story as an example for a moment. Basically, when you remove the supporting cast, there are two characters. There’s Harry, the protagonist, and Voldemort, the antagonist.

Harry is a nice guy, and we love him as he stumbles through life, reacting to forces he doesn’t quite understand. Even in death he chooses to sacrifice for his loved ones out of a sense of honor and duty. He continues the battle because he is the only one who can.

On the other hand, Voldemort followed his passions and made irrevocable choices that led him down a path of more passionate decisions.

As an author, It’s easy to use evil to paint the picture of a true antagonist. If we need motivation for why Voldemort is the way he is, we assume he’s evil. But, how did he get that way? Over the course of the whole series we discover some of the back-story. We learn about a boy named Tom Riddle. Somewhere along the way, the desire for greatness, and living forever, possessed him. He made irrevocable choices, and followed the path.

Clearly, the antagonist in this story is the more developed, passionate, character. Perhaps it’s wise to follow this example in all our character development. So, I ask you, what would your character be willing to throw their life away for? What are the passions motivating them?

If you’ve ever been driven by a desire, you know how it feels. You block out everything. Things that mattered before no longer have significance. From the time you wake up until you go to bed, everything is about your desire. Then it keeps you awake at night. Your obsession has relevance in everything. People worry about you, but you don’t care.

This is only a brief picture of obsession, but maybe you will get an idea of how Tom Riddle became Lord Voldemort. I think of the characters in my books, and I realize some of them are not fully developed. More than that, I don’t write strong antagonists. (I wonder if its because I’m afraid I can’t control them).

However, I write feel good women’s fiction, and there’s not much of a need for a Voldemort character. Still, some of my characters could use a little passion. I need to draw a line in theproverbial sand and ask them what would it take to make them cross the line. Then with a greater understanding, I can show them as people with passion. They will be alive.

Hey Buddy, Do you Want to Buy an Author?

By Keith Fisher

I’ve been amazed lately. I sit at the feet of great friends who are masters of the art of promotion and publicity.

Years ago, as the director of a Dutch oven society, I realized the value of shedding a good light on what we did in that organization. I learned about creativity as it relates to publicity. It was relatively easy to promise free samples, and expect people to come to an event.

Then, a Utah County Health Department official heard my interview on a local radio program. I’m still not sure of the motives, but they threatened to close down our cook off, and we would not be allowed to give free samples. Now, because of that incident, cook offs in Utah County, most times, don’t offer free samples.

Promotion got harder after that. Creativity became the watchword.

Later, I got serious about my writing career. I learned publishers rely on authors to promote themselves, and their writing. I already had an Internet presence and I knew how effective it was for the Dutch oven group. I knew how to approach shopkeepers and manufacturers. Having worked in sales for so long, I knew the value of a business card and promotional gifting.

I also, knew I hated sales, but I loved courting customers. I shifted gears and launched my author promotion campaign. I made a new website, business cards, and joined writers groups. Networking came natural to me. Then, I was invited to join the LDS Writer’s Blogck, and I could get my writing out there. Blogs were relatively new then. I could network by keeping up, and commenting on all the writer’s blogs, because they were few in numbers.

Then came Facebook, and other social networking sites. Josi Killpack talked about using launch parties as a tool to avoid the common book signing. I wrote an outdoor cooking blog for, Your LDS Neighborhood, and because book launch blog tours were becoming popular, I started another blog.

Soon there were hundreds of blogs. Networking became a nightmare. How was I going to keep up? Many of my friends were getting published. Launch parties became popular. Writer’s conferences, besides being an oasis in the desert of not being published, were a great source of networking with authors and publishers.

In my critique group, we talk about the new developments in publicity and bounce ideas off each other, but I sometimes feel like a stranger on Madison Avenue. Most of my writer friends have turned into advertising executives.

Now, book launches are becoming charity events. Great contest ideas and other publicity campaigns are inspiring. Every time I turn around, there is another, new way of drawing attention to a book. I don’t even try to keep up with the all the blogs. I comment on a few, but time will not permit my checking them all everyday.

I spend a lot of time going to launch parties and blogging about books. I write down all the great ideas I see, and file them away for when I launch my book. I work hard at networking, posting witty comments and advice on Facebook. I’m polishing my latest work in progress and working on a dozen more.

Like the day the County Health Department heard me on the radio, promotion has gotten harder. It is worth it, however, because it means the difference between selling 1, and 5,000 copies. If I tap into my creativity and do it right, I might just be a best seller.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Extra! Tristi is lauching with Socks!

By Keith Fisher

Tristi Pinkston, author of four books, is launching her new book, the first in a series, called Secret Sisters. I will be reviewing it here in the near future.

Anyway, in honor of one of the characters, Tristi is collecting socks for charity. You can get the details here at her blog site. Don't forget to shower Tristi with socks at the book launch March 16.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Charlotte's Web

By Keith Fisher
Do you have any idea how many books there are, written by dead authors? Me neither. In trying to decide which one to read first, I stumbled on an old copy of Charlotte’s Web. I had seen the animated movie, but never read the book, so why not?

This book published in 1952, was the second children’s book by Elwyn Brooks White (E B White). His first success was Stuart Little. Yes, they made a movie of that one too. The author died 1985 and spent most of his life on staff at The New Yorker magazine.

Charlotte’s Web is a wonderful, feel good story, and I recommend it for every adult, as well as child reader. It won’t wow you, with magic, or exotic worlds. (Unless you consider farm life an exotic world).

The author shows a brief snip of what life was like in the late forties and fifties in rural America. He also does a great job of giving personalities to farm animals. The reader can’t help but be elated when the pig character is reprieved. They will feel sadness when Charlotte moves on, after providing for her children in the great circle of life.

This book, from a writer’s prospective, might not have been published today. It was written, and published, during a time when telling a good story was more important than the craft of writing, but White did a great job of both. Charlotte’s Web is a masterful example of writing in third person omniscient and jumps in and out of characters heads enough to keep the reader guessing. There were, however, a few times when I would’ve preferred to stay in Wilbur’s head.

With that said, perhaps you should also know, this author is the same E B White who edited and updated his college professor’s book. It became The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. It has been a treasured handbook for many writers.

If you want to get lost in a bygone world and learn a lesson about point of view, sneak into your children’s book collection. Tell your kids you’re doing research and ask them if you can read it to them.

Distraction, Making Words Invisible

By Keith Fisher

The writer opened his laptop, and turned it on. His fingers twitched in anticipation, waiting for the software to load. In a moment, he would be able to pour out his innermost thoughts, for the world to admire.

With a shrug and a sigh, he reached out. His fingers curled over the keyboard, index fingers were placed above the F and J keys. Suddenly, the ideas evaporated. He had nothing to say. He leaned back, rested his head on the chair, and cursed at the ceiling. He called himself a fraud, like he had, so many times before.

I’ll bet you’ve all been there, a time or two. I tossed and turned all night, and fell asleep about six a.m. I still hadn’t come up with a subject for this blog. Well, I have several vague ideas, but my mind wouldn’t let me develop them.

When I write a blog, or an article, I try to put a slant on situations from daily life. This week was spent in total immersion reviewing my college math books, studying for a test. I can’t think of a way to incorporate algorithms into writing, although, I’ve done it before.

After studying all week, I knew my mind had turned to mush, when I closed my eyes and I saw equations written on paper. The brain is a marvelous thing, you know. It can recall archived info, totally ignored for years. I’d forgotten how to do much of what I studied, but after a little struggle, my brain kicked in, a light came on, and I remembered. Well, signed numbers remains a mystery, but I think I figured it out.

Anyway, with all the concentration, I haven’t left my mind open for new concepts and metaphors about writing. I did however, take a short break, and noticed something while reading an article in Writer’s Digest.

When generally referring to the human race, in the old days, writer’s and speakers used words like, mankind, him, he, and his. It wasn’t chauvinistic, or exclusionary. After all, God had used those terms in scripture.

Then, as I understand it, in deference to women, we started listing both, with a fore slash, he/she, him/her, and so on. Using the female reference first was also acceptable. That way of writing, however, grew tiring, so many writers added statements at the outset, saying, they would use one or the other, but they were including the whole race.

I’m told the proper way now, is s(he), but we seem to be going back to using one word. We writers are using one gender, or another, without a statement about gender neutrality. I can usually tell whether the author is a man, or a woman, by which word she/he uses. Don’t get me wrong, however, I’m happy with the change, but there is a problem.

The article I read, written by a woman, was about characterization. The writer used a lot of references to a theoretical person, and in every case used female pronouns. As I said above, It doesn’t bother me, but the author used the word she so many times, it drew my attention. Like my mathematical immersion, I was distracted. I wondered if the writer ever developed male characters.

I don’t know if I would have noticed it, if I weren’t a man. I understand how women could feel excluded, but I don’t think gender neutral is the answer either. Perhaps we use those words too much anyway, but how do you write an article on characterization without using a lot of pronouns?

I’ve learned that said, is an invisible word when used in tag lines. Do you think we could learn to ignore he, she, his, and her's too? I know it would make writing easier. I wouldn’t have to worry about so many repetitions.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.