Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Writing, Au Naturel

By Keith Fisher

It’s not what you might be thinking. According to Dictionary.com the original definition from 1817 was a French term meaning uncooked. The definition we want is number 1, in a natural state.

Obviously, I used the title to get your attention, and I thought it would be cute.

I’m writing on my front porch with my laptop open on the bistro table, gazing at the world of spring flowers, green grass, and fruit tree blossoms. The buds on the hardwoods threaten to pop out at any moment, and black clouds are forming, as testament of the approaching storm. I’m writing in nature.

I love getting away from my desk to write. Sometimes it’s easier to think with my computer in a different position and my behind, in a different chair. Of all my favorite escapes, my front porch is one of the best. Especially, at this time of year. It’s wonderful to be part of the renewal of nature.

When I get stuck for a word, I can watch a bug cross the concrete and land in the flowerbed, on it’s way to far off regions. I can watch the cat frolic on the lawn, rolling around in its mock battle with a favorite bouncing ball.

All of these things renew my spirit as I contemplate the big picture of the story problem I happen to be working on. When I write in the library, I catch myself staring at people, while I’m contemplating my next sentence. Often, people stare back, probably wondering about my rudeness in staring at them. In nature, I can stare at the beauty and feel refreshed, and nature doesn’t stare back.

And now, here’s an update on my projects.

I finished my rewrite of The Hillside, and I’m gearing up for the final read through. With any luck and God’s blessings, I’ll be submitting it soon. The sequel is percolating, and a new another new story is forming. I need to consider the rewrite of My Brother’s Keeper, because I know what I need to change, and even after rejection, that story won’t let go of me.

I think I’ll be submitting more articles in the near future. I enjoyed the LDStorymakers conference and felt drawn to that medium.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

One of Many

By Keith Fisher

I sat in the grand ballroom, looking out over a sea of humanity. The master of ceremonies asked for a raise of hands to show how many were attending for the first time. The number of raised hands exceeded those who’d been there before.

It was the welcoming session of the LDStorymakers conference, and I was overwhelmed. When I attended my first LDStorymakers conference in 2006, The welcoming session was held in a room almost as big, as some of the classrooms at the 2010 conference. I remember sitting in the front at the 2006 conference and looking back at the mass of people with an interesting thought in mind.

I wrote a blog about it shorlty afterward, and said,

With the increasing numbers of LDS writers and those who write in the LDS market, I wonder if perhaps we’re all standing on a precipice being prepared to help fight a battle. To help people come to the knowledge of Christ. Even if we do no more than keep our content clean.

For want of a better image, remember the movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, when several people suddenly had the same desire?

I overheard a published author, Saturday morning, and she was saying the same thing about that conference. I don’t think we were the only ones with those impressions either.

Since that first conference, I’ve seen the numbers increase every year. It’s overwhelming. Yes, it equates to more competition, but if what I wrote in 2006 is true, The army is increasing in numbers.

The LDStorymakers conference is like a breath of fresh air. I attended a breakout session, and listened to Joshua J. Perkey bear testimony. He refreshed my desire to help change lives with my writing. I also heard a presentation By Matt and Tristi designed to strengthen the marriages of writers. It confirmed my belief that my writing is an aspiration given to me by a loving Heavenly Father.

Simply put, I could, attend writer’s conferences in some exotic places, but nowhere else, can I network with like minded writers, and listen to a closing prayer after the conference. I am truly blessed.

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

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Undiscovered Country

By Keith Fisher

I’m a Star Trek fan. It comes natural for me. Who doesn’t wish for a future where the pursuit of individual excellence is paramount and greed no longer exists? A bright future where you can visit the other side of earth by entering a transporter?

One of my favorite Star Trek movies is The Undiscovered Country. In the story, a klingon moon explodes and the empire is forced to find a new home world. The federation extends an olive branch and offers to help.

The leader of the klingons calls the future, the undiscovered country. He looked forward to the unknown. Like the klingons, We don’t know the outcome of any endeavor. The future looms over us as undiscovered continents did, to the first explorers.

By necessity, we’re all explorers. Most of us however, sit comfortably in the Old World, while the Magellans’, Columbus’, and Admiral Byrds, trudge forward into the New World of the future. They sail toward the Undiscovered Country, with courage.

Such is the case with those writers who leave the security of a day job to pursue writing as a full time career. I have a great amount of respect for writers who are crazy enough to believe in their ability to sustain their chosen occupation.

They stand on the edge of a deep chasm ready to take that awe inspiring, leap of faith. The rest of us stand at the entrance of the temple waiting for Indiana Jones to find the way.

Many years ago, there was in Paris, an artistic community of writers, painters, and musicians. Some of them lived on the good graces of relatives or they worked just long enough to find sustenance. Others starved. Success in their chosen field was their common dream. F. Scott Fitzgerald and many of his contemporaries came through those times and went on to become famous.

In my ever-expanding circle of writer friends, most of us have family responsibilities. Our day jobs keep food on the table, and turn the wolves away from the door. We can’t run off to Paris and perfect our craft, but we can take a leap of faith.

Submitting our manuscript to an editor is like stepping into the unknown future. If we are successful, the Undiscovered Country will be ours to explore. We might not commit to writing full time for awhile, but we can be like Magellan just the same. Launch that ship into uncharted waters by finishing that manuscript.

As for the community of artisans, opportunities to associate with other writers can be found in writer’s conferences and workshops. Critique groups or the odd retreat or two. Each week in my critique group, we prove there is nothing like talking to other writers about characters who won’t leave you alone. I have a circle of friends, a small community of artisans.

As I said before, I have a great amount of respect for those who give up their day jobs in order to pursue their writing career. I plan to do that someday, but until then, I’m going to keep submitting, and attending conferences.

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

Click on the image to read my review of Kimberly Job's new book, I'll Know you by Heart.

I'll Know you by Heart

A book review by Keith Fisher

When I heard Kimberly read the first chapter in our critique group, I knew she was a much better writer than I’d given her credit for. Kimberly had been using me as a sounding board, so I had an idea what she was going to write, but wow.

Kimberly has the talent to draw a reader into a story, and hold their attention. I’m lucky to be able to learn from her.

I’ll know you by Heart is Kimberly’s first, in a long list of published works. The characters feel like people I know. The story speaks for itself. Stephanie pulls her and her children, away from a cycle of abuse and finds an inner strength, a belief in self, and help from God. She also finds Jared. He is man who passed through his own refiner’s fire. He didn’t know, but he’d been waiting his whole life to find her. The love they share grows, and becomes the blessing of a lifetime.

Yes, I received a free book, but my ethics would not allow me to recommend something I didn’t believe you will love, but hang on to your hat. Even if you never experienced any of the many forms of abuse, this book will grab your attention. Kimberly wrote it in a tasteful realistic way. Your heart will go out to the characters. You will love it.

Publisher: Valor Publishing Group, LLC (March 16, 2010)
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Binding: Trade Paperback
Pages: 275
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1-935546-13-9
Product Dimensions: 6 x 9 inches

Look for Kimberly and her book at these places. Find her at one of her many book signings and get her to sign your book.

Monday, April 12, 2010

An Explanation

I had someone ask what are writer's eyes? so I rewrote a blog I posted on LDS Writer's Blogck in 2006. This is the concept of this blog site.

Looking at Life through a Writer's Eyes

By Keith Fisher

Have you ever noticed the look on someone’s face as you explain why you love to watch people? Have you ever drafted a whole scenario to explain somebody’s expression? Did you love to play make-believe as a child? Have you ever seen a clump of grass up close and visualized the whole world existing below the blades?

Are your friends tired of you taking time to analyze the feasibility of a joke? Do you shush people while you listen to a rainstorm? Do you edit your daydreams?

If you answered yes to these questions you probably look at life through a writer’s eyes.

Writers, like children, see the wonder in common things. They lay on their belly gazing at the bare spots between clumps and grass and imagine Traveling through Tolkien’s Mirkwood Forest. The tiny sticks and little pebbles, become huge logs and boulders, under their watchful gaze.

Writers live in a world of imagination, grudgingly taking time to be adults and do adult things, but they are happy playing with their children and their children’s toys. They sit down, intending to write for ten minutes, and the next thing they know, it’s three a.m. and they have to get up in a couple of hours to go to work.

Writers take notes, they really do. Although, sometimes they are writing in church and miss the second meeting entirely, because they’re in the zone and they can’t bare to stop. Looking at life through writer’s eyes causes you to see a plot twist in your friend’s misfortunes. Of course you have sympathy for them, but you take mental notes for future stories.

No. There is nothing wrong with you, and there are many, many others with the same afflictions. We live our lives in a, what would happen if mode. While the rest of the world is starving for entertainment, we explore new worlds and write about what we find.

Your writer’s eyes will bless you in ways you cannot imagine. They help you see things other people miss. Things that open up myriad concepts, plot twists, character traits and sometimes whole stories, not only can be, but will be gleaned from a simple experience. Remember who gave you the talent and never abuse it. Keep your content clean and uplifting. Build others, the way your Father in Heaven has helped you.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Learning Patience

By Keith Fisher

I’m a little late posting my blog this week because I’ve been cooking at the Dutch oven convention. If you didn’t know, it’s Mecca for camp cooks. I’ll be posting a blog about it at The Camp Cook in Your Backyard, blog.

Last week, I attended a Church meeting on Saturday night. For those of you who don’t know, The LDS Church holds a semi-annual general conference broadcast. As part of that conference, there is a Saturday night meeting. It’s broadcast to certain chapels and universities. Of course you can get it on the Internet in real time.

Anyway, in the meeting, Elder Uchtdorf of the First Presidency, spoke about being patient. It was a wonderful message and spoke to my heart. It helped me to come to grips with waiting on the Lord. I know he will bless me with answers to prayers, but I must be patient and continue working, doing my part.

The message he gave can help struggling, authors in their quest for success, but that’s not what I want to write about today.

As I said, I was in a public place packed with people. The parking lot was also full, and I had the opportunity to leave early, but didn’t. In the stake center where I attended the meeting, they turn most of the lights off to avoid the shadow they so they cast on the projection screen. As a writer I like to take notes, and if I can’t see my notebook . . . well, you get the idea. I sat through the meeting in the foyer.

It’s a better seat anyway. You can’t see the speakers, but the sofa is more comfortable. I was taking notes, toward the end, when I suddenly got an idea for a scene in my book. I began to write it, but interrupted myself to listen to the Prophet. I went right back to my scene when he finished. I sat in the foyer long after the rush of people left the building.

When I finally left, cars were backed up in the parking lot. I started my truck to run the heater, and went back to writing under a street lamp.

I wrote until I had finished my draft, looked up, and the parking lot was almost empty. I was able to drive home at my leisure, with no traffic jams.

I reflected on Elder Uchtdorf’s talk, and smiled when I thought of another way to look at his subject. Many writers carry notebooks, or some other way to capture our thoughts. A lot of writing gets done away from the writing desk. I run away to write all the time, myself. But I’ve never thought about using down time in the car. Think of how liberating it could be after a ball game, concert, or other major event. To wait for traffic, while putting in your writing time.

Just think of the stress relief. Of course, this strategy could cause even more problems if the kids in your car are in a hurry. I recommend installing a back seat DVD player. :)

So, when you’re alone, and traffic is heavy. Pull to the side of the road, preferably under a shade tree. Draft that scene, write that article, or a letter. I bet you’ll find peace that only comes from the endorphins of writing. I also think you’ll realize you haven’t lost anymore time than if you had waited in traffic, with anger rising, to get your turn to go.

I’m going to learn to be patient. I’ll follow the council of my leaders and get some writing done at the same time. Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Old Man and the Sea

By Keith Fisher

A man can be destroyed but not defeated. These words, Written by Ernest Hemmingway, symbolize the unconquerable spirit of Santiago, an old fisherman who has come to grips with life and refuses to give up.

After finding Hemingway’s books uninteresting, I decided to give him another chance. I read The Old and the Sea. It is considered to be the author’s best work, and many critics feel it departs from his other books. I had to agree. I found a theme Hemingway seemed to have missed before.

Ernest Hemingway, born in 1899, suffered from the prevalent myth of his time. Many young men believed they had to prove their manhood, and there was no better way than to fight in a war. The belief caused Theodore Roosevelt, and Rudyard Kipling to lose children in the Great War.

In large part, Hemingway wrote from a macho sense of honor, but in 1951, he wrote The Old Man and the Sea. It was published in 1952 and Hemingway won a Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1954. In the presentation speech, Anders Ă–sterling, said The Old Man and the Sea was an unforgettable story of an old Cuban fisherman's duel with a huge swordfish in the Atlantic. Within the frame of a sporting tale, a moving perspective of man's destiny is opened up; the story is a tribute to the fighting spirit, which does not give in even if the material gain is nil, a tribute to the moral victory in the midst of defeat. The drama is enacted before our eyes, hour by hour, allowing the robust details to accumulate and take on momentous significance.

Perhaps in later life, Hemingway began to think differently because it showed in The Old Man and the Sea. I’ve talked with many people about this book. Some of them liked it. Some hated it. This book, for me, ranks up there with the movies, Second Hand Lions, and Space Cowboys. Dealing with mortality and past glories is something every man must do eventually.

Hemingway died in 1961. I don’t think he found what he looked for. Men like he was, need to go out in a blaze of glory. Unfortunately, there aren’t many blazes of glory available. Besides, it takes more courage to live through adversity and infirmity. If for no other reason, than because people love you.

As for, The Old Man and the Sea, it brings up questions that every man and woman must face. Those questions can bring you closer to God.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Taking Pictures with Too much in the Frame

By Keith Fisher

My daughter borrowed my camera the other day and asked me to send her the images. I’m an obedient dad, but my duty required I check out her pictures while I downloaded them. I found 62 beautiful pictures causing me to reminisce.

I studied photography in high school, and thought I was pretty good. At one time I wanted to be a news photographer when I grew up. Time, made me realize my pictures weren’t very good. Well I took a few good ones, but there were many more that left me shaking my head.

Out of every five rolls of film I’d get one good one, which explains why I’m a writer, and not a photographer. I still try to take good pictures, though. At least I don’t cut off heads.

My daughter, however, takes wonderful pictures, and she taught herself. She uses the settings on my camera, and produces works of art. The picture of the flat volleyball is one of them.

When I examine the image, my mind conjures metaphors and object lessons, but beyond that, there is nothing in the frame to detract from the subject. I noticed the other pictures were the same way. She took pictures of a stack of bricks, a discarded gardening glove, a clump of pine needles, and more. All of these bits of beauty are tiny parts of my yard, things I never take time to notice. If I went out there, I’d come back with one, maybe three, pictures of the whole yard. I’d make sure the images were in frame, but you’d never see the volleyball in my picture.

I realized I try to put too much in the frame. I forget to concentrate on individual portions. Then I thought of my writing. As a writer, I plot. I’ve been told that’s a good thing, but let me tell you what happened the other day.

I brought the first chapter of my new book, to critique group. Well I really brought my third chapter that I’d moved to the front because of event sequencing. I had things in the first chapter that happen after the third chapter. The problem was I forgot about the exposition I’d put in the third chapter. Because it was now the first chapter, I added a situational hook, then tried to make the exposition fit the story. I tried to fill the frame of my photograph. Instead of focusing on the hook, I got lazy.

The wonderful ladies in my group pointed out my errors, and my argumentative nature rebelled. Have I ever told you my critique group is the best bunch of writers you could find? Their patience is legendary.

So I need to go back and re-work it. This time I’ll focus on the situational hook. I’ll let it develop and worry about the rest as it comes. I’ve had time to think, and I know how to make it work. I just need to focus on one thing at time. I know where I’m going. Now, I need to help the reader enjoy the journey. Like my daughter takes pictures of the little things, I need to focus on each chapter. Then my book will be a collection of beautiful chapters instead of a good plot that never gets read.

I blogged about Secret Sisters today. Check it out. Click on the image below.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Secret Sisters

A book review, by Keith Fisher

I’ve been waiting a long time for this book to come out. When Tristi Pinkston brought Secret Sisters to our critique group two years ago, I told her this was her true calling.

Tristi is a historical fiction writer, and she’s very proud of that. She wrote Nothing to Regret, Strength to Endure, and Season of Sacrifice. She knows her way around historical research, but when I heard Tristi read Secret Sisters, I knew she is the master of many genres.

Subsequently, The publisher who originally purchased this book also published the successful, Agent in Old Lace, introducing the world to Tristi’s talent for mystery. I won’t say Secret Sisters is Tristi’s best work, but it is the best mystery.

Secret Sisters will take you into hilarious places and situations, introducing you to Ida Mae Babbitt, a quirky LDS relief society president, and her councilors, Arlette and Tansy. Together with Ida Mae’s nephew, and Arlette’s granddaughter, they discover a mystery. All the while trying to keep the bishop’s blood pressure from rising.

Here’s a quote from the book you might like.

“Aunt Ida Mae, help me test this,” Ren said, walking into the kitchen with a small object in his hand. He held it up, and Ida Mae gasped. It was a beautiful broach in the shape of a cat, with sparkling crystals embedded in it.

“Do you think Eden will like it?” he asked.

Ida Mae’s heart melted, Her dear boy was preparing to give a gift to his lady friend---it was so sweet.

“I think she’ll love it, dear,” she said, patting his cheek.

“Good, because she’s going to wear it every day.”

Ida Mae blinked. “What?” Surely he didn’t think he could dictate how often Eden wore it. It was a gift, after all.

“It’s a communicator. I call it a commlink. You push these buttons and it activates an alarm on the watch I’m wearing. I’m very proud of myself.”

Another quote is found just inside the cover, and it reflects the humor nested in the story:

The persons depicted in this book are professional fictional characters.
Do not try this at home.

When you read Secret Sisters, you’ll find yourself wishing it won’t end, but don’t worry, Secret Sisters is only the first in a long series of Ida Mae Babbitt mysteries. Follow the zany antics of the group as they stumble into one mystery after another. You’ll fall in love with Ida Mae and her cohorts. I recommend you read this book, and pass me some more of Ida Mae’s cookies.