Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Mayans Made a Calendar

By Keith N Fisher

Today is the last day. At Midnight, 2011 becomes history. 2012 promises to be an unusual year. Depending on who you talk to, and which method you follow, it’s the end of the Mayan calendar, which means the end of the world???? Some people claim the ancient Mayans made a calendar that ends in December of 2012. So naturally it’s a forecast, right?

Okay, each year, I get a new wall calendar with only twelve months. If we follow the above logic, then the world should end each year. Instead, we print a new calendar and get on with our lives. I guess we could assume the calendar maker knows something, and we should crawl into a hole to wait out the destruction.

Yes, I’m being facetious, but when He gave signs and clues about his second coming, Jesus said, “Know man knoweth the hour.” According to scripture, there are dozens of major events that must happen before the end comes. All of those things will take a little time, so maybe the Mayans weren’t predicting anything. Then, again . . .

Also, in 2012, there will be another US Presidential election, how many of you are already getting tired of the posturing? Like with Christmas music, I get so tired of it, by the time the big event comes, I just want it to be over. I get sick of dreaming of a white Christmas. There must be hundreds of different people who sing, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful . . . well, you get the picture.

In 2012, the public accusations will rise to a new low. I’m already sick of politicians who continue to blame the other guy for the state of the country. Each side has an agenda and they try to make us believe the other side won’t work with them. I’m thoroughly fed up with selective memory and apparent hypocrisy. With all the, my way or the highway, maybe the Mayans were right?

So here we sit on the last day of sanity, on the edge of a big year, with financial gurus forecasting devastation. I find it interesting, that it was the financial institutions that got us into the mess we find ourselves in currently.

Now, before you think I’m preaching gloom and doom, let me tell you a story. On New Years Eve 1999 I stood in a discount club warehouse and watched all the people pushing trolleys loaded with canned goods and emergency supplies. I wondered why, if they were worried, they hadn’t prepared sooner. There was a threat that the computers in the world might shut down with the change of the century. Since computer clocks started in the nineteen eighties, the experts wondered how the systems would interpret any date without nineteen hundred something in it.

In the weeks that followed, I saw ads everywhere. People wanted to sell their emergency supplies. The catastrophe didn’t happen and they were trying to recoup their losses.

It’s true that stuff happens. Sometimes it doesn’t, but Jesus said,
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Trust in him. Live your life. Be happy, and be at peace. Connie posted a blog this week and talked about setting her writing goals. I plan to do that, because, hectic or not, 2012 is the year several of my books will see the light of day.

May you accomplish all your writing goals this year and may you find peace. Good luck with your writing---see you next week---unless, of course, the end comes.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Holiday Hustle

By Keith N Fisher

I havent filled my list. Well, the truth is I never made one. My wife went out on Black Friday and came up empty handed. She has a new plan for next year, though. She’s going to eat Thanksgiving dinner in the line in front of the store.

She knows what she wants to buy before she shops. Me, on the other hand . . .
My daughter and I went shopping to find her mother a Christmas present the other day. Neither of us could think of a suitable gift. Just goes to show where our minds have been.

I’ve been too caught up in the day to day. The holiday hustle and service, has taken a back seat. Then, there was this guy at work . . .

One of my customers came in talking about the Idaho lottery. He said several of his friends had chipped in, and he was on his way to buy tickets. He asked me what I would do if I won. I told him I don’t gamble, but I remember hearing about the employees of a construction company doing what he was doing. They won big money.

To answer his question, I wasn’t sure what I’d do with the money if I won, but the group I’d heard about kept working and used their winnings as a hedge against inflation.

The conversation got me thinking and I surprised myself. I told my friend I would keep working and start a foundation to give anonymous gifts to needy families. I assure you I’m not that service minded, but in my heart of hearts, I knew it would be the right thing to do. I think it’s what Jesus would do.

Then, the thought occurred, that it’s easy to make that kind of decision with a hypothetical winning lottery ticket in hand. The true nature of my thoughts, while holding a stack of cash, might be entirely different. Would I pay off the mortgage? Spoil my daughter? Fix up the house?

Of course, there are many loose ends I need to tie up, but I like to think I would also help others.

After coming to that realization, I thought of all the past Christmas’ when giving was paramount in my mind. Christmas in the mission field comes to mind. The first ten years of marriage does also. There were times in my life when my heart was in the right place. So, where is my heart now?

Losing jobs and reinventing myself while promoting my writing career has left me somewhat, self-centered, I think. With all of that self-promotion, it’s hard to remember others. Yeah, it’s an excuse, but it helps me justify my actions. I missed two opportunities for service this week. I could’ve been there, but I got lost in the holiday hustle.

It’s true, life is simple in retrospect, but I’ve decided to change. I really would love my job to be a choice, instead of a necessity. To be able to help others, and spend quality time with my family. So, I’m taking Jacob’s advice from The Book of Mormon,

17 Think of your "brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that 'they may be rich like unto you.
18 But "before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the 'kingdom of God.
19 And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to "do good-to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted. Jacob 2:17-19
pasted verbatim

Just think about what would happen if I substituted the words writing success, for the word riches.

I’m posting this on Christmas Eve. Later on, I’ll be working. Like last year, I’ll come home from work, wake my family, and see what Santa left under our tree. Then, before church, I’ll take a short nap and plot my strategy for serving others. In the mean time, here’s a cute little video you might enjoy.

Merry Christmas and good luck with your writing---see you next week.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

a Quick Thought

By Keith N Fisher


Now, just a quick thought.

My friend posted a fun little thing on Facebook the other day. Some of you will get a kick out of it. I found it interesting to note, however, that all of the time and labor saving devices we have today were invented by my generation. Perhaps we are to blame, but would you really want to go back to the old ways?

Roger “B” Heilman posted,

In the line at the store, the cashier told an older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.

The woman apologized to him and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day."

The clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment."

He was right -- our generation didn't have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn't have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the disposable kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that old lady is right; we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she's right; we didn't have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn't have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back then?


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

Saturday, November 26, 2011

An Empty Newsletter

By Keith N Fisher

Well, I don’t feel any happier, but I do have a new appreciation of all the blessings I’ve been given. Last week I talked about counting blessings as a way to happiness. I also said I would spend thanksgiving counting mine.

It was a wonderful activity that brought insights and peace. How many of you have been grateful for air to breathe? We had dinner at my brother’s and I spent much of that time reminiscing about my childhood. You see my brother owns a house where the barn used to be, when I was three years old and we lived down there.

The small bungalow my parents rented still exists, but it was moved and sits on blocks in a field behind the landlord’s house.

I remember playing in the water puddles that formed in the road after a rainstorm. I remember so much more, but I don’t want to bore you.

I’ve finished the book I was working on and started on another. I now have one at the publisher and two in editing. This, latest, story wants to be told, but its not anxious to give up the secrets. I’m sweating over every word, trying to get it right.

I also started our annual family newsletter this week. What a daunting task it has become. Do any of you write seasonal greetings? Our newsletter used to be easy. Our lives were full of activities, but as the economy tanked, and funds became hard to scrape up, activities have tapered off.

I get a kick out of other newsletters I read. Some of them, I’m convinced, are propaganda sheets, designed to make me feel guilty about my less than, perfect life. I marvel at how we all become spin doctors, tweeking the truth to make it sound better. This year, I’m afraid I’ll end up saying, “nothing happened last year”.

There are, however, a few pictures I can use. My wife continues to get thinner and I’ve noticed a weight loss on myself. Hey, I just thought of some things I can write. Perhaps with a little spin . . .

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

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanks

By Keith N Fisher

Hymn number 241 in the Mormon Hymnbook, caught my eye the other day. I’ve probably sang that hymn thousands of times over the years, but I finally got the point recently, and I thought you might benefit.

The advice in, Count Your Blessings, is clear. If we are burdened with troubles there is freedom. All we need to do is, count our blessings. Name them one by one. Count our many blessings see what God hath done.

According to the song, there are myriad things God has done for us and if we honestly start counting those things, how can we feel anything but grateful? Then with gratitude in our hearts, our troubles seem to morph into manageable annoyances.

That is the promise---happiness through gratitude. Are you willing to give it a try?

In light of the impending holiday, I thought it would be a good time to try the experiment. Each year, we greet our friends with a cheerful “Happy Thanksgiving", and rush to continue our preparations of the great meal. Many people look forward to watching sports on TV. Most of us can’t wait to get reacquainted with relatives. Others wish those relatives would stay away. How many of us actually use the day for what it was intended. How many of us take time to recognize God’s part in our lives?

When I think of my childhood and teenage years, I have much to be thankful for. I realize the many times God saved me. There were times when He, alone, stood between me and impending doom. As I grew older, He helped me in subtle ways. So, I plan to take time on the holiday, tuck my tail between my legs, and give credit where credit is due. I bet I will run out of day before I run out of blessings to count. Either way, I look forward to the promise in the song.

I hope your holiday will be full of family love and good food. I also hope you will take a moment and remember He, who made it all possible.

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

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Typing

By Keith N Fisher

Like most of those in my generation, I took a typing class in junior high. I recall sitting behind a typewriter, trying to find the “D”. We had a chart on the wall that showed the placement of all the keys, but we weren’t supposed to look at it. I had to close my eyes and try to remember.

I wondered why the letters weren’t just placed in order. You know start at the top with “A” and move down the keyboard until you find “Z”. It didn’t make any sense.

When I found out, however, why the keys were placed like they are, I nodded my head and understood. After the invention of the inline typewriter, proficiency of the users caused a problem. The type bars would often get tangled on the backstroke with the following bar. To avoid the problem of jammed keys the inventors mixed up the keyboard to slow down the typists.

Having spent hours typing on an old manual typewriter, I can understand. Even with the confusing placement, my keys often got tangled with each other. Now, after all these years, I’m vaguely familiar with the keyboard. I also use a computer that reacts to each stroke in quicker time than even my mind can function. I don’t need the “A” in the top left corner, because I’m used to having the “Q” up there.

I still wonder if an inline placement could help though, and some keyboards are laid out that way, but it’s okay. You see, when I’m composing off the top of my head, as if I were speaking, I write pretty fast. My fingers become an extension of my mind and words flow fast enough for me.

On the other hand, I’ve taken typing tests that made me feel like a ninth-grader again. I’m slower than glacial ice. Instead of typing word for word from the test sheet, I tend to read the thing, take time to comprehend it, then type what it said. Sometimes, I even have to visualize the chart to remember the keyboard placement. Well, I hate timed tests anyway.

Now, as if to add insult to injury, designers keep placing the keys closer together. Laptops are getting smaller. We have netbooks that seem to be made for a four-year old typist, or one-handed users. My big fingers feel cramped, and I tend to type the wrong letter. Editing, while writing, seems to be the wave of the future for me. Maybe I should adopt the two-thumb texting, method of writing.

Or maybe, I need to put my fingers on a diet. Perhaps, Mrs. Woodward standing over me with a stopwatch, making sure my eyes never stray to the chart on the wall. Of course in those days, the keys were almost an inch apart. If you wanted to type a letter, you had to mean it. Therefore, your finger muscles had to be strong.

Later, with electric typewriters, they eliminated the need to press hard, but the keys were sensitive. If the user held a finger down too long, the letter would appear more than once. I guess that’s still possible with computers, but the timing has been perfected to prevent accidental doubles.

Yes, writing is not for the faint of heart. If it’s any consolation, most of the classical writers we admire didn’t type. I think I’ll stick to writing from the top of my head, and try to avoid typing tests.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ghosts, Ghouls, Kim Karshian, and a Great Story

By Keith N Fisher

It’s been a couple of years since I wrote about Halloween. It’s about time, don’t you think? By tradition each year, I sit on my front porch in a festive mood and pass out the offerings. Life is great when the holiday falls on a warm night, but I recall several stormy nights when I would’ve stood in bed if it wasn’t for our daughter’s desire for candy.

When she was younger, we made the mistake of putting her down for a nap before going out, then wondered why she didn’t seem to care. I recently watched the videos and realized she was sleep-walking at the time.

Out of self-defense against those who would steal the whole bowl of candy we left while we went around the neighborhood, I began to stay home. The porch sitting tradition started when I got tired of standing up every five minutes to answer the door. I dressed up a few times, but it scared some of the children. Now, I remain my usual scary self, and I can’t remove my mask.

One year, I tried to read one of the Harry Potter books, but there were too many interruptions. I have tried to write, with the same results. This year, I didn’t try, although I did have my laptop charging on the bistro table. I took pictures, chatted, and philosophized about the different aspects of the holiday.

Also, this year, since our daughter graduated from supervised trick or treating, my wife joined me on the porch. My mother even stopped over.

I went to work later on, that night, and watched the kids who came into the store. Some were dressed in costumes, some weren’t. I remembered some of the teenage antics I played on Halloween, and marveled at the changes in the world.

I wished my daughter could’ve grown up when I did. When neighbors were kind, and they took care of each other’s children. It was a time when we didn’t worry about the dangers kids face today. Parents didn’t need to go trick or treating, but they still worried.

While working, I passed the tabloid magazine rack and read one of the headlines about Kim Kardashian. Now, there is a scary Halloween character for you. Except she never removes the mask. The way I heard it, she staged a wedding & marriage as a publicity stunt and now, after seventy-two days, she’s in the process of filing for divorce. Talk about a circus act. Using smoke and mirrors she has proven she’d do almost anything for attention. It’s becoming hard to tell the difference between fantasy and reality these days. Reality seems to be whatever a press agent says it is.

Later, the radio played I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing, by Stephen Tyler and Aerosmith. The song reminded me of a great story. I heard on television.

Back in the seventies, A model named Bebe Buell, hung out with rock stars. She became involved with Todd Rundgren, a famous lead guitarist and songwriter. After a while, she broke up with him and started hanging out with Steven Tyler of the band Aerosmith. That relationship was short lived, however, because Steven’s drug abuse scared Bebe and she went back to Todd.

Soon afterward, Bebe had a baby girl and named her Liv Rundgren. They were a family who socialized with Rock Stars and show people.

When Liv started to grow up, she noticed a resemblance between her and Steven Tyler’s daughter Mia. Now there are two different stories here, but they agree that at some point, Liv confronted Bebe about it and was told the truth. Bebe didn’t know for sure, but Steven was probably her birth father. At twelve, Liv took Steven’s stage name and became, Liv Rundgren Tyler. She has two dads and calls Todd her spiritual dad.

Later, Liv tried modeling, then acting and is very popular. She played Arwen, in Lord of the Rings among other leading roles in other movies. In 1998 she played Bruce Willis’s daughter in a movie called Armageddon. There is a poignant moment in the story when Bruce has to do the heroic thing. He tells his Daughter, Liv, by videoconference, that he won’t be coming home. Liv touches the screen with both hands as his image fades out.

In the music video that accompanied the movie, they put Steven on that screen during the last part of the song. Liv touches the screen as Steven fades out. It was touching.

Isn’t that a great story? Even though it’s an unconventional family story, its true, and unlike Kim Kardashian, Liv Tyler doesn’t display it across the media. She tells the truth and leaves it at that. It would make a great plot for a book if someone could write it without being sued. Have a great week.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Camping Trip

By Keith N Fisher

Last week, I went camping and re-posted a blog talking about another trip. I’m happy to report the writer’s block I experienced then, didn’t happen this time. I woke up in the middle of the night and wrote the final scene for my work in progress.

It’s interesting to sit in a truck on an almost moonless night and write by the light of your laptop. I’m large enough that my computer sits perfectly between my chest and the steering wheel. I took off my glasses and visited with my character.

On another day, I worked on a new project and did some editing. I got so caught up that my brother knocked on the door and scared my pants off, asking if we were going hunting. I discovered my laptop makes a good flashlight in order to see who is interrupting me.

I learned a few things on the trip this year. One, is that its possible to put your underwear on backwards in the dark while trying to not wake anybody up. I also learned that it’s very cold standing behind bushes and under trees, trying to turn your underwear around.

Later, I learned my cousin has become an avid reader. He stumbled across a book by Nora Roberts while waiting for somebody, and now he reads almost everything he can find. He’s going to be a beta reader for me.

I became reacquainted with the concept of gazing into a campfire and contemplating the deeper meaning of life or the next plot turn. I drank hot chocolate and wrote well, better than I used to. I also put in some hunting time.

It was a having a good time away from real life, wish you were here, kind of weekend. Wish you could’ve been there. Good luck with your writing—see you next week.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Re-Posting From the Archive

By Keith N Fisher

I’m going camping and I won’t be here on Saturday. Also, things are hectic right now, so I decided to re-post an article from 2006. I’m not sure if this will appear on time, but if not I’ll be late. I did a little editing because I’m a better writer now. I hope you like it. I’ll see you when I come down from the mountain.



Writers Block at 9,000 Feet

By Keith Fisher

I couldn’t bring my computer. Well, I guess I could’ve but I’m one of those who didn’t know you should remove the battery from a laptop while on house current so it only lasts about 50 minutes. Because of my daily writing habit I wondered if I would go crazy without my electronic crutch.

In an attempt at appeasement, I brought a wire bound notebook. I figured I could at least, make notes of the ideas I might have. I had a priesthood lesson to plan anyway.

My brother had a different kind of hunting permit than I did, but I didn’t want him to go alone, so I went camping. As it turned out, my dad went too, but he stayed in his trailer with my brother. So, I had a lot of alone time in mine. During the day, I got to shoot the bull with my dad. We solved the problems of the world, and my brother went hunting.

Have you ever tried to concentrate on a plot while chatting with someone? I put down my notebook and talked. I didn’t get my writing done.

After we ate the Dutch oven food I cooked, and we said good night I went into the trailer and opened my notebook. Nothing happened. I tried to make notes for my lesson but I couldn’t keep my mind on it.

I realized if I had a generator, I could’ve brought my computer. At least I could Edit, or watch a DVD. What do you do when you’re camped at 9,000 feet during your writing time and nothing comes to mind? Did I mention I was alone in a camp trailer? No distractions, what a great set up. I was having the weekend that most writers can only dream about, but my mind wasn’t co-operating. What would you do? I gave up.

I finally decided to go to bed, thinking I would at least get some sleep. Well, that was the plan, anyway. I began to obsess over a dry throat and dust in the furnace. I didn't want to wake up with a cold. Perhaps a little hot chocolate, I thought.

When my hot drink was ready, I sat down and thumbed through previous notes made in my notebook. It got me thinking about the characters in a different book than the one I was working on. Suddenly, and without forethought, I was writing again. I still missed my computer screen, but the notebook was working fine.

Three cups of hot chocolate and four hours later, I decided that I’d better go to bed. I was happy when my head hit the pillow. I forgot about the dust in the furnace while I dreamed about plot lines.

I spent the rest of the weekend writing the story I never intended to work on. I learned to be flexible with my writing time. I also learned that even though it sounds crazy, characters are like children. If you pay attention to one, the other will get jealous and try to take center stage. If I listen, perhaps my writing will turn out better.

I’d forgotten the joy of quietly putting ink on paper. It was nice to reacquaint myself. Although, reading what I wrote, is another matter.




As I said, this blog was written in October of 2006. That was three laptop batteries ago. I now have a cigarette lighter cord for my computer, and I take a notebook.

There are several projects percolating in my brain in case of writer’s block. I’m also writing a cookbook, so my camp kitchen is packed and ready. I’ll see you when I get back.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.




Saturday, October 15, 2011

Killing the Independents

By Keith N Fisher

I watched a documentary on Public Television the other day. It was called, Paperback Dreams and it lamented the demise of two San Francisco Bay area book stores. Cody’s Books, in Berkely, California, and Kepler’s across the bay in Menlo Park.

The narrator talked about their beginnings and how they became Mecca for the free thinkers and counter-culture radicals of the sixties. Cody’s even served as a medical first-aid station in nineteen-sixty eight during a Telegraph Avenue anti war protest. The police & National Guard used tear gas and clubs to disperse the crowd. So, a group of former army medics who’d been in Vietnam, offered to help those who were injured.

Many famous people, writers and musicians cut their proverbial teeth in those stores. Joan Baez talked about the time she spent in Kepler’s and what she learned. Even the Grateful Dead, hung out there. Roy Kepler, the founder, used to complain that they always played the same song, and stole the ashtrays. Over the years, there have been many writers who read their work at Cody’s and Keplers and left a signed photograph for the wall. Those places were filled with literary tradition.

The show explored the different ways those two stores have struggled to survive. The economy will always be a problem for book sales, but the real threat started when reading fell victim to visual media. Book sales dropped, but the trade paperback, with the cheaper price, saved the business and gave those two stores their start. Then, came the threat from big box stores, like Walmart, Costco, and Target. They are still cutting into the market, but online, discount booksellers have devastated the industry. The latest attacks on independent bookstores have come from e-books and print on demand and it’s killing bookstores.

As writers, we selfishly plot and scheme. We look to our bottom line to find the best way to get our work published. We embrace the brave new world in our attempt to market our careers and sell books. After all, that is the point, right? Technology is the wave of the future, isn’t it? I wonder how many of us consider what the brave new world is doing to the independent bookstore.

We search for places to launch our books and moan the loss of independents, but forget to patronize those stores during the rest of the year. We buy each other’s books online and as e-books. Who can afford to do otherwise?

During the closing of one of the stores in the documentary, one of the customers claimed she used to come into the store three times a week. In a private response, the owner of the store wondered, if that were true, where were the sales? It’s the bottom line that closed the store.

With the routine closing of independents and now, national chains, like Borders, we are losing a way of life. The exchange of ideas and independent thought of the sixties are gone. Meeting at Borders for a cappuccino and a quiet place to write is going away, too. Did you ever walk into a small bookstore and breathe in the aroma of freshly printed books? You won’t get that at Amazon. Well, the warehouse workers might, but thumbing the pages and fingering the spine is impossible with e-books.

With the loss of independent booksellers, our world is changing.

I’ve lamented the coming of E-books and print on demand before. I certainly don’t want to harp on something that is inevitable. I just wish we could hold-on to the better parts of our society.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Looking Literary

By Keith N Fisher

I attended the Book Academy this week. It’s a one-day conference put on by the UVU Continuing Education Department. There were four breakout sessions, a panel of book reviewers, book signings, and Dan Wells was the keynote speaker. Breakfast was great and lunch was delicious. I’ve attended for three years now, and I’m still impressed.

Anyway, I sat in the ballroom getting ready to eat and someone joined me. We talked about writing and whether I was published yet or not. The man told me I look like an author. When I asked why, the subject of my beard and long hair came up.

Hmm. I didn’t know I was unkempt in order to look literary. I thought it was because I work at night and haven’t been able to connect with my barber. I had been self-conscious since I would be talking with Kirk Shaw from Covenant. I didn’t want to make a poor impression since I’m waiting to hear from them about one of my manuscripts. Now, whenever I look at myself in the mirror, I see Hemmingway or Vonnegut. I might have something here. Do you think I could be a famous author just by looking like Walt Whitman?

No, I write LDS fiction so, don’t think it’ll work. Maybe, it’s national market time? Maybe, it’s easier to just get my haircut and beard trimmed.

I learned some things at the conference and met some new friends. It’s surprising that more people don’t attend. Many of those I see at Storymakers would also love this one. Mark it on your calendar for next year. Jessica Day George will be the keynote speaker.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fall

A blog tour book review by Keith N Fisher

Did you ever have one of those nagging feelings that won’t let you go? A feeling like you’re forgetting something, but you can’t quite remember what? I knew I had to get this review posted soon, but I wasn’t sure what day it was due.

Now I’m late, and people are going to think I’m unreliable. I’m really not you know. I’m the one who shows up for everything at least fifteen minutes early. Nothing left to do, than to say I’m sorry and move forward with my review.

I met the author, Jennifer Hurst, at the August Authorama this year. I was cooking in Dutch ovens and she was applying her talent of face painting. She’s a talented artist and although I didn’t know it at the time, she’s also an author.

Being asked to review her new book Fall, is an honor. The book was a refreshing story that deals with issues as old as time. Without beating about the bush, I must admit, at first, I found it hard to love the protagonist, Julia, because of her propensity toward typical airhead behavior.

She’s a woman manager and general foreman of a construction project. At one point she gets her high heel stuck in a hole between floorboards, (big surprise, huh?).

Julia, JD for short, wants to be taken seriously as the boss in a typically man’s occupation, but she insists on dressing in clothes that point out the differences between them.

I realize the author is trying to make a point in making her that way, but it was hard for me to read.

Eventually, I learned to like her, and the plot turns out okay. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I won’t give you too much information. Get a copy and read it, but be warned there are demons in this story.

This book is self-published so don’t look for it in the obvious places. You will find it through the author and tell her I sent you. Or, go to amazon. its also available for Kindle

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Do It Yourself, Or . . .

By Keith N Fisher

When I started writing, I noticed a few ads in trade magazines for what we called vanity presses. There was even one company named Vanity Press. They offered writers an opportunity to see their book in print. There was a minimum order. So, it cost a small fortune. It was, however, a way of getting your work out, even after rejection by a publishing house.

Also, there was subsidized publishing which gave an author the prestige of having a publisher at a price. You could see your book printed if you paid a percentage of the cost. Book sales with a vanity press were entirely dependent upon the author. Subsidized publishers offered some service, but the author shouldered most of the sales burden.

Many fiction authors who went those routes never quite recovered from the stigma. Some rose from it and became superstars in their own right. The difference was in the quality of writing. Most of the poorly written books still inhabit shelves in the libraries of family members and relatives. A lot, are taking up space in the writer’s garage. Some get passed around at yard sales, year after year.

Now we live in a print on demand world. E-books have invaded the market and new books are coming from everywhere. Many, first-time authors are doing it themselves. It’s cheaper and easier then ever before. Sales still depend on the author, but the stigma of vanity seems to have disappeared.

Does do it yourself sound like a win/win situation? Personally, I like the idea of having a publisher. If for nothing else, it says my work is good enough, and there are down sides to self-publishing.

In the LDS market specifically, getting a contract from a publishing house hasn’t changed much. I need to submit a clean manuscript. If there are too many problems, it won’t be accepted. The days of mediocrity, however, are gone. Writers have raised the bar. The old stereotypes have fallen. Readers are taking notice.

The beauties of being accepted by a publisher are myriad. Most important is the editor assigned to your project. In the interest of delivering the best possible product, the editor finds errors for you to fix. There is no editor in self-publishing.

Many writers slave over rewrites until they’re sure the manuscript is perfect, but they don’t have the resource of good friends in the business. Friends who could read through and catch errors before its published.

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to do blog reviews. I get to read some of those self-published books, along with those from publishing houses. Many of the self-published ones could’ve benefited from the services of an editor.

I think that many writers finish a story and hurry to publish. They’re probably sick of reading through the manuscript so, they rush to get it out there. Some times they forget about that spot they were going to fix but never did. The book goes to press. The flaws are still there. The writer gets a bad reputation, and the market suffers.

In the past, because of a mediocre product, many readers wouldn’t read LDS market books. Now, because of impatience, some of the self-published books on the market are returning us to those days.

I don’t mean to imply that all self-published books are badly written. In fact, most of them are fine. Even those who could use an editor are good. They just need a little more polish. A line and content editor would help immensely.

The lesson is clear. Slow down and make sure its perfect before you publish. Look at logistics. Don’t have your character see something that doesn’t exist in the place you have written them into. Use a good friend or hire an editor. At the very least, it gives you someone to blame for that typo on page forty three. You know the one that makes you look like a four-year old author?

I have a friend who can open a book to the middle and tell if it was self-published without looking at the cover, or reading a word. The word wrap and layout are important. Don’t get sucked into thinking it doesn’t matter, because the point is quality, right?

Keep in mind you have to sell your book. There are marketers you can hire, but it still takes work and you won’t have a publisher to help you. If, after all, you sell a few books, wouldn’t piece of mind be preferable to always remembering the mistakes you made? Don’t give your customers a reason to pass you over when its a choice between your second book or . . .

As for me, I want a publisher. I think I have a lot to offer. I think we can work well together. Did I mention I cook in Dutch ovens? Just think of the great company Christmas parties in the publishing house. Hint. Hint.

Anyway, good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Brick Joke



By Keith N Fisher

Many years ago, while driving a produce truck, I heard an obscure joke I never forgot. Subsequently, I’ve told it many times with varied results. It’s not very funny, but it’s cute. I’m not sure who wrote it, but here it goes. Be sure to read all the way through, because I’m going to make a point about writing.

Once, there was a man named George. He wanted to build a brick barbecue. He made plans, and calculated exactly how many bricks he would need. Then, he marched into the home improvement store and asked for seventy-one bricks. The clerk told him that like doughnuts, the bricks he wanted were packaged in dozens.

“But I don’t want seventy-two bricks,” George said. “What would I do with the other brick?”

The clerk responded with, “I don’t know. Perhaps you could use it as a door stop?”

George shook his head and went to the mercantile. He was told the same thing but since they were a wholesale business, he would only be able to get them by the pallet.

“How many would that be?” George asked.

“Ninety-six. The counter man said.

George did the math in his head “Then I would have twenty-four bricks left over.”

“Yeah but you would get the wholesale price.”

George decided to go to the brick plant.

“That’s correct. There are ninety six bricks on each pallet.” The yardman said. “But we discount each pallet after the first one. The more you buy the cheaper it is.”

“So I can get a really good deal if I want to build five barbecues. But that would leave me with fifteen bricks. Can’t you just break up a pallet?”

The yardman shook his head.

Finally, George relented, went back to the home improvement store, and purchased seventy-two bricks. He had a wonderful time building his barbecue and sure enough, he had one brick left over. George stood there looking around, wondering what to do with the brick. Suddenly his blood pressure shot through the roof and do you know what he did with that brick?

?????????

He tossed into the air as hard as he could.

Okay, Okay, I told you it wasn’t very funny.

On that same afternoon in the produce truck, my friend told me another joke,

Back in the days of designated smoking areas on commercial airplanes, a woman named Jenny tried to get a non-smoking ticket of a commuter flight. She was told there were no more seats in that section and if she wanted to get on the plane she would need to sit with the smokers.

“I can’t do that,” Jenny complained. I can’t stand it, besides my dog is allergic.”

“Well, if you want, we can check the dog as baggage,” the ticket agent said.

“Not Fifi. She’s like a family member.” Jenny said.

“I’m sorry ma’am. You could wait until the next flight.”

“When would that be?” Jenny asked.

“Tomorrow morning.”

Jenny paced the ticket area and finally decided on a plan. It was a short flight and perhaps she could appeal to the kindness of her seatmates. She purchased the ticket.

Boarding early, Jenny found her seat on the aisle, over the wing and sat down with Fifi in her lap. Soon, a burley businessman with an unlit cigar in his mouth, sat next to her. Jenny introduced herself and Fifi.

“My name is Dave,” he said.

Contrary to Jenny’s nature, she chatted with Dave about their reasons for being on the plane and when the plane started down the runway, she assumed his sympathies were with her.

Soon they were in the air and some of the passengers began to light up. Jenny complained to Dave about her aversion and Fifi’s allergies. Dave raised a lighter to his cigar, glanced at her, and put his cigar away.

After a while, Dave fidgeted, and reached for his cigar. Jenny sighed.

“Don’t worry. Since this plane isn’t pressurized, I can open this window. I’ll blow my smoke outside,” Dave said.

Jenny relented, knowing Dave was actually trying to work with her, but the window blew Dave’s smoke right toward her. She coughed and Dave snuffed out the cigar.

Still more time passed and Dave lit his cigar again. This time, Fifi started sneezing. When Jenny complained, Dave said, “Look. I love this cigar about as much as you love that dog. I’ll make a deal with you.” Dave pointed out the window. “I’ll toss my cigar out the window if you toss your dog.”

“Don’t be stupid,” Jenny said. “I can’t do that to Fifi.”

Dave nodded his head in self-righteousness.

Before long Fifi was gasping for breath and Jenny had an idea. “We could switch seats.”

Dave huffed and climbed over her to stand in the aisle. Jenny slid across and took a deep breath of fresh air. She put Fifi on the ledge and encouraged her to breathe. “Thank you, Dave,” Jenny turned to him and said. Seconds later, the unthinkable happened. Fifi climbed out the window.

Jenny was inconsolable. Dave reached over and dropped his cigar out the window in a symbolic gesture but Jenny didn’t care. How would she ever be able to go on without Fifi?

After a while, the plane had grown quiet except for Jenny’s sobs. All the smokers had extinguished their cigarettes and Jenny glanced out the window toward the wing. Do you know what she saw?

???????

Was the Dog sitting on the wing, smoking the cigar?

?????

Nope. With wide-eyed amazement, Jenny looked and saw the brick . . .


If I hadn’t been driving a produce truck between Salt Lake and Provo, I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed this two-part joke. I was sequestered and bored, besides, my friend told it much, better than I can. The trick is in the timing and acting oblivious to the fact the first part is stupid, while keeping their attention in the second part. Never the less, the responses when I tell it, surprise me sometimes.

Recently, in critique group we addressed the problem of a book that reads like two different stories in the same story. There is the first part, which doesn’t appear to relate the second part, and seems like an entirely different book. In the end, however, both parts come together.

A suggestion was made to publish it as a two-part story. Other than connectivity, it’s a great piece of writing, but I’m a little unsure about the two-part idea. As writers we often write sequels but if we are good writers each story will be stand alone, not dependent on the other.

In a two-part the writer is obligated to make the first part exciting enough to carry the reader into the second book. Then if the second part lets them down, the reader will never forget that. When I tell the brick joke, it causes serious doubts about my joke telling abilities.

There is also the inherent danger of adding fill to a manuscript in order get the word count up for two books.

I think it would work if the parts were equally interesting. Each part needs a complete arc that provides closure for the reader. Also the first part needs a few teasers that lead the reader into the second part, then makes the reader glad he took the time to read.

If the second part of the brick joke had been funny enough, it would’ve been worth the time it took to get there. Make all your writing worth the time to get to the end.

Please forgive my stupid joke and consider, if I had posted this blog in two parts, would you have read it all? Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Reflection

By Keith N Fisher

I went to the doctor the other day. No big deal you might say, but believe it or not, I haven’t seen a doctor in thirteen years. Before that, it was probably twelve. Not that I have anything against them, I just have other things to spend money on.

Hearing the diagnosis, with more test results to follow, made me reflect on what I’ve done with my life. Things have changed a lot since the picture at the right was taken. That’s me on the left, being manhandled into the picture by my brother.

I spent my childhood in an almost Norman Rockwell type of existence. My friends and I could pack a lunch in the morning, be gone all day and never run into another house. There were farms and ranches where we lived and if we went far enough, there was Utah Lake.

We were free to let our imaginations run wild and we did. There were sand dunes, and orchards. There were abandoned houses we believed were haunted. Yes I had a great childhood.

As a teenager in the late sixties and seventies, life became complicated. Turbulent times called for difficult choices. Many of us were confused. We didn’t want to die in Southeast Asia, but we learned patriotism in the Boy Scouts. We built rope bridges and pole towers, went camping and let our hair grow. I barely missed having to register for the draft, but I have friends and relatives who served.

Later, after high school, I worked in the construction trades and wasted a lot of time without any direction. Then, through a series of events I found God. I returned to my roots and went on a mission at twenty-six years old.

I married my high school sweetheart after, and went about making a living. I worked on the degree I’d started before, but Architecture had lost its charm. Life has a way of making you change your plans.

I’ve made a living in several different occupations, grabbing experience along the way. Now, I use that experience plotting stories. I expect to live another fifty years, putting my adventures to good use.

Thanks for letting me ramble. Good luck with your writing—see you next week.





Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hang 'Em High

A blog tour book review by Keith N Fisher

Hang ‘Em High, by Tristi Pinkston is the third in the Secret Sister series. I think it’s the best because we get to meet Ida Mae’s son, Keith, and delve into her private life. Tristi did a wonderful job of expressing the regrets every parent goes through.

In Hang ‘Em High, there is trouble at her son’s Montana Dude Ranch. Someone is killing horses and the Secret Sisters gang must figure out the mystery before Keith goes out of business. The whole gang is back to provide their own kind of quirky good humor and individual solutions to the problem.

I'm sure you will love Hang 'Em High, too, but read the other books in the series first.

You can purchase the book Here or Here

You can find Tristi at these peoples on the web

Website http://www.tristipinkston.com

Blog http://www.tristipinkston.blogspot.com


And Now,
To celebrate the release of Tristi's eighth book, she's holding a contest! If you leave a comment on this review, you will be entered into a drawing for a free manuscript evaluation, done by
Tristi Pinkston Editing In fact, you can leave comments on all the blogs participating in this virtual book tour! Go to Tristi Pinkston's blog at Here for a list. The deadline is October 5th at midnight MST. If you win and you're not a writer, you can give this evaluation to a friend.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Good People

By Keith N Fisher

Along with James Dashner writing an article in the current issue of Writer’s Digest, I crossed a threshold. He was one of the published authors I met at the first writer’s conference I attended. I feel vested in his success because I knew him before the Thirteenth Reality.

While on a family campout, I impressed one of my relatives with the fact I’d met Brandon Sanderson. Of course meeting him was a big deal, but he’s just a normal guy who happens to write popular fiction.

Everyone in my critique group is published. So, when someone talks about one of those authors and the books they’ve written, It’s fun for me to remember their books coming to critique group. I don’t try to impress anyone, however, most people don’t really believe I know those authors anyway.

Have you ever heard the statement, it’s not what you know, but who you know? I have a friend who went to a very popular national conference. The event is geared toward fans, but authors, publishers, and agents have a place, too. My friend met some powerful people in the business who are now helping with her career.

It’s a good feeling to attend a writer’s event and be recognized by famous people. To have them call me by name and ask about my work is precious. In a business with so much inherent competition, that seems strange, but the industry is full of nice people. Perhaps, the pay it forward or the give back theories are partly responsible. I think, however, it’s a personality trait. Whatever inspires people to write also makes them kind.

Yes there have been exceptions, but you will find them in every rule.

As I look back on my experiences with writers, I’m humbled by the acts of selflessness. I’ve seen anonymous helping hands extended toward struggling writers. I’ve seen people taken under wings and careers built on an introduction. I’m blessed to know so many nice people and I hope to measure up.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Have a Good Day



Saturday, September 3, 2011

Writing is an Enigma—Writing is Life’s Blood





By Keith N Fisher



Each day I work, sleep, and write a little. Some days, I write a lot, but not without paying a toll. I work at night so when I sleep, I feel guilty about being lazy. There is so much daylight out there that I’m wasting. I wake after two hours, force myself to go back to sleep, and never get enough.



When I write, I think of all the yard work, home repairs, and honey-do’s I’m neglecting. It feels great when I’m in the zone and writing, but what about my lawn?



Currently, The Hillside is at the publisher, waiting for a decision. The sequel is written and I’m going through the edits. Eternal Tapestries, My Brother’s Keeper, and The Trophy are all in the do-over stage. I’m writing the last chapters of Star Crossed, and I’m working on my cookbook.



The Latter has been a daunting task for me. Cooking is easy and I have dozen’s of recipes, both written, and in my head. The problem is formatting. As the director of many cooking competitions I’m no stranger to compiling recipe books, but a cookbook should be different. It’s hard, but I’m making progress.



In the midst of all of this, I wrote an outline for a national market book that’s been floating in my head. I wish I could write full time, but then again . . .



Have you seen the movie, 2012? In it there’s a scene when a man, (an author), takes his children camping in Yellowstone and there are strange things going on. The scene starts when its night, the children are going to bed and he’s on the Internet trying to figure it out. The daughter says, “Dad, you said you wouldn’t work on your book.”



He puts his laptop aside and says, “I’m not, I’m doing something else.”



That says it all. As writers we take our work with us, everywhere. My daughter said something similar to me once. She didn’t want to compete for my time while camping. So, now, I hide my laptop and get up at three a.m. so I can write and still give my time to her. Of course, now, she’s a teenager and doesn’t get out of bed before noon, so maybe I should sleep in.



Yes, as the title of this post says, writing can be a mysterious. What drives a person to finish one book while writing and drafting others? What keeps us going in the face of rejection? I don’t know but after all this time, I can’t not, write. It has become a part of who I am. Writing is life’s blood if you will.



So, I wake up after two hours of sleep, write the scene I’ve been thinking about, and try catch brief moments of slumber while feeling guilty about letting my garden go to weeds.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Getting the Story Straight

By Keith N Fisher



I’m sixty-five thousand words into one of my stories and I just found out my protagonist collects crystal bells. No big deal except in one scene, she drops her purse on the floor and breaks a bell her daughter in law gave to her. I had to rewrite the first parts and establish the fact that she is a collector, hence the reason for the gift.



Don’t you just love it when you have to go back and get the story straight? In fiction, adding facts in the middle of the story can be confusing. In Non-fiction, being wrong can cost your credibility.



Lately, I’ve been reading a non-fiction book that deals with Utah history and I’m a little put out by some of the author’s interpretations. I’ve read many of the first hand accounts and I’m finding discrepancies.



It makes me wonder how many inaccurate facts have been written into the record. I’m sure you’ve heard that history is often written by the victorious. If that’s true, then can we trust it?



Thinking forward makes me wonder about fifty years from now. How will today’s news be reported in the history books? I sometimes doubt it will be accurate since I often hear reporters twist facts to make the evening news entertaining. Because of that guidepost I have to ask, is it okay to sacrifice correctness to make a book interesting?



Have you ever been in a room full of family members and listened to a story that is different from the way you remember it? Just because someone was there doesn’t mean they haven’t embellished the facts. The standard who, what, when, and where gets cut from the narrative.



My mother loves to talk about when her kids were young. I cringe when she talks about me because she often gets the story wrong. When I try to correct the facts my brother asks, what does it matter? Just let her tell her story. Would it matter to you?



In the book I’m reading, the author writes about the supposed Hiram Beebe connection to the Sundance Kid. He tells the story as if it were fact. Now, many of us believe Sundance was living in Fountain Green, Utah and went to Mount Pleasant for a drink in the bar. He killed a deputy who was trying to prevent him from driving drunk and died in the Utah State Prison.



The problem with telling that story is that it was never proven. If I forget to go back and establish my character as a collector, it will confuse my readers. If an author includes the Hiram Beebe speculation in non-fiction, a footnote is imperative. Getting the story straight is essential. Also, if there are several versions of a story the author needs to say that.



Often, non-fiction becomes a source of reference that textbooks are derived from. If the source is flawed, then so are the facts. People tend to believe everything in print.



I used to shake my head during church meetings when people stood at the pulpit and quoted from The Work and The Glory, by Gerald N Lund. Some of those people believed it was all historical fact, even though the author took great pains to separate the fact from the fiction. Some people actually believed the Steeds were a real family who lived during those times.



That’s a great testament to the author’s character building ability, but it also emphasizes the need to be accurate in non-fiction.



Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, because readers want to believe, authors often become an authority on a subject simply because they wrote about it in their fiction. The News commentator, Paul Harvey used to talk about the time he was called upon to report about something that happened in England simply because he’d just returned from there. Later, he claimed his information was gleaned from an AP Teletype, but he was the authority. Can you imagine what would’ve happened if the AP reporter had given the wrong information?



Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fame!

By Keith N Fisher





I'm late! I had to write this in a hurry. Please excuse my writng mistakes.





Last week, I was at the August Authorama and what a good day it was. I think they sold dozens of books. Of course, I made dump cobblers in Dutch ovens. We got a few compliments, but I was more gratified to see my cousin drive up with my aunt in tow. They’d seen the flyer and came to purchase my book. I had to tell them told them I was just the cook at that event, then I steered them to the books of my friends.



Understandably, the experience made me wish I was launching my own book and I reflected on my journey. I started writing several years ago, without much success. I got serious about it in 2005 and I’ve been learning the craft ever since.



Early on, without really knowing why, I supported others in their quest, while following my own. I’ve been pleased to see many of my friends, find publishing success.



The other day, while attending a church meeting, one of our friends handed us a flyer announcing a book signing for her daughter’s book. It was a children’s book telling the story her grandfather told for many years.



Of course, I admit a little jealousy. I want to see my own work in print. But then I remembered the lyrics to the theme song for both a movie and TV show:



I'm gonna live forever. I'm gonna learn how to fly.

High!

I feel it coming together. People will see me and cry.

Fame!

I'm gonna make it to heaven—Light up the sky like a flame

Fame!

I'm gonna live forever. Baby remember my name.



I realized that everyone deserves the attention of their peers. In one way, or another, people crave it. Poets have written about it. Even mass murderers seek it. Mass murderers you ask?



Have you noticed that almost every time there is an incident like the Columbine High School massacre, the perpetrators leave notes talking about their feelings of anonymity? In their mind they’ve worked out a scenario that will make them famous. People will remember their name forever.



In large part they are right. Who can forget the name, Ted Bundy? It’s tragic to see any of God’s children come to that point.



Do you remember show and tell? Once a week while in grammar school we were encouraged to bring an item of interest and tell the class why it was cool. The activity taught many valuable lessons about public speaking and participation, but it gave us far greater rewards. You see, each of us were given or moment to be famous.



I mentioned above, that I didn’t really know why seeing my friends succeed was gratifying for me. I’ve written about it before, but I realized a few years ago, that one of the reasons I was given a desire to write was for others. Not just the people who will read my books, but those I network with. Perhaps my calling in life is to help others get their moment.



Back in 2000, I had my moment. My wife and I were competing in the Worlds Championship Dutch oven cook off. A local TV personality wanted to interview a few of us, and I was one of them. I was on television showing my cooking talents and I was famous for fifteen minutes. It was show and tell all over again.



In 2005, we finally took first place in that cook off. We were world champions, and were interviewed again. I talked about how lucky we had been. In fact, it came at a very hard time in my life. I needed the uplift in my self- esteem, so perhaps it was a blessing.



I can’t begin to explain how much I want that for others. Unfortunately, in our society, most people have to do something special, like write a book in order to be recognized. We can’t show up for show and tell, and not bring something to show.



Wouldn’t it be better if we all tried to help others feel special? Who cares if they never do anything noteworthy? Who cares if they’re too shy for show and tell? The news stories indicate mankind is feeling lost and alone. Perhaps she can do something about it.



I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’m perfect. Like everyone else, I get caught up in my own troubles, but I have noticed a difference if I put them aside and help another.



Keep up the good work. Don’t quit—keep writing and be best you can be. I promise I will cheer for you. Good luck with your writing—see you next week.




Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Mouth Runneth Over


Okay, I know I shouldn't get political, but I have a couple questions. Why is it okay for Regan to triple the national debt spending money on the economy? Why was it okay for George W Bush to authorize a free money giveaway in order to get the economy moving? Why was it okay to spend money on the economy, but its not okay for FDR, Kennedy, Johnson, and Obama to do it?

No one wants to admit it, but the world has been in a depression since the the GW Bush administration brought the ecomony to its knees. Historically, we have thrown money at it, in order to stimulate the economy. It's what Nixon did, its what Regan did. Carter cut government spending and he got blamed for the national debt that Regan promptly tripled.

People, this country was founded on debt. We borrowed money to finance the revolution. We have been in debt from the beginning. Its nothing new. Do you remember the big counters in New York in the seventies and eighties? they counted our debt and displayed each citizen's share.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Research

By Keith N Fisher



I didn’t get any comments on last week’s blog. Therefore, I get to keep the chocolate bar.



Did you ever notice how much writing fiction teaches you? I’m not talking about the craft of writing, but facts and information about many different things. For example, I wrote a story about a girl who gets shot in New York’s, Washington Square. I spent hours on the Internet and reading books, just to get a feel for the setting.



Shortly after I wrote my story, I watched the movie, August Rush. As you probably know, much of that movie was set in Washington Square. With out knowing that, I watched with a sense of familiarity. When they showed the arch, I knew I had been there before. Writing about it is as good as being there.



I suppose my character could’ve gotten shot in Temple Square in Salt Lake, but she demanded the New York setting.



In another story, I researched a Subdural Hematoma because my character had bone shards in her brain after getting beat up and almost killed. The doctors missed it in the initial x-rays, and it eventually put her in convulsions.



In another story, a character was traveling with a wagon train full of freight. He is part of an altercation set in City of Rocks, Idaho. To write the scene, I needed a sense of place. Also, since the story is set in nineteenth century, I needed a historical background. I can’t count the times I have gone to Google Earth to make sure about a location.



Recently, a character couldn’t find anything to wear to dinner. She wanted to make a special impression so she went shopping. Of course she dragged me along with her. I went to the catalogues and sale circulars to find the perfect outfit, and laughed that writing had taught me how to shop for women’s clothes.



Once, I sat in a class taught by Robison Wells. Among other books, he wrote The Counterfeit and took us on a journey through the catacombs of Paris. As part of the class, he showed us his research. Between Google maps and many Internet sites, he learned enough to write the book.



As writers, we are all students of one thing or another. The threat of our readers finding a flaw looms over our heads and forces us to be accurate. Yes it is fiction, but if you write about a certain place, like Washington Square, readers will stop reading if you get something wrong.



This summer, I had the pleasure of attending a picnic with some fellow writers from AI. Afterward, Lt. Gary Giles from the Orem City, Utah police department, taught us about weapons. He gave us hands on training in shooting, and talked about some of the things every writer should know. For example, Gary pointed out that if your character is firing an automatic pistol, the scene will be littered with shell casings. As opposed to a revolver, which doesn’t eject the shells.



Having grown up around guns, I enjoyed the training from a police officer’s point of view, but many of my peers had never been around a weapons fire. They were able to feel and shoot many different guns and learned a lot. Thanks Gary, for taking the time, and Thanks Nichole, for setting it up.



As a writer, I owe it to my readers to be accurate in my descriptions. Some things just can’t be described without a working knowledge of the place or the experience. Take the time task to a professional. Use the Internet, and learn all you can.



Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Help, I’m Stuck! And the Promise of Goodies

By Keith N Fisher

I wrote this blog without reading G Parker’s first. It seems I have a partial answer for her, at the same time I’m asking for help with a scene. I have dozens of ideas for my scene but I thought I’d make a contest out of it.

One night, many years ago, I went hunting rabbits with some of my friends. In those days, the rabbit population had exploded and we didn’t need permits to use spotlights, so we went hunting a lot.

Our method involved driving a truck cross country, around sagebrush and through ravines, but that particular night we were in a two-wheel drive, with very low ground clearance.

We stayed on the roads and didn’t see many rabbits, then we came to a place where the road went down to a low spot and back up the other side. A benign mud puddle at the bottom didn’t seem that threatening. Especially since the area around it was bone dry. I remember someone saying, “Just gun it, you’ll make it.”

Moments later, we came to an abrupt stop in the bottom of the wash and I hit the dashboard. (We didn’t have seatbelts in those days). My friend’s truck was buried to the floorboards in the mud bog from Hades.

Through the night, we tried everything to release the hold on that truck. Finally, the sun came up, and we sent two guys to look for a telephone. (No cell phones either). We looked around and discovered we had found the only mud within miles.

I don’t remember who came with a four-wheel drive to drag us out, but that truck had turned brown from a covering of mud. It was Sunday and I missed church. My parents never quite believed my story, and I learned a few valuable lessons that night.

I’m currently working on a story that has a great beginning and end. Most of the middle is written, too, but I need a plot twist. I’m stuck in the proverbial bog hole and I’m calling my friends for help.

My character is self-centered but she’s had more than her share problems in her life. I need her to cause the postponement, possibly the cancellation of a wedding between her son and the daughter of her former boyfriend.

Put on your thinking caps and tell me a few ways this could happen. If I use your suggestion, I’ll mention it in the credits of the book. Okay, maybe I’ll send you a large candy bar, too. I call that, chocolate incentive. As for my colleague, have someone else read it and make suggestions. Like my friends who came with the four-wheel drive truck, sometimes it takes a fresh approach.

By the way, stop by Pioneer Books in Orem, Utah next week. I’ll be making Dutch oven cobbler during the August Authorama. Tristi Pinkston is launching her new book in the Secret Sisters series. Cobbler is on first come, first served basis. See the flyer I attached.

Meanwhile, good luck with your writing—see you next week.





Thursday, August 4, 2011

Authorama

I'm making dump cobbler for this event. First come, First served.

Come celebrate the launch of Hang 'Em High, by Tristi Pinkston

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Plugging Holes

By Keith N Fisher

When the tenants move out, the owner of a rental unit will often bring in a crew, to prepare the walls for painting. The process involves plugging nail holes with spackling paste. If the tenants were abusive, the procedure includes the use of wall joint compound and perhaps sheet rock patches.

Frequently, the crew must get close and rub their fingers on the walls, in order to find all the nail holes. Sometimes they miss a few.

Occasionally in our hurry to plot a story, we leave holes that sometimes don’t get plugged. I want to tell you about one that I found.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about re-reading the Deathly Hallows in an effort to refresh my memory before seeing the movie. I also watched the previous movies with my family, launching me into Harry’s world. While working one night, and thinking about the story, I stumbled onto a supposed plot hole.


Spoiler Alert!


Okay, so this might spoil the story, but if you haven’t read the books by now, you might never read them.

When Lord Voldemort went to eliminate baby Harry, he killed James and lily first, then turned his attention to Harry. The curse rebounded and killed Voldemort’s body instead, but because of the horcruxes in which he’d placed part of his soul, he didn’t die. He lived in lessor animals until the time he found Professor Quirrell.

Eventually, he was brought back using a spell, and some of Harry’s blood. After coming to himself in the graveyard, that night, he turned to Wormtail and said, “Give me my wand.”

Later, we learned that Voldemort’s wand and Harry’s wand, have twin cores and we assume that is why, the two wands locked.

So, here is my question. What happened to Voldemort’s wand? What happened to the wand that chose him at eleven years old? The Wand that shared the same phoenix feather as Harry’s?

Let me explain. When Voldemort tried to kill Harry and lost himself, the wand would’ve fallen to the floor. He couldn’t carry it out. What happened to it? How did he get it back? He didn’t have it in the first book. The memory of Tom Riddle didn’t have it in the second book. It wasn’t an issue in the third book, but when he got another body in the fourth book, we see Wormtail giving him his wand, the phoenix feather wand, the twin of Harry’s wand. So, who kept it for thirteen years? How did Wormtail get it? Remember he was kept busy being Ron’s pet rat.
When the wands locked in the graveyard, Voldemort became obsessed to find out why, and determined he couldn’t beat harry with the phoenix wand. In the fifth book, he tried another one, but to no avail. The obsession continued.

In The Deathly Hallows, we learned about wand lore and the fact that wands choose the wizard. Either it will work in tandem with the wizard or it won’t. There is a big issue made of the Elder Wand, the most powerful wand in the world. Voldemort steals it, but it’s not really his.

Okay, back to the question. I was curious, so I invented several scenarios. In one, someone from the Order of the Phoenix came to the house in Godric’s Hollow, found James and Lily Dead, and took the wand. It probably would have ended up in the Ministry of Magic somewhere. Perhaps that’s how Wormtail got it.

Now that I’ve seen the movie, however, I have another theory. There is a scene where Snape arrived at the house, right after Lilly was killed, and his heart broke. The scene left me with another theory. Snape took the wand, but there is a flaw. Snape didn’t contact Voldemort until well after he’d returned. So how did Voldemort get his wand back?

All of this talk about wands brought up another question, are you ready? If the elder wand became Draco Malfloy’s when he disarmed Dumbledore, and Draco’s wand became Harry’s the same way, then what about all those other wands? In almost every book, Harry disarms somebody. Look at Dumbledore’s Army in the fifth book. They disarmed each other several times.

Okay, you can say it has to happen in real combat. So, what about all the wands from the battle to keep the prophecy? What about the wands of the wizards who came to get Harry in the coffee shop in the last book? That’s just a few of the incidents. If the wand chooses the wizard and wands become the property of the victor, then why don’t wands change hands all the time? See it’s a plot hole.

End of Spoiler Alert


I know I’m splitting hairs, but it’s been fun to explore the question. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, because if the truth were told, no writer can find all the holes in a plot and plug them. Like the patching crew in a rental unit, writers sometimes miss the holes.

As writers, we need to run our fingers over the wall of our plot, searching for holes we might’ve missed. As I said, its impossible to find every hole, and there will always be an alert reader, who finds the ones we missed. I hate it when my critique group finds a hole in my plot. It would be much worse if a reader finds one after the book is published.

Remember the plot when you edit, and try to plug the holes. Your book will be better for it.

By the way, I loved the new movie. They left out all the negative stuff about Dumbledore, but it followed the story line for the most part. They added some things like the embellishment of the windup scene, but I liked it. Also, I’m glad they did the epilogue.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Developing Your Writing Talent

By Keith N Fisher

Last week I talked about the phases we go through in becoming the writers we want to be. Then I went to church and heard a lesson on developing your talents. I realized what I should’ve written last week, so I’m going to share it this time.

In the book, Outliers, by Malcom Gladwell, the author talks about studies made where they analyzed what made some musicians great, as opposed to good or mediocre. They found that in every case, the separation happened because of ten thousand hours. All the great ones put in at least ten thousand hours of practice.

The author went on to compare other successful people, He talked about Bill Joy, the author of the current versions of Unix computer systems and Java, he is co-founder of Sun Microsystems and is sometimes called the Edison of the Internet. Yep, he spent ten thousand hours learning to program at night.

As long as we are talking about computer geeks . . . You guessed it, Bill Gates started programming in high school and stealing time on the computer. His mother said about those times, “we always wondered why it was so hard for him to get up in the morning.” Yeah, ten thousand hours.

Are you familiar with the early career of the Beatles? They played in strip clubs in Hamburg for eight hours a day. They were forced to develop a style and play songs they had never heard. They passed through the crucible and emerged as one of the most popular and entertaining bands in history. They found a style all their own, and learned the craft during more than ten thousand hours in Hamburg.

The interesting thing about the study, mentioned above, is they didn’t find any natural born anything. None of the great musicians rose to the top without putting in the practice. And to quote Gladwell, the people at the very top don’t work just harder, or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.

I’ve written about this before, although I didn’t go into detail. I think I’m getting close to my ten thousand hours, are you?

While listening to the lesson on Sunday, I wrote down the six steps to developing a talent. I customized the list for writers.

1. Discover your talent
2. Develop it (be willing to spend the time) ten thousand hours?
3. Have faith in yourself, and God.
4. Learn the skills. (Learn the craft. Go to workshops and conferences).
5. Practice consistently. (Again we go back to ten thousand hours.)
6. Share your talent with others.

It was mentioned that talent is a kind of stewardship. I believe our God will hold us accountable for those talents we neglect. If you were given a desire to write, then do it, but do it with the goal of touching hearts and changing lives. The old saying, you reap what you sew applies here. Many of you are well on your way to putting in your ten thousand hours. Some of you have reached it. Some are getting the hours while reaping the benefits of being published.

Putting in ten thousand hours will not guarantee a contract. It will guarantee you will be a great writer. There are countless famous souls who reached the top of their game, and every one of them have the same thing in common. Ten thousand hours.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Patience is Part of the Craft

By Keith N Fisher

I read the Deathly Hallows again. Since the new movie was just released, I figured it would be prudent to remember what’s supposed to happen. Before I see the flick. I feel sorry for those people who see the movies, but have never read the books. There is so much more story in the book.

Besides, sometimes my imagination of a setting is much better than depicted by the moviemakers.

Anyway, while reading the book, I noticed a few writing and craft errors I hadn’t noticed before. I’m not going to refer to them directly because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. I noticed them, I think, because I’m in the middle of editing one of my manuscripts and the mind grows oversensitive.

I’ve always contended that you can find errors in every writer’s work, no matter who he/she is. Some authors get lazy and nobody corrects them, because of who they are, Some authors, make honest mistakes that aren’t caught. The whole thing can be discouraging to unpublished writers.

It takes time, and a lot of practice, to become a great writer. Another truth is, some people are born storytellers. The problem arises when someone with a good story has trouble writing it. Have you noticed there are eight stages every writer passes through on the way to perfecting the craft?

Stage one-inspiration.

An idea hits and the person decides to write. The manuscript sucks. The person keeps writing.

Stage two-rejection.

The writer discovers he needs help. The story wants to be told.

Stage three-assimilation.

The writer learns about craft through conferences, workshops, and books about writing.

Stage four-transformation.

The writer is getting better, makes changes in their manuscript.

Stage five-second rejection, denial.

This usually comes when a critique partner finds a problem. The writer disallows the opinion. The editor doesn’t understand. After all, I made all those changes, didn’t I? This is a dangerous time because the writer sometimes gets argumentative.

Stage six-humble recognition.

After a great amount of soul searching, and more rejection, the writer discovers the critique partner might be right. Besides if one reader has trouble with the manuscript, others will also.

Stage seven-depression.

Why did I ever think I could write? By now, writing has become a way of life and cannot be given up. A writer must continue.

Stage eight-cognition.

The writing is getting better all the time. The writer actually edits his own sentences as he writes. He has written several manuscripts.




As in the case of many authors, sometimes a writer gets published at stage one, sometimes they travel through many more stages than eight. Some writers combine stage one with stage eight. It’s a matter of talent. It’s important to learn patience in the beginning, and remember a few things.

Great storytelling does not necessarily, equal great writing. Also, the reverse is true. As in some author’s case, getting published often comes down to being in the right place, at the right time, with the right story. Isn’t it better to have written a great story well, then to have trouble getting a second book published, because the story is mediocre and the writing sucks?

The most important lesson for most of us, I think, is to keep an open mind during step five. Getting angry is never a good idea, especially when that anger is turned on those who are honestly trying to help you.

Good luck in your writing—see you next week.