Tuesday, December 29, 2009
As I look back at where I've been and what I've accomplished I thought of my family. We had good times in 2009: family reunions, the birth of a new grandson, holidays together. I also thought of my book signings. What an adventure! I met some wonderful people, and I very much appreciate friends and family who supported me as each of my books came out. I also thought about the speaking engagements where I was asked to talk. There was such a variety from the university institute to YW at camp, from a youth conference to a Relief Society Christmas social. All were wonderful experiences where I was privileged to meet and talk with many people.
What would I do differently? Mostly I'd like to enjoy more fully the "here and now" and not think of the future so much. Sometimes we put our lives on hold because we're living for what will happen when what is happening before us are the moments we'll never get back. Enjoy the moment! That's my main goal for 2010.
Here's a moment to relive as you think about where you've been, what you've accomplished and what you'd like to do differently.
Happy New Year!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
This Christmas season has been incredible. I've seen a dream come true with the release of my Christmas book, An Angel on Main Street. Many have asked how I came up with the story. It wasn't hard. I love Christmas and I wanted the Nativity to play an important part in my book. I hope and pray my little story has added the spirit of Christmas to your holidays. I'm grateful for the support of family and friends. But mostly I'm grateful to a loving Heavenly Father who sent his son to earth on this holy night. I hope you enjoy the short video clip sent to me by a good friend. It pretty much says it all.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
The movie was adapted from the book, The Bishop's Wife, written by Robert Nathan. The film won the Oscar for sound and was nominated for Oscars in five other catergories: Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Best Scoring, and Best Picture.
Here's the movie trailor.
The scene I love to watch is the ice skating scene. I hope you enjoy watching it as well.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The film was loosely base on a short story titled The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern. Much of the film is told in flashback of George Bailey's life, which can be distracting, but in this case essential for it is told by angels. Yes, angels. Is it any wonder that I liked it?
Take a peek at a few of the great scenes of this Christmas classic.
Monday, December 21, 2009
What inspires you and motivates you to write the very most?
Location and life experience can sprinkle their influence in your writing. Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now - city? Suburb? Country? Farm?
Friday, December 18, 2009
My book, The Ball’s in Her Court is about a woman, Denise, who was abused and neglected as a child, was put into foster care, and adopted about age 12. She managed to work through her past enough to create a good life for herself, and is now a settled adult with a good career. Still she’s unable to completely let go of her past, so she decides it’s time to go searching for answers—which includes searching for her birth father and tracking down other family members—none of whom she remembered meeting. Along the course of the story she falls in love with her roommate’s cousin. In the evenings she likes to go to the gym and blow off steam by playing basketball—and she beats most of the guys in one-on-one.
Tell us about your other books in progress.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
What a fortunate mother to have such a grateful daughter!
The next entry was an experience I hope would happen to me if I were in a similar situation.
Just yesterday I pulled into the church parking lot and hit a nail. When I got out of the car, the tire was already getting low and I could hear the air coming out of it. A brother in my High Priest Group walked by and saw me inspecting my soon-to-be ox-in-the-mire. He said, "Hey, ___... put that nail back in and let's drive to my house right away so we can plug that tire and not have to change it."I missed the Sacrament, but the kind act of service (and NOT having to change a tire while in my suit) certainly kept my mood from turning gloomy on the Sabbath. The tire was repaired, and I made it to back into the meeting before the last speaker spoke.
See what I mean. Thank goodness for a kind angel looking over his shoulder. The next entry was a bit long, but I wanted to share it with you. I've cut some of the story, but I think you'll understand what was going on.
On the morning of 15 August 1998 (Saturday) I left my home around eight o'clock to begin my endurance challenge. This would be the farthest I had ever gone. Things went well at the beginning as I had done my homework well and could stop for water every couple of miles. As I entered the mouth of Mueller Canyon I stopped at a water fountain and drank my fill before entering the canyon and the grueling trip up the trail to Elephant Rock. My plan from here was to stop at the springs along the way to keep hydrated. As I arrived at the first spring there was a group of people there with their pet dog that was running in and out of the water which by now was nothing but a mud hole. I continued on thinking all would be well until the next water hole. Again my plan was dashed by this same dog. This group had gone off the trail and up the side of the mountain and beat me to the water.About halfway up the trail I came around a corner and there was a bicyclist sitting on a rock enjoying the view. When he saw that I wasn’t carrying water he offered me a drink of his sports drink. I thanked him but told him I didn’t want to deprive him of his drink as I knew he was still going to need it as the day wore on and I would find water from a spring. After visiting for a short time he boarded his bicycle and departed up the trail with me running behind while looking for water. Being the middle of summer, all the springs had dried up and my looking was in vain. By the time I was approaching Elephant Rock I was very dry and thirsty. As I came around the corner here was my Angel, the bicyclist, holding his sports drink out in front of him and asked if I was ready for it now? I thanked him, took the bottle and poured it down my throat as fast as it would pour before giving him the empty bottle back. I then apologized for drinking all his drink. He told me he had more in his saddle bags if I wanted more. Knowing he had to return back down the trail I thanked him but told him no, I would be all right now. He went his way back the way we had come while I continued over the top and down the other side into North Canyon. As I ran along I kept thinking about the springs that I had seen at other times in the canyon and knowing they would appear soon. They never did. By now the sun was high in the sky and very hot. My only thoughts now were to reach Rudy’s Flat where I knew there was a stream that ran through the middle that I would lie down in to cool off and drink in the cool water. By the time Rudy’s Flat was in sight my body was screaming for water. I headed for the stream which was covered by shrubbery thinking how great it would feel to lie down in the flowing water and soak my overheated body and weary bones. As I approached the entrance though the brush to the creek it became obvious that there were enough horseflies to eat the flesh off my body in record time if I were to continue so I back tracked to the trail and continued running down the trail. The big difference now was that I was also swinging my arms to bat the flies away while trying to outrun them. When I finally emerged from the canyon I knew I was in trouble and needed to get water as soon as possible. I even considered knocking on doors asking for a drink or the use of their phone to call home for help. I suppose my pride kept me from doing either of these and I kept on running. When I finally reached home, my oldest son was in the driveway working on his car. When he saw me he said, “Dad, you’re not even sweating!” I knew that from about halfway up the trail in North Canyon I had stopped sweating and was in dire need of water. Continuing into the house I went straight to the kitchen sink and filled a large glass with water and poured it down my throat followed by another. With the third glassful in hand I leaned against the sink to rest when all at once water started pouring from my body like a soaker hose. I sat down now and slowly sipped from my large glass to keep water going into my system. As I looked back at the events that happened to me during the course of that day I know that man saved my life and I will be forever indebted to him for his kindness and generosity.How fortunate for a bicyclist angel! The next entry touches the heart of those who have lost a loved one.
My special angel is my husband, and always has been since we first met. We have had many adventures throughout the years, and when we got in over our heads which was a frequent happening, he stood tall and smiled his angelic smile. Through thick and thin, he was always there, even when his halo got a little tarnished. My angel is still with me even though he left earth February of 2002. He goes to the Temple with me, he provides answers to questions that only he could know, and I know he is happy to finally find a place to "fit in". He spent most of his life searching for a love he could not find. He wanted to be loved by his mother and father, and never did either acknowledge him as a son, much less show him love. I know he has found that love at last - our Savior's and our Heavenly Father's love - that quenches all thirst. They surround him and hug him and he looks down on me and smiles. My special angel.
I wish I could post all the entries, but there were too many. I tried to pick a few that would show a variety of wonderful experiences people have had with the angels in their lives. As I see it all who have entered are winners!!! I'm so grateful that my writers group agreed to judge for me. Now for the winning entry. If you are a follower of my blog you may have read this story before. Here it is again with the names added.
My experience is different than the rest of the stories you will no doubt hear. I don't know who my angel is. Let me share my story. Last year, my sweet husband suffered a pretty severe hand injury at work. He was out of work for about four months. When it came time to start looking for work again it was October and we needed a job fast. The holidays are always a hard time to be looking for work. My husband found a job at a company in Nephi. We lived in Provo at the time so it was not that big of a commute. The company paid all right for a while, but in December the paychecks started to dwindle. We wanted to see family in Cedar City that year. We had hardly any money for Christmas gifts let alone gas for the trip. About a week before we were to leave, my sister in law called. She said some folks in her ward had left her family some gifts and some money on her doorstep. She told us they didn't really need the money and that they could give the money to us for gas. It was fifty dollars! I thanked her immediately and her husband dropped off the money a couple of days later when they were in town. And then to my surprise, the next morning someone in our ward had left many packages in our yard for Christmas. I think I had purchased one or two items that year for my kids! I didn't even need to go Christmas shopping. The packages contained brand new clothes, gift cards, and all the trimming for a wonderful Christmas meal. I think there was even a turkey involved! To this day I have no idea who helped us with Christmas that year but I do know one thing, that God loves us. Sometimes he sends his angels in small packages, sometimes in large ones. Sometimes it is just a new friend, sometimes a bit more. So I guess I know who one of my angels is. The woman who shared some of her Christmas with us, Emily Merryweather. I am very grateful for the angels in my life, known and unknown, because it has helped strengthen my testimony in many ways.
The winner of An Angel in Your Life Contest is Alexes Covington!
Alexes will receive a $25. certificate to Seagull Book or Deseret Book, which ever one she chooses and so will her angel.
Since this is Wednesday I know you're expecting a little something about writing. I thought we would discuss the words we chose to write with. Okay that sounds rather odd. More goes into this than you would think.
The last couple of weeks I've quoted from Dwight Swain's book Techniques of the Selling Writer. I'd like to refer to him again. He states, "people's feelings come out in the words they use." Experts say that the words in question have to do with denotation and connotation.
Eek! We're getting into a heavy subject, but hang on. Let's focus on meaning and see if this becomes more clear. Denotation means the actual or dictionary meaning of a word. When a word means or implies something more than the denotation of the word that is called connotation. You may ask why is that important? Well... it's important because the connotation of a word may hold overtones of likes and dislikes for your reader.
In the romantic suspense novel I'm working on right now, I had my main character, Regi--who is not a person who minces her words--call a bad driver a nimrod. A reviewer didn't like the word and as a result didn't care for Regi. That's a major problem since Regi is the main character in my book, so I deleted the word. And though I still think my fiesty Regi would probably call a bad driver trying to force her off the road a nimrod or maybe even something worse, I can't take the risk of offending my readers. There is plenty in the book that shows her character without the baggage of a word that could have bad connotations for some people.
Can you think of everyday words that once were thought of differently than they are today due to bad connotations? I thought of one. Politician. Someone says politician and all sorts of red alerts go off. Some for good, some for bad. The word in and of itself is a good word. We need politicians, but because there is an awfully lot of baggage with the word you need to frame it carefully, so your readers understand your meaning.
I remember many years ago a great debate going on in the writing group I belong to over the word "permeate". I'd used it without truly thinking through exactly what I meant. That discussion made me realize every single word you write has a function and a writer needs to sometimes wear kid gloves when writing. Of course worrying about every single word can make a writer freeze up, which isn't good. So my advice...get your story on paper. Then, when you do your edits weigh each word, making sure the denotation and the connotation are what you intend them to be.
That's a very short explaination on the subject. If you would like to share you thoughts, please do so. I'd love to receive your comments.
Have a great week of writing!
Monday, December 14, 2009
(Back row: Dorothy, Kathleen, Roseann, Kerri. Front row: me, Michele, Charlene, Tina, Brenda and Maureen.)
We have our party at the country club where Dorothy has a membership. Kathleen sent this photo and mentioned how appropriate it was that we were standing under books. I had to leave the party early because I had a signing in Centerville.
My signing was at the Seagull Book Store. People were coming and going the entire time I was there. I was fortunate to meet Michael Weaver. He has a new Christmas book this year titled The Apology. I'll post an interview with him in a few days so you can become more familiar with him and his book. I also had a couple of people who told me that they had read my Christmas book and loved it. What a thrill! In fact, as I was telling a man about my book a lady I didn't know stopped and told him to buy my book because she loved it. After she left, he asked me if I knew the woman. I'd never seen her before. Wow! That was one of those moments a writer lives for.
During this busy weekend my daughter, Tricia, and I made sugar cookies. These cookies have long been a tradition in our family. This year Tricia did most of the work. After the cookies were baked, we popped them in the freezer to frost next weekend. Then we turned our attention on my dog, Lizzie. I had bought her a little Santa hat and whiskers. I don't know. It might just be me, but I don't think she looks all that excited about the holidays.
For me all the fuss, running around, parties, and family are part of what I love about Christmas. Please tell me what you love about the season.
Here's another angel entry for my Angel in Your Life Contest. The deadline is tomorrow, so please send in your entries.
My experience is different than the rest of the stories you will no doubt hear. I don't know who my angel is. Let me share my story.Last year, my sweet husband suffered a pretty severe hand injury at work. He was out of work for about four months. When it came time to start looking for work again it was October and we needed a job fast. The holidays are always a hard time to be looking for work. My husband found a job.... We lived in ... at the time so it was not that big of a commute. The company paid all right for a while, but in December the paychecks started to dwindle. We wanted to see family in ... City that year. We had hardly any money for Christmas gifts let alone gas for the trip. About a week before we were to leave, my sister-in-law called. She said some folks in her ward had left her family some gifts and some money on her doorstep. She told us they didn't really need the money and that they could give the money to us for gas. It was fifty dollars! I thanked her immediately and her husband dropped off the money a couple of days later when they were in town. And then to my surprise, the next morning someone in our ward had left many packages in our yard for Christmas. I think I had purchased one or two items that year for my kids! I didn't even need to go Christmas shopping. The packages contained brand new clothes, gift cards, and all the trimming for a wonderful Christmas meal. I think there was even a turkey involved! To this day I have no idea who helped us with Christmas that year but I do know one thing, that God loves us. Sometimes he sends his angels in small packages, sometimes in large ones. Sometimes it is just a new friend, sometimes a bit more. So I guess I know who one of my angels is. The woman who shared some of her Christmas with us, .... I am very grateful for the angels in my life, known and unknown, because it has helped strengthen my testimony in many ways.
Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
I planned to discuss scene and sequel next, but I think we need to discuss something that is very important first. Vividness. Swain says that vividness is at the heart of writing. I wholeheartedly agree. A vivid scene will stay with a reader long after he/she closes your book. So how do you write vivid scenes? Nouns and verbs. That’s simple, right? Wait a minute. Let me explain a little more.
You know that nouns are words that describe things: cat, car, or chair. Right? In and of themselves these words are very plain. Remember selection. A cat in vivid writing just isn’t a cat, it’s a feline and better than that it could very well be Siamese. Compare the three: cat, feline, Siamese. Which is most descriptive, most vivid? Now how about the noun car. In vivid writing a car could be a Ford, better yet a Mustang. Now a chair could be a recliner, better still a La-Z-boy. What we're going for here is specificity which equals vivid writing! As you can see the more specific you are the more vivid the scene. But what about verbs? How do verbs make a scene more vivid?
Verbs show action or a state of being. They can be very complex. There are transitive verbs and intransitive verbs. There are five major forms of verbs: base, infinitive, present tense, past tense, past participle, and present participle. There are regular verbs and irregular verbs. However, the verbs we’re going to dwell on are “active” and “passive” verbs. Guess which one you need to use to make your writing vivid? Yep, active. Let’s do a comparison.
Jack was in the truck.
Jack sat in the truck.
Jack hid in the truck.
Was is the passive verb. Nothing descriptive nor active about was. It’s a to be verb which describes existence only. Avoid these verbs whenever possible. Sat is active and better still hid is active and draws a picture for the reader. In Swain’s words, “Active verbs are what you need…verbs that show something, and thus draw your reader’s mental image more sharply into focus.”
Monday, December 7, 2009
This movie means a great deal to me. My father had been stationed in Hawaii just a year or so before the Japanese bombed. He had served on the USS Maryland. Dad had many found memories of that ship. Little did he know that a year after he was transferred to Key Port, Washington the Maryland would be in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. His ship was docked alongside the USS Okalahoma that went down. The Maryland was struck by two armor-piercing bombs: one in the forecastle awning and the other in the hull. The brave men aboard were able to fight back using all their antiaircraft batteries. Later the Japanese reported that the Maryland had sunk, but on December 30, the battle weary ship sailed into Puget Sound for repairs.
We have angels among us everyday, helping us when we sometimes don't realize it. Here's another entry to my An Angel in Your Life Contest. The deadline (December 15th) is fast approaching. Send your entry in before it's too late.
Friday, December 4, 2009
From the inside cover:
The birth of Jesus is drawing near, and all the cherubs in heaven eagerly gather to talk about this great event. Each is entrusted with something special to do--except for one little cherub. Imperfect in a perfect world, this stuttering little angel is left without an assignment on the Lord's special day.
Carefully crafted by Stacy Gooch-Anderson and accompanied by exceptional art from Glenn Harmon, The Legend of the Star tells how one little angel changed the outlook of those around him and how the Christmas star came to be.
Now if you know anything about me, you know that I absolutely love Christmas stories with angels in them. A couple of my favorite movies are The Bishop's Wife and It's a Wonderful Life. Classic angel stories. These wonderful movies are told from the human point-of-view, but Stacy's book gives a glimpse of a story that could have happened in heaven on the glorious night that many in the world celebrate. What a fun, fun read. The pictures are in heavenly colors of blue and yellow and they help tell the tale of this fanciful book.
The Legend of the Star already has my grandson asking me to read it to him over and over again. If you're a collector of picture books, you'll want to add this one to your collection.
Published by Cedar Fort Inc. this book was given to me free of charge to review.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
In frustration, Dad broke the tip of the mechanical pencil pointing to the equation he'd written on binder paper. “Start solving the problem!"
I looked at it and hesitated. "I don’t know how." The question was unbelievably easy. I could do it in my sleep except somehow I’d be wrong because Dad was here. Why did he have to prove that even when I tried I was still stupid? With a trembling hand, I scratched some numbers on my paper and tried to calm my nerves. Maybe I’d do it right and things wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe K-mart would start paying me millions of dollars and I wouldn’t need to graduate. Maybe—
I covered my paper with my hands. I’d written a two and a ten.
The meanness I felt wasn’t real. It covered something much greater that I wasn’t ready to handle. “Mr. Golding doesn’t even think I should study with you!” I shouted it right in Dad’s face. “You make everything worse!”
Angry, he winced like he’d been hit. “What are you—?”
“Trix!” Across the room, Mom's surprised face was as stiff as the dirty plate she held dripping into the kitchen sink. The radio sang, Jesus, oh, my Friend.
“I’m paying a tutor with my own money! Anything’s better than this!” I shoved the notebook across the table until it hit Dad’s gut. The pain in my side intensified. “You’re a terrible teacher! Everyone says so!”
Notice that Trix’s inner conflict is much more intense at the end of the scene than at the beginning. She starts with anxiety about getting the wrong answer. She leaves aching that she has hurt her dad and feeling like a terrible person but too afraid to apologize. Studying is now road-blocked even though graduation is as desirable as ever.
That’s it. That’s all I have to say about inner conflict. By the way, if you think that the resolution of Trix’s inner conflict sounds like the theme of my book, you’re right. And NOW! A bonus feature included in this blog at ABSOLUTELY no cost to you! If you don’t have your own theme you now have the tools to build one (sorry, you can’t use mine). Choose a limited set of inner conflicts that drive every scene of your plot and then have your main character discover a truth at the end that, when acted on, allows him to solve all of the outer conflicts that your inner conflict created and leaves his soul at peace. Whew, that was a long sentence. But really, there’s nothing to it! Start today! If you act fast, I’ll include this handsome five-piece leather luggage set FREE! Just kidding.
Monday, November 30, 2009
I usually write something personal on Mondays and about things that have happened to me. A couple of weeks ago while I was at a signing in Centerville, a man came in the store. Upon seeing that my book was published by Covenant, he told me he wrote books for them as well. I had never met him before so I asked what he'd written. He pointed to Mormons and Masons. Little did I know I was talking to a legend of LDS nonfiction. As we spoke I asked if he would like to be interviewed for my blog. He agreed. So I'm happy to present to you my interview with Matthew Brown.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
No. I started writing only because an educator asked me for extensive information related to a book project he was working on (Symbols in Stone). Before my writing career began I built, maintained, and repaired elevators for a living.
Tell us a little bit about your new book.
My new book on Freemasonry was written by request. The publisher wanted a volume which corresponded with the content of Dan Brown’s latest novel. It is a fascinating topic but proper research on such things can take many years.
Tell us about your other books.
All of my books (10 now) deal with some historical or doctrinal aspect of the Restoration. Most of them have an apologetic element. The Greek word apologia basically means ‘defense.’ Much of my research and writing has to do with understanding and defending the restored gospel and the practices which pertain to it.
Your books are nonfiction and deal with some heavy topics. Why did you choose to write about these subjects? Or did they choose you?
When I was a missionary I found that I had sincere, but sometimes difficult, questions that extended beyond the scope of a normal Institute or Gospel Doctrine class—sometimes far beyond. I have not stopped asking questions ever since. My books are simply edited notes from my intellectual explorations.
What inspires you and motivates you to write the very most?
The desire to clarify, solidify, and justify faith.
Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your writing?
No. But as I read the writings of other people I have admired the ability of many of them to communicate clearly and take readers on a mental journey to a satisfactory destination.
Do you have a writing mentor?
I do not.
Location and life experience can sprinkle their influence in your writing. Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now - city? Suburb? Country? Farm? If you could live anywhere you want to live, where would that be? I currently live in the Salt Lake valley but would much prefer a quiet place in the countryside. My work requires a great deal of concentration, so the less distractions I have the better.
Bring us into your office where you write. What does it look like? Do you write long-hand, on a laptop, or PC?
I work six days a week in a university library. The temperature is cool so that the collections are not damaged by moisture. I am surrounded by thousands of books and surprisingly often by curious individuals with interesting questions. My desk is a large wooden table (which I sometimes fill with large stacks of reading material – much to the chagrin of some librarians). I carry a laptop most everywhere I go but I continue to take long-hand notes when necessary.
I understand they are making a DVD about your latest book. Tell us about the project. Also, do you watch television or movies? If so, what are your favorites? Do they inspire your writing?
I recently viewed the rough-cut of the DVD and even without the many graphics it will include it is very engaging. Several BYU professors and the Past Grand Master for all Utah Freemasons participated. The only drawback was that they shocked me with the announcement that I would be conducting all of the interviews! When I get involved in really intricate projects (like this one) I tend to stay away from television so that my mind can remain more focused.
How has being published changed your life?
It has challenged me intellectually, financially, and creatively.
Do you have any book signings, tours or special events planned to promote your book that readers might be interested in attending? If so, when and where?
I have already done nine book signings this season – with a strong response. Here is my schedule (so far) for the rest of the year.
Dec. 5th – South Towne Deseret Book [Sandy] (noon–2pm)
Dec. 11th – Orem Costco (5pm–8pm)
Dec. 12th – Spanish Fork Deseret Book (noon–2pm)
Spanish Fork Seagull Book (2:30pm–4pm)
Dec. 19th – Provo Deseret Book [Eastbay], (10am–12noon)
University Parkway Deseret Book [Orem] (1pm–3pm)
South Jordan Seagull Book [“The District”] (4pm–6pm)
Thank you, Matthew!
Now for the Angel entry spotlight for the week.
Yesterday I pulled into the church parking lot and hit a nail. When I got out of the car, the tire was already getting low and I could hear the air coming out of it. A brother in my High Priest Group walked by and saw me inspecting my soon-to-be ox-in-the-mire. He said, "put the nail back in and let's drive to my house right away so we can plug that tire and not have to change it."
I missed the Sacrament, but the kind act of service (and not having to change a tire while in my suit) certainly kept my mood from turning gloomy on the Sabbath. The tire was repaired, and I made it back into the meeting before the last speaker spoke.
Don't forget to send in your entry for An Angel in Your Life Contest. The deadline is December 15th.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Here's the backliner of the book:
The genealogical sleathing skills of Alexandra Campbell and her business associate, Brighamina Poulson, are put to spine-tingling use when the murder of Armenian-American billionaire inventore Paul Mardian takes them to Huntington Beach, California--Surf City, USA--in search of the dead man's heirs. Briggie, however, is immediately smitten with ideas of wet suits and boogie boards.
Alex believes the killer is a relative of the victim, but her pursuit of the turth nearly costs another life--her own.
So many suspects, so little time. Could it be the real estate tycoon with the tropy wife? The pompous attorney who spends every cent he makes on high living? The professor of Middle Eastern studies with a penchant for Armenian antiquities? Or even the darkly handsome surf shop owner, who has more than a passing interest in Alex?
While her fiance struggles with a crisis of faith, Alex searches for answers, putting her life on the line yet again to discover the missing link that will solve this captivating mystery.
This book is just plain fun! Not only does the mystery of the novel twist and turn, but so does your heart as you follow the characters and worry over them. My heart sank when Charles, Alex's fiance, has to leave to go to his dying mother. Though I hadn't read the previous book in the series, which showed the struggle of these two lovebirds getting together, that didn't stop me from rooting for them to maintain their love. (I'm going to have to read the other books in the series now. Thanks, G.G.) You'll have to read The Hidden Branch to find out if Charles comes back, and if Alex's love for him will survive as she works with Briggie to solve this murder mystery.
Grab a warm blanket, a cup of cocoa, and curl up on the couch for this delightful tale.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
What makes a series of plot events become a story? There are so many ways to correctly string plot events together that it almost seems like there’s no wrong way. Don’t be fooled. There are many, many wrong ways. Look, I’ll show you an example. To save on space, I’ll even obey a few basic rules. I’ll give the main character a goal or desire, I’ll make each plot event be the cause for subsequent happenings and I’ll even put in a climactic end.
Boy, oh boy, I bet you weren’t expecting the singing there at the end. Unless you recognized it as the holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. Good for you if you did. If you didn’t, however, you probably had a few issues with these plot events. Why did the police sing? Why didn’t George ever get to travel? Anyway, who even cares about George? I mean, what kind of guy shouts at an old man?
What’s missing in this example (but not with the movie or you’d have never heard of it) is inner conflict and the subsequent resolution. I stated that George had a goal, that of traveling the world. But I neglected to mention that he has a deeper second goal. He wants to do what is right for his family and community. The struggle between these goals drives the whole story. It also completes the story.
George wants to travel. When his dad dies, George has many options to support his family but knows that his small community cannot afford to lose his father’s business. Sacrificing his childhood dream, George shouts at an old man for oppressive business practices and by that action takes over his father’s trade. George helps many people. The old man steals money and blames George, who thinks he is a failure. Through a miracle, he gets a chance to see what life would have been like if he had never touched the townspeople. He finally understands that nothing is more important than the love of his family and friends. At peace, he goes home to be arrested. But love saves the day, as the community gathers to help the man who helped so many. Even the police join in the singing.
Let’s look at George’s inner conflict. He wants two things, 1) to travel, and 2) to help others. Now, the story wouldn’t hold together if George could do both simultaneously. This is where outer conflict comes in. The writers of this story gave George a carefully controlled set of circumstances wherein he’s forced to choose between the two goals over and over again.
Another critical point is that George’s inner conflict is inherently moral. If George has to choose between traveling and golfing, this story would be lame. Choose moral dilemmas that resonate deep within you personally. Then you’ll have interesting, conflicted, poignant ideas to put into your character’s words and thoughts.
Now, let’s talk about what one of my writing teachers calls the who-cares factor. Who cares about your characters and what they do? Well, the author, of course! She loves and cherishes them! She probably talks to them in her sleep! She neglects her own children to imagine clothes and shoes and hairstyles for them! She has a daily planner dedicated only to their activities! She . . . !
Ahem. Sorry about that. Yes, authors care about their characters. But how do you convince a reader to care? Another job for inner conflict. No matter their outside choices and circumstances, if your characters, specifically your main character, have a noble goal that they are pursuing, readers will cheer for them almost no matter how badly those characters mess up in actually achieving the goal. One caution about noble goals. Don’t go preachy on us readers. We hate that. George, I don’t believe, ever stated his noble goal to help his community. Let your characters’ actions speak much louder than their thoughts and words on this one.
For a story to feel complete, plot events have to allow the main character to resolve his inner conflict. That means George needs to either get his stated goal (travel) or learn that he doesn’t value it as much as something else (love). Be careful here, too. You cannot end a story with a realization. George cannot simply make a speech. He has to act. Remember the movie? George first faces the crisis of the missing money by running away from friends and family. Then he has his breakthrough realization. But the story’s not over. George acts. He runs, literally, in exactly the opposite direction as before, going toward his friends and family. He shows by his actions how he’s overcome the conflict of the story (and his life).
I’d like to make one more point on the actions of characters. They always speak louder than words or thoughts. It doesn’t matter how clearly you tell the reader that your character has a good inner desire, if his actions don’t say it, your character is hypocritical. This can be okay as long as your character eventually has a genuine noble goal. Even Scarlett O’Hara and Catherine Earnshaw, infamous for their questionable morals, put self-interest aside to act on occasional bursts of brotherly love, Scarlett more particularly so because she acted to help people she disliked. But neither character put self-interest aside enough to have the classic happy ending. Wouldn’t you have just thrown Wuthering Heights right onto the floor if Heathcliff and Catherine got to be happy at the end? I would have ripped it apart, page by page. Maybe fed it to my dog.
To end, I’d like to state my opinion about resolutions. The happiness you give your character at the end of the story should be directly linked to the degree to which they sacrificed for their noble goal. I’m often dissatisfied with Hollywood because happy endings come too cheaply. If you study great literature, you know the joy of the morning is only as bright as the darkest hour of the night.
Now that you know how inner conflict works, I’m giving you a challenge. Give your characters some gut-wrenching conflicts. Go ahead. Throw rocks at the best of them. Make them suffer. You’ll deepen them in the process and when the joy finally comes, they’ll be mature enough to recognize the wonder of it. And you’ll have a story that’s worth remembering.
Don’t miss Nikki’s next blog entry coming next week: Inner Conflict: A Practical Example.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Don't you just love Thanksgiving? There's nothing like eating turkey until your eyes bulge, watching football until you fall asleep, and then waking up for a slice of pumpkin pie. We have a tradition in my house of watching the movie Friendly Persuasion with Gary Cooper, Dorothy McQuire and Anthony Perkins. It's excellent! Here's a small clip.
Don't forget to enter An Angel in Your Life Contest. Just write an experience where someone has been an angel in your life and email it to me (email@example.com). The winner will receive a $25. gift certificate at Seagull Book or Deseret Book and so will the angel in your life. The deadline is December 15th.
Here's another entry for you to read. (The names have been changed.)
Sally has been my angel. She is the kindest person I have ever met and she always knows how to make me smile. One time that sticks out though is when we were in school and I had done really bad on a test which I thought I had done really good on. I was shocked at my score and totally distraught over it. I couldn't tell my family how bad I had done but I saw Sally that night and I told her everything. She reassured me that everything was okay and just made me feel better. She rescued me that night. I needed to tell someone and she was there for me. She's an awesome person.
Thanks for this contest and the opportunity to share my story of my angel.
Friday, November 20, 2009
My LDS themed art (Young Women values, family history, etc.) is available in the form of scrapbooking papers and embellishments. Two of my most popular pieces, Armor of God and Fishers of Men, appear on postcards, posters, tote bags, mugs, and t-shirts. I recently finished the illustrations for a children’s picture book What Are You Thinking? by Valerie Ackley. The book will be printed under the ThoughtsAlive Books label, owned by New York Times bestselling author Leslie Householder, and will be released in time for Christmas. I just received word that the book placed as a award-winning finalist in the 2009 National Best Book Awards in the Children's Mind/Body/Spirit category.
Peach 101 was released in 2006 but continues to enjoy great success as a peaches only recipe book. I am working on a second cookbook, Recipes from the Heart.
After the deaths of my grandparents and friend, Stacey, I needed an emotional outlet so I created three angels—Faith, Hope, and Charity—in honor of values I felt my loved ones exemplified. The angels were printed and distributed on Christmas cards. Last year I wrote the story of how they came to be and that became the text for the inspirational gift booklet Three Angels for Christmas.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
As a writer my library is full of books that teach how to write. I refer to them often. One of my favorites is Dwight V. Swain’s book, Techniques of the Selling Writer. If you see it in the book store snap it up. This book is a gold mine full of wonderful details that help strength your writing. I think you might find some of Mr. Swain’s advice as helpful as I have.
For instance, Mr. Swain talks about four things that you need to know to write a good story:
1) how to group words into motivation-reaction units
2) how to group motivation-reaction units into scenes and sequels
3) how to group scenes and sequels into story patterns
4) how to create characters that give your story life.
Today we’re going to work on the first point: how to group words into motivation-reaction units. This can be tricky. Have you ever read a scene, which is beautifully written, punctuation and grammar flawless, yet the ending is flat, the characters boring, and you have no desire to read more? Me, too. Why is that? Swain says it is because of selection, arrangement and description.
Helpful tools in selecting the right words are using the key questions of journalism: who, what, where, when, why and how. Who is the character the reader needs to follow? What is important to that character? When do we watch this character? Where is the character? What is the character doing? And why is he doing it? Now, apply how to the reader is viewing this? Are you writing in first-person or third person? Does the reader see everything through your protagonist’s eyes (first person)? Or through the writer’s eyes (third-person)? You can also view the scene through a bystander’s view, waiting for something to happen to him.
How you arrange what happens is very important. Do you present the scene in linear fashion or in a flashback? Have a good reason for arranging what happens and always remember the rules of cause and effect. The arrangement of words can add emphasis to your scene. Swain has a perfect example: if you show a gun, then a coffin, and then tears the emphasis of the scene is heartbreak. But if you show the coffin, then tears, and then the gun the emphasis shifts to revenge.
The description for a scene makes the scene come to life. Your goal is to paint a vivid picture with words to add texture. When possible use short concise descriptions, but if necessary a long description is the only way to get the job done. Remember vividness is your goal. The more you write the more your instincts will know when short descriptions or long descriptions work best. For example, a high action scene needs short descriptions to keep readers on the edge of their seats; however, a romantic scene may need long descriptions to evoke amorous emotions. Emotion is key and the right words selected, arranged and described are essential.
Next Wednesday we’ll discuss scene and sequels.
Monday, November 16, 2009
But here's the deal...there are so many touching experiences I thought you might like to read them as well. What better way to start the countdown to Christmas than reading about the good deeds of others. And don’t worry I've changed the names and skipped some of the very personal information.
One of the angels in my life would have to be my Young Women adviser, Sis. Smith. She makes a point of getting to know her girls as best as she can. She sometimes takes us to the temple, and we just talk. On one such occasion, I had had a particularly hard day, so between friends and grades, I was pretty stressed out. She and I talked for about two hours, just of my woes and worries. She listened to me, and laughed and cried at the appropriate moments... ...She gave me some advice, and that was what ended our session. We went out and got ice cream, and went home. The next day, I came home and went to my room. There was a package and an envelope sitting on my bed. In the package there was a nice gold chain necklace, and in the envelope were the following quotes:
The universe is transformation; our life is what our thoughts make it.
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.
Needed are…[souls] filled with compassion, that we might communicate not only eye to eye, or voice to ear, but in the majestic style of the Savior.
--President Thomas S. Monson;
Ensign, November 1994
And a copy of the YW theme with the words, ”You are a daughter of your Heavenly Father, who loves us and we love him,” underlined. Let me tell you, that is exactly what I needed. It filled me up with joy: That is why I want Sister Smith to win this contest. At that moment in time, she was my angel through that kind act of service.
Friday, November 13, 2009
I am really excited about this new book! Eyes Like Mine is a novel about a young girl’s journey of using the past to meet her present challenges. It’s is a time-travel and a love story, but not how you would think. It’s a story of love between family members and the sacrifices they make for each other. It brings together a woman from 1855 who is crossing the plains and a semi-spoiled young woman from contemporary times. They meet up in modern days to learn from each other what the purposes of their lives. It’s filled with heartfelt humor, and deals with the very real struggle of remembering to live our lives to the fullest.
Tell us about your other books.
Do you have any book signings, tours or special events planned to promote your book that readers might be interested in attending? If so, when and where? Also tell about your blog and website.
I am available for firesides and literacy enrichment nights as well as school visits. You can find out more on that and anything else you want to know at my website:
*Oakland, CA: Seagull 11:00-12:00
*Bakersfield, CA: Beehive Books Bakersfield 4:00-5:30(661) 322-7276
Saturday, November 14th
Ensign Books Temecula 9:30-11:30
Ensign Books Riverside 12:15-2:15
Ensign Books Upland 3:00-5:00
Monday, November 16th
*Bookport 10-12 Fountain valley California
*Book Castle 2:00-4:00 Santa Clarita California
Tuesday, November 17th
*Glendale, AZ: Deseret Book12:30-2:00439-4809
*Late Lunch 2:30 (details to follow)
*Mesa, AZ: Seagull 4:30-6:00
*Evening Presentation in Mesa area
Wednesday, November 18th
*Tucson AZ: Latter Day Cottage12:30-1:30885-2635
*Thatcher AZ: Bookworms book signing 4:30-6:00428-8089
Thursday November 19th
*Chandler, AZ: Deseret Book 12:00-1:00 (480) 899-5469
*Book group Las Vegas
Friday, November 20th
*Las Vegas, NV: Deseret Book 11:00-12:30
*St. George, UT: Deseret Book 4:30-6:00(435) 628-4495
Saturday, November 21st
*Cedar City, UT: Deseret Book 12:00-1:30(435) 865-1253