Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Book Review - Oh Say Can You See? by L.C. Lewis


It's blog tour time for
Set against the War of 1812 and the penning of "The Star Spangled Banner," Oh, Say Can You See?, the latest novel in the FREE MEN AND DREAMERS series by L.C. Lewis, brings this often overlooked period to life.

THREE people will win a copy of Oh, Say Can You See? One GRAND PRIZE WINNER will win this beautiful patriotic necklace!


Blog tour runs from December 13th--December 22nd.

It's easy to enter.
1. Visit the fabulous reviews and leave a comment letting us know why "The Star Spangled Banner" means so much to you. Remember to include your email address.
2. If you tweet about the blog tour, or post about it on your blog or Facebook, leave the link in the comments section and you'll receive an additional entry.


Good Luck! Entries close at midnight (MST) on December 31.

December 13
Braden Bell

December 14
Marsha Ward

December 15
Rachelle Christensen

December 16
Anna Del C. Dye

December 17
Stephanie Abney

December 18
Lynn Parsons

December 20
Susan Dayley
Marilyn Bunderson

December 21
Liz Adair
Valerie Ipson

December 22
Kathi Oram Peterson

****
Though the capital smolders, the battered Constitution and the presidency have survived. But the British left the struggling government no home. Gone are the symbols of America--the Capitol Building and the President's House, and nearly every relic of the infant nation. Britain's next target is the port city of Baltimore, but has the raid on Washington stiffened the Americans' backs? As the Willows women mourn their absent men - gone to war, or wounded, or captured - they await the birth of a blessed child. Miles away, attorney Francis Scott Key embarks on a diplomatic mission that will leave an everlasting mark on America. Proving that the pen can indeed by more powerful than the sword, Key records the fears and hopes of his embattled people. His epic poem soon set to music and titled "The Star-Spangled Banner," rallies a shattered nation to rise from its knees to claim the dream of "one nation under God" during the closing hours of the War of 1812.  

My review:

I've often heard how Francis Scott Key wrote the words to our national anthem, but I'd never thought about his history before he wrote the famous song that has become part of the fabric of our country. This book does more than give us a peek into his life, it opens up the world of those brave souls who fought in the War of 1812. Lewis gives us much to think about and learn in her new novel, Oh Say Can You See?



Yes, this is the fourth book in her Freeman and Dreamers series, but you really don't need to have read the other books to know exactly what is going on in this novel. Right away you're drawn into the Pearson family and the struggles they are going through because of the war that threatens to rip their family apart. Poor Hannah Pearson is expecting a child and her husband Jed has been captured by the British. Another memorable character is Markus O'Malley, who is fraught with guilt and worry for he promised Jed he'd watch over his wife and his home until he returned. But the country needs Markus to serve on a very important mission--to captain Mr. Key's vessel.


You learn that Francis Scott Key was a religious man who had been drawn into a war he once opposed. He was a man of great bravery and also a tender heart. The scene of him kissing his sleeping children and telling them he loved them, knowing that in a few hours he would leave on a mission he may not return from, will long stay with you. 

And, of course, there's the scene where Key and others were desperate to see the star-spangled banner still waving.


From that famous scene I love this line: "... We have been a foolish people at times, and so suffered our comeuppance in Washington, but our cause is still just. God has reached His hand down from heaven and rescued this land in the past. Let's pray He'll do so once again..." This struck a cord with me as do many other passages. Oh Say Can You See? reminded me of our nation's heritage, of the brave souls who fought to keep our nation free, but it also reminded me to be ever diligent in guarding our precious freedom.


If you love historical fiction that is anchored in facts, you will love L.C. Lewis's new book, Oh Say Can You See? I know I did.

(I received a free copy of this book. I reviewed it because I liked it.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cute Christmas Photo and the Angel Winner

Since there are only five days before Christmas, I thought I'd share one of my favorite Christmas pictures that I received in my email this year.You may have already seen it. I thought it was so cute. The message with the picture told how someone found this cute dog curled up in the manger with the baby Jesus. 

It really struck a cord with me and is symbolic of  how even the lowliest among us can find safe harbor at the feet of our Savior.

Have you received some cute/amazing photos this Christmas?

I promised Friday that I would announce the winner of the 
Angel of Hope ornament.

The winner is:

Olivia J. Herrell.

Thanks to everyone who entered. 
I very much appreciate your help in spreading the word about my little Christmas book.

Last Saturday at my signing the store sold out, which was awesome!


But I'm sure other stores still have copies in stock.

If you've read An Angel on Main Street please let me know if you liked the story.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Grateful for You!

Today is the last day you can enter my contest to win this cute little angel ornament for your Christmas tree. Check out the left sidebar for all the details. She's been sitting on my desk just waiting to go to her new home. I'll announce the winner Monday.


Christmas makes me think about all the blessings in my life. A huge blessing which I'm extremely grateful for are my friends!  

Yes, you! 

Reading a few blogs Thursday, I came across Jody Heyland's post. She was worried that some of her friends might feel unappreciated and this made me wonder if some of my friends felt that way, too.

I love my friends, and if I have done anything that made them feel as if I didn't value what they have done for me, I would be devastated. With the release of my third novel, The Stone Traveler, I have met many wonderful people who have helped to spread the word about my novels. Friends and family have come to my signings, helped with my blog tours, left comments on my blog, and have purchased my books. 

For all of that, I'm extremely grateful.

I'm so grateful that I have some virtual chocolate for you to enjoy. 
Please take a piece or two. 



If chocolate doesn't float your boat, have a virtual ice-cream sundae.



I'll even give you a virtual foot massage.


Please know how very much I appreciate you and all that you have done!!!


What are some of the blessings you're grateful for this Christmas?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Finding Research Material


I'm right in the middle of writing a romantic suspense novel, which is a sequel to my book, River Whispers (scheduled to be released in May 2011). So as you can imagine, I'm deep into the novel and doing research as I go. Yes, I do a lot of research before I start working, but I find as I write more questions pop up. 

As I'm trying to understand how many miles to a gallon of gas a power engine will get on the open seas and how weather would affect this scenario and how long it would take my hero to reach Alaska leaving from Neah Bay Washington, I am amazed by the wealth of information there is on the Internet. 


I know you tech savvy people are saying "no duh." But for this author who started writing back in the stone age before the Internet, I find it extremely cool that I don't have to drive to the library and search for books that would tell me what I need to know. What a pain that was. Don't get me wrong, I love the library! There's something about rows and rows of books that makes my heart race. But to know that with the click of my mouse I can find the information I need right when I need it is soooo totally amazing.


Here are some sites that I find helpful: Google and YouTube.


Google
If I Google a topic many options are mine to choose from. Sometimes it takes a bit of searching, but once in a while I can find a gold mine. In researching for my boat scene, I found a blog of someone who had traveled the route I needed my hero to take. What a find! Of course, I didn't copy the blog, but in that post were key places where they stopped. And they also talked about the troubles they ran into on their journey.


Also by Googling boats I found the one I wanted my hero to have with a diagram of the interior. And I found boating jargon that I could sprinkle in my text. I'm loving it!


YouTube:
It's like being there. In another scene in my book a character flies a bush plane to Alaska. So I asked for clips regarding bush pilots. What a find! I could hear the engine of a deHavilland Beaver roar to life, could see the control panel of the plane, and I had a bird's eye view of the terrain my character would fly over.


I'm sure there are other wonderful sites that would help writers find the information they need for their books. 


Where do you find valuable research information on the Internet? 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cookies and Harps

***Don't forget the contest!***
It ends Friday, December 17th.
All the info is in the left sidebar. 


Alert: This posting is a slice of my life.

With Christmas so close
there's much to do.


There's cookies to make. 
One family tradition we have 
is decorating sugar cookies.


I think I caught some cookies thieves.


Below is my daughter, Kristina. 
She's a much better cookie artist than I am.



Christmas is also a time 
of special church programs.

I serve as the Relief Society President in the Third Branch in our Stake. Our branch members live in an assisted living center. I wanted to give them a special program for Christmas. Something they'd never had before.

So I asked my good friend . . .

 . . .Kathleen . . .


 . . . and her friend, Pam . . .

  . . . to play their harps for our branch. 

Kathleen and Pam are members of 

The Park City Harp Ensemble.

Their Christmas music was heavenly. 

I spoke between numbers. As I was introducing the song, Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella, one of my counselors came over to Pam and started whispering in her ear. I didn't understand what was going on until she pulled a little lady's chair up so she could touch Pam's harp. This lady is deft and couldn't hear the music, but by placing her hand on the harp she was able to enjoy the song along with the rest of us.

Tears came to the little lady's eyes as Pam played.
(Many in the congregation were misty eyed, as well.) 


What a spiritual kick-off of the Christmas season.

I'd love for you to share some of your family traditions or special programs that you enjoy this time of year. Please feel free to leave a comment.  :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

And They Were . . . Kissing!





(As  you can tell by the picture this is not going to be my usual Friday post of a book review or interview with an author. I thought I'd stir things up a little.)


Every Tuesday and Thursday (if the weather cooperates), I walk with a friend. We meet at a little park that is midway between our homes. Yesterday, I arrived early, so I decided to weed out the text messages on my cell phone. I'm horrible about deleting and had well over a 100 messages. I worked on that for a while. When I looked up, I saw that several parking lanes from me there was a couple in a car and they were . . . kissing. And not just a peak on the cheek, but making-out kissing.


Being the writer that I am, my mind started shifting through several scenarios. 

  • Were they newlyweds who couldn't wait to see each other, so they met in the park?
  • Were they co-workers who had to get away from work so no one would see them together?
  • Or were they married to other people and having an affair?

I really didn't want the last one to be right. Coming up with different scenarios made me think of the main character in my book. What would Regi do if she had seen this couple? It was fun getting into her thought process and trying to figure out how she would handle it. 

How about the main character in your book? What would he/she think or do finding a couple madly kissing? 
  • Would she turn away? 
  • Would he immediately think the couple was having an affair? 
  • Would it make her think of a lost love? 
  • Would he wish he could find his soul mate?

And the questions could go on and on.


Please leave a comment and let me know what your main character would think.  :)

 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Contest Angel and a Writing Tip






See this cute, cute, cute angel ornament. It's a Willow Tree figurine. I found her yesterday. Her name is "Angel of Hope." When I saw her in the store I knew she was the perfect angel for my contest.

What contest?

Look over there on my sidebar, under my Christmas book, An Angel on Main Street. All the information for the contest is there. Follow the rules I've listed and this little angel ornament might be winging her way to your house.  


I had to be so careful with her as I took her out of the box to take her picture. Here's another photo of her on my dining room table. 







I'd love for her to become part of your Christmas celebration. So quick, become a follower of my blog and post An Angel on Main Street button in your sidebar. And make sure to let me know so I can add your name in the drawing.


Okay, now for my Wednesday writing tip.


During the holiday season our family watches a ton of Christmas movies. All the classics such as White Christmas, The Bishop's Wife, It's a Wonderful Life and so on. Why are those movies so memorable? I think it's because of terrific dialogue. Let's look at a few lines from the movies I've mentioned.

From White Christmas remember the line: "Sargent, take the shortcut." And you know full well that the short cut will not be short.

From The Bishop's Wife how about this line: "I've never before had to fight an angel." Does the bishop fight the angel who has come to make him realize where his priorities should be? Watch the movie. 

And from It's a Wonderful Life this classic: "Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings." This line ties the entire story together since you know that now after helping George, Clarence has earned his wings.


Okay, but these lines were in movies, how does this relate to books? 

Dialogue is even more important in books because the reader can go over and over each line as he/she studies and savors them. 

My challenge for you this week--make the dialogue in your book memorable. 

It's a tough job, but I know you're up to the task. ;)


Monday, December 6, 2010

Don't Forget the Tender Emotions in Character Development



Isn't that an interesting picture? You're probably wondering what it is. I'll tell you in just a minute, and I'll also tie it in to the title of this post.

As many of you may know I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Once a year the First Presidency has a Christmas devotional at the conference center in Salt Lake City. Many years ago when my husband first started working for the church they had this special devotional for the employees. It used to be a Christmas tradition for our family to go down to temple square for the devotional. But as the years have gone by the Church opened the admittance to the public, so getting tickets has become very difficult. In fact, we have been unable to go for the last three or four years.


But Friday Hubby was given two tickets to this year's devotional. I was so excited. I had forgotten how beautiful the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sounded in person. There were times in last night's meeting they sounded angelic. Tears came to my eyes as I listened to them sing "Oh Come All Ye Faithful."



(This is not last night's performance, but it will give you an idea of how angelic they sound.)


The Christmas talks given by President Uchdorf and President Eyring were wonderful. And our Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, gave his usual outstanding and inspirational message.


When we came out of the meeting, I looked up and stopped in my tracks. I'd never seen such a stunning sight. The Salt Lake Temple was shrouded in a blanket of misty fog. For a moment, I felt as though I'd stepped into a Dickens novel in old England. But as we walked beneath this holy structure the awe factor kicked in and words can not express the stirring in my soul. The picture at the beginning of this post is of the temple from across the street. The one below was taken as we walked through temple square. We took several shots, but they just don't do the scene justice. 





As I thought about the evening and how it stirred many emotions within me, I thought about character development in my new book. Characters need to have a belief system that stirs them. Listening to the talks and songs of the evening, I was inspired and filled with the Christmas spirit. It's important for our characters to have similar emotions in their lives. This can apply to any religion or belief system. We, as authors, need to show our characters' feelings developing from experiences they have during the story. Layer by layer these feelings should accumulate and help build to the climax of the book.

Just imagine writing a scene where your character was touched by something emotional and then seal those emotions in your character with a striking sight that confirms to their heart everything they have heard or felt. Your character development will be off the charts.

How about you? Have you added scenes that reflect your characters' emotions on many levels? If so, I'd love to hear about them.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Book Review - The Widow's Mite

During the blog tour for The Stone Traveler I met some wonderful people on the journey. One such person was Christina Dymock. She asked me to review her new Christmas story. Since I love stories about Christmas, I told her I would.


Usually I give you the back cover blurb, but in this case I'm not going to. This story is only thirteen pages long, and I don't want to give any of it away. But what I will do is give you the opening sentence:


Here I am, three weeks before Christmas, on a rare shopping trip without the kids, and I can't decide between the pirate ship and the racecars for Kaleb.


So she had me hooked at "rare shopping trip without the kids." Busy mothers can certainly identify with that statement.

This is a touching story about a young widow named Carol, trying to provide Christmas for her children and also trying to do the right thing for those less fortunate than her own family. There's a little romance thrown in, but this is mainly the story of the struggle many of us go through as we try to decide: do I leave giving to the poor to the rich or do I also give, even if it means my family may go without. This is the meat of the story and the question the reader will think about long after the story has been read and put away until next Christmas. 

Even though The Widow's Mite is very short, Dymock has given us a well-developed character in Carol. She has worries and feelings most everyone can identify with and follow. In fact, my biggest criticism of this story is I wanted more. 


Does Carol give away the money she needs for her family? 


Or does she keep it?


I'm not going to tell you. But know this, The Widow's Mite is a great read that will stay with you throughout the year.

(I received a free copy of this story. I reviewed it because I liked it.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Road Trips and Writing


Hubby and I went on a road trip yesterday. I enjoy spending time with him and watching the scenery go by my window. There's a lot you need to plan for before starting on a trip: checking the car, taking reading material, and, of course, packing treats to enjoy on the way.

Bruce always checks the car, he tests the tires, looks at the engine and makes sure we have fuel. He also takes a few tools in case we need them and we always have a small first aid kit in the car, just in case. 

Taking reading material on a road trip helps pass the time. On this trip I took one of my novels to read that I want to send to my editor. I was able to read about thirty-six pages out loud before my voice gave out. 

Since we're both trying to lose weight, the treats we took were healthy: apples, oranges, and granola bars. Did we eat them? Well . . . I'll tell you later.



As we traveled I thought how writing a novel is like going on a road trip.

First  you check out your vehicle--this could be as fundamental as making sure your computer works, that you have the right software, and even enough ink in the printer to something more along the lines of plotting and character development, but it all boils down to--are you prepared to embark on the wonderful adventure of writing a novel?


Second, you need to read your novel, not once or twice but as many times as it takes to make your story shine. And reading out loud is a must for me. A writer can sometimes develop writer's blindness (seeing words in your manuscript that aren't there) and reading out loud will many times help me catch the mistake.


Third, packing treats for the trip. I don't know about you, but as I write I love to nibble. Sometimes it's healthy (celery sticks and carrots) sometimes it's not (jelly beans and chocolate chips). 


What do you do to prepare for the road trip of writing a book? I'd love to add your thoughts to my list.


(By the way, we didn't touch the health treats, but that doesn't mean we didn't stick to our diets. Bruce bought donuts at a rest stop, but we didn't even open the package. How good is that?)

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Flip Side

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I certainly feel blessed. My brother and his family spent the holiday with us. We had a marvelous time, went to see the latest Harry Potter movie, and then, did the crazy "Black Friday" thing. After standing in line at Target for two and a half hours at four in the morning, Hubby and I have vowed to never do that again. :)

This week I'm back to blogging. And visiting blogs. I'm sorry I haven't been around lately. With the holiday and trying to get a couple of books written, I've fallen waaaaay behind. But I vow to do better.

For several weeks before Thanksgiving I'd been telling you about my path to publication. This week I thought I'd discuss the flip side of publishing a book.


I had been trying for years to get published and in that time I went back to college and earned my degree. I also worked for a curriculum publisher writing and editing children's concept and biography books. 

Still I wanted to break into fiction. I wrote five romantic suspense novels, three middle readers, and one young adult, none of which were published. My second young adult novel, The Forgotten Warrior, finally made it.

But there's a flip side to publication. No one told me about this part, so I'm letting you in on the secret. 

Here it is: once you're published that's when you roll up your sleeves and work your tail off. It's true. Writing your novel (or in my case novels) was only the proving ground. You're mingling with pros now. No more excuses. There are edits to make, galleys to read, and during this time you need to ramp up your promotion engine. This means you need to write articles for magazines/newspapers, volunteer to speak anywhere and everywhere you can, and you have to make a presence for yourself on the Internet.


I wish I could give you a magic formula on which generates sells of your novel, but after having only three books published I'm still trying to find what really works. AND it's different for each book. What worked for one book may not work for another.


Were all the years of writing novel after novel and receiving one rejection after another worth the time and trouble when I finally became published? Oh, yes! 

There's something magical about holding your novel in your hands, turning the pages, and smelling that fresh scent of a newly published book that has your name on it. Each time it's a thrill. I'm very grateful to my publisher! Their entire staff have been amazing.

And if I'd never published I wouldn't have created my blog, and I would have never met YOU!!!

I hope reading about my looooooong story to publication (took more weeks than I thought) has encouraged you on your path. 

For those who have already published maybe you found that your journey was similar to mine. 

:)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Part Seven: My Journey to Publication

Last week I left you wondering if my young adult, time travel was the first book I sold.


Well, it wasn't. I spent a year writing about a boy named Tag, who went back in time to Samuel the Lamanite's daughter. The working title I had for that novel was The Wraiths and the Sacrifice. I felt good about this book. As soon as I finished Tag's story I sent it off. This started the process of send the novel off, get a rejection, send off, get rejection. Meanwhile, I needed to work on another YA. 


Once again I wanted to use the backdrop of the Book of Mormon. I asked my son what Book of Mormon story he thought was exciting. He looked at me as if that was a no-brainer and said, "the Stripling Warriors."

I really liked that idea, but I wanted my next book to have a female protagonist. As I pondered over what to do I realized, why not have a teenage girl with a black belt in karate go back in time and help train the stripling warriors? That would make for some great conflict. Plus, the research into karate would be a snap because my son was a second degree black belt. So I started working on The Forgotten Warrior

As I wrote the book I realized there were two big climatic scenes: one after the battle for Cumeni and one after the battle for Zarahemla. So I cut the story in half, making two books. I sent the first book to a publisher who requested to see it, but I also queried other publishers just in case. Then the publisher--whom I really wanted to buy it--replied to my query interested in the novel. I started putting pressure on the publisher who had been sitting on my book for a very long time. Finally he called and confessed that he'd lost the manuscript and could I email him a copy. I did and within a week he rejected the book, freeing the way for me to send it to the publisher I wanted all along. I was so excited. 

And then  . . . I didn't hear anything for six months. :(


I remember when I finally did. It was July and I was attending the RWA (Romance Writers of America) conference in Dallas, Texas. I'd gone to the Harlequin party with my roommate, who publishes with them. I met many famous authors and agents. We returned to our room late that night. 

Before I tumbled into bed, I checked my phone. My husband had left a message. To not disturb my sleeping roommate, I tiptoed into the bathroom to call. My husband told me I'd received an email from the publisher with good news and bad news.  

The bad news was the editor who loved my book was quitting the company, which really concerned me. What chance would my book have? Then Hubby told me the good news. My book had passed their review board. The final approval would come from the managing board. I should hear something in about a month. I was so excited that I let out a little scream, waking my roommate. She thought I was ill and tapped on the door, checking on me. I told her what had happened, and we were awake for quite a while talking about all the possibilities.


A month later I received an email from the managing editor at Covenant Communications telling me that they accepted my book, The Forgotten Warrior, for publication. My dream had come true.


Little did I know a whole new world would open to me, and I was about to learn the flip side of being published.

What is the flip side? 
Did I publish other books? 
What about The Wraiths and the Sacrifice


I'll tell you next Monday. ;)

This is the only post for this week. I have family coming from out of town to spend Thanksgiving with us. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Book Review - Life and Death at Hoover Dam by Jerry Borrowman

A long, long time ago my husband and I lived in Idaho when the Teton Dam burst. This was a very dark time in our lives. My parents had to flee their home on the river, but even worse, my husband's father was killed in an accident due to the flood. Images are burnt into my mind of that day and the days that followed.

When Jerry Borrowman asked me to read his new book, at first I was reluctant because it had to do with a dam. But knowing what a great writer he is, I told him I would. I am so glad I did. Here is the back cover blurb.

It's 1931 and men are desperate for jobs. A lucky few will get to work in the searing heat of the Nevada desert on the massive Hoover Dam., the single largest public works project in history. Their goal is to tame the mighty Colorado River with a dam that towers sixty stories high from the base of the canyon to the crest of the dam. In doing so they will create the largest man-made lake in the world. Nothing like it has ever been built.


Life and Death at Hoover Dam tells the story of a handful of these men and the sacrifices they endured. From choking on gasoline fumes in 120 degree heat inside the five-stories-tall diversion tunnels to dangling by slender cables from the thousand-foot walls of Black Canyon, they will put their lives at risk. 


Meet the Conroy brothers: Dave, an engineer who works with Frank Crowe, legendary dam builder and chief engineer; Pete, his older brother who is as wild as the Colorado River itself. Pete is a crew foreman, supervising the high scalers who blast the sheer cliff walls into which the dam must be anchored and later in the massive forms where seven million tons of concrete will settle--some say to last a thousand years. Sean O'Donnell, a scrappy Irishman who worked on the Empire State Building in New York City but whose family desperately wants him to come home. And Tony Capelli, a farmer from Southern California whose land will become verdant and productive once the flow of the Colorado River water is assured. But prejudice is rampant for those with foreign names, even though American Citizens, and Tony will face mortal danger as he struggles to stay on the job and feed his family.


In the end, these men and the 20,000 others who worked on the dam will build a monument that makes possible the palm trees of Los Angeles and the desert oasis of Phoenix. This is the story of their lives--the men who built the matchless Hoover Dam.

Borrowman has a way of putting you in the scene. I worried for Sean as he dangled from ropes working on the tunnels. I routed for him as he went above and beyond the call of duty to save someone's life. And I sorrowed for him when he made a mistake that nearly cost a crewmen his life. The Conroy brothers were wonderful characters. David, the serious one, was weighted down with not only his job, but troubles at home. You can't help but feel how torn he was between his duty to keep the workers safe and the need to be a husband to his wife and father to his teenage son. His brother, Pete was a rascal you fall in love. He stands up for what he thinks is right, goes to the rescue of those less fortunate, and does it all in his cavalier way. But it was the character of Tony Capelli that really struck a cord with me. My great grandparents came from Italy. As I read about Tony's hardships and the discrimination he endured, I couldn't help but think of my ancestors and wonder what they went through.

Life and Death at Hoover Dam may have reminded me of the Teton Dam disaster and the haunting memories of that time in my life, but it also made me think of the many men who have placed themselves in harms way to make a better life for so many people. I loved this book and highly recommend it.

(I received a free copy of this book to review. I reviewed it because I liked it.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

3D Characters





3D seems to be the up and coming thing in movies. What about books and most especially what about the characters in your books?

I like to give my characters three dimensions: physiology, sociology, and psychology. Let's take a brief look at each one.


Physiology: 
Is your character male or female, old or young, tall or short, heavy or thin? I think you get where I'm going with this. Physiology is about your character's outward appearance.


Sociology: 
Was your character born into wealth? Or was he/she given away at birth? What kind of education did your character receive? What schools did he/she attend? What were his favorite subjects? What was her home life like? Did your character have brothers or sisters or was he/she an only child? Does your character believe in religion? What nationality is your character? What does he/she like to do for fun? Sociology has to do with how your character was socialized.


Psychology: 
Physiology and sociology molds your character and develops his/her psychology. What kind of moral standards does your character have? Is he/she ambitious? What is your character's temperament like? Is he/she obsessive, easygoing, or superstitious? What talents does your character have? And how smart is he/she?


Now tell me what I've missed. How do you develop 3D characters?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Part Six: My Journey to Publication

Fate was very fickle for me. 


Just when I thought I had my life planned out, boom something unexpected happened. I told you last week that after college I had this wonderful job writing and editing children's books. Well, before I knew it, all the books for the second grade curriculum were complete. I thought the company loved me enough to keep me on and assign me another project. In swooped the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate. They let me go. I was totally devastated.

I had never been let go from a job before. I had nightmares for months. I cleaned my house from top to bottom, went through old recipes and organized them, I even worked on our family photo albums. I also tried to find another job, but my heart wasn't in it. As I re-evaluated my situation, I realized that now was the perfect time to devote all of my attention on writing novels. But I wanted to focus on a specific genre: young adult.

So I headed to the library. 


For months I read every Newbery Medal winner I could get my hands on. After a while, I decided on the type of YA novel I would write. I wanted to try and break into inspirational, time-travel with a focus on the Book of Mormon. That really narrowed the field of where I could send my work, but I couldn't ignore the feeling that was what I was supposed to do.

So I started writing my first YA book. Was it my break through novel that became published? You'll have to wait for next week to find out. ;)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Interview with Author Tiffany Young Fletcher

Tiffany Young Fletcher and I had a signing together at the Seagull Book in South Jordan. I'd never met Tiffany before, but I'd heard about her new book, Mother Had a Secret. It's an amazing story about her childhood and growing up with a mother who had multiple personalities. Tiffany agreed to do an interview for my blog. I think you'll find it very interesting and at times heart tugging.

 Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Before I start, I want to thank Kathi for her kindness and generosity in interviewing me for her blog. Now to answer the question, I have always wanted to be a writer. I started writing when I was very young and won my first writing award in the first grade. It was a Young Author's Fair and I think I took second place. All I remember is that I received a blue ribbon, and from then on, I knew I was destined for big things. ;)

Tell us a little bit about your new book.


My new book is entitled "Mother Had a Secret" and it is the true story of what life was like growing up with my mother who was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. The book is really about my relationship with my mother and how I learned to love and appreciate her and see her for the person she was rather than define her by the mental illness she bore.


 What inspires you and motivates you to write the very most?

My husband and children inspire me the most. Since I write non-fiction, it is the lessons that I learn from my husband and children that give wings to my thoughts and allows the Spirit to touch my mind and heart.

Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your writing? Do you have a writing mentor? 

 I really don't try to emulate anyone, although I love Emerson. His writing is truly beautiful and inspiring to me. I think that my writing mentor is my husband. Although he hasn't yet been published, he is a far better writer than I am and I am always reading his work, trying to learn what I can from him to make my own writing better.

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 grew up in Ammon, Idaho and Roy, Utah. They are both suburbs of bigger cities and we were always close to a grocery store and a gas station. Now, we live in a city that is more like a little country town. The nearest gas station is about ten minutes away and the nearest grocery store is fifteen minutes away, and I love it. We are still close to bigger cities, but I am not afraid to have my kids walk to their friend's house or ride their bikes around the neighborhood. It is such an amazing community, and really a place I could live in forever. If I could live anywhere I wanted to though, and I was only thinking of myself, I would live by the ocean, maybe even in a lighthouse. I love the ocean and I love lighthouses even more. Living there would be just like Heaven for me, as long as my family was with me of course. :)

Bring us into your home and set the scene for us when you are writing. What does it look like? On the couch, laptop, desk? Music? Lighting, handwriting?

When I first started writing, I loved handwriting it in a notebook. Soon after, however, I learned that it was tedious to write everything down and then have to re-write it onto the computer, so we bought a laptop and now that is all I use. We have an office in our basement that both my husband and I share. Sometimes, I prefer to take the laptop to the bedroom. Wherever I am , I have to be away from my kids, and it has to be quiet in order for me to think. I am too easily distracted if I have music or other things going on. My husband likes to listen to music when he writes, and it amazes me that he can get anything written, but he's good at it, and it works for him. I, on the other hand, prefer solitude. It gives me a sense of peace and well-being, and hopefully allows me to convey that same peace into my writing.

Do you watch television or movies? If so, what are your favorites? Do they inspire your writing?

I love watching movies, and my husband and I have our favorite television shows that we record and watch together when we get a chance. My favorite television series is Castle, probably because he is a writer. I also enjoy Bones, The Mentalist, and Chuck. My favorite movies are anything romantic of course. Pride and Prejudice and Phantom of the Opera are probably my all time favorites. I don't think that the things that I watch inspire me in my writing, mostly because I prefer writing non-fiction and I enjoy finding my inspiration in everyday people and situations.

How has being published changed your life?

Being published has changed my life because it has made it possible for me to influence more lives and see what a difference sharing my story has made in the lives of others. I am overwhelmed by the number of people who email me and share with me how reading my book has changed their perspective and blessed their life. I would have never met the amazing people I get to meet each time I go to a signing or a book club. I feel blessed beyond measure for the opportunity Heavenly Father has given me to help others feel and recognize His love for them. Heavenly Father has taught me so much and I am grateful He has given me the opportunity to share that knowledge with others. It has truly blessed my life.

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 have three book signings coming up in November. Nov. 13 - South Towne Seagull, 12-2 pmNov. 20 - Fashion Place Seagull, 11-1pmNov. 27 - Spanish Fork Seagull, 11-1 pm I have been asked to speak at two stake firesides in the coming months and have also been asked to attend several book clubs. I enjoy these opportunities and welcome them from anyone who might be interested. I don't have a website, but my blog can be found at http:\\motherhadasecret.blogspot.com. There, you can find the first two chapters of my book, radio and television interviews and a link to purchase the book, if interested.

Thanks, Tiffany!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Premise


Ever feel like you're going in circles? Life can be busy and hectic. Sometimes at the end of the day you may wonder why you even got out of bed because you haven't accomplished what you wanted to. You had a plan and then because other things got in the way, you didn't meet your goal. 

This can happen to the book you're writing. When you start, you have a plan, but then a character takes over or you find some awesome research you just have to include, and now your book doesn't look at all like you thought it would. This is where having a premise for your story can help.

I didn't realize how important premise was for a novel until I wrote The Forgotten Warrior (my first published novel). I'd written several books before this one, but my focus was on plot and getting my characters from point A to point B. As I started Forgotten Warrior, I remembered a class I'd taken on script writing where the teacher had promoted the idea of working with a premise, and I decided to try it. I wrote my premise down on a strip of paper and taped it above my monitor. I wanted every scene to work toward it. 

Other writers may call premise theme, thesis, aim, driving force, purpose, or goal, but for the most part they all serve the same purpose: they keep your story focused.   


Having my premise where I could see it while I worked helped me immensely. I read it every day. It was as a gentle reminder, keeping my story on track.


I'd love to know what you think. Please tell me, do you write with a premise in mind?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Part Five: My Journey to Publication

I told you last Monday that after years of writing and with only winning a few contests, I decided to go back to school. And that decision sent me down an unexpected path on my journey to publication.



I loved college! I attended the University of Utah. Being among all that energy and knowledge was fantastic. The only thing I really hated: the tests. 

Oh my stars! I'd study for an entire week before an exam. I did all right, but it was a challenge. Not only was I going to school, but I was working part-time as well. There were days I wondered why I was getting up at five in the morning so I could get a couple of classes in before work. Was I crazy? Probably, but I was also driven. I'd always felt as though I'd missed out not going to college. I attended year round for three years. As I neared graduation, I decided to apply for an internship at Continuum, the university's magazine. There was a great deal of competition for the job. I was totally shocked when I got it.


But taking the internship meant I had to leave my part-time job that I'd had for many years. I loved my friends at work. Leaving them was very hard, but we still get together every Christmas to catch up with each other.


My internship was a privilege. I met some fantastic people and learned what goes on in the magazine world. They even published one of my articles, which was a real kick. As I neared the end of my internship, I started looking for a full-time job, hoping to use my writing skills. I applied for a technical writing position at a curriculum publishing company that made educational computer games, lessons, and books. 

I was totally surprised when the boss called and offered me the job. I worked with computer programmers, graphic artists, and writers. Of course, I wanted to get in on writing the books. Not only was I able to write nine children books, but for a while I was  in charge of the math and science books for first and second grade students. 


I'd probably still be working there. Thank heavens fate stepped in and reminded me what I really wanted to do . . . write fiction.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Interview with Author Gary Toyn

A little over a month ago I had the pleasure of attending a huge book signing event. I shared a table with author Gary Toyn. People flocked to buy his latest book that he co-authored with Michael Winder. I asked Gary if he would like to do an interview for my blog, and I'm happy to say he said yes.

Enjoy!

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

It’s rather ironic that I’m an author. Frankly, I didn’t enjoy reading much until after I was married. I spent much of my early life out of high school as a singer in a rock band, traveling around the world entertaining military people with the U.S.O. I traveled to nearly 50 countries, and hoped for career in music. After a helicopter crash in Honduras, my wife insisted I get a degree and get a real job. My wife has always been an avid reader, and she shared with me her passion for reading. I became a sports writer, and was a “stringer” for UPI and ABC Radio covering the Utah Jazz and the NBA. I was able to interview all the well known players of the day, like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Learning to interview became a valuable skill, and I applied it to being a video producer. I worked as a video producer, and was contracted to produce video profiles of famous people, which ultimately led to my first book.


Tell us a little bit about your new book.

“Life Lessons from Fathers of Faith” features short stories written by Latter-day Saint sons and daughters' about their famous and not-so-famous fathers from all walks of life. These stories describe the unforgettable moments and gifts father’s can give, and how it's often the little things that make the biggest difference in a child's life. It contains more than one hundred inspiring tributes, including stories from or about Thomas S. Monson, Henry B. Eyring, Dieter F. Uchdorf, The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Gordon B. Hinckley. It also features stories by or about Mitt Romney, Stephen R. Covey, Greg Olsen, Jane Clayson Johnson, LaVell Edwards, Larry H. Miller, Bronco Mendenhall, Janice Kapp Perry, and Academy Award-winning filmmakers Kieth Merrill (Mr. Krueger's Christmas), Jerry Molen (Schindler’s List), and Phil Tuckett (NFL Films). Other names include Robert Dotson, (CEO-T-Mobile USA) J. Willard Marriott, (CEO-Marriott Corp.); Alan Stock (CEO- Cinemark Theatres), Nolan Archibald, (CEO-Black & Decker) and dozens more touching true stories. However, the more I hear from people who have read the book, the more I hear that they are equally impressed with the stories about the “not-so-famous fathers.” These stories are powerfully inspiring, and some are incredibly amazing, but all seem to testify of the power of the priesthood, and of the eternal impact of good fathering.

Tell us about your other books.

I own American Legacy Media, a publishing company specializing in biographies and other non-fiction historical titles, dealing mostly with World War II. I’ve ghost written and edited several titles relating to WWII. My first book with my name on it was titled “The Quiet Hero: The Untold Medal of Honor Story of George E. Wahlen at the Battle for Iwo Jima.” I was fortunate to have Sen. Bob Dole and Sen. Orrin Hatch contribute to that work, and I received endorsements and reviews from many other notables. This book tells the story of a World War II hero who earned this country’s highest honor for valor, the “Medal of Honor,” at the Battle for Iwo Jima. He spent 60 years trying to forget about his medal and his celebrity status. Wahlen didn’t even tell his wife about the Medal of Honor, as she only learned of his fame after she opened an invitation for them to attend the inauguration of President Eisenhower, (all Medal of Honor recipients receive a complimentary invitation to every presidential inauguration). After meeting Mr. Wahlen when I was asked to produce a video documentary about his life, I was later asked to write his book about his amazing story.

What inspires you and motivates you to write the very most? 

I’m intrigued by extraordinary people. Not so much with famous people, (although some famous people are extraordinary), but I’m more interested in getting to know people who accomplish extraordinary things. I’ve met and interviewed many amazing people, and find that good people are everywhere, in most every culture, educational level and socio-economic status. Having interviewed heads of state, political dissidents, and CEOs, I’ve discovered a common thread among these extraordinary people appears is their remarkable strength of personal character, combined with a level of sincere humility that allows them to see the source of their good fortune.

Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your writing? Do you have a writing mentor? 

I am inwardly quite jealous of fiction writers. I’m not capable of writing a good fiction story, so I am relegated to having to regurgitate the just facts and only the facts. As non-fiction writers go, David McCullough is probably the most skilled story-teller we have today. I also enjoy reading James Bradley, and the late Stephen Ambrose.

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 grew up in Huntsville, Utah. A rural community known for being the boyhood home of President David O. McKay. I learned to hate milking cows and feeding chickens, so much so that I vowed never to do it after I moved away. However, I was most fortunate to have grown up in a rural setting. I was able to learn from good, honest, hard-working people who had a profound impact on my upbringing. I learned from great youth leaders who sacrificed greatly to teach me many important life lessons, people like Ray Tidwell, Norm Montgomery and Lew Burhley,who are people you probably don’t know. But I also was fortunate to have been influenced by Elder Marlin K. Jensen, who was a my Priest Quorum Advisor, Bishop and Stake President.

Bring us into your home and set the scene for us when you are writing. What does it look like? On the couch, laptop, desk? Music? Lighting, handwriting? 

I do my best writing at 4 a.m. I normally don’t sleep well, so rather than lay in bed and lament that I’m not asleep, I get up and write for an hour or two, when all is quiet and I have no distractions. I’ve always been a “MAC” guy, ever since the days of the early Macintosh computers when the screens were black and white and 6 inches wide. I now use an I-Mac with a 27 inch screen... I call it “Moni-TOR” and it helps me with my aging eyesight. My office is lined with books. In addition to my section of signed and unsigned books I’ve published and sell online at AmericanLegacyMedia.com, I have my church history section that contains all the writings of the prophets, the history of the church, and other related titles. I also have my World War II section, consisting of all the historical titles I’ve collected over the years and have used for research purposes.

Do you watch television or movies? If so, what are your favorites? Do they inspire your writing? 

I watch very little TV. I find it boring and mostly a waste of time. When I do watch TV, I tend to watch the Food Network because I’m a hopeless foody. I love to cook and experiment with various recipes. My wife and I enjoy discovering new restaurants, especially ethnic, and out-of-the way places. I’m also not very interested in watching movies, but one movie actually inspired me to write my first book. I remember taking my son to watch “Saving Private Ryan.” After the movie I sat and bawled unabashedly because it moved me at such a visceral level. As my father was a World War II veteran, I had developed a growing interest in learning more about combat experiences. I then began to read books about that war, and in particular, memoirs from WWII veterans. Not long thereafter, I was approached to publish my first book called “God Isn’t Here: A Young Man’s Entry in WWII and his Participation in the Battle for Iwo Jima.” It is now in its third printing, and was recently translated and published in Japan.

How has being published changed your life? 

I don’t think being a published author has changed my life much at all. I still cook dinner every night, mow the lawn, take out the garbage, and do everything else I’ve done before my book was released. I once thought that being on TV or radio would have some type of impact my life, and also on books sales. The fact of the matter is, very few people have actually seen me on TV, and even fewer ever comment about it. Although books sales are going well, selling books remains hard work, and requires patience and diligence. Gladly, I’m still a nobody, and every talent and success that I have ever enjoyed is a gift from a loving Heavenly Father, and He deserves all the credit.

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.

My publisher, Covenant Communications, has me quite busy for the next few months during the Christmas season. Consequently, I have numerous book signings, along with my co-author Mike Winder. To see the latest, go to our website http://facebook.com/FathersOfFaith. We’re also on Twitter at twitter.com/FathersofFaith.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NaNoWriMo Fever

An epidemic is going around called NaNoWriMo Fever. If you are a writer, it is highly contagious so be very careful or you may catch it. I've come close, but have managed to escape.

Seriously, even though my schedule doesn't allow for me to participate in the National Novel Writing Month frenzy, I wanted to give aid and comfort to those who are writing a novel in one month. 

Take a look at this fun video for inspiration.



And if that didn't do it for you try this one.



Now, even if you haven't caught NaNoWriMo fever, the best writing tip I could give today (or any day for that matter) is to just . . . write!!! You may not use every word in your finished product, but you'll be able to mine some gems out of your ramblings that may surprise you and head you in a direction you never dream of before.

WRITE!!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Part Four:My Journey to Publication

As I have told you before, my writers group has done a lot to help me on my journey to publication. We have been meeting once a week for over twenty years. Yes, I said twenty years.


When we started none of us were published. We were all learning not only to write but how to critique. Sometimes a person couldn't read a sentence without being interrupted because someone had a comment about the writing. We have grown a great deal since that time. We've refined our critiquing and our writing. As the years have gone by over eight members of our group have become published.


I had been a member of our writers group for quite a few years when one of my manuscripts became a finalized in St. Martin's Malice Domestic Contest. Later I won the Heart of the West and the Golden Pen contests. And for a time I had a New York agent who tried for a couple of years to sell my novels, but with no success. I began to feel as though I was stuck.

I decided maybe I needed more education. I'd never finished my English degree, so after many talks with my husband and after our youngest had graduated high school, I went back to college.



Let me tell you, there's nothing like being the old lady in a class room of young college students. It wasn't as I thought it would be. No, it was better in so many ways, and it took me down a path I didn't expect, but without following, I never would have published.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Book Review - The Thorn by Daron D. Fraley

If you're in the mood to read a fantasy-adventure story set on a different planet with likable characters you grow to love, have I got the book for you. The Thorn does all that and more. Here is the back blurb on the book.

Three tribes are at war on the planet Gan, unaware that the sign of Christ's birth on an unknown world--Earth--is about to appear in the heavens.


During a bloody skirmish with Gideonite troops, Jonathan of Daniel spares Pekah, a young enemy soldier, gaining his trust forever. These two distant brothers from estranged tribes covenant with each other to end the war being waged by a self-proclaimed emperor, and soon discover the intentions of a far more dangerous foe--a sinister general bent on ruling those he can bring into subjection and destroying all others.

I love books that take the hero on not only a physical journey but also a mental journey. Jonathan is a noble hero to follow. I felt his sorrow when he found his dead father. I fought alongside him as he saved his friend Eli. And I grew to appreciate his mercy as he forgave Pekah, his enemy, and welcomed him to join his ranks.

These three characters are very different, yet they compliment each other very well. Fraley has done a great job of getting into their heads and developing their motivation.

Is there anything that bothered me? I really wanted a strong, heroic female character to follow throughout the book, but that is just a personal preference. Did this stop me from reading? Of course not! The legend Fraley spins blended with prophecy made this a memorable tale.


To learn more about Daron D. Fraley and where you can purchase his books go to his website by clicking here.


(I received a free copy of this novel, but I reviewed it because I liked it.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Writing Process.


All writers have their own process for writing a book. It may change with each story that they work on. Some follow their writing muse and let the story grow as they write. Others need only to plot out their beginning then rely on their muse to guide them. Many writers do extensive research first and after write the story. And then there are some who research and outline each chapter.

I've tried all of the above. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

For my first romantic suspense I wrote by the method of following my muse. 



Muse is code for I didn't know what the heck I was doing from chapter to chapter, but I followed my heart. That book is still hand written and hidden in a box somewhere in the attic.



The next story I knew how I wanted to open the book. My inspiration was a lighthouse on the Oregon coast that was rumored to be haunted.  I'd done my research, visited the lighthouse, and was ready to start writing. Yet, I didn't know what was going to happen in my story from one chapter to the next. I was still relying on my muse.

After this experience I decided I needed to know the beginning and ending of my stories before I started writing. And that has worked very well for me. I have written many novels using this process. Give me the beginning and the ending and I'm good to go.

And then I started working on my new WIP. I had the beginning and the ending scenes in mind, and I even wrote a synopsis, so I knew what needed to happen in the book. BUT I have been struggling. So for the first time ever I've written a chapter by chapter outline of the novel on my handy dandy white board.


This isn't my white board, because right now mine has my story all over it. I can't tell you what a relief it is to look up at the board and know what I need to work on for the day. 

So here is my Wednesday writing tip: always be open to try a new process to write your story.

Do you have a routine that works for you? Please share. I may give it a try for my next book.

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