Wednesday, February 25, 2009
To be honest, I found a few of these books to be excellent and I enjoyed reading them. They’re the ones who follow the same guidelines for good story telling that good non-speculative fiction follows. There’s a strong beginning, identifiable characters, choices based on growing moral strength, realistic dialog, and a satisfying ending. Many of the YA finalists also reveal a keen sense of humor that adds to their appeal.
Others are merely a series of sickening incidents, an extreme suspension of belief, and end with little or no resolution. I don’t understand the appeal of watching relentless torture. I don’t understand the suspension of moral values. I don’t understand spending hours poring over evil, unrealistic characters, and their morbid actions. I understand the basic premise behind science fiction/fantasy of creating an alternative world with its own rules and morality; I just find myself too interested and too involved in the problems of this world to find pleasure in a totally imaginary and unrealistic world.
Now before speculative fiction fans unite to lynch me, let me add I also have a strong commitment to choice in reading. There are those who consider historical fiction a waste of time since the past is dead and gone. The romance genre has long been the object of public ridicule though it is the most read and biggest money-maker in the book selling market. Many readers wouldn’t touch a social issues drama with a ten foot pole. Others say spare me anything sports-related. Humor writers get their share of criticism as do action, mystery and suspense writers. There are even those who consider all fiction an immoral waste of time; a subject for another blog.
Growing up, I read anything I could get my hands on. My family didn’t own many books, especially after our house got caught in a flood that destroyed my mother’s collection of children’s books. And our family income wasn’t such that we could buy a lot of books. I also faced the problem many rural children did then; libraries were only available to people who lived within the city or town limits. Consequently, I never worried much about genre. If I could get my hands on a book I read it. As time and circumstances changed I found I gravitated toward certain types of books, but maintained a curiosity and interest in many types. Yes, I went through a fairytale and mythology phase between the third and fourth grades of school and devoured the Martian Chronicles in junior high. My library work led me to read many of the top selling science fiction and fantasy novels, but they rarely captured my interest or left me feeling satisfied. In twenty-one years of buying and checking out fiction to thousands of readers, I noticed a few odd similarities between obsessive romance and obsessive science fiction/fantasy readers. The first was volume. It isn’t unusual for a rabid romance reader to check out forty or more paperback romances a month. The most gung ho sci-fi readers would load up with a stack four feet tall of thick hardbacks. The next thing I noted was that quantity mattered more to each group than quality. Being a smart aleck, I concluded some people need more to do in real life. Even as avid as I am about supporting reading, I believe people need to experience real life in order to appreciate and recognize good fiction.
If you’re wondering if I have a point to all this, I promise I do. Read! Your tastes don’t have to match mine and I don’t have to like or even approve of your choices in reading material, but remember just as “what you eat is what you are,” what you read is who you are. Our American belief, along with that of other countries who value liberty, is strong on exploring new ideas and differing concepts and acknowledging the right of others to ascribe to different tastes and views. That is part of the freedom we revere. Nowhere more than through the printed word do we gain the ability to sift and evaluate, to form our own opinions. As we read, we can ask ourselves if the author is attempting to cram his/her views down our throats. Can I accept the values put forth in this tale? Is this entertainment or indoctrination? Is reading making my life better or is it a mere obsession? Is the hero/heroine of this book someone I can admire? Life is short, is this book worth the chunk of that life I’m giving it? In this country we can be slaves to political correctness, we can be bigots, we can be wishy-washy or we can chart our own course, choose to follow God, or make our own rules as long as they don’t infringe on those same rights of others. Nowhere more than in our choice of leisure reading do we identify who we are and what we stand for.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Long, long ago, in a mindset far, far away, in the days before I was published, I used to lap up positive writing quotations and stick them on the wall by my computer. Once I'm published, I used to think, I'll be over this insecurity.
Well, guess what. That mindset isn't really far, far away. I still grab onto positive thoughts regarding writing and publication because it's never a sure thing, especially in the market right now. What is a great career now can change on a dime if you're not careful.
One of the best quotes I came across was from Anne Rice. I think I found it in either a Writer's Digest or maybe online somewhere. I didn't write the source down and I wish I had. At any rate, this is it:
"...[People who write have to] a)believe in themselves totally, b)work like demons and c)ignore the rejections. When you mail out a transcript, you are not turning in a paper for a grade. You can mail out a perfectly wonderful and publishable novel and then have it rejected 10 times. And the reason it's rejected is because you hit 10 different people who, for various reasons, don't want to work with this idea. You have to keep going. You have to never interpret rejection as a failing grade. They are not failing grades. they mean almost nothing...I kept writing and kept mailing out. My attitude was, 'I'm going to become a writer.' I was a writer."
And that's Anne Rice! Like her or not, you must admit the woman tells an amazing story and has done really, really well with it. The fact that, for me, this advice came from such a credible source was a real kick of inspiration.
I'm not sure how many writers read this blog, but if you're out there and wondering if your work will ever see the light of day, take heart! It's possible, it's doable, you just cannot, cannot quit. You hone the art, you perfect it, you polish and scrub it, you get objective, kind feedback, you work and work and work.
I love that billboard that has a pic of Edison on it. The quote is, "After the 10,000th try, there was light." Good thing he kept at it, or we'd all still smell like kerosene.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
First, an introduction to his book, The History of the Snowman (from Amazon’s product description):
Who made the first snowman? Who first came up with the idea of placing snowballs on top of each other, and who decided they would use a carrot for a nose? Most puzzling of all: How can this mystery ever be solved, with all the evidence long since melted? The snowman appears everywhere on practically everything -- from knickknacks to greeting cards to seasonal sweaters we plan to return.
Humorist and writer Bob Eckstein has long been fascinated by this ubiquitous symbol of wintertime fun -- and finally, for the first time, one of the world's most popular icons gets his due. A thoroughly entertaining exploration, The History of the Snowman travels back in time to shed light on the snowman's enigmatic past -- from the present day, in which the snowman reigns as the King of Kitsch, to the Dark Ages, with the creation of the very first snowman.
Eckstein's curiosity began playfully enough but soon snowballed into a (mostly) earnest quest of chasing Frosty around the world, into museums and libraries, and seeking out the advice of leading historians and scholars. The result is a riveting history that reaches back through centuries and across cultures--sweeping from 15th-century Italian snowballs to 18th-century Russian ice sculptures to the regrettable "white-trash years" (1975-2000).
The snowman is not just part of our childhood memories, but is an integral part of our world culture, appearing--much like a frozen Forrest Gump--alongside dignitaries and celebrities during momentous events. Again and again, the snowman pops up in rare prints, paintings, early movies, advertising and, over the past century, in every art form imaginable. And the jolly snowman--ostensibly as pure as the driven snow--also harbors a dark past full of political intrigue, sex, and violence. With more than two hundred illustrations and a special section of the best snowman cartoons, The History of the Snowman is a truly original winter classic -- smart, surprisingly enlightening, and quite simply the coolest book ever.
Bob’s Mishap Index of His Book Tour (abridged)
Total miles traveled for the book tour: 1,435
Total number of History of the Snowman books sold on tour: 41
Number of states visited: 7
Number of ways I could have been more productive: 1,000,000
Rank of reasons the Schenectady event was poorly attended; poster listed wrong location, poster listed wrong time, lack of interest: 1, 2, 3
Amount, in US dollars, lost because the NY Times could not reach me for a job: $1,200
Amount, in US dollars, I made that same evening at an Albany, NY book event: $10
Number of radio interviews I did during the book tour: 8
Number of Open Salon bloggers who asked for a free copy of my book to prepare for an interview or review: 3
Number of them who got back to me or thanked me: 0
Time it would take, at this pace, to break even on the book: approx. 6 yrs.
Number of copies slated for initial print-run: 50,000
Number, in weeks, after book was bought by publishing head that he stepped down: 5
Number of editors the “orphaned” book went through: 5
Actually size of the print-run for book after it changed hands: 20,000
Size of its recent reprint: 15,000
Size of print-run for Jenna Bush’s Ana’s Story: 500,000
Amount, in US dollars, Ana’s Story received as a book advance: $300,000
Amount, in US dollars, my book received as a book advance: $35,000
Number of covers created for The History of the Snowman book: 35
Number of times I suggested to my agent we walk because of the cover the publisher picked: 2
Number of times my agent told me to get over myself: 2
Number of snowmen in my personal collection: 800
Amount, in US dollars, spent buying snowmen on ebay and flea markets: $ 6,500
Amount, in US dollars, spent on photo, quotation rights and cartoon reprints: $40,000
Amount, in US dollars, spent on research & expenses for the book: $15,000
Amount offered to walk away and let someone else write it as a children’s book: $15,000
Amount, in US dollars, spent on advertising the book on MySpace and Facebook: $1,100
Getting a letter from Python Michael Palin telling me my book was funny: priceless
Friday, February 20, 2009
You have to understand, reading has always been a treat to me - something I could only do when my work was finished. (My mother must have had something to do with that, don't you think?) So I don't treat myself nearly as often as I'd like - or as I should! I console myself with the idea that I am getting through ten or fifteen books a year listening on CD in the car. But it really isn't the same, is it?
I immediately turned the furnace down, wrapped in a blanket, put the phone where I could easily reach it, and opened the book. In the first paragraph, I was transported to another time and another place, a different world than my own. What a wonderful blessing we have in books and in the ability to read them. I take that for granted far too often.
Then the ability to write them is another huge blessing. I have always written - created - something: poems, made up stories and songs for my siblings, written Christmas and Easter presentations for sacrament meet, road shows (wasn't that fun, traveling from church to church at night when you were a teenager!) And I've always been an avid reader, but when my favorite authors began filling their books with offensive material, I decided there must be others like me who liked a good mystery with all the garbage that you had to skip over. Thus was born a new career - at age 55!
I loved Anna's thoughts on writing. It is very hard work. But the creative process, the ideas pouring forth when you're on a roll, the scenes that play in your head as you write as fast as your fingers can type - that is pure joy! Then to hold that finished product with its shiny beautiful cover is almost - well - akin to holding a new baby in your arms. Unfortunately, sometimes the birthing of that book is almost as painful as the birthing of a child. I'm certainly glad I didn't have to carry any of my babies in the womb as long as this last book has taken to see the light of day! (I'm being optomistic and thinking it may actually be published this year!)
I actually stayed up last night and finished the book - a real treat to be able to read a book cover to cover in one sitting. Of course, I didn't get up at 4:00 this morning, therefore many of you may have to checked in to read the blog and found it wasn't posted yet. My apologies. But I know that I will be forgiven - especially knowing that every one of you feel the same about getting lost in another world in a book. That is one of the truly great pleasures of life.
So keep writing, you wonderful ladies. I would hope one of my last acts, just before I die in my sleep, is to finish one of your books and lay it aside with satisfaction at having entered, just for a brief time, a new and wonderful and different world from my own. Thank you for contributing to my well-being and enjoyment of life!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
My love of books began before I could read. My older sisters had a set of bedtime story books with bright red, yellow, and blue covers. When I was three I remember often sitting on the floor with the books surrounding me. I would run my hands over the shiny covers, then open the books, look at the pictures, and smell the pages. The pages smelled really good, like the garden after a rain, or fresh clothes from the dryer.
In Kindergarten I learned my letters and began reading Dick and Jane books. In fourth grade I hit the literary jackpot with a teacher who read stories to us every day. Mrs. Pannatoni opened up the world of reading with books like: Penrod and Sam, The Middle Moffett, Mr. Poppers Penguins, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. My love of language expanded, and I journeyed to the most delightful places. I was so enamored with the promise of writing that I began creating little tomes of my own, and when people responded with appreciation and encouragement, I was hooked.
In my college years I was torn between creative writing courses and Theater. I choose Theater, and for many years devoted myself to playwriting, acting, and directing. It was a rewarding adventure--the only problem was the stories that kept bumping around in my head. After both my kids were raised, I decided to wrestle the characters out of my head and onto the page. And so it began with my first book of historical fiction, Autumn Sky.
I have just completed my fourth novel which is now in the hands of my editor. I feel very grateful and amazed. The story is set in 1917 Russia during the Bolshevik revolution. My husband and I were extremely lucky to be able to travel to Russia for research. I share with you pictures from that exciting trip!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
We all know I work at the Jordan River Temple. I am finishing my eleventh year as an employee but I worked as a receptionist for roughly two years before that. The Temple has been my home away from home, the people, my Temple family.
With our beautiful new Draper Temple opening up at the beginning of March, we are losing well over 1,000 workers. As volunteers and workers prepare for their work to begin, there are tearful goodbyes to be said. I didn’t realize how difficult it would be.
While at work last night, many long time friends, came to give me a hug and say their goodbyes and though they assured me they would come back for a piece of pie and to say hello, I had to wonder how many of them I would actually see again.
There is the sweet couple that every week came down for a cup of soup, a roll, and a bowl of pudding. She would hug me and he would wave his cane and smile and say, “It’s
good to be seen and not viewed. Now at my age, that’s really saying somethin’!” He’s in his 90’s now. I love that couple and looked forward to visiting with them each time they came.
There is the lovely worker who made sure that every Mother’s Day every woman in the cafeteria had a bundle of fresh cut flowers to take home from the flower shop she worked at so that we wouldn’t go with out. She wanted us to be sure we knew we were not forgotten and that we were loved.
There is the kind brother who every week, twice a week, for as long as I can remember bought us a treat to thank us for our hard work and efforts.
There is the trainer that made sure that with every new group he brought around, would be told to love and appreciate our staff, because,” Until you go behind the doors of the kitchen you have no idea of the hard work they put forth to serve each of us.”
One brother that really started my tears flowing came and thanked me for caring about his health. He said, “No one else really would have given two hoots and a holler, but you always asked if I was okay. That meant more to me than you know. I won’t ever forget that.”
Truth was, he reminded me of my dad. He lost his wife to cancer several years ago and he had heart problems. I worried about him so I made him report in twice a week. Everyone loves that brother including all the workers on his shift. They looked out for this kind, elderly, man.
The list goes on and on. I could tell you about so many incredible people who have served at the Jordan River Temple over the years, both as workers and as staff. Each have made my job worthwhile. They are the reason my job means so much to me.
It has been a privilege and a tremendous blessing in my life to serve with such wonderful people. I have laughed with them, talked with them, some I have even cried and celebrated with them. I look forward to seeing them. I can’t possibly say goodbye to them. I love them.
So I sit here with tears overflowing once more, because I know that once again when I go to work today, there are more friends that will be leaving. I hope with all my heart that our paths really will cross again; that the busy-ness of life won’t take over and that we won’t lose contact.
It is with a grateful heart that I can sit here this morning and think to myself that I have so many people that have touched my life for good. What a very blessed girl I am.
Each life that touches ours for good
Reflects thine own great mercy Lord;
Thou sendest blessings from above
Thru words and deeds of those who love.
What greater gift dost thou bestow,
What greater goodness can we know
Than Christ like friends, whose gentle ways
Strengthen our faith, enrich our days.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I just had a Eureka moment on my latest novel. Well, maybe "latest" is stretching it a bit and "current" would be more appropriate. I wrote it several years ago, and am reworking it to resubmit it and try to get accepted by my lovely shiny new publishers, Leatherwood Press. On rereading it when it was initially suggested that I dust it off, I realised why Covenant rejected it. It's dull. It's probably the least thrilling thriller ever penned - or tonered, or whatever we should say these days. The bad guys are caught by page 100, and the hero and heroine engage in a predictable and plodding romance for the next fifty pages or so until the wholly predictable proposal on the final page. I was relieved to get to the end and quite certain that nothing I could do to it would ever make it worth the time I spent on it.
Then, quite out of the blue on Sunday afternoon, a plot twist popped into my head which would completely change the whole dynamic, and suddenly I am loving writing again and seeing my dreary manuscript slowly mutate into what I hope will be an edge-of-the-seat keep-'em-guessing fast-paced truly thrilling thriller. I'll let you know. Or, hopefully, you'll let me know when you'v read it.
What I'm getting at is that writing is actually really hard work, and not terribly well paid when the hours spent are factored in. I'm convinced no one would do it if not for the actual love of the creative process itself, especially those wonderful "Eureka" moments.
A recent article in the Law Society Gazette (which is possibly even less thrilling than the first draft of Kept in Trust) about solicitors who are also authors raised two points that made me start nodding furiously to myself and mentally muttering “Amen”. First, a quote by Sean Longley, a London lawyer and author, who said, “You are built up to the idea that [getting a book published] is great and magical and life-changing, and it’s not. It just becomes something that you have done.”I have rarely read anything so true (with acknowledgements and apologies to Holy Scripture). Holding your book in your hands is a wonderful moment, but people don’t bow and scrape as I walk past, and I still have to trudge though the rain to collect the children from school. Once the “Oh, you wrote a book, how clever!” comments have run their course, everyone politely forgets that they have a genius in their midst, and no one really wants to hear about what I’m working on at the moment.
Another author mentioned in the piece commented “Staying published is as hard, if not harder, than getting published in the first place.” Further nodding and muttering on my part. Covenant just turned down my latest masterpiece, the once I designed specifically to appeal to their audience (exotic location, romance, comedy and intrigue) and before that it took me six years to get a publisher for Easterfield.
Anyway, I have had something else published very recently. A Letter to the Editor of the Law Society Gazette, congratulating him on such a pertinent and excellent article.
Monday, February 16, 2009
When I started my second year at BYU, my cousin, Darrin, had just returned from his mission. Darrin is one of the nicest and wittiest guys on the planet, and my sister and I were excited to have him at BYU. (And the thought did cross our minds that having a male cousin nearby could be a very good thing, since male cousins have male friends).
When we went to Darrin’s apartment to say hi, he wasn’t home, so we left him a note telling him his gorgeous cousins had stopped by. (Okay, so maybe we fudged a bit on the gorgeous part. Chalk it up to wishful thinking). Darrin called us and we arranged to meet at the Wilkinson Center.
At this fateful meeting, Darrin brought his roommate along. Who could resist the chance to meet the self-proclaimed Gorgeous Cousins? Brian was from Rochester, New York, had roomed with Darrin freshman year, and had recently returned from his mission. He was also the proud owner of a new pair of socks. This was in the days when male students were required to wear socks and Brian had—oops—come to campus sans socks. In order to get his ID card, he had to make a quick stop at the BYU Bookstore. I soon discovered that, besides being handsome and well-supplied with socks, Brian was also brilliant, funny, witty, kind, and everything else wonderful.
In those early days before classes started, my sister, my cousin, Brian and I liked to have fun together. Not many weeks passed before Brian and I started dating, and the rest is history. We got engaged in March and were married in the Salt Lake Temple in August. But within hours following the wedding, we found that one thing we’d taken for granted in the naïve, love-struck days of our courtship was soon to disappear from our lives.
A working vehicle.
The car trouble began after our wedding reception. The key to the trunk of Brian’s ancient Audi (a separate key from the ignition key) fell off the ring while he was loading his suitcase. His key got locked in the trunk. There was no spare key and no way to access the trunk from inside the car. Thank heavens my suitcase wasn’t in there yet, but Brian had to make do with the clothes he’d left at his grandmother’s (where he’d been staying) until we could get the car to a key shop the next day. We spent a good chunk of our first day of married life at a locksmith’s while they got the trunk opened for us.
With the trunk problem fixed, we headed toward Springdale (near Zion’s National Park) where we would be staying in a condo. Partway there, our Audi started doing some terrible car thing and we had to stop in Nephi to get a hose replaced. While we waited at the garage, I looked with interest at the Hostess Fruit Pies for sale, but told myself no, don’t buy one, we’ll be eating dinner when we arrive at our destination.
I should have gone for the fruit pie. We got the car fixed, but not much farther down the road, the car started spewing white smoke. Apparently white smoke coming from a car is double-plus ungood. We pulled off I-15 and, from a rest stop, called a tow truck. The tow truck took us into the quiet little town of Parowan and dropped us at a motel. We’d had no dinner, it was midnight, and not even the vending machines had anything good to offer.
The next morning, we called Brian’s parents to come rescue us. Yes, folks, we had to call my husband’s parents to come pick us up while we were on our honeymoon. They were headed in our direction anyway, en route to our open house at my parents’ home in Southern Utah. The open house went well, my parents lent us a car for our honeymoon, we got a nail in the tire of that car and had to get it fixed; they gave us another car for the drive back to Provo and we blew a tire on the freeway on that one. But we were young and in love and the birdies were singing and all that.
Now, nineteen and a half years later, we’re still young and in love, and, thank heavens, the car curse hasn't continued.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Alexander Pope truly hit things on the head when he penned the infamous words I quoted above. It goes a little something like this:
Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
An Essay on Man, Epistle I, 1733
Incidentally, I looked up "expatiates" and it means to wander without limits. Food for thought. =) So in other words, we cling to hope in this life, doing the best that we can, and someday, we'll get to catch up on little things like rest, relaxation, and travel in the next realm. =D That's something to hope for, to my way of thinking.
As you can possibly tell, I've been thinking about hope lately. It must be important, considering how many times it's mentioned in the scriptures. I believe that hope is crucial to surviving mortal mode, and all of the adventures that go along with it.
We've been experiencing a few adventures in our neck of the woods lately. Some are incredible blessings, like the sealing that took place between a nephew and his wife on Saturday. Several of us gathered for this event at the Logan Temple and it was a wonderful day. Tim and Heidi were glowing with happiness, as this picture depicts:
It was truly the highlight of our week. And after witnessing the eternal union of this wonderful couple, we then traversed across town to the famed Bluebird Restaurant for a delicious bite of lunch. We ate, we visited, we took lots of pictures.
It was a fun day, and one we'll remember fondly for a very long time---even if we had to drive back to Bear Lake in yet another winter storm. ;) We returned home safely to the 2-3 feet of snow that blankets our front yard. Despite the white fluffy stuff, we have hope that someday spring will make an arrival. The Gurney's Seed Catalog showed up at our house over the weekend, so I know winter will eventually depart and I can play in the dirt. =)
Tomorrow I will be singing at a funeral. My sister's m-i-l passed away and it is a time of sorrow for this family. Still, there is hope. This good woman is no longer suffering from the physical ailment that caused such misery in her life. And family bonds are eternal bonds. This should give us all the hope in the world when a loved one moves on past mortal bounds. There will be tears and tugs at the heart, but in time, that will be replaced by a calming peace we call the Comforter. That precious gift helps us to survive stormy moments in our lives. It is a gift of loving hope.
Recently I faced quite an obstacle. I serve as the YW president in our ward, and the famed New Beginnings program is on the horizon. As a presidency, we had decided that it would be wonderful to show a DVD containing all of the pictures we had taken of our YW during this past year, complete with accompanying music. We planned for it to be a goodly portion of our program, something we hoped would be entertaining and inspiring. The only downside: one of us needed to put the thing together.
I volunteered for this task. I had received a new external DVD burner for Christmas a couple of months ago, and I had high hopes that I would be able to figure out how to run it, and the new programs that came with it. As time progressed, I discovered that the manual that came with this DVD burner wasn't much help, nor was the online "help" site. It repeated everything that I found in the five page manual, which pretty much shared how to turn on the machine and plug it into my computer. Ahhh.
A few months ago, I suffered a little head injury this past summer at girls' camp. A heavy metal pipe bonked me on top of the head. I suffered a bit from this adventure, and I still seem to have a few glitches, as my children would be the first to point out. Like the time over Thanksgiving when I asked one of my sons to retrieve some potatoes from our pantry downstairs. I handed him a bag and said:
"Would you please bring up some Yakima potatoes?"
I thought I had made perfect sense. In my mind I had said Yukon. It wasn't until my children roared with laughter (thank heavens my cute granddaughter was too little to point fingers and make fun) that I realized my mistake. Sigh . . . and yes, "Yakima" has become a family saying, whenever someone in the family slips up in some way. "Was that a Yakima moment?" tends to be asked. Did I mention, "sigh . . ."? ;)
Time passed and I figured all was well. I've been playing several computer games that make one think, like puzzles, word games, hidden--object adventures, etc. determined to help my poor brain heal. Then the other night as I attended a town meeting, I messed up again. This time I butchered someone's name. I've known this lady for years, and I completely botched her name. Once again, people were rolling off their chairs laughing hysterically. It was another "Yakima" adventure.
Despite all of that, I still had hope that I would be able to figure out my new DVD burner and complicated programs. And after a week of pulling out my hair, I finally experienced success. I was able to put together a DVD of the YW pictures, and I even figured out how to make a copy of this same DVD for all of our YW, since I'm certain it will be a treasure for them to cherish. ;)
I'm sharing this experience because I think it represents how we can cling to hope during these crazy latter-days. First, we have to be grateful for all that we've been blessed with, even items like snow. Because of all of this snow, we'll have plenty of water during the warmer spring and summer months. Stuff like that.
Next, we have to persevere, despite "Yakima" moments. We push on, doing the best that we can, trusting that we'll have the help of heaven after we've done our part.
And after we've endured a bit of testing and stretching, then we'll see the end result if we don't give up, whether it's a temple sealing, mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner, or an inspiring DVD for New Beginnings that is our goal. =)
Hope does spring eternal within our souls, though we may not realize it when trials descend and all seems lost. The key again is to never give up.
Thomas Edison is one of my heroes---for this very reason. The man never gave up. When he was growing up, his teachers thought he was slow. He finally dropped out of school and his mother taught him at home. He finished his own education by reading constantly and performing experiments in the basement of his home. He never did attend college. This didn't stop him from inventing numerous devices that we still use to this day, like a durable incandescent light bulb, and the phonograph. He invented the phonograph despite the fact that he was partially deaf. What a guy! People like Tom inspire me to hang in there, despite my little Yakima glitches. ;)
So my message today is simply this, despite the challenges of our time, allow hope to spring eternal. I suspect when it's all said and done, items like that will be what really matters.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
My journey to becoming published, and the journey I believe I'm still on, is definitely the way NOT to get published. I did everything wrong. I will get to that in just a minute.
Like most, my desire to get published was born out of love for books. Fourth grade was a pivotal year for me. I clearly remember my teacher reading us the book, My Father's Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett. For me, that story came to life and was so visual that I felt as if it was a movie playing in my mind. That was also the year I discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder. I started with Little House in the Big Woods and read all the way to the Happy Golden Years, then started all over again. These are beloved books for me and cemented my passion for reading. Here's the funny thing, on my 4th grade report card my teacher actually wrote, "she has a tendency to daydream. She would probably do well with creative writing." HELLO!
I am a little ashamed to admit that as I grew into a teenager, I didn't always read the most uplifting books. In my defense, there weren't a lot to choose from. LDS fiction hadn't taken off yet and except for the occasional Jack Weyland book, I read what was out there. A favorite was LaVyrle Spencer. Her historicals were rich and wonderful and beautifully written. I was guilty of hiding my paperbacks inside my textbooks so I could read during class. Yes, I got busted a few times and got in trouble, but that was how much I loved reading.
I was so busy reading that I didn't pay attention in English, nor did I bother excelling in any kind of literary pursuit. It hadn't occurred to me yet that I might actually need to use this knowledge someday.
The writing bug bit me when I was in my mid-twenties. I had two small children and while they were sleeping I would spend time reading. Back then Good Housekeeping always had a short story in it and I enjoyed reading these stories until one day I read a story that I thought was so stupid I proclaimed, "I could have written something better than that!"
The declaration caused something inside me to click and I dared to wonder, could I really? Soon after I took my kids to the library and checked out some books on writing. I devoured them, absorbing each page like it was feeding an empty spot I had inside that I didn't even know I had. I also took a Creative Writing class through the community education system. I absolutely loved going to class, doing the assignments and receiving feedback for my efforts. Learning took on a whole new meaning for me. It wasn't long after that I joined the Utah League of Writers and attended their conferences, even receiving an honorable mention for a short story I'd written. From there I found critique groups existed and joined two of them so I could have a place to read my work and have a support group who understood why I spent so much time writing and why I was so determined to get published. No one understands authors like other authors. My husband didn't get it, my friends and family didn't get it, only my wanna-be author friends got it. Thank goodness I was too dumb to know how hard it would be to get published or I would've given up before I started. For TEN YEARS I wrote, submitted and collected rejection letters. I kept every stinking one of those rejections because I vowed that one day I would prove them all wrong. I keep them in a binder to remind me of the dues I paid to get where I am now. Finally, after giving up on the national market, I decided to try the regional/LDS market. It was just taking off thanks to Jennie Hansen, Anita Stansfield and Chris Heimerdinger. They are groundbreakers and deserve a lot of credit for the success of the LDS fiction market. I came up with a story that I thought was the perfect LDS story. A romance/conversion story. I thought it out very carefully and wrote 400 pages of a story I thought would be perfect for the market. It was sent back after six months with a suggestion to get rid of 100 pages and to change my main character because none of the evaluators even liked her. That really hurt! And I was used to rejection by this time! Anyway, I threw the manuscript on the shelf and moved onto other projects because I was so discouraged. Then, after about a year, I started thinking about my story and what I would need to do to change it. I began the rewrite and took out 100 pages of unnecessary story and I changed my main character by giving her an eating disorder, something I had strong feelings about because my sister suffered with anorexia when she was a teenager. Suddenly the story I had thought so much about in my head, became an effort from my heart. I developed a love for the character and a passion for the story. I learned an important lesson about writing from this experience. Stories from the heart will touch other people's hearts. I sent the manuscript back to the publisher and several weeks later a wonderful woman by the name Valerie Holladay called to tell me that Covenant Communications wanted to publish it. Ten years of hard work had paid off and I was so glad I never gave up on my dream. It has been so rewarding and such a thrill to write books and receive touching letters from readers, and to get to know the amazing authors that I call my friends. When I go to writers groups and libraries to speak, my message is always one of encouragement and hope. I firmly believe that if someone wants something badly enough and is willing to work hard enough, they can make their dreams come true. Dreams aren't usually handed to us on a silver platter, they happen because we make them happen. Those are the best dreams of all. Those are the dreams that last.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
One of the very first words I learned to read as a small child was the word Boyd. You see, we lived on a farm near Arco, Idaho, and my dad bought gas for his car at a service station next door to Boyd Coal Company. After asking what the big black letters stood for and having every member of my large family explain how to sound out the words, I read them over and over every time I sat in the car waiting for my dad to buy gas---and a bottle of Nehi orange pop. Is it any wonder I grew up, fell in love with, and married a man named Boyd? But this blog isn't about romantic love; it's about my love for the printed word.
Being invited to a birthday party was a big deal for me when I was very young. Living on a farm, some distance from other children, I saw my friends at church on Sundays but didn’t often get to see them during the week except on those rare occasions when someone had a birthday party. A little girl named Laurel invited me to her sixth birthday celebration. My mother curled my straight white hair and dressed me in my best blue satin Sunday dress. At the party we played games and received prizes until someone commented on how many cats were running around. Laurel’s mother who was probably pretty exhausted at that point from entertaining a couple dozen wild farm kids and who didn’t take time to think things through really well, remarked that anyone who could catch a cat could have it. We thought it was a new game and off we went. Can you imagine two dozen kids crawling under fences, diving into bushes, sneaking through the barn, and stampeding hogs? I considered myself the winner since I was the only kid who caught a cat. I had to crawl under the granary, but I caught the most beautiful black kitten. My mother wasn’t as pleased as I was. About a year later, I read a story in one of Daddy’s farm magazines about a cat. It wasn’t nearly as clever or wonderful as my cat, so I sat down to write a story about my pet, borrowed a stamp from my mother, and mailed off my story to the magazine to let them know my cat was far superior to the one in the article. To my surprise they sent me a check and printed my story in the next edition of the magazine. Right then I knew writing beat hunting for eggs as a way to earn cash. I wrote for that farm magazine off and on until I graduated from high school.
I did the usual high school and college newspapers and literary magazines and eventually became a stringer for a weekly newspaper. (I was paid ten cents per column inch.) That led to becoming a reporter and eventually an editor.
When journalism proved to be incompatible with raising five children, I left the paper to freelance, but didn’t really like writing magazine articles. That’s when I accepted a library position. I loved working with books; I think I’m a bookaholic, but eventually the urge to write more than technical reports had me toying with the idea of writing a novel. It took two years and a lot of support from the critique group I joined, but eventually I had two books ready to submit. I was delighted when a New York publisher showed interest in them, but disappointed in the changes the editor wanted. That’s when I met a Covenant editor who asked to see one of them. I liked the changes she wanted and sixteen years later, I have published twenty books through Covenant and have another scheduled for this coming August.
One of my major complaints after my first few books were published was the difficulty I found in getting my books reviewed. It seems no one took LDS novels seriously, and quite frankly, most of them weren’t all that good. But something exciting was beginning to happen in the LDS fiction market. More novels by more authors were being published. No longer was the “one-size-fits-all” style of writing acceptable. Novels were being directed toward specific audiences and interests. The quality of writing took a giant leap forward. Perhaps because of my newspaper background and perhaps because I had been so vocal in complaining about the dearth of qualified reviewers reviewing LDS fiction, Meridian Magazine contacted me and invited me to become a reviewer for them. That was over seven years ago and though I still don’t get my books reviewed, I love reading and reviewing everyone else’s books. My love affair with LDS fiction has left me with one problem. I’ve run out of space for all those books. There are now over a hundred LDS novels published each year and I receive most of them to consider for reviews. I’ve decided the only solution to this problem is to begin giving away some of these dearly loved books so I’m starting a regular ongoing series of contests on my personal blog. My plan is to make this a twice a month thing. Winners need only respond to the question I pose on my blog to get their names in a drawing to win a book.
May I add a post script? It is my opinion that the most truly thoughtful and romantic Valentine gift would be a book, chocolate, and a few hours of blissful peace and quiet in which to enjoy them. Ahh--true love!
Monday, February 9, 2009
I loved to read and scribble as a kid. My idea of a good time in the summer was a Nancy Drew book and a popsicle in the back yard. My sisters will agree with me, this was great. Our husbands find us particularly pathetic. But I so loved to read.
Fast forward to me graduating from college and giving birth to our first daughter. My husband and I spent just under a year in Atlanta and I had been reading a time-travel romance. I missed my family terribly and decided that I wanted to start writing a story about a Civil War time-travel to divert my thoughts. Well, interestingly enough, my husband decided he wanted to go back to Utah to finish school and we've been here ever since. (I like to remind him that it was his idea to return whenever he pines about missing the east coast. He's from Florida).
So I began the book in Atlanta on a computer that was as big as a coffee table and had a word processing program that couldn't keep up with my speedy typing. I had to pause every few minutes to let it catch up. (These fingers are strong! I learned to type in 7th grade on a manual typewriter. Computer keyboards are like warp speed in comparison).
I kept working on the book when we returned to Ogden, Utah, but put it away at intervals, thinking it was just a waste of time. When we got a new computer with a fancy dial-up internet connection, I became involved in a wonderful world of writers and readers. I received encouragement from friends I'd never met in person and decided to finish that book.
I did some local research, reasoning that I had a better chance at publication if I tried a local market first. The big players at the time were Deseret Book, Bookcraft and Covenant. A lot of fiction I spied on shelves at bookstores came from Covenant, and as it happened, when I finished the book and mailed it off to those three pubs, Covenant was the company that accepted it and I really feel that I landed in a very good place for me.
I've since published 8 other titles with Covenant. In fact, by the time the first book was finally accepted for publication, I had already almost finished the sequel. There were four romantic adventures at first, followed by a series of four Civil War volumes. My ninth book came out last fall and is a mystery/adventure/romance set in 1865 India.
All told, I love to write so much. I can't pick a more perfect career for myself. Someday I'd love to do postgraduate studies in writing or literature, but for now, I am so content. I love, love what I do. I also hate what I do. Writing is hard, and there are so many reasons not to sit down and write. But once I do, I get absolutely lost in another world and I'm always amazed at what appears on the screen.
When people tell me they've always wanted to write, I tell them to sit down and do it. That's the hard part. Once you have something on the page, you can tweak it, edit it, delete parts, add to it, whatever. Write for the joy of putting another world on the page/screen. Write to escape. Write to learn. Write to leave memories for yourself or your kids. Just write something! It's such an amazing form of self-expression. Sometimes I look back on journal entries and think, "Ok, I am a complete and utter dork." Other times, I laugh and think I'm pretty funny.
What I wouldn't give to have something from my grandmothers and great-grandmothers-- their journals, letters, something. These women are a part of my life because I often imagine channeling them to help me with problems or issues. I picture them with me, and I'd love to have a written account of what they did, how they lived. I'd even love to read something fictional they'd written, because you can see a person through the writing, even if it's "pretend."
So I rambled a bit, but that's the start of my writing story in a nutshell. Now my challenge to you is to pick up a pen or start a new file on your computer. Start writing something. Anything. Truth or fiction, scary or funny, memoir, short journal entry, ANYTHING. Your grandchildren will thank you. And if you don't ever want anyone to read what you wrote, well, that's ok too. Keep it for yourself. You'll be amazed at what comes out.
Friday, February 6, 2009
A few days ago, after my "milestone" birthday, I came home to a furnace that didn't work and I ended up writing a check for about $160 that wasn't in the budget. I'm not complaining. It was a fixable problem, and short-term, with a solution. But for maybe 24-48 hours, I could feel myself just shut down while I tried to decide what to do.
If I'd had a good book to read, that could have given my brain a little place to hide out for a while but my niece had quickly taken my copy of Betsy Green's latest and nothing else in the house looked good. But I’ve found a new source for books and wanted to share.
Paperbackswap.com. The name says it all. If you have books you enjoyed but need to clear away space for more books, just go to the site, register with your name and email, then list 10 books (by ISBN). The website plays matchmaker and matches your books up with people who have requested those books. The mailer pays about $2 to mail, which is your only cost. You don't pay for the books you request. Instead you use the credits you build up from the books you mail out. Every book gives you a credit; CDs give and cost 2 credits. There’s a small selection of LDS books but I think it will grow over time.
Since my house looks like a used bookstore--piles of books, books jammed in several big bookcases, and several boxes of books that just can't be unpacked—I need some space and I want my books to go to people who will appreciate them.
Now a last thought and one reason I'm writing about this website. I live in a very small town (population 7,000 maybe) and so our library is small (with a really respectable LDS section, I will add). But one of the librarians was bemoaning that she had a book in a series but didn't have money in the budget for the 1st and 3rd and so she couldn't put the 2nd on the shelf. I checked on paperbackswap.com and there were the 1st and 3rd books. I had sold some books, so it took just a few clicks to order these books, and I’ve helped my community
It just makes me feel good that in these "tough economic times" there are things we can do to help others that don't cost a lot of money. And sharing books, IMHO, is one of the most rewarding. Now, I think I'm in the mood for a good book and with a weekend ahead, and some butter pecan ice cream in the fridge, I think I'm going to rest my weary soul just a bit.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
This past week I had two funerals to attend. It’s interesting to find that funerals have a way of making you stop and reflect. You reflect on the person and their life, your own life and it’s direction, your loved ones and what they mean to you, and the memories you cherish and that are near and dear to your heart.
While at the viewing of one funeral, my son was in another room with other children. They had set up the room for the younger kids to draw and color to occupy their time as the viewing would last almost two hours. During that time, Bryan walked in and handed my husband and I a picture he had drawn and colored. It was of a rainbow. I don’t even remember the last time I stopped to enjoy a rainbow, much less stopped to look at one with my son and talk with him of the beauty of a rainbow.
I made sure I did that day.
I don’t always know of a way to lighten my schedule. There are things that can’t be changed or rearranged due to the necessities of life but I do know that I can prioritize a little better and I can, no, I know that I should and that I need to make more time for the little things in life. It’s in those moments that my most precious memories can be made.
There is a saying. I apologize for I have no idea who said it, or wrote it, so I can’t give proper credit, but it is on the wall of my home. I placed it in the family room where it would be a constant reminder to me to take time to appreciate the little things.
It says, “Enjoy the little things for one day you may look back and find they were the big things.”
I will do that, more often than I have done in the past.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
I write things on little pieces of paper. Even though I have a nifty day planner I’m constantly finding little scraps of paper on which I’ve written anonymous telephone numbers (no names, just numbers), grocery lists, appointment times, and 1 800 numbers for must have things like wrinkle blasting eye cream.
My favorite scraps of paper are those on which I’ve written sage messages and quotes. Once I found a tiny bit of paper that simply said, THINK. I had a great time trying to unravel that cryptic message. THINK? Did it mean something specific or a general reminder? Think about your life. Think about the future. Think before doing anything dumb.
Once in a great while I’m gifted with a small note of wisdom. Yesterday I found such a scrap of paper while decluttering my overloaded in-box. The quote was from Richard L. Evans and read, “If we don’t change our direction we will arrive at where we’re going.” I love that!
Of course we can interpret the meaning either as a warning or an encouragement. If we’re on a road that leads to an unhappy ending, the message might be yelling at us, “Caution! Bridge out! Detour ahead! Change course!” If on the other hand we’re moving toward good things, the message might be like a signpost to an exciting destination. DISNEYLAND—three miles ahead!
It was good to read that quote and ponder its meaning. I decided it was important enough to transfer to a 3X5 card, and stick up on the refrigerator; that way I could look at it daily, along with pictures of my nieces and nephews, the bold lettered reminder to EXERCISE, some wedding announcements, and a love note from my hubby.
I smile as I look at these refrigerator embellishments for they seem to be telling me that I’m headed in a good direction.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Is it the desire to have our say about something? Do we feel the need to explain ourselves and what we do and why we do it? Or are we just naturally anxious to participate in what is going on in the world (ours and the one at large) at the moment and this is our forum?
All this marvelous technology (which I believe has been a blessing given to us in order to more easily do our family history!) has presented opportunities we've never before had to make our voices heard, to get our opinions out there. We "little people" can now speak and be heard.
But do we stop and think about what we have to say before saying it? Do we realize the consequences of hitting that send button before we do it? I'm loving the opportunities that give us a voice, but I worry about the things that are flooding the airwaves because some don't think about the consequences of what they are sending or saying.
Political careers, jobs, families, personal friends - all can be tragically affected by a careless or thoughtless click of the send button. Who would have ever thought it would be so easy to destroy another person? Two minutes at the keyboard, send, and instantly the world can know things that were better left untold.
On the other hand, what an incredible tool for sharing good news, for teaching, for learning, for discovering new worlds and new friends. What an opportunity to open our minds to new thoughts and expand our knowledge on infinite subjects. What a marvelous way to bridge the communication gap and speak to people we would have never known in any other way.
I would never known about Clarence, the angel cat, or how often Kerry's Blessings book has helped people, or how to get someone to answer a door late at night, or the marked differences between the English and the Americans, or how a loving grandmother has influenced a life, and all the other fascinating things that I've learned just in the last week. So keep on blogging and sharing your lives to enrich mine!
It's like sitting down and having a conversation in my living room with a friend, or inviting a new friend into my home and becoming acquainted. Doors are opening faster than I can get to them all and I'm loving it! New babies, death in the family, frustrations of teenagers, triumphs and tragedies, sneezes and sniffles and debilitating illness - all can be shared in an instant. What an incredible tool we have been given!
To blog or not to blog? No longer a question! Of course we must! Thank you for inviting me into your world!
Monday, February 2, 2009
I love being British. Much as I love America (and I do) I am very happy to live in a country where we don't have hurricanes, earthquakes, guns or fifteen-year-olds driving cars, and I rejoice in free healthcare, the BBC, and being able to get from anywhere to anywhere else by car in less than a day. Of course we also don't have Disneyworld, Taco Bell, drive-through banks and post offices or LDS bookstores.
I am well aware that most readers of thus blog will be American. I think the map on the right proves that fairly conclusively. I could go on for weeks about the differences between the Brits and the Americans – in culture, outlook and language, but I’m going to choose not to. There are plenty of other blogs, sites and books on the subject - I especially recommend Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Big Country and Notes from a Small Island. So I will leave it at an observation that any American whose name is Randy would be well advised on no account to introduce himself to anyone British, and rather than comment on differences, I would like to use this forum to ask a some of questions about America which have been bugging me for a long time. Feel free to reply in the comments section.
1. If what we call Petrol here is called Gas there, what do you call Gas?
2. Are American pigs a different shape? The only bacon I could find during my visits to the US was streaky. Why don’t you have lean bacon?
3. When everything there is so much bigger than it is here – houses, fridges, cars – why are your bathtubs so small?
4. How much annual leave do you get in a year? When we went to Florida we booked two weeks in our accommodation. This seemed to cause terrible confusion at the office, leading to us having to move to a different apartment halfway through our holiday. They explained that they never have guests who stay more than a week. I get 4 weeks off work each year, plus public holidays and the week between Christmas and New Year, and that’s pretty standard here. Do American workers not get much holiday?
5. Please will someone bring Taco Bell and Wendy’s here? Oh, but Thank You for Subway. We’re going there tonight. It’s the only place in Britain where you get free refills for your drinks, and so we are darn well going to drink the soda fountain dry.