Monday, February 28, 2011

Finding Strength in What Remains

Hi friends! Reading your blogs makes me feel like we're together sharing stories in person. I just want to say how much I appreciate being a part of this group. How many people are so lucky?

This weekend I was reading a memoir and the author referred to a poem by Wordsworth I had read in college. Everyone seems to know the couplet that William Wordsworth wrote:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar

But the rest of the poem is even better, at least, I think so. The passage that speaks most to me is about being strong when faced with the inevitable losses life brings:

What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;

Like me, maybe some of you can hear Natalie Wood reciting the line about "splendour in the grass," in the movie of the same name about lost innocence. But the poem (and the movie) are also about "find[ing] strength in what reminds behind." Another Englishman, Thomas Carlyle, said something similar: For everything we've lost we've gained something else.

If you have time to read the entire poem, I've given the link below. But for now, here are a few more lines where Wordsworth opens his heart to both joy and loss. (I love that he's speaking to the animals :-)

Ye blessed Creatures, I have heard the call
Ye to each other make; I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
My heart is at your festival,
My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel--I feel it all.
Oh evil day! if I were sullen
While Earth herself is adorning,
This sweet May-morning,
And the Children are culling
On every side,
In a thousand valleys far and wide,
Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,
And the Babe leaps up on his Mother's arm:--
I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!
--But there's a Tree, of many, one,
A single Field which I have looked upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone:
The Pansy at my feet
Doth the same tale repeat:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?

My answer is, It's still there. It's all still there. Just behind a cloud or a mountain, tucked away until we make our way a little further. And until then, we will find strength in what remains.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Things Do Change, Don't They?

When I started writing - a century ago - we were told you must first show your characters in their normal life situations, doing their everyday thing. Then we plunge them into unforeseen problems that have them over their heads in trouble, on an adventure/quest that they should be reluctant to undertake, but MUST in order to restore the balance in their lives. (And it makes a better story if they are reluctant heroes instead of anxious to take on the quest.) We were to show our readers how much unbalance there is now in their lives - how precarious things have suddenly become for them. Then we had to turn up the tension.

But now the word from the publishing world is that we must plunge our reader into the action in the first paragraph, or at least the first page. There is no showing of the normal world before our protagonist's world is turned upside down. Like our own life today, things have sped up. There doesn't seem to be time to relax and enjoy the moment.

I had a list of questions to make sure I increased the tension by several degrees:

1. What is the worst thing that could possibly happen to my protagonist?
2. How can I make it even worse than that?
3. How could my protagonist turn this into a good event?
4. Could they think it's turning out better than they thought - and suddenly it gets even wore than they first suspected?

How like life that seems to be today. The worst things we could possibly imagine - suddenly do happen. And before it gets better, it frequently gets worse. We try to turn it into a learning experience, and just when it seems things may be turning around, the bottom falls out again.

In our creating process, plot twists and turns keep readers on the edge of their chair and turning pages. Our agile minds must stay just one step ahead to keep the reader guessing at how the horrible situation will turn out for this character they've become involved with.

That mirrors my life today: my daughter is set to travel to Mexico next week and I usually go stay at their home to help her husband with the little ones. Then my son and his wife planned to travel to the far east and I had promised I'd be available to stay at their home and get my three grandsons to school and all their activities for ten days. Conflict. Schedules changing every other day. Plans made, fall through, plan again. I feel like a reader in a novel where the author couldn't quite make up her mind where she wanted her characters to go!

Back to our creating: Growth must happen during this quest. Throw in conflict: Nothing moves forward without conflict and readers will lose interest without conflict. I was taught that we need some sort of conflict in every scene so the reader can mark the growth of the character:

1. Our protagonists must overcome the conflict facing them, and as they do, they exhibit some growth.
2. As soon as our characters are doing good on one level, they need conflict somewhere else in their lives: personal, social, or on a world level.
3. Complications must increase in magnitude as story/quest builds to its climax.

Again, that seems to mirror life today. I just get one problem solved and another appears on its heels, and more often than not, they come in clusters, all at the same time. Am I remembering something out of a dreamy past, or was the reality of life when I thought it was less stressful just like it is today and "less stressful" a figment of my imagination?

So now we have our main character at the end of the quest: she has withstood the conflicts and challenge, she has solved the problems and mysteries, she has grown and evolved because of her actions and decisions. Her world, changed because of her involvement in this situation, will never be quite the same again. And readers will need a nice easy let down from the emotional rollercoaster you've just taken them on.

It would be wonderful in our lives to have that nice easy let down, to have all the threads of the different problems and conflicts neatly tied together and leave us in the warm glow of accomplishment and satisfaction that we are supposed to leave our characters and readers in.

Will it happen in this lifetime? Certainly not today in my life. I do hope you get some of that warm glow in yours.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Too Much Research!

I think I've hit research overload. As a writer of historical fiction, research is important...nay, absolutely necessary if one wants to have any credibility, but the problem is, is that research can take over your life and cause you great pain.

I am into my forth, 400-600 page, book concerning China, the take over of the communists, and Mao Tse-tung. I know, I'm nuts, right? It is very depressing stuff and I can only take so much before my mind goes numb and my heart suffers. Also, after six hours of sitting and reading, my lower back starts yelling, "Get up! Go walking! What are you thinking! Get up!"

There are times when I really want to write children's chapter books. I'd come up with some quirky character who wants to be the world's next great pastry chef and goes to Paris to study. Nothing but fun and froth! Sounds like heaven.

Yet, in spite of the joy of that dream, my mind reverts back to the necessity of telling the story of people's lives that were decimated by the evils of communism in China, so dutifully I return to my books about Mao.

My mom always said, "Bloom where you're planted," and I guess I'm planted in the realm of historical fiction. And, in spite of the occasional grousing (and back ache), I have to say I'm truly grateful for the opportunity to tell stories of the past.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


By Anna Jones Buttimore

My middle daughter, Angharad, was scared of dogs. We just got a schnauzer from a local rescue centre, and now she isn't any more. Apparently facing your fears head-on is one of the best ways to overcome them.

I have always had a phobia of clowns. I think it's something I read in a book when I was young about how clowns can paint a smile on their face but be feeling something quite different underneath. Somehow I have imagined that they were all in fact murderously evil and out to get me, and I have avoided them ever since including not taking my children to the circus, for example.

Last year I decided that I needed to overcome my phobia, and was (unknowingly) aided in this by Salvo the clown, who lives in my village and is a familiar local character. Rather than avoiding him as he modelled balloon animals at the school gates or in our local shopping centre, I stopped to say Hello and got to know him. We had several friends in common, and before long I was able to admire him as a man of great itegrity and faith, dedication and patience, and with an inspiring life story. I've spent time with him when he's been in and out of character, and I think I can now say that my phobia is cured, and Salvo is the reason why.

I have learned that behind the painted smile, clowns can be great people.

I have also come to realise that it's not just clowns who paint on a smile and pretend to be happy and jolly when they are not. We all put on a face to the world and try to hide our true feelings. At least clowns do it for a noble purpose - to make others happy and provide entertainment.

Maybe we have to. Studies have shown that forcing yourself to smile - but putting a pencil between your teeth if you have to - can elevate mood. Any how many of us would be a little short of friends if, every time they asked how we were, we listed our various ailments and woes? Perhaps a painted smile isn't a bad thing at all.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

One of Those Days

Every once in awhile I find myself having "one of those days." It's not that anything went terribly wrong; I'm just not satisfied with . . . anything in particular. I actually managed to write 2489 words today, had minimal phone calls, and my husband fixed dinner. Still the flowers on the dining room table are dead and need to be thrown out, the sheets on the downstairs bed need to be changed, there are cobwebs on the entry hall chandelier, the kitchen floor needs to be mopped, and the wind has been howling like a banshee today with snow in the forecast. I know, some days are just like that.

Sometimes writers have some of those days too in their professional life. The words are drivel, there's no way to get an uninterrupted block of time, there are too many other demands on our time, and we'd rather play on Facebook than write.

An occasional such day can be chalked up to "that's just the way it is." Or it might be a hint someone has been pushing too hard and needs to take a break. Sometimes the same remedies we use to deal with writer's block work for overcoming a cranky, blah, nothing-suits-me day. Sometimes sitting down to the computer and getting lost in the WIP before us does the trick. Other times a good run, a chocolate bar, or vigorously scrubbing the kitchen floor will do the trick. And sometimes we just have to hope to wake up in a better mood the next day.

I've already told you this isn't one of my better days. It isn't a day when I can come up with a blog topic either, but I can tell you a few things that have crossed my mind to share but won't fill an entire blog. First, I've been invited to speak at a book club. There's nothing unusual about that, but this club is comprised of Latino ladies, and I don't speak Spanish. Should be fun. Funny thing is I've longed to have my books translated for Spanish readers for a long time without any success, but I feel flattered that women who struggle with English read my books and want to meet me.

I received the smallest royalty check of my life since I started writing fiction this week. It's fun to get the big checks, but I'm okay with this one. I chose to spend time with my sister before she died instead of writing and I have no regrets.

The temple is closed for regularly scheduled cleaning this week and next. It's good to have the time off, but it leaves me feeling a little disoriented and confused as to which day today is.

My sales of Run Away Home on Kindle are going pretty well and I like their system that allows authors to track sales. I'll post Journey Home on Kindle too as soon as I finish my long overdue pair of western Historicals I've been working on for a couple of years. And speaking of Kindles, I think the only way I can keep up with finding the called for scriptures in Sunday School is to look up all the scriptures listed in the study guide for each week ahead of time and book mark them. The Kindle works well for reading, but I find it dreadfully slow for trying to locate specific scriptures. I'm not sure I retain what I read on my e-reader as well as what I read on a printed page either, but that may improve as I grow more accustomed to using it.

I've got eight new books to read and consider for reviews on my shelf and four Whitney finalists. I can't read them all, so I guess it's the Whitney finalists that won't get read. I've finished everything in four categories and there are only a few in the other categories that interest me anyway. It just saddens me a little that I won't be able to vote for the overall top book.

Well, that's all I can think of, so I think I'll quit and go watch the Jazz game. Wait---that just might move me from feeling blah to depressed.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Technology - Love/Hate relationship!

My microwave went out. I cannot cook without it. Therefore my family can't eat. This isn't good.

To replace it means spending $500 for a new one and getting my husband to install it. This isn't good either.

I have learned that I have a dependency, nay, an addiction to technology. My phone is basically attached to me at all times. If I misplace it even for a moment, panic ensues. Having kids away from home has created this. Especially my daughter in New York. Sometimes she texts me because she needs my help with something. I know I'm a pushover but I like to be available when she needs me, or any of my family needs me.

My computer . . . I am very dependent upon my computer for everything. All my correspondence and social networking happens through my computer. All my photos are on my computer. All my writing is on my computer. All my Zumba music is on my computer. It almost makes me hyperventilate just thinking about what would happen if my computer died or caught a virus. (I am knocking on wood as I type)

My DVR. I love this thing. Commercials have become extinct. I don't have time for commercials. I never watch any TV program at its regularly scheduled time. I DVR it then watch it when I can fast-forward the commercial. The only way to do it.

I don't think I realized how dependent I was on all these things until my microwave died. Amazing how many times I've opened the door of the microwave to put something in there out of habit, only to realize I can't use it. Do you know how long it takes to reheat things in the oven!!!

Yet, part of me wonders if there isn't some important lesson to be learned from this. It is scary to be dependent on something I don't have control over. When the church teaches about self-sufficiency, maybe this should be included because we still need to know how to function without all of our technological machines.

I found a couple of interesting quotes.

The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. ~Isaac Asimov, Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations, 1988

All of the biggest technological inventions created by man - the airplane, the automobile, the computer - says little about his intelligence, but speaks volumes about his laziness. ~Mark Kennedy

I've taken some time to really think about all of this and wonder if I need to make some adjustments in my life. Think about how much time you spend each day with some sort of technology. It might surprise you. Then ask yourself the question, how much would my life be impacted if I didn't have this?

I'm not saying I'm giving up any of this completely. But maybe we should start communication with people in person, rather than through machines. And maybe I need to become familiar that magical box underneath the burners on my stove which bakes things.

Does this mean I don't want a new microwave. Are you kidding? I can't get one fast enough. But I might just try my hand at baking a homemade lasagne, rather than microwaving one from Costco. I'll take pictures when it happens . . . of the shocked faces of my family.

Monday, February 14, 2011

For All You Fantasy Writers & Readers

For those of you in the Utah--specifically, Provo, Utah--area, you ought to know about the big sci/fi fantasy symposium that has been going on here for the last 30 years. It's called Life, the Universe & Everything, or LTUE. Something that's been going of for 30 years seems to be doing right, and if you look at the symposium website, you'll see some of the participants and guests. (Go to Special guests this year include James Dashner (who gives LTUE a lot of credit for his success in writing) as well as David Farland and Jessica Day George (who may credit LTUE, but I just haven't seen it in print).

If you'd like to hear a radio interview of the founders and organizers--people who have been involved in the symposium for just about all of those 30 years--you can go to on Wednesday, February 16, when the interview will air and be posted to this website (sorry, but the interview can't be posted until it's aired).

In the meantime, you can enjoy the LTUE website and its links. For those of you outside Utah--and outside the U.S.--you can probably search out podcasts for some of the guests, like Dave Doering ( Or check out Schlock Mercenery, the Hugo-nominated comic space opera by Howard Tayler at

It was a really stimulating and energetic discussion, good for writers of all kinds of fiction, not just science fiction and fantasy. Listen and see if you aren't energized yourself.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Dozen Absolute Falsehoods About Writing

Discovered this gem in my file and thought I'd share. It's by Karl Fieldhouse.

"1. Good writers never have to work that hard. It just comes naturally to them.
2. Once you have one book or story written, the next twenty will be a snap.
3. Market demands aren't important. If your story's good, you'll sell it, no matter what the market thinks it wants.
4. You can do this alone. Anyone else's input will just interfere.
5. You can't do this alone. The more people who read your story and tell you what to change, the better your books will become.
6. A good writing style is more important than an engaging story.
7. Story is everything. It doesn't matter how well it's written or if technical problems exist as long as the plot's engaging.
8. You can't write about something you haven't experienced.
9. Publishing's all a matter of whom you know. Make the right connections and you'll get published.
10. The best way to get published is to find out what's hot and write one like that.
11. If you haven't published by the time you're thirty, it's too late. You may as well give up.
12. Writing is a quick and easy way to make a good living.
Writer beware! These statements are generalizations. And you know what they say about generalizations!"

I nearly fell off my chair laughing at some of these. We all know how ridiculous some of them really are, but it's amazing how many people would believe them without that obvious title.

So now back to the hard work of making sure the story line, the story details, the characters and everything else is all working properly so the reader can have an edifying experience and the editors will love it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Story Menehuni's

I'm on vacation in a warm place. It's a place to relax and get rid of stress, and I'm attempting to do both. The only problem is, as a writer, I tend to get intrigued with possible story lines I meet as I go through my day. I then want to pull out pencil and paper and jot a few notes. After that, I find myself charging up my computer and perusing things on the inter net! You'd think the play of waves on the sand would lull me into a drowsy semi-comatose state...but, no! I'm thinking of pirate stories, or stories dealing with ancient native gods, or stories about the threat of a volcanic eruption caused by some evil thinking megalomaniac who wants to take over the world by threatening to set off nuclear bombs inside volcanic craters!

Stop! I say! Stop!

What I'm finding is that it's easier for the body to mold itself into the sand and rest, than it is for the mind. Don't get me wrong...I'm glad my mind is active and inquisitive about all sorts of things; I just wish there was a "slow down" button that I could push when I wanted to think only of blue ocean, warm sun, and palm trees.

Hmm...somebody should write a romance about a stressed out novelist who goes on vacation to relax and gets caught up in struggle between the native chief and the evil coconut plantation owner...

(, Menehuni's are the little folklore people of the islands. Like leprechauns, they like to play tricks on unsuspecting tourists)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Write With Enthusiasm

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

What a great quote, don’t you agree? I guess that could pertain to many aspects of our lives…
but for now, I was thinking more particularly of writing.

It seems that the story easier to write (not that I am implying any of them are easy to write per se, but rather that stories that seem to maybe flow more smoothly?) are those we feel more excited about rather than those we may be having problems with such as writer’s block, etc.

One thing that can destroy my enthusiasm when it comes to writing is feeling that I have to have it all figured out before I write. If I don’t, I can find myself getting easily discouraged and feeling as if I have no story to write.

I realize this can actually be a form of sabotage for me. I didn’t actually “know” the answer to the mystery of my third book until it was time to reveal it. Even then it took two weeks to figure out how to make it all come together. It was a really fun way to write. The mystery was a mystery even to myself. Of course, I had to go back and do some “filling in” to make the whole story fit together, but to date, it’s been my most “enthusiastic” project.

Often times ideas come up that you never plan on when you write and the story takes on a whole new life. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but how will you ever know if you don’t get excited and start-- or if discouragement prevents you from even beginning the process?

My advice here is get your ideas written down quickly; those that made you feel enthusiastic about your story to begin with. If/when your storyline strays from those ideas, you can always go back and make any wanted changes. But who knows? You may find you feel even more enthusiastic about your story as you go along than your original ideas led you to feel in the first place.

I’m going to end here and open this post up to anyone else who may have additional ideas or thoughts about keeping up the enthusiasm, and not getting discouraged as we write along.

As for that great quote by Mr. Emerson, here's hoping that everyone is able to achieve great things and may we find that we are able to do so with enthusiasm!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Are Books the New Rock'n'Roll?

by Anna Jones Buttimore

I went on one of my regular trips to London yesterday. As I stepped off the train at Liverpool Street Station I was struck by how many of the advertising posters were for books - the eagerly awaited new novel from Cecelia Aherne, an exciting new Ian Rankin story, the latest Marian Keyes, and a whole host of others. I'm sure last time I was there the posters were all for West End shows.

Once I got out of the tube station at Tottenham Court Road there was another suprise. Bookshops everywhere. The usual suspects, like Waterstones, but so many more, all big, open-plan, smart and luxurious stores with elegant window displays. I don't remember Soho being famous for its bookstores.

Then there was the radio. Simon Mayo, who presents the drivetime show on Radio 2, now has a book club and has authors featured regularly talking with his listeners - their readers - about their work. And if that wasn't enough, Chris Evans, the breakfast show host, had an interview with a well known author (including Jaqueline Wilson) every day over the last week.

What's going on? When did books become the latest craze? Is it because of the recession - people can no longer afford to go out clubbing or go to concerts, so they are popping down to the library instead?

Whatever the reason, books seem to be enjoying a surge in popularity, and I applaud that. And not just because, if books are the new rock'n'roll, then as a writer I'm now as cool as the lead guitarist in a rock band.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Climb Every Mountain

I've been thinking a lot about mountains lately. Since I've lived in areas where mountains are plentiful, I've been blessed to spend a lot of time in these locations. They are impressive, beautiful, and each one is very different. Through the years I've climbed some of them, explored others, and often ridden to the top via a four-wheeler . . . usually clinging for my life while my husband drives us up to these lofty peaks.

The mountain that will always hold a special place in my heart is the last one I climbed using only my arms and legs to do so. It's a mountain peak that lies behind my home. Referred to lovingly in our area as Baldy, it looks out over the entire Bear Lake Valley.

Several years ago, during my first experience as a YW leader, our stake decided to climb Baldy Mountain as a stake youth activity. Leaders were invited to participate and I decided this was something I wanted to do with my Mia Maids. Also, my oldest son had recently become a deacon and it was his first stake youth activity. So I began getting myself in shape for this upcoming event.

Since I had been walking 5 days a week, 3 miles a day for quite some time, I figured I would be in great shape for the hike. I continued walking in preparation, forcing myself to go on longer, more strenuous walks. A Type 1 diabetic, I also made plans to bring along a small backpack that would be loaded with carb-friendly items like Gatorade, candy, and juice.

The day of the hike finally arrived. Excitedly, I drove my son to the stake center along with several of my Mia Maids. After receiving instructions from our stake leaders, we loaded up again and drove around a small canyon to where we would begin climbing Baldy.

A surprise awaited us. Instead of starting with Baldy, we began two hills away. It would be a 7 mile climb, most of it uphill---something that would prove to be a huge challenge for me. I began the hike with my son and Mia Maids, and made it to the top of the first hill. At that point, I was ready to quit; my legs were killing me. I didn't know it at the time, but I was in the process of developing a crippling form of arthritis. That mountain adventure caused 8 large lumps to form on my legs, lumps that were believed to be cancerous at first. At the time, I only knew that intense pain was radiating from each leg.

Waving the white flag, I was prepared to quit. I told my son and Mia Maids that I would sit under a nearby pine tree and rest until they returned from the rest of the hike. The pain and the hike had dropped my blood sugar level into a dangerous range. So I sat under a pine tree and sipped at my Gatorade, determined to take things easy the rest of the day. But as I watched as the rest of them continued on, I felt left behind. Rising, I began stretching out each leg, trying to reduce the pain. I ate candy, trying to get my blood sugar level back up to a safe number.

Long story short: I finished the hike that afternoon. It took everything I could give and then some. By the time I reached the half-way point of Baldy, my legs wouldn't even work; both had buckled on me, and I nearly fell back down the mountain as a result. To avoid this, I dragged myself up the final yards, using my arms to pull myself forward. It had become a personal battle between myself, and that mountain. Those who had gone on before me, cheered, calling to me with encouragement and love. And when I finally reached the top, a tearful reunion between myself, my Mia Maids, and my son took place.

As you might imagine, I had quite an analogy hit as I gazed down into the valley below. It would have been easy to have given up, to have thrown my hands in the air and walked the other way. And there were moments as I was struggling to pull myself up that mountain with my hands that I questioned my sanity. By continuing forward, I proved to myself that with God's help, I could beat the odds.

We all face mountains in life, whether it surfaces as a health issue, death of a loved one, financial disasters, or a myriad of other challenges. Each mountain is very different, but they are all difficult to face, let alone climb. There are moments when it appears too hard to endure, and we're tempted to walk away.

I have seen in my life that things of value come with a price. We often endure tremendous suffering to attain our goals--but it is always worth it in the end. If we give up, we miss the view that can be ours when we persevere.

I suspect that's what this life is all about---we are here to learn to be mountain climbers. Our Father doesn't expect us to give more than we are able when trials descend, but I think He does expect us to learn and grow along the way, noting the beauty that lies within our midst. And if we've learned to stop and smell the wild roses as we make the climb, how much better our perspective will be when we reach the top.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Congratulations are in Order!

I'm posting a little early, but I couldn't wait to tell all of the Whitney Finalists congratulations.

The Whitney Award finalists were announced Tuesday. It's always fun to receive recognition from one's peers for a job well done and I certainly think Josi Killpack and her assistants deserve a pat on the back. They undertook a massive task and carried it off in great style. I've been a judge for at least one category every year since the Whitneys began and this year I got to judge Historical. We didn't have as long a list to read and choose from as some of the other categories did, but we certainly got some of the most outstanding novels of the year to read, including those that did not become finalists. You can find a complete list of the finalists here.

The next round of voting will be by a larger group of people including members of Storymakers, publishers, book store staff, etc. They will narrow the finalists down to one winner in each category--except speculative. That category has been divided into an adult and a youth category. There will also be an overall novel of the year chosen by a smaller group of readers, those few people who manage to read all 35 finalists or who have the nerve to lie and say they did. (Sorry, but I just can't bring myself to read ten speculative novels, so I won't be voting in that category this year.) There will also be an award for the top novel by a first time author. Yes, it is possible this year to get one of the overall awards and place first in a genre as well.

Every year there is considerable debate over which genre or category some novels should be placed in, or even if they should be considered at all. A book only needs to be written by an LDS author to be eligible; it doesn't have to have any connection whatsoever with the LDS Church or its beliefs or standards. Sometimes the line between genres is very thin, making category placement difficult for the contest committee. Last year the novel that placed first in Romance wasn't even a Romance, but it was an outstanding novel that deserved recognition--just not in that category. I must say I'm more comfortable this year with the categories each finalist was placed in, more so than any other year. There are also fewer books left off the finalists lists that I think should be there. There are always a few that touch me or another reader in a particular way that just doesn't have the same impact on someone else so they don't make the finals, but they're still great books.

I'm pleased to see that in the four categories I'm most interested in, Romance, Mystery/Suspense, Historical, and General Fiction, the finalists are not only well written, but well-edited and for the most part, reasonably copy edited as well. If I have time, I'll read the General Youth Fiction finalists. Several books in that category sound interesting. Anyone just looking for a good book to read could pick up almost any book on the list and have an enjoyable read.

Congratulations to all of the finalists, reaching this point is no small feat. There will only be one winner in each category, but in my book, you're all winners.