Monday, January 31, 2011
Although to say Honeymoon Heist a fun read and a nail-biter doesn't quite do it justice either. It's also a book with a lot of depth. Anna shows us two young people who have a lot to learn about love and about each other. I love how Anna balances the urgency of what's happening now with the history of each character and what has made them who they are. (And I'm betting readers will find the somewhat stuffy and proper Rodney as brilliant and sexy as I did by the end of the book.)
Anna has a terrific gift with humor. Somehow in the taut cat-and-mouse chase, she manages to slip in the kind of sly and subtle humor that just made me shake my head with admiration.
While I love the kind of suspense that sucks me in, and that this book has plenty of, what I think I liked most is that it is a beautiful love story. Claire and Rodney are two people who think they know each other enough to marry each other, but they find out how little they know each other and just how much they do love each other.
For readers who appreciate a good love story, heart-catching suspense, complex mystery, characters who act and think and speak like real people, and the kind of storytelling that keeps you reading in spite of everything else you need to do--run, don't walk to a bookstore for this book. Get two copies--one to read and one to lend to your friends, since you won't want to give up your own. Even after you've finished, you'll want to keep it close by so you can check in on Claire and Rodney,who will feel like old friends to you. After all, you did go on their honeymoon with them.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
"I'm an adult who likes the religion of my parents--it suits my spiritual needs. Friends have invited me to explore other religions, but I've refused. What do you think of an adult who unquestioningly accepts the teachings of his parents' religion and doesn't consider alternatives?"
"Let me tell you what I think of you instead: You're smarter than those friends. Religions cannot be proved intellectually. They come from the heart--and your parents--not the mind. In my opinion, you have behaved wisely."
I tend to agree. Although I do see a benefit in knowing about other faiths and appreciating their contributions, conversion to a particular faith comes from a witness to the heart.
"Why DO I write? Why do I get out of bed at 4:00 in the morning when most sane people are still snuggled in bed dreaming? Why do I stress myself out struggling to finish a book in six months for a December publication date, and then have my editor say my Christmas-themed book will be out in February or March?
Why do I have projects piling up, one upon another while I struggle for one more page, and then another, not quite ignoring the pleas to get the ironing done, but tuning them out temporarily?
Why do I give up a walk in the early morning hours when the desert is at its very best just to stare into the computer, then irritate my carpal tunnel even more?
My daughter calls it my self-imposed craziness, meeting deadlines my editor has not even imposed on me; driving 6000 miles in 16 states by myself on research for a book that may or may not be accepted. Why do I do these things to myself?
Frankly, my dears, I don't know. I only know that God created in me a desire to be a story-teller, and those stories are bursting to come out. So my family pictures will never be put on video or in albums, my garden will never be weed-free. I'll always be 10 pounds overweight from lack of good, regular exercise (at least until my husband retires and drags me out two or three times a week to walk 18 holes of golf.)
I'll continue to feel stressed until the last chapter is written and revised and revised again, and made and perfect as I can make it - and then I'll take out 48,000 of those precious words that I struggled so hard to put in - and condense it for book on tape. That is the ultimate horror. It's akin to thinning those little green peaches that you've nurtured, pulling half of those tiny little carrots that finally peeked their little green heads up. It's like killing those little babies you've fertilized and weeded and nurtured and watered and watched grow.
Why do I write? Because when I'm creating, I'm not just whole. I'm more than the sum of me. It's like birthing a child when you create a book. Through the written word, you can introduced someone else into your world, that fertile vivid world of your imagination.
Books, ideas, stories help lift one a little higher, give an hour of pleasure, bring a new world of knowledge, new ideas, new horizons. If I can bring a little pleasure into someone's life, why should I decry a little pain from the birthing of that pleasure. That is why I write."
Footnote: In the couple of years that I have taken off from writing - I actually have had all my pictures scanned and digitized and my to-do list of projects is diminishing! Now that I'm writing again, I fear they are all on hold once again.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
At the end of all this time I am still left with no story.
I have wondered why I am struggling so much. I’ll insert here that I ALWAYS struggle, but this has been so much worse than usual… There are times I have wanted to tear my hair out and scream.
Of course it doesn’t help to write two storylines at the same time. There are probably some authors who can do that, but not me. In my case I would go gung-ho on the one, get frustrated, tuck it away, and concentrate on the other. So technically it wasn’t both at the “same time” but they were both running in my head so still, well, I digress.
So, here I have been struggling with two storylines that I can’t seem to write one OR the other. I decided to walk away from both and totally rethink my ideas. I came up with two new ideas and started playing with them. I eventually tucked them away for future consideration. For some reason I just kept coming back to the first two ideas.
Argh! How discouraged and frustrated I was! I had come to the conclusion that maybe I wasn’t meant to write another story. Okay, that was me having a pity party-- I love to write. But like I said, I was feeling pretty disappointed that I couldn’t get either story right.
There are those whose opinions I highly value. To me, their advice is golden. So I turned to them.
Now, on this blog, I rarely feel qualified to give advice about writing. I am in the company of some of the women I respect and admire most-- both as my friends as well as with their talent of writing and editing, so I feel very inadequate and unqualified to give advice when it comes to writing.
Though I can share my own experiences and what I have learned, I feel that their wisdom can be so much more helpful to anyone out there than what I have to offer as I am still learning the ropes myself and have a LONG way to go.
But in my struggle to figure things out with my dilemma, I love the advice I was given, so I had to share.
It’s something I have always known, something I have been taught from the beginning of writing. In fact, I have been taught it in all aspects of my life for that matter. But in my discouragement, it was a nice reminder and renewed my desire to try again.
Be true to yourself and follow your heart.
With each book I have written, I had a reason for writing it, a purpose I wanted to achieve. It had nothing to do with ‘So and so doesn’t like it that way‘, or ‘What would people think if I wrote it like this instead of like that?’, or ‘What would sell better?’, or whatever other possible scenario can be holding a writer back from going forward… I had a story I wanted to tell and I wrote it the way I wanted to tell it with the message I wanted it to say.
It’s great advice. I plan to step back and rethink my storyline. Notice I didn’t say storylineS. Just one storyline at a time. It’s really all I can handle for now. I’ll get back to writing the way I like to write, telling stories the way I like to tell them. I’ll follow my heart, and write with a reason and a purpose in mind.
If the truth were told I had reason for wanting to write each of the stories in the first place. I want to get back to those reasons and focus more on them.
Who knows? Maybe, just maybe I’ll actually finish writing a story --That’s my goal, anyway. :)
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
The problem is, I don't generally announce my presence in a room by crying "Make way for the published author!" Neither do I greet people with the words, "Hello, I'm Anna and I'm a published author." Somehow it just never seems like something you can drop into conversation. Is it British reserve which makes me feel it's really not quite appropriate to talk about your achievements? Although I am proud of having achieved my ambition, I worry that mentioning it sounds like bragging, so mostly I don't mention it. (Also I don't want to be asked to write the roadshow, or to help anyone with their novel.)
So now I face this little problem in that I am supposed to be telling people about my new book at every opportunity. The PR people at my publishers want me to be as public (online, at least) about it as possible, proclaim it from the rooftops and generally try to persuade everyone that it's fantastic and they absolutely must buy it and read it and tell their friends how great it was.
I'm finding this quite difficult because I'm actually really embarrassed at the idea of anyone reading it. What will they think? Will they judge me on it? If they don't enjoy it will I feel guilty for making them waste their money? If I know them personally, will it make things awkward for us socially in future?
I really can't go all out telling everyone how great it is, because, although I put my best effort into writing it and I think it's probably a fun read, there are some pretty fabulous books out there which are much, much better.
So here's the deal. The book is called Honeymoon Heist and it's published on 8th February. My publishers have asked me to say "Please buy it", but you don't have to read it, OK? The cover is very pretty, just put it on your shelf and admire the artwork once in a while.
Monday, January 24, 2011
There are several nasty ways to wake up each morning. As a diabetic, periodically I dream that I'm chasing candy, and wake up in insulin shock. And when a storm front is moving into our realm, there are times when my arthritis flares and I wake up feeling like I'm 90 years old. Last week I decided that I would much prefer waking up compliments of those incentives, as opposed to what took place a few days ago.
So, there I was, still half-asleep, starting up my computer. It was around 5:30 a.m. and I woke up feeling like I should work on a manuscript I've been tweaking lately. But first, of course, I felt the need to check my e-mail. This proved to be a big mistake!
With my new laptop, it doesn't take long to get things started. I stared, bleary-eyed at my screen as it worked its magic and pulled up the internet first thing. I clicked on my e-mail account and ta-da (as my tiny granddaughter says over great accomplishments), instant gratification . . . and mortification. Sitting in my in-box was a message to me . . . from me. I didn't recall sending anything to myself (I figure that's right up there with talking to one's self, but I digress).
Wide awake now, I opened this weird e-mail and found that it contained a link to a terribly inappropriate website. I was not amused. There wasn't a title in the subject box and I knew with a sinking feeling, that this was one of those much-discussed hacker jobs. Someone had broken into my account and sabotaged things. It made me sick. Just last week, this same thing had happened to a good friend of mine, and the e-mail supposedly sent from her, went out to everyone on her e-mail address list. I had consoled her teasingly at the time, since she is currently serving as the stake R.S. president in our area. That wayward e-mail had gone to people like our stake president. OUCH!!!
Figuring my dilemma was due in part to my secret snickering over my friend's mishap (I've always shared the following phrase with my children: "That which we mock, we become!" I should know better!) I immediately began repenting. It's not as funny when it happens to you personally. And the subject matter in my hack job was far worse than what my friend endured.
I'll admit, I sat in shock for a minute. Then I sprang into action. I was going to be out of town for four days and knew I needed to rectify this immediately. I sent warnings to everyone listed in my e-mail addresses, explaining the situation. Then I sat back and offered a small prayer that all would be well.
I also changed my e-mail password . . . again . . . something I do quite often these days as my computer literate children recommend to keep things safe. As I did all of this, I felt a surge of anger. Why does this kind of thing keep happening? I love the instant access the internet give us to family and friends. And, it makes things like paying bills and banking much easier. But it also opens the door to tremendous misery when reprobates decide this is a great thing to exploit. Are people really so bored in their own lives that they feel the need to invade everyone else's privacy? And then there's the matter of fraud. I know of several people who have had their bank accounts tampered with compliments of internet thieves. I also know there are online predators who take full advantage of innocent lives, causing havoc and pain.
It's rather scary when you think about it. And yet, like everything else, there is much that is good about the internet. It makes research so much easier for someone like me, who dabbles in the written word. I've also found tons of information about my ancestors compliments of the internet. And I love being able to snag pictures of my loved ones when they post them on places like Facebook, or on their individual blogs. However, it makes me uneasy when I realize how easy it is for online predators to do the same thing.
In my opinion, the internet is a two-edged sword. If it swings in the right direction, much good is accomplished. But when it swings the other way, look out---the injuries inflict untold misery.
One of my sons is a computer genius, and he is often telling the rest of our clan how we can be safe online: We are to use only numbers and symbols for passwords. Never belong to anything like unto "Facebook." Etc. and so forth. And yet, I protest. I hate feeling intimidated by online hackers\predators. In a way, it's like we're letting them win when we adapt our lives to hinder them. There has to be a better way. Until I figure it out, I'm open to suggestions. What do the rest of you do to be safe online in cyber-space? (Feel free to share.)
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Recently a dear friend gave me an unusual gift. It consisted of an old ink bottle, a bottle of ink, and a goose feather. The ink bottle is the kind school children used to place in an inkwell on top of their school desks. This gift brought back a rush of memories, some good and some not so good.
I was scared to death of our old gander when I was a little girl. He was meaner and more aggressive than my dad's herd dog or the old ram who thought he owned the entire barnyard. I was always careful to make certain I didn't go anywhere near that goose when I made a trip to the barn. Once he attacked my little brother and left him so pinched and bruised he looked like he'd been beaten. Shortly after, a crop duster plane swooped low over the field next to the garden and my three-year-old brother ran screaming to the house, "Goose! Goose!" No way was he going to hang around to let a "goose" that size get him.
Because we had a good sized flock of geese, my mother always prepared a roast goose for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Those holidays always bring back memories of those wonderful dinners and my mother who was an excellent cook. Ironically my friend gave me that goose feather on the day that would have been my mother's one hundredth birthday if she were still alive.
My father was a story teller and that ink pot reminded me of a story he often told of being sent home from school because he dipped the long blond braids of the little Swedish girl who sat in front of him into the black ink pot that sat on his desk in the little one room school he attended in Canada.
An ink pot and a goose feather got me in trouble in a small Montana school I attended, too. I was placed in a mixed sixth/seventh grade class as was my friend, David. We were horrified because we were the top competitors for our grade and the other students were all the students who struggled the hardest and got the poorest grades. We were bored! We wanted a more challenging curriculum and we wanted to be with our friends. Neither the principal or our teacher were sympathetic to our pleas to be placed in the other class. Then Mrs. Wanship, our teacher, decided that all students must turn in papers and take spelling tests only in ink. Ballpoints weren't allowed. Everyone dutifully showed up at school the next Monday with stick pens and bottles of ink. Not David and I. We cut points on goose quills and proceeded to use our homemade pens exclusively. Those quill pens screeched and squealed and if we pressed down hard, the shrill sound they made had the whole class clapping their hands over their ears. Our fun didn't last long. By the end of the week, Mrs. Wanship, in tears, marched us down to the principal's office and our parents were called. The next day we were moved to the regular seventh grade class. Our goose quill pens weren't allowed to go with us.
When my sister died a few months ago, her husband gave me a bell from her bell collection. It's an old fashioned brass hand bell she acquired when a one room school she once visited closed and its contents were sold. I placed the bottle of ink, the antique ink pot, and the goose feather in my curio cabinet beside my sister's bell. They and the memories seem to go well together.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Most of you know that I am a Zumba instructor which means I use my iPod every day when I teach. I love my little pink iPod. It has served me well. Several weeks before Christmas, after teaching a class, I ended up talking to a friend while I put everything away. We walked out of the building together and said good-bye. The next day I couldn't find my iPod anywhere. I accused everyone in my family of borrowing it and not returning it. I went through the garbage, in the house and outside in my garbage bins (that is just so disgusting!). I was convinced I'd thrown it away. I went to the church and searched high and low for it. To no avail. It was gone and I was just sick about it. To buy a new one would cost around $150 My husband was willing to buy me one for Christmas but I just didn't want to spend the money for another one yet. For the time being I borrowed my husband's iPod and continued looking.
Almost four weeks later, still distraught over my iPod and not able to let it go, I had a thought come to me during the night to check my pockets. Rarely do I remember dreams or thoughts I have during dreams, but I got up the next morning and searched the pockets of all my jackets, where I usually put my iPod on the way out of class. NOTHING.
Later that day I was doing laundry and piled all my workout clothes into the washer, except for a couple of pair of pants. I needed to teach a class so I got dressed in a pair of the capris I hadn't washed. Lo and behold, there was my iPod in the front pocket!
A) I felt badly that I had accused my family of losing my iPod.
B) I was so glad I hadn't bought another iPod.
C) I was relieved I hadn't washed those pants - seriously, inspiration regarding laundry? How cool is that?
D) I was glad I never gave up.
E) I, who never feels like I get direct, immediate answers or inspiration, was told to look in my pockets. I just didn't think to look in pants pockets as well as jacket pockets.
F) I immediately got down on my knees and thanked Heavenly Father that I found my iPod and that He would help me with something so small, but something so important to me.
This experience told me that Heavenly Father is very much aware of me, of us, even in small matters. If that's true, then surely He is there for the big things that happen in our lives.
If it's important to you, it's important to Him.
You matter. A lot.
Friday, January 14, 2011
However, the noise level disturbs my husband and I can't always practice when I need to, so now it shares space with everything else in "my room."
I have cleaned out more than I can believe - how could I have saved so much "stuff" I didn't need? Well, that I don't need anymore. Would you believe I've tossed almost enough to fill a big recycle barrel? Feels SOOO good!
But I ran across a box of articles I'd written years ago, some of which are still appropriate for today, so I'm sharing one here as a reminder of some important elements of "story."
"Can you build a successful story with just a hero and heroine? Of course. But by using the following list of characters, your story will sparkle with added dimension.
1. FOIL - person who brings out the worst of your character. Someone who makes sparks fly. (Rhett and Scarlet)
2. CATALYST - often minor character who gets ball rolling (little boy in "Witness" who saw the murder)
3. OPPOSING VOICE - the characters who say: You can't do that! Are you crazy? You'll never amount to anything.
4. HUMOR - especially important if you have a heavy drama.
5. AUTHOR'S VOICE - have a minor character speak what you want readers to hear.
6. ANTAGONISTS - will be in the way of what the hero/heroine wants.
7. CONFIDANTE - person in whom hero/heroine confides (wise old man or woman of myth)
Some things to think about in a character:
What does this person want?
What prevents him/her from getting it?
What does he/she do about the obstacle?
What are the results of what he/she does?
What showdown does this all lead to?
Does he/she get what they want?
What change/growth came because of the endeavor?
Characters need a few warts - make them not perfect people, but likable and human. Using these strategies will create greater dimension and add richness to your story and characters."
An editor pointed out on one of my books that there was no character growth, and he was right. I had simply wrapped the story up neatly and tied up all the loose ends. So make sure your characters learn something from their experiences and "grow!"
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
“When our wagon gets stuck in the mud, God is much more likely to assist the man who gets out to push than the man who merely raises his voice in prayer-- No matter how eloquent the oration.
President Thomas S. Monson put it this way: “It is not enough to want to make the effort and to say we’ll make the effort…
It’s in the doing, not just the thinking, that we accomplish our goals. If we constantly put our goals off, we will never see them fulfilled.”
Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Two Principals For Any Economy”
Ensign, Nov. 2009
Upon reading this quote, I couldn’t help but think what a wonderful message it gave and the important reminder it is-- “It’s in the doing, not just the thinking”
We have begun a new year. Many of us have set goals and resolutions for ourselves. Some may have set goals that have to do with their writing, others may be working on goals that focus on personal or spiritual growth, or whatever the case may be. This saying applies to all.
It’s not enough to want to make the effort, but it’s in the doing.
May we all have not only the desire to accomplish our goals in the coming year, but the will to do them!
Happy New Year!
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
My Dad recently sent me a list of movie clichés. For example:
- Cars are never locked, and always contain the keys needed to start them.
- The immediate reaction of anyone in the path of something life threatening is to stand completely still and stare at it.
- If a person knocks another out and takes their uniform, it will fit perfectly, irrespective of the relative size, sex or even species.
- Firing a gun on a plane will result in explosive decompression, which will in turn result in all the overhead bins opening, which are full of loose paperwork.
- All hotel rooms, offices and apartments in Paris have a view of the Eiffel tower.
That led me to think about literary clichés. When I first started writing someone told me about two basic ones:
- The mystery should never be solved by the baddie turning out to have an identical twin.
- You should never resolve anything with the words, "And then I woke up and it was all just a dream".
Are there other literary clichés we should take care to avoid, however? Are we sometimes guilty of naming our characters according to how they fit into the plot (calling the rugged, handsome hero "River" or "Clint" for example, but never "Nigel") or wrapping up endings a little too conveniently? Have you ever read a book where the desperately impoverished heroine was suddenly saved from ruin when an unknown distant relative died and left her a fortune? Or where the hero's amnesia lasted just long enough to have dramatic effect, and then cleared up miraculously when all was revealed at the end?
I have a new book coming out next month. It's called Honeymoon Heist and, yes, I am shamefully plugging it here. Forgive me; part of my job is to flog the thing. Having got thinking about literary clichés I'm feeling quite pleased with myself for sidestepping a few.
- My hero isn't good looking and is somewhat geeky. And he's called Rodney.
- My heroine is shallow and stupid and self-centred.
- There's no "Agatha Christie" moment where all the characters sit in a room and the villain is unmasked and the whole plot explained. Rodney and Claire get involved in shady criminal activity of some sort, but neither they nor the reader ever really know what it is that they have inadvertently got caught up in. (In real life, bad guys don't explain the workings of their entire scheme before they kill you.)
Having said that, I didn't escape entirely. There is a view of the Eiffel tower.
Monday, January 10, 2011
I suspect that at the beginning of each new year, we all ponder changes in our lives. Some make resolutions, determined to see them through. I've been guilty of this type of behavior, usually with less than stellar results. But this year, instead of writing down something along the lines of: "In 2011 I promise to . . . blah . . blah . . . blah . . ." I decided to try a different ploy. Ignoring the temptation to draw up a list of items like this:
This year I will lose this much weight: _______________
My blood sugar levels will always stay in this range: ____________
I will get this many hours of sleep per night: ____________
I will exercise ___________ hours every day.
I decided instead to be elusive. I didn't write anything down. I didn't make any pledges, nor did I document goals with family or friends as witnesses. Knowing my tendency to blow such high-browed ambitions about the third month of each year, and the nasty guilt that surfaces as a result, I am being extremely vague in 2011. I have one intent this year: to simply do better. I figure I can adjust what that means on a daily basis. It might mean on a given day that I will spend more time studying the scriptures, or reducing my carb counts. On another day it may mean that I will increase the amount of time I spend on the treadmill. On yet another day, it may simply mean that I will devote a couple of extra hours working on the great American novel.
So far I like this plan much better. I'm not feeling the pressure I've felt in the past, and it's working. I won't jinx things by revealing how often I've exercised since the beginning of 2011, but I think my diabetic doctor will be pleased. Will I earn the "Honor Bee," award by our ward's New Beginnings ceremony in February? Time will tell, but I'm making good strides. And if I don't earn it by then, I still have the rest of 2011 to do so. (I earned the YW Recognition Award in 2010, so I figure the odds are in my favor.)
Am I making progress with the great American novel? I don't have to report to anyone but myself on that one. =D Isn't this great?! And the best part, since I haven't etched anything in stone this year, when asked if I accomplished my goals for 2011, the truthful answer will be a resounding: "You bet!" And since this is something I've never been able to do, no matter how this year turns out, I will feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment. And that will truly be something to celebrate at the close of 2011.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
I've never been into New Year's resolutions, but I did make one last year. I resolved to lose a pound a month during 2010. Well, I did it. I lost twelve pounds, but unfortunately I put four back on. I think I'll try it again. At least I'll be starting from eight pounds less than last year. I'm resolving to finish the two books I'm currently working on too. That doesn't include If I should Die which is already written and waiting for the editing process to begin later this year.
Forecasts? I'm only going to forecast that Spring will come. I'm so sick of snow and cold, I have to believe better days are coming.
Expectations? I expect to be happy this year, not for any particular reason, but because I believe being happy is a decision we're each free to make. Circumstances can cause sadness and hurt, but we decide for ourselves whether or not we'll take the lumps life hands us and be happy anyway.
Predictions? Here's the fun part. I got to play a gypsy fortune teller with a crystal ball at a carnival once; it was a blast. And I have an ancestress who barely escaped Wales with her life when all of her neighbors decided she was a witch. And who knows? My predictions have just as much chance of coming true as those of anyone else.
1. I predict the tea party candidates will make a valiant effort when they get to Washington, but will be out-maneuvered in most instances by more savvy politicians who have been playing the game for a longer time.
2. I predict the reading and movie going public will get their fill of vampires and paranormal creatures and look for literature with more substance. Actually that's more wishful thinking than prediction.
3. Half the world, at least the Western half, will go gaga over Prince William's marriage to his live-in girlfriend.
4. Most television programs will continue to be boring.
5. BYU football's jump to a new market will be more lucrative than the U's switch to the Pack 12, but no matter how successful either or both may be on the field, the national sports broadcasters will still look down their noses at them.
6. North Korea and Iran will continue to be obnoxious to the rest of the world and the rest of the world will continue to threaten them with stiffer sanctions.
7. Mexican drug lords and US gunrunners will manage to blow up themselves and each other --I wish.
8. Political correctness will continue to censor books, speech, and make a strong attempt to control thought.
9. My grandkids will continue to be adorable and smart.
10. I'll forget before next December where I put the Christmas wrapping paper I just bought.