Friday, January 27, 2012

Our Changing Language

I'm finishing final edits on Too Many Ghosts: A Dominique and Duchess Mystery. Since my writer's critique group of 15 years disbanded last year, I enlisted some of the members of my reading group as my new critique group, including my middle daughter who is an excellent editor and voracious reader, (She's edited all 12 of my previous books) and two granddaughters, also voracious readers.

It has been a study in our ever-changing language and usage of terms and words that we retain, but the next generation is not familiar with. A true story before I share my list of words and terms that were foreign and unknown to my more youthful critiquers:

A Japanese friend of mine left her homeland when she was a young woman and came to America. She stayed in contact with her family and friends in Japan at first, but as the years passed and her parents died, her contact with them was sporadic. Finally after about 25 years in this county, she returned home to visit extended family and friends. Though she had kept up her own language here after learning to speak excellent English, when she arrived in Japan, she discovered the language in that country had evolved and she had a very difficult time understanding or being understood. Her Japanese language had remained static - the living language in Japan had changed and evolved with the passing years.

And now to my list of words or phrases that my younger readers felt were archaic or had absolutely no knowledge of the meaning of the term:

Rang off - as in hung up the telephone
Make tracks - as in go quickly
Get out of Dodge - leave town immediately
Hurts like all get out - really, really hurts
Makes interesting copy - interesting information for an article or book
Spell her off - take over and give her a respite
The folks - the parents
Count your chickens before they hatch - if it isn't there yet, you can't count on it
Mars candy bars - do you remember those? They were my favorite
CCC - Civilian Conservation Corps - public work relief program that started in 1933
WPA - Works Progress Administration - similar to above started in 1935
Hogan - primary traditional home of the Navajo people
I'll fix you! - I'll get even
Fanny - backside, behind

That is the short list of terms I've removed from the manuscript or had to explain to my readers. I plan to go back through the edited ms. and pull out the rest of the words they questioned. My youngest daughter suggested a title for a book: A Loss of Words: A Septuagenarian Author Ponders Our Changing Language. Not that I have time for that, but it might make for interesting copy in some future article about the folks before I have to ring off and make tracks to get out of Dodge to spell her off.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Birthday Wishes

It's my hubby's birthday today.

Happy Birthday, dear one!

We've been together for quite a few years--quite a few, and I'm grateful for his steadfast goodness. When people are married for a length of time greater than twenty years, they've had a chance to experience many of life's conundrums, challenges, wonders, and slippery slopes. So it is with us. We've been through raising kids, burnt dinners, awesome vacations, and hanging wallpaper. We've had the opportunity to view each other in our best dress for church, and our grubbiest outfits as we laid sod together. We've stood by each other at the hospital, and laughed ourselves breathless when our toddler pulled the Christmas tree over on herself. We've worked our way through fierce disagreements and angry feelings. With all the joys and struggles, we've grown individually and as a couple. I can truly say that, even after thirty plus plus plus years together, I still look across the breakfast table at my very best friend.

Again, a Very Merry Birthday to you, companion!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A New Angle on Self Publishing

I have previously been quite vocal in my disapproval of self-publishing. Read my posts here and here if you don't believe me, or want to know why I am opposed to it.

However, I am starting to mellow. I have read several blogs which seem to think it's the future of publishing. With ebooks now making the process of self-publishing so much easier, more accessible and more affordable, forward-thinking types seem to think that the big publishing houses have had their day. "Indie" is the publishing of the future, they tell me.

I can see that there is an inherent unfairness about arrogant editors who reject submissions based on nothing more than the query letter while arbitrarily accepting others based on little more than their mood that day, or a hunch. I know that the success or otherwise of a book is impossible to predict and is largely a matter of taste. I see that many excellent books go unpublished while a lot of worthless dross is printed, distributed and hyped often based on little more than a "celebrity" author (read: ghost writer).

"Indie" is, apparently, the way to make this all fair again. And one of my initial objections to self-publishing - the fact that the reader cannot tell whether a self-published book is properly edited or well-written before investing their money in it - has largely been swept away by the opportunity to download a free sample. I download a lot of samples, and very rarely go on to buy the book.

People are, apparently, making good money from self-published books these days. I read one blog by a guy who had published his ebook through Kindle Direct Publishing. He was selling it at just 99p, but because a lot of people like a bargain and a large proportion of that came back to him, he was making good money from it. I don't write for the money, but hey, some would be nice.

What has really changed things, however, is that I am currently writing a book which is going to have to be self-published because no publisher would touch it.

The Saved Saint is the story of a returned LDS missionary who attends an evangelical church one Sunday and is "born again". Written in alternating points-of-view switching between the young man and his confused LDS mother, it examines the differences, the dilemmas and the difficulties when two people who love each other clash over religion. Although it won't go into apologetics or doctrinal issues, it will get at the heart of the often painful issue of the misunderstanding and mistrust between LDS Christians and Evangelical Christians.

I'm quite excited by the story, and although it's challenging both to write, and especially to research, it is coming along well. I feel that there is a need for it, because this issue is so common; several members of my ward (including me, actually) are former evangelical Christians whose loved-ones are unhappy about their membership of the LDS church, and three families I know of have been affected by members leaving the LDS church for evangelical pastures.

I have already approached an LDS publisher I have a "right of first refusal" contract with, and they have said that they couldn't publish anything with anti-Mormon subject matter in it. I suspect every other LDS publisher will say the same. Neither would the mainstream Christian publishers want it, because it has anti-Evangelical and pro-Mormon subject matter too. And the secular publishers are not interested in anything to do with religion.

So if The Saved Saint is ever going to see the light of day, I am going to have to self-publish. That's something I said I'd never do. But I think I need to, and it's a new adventure.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


A few years ago President Gordan B. Hinkley compared life to a journey on an old fashioned train.   He said, and I'm paraphrasing, that most of life contains cinders, soot, noise, unexpected jerks and stops, cramped seating, and fatigue. Then he said it is the unexpected, beautiful vistas enjoyed here and there and arriving at your destination that makes the journey worthwhile. I've often thought of that statement and added my own interpretations to it along the way. Lately I've been comparing it for a young friend of mine to becoming a writer. 

It's important to pack properly for your journey.  Some of the items needed for your trip include:  a love of stories (that includes a lot of reading); a sound grounding in grammar, spelling, word usage, and an appreciation for words; you'll also need a computer with the right software installed and the ability to use it both for writing and research (Gone are the days when handwritten or typed books are accepted by a publishing house and no matter how much better and easier to use Word Perfect may be than Word, manuscripts must be submitted in a compatible format to that used by the publishers you plan to send your submission.), and you'll need a generous amount of time. 

Speaking of time, time isn't something that just happens.  Those of us who hammered out our first stories on an old Smith-Corona with a baby on our laps, a four-year-old watching cartoons,  and an older child grudgingly practicing the piano all in the same room learned something about making time.  Today's young writers face those same obstacles plus the lure of social media and often the need to work to keep a roof over their families' heads.  Making time to write isn't easy, but it can be done if the desire is strong enough. 

The ride itself is bumpy and discouraging at times.  Years of rejection slips, computer glitches, rewrites, submissions to agents or editors that seem to go nowhere, critique groups that find fault, and so many other disappointments, including seemingly no return for long hours of work.  It's easy to see why many give up or attempt shortcuts to publication. 

There are lovely vistas along the way---a meaningful writers' conference, a helpful class, encouraging words from your critique group, established writers or an agent who see something in your work and provide advice and encouragement, getting a request for the full manuscript, and perhaps most important of all, the sheer joy of writing. 

When that much anticipated call finally comes and you learn a publisher wants your manuscript, it's not the end of the journey but simply an announcement that your stop is coming up.  There are still rewrites, editing, contract approval, preparations for publicity, and so many new, unexpected things to learn and do. 

The day you first hold a published copy of your book in your hands, the first time you see your book on a bookstore shelf, the first time you pass a car in a parking lot and realize someone is sitting in that car listening to your book, when you board a plane and notice a copy of your book on someone's lap, when a total stranger approaches you at a book signing and says "I loved your book" or you receive a note that says, "your book changed my life"--  those are the grand vistas.  In some cases holding a royalty check in your hand is a memorable vista.  Just knowing you've succeeded in reaching a difficult goal you set for yourself is perhaps the grandest vista of all.  But that isn't the end of the ride.  There's always another journey, another destination, another book to write, another goal to reach.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Path Before Us

I printed a couple of paragraphs from an article by John Tvednes and posted it near my computer where I can look at it frequently. I'll share it:

"In 1 Corinthians 16:13 Paul suggests that we not allow ourselves even the tiniest divergence from the path (the track) laid out before us. I have at times envisioned the strait and narrow path as a strait and narrow hallway. Far away, in a blaze of incandescent light stands a being of incomprehensible glory before an open door. (See Revelation 3:7-8)

But all along the hall are other doors, designed with Satanic ingenuity to draw us aside. Those doors are switch points. David's door had Bathsheba's picture on it. Absalom's door had a crown. the rich young ruler entered a door to a room full of wealth. The prodigal son found a portal marked "Freedom."

Cain found the door to his brother's flocks. The image is instructive. We know that we must endure to the end, but Satan knows that as well. He reaches out to us with his flaxen cords, with his mild poison, and he leads us away from the open door and "carefully down to hell." We must not allow ourselves to be misled at the switch points. Our destination is eternal lives and the everlasting presence of God, and nowhere else." (John Tvednes)

I love the images this conjures up. What are switch points in my life that could entice me from the glorious light at the end of the hall? We are never too old to be tempted away from our personal goals and even habits that have been ingrained for years can be changed. Case in point: I have been an early morning scripture studier for more years than I can count. Prayers and scripture study are first on my list of things to do every day followed by journal, read an article in the Ensign, a chapter in some book on writing, supplemental reading for the SS lesson, practicing the hymns on the organ for the following Sunday and looking over the Laurel lesson I will teach. These are the first things on the Daily Planner I devised (and continually revise and update.)

Since I get up at 4:00 every morning, I can complete all of these plus checking e-mail by 6:00. But if I have company or we are traveling, those things don't happen. Catching up when I get home or company leaves becomes burdensome, and suddenly my habits of years have been disrupted and these important things put aside. Since there are always more things to do than time to do them, if I start on the other things first, I never get back to these important items.

I guess my enticing doors are cleaning out boxes of genealogy, playing with photographs and making Shutterfly books, sorting through Family History pictures. All, of course, good and worthwhile projects, but not at the expense of my spiritual growth and development. Setting priorities and keeping them in proper order isn't easy, but definitely the way to stay on the path to where we ultimately want and need to go.

They say it takes 21 days to make a habit. From my experience, I can say it takes 7 days or less to break one. Conclusion: We need to keep our eyes EVERY HOUR of every day on that path and make sure we don't digress into little garden gates or hallway doors that look tempting for the moment. The moment can too easily become a lifetime.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thinking Things Through

Have you ever made a decision about something, only to look back a day or two later, wishing you'd given the idea a second thought? Perhaps you decided to purchase a dress that you were sure would make you look like Twiggy, but actually made you look like Miss Piggy; maybe it was the set of dishware that turned out NOT to be microwave safe; or the sweet little kitten that clawed your clothes, furniture, and your children.
Yesterday was such a day of decision for me, and although I'm not regretting the choices, I am feeling the effects of not thinking things through.
The day began normally with sitting for hours doing research for my next book. Around 11 am my body was crying out for movement. "Relax," I told it. "I have an appointment scheduled with the chiropractor at 3 o'clock. You'll feel much better after that." But, my body continued complaining, so I took it to the gym for a half hour work-out. Normally, that would not be an egregious activity, but I forgot that I hadn't been to the gym for 8 months. For the moment though, my body was happy. Then came my 3 pm chiropractic appointment. Sometimes I teasingly call my doctor, The Punisher, especially if he spends time pressing on very painful pressure points and getting a reluctant spine back in alignment. After this adjustment I was calling him, Mega Punisher! And, not only did he adjust my yowling body, but he also did acupuncture--and let me tell you some of those pins (especially the one in my forehead), felt like a hat pin!
I crawled to the car and dragged my body home. When I stumbled in the front door, my unaware hubby said, "Hey, the Spa called while you were gone. Did you forget that you'd scheduled a Lymphatic Massage at 7 pm?"
I had forgotten. I couldn't cancel. I had to go.
Have you ever had a Lymphatic Massage? It's an amazing procedure, but very draining...pun intended. At 8:30 pm I was sitting in my car, in the Spa parking lot, trying unsuccessfully to get my key into the starter, and wondering if my legs would be able to walk me into the house when I got home. If I got home--my eyesight was kinda bleary.
Well, obviously I made it, because here I am, the morning after, slumped at my computer, and writing a blog about my adventure. I'm sore, drained, and much the wiser. Don't get me wrong, I love all the activities in which I time though, I will think things through and only do one at a time.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Share the Books

Have you ever read a book that inspired you? 
Read a book that brought tears to your eyes? 
Read a book that got you to take action?
Read a book that turned your life inside out? 

Have you ever given someone a gift for no reason but to inspire them? 

I read that on Facebook the other day, and was instantly gripped, not only because my answer to all those questions is Yes, and I am passionate about books, but because that was the introduction to a piece asking for people to take part in a "Share the Books" flash mob. And being in a flash mob is on my bucket list.

A Flash Mob is a large group of people who gather “spontaneously” in a public place, perform an unusual act then quickly disperse. My favourite examples include the Hallelujah chorus in a mall food court and this dance from Liverpool Street Station because I go there often and would have loved to see it. It's not always singing or dancing however. It might be something as simple as freezing in place for four minutes or a spontaneous pillow fight.

"My" flash mob is going to be giving away books that we love. We will all go to Trafalgar Square in London at a designated time, and for a few minutes we will read books which are special to us for some reason, or have meant a lot to us. Then, at a pre-arranged signal, we will all give our books to a total stranger with a note explaining what the event has been about. And then we all go home again knowing that we have maybe inspired someone else, and certainly enriched their life.

I'm very excited about it, and I'm roping in a few friends to join me. The only question is, which book shall I choose? I have loved so many books. I'm considering Vanity Fair, The HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy, Pride and Prejudice, Twilight, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,  Going Postal (Terry Pratchett) and several others. Religious texts are not allowed (it's not a proselyting exercise) so which book would you choose? Which book has changed your life so much that you want to give it to someone else so that it can change theirs?

Thursday, January 5, 2012


It's probably safe to assume a large proportion of bloggers will blog about New Year's resolutions this week.  Not me.  I don't make New Year's resolutions.  I tried it a couple of times, but it never seemed to work out.  I am pretty good, however, at setting goals and actually achieving them.  They  just aren't linked to the New Year. 

When there's something I want to accomplish I set a goal, doesn't matter the time of year, but I have a few requirements for setting goals.  First the goal has to be something I really want to do or achieve.  Then there must be specific steps I must take to reach that goal and here's the important part.  The steps must be measurable.  Suppose I set a goal to follow an exercise program.  It does no good to say I'm going to exercise more often.  It's necessary to be more specific;  I'm going to exercise five days a week by riding my exercise bike for thirty minutes each day at the rate of six miles each half hour or I will run three miles in forty-five minutes, four days a week.  Next keep a record.  Jot down each days accomplishment on the calendar or in your journal so you can see your progress. This method works for scripture reading, gardening, cleaning house, losing weight, or even writing.  Set the goal, break it down into measurable steps, keep a record.  For many people reporting to a friend, family member, or your facebook friends helps keep the motivation going.  Do it together if you have a friend or family member reaching for the same goal. Also if I mess up one day, it's not the end of my goal, I just continue on the next day. 

Everyone should set a few long term goals that require considerable effort.  I'm convinced working hard for a long term goal brings inner strength, a sense of personal satisfaction, and builds self esteem.  In many cases it also makes us more sensitive to the efforts of others which I consider a character improvement.  When I left journalism and set out to write a novel I set some goals:  Write a minimum of two hours, six days a week, read something every day, take a class on writing fiction, join a writers' group, research agents, submit a manuscript to an agent within one year.  I actually did all of that and in the process I set more goals: get a really first class unabridged dictionary, determine which areas of my writing were open to editorial change and which were standards I wouldn't change even for a contract, and the list goes on.  I had a lot to learn about contracts, marketing, editing, book signings, etc.  Each was a challenge that called for a goal.  With all I've learned about writing fiction, I think some of those first goals are still the most important---write something every day and read something every day. 

I've learned I'm better at short term goals than long ones so I keep the long ones to a minimum.  I keep a list of at least four or five things I plan to do each day in my head--I used to write these lists down and sometimes I still do if it's a long list.  I find I get more done if I have a plan of action for the day though I have a permanent list of priorities in my head, too, and if one of these priorities comes along, I have no qualms about bumping one, two, or even all of my daily goals in order to meet the needs of one of those priorities. 

With all of this goal setting, or possibly resolutions, it's important to remember a happy life requires some spontaneity.  Some time should be left to see life through the eyes of a child, read a book, watch the birds, and dream a little. 

So dear friends, this month let's talk about goals (or resolutions if you like).  Let's also talk about hopes and dreams for the new year.  They're not the same thing you know.  Hopes and dreams can be goals if they're pursued in a realistic way, but as long as they're just in our heads and not a matter of action on our part, they stay in the realm of fantasy, pleasant thoughts, or - well- dreams.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

RESOLUTIONS! Is this the year I finally keep one?

Every year I start off with such high hopes and high expectations to reinvent myself and make improvements in my life. By the third week of January I begin to slip and by February I'm usually back to my old habits.

But not this year!!! (I know, I know, famous last words) This year I'm going to make a resolution and keep it. Because I only have one resolution.

To do better.

Yes, that's my resolution. I know it is vague and there are absolutely no parameters or possible ways to measure improvement, but hear me out. I already know what I should be doing. And most of the time I do "pretty good" with the really important things in my life, but I need to just do all of them better. Temple attendance, reading scriptures, being organized, consistently writing, balancing my duties and time with my family, keeping up with my housework . . . the list is quite long, but these are all things I strive to do daily, I just need to do them better.

I googled TOP TEN RESOLUTIONS and have to say I was impressed with the list. If the list is a representation of what people really care about then maybe our world really isn't going you know where in a handbasket.

Here is the list.

1. Spend More Time with Family & Friends

2. Fit in Fitness

3. Tame the Bulge

4. Quit Smoking

5. Enjoy Life More

6. Quit Drinking

7. Get Out of Debt

8. Learn Something New

9. Help Others

10. Get Organized

Let's make 2012 the year we really accomplish the things we set out to do. Just think how much better our world would be if everyone kept their resolutions?

Good luck! And Happy New Year!