Tuesday, December 22, 2009

**Embarrassing Author Moment**

If that title doesn't your attention, I don't know what will.

Yes, I'm actually going to spill on something I did this year that I'm sure you all will enjoy. It's been long enough that I can laugh about it, too, but at the time...well, you'll see.

Early this year I was shopping for business cards that designated my new place in this world as a writer of young adult fantasy novels. So I trot over to our local print/packaging shop and fill out a request for business cards. This is how I designated myself:

Cheri Chesley
Young Adult Fantasy

Did you catch it? Along with that title, I entered my email, cell phone and other contact information.

About ten minutes later, I was in line at the pharmacy when I realized I had given myself a title that could possibly get me arrested. As soon as I paid for our medicines I rushed back to the printer to add AUTHOR to my title. Much, much better.

I am so glad I caught it before they printed, and especially before I handed them out to a bunch of strangers.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

And the Seed of Doubt Returns

Here I am again. I've returned to the doubt that plagues all writers, despite their accolades and successes. I hate this, but I cant' escape it.

What is the best way to publish my book? Which book should I publish first? Should I hold out for something that can be fantastic, or take publisher suggestions and get the book published? Should it be one, or two? Can I make the second half follow the format acceptable to today's publishers?

What to do, what to do?

The only thing I can't do is the thing I sometimes want to do the most--give up. Quit. Stop writing. Live a "normal" life.

But then, if I was normal I wouldn't be extraordinary now would I?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I Write

I write because I can. Because I have to. And because I do have some skill at it. I'm actually better putting things into words on paper than verbally. Recently, I wrote a beautiful letter to a member of my family--things I'd been trying to say for a solid week face to face.

Writing is a valuable skill. Gross understatement. Historically, writing has been important for centuries. I need it. Not like a fix or anything like that. But I get really stressed out when I don't write. And that's a well known fact.

There's just too much in my head to ignore. I can't push it back or make it stop. I've tried to deny it and it doesn't stay denied. It pushes to the front and begs, nay, demands release.

So this is what I do. God help me.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

This may be Frustratingly Cryptic, but . . .

The things we feel most deeply are the things we find hardest to share. I feel safe making that statement because I know I am not alone. For years I found it very hard to show my faith, to express my beliefs, because they are the most private, personal things about me. It is the same with my writing, and has been for a long time. I didn't share it at first--ever. Writing was my secret; it was something that was wholly and completely mine. Something that no one could take away. And in a time in my life when everything else could be taken--my sense of self, my freedom, my safety--I guarded it with my very life.

Sharing came gradually, and it became habit. I would share everything I wrote with my closest friends, a practice that once literally saved my life. By the time I turned 18 sharing my writing became so normal I had several poems published. But still I was keeping back the most precious, private part of my works.

In my youth, I developed a world separate from my life. I could escape there; I could live there and express my truest self. And I protected it. The process of outgrowing that world took years. And several edits. My world and I grew apart. I found safety in real life; I found security and love and protection. The distinction between fantasy and reality grew clearer and clearer.

And, finally, I could share it.

I'm pretty certain I won't be a NaNoWriMo winner this year. My train of thought was not only sideswiped it was derailed, fell off the bridge and sank under the torrential Atlantic waves. It was a spectacular crash; I'm sure I'll share it sometime in the future when the raw hurt has dulled to a mild ache. It will probably come in some form of my writing that will leave my readers weeping for the suffering of my main character. It is how I express. It is how I share.

Writers, like most artistic types, are sensitive creatures. We feel deeply. We see clearly. And sometimes the two intermingle. So, for just a little while, I'm going to be sensitive.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Blog of Silence

This will come as a surprise to, well, no one, but I am participating in National Novel Writing month (NaNoWriMo) and therefore will NOT be posting much on this blog through November. My hope is I will have good news to share come December.

If you see anything new from me, it's likely copies of book reviews I've done this past month and haven't shared yet.

Cheers!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Altared Plans

This is a book trailer for a really fun book by author Rebecca Talley. I won my copy in a contest and shared it with a friend heading off to college. She loved it too! Take a peek, and check out the book.

Just click the blog title and it will take you to the book trailer on YouTube.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Review of Alma by H.B. Moore

Just to let you know, I purposely chose to read Alma cold--meaning I have never read any of H.B. Moore's books before and did not read Abinadi before reading Alma. I also haven't looked at any of the other blog reviews of Alma so I wouldn't have anyone else's opinions to mix with my own.

Having said that, I'll tell you I picked up the book Saturday evening and had it read by Sunday night. I've actually never read any historical novels based on the events of the Book of Mormon before, so this was a new experience for me as a reader. I found Alma to be an engaging read without being overly complex. The characters had me rooting for them right away, and even though the author gives the reader insight into four different character's thoughts and feelings, I didn't find this confusing.

I'm not a scriptorian by any means, but in reading Alma I did recall things I had read in the Book of Mormon and I personally liked being able to link the two. It's clear the author did extensive research of the time period and what resources were available to people back then. That kind of attention to detail may seem less significant, but if a weapon or type of food is out of place in the story, it would jump out at the reader and distract them from the point of the book.

I would recommend Alma to anyone who likes historical fiction or wants to know more about life in ancient times. It's really a great book and I'm anxious to read my copy of Abinadi now, as well as Alma the Younger when it's released next year. 5 stars.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hey, I'm cool!!!

I just adore talking at schools! Seriously. Not only do the kids listen--sometimes adults don't--but they're nice. And they have teachers to prod them into showing gratitude. :)

I got a bunch of letters in the mail from the group I spoke to at career day last week. Of course, kids have no idea how much a lonely, frustrated author takes their flippant praise to heart. Guess what? I'm cool. And awesome. And I may have inspired someone to pursue their writing talents.

And, really, who can ask for more than that?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Supporting Each Other

I've been thinking about this a lot today, and here's where I express myself.

This year I connected with an awesome group of authors. I know this because they are snatching up publishing contracts left and right. They're suddenly living their dreams; my dreams. And that's okay.

I learn more about myself every day. While I won't lie and say there's not even a tiny part of me wondering when my turn will come, I'm pleased to say that I'm happy for my friends. I rejoice in their successes. My words are backed by genuine feeling--they aren't empty praise. I really am happy their dreams are coming true.

It's like this--I just met these ladies this year. Without asking them, there's no way for me to know how long they've struggled, waited, been rejected, submitted and submitted and submitted. And I've learned this year that writing--being an author--is a journey. Some of us start young. Some of us don't hear their call to write for years. And some of us, like me, fight it tooth and nail until finally accepting it. I've always known I love to write, but making a career out of it is impractical. A few are able to do it. Some have spouses who can help balance the family budget. In my case, I'm the "balancer" and in this economy nothing balances.

But writing does not come without challenge. Like most artists, what we do is tied into who we are. Setbacks are easy to see and hard to fight. Someone criticizes our work; we are completely overlooked in contest after contest. And, of course, we're our harshest critics. I applaud published authors who can go through this over and over again.

For me, writing is a walk of faith. I know it's the right thing for me. I know it's my calling. I do the conventions and workshops, I write when I can, I read whatever I can get my hands on to hone my craft.

I get how the publishing world can be competitive. There are hundreds, thousands of authors with books and only so many can go into print. But, as a reader, I also know nobody reads just one type of book, or just one author. If you love books, if you love to read, then you will read a variety of things. You might prefer one genre over another, but you're still going to read a variety of books. There's room for all of us. It doesn't detract from my course or path to be happy for my friends.

I just think it's awesome. I'm so happy for these ladies. It's the coolest.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Man, I feel like a writer

It's hard to feel like an author when one isn't writing much. It's harder still when one lets opportunities to publish waltz right by without a word. Well, that's the end of that.

I dove in this week. I submitted online to two local publishers, and tomorrow I will submit by mail to two more. After the nerve shredding process was done I sought some comfort from my husband. His words chilled me. "And you're not done. You'll find 4 more to submit to, and then 4 more, and then 4 more until your book is accepted." Sigh. I know he's right. Dontcha hate that?

So, one of the ways we truly feel like authors is to submit our work for publication. We take something we've slaved over, loved, hated, shared, changed, stretched and smoothed and send it off for consideration. We wait those agonizing weeks, and months, to hear back from said publisher (or agent--I was turned down by 5 of them this summer alone). The worst news is they don't want it. Our ego takes a ding (sometimes a big one, no lie) and we're out some time and expense (especially if you mailed it), but we press on. They could want it, but only if we are willing to make some changes. The artist in us screams "No! This is my baby, perfect as is!" but our stomach says, "Ya, I'll take a look at your suggestions." After all, some of us have kids to feed.

The best answer is, of course, that the publisher wants us. They love the story, they know they can move forward with it. Hurrah! This kind of acceptance, and the memory of it, can buoy us up in harder times to remind us that we are contributing something worthwhile.

This particular book, my current submission, is a labor of love. My characters are so real to me the villain demanded an alternate ending and I WROTE IT!!! He's quiet now, which is nice--but a little lonely. I have worked, off and on admittedly, at perfecting this piece for twenty years. This current incarnation is nothing like the original, but I'm truly hoping that's a good thing.

Here's the irony: I know the publisher will want to make changes. Editor, really; I can't blame it all on the publisher. And, even after all this book and I have been through, I will seriously consider these changes. This is a labor of love, true. I have loved (and at times hated) this book, but I'm smart enough to know what I don't know. And I'm willing to at least hear suggestions on how to make it better. Because, after all, don't we all want to put something out there that's the very best it can be?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Author Mom

I found it difficult to decide whether to post this in my Mommy blog or my Author blog, since it has to do with both writing and my family—so you win. Lucky you.

My kids impress me. I don’t take any credit for this. It would be awkward, and snooty, and I just don’t feel up to it. But they’re impressive.

For instance, two years ago I decided to start taking myself seriously as an author and work toward publication. You know, I stopped fighting the inevitable and accepted something that nearly consumed every waking thought needed attention. This had a profound effect on my kids, and in ways I never considered.

When I got my first publishing contract (that has since dissolved, don’t worry about why) in 2007 one of the first things we did was tell the kids. The next morning, my oldest looks at me and says, “Mommy, what if you become famous?” My stomach did a little flip but I calmly responded, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

A few months later, one of the twins abruptly asked, “Mommy, are you an author?” I said yes, and the smile that lit up his face brought tears to my eyes.

My daughter, Kylie, tells everyone she’s going to be an author like me. But it’s not the gratuitous adoration that I’m talking about here.

When I chose to pursue my dream, my kids noticed. And they’ve been taking notes.
Currently, my oldest is working on a time machine. The twins are doing their normal things—drawing, writing, creating in general, exploring, taking care of bugs, obsessing over nature in its most minute form.

My fledgling author is still at it, plugging away weekly at her craft and coming up with some pretty interesting ideas. She even has her mother’s author insecurities. Sigh. Didn’t mean to pass that on.

The youngest is continuing her love of words. Now she’s started writing, sounding out words and spelling most of them herself.

Because they’re my kids, they’re convinced my book will be known all over the world and likely be made into a movie. But what happens with the book isn’t important. The fact that my kids consider pursuing their dreams to be cool is worth every bump in the road and setback I face.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Jumping in with Both Feet

I've just recovered from a severe case of not seeing the forest for the trees. And it was a bad one. (dang. I just stopped typing to listen to my girls eat lunch and got another story idea)

Here's the thing: I have let finalizing and polishing my book for printing through WriteWise blind me to the big picture--placing the book with a publisher. I've let opportunities slip by because I forgot part of my contract includes their acting as a liaison or agent on my behalf to PLACE THE BOOK. Good grief; that's a huge forest to lose sight of.

This point was brought home to me Thursday when I attended UVU's Book Academy for Readers and Writers. Fantastic stuff. I wish they had it monthly. My WriteWise Book Producer, Karen, was on the panel of publishers for our open Q&A and she spoke about our cookbook author Nancy Miles. She's fantastic at self marketing and has taken local Costco stores by storm. (I mean it--at her last book signing she sold 60 copies!!!)

Oops. Seriously. I've been trying to clean something else up to submit to the local publishers in Utah when all along I already had something to send them.

So here I go. Jumping in with both feet. I'm sending out submission packets this week.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I'm sorry my fellow Authors

I can't get to everyone I want to at each author conference. I see someone and think "I need to say hi" and then they vanish to another class or area or have to leave and I never get the chance.

Today I'm thinking of Heather Moore. I'm sorry, Heather. I walked right by your table when you were signing books and should have said hello. I wanted to get my books signed before time ran out and before the lines got crazy, but when I was done you had gone (it was 20 min after the signings had ended so I'm not surprised). I'm not ignoring you on purpose, I promise. I had the same problem at the LUW conference where I saw you and smiled but didn't stop and say hi.

Let's face it; I'm still coming out of my shell. I have some shining moments at these things where I'm talkative and friendly and other moments where I don't talk to anyone at all. And the conference schedules have me running from one thing to the next. I want to soak it all in and there's just not enough time.

I'm battling years and years of antisocial behavior. Like many authors, I'm an introverted person and don't like to open up. It's been a fight for me, and each time I talk to someone at a conference or other gathering is another step I'm taking to overcome. It's not easy. My goal has always been that none of you knows the inner struggle I go through each time I open my mouth. It's hard to talk about our own weaknesses or shortcomings.

But Heather's a fantastic author and wonderful person, and I don't want her to think I don't like her. I won one of her books, Abinadi, during her contest giveaway this summer, and joined her blog tour for Alma. (hint, I got Alma in the mail before I opened up Abinadi, so I've chosen to read them out of order to provide the perspective of reading Alma first) You rock, Heather!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ok, I get it...

I know; I'm a softy. I understand now.

I'm waaaaay too nice to my characters. Though I've heard it often, that we really need to make situations look hopeless for our characters from time to time, I hadn't connected that I wasn't doing that.

Take our favorite boy wizard, for example. How often, during your reads, did you wonder if this poor kid could EVER catch a break? Now be honest, didn't that keep you reading? You wanted to know if he ever got his happy ending--ever. I mean, he struggled to find a happy memory when one solitary happy memory would save his life.

Don't get me wrong--bad things do happen to my characters. They face initial conflict, they struggle and they do have to grow or overcome in some other way. But I dole out hopeless situations very sparingly. Fortunately, I think, The Peasant Queen gets herself into lots of hopeless situations.

I wonder why we, as people, are generally interested in the tragic. Literary heroes throughout history face trial after terrifying trial to reach their goal. And it keeps us reading. If we read a book that sounds too much like real life how interesting can it be? If you can look at a character and say, "Yeah, that's just like my day" why on earth would we want to read that? Now, if it starts out like your day but then moves in a completely different direction that might be all right. I know I don't read books to read about someone like me. I want to read about someone better than me.

Enough is enough. No more MS Nice Author. Let's do some damage.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I Get to be an Author this Weekend!!!

It's a crazy, crazy week. And a short one. And all because the LUW's Author Roundup is Friday and Saturday. But, the up side is I get to be an author this weekend!

As it turns out, this comes at no small sacrifice. If my kids make their play audition today I will miss both their performances, since they both happen Saturday. Our local bookstore, The Purple Cow, is having Brandon Mull and Lisa Mangum out Saturday for an Author day. EVERYTHING is happening this weekend. Sacrifices must be made.

Truth is, I'm a major homebody. I'd rather hang out here, see my kids perform and support my local bookstore than drive for hours, stay at a hotel and eat out. Especially lately, since I haven't felt much like an author. My novel's taking the snail's track to publication and finding time to write has been about as evasive as a technicolor unicorn.

But the author conventions are useful. We get to recharge, connect with others in the same boat and learn how to better our craft. This is vital to an author. We're by nature rather solitary creatures, but we need to poke our heads out of our burrows occasionally and see what's going on out there in the world of writing. Otherwise we'll always be "trying to get published."

So, I'm going. A little reluctantly, but I'm going. Fortunately I know I'll have a great time.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thursday Already??!

I'm feeling less optimistic about the week now that it's Thursday. It's been a really rough day all the way around, and I'd either like a do-over or just go to bed and let today be over.

I did get a clean bill of health from my physical therapist, today--that was a bright spot. Cleared to exercise. I really, really want to get back to my walking and pilates. If I had pool access then it would be awesome. I miss swimming so much.

And still, I haven't touched the reading I have to do or written that thing for church. My delightful characters have decided to change the rules on me. In sorting out this trilogy, I've come to the realization I will have to write the third book BEFORE I can finish the edits on the second book. Sigh.

See, for months now I've been working--or trying to work--on two different books. Both argue in my mind for equal treatment. The problem is, I try to get started and never seem to make any progress. One is the second book in my trilogy, which I wrote out last year, and the second is a YA contemporary fiction based on real events. In the meantime, little whispers from the third book of my trilogy seep through.

The other night I gave up. I thought about it and thought about it and decided I'm just going to have to write out the third book before I can finish the second book. And the floodgates opened. Suddenly I was ignited, like fire, with inspiration and tore through about 1000 words before I could stop myself. Like a good little girl I went to bed because I have to get up early for work every day, and still spent about 10 or so minutes in bed putting notes into my notebook.

It's so exciting. Not only is it the completion of over two decades of thought and plotting, but it's the culmination of the story--the completion of the story of these particular families and what they do to each other over three generations. Not to mention the villain. He's the best of the worst--clever, creative, deceptive and conniving. His plots are so intricate he's struck twice at the heart of my heroine before she even realizes where the hits are coming from. And, unlike my previous bad guys in the series, he's not motivated by a twisted love or loyalty--he's just hurting people for the sheer joy of it.

Now I've gotten all excited again and I'm going to have to stop and pull up the book file. :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Readings and Writings

I'm so excited to face this week with three fabulous books to read. I'm feeling a time crunch in more ways than one, but sometimes that's when I do my best work. I love to read, and I love to read new things almost as much as I enjoy curling up with an old favorite.

I also have writing to do this week, of course. One is a project for church (I'm part of the team for the ward newsletter) and the others are personal. I call them personal because, until I edit them for publication, they are personal. It has been said that we should write for ourselves, and to that end the projects are mine until I choose to send them out.

It's been hard to get back into writing. Not much happened while the kids were home from school this summer. Now that they're back in classes, I'm still finding my schedule incompatible with lengthy writing blocks. Because I can sit at the computer and write for hours, it's difficult for me to write effectively in 5 or 10 minute blocks. It is easier, though, when the project speaks to me, so that's what I've decided to focus on.

And reading always helps. I love to see what other authors do with their voice.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

20 Years?!

Birthdays make me introspective. I guess that's true for most people, once we get old enough to stop trying to guess what gifts we're getting each year. Big markers always make me stop and think, too.

In September of 1989, a 14 year old Freshman sat down at her first lunch in high school and wished herself somewhere--anywhere--else. Nothing to do. No one to talk to. So how does she pass the time without looking like a friendless geek? She started writing.

Twenty years and several drafts later that story the girl wrote is perched on the cusp of publication, waiting at this moment for the final read through to be completed. It's taken so long the story of publication is an epic in and of itself, probably worthy of being told. High school, graduation, jobs, marriage, children, etc. It happens to all of us but the highs and lows can be gut-wrenching.

I can't claim I did nothing but write for 20 years, so I don't say this book took me 20 years to finish. The original draft--which I still have--took a year and ten months. Not bad, all things considered. I toyed with it for a few years off and on but then ten years ago, after the twins were born, the writing stopped for about 7 or 8 years.

But still, it's been a long road and the story is still worthy of being told. And it's going to knock your socks off, when it has the chance.

Friday, August 28, 2009

This would be a Down

I feel a little sorry for myself tonight, sitting her under the influence of prescription painkillers and muscle relaxants. After over two weeks of being sick and trying desperately to get over it (2 rounds of antibiotics), I took my brilliant son--who read 10,000 minutes last school year--to Lagoon and rode all the spine rattling rides he could find. For the record, while I enjoy the thrill of the rides I actually dread them the whole time I'm in line.

The next morning I woke up with a horrible pain in my neck and shoulders, like I had slept wrong. Except it never went away. Yesterday, 6 days later, I finally stopped torturing myself and went to the doctor. I don't know why I waited so long to seek relief. I can't drive because I can barely turn my head to look around and I can't even stand to be hugged by my kids because of the pain. Sleeping has been next to impossible.

But I signed on to participate in a charity author workshop (not as a presenter) in Ogden at the Treehouse Museum, which sounds like a fascinating place. Actual authors will be there like Brandon Mull and Shannon Hale, and I really wanted to be able to go. Except now that's become impossible. I can't drive safely without my meds to alleviate my pain and I can't drive safely with my meds because they're so powerful.

I'm especially disappointed because I wanted to get another signed copy of Shannon Hale's newest book for my cousin Becca who lives in Indiana because she's such a fan. A copy of Brandon Mull's Pingo for her daughters wouldn't be amiss, either.

Oddly enough, either because the meds have alleviated my pain so I can concentrate on other things or they've made me loopy, I'm feeling really creative. Maybe I can get some actual writing done this weekend, since I'm not leaving the house for the next few days.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Do all LDS authors go through this?

I've hesitated posting this, because it is intensely personal, but here goes. Do all LDS authors face such spiritual adversity trying to get published? And does that adversity ease at all once you've published one or two books?

I've been on a roller coaster of highs and lows ever since accepting my place in Heavenly Father's plan last April. At least the role of my writing. It wasn't an easy acceptance. I've done a lot of kicking and screaming to get to this point. But finally I accepted what He has in store for me, and the blessings I've been getting all say it's going to be big.

I have a book on the cusp of publication and have been smacked down by direct opposition more times than I care to count. This is personal you guys. I'm talking misdirected emails, flagrant red herrings--and not just at me but at the people involved in seeing my book in print.

Case in point: A few weeks ago I got an email from the designer who did my cover and is also doing the interior book design. She wanted me to send her the most recent draft of the book. She didn't have it. A MONTH BEFORE I had sent it to my liaison who had then sent it to her and wrote me back saying she had. And it vanished into cyberspace. In utter exasperation I vented to my husband that it felt like I was being targeted, like little gremlins were purposely sabotaging my work. He immediately felt impressed to give me a priesthood blessing, during which I was told I was right. After that I started saying a little prayer every time I sent an email even remotely book related.

Three weeks ago my liaison started her final read-through of my book. She has to read it before it goes into print. Call her my editor, for these purposes. The next week I emailed her for an update and she said she was on page 200 and really liking it. She sent me a couple more emails saying she was really enjoying it and asking if another author could also look at it. After two weeks of silence I emailed again; she's still around page 200. Work and family keep distracting her. And I know why.

I'm fasting tomorrow. I've asked my kids to pray for the book to be published soon. I've got people asking almost daily when it will be available for purchase. And I've started responding by asking them to pray for it. There's nothing short of divine intervention that's going to see my book published now.

So I ask again. LDS authors, is it always like this??

Sunday, August 23, 2009

It's Just Me

I haven't posted in a while. I guess I haven't felt much like an author lately. Though it has been fun to post on other author's blogs (and win copies of books) and support and encourage them, it's been really hard for me to tap my muse lately. I'm even having trouble supporting the upcoming release of my book--because I have no idea when it will actually happen. I'm still waiting for the results of the final read-through and to find out what happens next. And it's very, very hard for me to keep hassling the very dear lady doing the read-through because I already feel like a horrendous nag.

I haven't felt more ready for this in my entire life. I've learned so much about promoting my own book from the wonderful authors I have met who've gone before me. I love the concept of the blog giveaway. Though I don't quite have enough followers to do what Heather Moore did with her 10 week giveaway, I think it's a brilliant idea. And Annette Lyon talking about all her chocolate successes via Facebook has probably increased the sales of the upcoming chocolate cookbook exponentially.

Connecting with LDS authors has been the single most brilliant thing I've done for my writing. Not only are they great friends and have created an unrivaled support network, but they have awesome marketing ideas and are generous to a fault. To any of you who happen across this post, "thank you" does not adequately express my appreciation.

Feeling like an author sometimes takes as much work as being an author. I can't call myself a writer if I don't write. And the world doesn't stop just because my book is slow off the presses.

We never stop learning. Not even when we think we know everything.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Well, I did it.

I had my 8 yr old daughter chase down the postal carrier this morning to get my LUW Roundup registration postmarked before tomorrow (the deadline). Seriously, I'm filling out the envelope and I hear the mail get dropped off. And they move so fast, so Kylie grabbed my completed registration, got on her bicycle and took off down the street. Because I'm who I am, I watched her from the doorway as she handed it off.

I'm looking forward to Roundup. I've been a member of the League of Utah Writers for a few years now but I haven't been able to attend Roundup. Now I get to go and I'm thrilled. I'm not doing any extra classes and I didn't enter any contests. I just want to go and soak in what they have to offer and maybe next year I'll take a bigger bite.

It's funny, though, because I committed to sharing a hotel room with another author and have told everyone this year that I'm going--I hadn't registered yet. Fortunately I have a very wonderful and conscientious chapter president (Dorothy Crofts) who emails us procrastinators with a deadline reminder. Whew.

So now all systems are go. And I'm going to have an incredible time.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I love Conventions!

As an author, the most fun I have--aside from creating really awesome plots or characters--is going to author conventions and sitting in a large room with a group of people who also hear voices. Where else outside of an asylum can you have that experience? It's fantastic!

Financially I've had to make some hard choices this year about which conference I can attend and which I will have to miss. The biggest chunk in my budget was taken by BEA in NY, but it was an experience like none other. And even though Storymakers wasn't as fun as I'd anticipated I really learned a lot. That was an enlightening weekend.

I'm not the person who calls attention to myself or, in the case of Storymakers, speaks to anyone (except Tristi), but I love soaking in the atmosphere and hearing how much alike we all are--which makes the fact that we all come up with different, original story ideas all the more amazing.

But really I'm still just a novice at this whole thing. There's so much to learn, and I'm grateful to all of those who have gone before me and let me soak up their wisdom.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

To be or not to be...

...What a question!

Our entire household was hard at work Friday cleaning the house for company, when I heard my oldest son quote the opening of Hamlet's soliloquy. And, literary nut that I am, I almost opened my mouth and recited the rest of it. But I stopped myself. It was a close one, though.

I'm pretty sure he got "To be or not to be" off of some cartoon or show, and has no idea that it's part of Shakespeare's tragedy--even though I have the complete works of dear William downstairs in the office and a copy of the movie on a shelf under the VCR. I'm not quite ready to pull Hamlet out for a family movie night, being fairly certain the kids' minds would have glazed over by Act II.

There's a place in the US where you can buy a modest, 3 bedroom house for around $20K. It's even near family. And more than once I've considered chucking it all and moving back there to pick up a quiet life, because I'm fairly certain our family could exist reasonably well on my husband's income alone so I could write. But then reality sets in. I know in my soul UT is where I'm supposed to be right now, and even though I have to have a job to help support the family--a job that takes me away from said family and significantly reduces time I have to write--this is a situation I'm going to have to slog through in order to fulfill my part in The Plan. The curve in the tunnel is just ahead, I can see the faintest shimmer of light beyond; I just have to get there.

My 5 yr old wanted me to play outside with her yesterday. She asked, but before I could answer said, "Oh, you won't want to go outside. You're on your computer." Bam! I want to go play with her, but if I don't steal those moments here and there to pound out the next great novel, when do I do it? In all fairness, though, it IS a laptop, and if it hadn't been for the pounding headache I may have thought that far ahead.

I have a deep desire to ask published LDS authors if they face specific types of opposition when trying to get that book written, edited, published, printed and/or distributed. I've been facing some very steady opposition and downright craftiness in an effort to stop my work from being in print. It's scary, and at the same time a little stupid because I hate saying I'm being picked on. It sounds like whining and I don't want to come across as whiney.

I've rambled more than made a point, so before I rush off to warm bottles and feed babies I'll make that quick point. I'M GOING TO BE A PUBLISHED AUTHOR. I WILL USE THE TOOLS AND METHODS AT MY DISPOSAL TO OVERCOME THE OPPOSITION FACING ME AND PUBLISH NOT JUST ONE BOOK, BUT AS MANY BOOKS AS NECESSARY TO FULFILL MY ROLE IN THIS LIFE. AND WHETHER MY WORK REACHES ONE OR THOUSANDS, I WILL KNOW I'VE DONE WELL.

so there...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I wanna be an author!!

Ok so I'm stubborn. And independent. And kind of a loner, despite being surrounded by people almost constantly. My spelling is excellent, my grammar clean--but I don't use enough commas and don't apologize for it. I think commas are overused and hate having to pause a hundred times in a sentence just to get through the thought.

Conformity challenges me. I was never taught to stand out and in fact have no desire to, yet I resist blending in. I have no intention of being like everyone else. When I'm told something has to be a certain way, my knee-jerk response is, why? What's wrong with a little deviation, to add variety and color to this concept?

I have many talents, but all of them are creativity based. I don't sew like normal people; I piece together from existing patterns something I see in my head and sew it to my own specs. I steer well clear of scrapbooking; I know I would get lost in that world. I do love to take pictures. If I had any musical talent there would be creating there, too.

Really, though, the other things I do to satisfy the urge to create are merely substitutes for the deep-seated need to write. My mind works independently of my body. If only I could type as fast as I think. But then that would likely bring down a whole new set of problems.

The reality of it is that I barely have time in my day to write anything. The day care babies take opposing naps, so that someone is always awake and needing attention. I keep trying to become a morning person, but so far that's been a wasted effort. People say if something is important enough then you'll make time for it. But what's that saying? You can't squeeze water from a turnip or something?

I do have to admire the eternal optimism of my children, though. 5 kids who still don't know how to swim are in there right now trying to make their own goggles and snorkels to take to the lake. Why? They'll never get in deeper than their knees.

I could use some of that optimism.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The silence has passed

I think the people living in my head had a private meeting. They've been awfully quiet these last few days. But, slowly, one lone voice has emerged. She's quiet, but persistent, repeating the same things to me over and over. I must tell her story.

I understand so much more about my writing now; about its purpose and my purpose in life. There are questions I'd love to ask other authors, sort of to compare our experiences. Do they face the same kind of challenges and obstacles I'm facing? I had a rather enlightening weekend, but now I wonder just how unique my experiences are.

I may have mentioned before just how stubborn I am. It's not really something I do on purpose. I have a regrettably rebellious nature. It served me well in school when everyone was trying to be like everyone else and I asked "why" but now it's different. I'm trying to follow my chosen path as an author, do what I know I should do, and I still can't quiet that rebellious streak.

But I'm trying. And I'm just stubborn enough to succeed at this.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Strength to Endure by Tristi Pinkston

I've drawn the connection. The reason I give such high ratings to books that make me cry is because, to do that, they have to draw me in so that I make an emotional connection to the characters. If I genuinely care about them, almost like real people, then their heartaches and triumphs are things I feel as I read.

That said, I picked up Strength to Endure last night around 11 PM. I finished it at 1:30 AM. And for the first time in my life, I cried all the way through the book. Tears just fell as I read, sliding down my cheeks and mingling with my hair on the pillow. Never has a book generated such a consistent emotional response from me. It's an incredible story. If I could give it 6 stars (on a scale of 1 to 5), I would in a heartbeat.

The story starts out with Anneliese Klein as a young girl in Germany just as Hitler rises to power. I knew going in that a historical fiction novel set in Germany before and during WW II was not going to be a romp through the clover fields. But Tristi brings the beauty and horrors to life vividly. I remember my history classes. I knew about concentration camps and death camps like Auschwitz, and how people were rounded up and taken away from their homes and friends never to be seen again. But seeing these things happen through the eyes of Anneliese as she grows up changed me. And the part of the book where the story transitions from Anneliese's perspective to Hilde's perspective made me bawl. I saw it coming, but cried like a baby through two chapters anyway.

In all honesty, at one point I wiped my eyes and wondered why I was putting myself through this torture. But of course by then the story had me so absolutely, I had to finish the book and find out what happens. And Tristi didn't disappoint me there, either.

I do not have ancestors who were personally affected by what happened in Germany while Hitler was in power. There's no one in my past who can tell me what they experienced or witnessed during that time. But I did have a Jewish friend growing up, and we talked about it at length. From a historical aspect, everything in this book resonates with truth. Although the story is fiction, the things that happen gel with what I know about WW II and brought it all down to a very personal level.

Strength to Endure is an amazing book. I can't say enough about it. It's the kind of book that may change the reader, but it's a worthy change.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The most frustrating thing about the internet...

Sure, I get lazy--especially about capital letters--when posting comments on Facebook or other websites. But, seriously, read through a handful of comments made online about a particular article or something and you'll start wondering if the average poster finished college! It's called spell check, and it's handy. I hate to think of all those poor English teachers spinning in their graves while the general populous uses "looser" instead of "loser" and "grate" instead of "great" and other such nonsense.

This is my soapbox. There are a few things I am passionate about. This is one of them. And yes, I was one of those people who spell checked the notes handed to me in class. I had one particular friend I must have driven crazy by constantly pointing out her poor spelling. It's coming back to bite me, though, in the form of my husband and son who misspell common words. The hardest part is answering my husband, for the hundredth time, when he asks how to spell the same word. I'm nice enough not to rub his nose in it, but I can't say I'm always patient about it.

But, really, it's the World Wide Web that's most irritating these days. Take a quiz on Facebook if you doubt it. Some words are so badly messed up I can't even figure out what it's supposed to be.

My hang up is getting worse with all the editing I've done this year. But that's no one else's problem but mine...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Good Weekend, now back to Work

Where was I Friday? Oh, right--a movie and bowling with the kids. (btw, saw Monsters v. Aliens and found it lol funny) And Saturday? I spent the time to get Kylie's dress done. Turned out pretty lovely, if I do say so myself. And like a loon, I bought more fabric so I could make Rianne some pajamas, because the fabric is purple hearts on a purple background. (1 guess what her fave color is)

So it's Monday evening, and I'm sitting here fleshing out my blogs while I contemplate all the reading I did when I wasn't running around like a headless chicken. What I really need to do is put my insomnia to good use. I mean, if I'm not sleeping anyway, why not write? But it just goes against all rational thought I have left to not at least try to sleep when I have to get up at 4AM.

I balanced my weekend reading well. I read two really great books and two really awful books. I think I really am a nut. No matter how annoying a book is, I'll finish it. And post reviews on www.goodreads.com Like I'm not busy enough as it is.

What's really funny is all the self editing I've done has jaded me when I read. I take a book apart, not on purpose but because I can't help it. I do it at movies too, though it bugs my husband to no end when I can't keep my comments to myself. There is an element of pride in figuring things out before the screenwriters want you to, but it's not like I set out to spoil the movie for him. If he doesn't want to know, then he shouldn't lean over and whisper, "What?" to me when I gasp or groan. It helps when we take the kids, because then we usually don't sit together. I sit near one end while he takes the other, just so we can reach everyone for passing out popcorn or sharing drinks, etc.

It's sad, really, but sometimes I think I could sit in a cabin alone and write all day long. But then I think of that Johnny Depp movie and think, no, that's not at all healthy. There's so much going on in my head. I've been holding them at bay so I could do all that pressing family stuff over the weekend. Right now, in my mind's eye, I see a locked door and can hear all the voices begging or demanding to be let out. It's hard to tell in the cacophony they create. Wow, I haven't used "cacophony" since high school and could still spell it! :)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Getting back on Track

You know what really kills my ability to write? An intense, light and noise sensitive migraine type sinus headache that lasts 4 days. I'm pretty sure that would do it for most of us, but brilliant me, I had to get the headache Saturday afternoon and then endure 3 days of fireworks going off in our neighborhood. :(

But I went to the doctor, finally, and got some meds to clear up the issue. I'm getting caught up on all my blogs and posts and all that fun stuff. Tomorrow we're taking the kids bowling and to a movie and Saturday I have to sew on my daughter's baptism dress. So writing? Well, maybe I can squeeze some in over the next few days.

The problem is I have several stories right now all clamoring for my attention. There's the Not So Cinderella alternate fairy tale, the true to life contemporary YA fiction and the middle grade fantasy about a daughter whose mom writes magical---really magical---books. And, of course, about a month after The Peasant Queen is released I'm pretty sure I'm going to get requests about the sequel (first draft still sitting on my computer, for the last 6 months).

I haven't set out to be a famous author. I'd love to have the gift of being able to supplement our household income writing so I can concentrate on my family better, but that's still a ways off. Problem is, I have had several inspirations lately that hint of a specific plan the Lord has for me when it comes to my career as a writer. It will be interesting to see how those things play out.

And then maybe I'll write a memoir. :)

Monday, July 6, 2009

I've opened the vein...

There's a quote by a famous author that goes something like "Writing is easy. Just sit down at the typewriter and open a vein."

I poured a lot of myself into my first novel, due out this summer/fall. But that was over a long period of time. Last November, I gave in to a persistent thought and wrote 50k words I thought I would never share. They're too personal, too private, too painful. But then I thought I could publish it under a pen name. It's a good story with a lot of heart and soul. And I'm being as objective as possible here.

Then my husband read it.

The more I think about this story that should never see the light of day, I realize the only problem I have with it is a fear of hurting someone I love dearly. There are elements of this fiction novel that are drawn from real life. And it's pretty thinly veiled, so I don't want to run the risk of this person reading too much into the story.

But recently I have been assaulted with incredibly strong impressions about this story. The topic is so timely. It's something that affects so many people, and it's all about the power of forgiveness and the love of family. I'm getting teary right now thinking about it.

The story needs some work. Right now it's mostly a fictionalized version of real events, rather than fiction influenced by real events. I have to change some elements, but the very thought of re-opening that vein makes me tear up again. But I know, just as surely as I know my name, that I have to get this story published soon. And I'm not going to be able to use a pen name; I know that too.

So, the vein will be opened and I will bleed through my "pen" until the revisions are done. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The eternal battle--writing vs. sleep

The last few nights I've been plagued, for lack of a better term, by revisions to one of my stories. I relax into my pillow and close my eyes, and my little brain goes absolutely bonkers. By itself, this wouldn't bother me. But I have a job. I have to work. And I have to get up at 4:20 AM.

The best part about these revisions is they even seem good in the light of day, so it's not idle busywork my brain is doing. But it does make it impossible to get any sleep, which has the unfortunate side effect of making me grouchy.

I love to write. It invades my dreams, my waking thoughts and my activities. But I'm also a working mom with a really crazy schedule. I've tried working this out. Get up early, take the baby, put her to bed, stay awake and write in the quiet of the morning. Or sacrifice sleep, work late into the night and get a couple hours' sleep in the early morning before the day really starts.

So far none of my great ideas are working. But I haven't given up.

Monday, June 22, 2009

That's enough, Gregory!

Why is it, of all my characters, it's the bad guy talking in my head day and night? Be quiet, Gregory. My hubby is back to working weekends, and Saturday night I went to sleep after reading a great book and dreamed, YES, dreamed about my characters. See, months ago when I came up with a fabulous twist for the end of my book my villain must have thought he had come out on top. But when my readers get their romantic ending at last, he felt cheated. (let's leave the why's and how's a character feels anything to my therapist, shall we?) Stop it, Gregory.

Anyway, after I completed my draft I started hearing very regularly from my bad guy. And he was ticked. I finally promised him his own "happy ending" so he'd leave me alone. Well, apparently, I took too long.

I've written 10,000 words in 2 days. Sunday I woke up and he was screaming in my ear. But I had church, including a primary lesson, then kids and family and all that fun stuff. But he didn't stop. So I stayed up too late last night to write, finally giving up when I started falling asleep in my chair.

I'm doing it again tonight, except this time I'm wrapping the story up. And I'm sensing the silence! I know it's coming.

Give it a rest, already! You got the girl; you got everything you wanted. I even gave you a quiet death surrounded by your wife and four children! And all that stuff you griped about happening won't happen until you're already dead, so SHUT UP GREGORY!!!

It's an awful lot of angst to put a writer through for a piece that no one else will ever read.

Monday, June 15, 2009

And now for a post on writing...

I have always loved spelling. Several dictionaries populate my house. Each of my sons has one and I have, well, at least three. I have a thesaurus as thick as my Webster's Dictionary and, occasionally, I've been spotted flipping through the dictionary for fun. Let's face it; I love words. I mean, really, really love them.

It seriously causes almost physical pain when I'm reading a book or a website and come across typos. Fragment sentences I can handle, but those pesky misspellings or incorrect apostrophe uses really make me nuts. I am that nerd who reads the news feed across the bottom of the screen and gets annoyed each time the misspelled word repeats--but at least I haven't called them on it, yet.

I was the annoying friend in school who would point out mistakes in the notes you passed me in class, or correct them and hand them back to you. It's amazing I had friends, really.

With this blessing (or curse), what else could I do but become a writer? Combine the love of words with the very persistent voices in my head and it was either write or have myself committed--though at times I considered the latter.

The constant butchering of the American language (I don't say English because we aren't "across the pond" so to speak) pains me. Swear and curse words are not only vulgar but show a lack of schooling or intelligence--like you haven't learned enough or aren't smart enough to think of another word. There's hundreds of ways of saying something. Some dialects that have sprung up in recent decades are like purposely talking as though you are uneducated. I'm not perfect, I didn't graduate college, but I do remember my high school language classes.

So I write. When I create a name or a place, I add the word to my word processor's dictionary so it doesn't get underlined in red. (Though it drives me crazy that comcast's dictionary hates contractions) I enjoy what I do. And I think I do it pretty well.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Getting back on track

If you've been reading, then you've noticed my blogs of late haven't had much to do with writing. I'm going to rectify that, but first I wanted to drop a short blog that again has nothing to do with writing--unless you count that even authors have to eat.

In decades past, sit down restaurants were places families or couples went to have a nice meal they didn't have to cook. Then came the fast food craze, where pre-prepared and packaged food was sold for convenience--you could get a fast meal for your hungry family without having to cook: the best of both worlds. Consumers got tired of the lukewarm, unappetizing food that sat for hours under heat lamps, and fast food chains listened. They offered fresh, have it your way, cooked when you order it food and consumers gobbled it up. (if you debate this, go for a nice walk and look at waistlines)

I recently went to a "sit down" restaurant with my youngest daughter, killing time while my husband was at a clinic in SLC. I was floored to read their advertisement of "ready before you even order it" food, and the paradox hit me. Seriously, now we go to fast food restaurants for made to order food and sit down restaurants for pre-made food? When did this happen? I'm so confused.

In fact, I'm so confused I'm going to make dinner at home for a while. It's easier on the budget anyway.

Monday, June 8, 2009

To Princess or Not to Princess

So I'm perusing the web as I do when I should be doing something else--this time sleeping--and I come across this article on The Root: "Enough With the Princesses!
Forget about whether the new Disney princess is black or white. The problem is with princesses. Period." * By: Monique Fields (http://www.theroot.com/views/enough-princesses?gt1=38002) And, sorry, but I have to laugh.

I skimmed the comments other readers made regarding the article, and there's really nothing new I can add there. But, raising two daughters of my own I can relate. Between the ages of 2 and 4, Kylie owned no pants or shorts. None. No kidding. She had skorts, dresses, tights and pretty shoes. I went for the skorts because I had a girlie-girl, but not a particularly modest one. She'd hang upside down no matter what she wore, and since I encourage my kids to be active I wasn't about to chase after her insisting she pull down her skirt. We have a rule in the house and that's strictly a "show no panty" rule. As long as she's covered she can be as upside down as she wants.

Back to the princess thing. There's no thing. Honestly. I've been a girl (some would stay I still AM a girl), I had friends that were girls and I'm raising girls. No matter the level of their obsession with the "ooh, sparkly", they outgrow it. Reality and real life creep in to their mentality, even though there are some realities we'd rather they not have to deal with--those show up anyway. Rianne didn't hit the princess thing quite as hard as Kylie but, at 5, it already shows signs of fading.

Recently we took the kids to see "UP" and saw the preview for "The Princess and the Frog." (I'm actually not nearly as excited for that movie as I am to see what they do with "Rapunzel" next year. Rapunzel is my very, very favorite princess and one of my favorite fairy tales. I've been waiting for literally decades for Disney to tackle that one--even at times considering suggesting it to them myself.) As we left the movie theater, I asked Kylie if she was excited to see the next princess movie. She said yes with enthusiasm. Currently, by the way, her future profession of choice is either a singing ballerina (imagine that on stage) or a veterinarian.

I used to think exactly the same way as the author of the article. Princesses were weak, always needing to be saved, and I wanted my girls to do the saving themselves. Be independent. Be strong. Be brave. I looked with concern more than once over my daughter's head as she oohed and aahed over the next sparkly to enter her vision. But I got over myself. And, in a way, princesses helped me. Even though Mulan isn't technically a princess, she's right up there on all the posters next to Jasmine and Aurora. And she saved China! Twice! Not bad. Jasmine questioned the laws, took risks and got what she wanted. And she didn't rush to the altar with Aladdin either. They took their time and got married when they were ready. Belle dreamed of more than the simple life and "sacrificed" herself for her beloved father. Pocahontas, an actual princess since her father was the chief, and risked everything to save a stranger (I'm going with the movie here, don't attack me for historical inaccuracy).

Yeah, Snow White bugs me. She's such a sap and way too nice. I think doormat when I see her. Aurora I love, but mostly because she's spunky in the forest scene and I adore Prince Phillip and his horse. Cinderella is another one who dreamed of a better life--and there's nothing wrong with dreams. I'd be very worried if my girls or my boys had no dreams, hopes for the future. Because the best laid plans started out as dreams.

And everything has to start somewhere.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

When Hearts Conjoin--the story of the Herrin Twins

Please check out my review:

I'm not a news watcher. I find it depressing to hear about the horrors humanity does to one another across the globe. That being said, I didn't follow Kendra and Maliyah's story as it unfolded. But I've have had to be in a coma not to know what was going on, and I count myself among the thousands who prayed for these little girls and their family during that time.

Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed When Hearts Conjoin. Their mother, Erin, gives an at times unflinching view into her life and her family. She admits her mistakes, shows us her moments of weakness, and in all proves that she's human. She's not a superwoman who experienced a manageable crisis--she's just like all the rest of us mothers who have to make decisions for our children and hope for the best.

I can't begin to compare the experience I had with one of my twins having surgery at 10 months with what the Herrin family experienced, but because of what I went through I could empathize with how Erin felt at times. I know what it feels like to hand your dying child (or children) to a team of surgeons and relinquish that control, hoping and praying for the best. If you haven't experienced that, there's no way to describe it.

LuAnn Staheli is an excellent author and she did a fantastic job working with Erin on this book. It's an excellent read and I recommend it to anyone, though I do caution you to have a box of tissues handy. I gave it 4 of 5 stars.

You can click on the link below to read other reviews on Goodreads:

When Hearts Conjoin


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Another Author Adventure

Sometimes I think every author should go in one a year to have their head examined. While I still maintain writing is an acceptable form or outlet for insanity, it still amazes me that we voluntarily put ourselves through such torture.

I went to New York for the very first time this past weekend to attend the Book Expo (BEA). Honestly, I don't know what was more amazing--the city experience or the Expo. New York, Manhattan specifically, is incredible. It has its own energy. The people really are just like anywhere else; I'm not sure now why I expected anything different. The lights and sounds were a bit much at times and I don't really understand why drivers use their horns at all--everyone ignores them. I will not take a taxi unless it cannot be avoided and I wouldn't recommend a free shuttle bus. The driver thought she was in the Indy 500, whipping through the streets like nobody's business.

The Expo thrilled me just as much, though not for the same reasons. I loved talking to fellow authors, marketing specialists, publisher reps and all the rest. We exchanged cards and book stories and I got to meet some of my favorite authors like Brandon Mull and Shannon Hale. Brandon seriously cracks me up--he's that funny. And Shannon is just as pretty and sweet as you'd expect her to be from her picture.

I'm going back. Next year I'll repeat this experience, though hopefully with an agent or publisher of my own. But right now I'm going to concentrate on getting a national agent and on the first printing of my book.

After I go save the crying baby, that is. :)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Being an Author is SO cool!

I just had the most awesome day speaking at the Grantsville Jr High Author Day. Just thought I'd type a quick blog about it before my kids start really begging for dinner.

First off, I showed up and they had assigned each author a student guide for the day. I got Shelby who, aside from being totally adorable, also happens to be efficient, competent and fun to talk to. We all had lunch and then gathered in the lunch room for the main part before separating into our classes.

I kind of danced all over my topic, trying to stay on a time line but really jumping all over, but did manage to eek out at least 25 min of talking about myself and my writing during my two sessions. But I got to meet some great kids. Seeing as it's a Friday afternoon near the end of May at a Jr High, I kind of expected a group more ready for summer than sitting and listening to someone they'd never heard of.

But over all the kids were awesome. I got good feedback and a lot of them signed up for my newsletter so I can tell them when The Peasant Queen comes out. I'm really excited to share this with them because some of them said they'd like to be authors too.

I do regret not being able to talk more to one particular girl. She came up on my right side as we were doing signings and said she wanted to be an author too, but someone distracted me and she said that we could talk later and then disappeared before I could grab her. (If you're reading this, get on my website and email me please! I want to talk to you!)

Overall, these kids represented their school beautifully. Everyone was so gracious. This is an experience I'd definitely repeat!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Personal Accountability in a Blameless Society

I’m not sure how it happened, but over time the term “victim” has become some kind of badge of honor. “Victim” is not an empowering word. Think about it. Becoming the victim of something automatically makes me feel like I’ve taken a step down in life, like I’m somehow less now than before.
There are incidents in my past that I don’t often discuss. An extended member of a family I once babysat for grabbed and kissed me inappropriately. (To be clear, there is no appropriate way to grab and/or kiss the family babysitter) He never got near enough to touch me again, but I never told the family. I became convinced, due to things they said, that I would not be believed. As the only person who knew of the incident, I told myself I had to stay to protect the children. That wasn’t my job. I should have spoken up and let the chips fall where they may, not matter how embarrassed or ashamed I felt.
Thirteen years ago, while working at the movie theater near my home, I was robbed at gunpoint. Note that I don’t say I was the victim of a robbery. I truly hate that term. But as this person walked up to my window I had no idea the encounter would alter my life. When he pulled out the gun and the niceties ended, I switched into “automatic” mode. I somehow detached myself and simply did as he instructed. Only after it was all over did I allow myself to fall apart.
It’s amazing how, in a crisis, your mind seems able to scale Everest or go around the world. By this I mean that my brain leapt from one thought to another in the few seconds it took to register the gun. Newly married, I’d had some interesting symptoms that conflicted with the negative pregnancy tests and my first thought was what if I actually was pregnant? His gun pointed directly at my abdomen. What if I survived but my baby died? What if he shot me anyway? What would my husband do?
As it happened, I didn’t get pregnant until a couple months later and the man didn’t shoot me. But he did take something from me, personally—and I’m not talking about the corporately insured money out of the till. I registered the loss immediately; though identifying what I’d lost took a little more time. In that single act, a stranger took my sense of security. Suddenly nowhere was safe. And though I’ve worked through this for the most part, I still fall asleep every night going over exit strategies in my mind. Where are the kids in relation to me? What are the best escape routes in case of intruder or fire?
In all fairness, I had a pretty loose hold on my sense of security anyway. I grew up in a somewhat unstable environment. I knew what a person’s eyes looked like when they meant what they said, as the gunman’s did that day. And I knew that getting carried way with love for your family was no excuse for mauling the babysitter.
But here’s where society and I part ways. It has been pointed out to me that, given my background, no one would have thought it amiss if I’d taken the “victim” route and lived my life as though I had no responsibility for my actions because I’d been hurt growing up. People do this. Defense attorneys build cases with this concept—that somehow a person is not responsible for their actions because they had a rough life.
News flash: a person is not the sum of what happened to them, but instead a person is defined by how they reacted to what happened in their life. No one can always choose what happens to them, but everyone has the ability to determine how they will let it affect them. I don’t often talk about being robbed at gunpoint because, aside from it being difficult to work into a conversation, it feels ridiculous. It happened almost thirteen years ago—get over it already!
I’m not saying it’s easy. There’s a lot of work and pain that goes along with working through the tragedies that can happen in our lives. But this is how we grow. Picture a baby. A baby does not hang out on his back all his life. He has an inner drive to roll over, to kick, to wave his arms—to move. And once he masters rolling over, he scoots, then crawls, then pulls up to things and then walks. So I ask the world: Where is your drive to pull up? Where is your drive to walk?
There’s living, and there’s surviving. A person going through the motions every day, letting life bat them around—that’s a survivor. They’re barely getting by until they die. A person who takes the wheel, makes mistakes, changes course, moves forward—that person is living. Their life will be what they make of it.
Recently I submitted a book manuscript to a professional editor. One complaint she made that stuck in my mind was that my main character seemed passive; she just let things come to her or happen around or to her without making things happen. And I realized two things: one, that she was right. And two: that I’d written the character that way because I was living that way.
It’s easy to fall back into the survivor, or victim, mentalities. Life’s hard and sometimes you just want a break. The problem there is that if you aren’t moving forward you aren’t standing still either. You start to slide backward the second you stop taking those forward steps. We revert to what is familiar, comfortable, even if it’s wrong or bad for us.
So I stopped sliding. I rewrote my character and myself. Now my character takes action, and sometimes it gets her into even more trouble. I probably will too, but at least I’m doing something. Next week I’m going to New York and I’m going to own it. This is my time. I’m going to (figuratively) spray paint my name across Times Square and let everyone look at it. Honestly, I don’t know when the excitement to fear ratio shifted. I’m probably going to say or do something stupid, or foolish, but that’s not going to stop me. I know who I am: I am not the mere sum of my parts. I am who I have chosen to be.
So, who are you?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dinner time

As a mother of 5 young children, I've pretty much heard every, and I mean EVERY excuse in the book when a child doesn't want to eat their dinner. Now I have another one to add to the list.

Rianne, who is 5, was the last one at the table and likely had about a dozen other things she figured she'd rather be doing. Children who never know the gnawing of true hunger develop a well founded belief that the food will always be there, so they aren't worried about walking away. I'm not finding fault in this; it's simply an observation.

At any rate, Rianne looks at me with her large, round gray eyes and says, "Mommy I'm full."

Because I'm not an idiot, I don't take that at face value. I look at her three or four bites and say, "You can finish that. It's not much."

She's at the arguing stage and says, "But, it will make my knee hurt if I eat it!"

Kudos to moms who can think on their feet. After a brief hesitation, I say, "It will, huh?" (real zinger, I know)

This goes on for a bit because I have not accepted the fact that logic and children simply don't mix. I'm stubborn that way. But eventually she eats those last few bites and goes on with life.

So I've got to know--What's the best excuse your child or children ever gave for not eating or finishing their food?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

If you ever...

If you ever get a chance to lay in the dark with your 5 yr old while she tells you a ghost story--seriously--DO IT!!

Last night, my girls and I had a slumber party while the male-folk (I hesitate to say menfolk since my sons are 11, 10 and 10) were on a father-son camp out. After pizza, popcorn, soda, chocolate and movies, we settled into our mattresses and turned out the lights. Kylie thought we should tell ghost stories. She started. The details fade but I can say she's imaginative. Then Rianne, newly minted 5 yr old Rianne, took her turn. Up to this point, she's been the one to have stories told to her, or she reads from a book. This is the first one to come from her imagination. (It's an intimidating, spacious place) She started out in this soft, spooky voice and told her story with a lot of "and then"'s and "and the scary part was..."

It took all I had not to laugh out loud. Talk about incredibly adorable and totally hilarious all at once. It was great. Then the girls wanted to hear a story from me. So I fed them this one:

Once upon a time there was a huge house at the end of a long, dark street. The house rose 3 stories in the air and blocked the sunlight from the houses around it. In this dark, spooky house "lived" a family of ghosts. One dark, stormy night the family of ghosts gathered around the dining room table to eat their dinner. And then, they went to bed WITHOUT DESSERT!!

I opted for silly, rather than scary. It's the mom in me. I could have scared their socks off, but then I'd be the one sleeping with all the lights on. No thank you!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

When I stop to think about it, I know some really incredible moms. I couldn't let the day go by without thanking them for their place in my life and also sharing my love for them.
First, of course, to my own mom. She managed to keep all five of us kids alive as a single mom and instill some values in our lives. Even my inactive brothers have a working moral compass.
To my "other mother," and by this one I mean the lady who looked at that gangly, lost-eyed four or five year old girl and opened her heart. Almost two full decades later, even though our families never connected through marriage, they're just as much a part of my life as I'm a part of theirs.
To my mom-in-law, who accepted me completely despite some rather shady family drama. I'll never forget meeting her for the first time as an adult while dating her son and the first thing she did was wrap her arms around me and give me a huge hug. I've never felt so completely accepted. No wonder I married into the family!
And to all the rest of you, who love your children and let it show in everything you do--whether you're an author, an educator, a businesswoman or whatever--I appreciate your example more than words can express. Thank you for being moms!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Moms, writing and working

There are only 24 hours in a day. God did it on purpose and no matter how hard we try we can't cram 26 hours of things to do in a 24 hr day. Come on, Moms, you all know you do that.

I know I do. There's so much to get to every day that somehow something gets left behind. Between family, work and writing I simply run out of day. I know I'm not perfect. My family doesn't always get the best of me, but I try and I think I'm improving. After all, that's what life is about. If you don't know where you need improvement you might be working on the wrong thing.

I love my day care kids. I have the day care so I can help support the family and still be here for my kids when they need me. But it's my job, not my career. Writing is my career.

For me, writing is breathing. I sometimes struggle to do both and yet I can't give up either. Breathing is a struggle because of my asthma and allergies and that fun stuff. Writing is a struggle because, mostly, I run out of time. Work has to happen--the money has to come in. The family doesn't let itself be ignored, which is good since it has to be a priority. And yet so much of who I am is wrapped up in the writing I don't have time to do.

I become an incredibly irritable and crabby person when I don't write regularly. The outlet is vital to my being an emotionally contributing member of this family. It should be prioritized. It's important. It's that one thing that fills the spaces in my heart not already taken up with the people I love.

This year I sewed my daughters' Easter dresses. I really have a problem with the available spring fashions in Utah. Nearly every dress sold for little girls is sleeveless or short sleeved and, HELLO!--it's sometimes 50 degrees on Easter around here! So you buy your little girl a beautiful dress and then have to cover it up with a sweater, jacket or coat. Forget it. My daughter wore Easter dresses with long sleeves.

The dresses turned out amazing. Better than I would have thought I could do. I approach sewing in much the same way I approach writing. I see it in my head first and then work to make it look like what I saw. This will include piecing together parts from different patterns to make what I want or making it up as I go. Both sewing and writing are formulaic. Certain things have to fit together in order for it to work. Unfortunately I can never repeat a sewing creation. But that's also true of my writing. Nothing is ever exactly the same.

The experience gave me the confidence to say I would make Kylie's baptism dress this year. We could even use my Temple wedding dress. It will be beautiful. Don't get me wrong. With $60 to spare I'd drive to Orem and buy her the one I've been eyeballing for months. But money's tight. These days, that's almost a universally accepted condition.

So much to do, so little time. What am I doing here?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Those darn fortune cookies are at it again!

My mom brought me Chinese food for lunch today. Nice mom, huh? At the end I opened my chosen fortune cookie. This is a thing I do whenever I have Chinese. I eat and then at the end pop open my cookie, read and munch. (authors, seriously, they'll read ANYTHING) What did I read, do you ask? And I quote, "Fame is in your future."

Big deal, you say. It's a cookie. It's not a message from the Almighty. You KNOW how to get those. Take a breath and get over yourself. Ok, ok. But this is not an isolated message.

In the last two and a half years, my fortune cookies have gotten eerily specific:

"Remember three months from this date. Good things are in store for you." "Good news from afar may bring you a welcome visitor" "Fame and Fortune lie ahead" "This is a prosperous time of life for you" "You will enjoy good health and financial independence" "Executive ability is in your makeup"

And now fame is apparently in my future. Silly cookies.

Mother's Day

I've got to get cards out today. :) The only ones I really worry about are my mom in law and sis in laws' cards. My mom lives next door. If I can't get her card and gift to her in time then I'm caught in some kind of time warp.

(Real quick, I sat down to do this post and my 5 yr old pulled two fingerprinting strips out of the ID card she got at preschool yesterday and proceeded to cover herself and the day care baby in ink. So I'm back now)

I love being a mom and I understand how important it is to get that recognition and appreciation from your family for all the things you do for them day to day. But, guys, I hate Mother's Day. I kinda feel the same way about it as I feel about Valentine's Day. It's like suddenly there's this expectation that, on this specific day, you're supposed to get gifts and adoration, etc. It feels forced and I don't like it. Although I love doing things and getting things for people I hate days that focus on me. Like my birthday. My husband asked me a few days ago what he'd get to do for me for Mother's Day and I'm like "Look, we just spent $900 on the NY trip for BEA at the end of May. Can we just call that my gift?" See? I'm really, really bad at this. The really scary things is I used to be worse.

This week I went to the store and got the things I wanted for my breakfast in bed Sunday. My kids love doing that for me and I can't take that away from them. That and it lessens the chance that I'll get something delightfully inedible for breakfast in bed. :)

I just thought of two more Mother's Day cards I need to get out. I have 2 nieces who are mommys for the first time and I want to help make that special for them.

I used to be bad about Father's Day too, but for a very different reason. My dad died when I was 7 so I tended to dwell a little on Father's Day. I've worked through that and now we have a really good time doing fun stuff for my husband and his dad on their day. But for a good 20 years I dreaded June like none other.

I know some moms who love Mother's Day and keep track of how many cards they get and from whom. I'm just not that way. It's one more thing I have to work through and someday I'll get there. I hope. But I do sincerely wish all moms out there a very Happy Mother's Day. :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Writing the next great novel

Isn't that what we all dream to do? I mean, of course, us authors. But how do you do that when you can't even squeeze in time to write every day?

Ok, I've been in kind of a funk today. I was essentially fine during day care hours but when evening hit I kinda really, really wanted to be alone. Yeah, right. 5 kids and a husband all vying for my attention. Dinner. Laundry. Reading. Writing. And my mom came over. The minutes ticked by. Suddenly it's 9PM, I have to get up at 4AM to do it all over again and I find myself wondering where did the day go?

Maybe it was just that everyone seemed especially helpless today. You know how it goes. "Honey/Mommy/Hey you, where's the Ward list/paper towels/front door?" I've been working more this year on my writing than ever and sometimes it's just not in harmony with the household needs.

Right now I'd just like to shut everything down and go to bed. I tell myself I'll get up at 4 and have time to write and read in the peaceful morning. But you know what? I'll curl up on the couch with a warm blanket and sleep until my second alarm goes off and it's time to get the kids off to school. :)

Monday, May 4, 2009

If you're going to fall, fall UP

It's a good thing authors don't write with their feet. Although, on that note, I picked up some stationary recently that was made by the "Foot and Mouth Artists", those very talented individuals who have to create but don't have the use of their hands to do so. They draw and paint incredible pieces of art with their mouth or feet. I'm pretty sure, if I had to, I would find some way to type or write with my feet. But I digress.

I got to sleep in Sunday morning. It's probably the one benefit of having a 3PM-6PM church schedule. And I really mean the ONE benefit. Primary really has it bad. The kids under 5 want to nap and everyone is really hungry for dinner by the time church lets out. But I got to sleep in until ten. I get up early Mon-Fri and the last several Saturdays I've had something going on so Sunday is all I have.

When the whisper gets around my house that Mommy is awake five pairs of ears perk right up. I cuddled with three of my kids before even getting out of bed. The other two were doing dishes. But we had allergy medicine to distribute and daily vitamins so I got out of bed and prepared to go upstairs to take care of that.

I hate being tall. I know, everyone out there under 5'5" hates being short and they'd exchange tall for short any day. But really, sometimes being tall is a pain. Case in point: pajama pant legs hit my shins like long capris. (Capri pants look like knee shorts but we're talking about my pajamas at the moment) I lifted my left foot to place it on the first stair and it got caught in my right pant leg. My momentum was already propelling me forward only now I had no leg to land on. Images of bruised and battered knees flashed through my head as I struggled to get my foot out before I fell onto the stairs. And I did, with such force I ended up kicking the front of the second stair with my left toes. Hard.

My second toe, because of the angle, ended up taking the brunt of the impact rather than my big toe. I hobbled up the rest of the stairs with my oldest son asking if I was okay and of course me telling him I was. I took care of the meds and everything and got my breakfast and most of the pain faded but I started to notice when I walked the tip of the toe felt weird. It hurt a little to walk on, but if I kept my weight off the toes when I walked it was fine.

The day went on. I got ready for church, put on my nice, long black skirt and my high heels (smart, huh?) and we went to church. I noticed the more I walked the more my toe hurt, the stranger it felt. I figured I'd bruised it pretty good. When we got home I took a look at it. No obvious swelling but some slight discoloration. Bryan helped me tape the injured toe to the middle toe and we had dinner and went to bed.

At some point I woke in the night because my toe hurt like crazy. I ripped off the bandage and went back to sleep. This morning I re-taped the toe because it hurt more when I got up and also because the tip of it looks swollen and a little purple.

So, I either badly bruised my toe or I broke the bone in the tip of the toe. Either way nothing can be done for it except taping it to the other toe and hoping it will heal straight. I called the dr's office this morning to confirm that and basically we concluded that if it doesn't seem to get better in the next couple of weeks then I may have to go in and have him look at it. Right now it's an inconvenience--I keep having to remind myself to walk without limping and it's amazing how fast your brain forgets what "normal" walking feels like. Seriously, walking is something we do without thinking about it so when you think about it you almost can never do it the way you usually do. The human brain is a strange little thing.

Fortunately I just picked up a really cute pair of sandals on Friday (I really love shoes) and so I can bandage my toes without having to then shove them into a pair of shoes. I just hope it feels better before I go to New York at the end of the month. I do not want to have to take a cab from the hotel to the convention center just because my toe hurts too much to walk the relatively short distance.

But the experience on the stairs brought home a point for me that I hadn't really applied to myself. If you're going to fall, fall UP. If you're already on an upward path when you fall then you really don't fall as far. If you're body is already going down, say I had been on the top step when I got my foot caught in my pant leg, you're going to end up hurting more. It's kind of a life lesson--are you on an upward path in your life? Are you reaching for your goals and following the Spirit? Because on the staircase of life you are either moving up or down; there is no such thing as setting up camp on a single stair and hanging out there for a while.

Incidentally I've also learned to be more careful in my selection of pajama pants. :)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Revelations

My Father in Heaven trusts me. I mean, really trusts me. And it's a little intimidating. I'm so glad I'm not out here doing this alone. It's also very humbling. I received a very meaningful and powerful blessing yesterday that has life altering ramifications. I'm so grateful He has been patient with me. More to come, I'm sure.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Learning as an author

No matter where you are as an author--beginner, novice or published pro--there's always something we can learn. That's why we have writer's conferences. They aren't just for the beginner to learn all they can. We can all benefit by humbling ourselves and realizing we don't know all there is to know about being an author.

I was reminded of that this past Saturday at the LDStorymaker's conference. And I learned a ton, not just about the business of writing but also about my own writing and myself. :) Along with a couple of entertaining panels I also sat in on two classes. One was taught by Heather Moore of Precision Editing (also HB Moore, published author). Heather walked us through her process as an author, really invaluable stuff, and also gave us some insight on the status of publishing in today's economic market. One thing she mentioned that really stuck out to me was how shy and introverted she is (and I can totally relate lol) and how as an author she has had to step out of her comfort zone to promote her writing. This has been my biggest stumbling block. I hate talking about myself. Though I find no shame in being an author it's difficult to speak up and tell people what I do.

I mean, come on--I'm the same person who forgot my own name when introduced to a member of our stake presidency! Ok, I was 18 at the time but generally 18 yr olds know their own name! I still have those moments where somebody says something to me and my brain goes blank for a split second. Because of this throughout my life I've come across as aloof or uninterested or just a plain snob and it's still a fight for me to open my mouth. I don't think I said more than 10 words at the conference Saturday. I spoke to 3 people. 3. Sure I was soaking it all in but at the same time I need to project a little too.

The other class I sat in on was taught by Tristi Pinkston. Aside from being a generally adorable person Tristi is also talented and funny. She's very personable. And she has a blog on blogspot too. :) Tristi talked about fitting your writing into your life--how to justify it and lessen the guilt but still make your family a priority. Somehow it's harder to write when you're a mom. We have guilt for taking a little time to ourselves. Imagine the time it takes to write a novel, or two or three or more. The guilt can really pile up.

I love the things Tristi said. She made a lot of sense. For some of us writing is more than a hobby. It's more than something we can do one time or twice; take it or leave it. For some of us writing is a calling. It's something we have to do. I can no more stop writing than stop breathing--I've said that before. I tried. I put my pen down and my files of writing away more than once. But I kept being prompted to pick it up again. It's not going to wait until all my kids are in college or out of the house. There are things that have to be said now; things I have to get out of me or I will lose them.

I'm attending several writer's conferences this year. And I plan to learn and grow at each one. No matter how far we get we're always needing a push in the write direction.

So get out there, get learning and get writing!
Cheri

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Welcome!

I love being an author, and I hate being an author. That's no mystery. Writing is my passion, my dream--not to make tons of money (though it would be nice) but to express myself in the written word brings me incredible joy and peace. But at the same time the process of writing for publication is miserable. You write, you rewrite, you kill yourself over a project and submit, submit, submit!! And you are rejected, rejected, rejected!! Without a thick skin (and sometimes despite it) we authors evaluate and re-evaluate ourselves, our goals and our talent.

I've done this. I started writing at age 14. Near twenty years later I've finally given up the internal struggle to write or not to write. At times I have tried to be realistic, to be practical. Writing is not a money-maker--very few authors get rich doing it. No, fewer than that. It's time consuming. It takes away from family and work. I need to stop goofing off and grow up, find a career, go to school, etc. It's been a rough twenty years.

But ultimately I can't stop writing, and about three years ago I realized why. Writing is a part of me. It's in my soul and from my soul. I can no more stop writing than stop breathing. When I don't write my behavior changes. I become cranky, moody and short tempered. I'm generally unhappy and unfulfilled, despite my wonderful marriage and fabulous children. Writing is something I have to do, not just for myself but to be the best "me" I can be for my family.

That of course doesn't mean writing magically became easy. I still struggle like crazy for time to write and I still hate the process of trying to be published. But I suppose that will never change. Even when it gets easier, in theory, it will never be easy. But I have to do it. I WANT to do it. And in my own way I love to do it.