Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Aftermath

Now that we are on the other side of Christmas, I'm anxious to re-focus on my writing. At my last signing of the year, I sat down and ironed out on paper the remaining plot holes in THE TYRANT KING. Earlier this month, I was able to plot out the entire story of THE LOST PRINCESS. And, now that I have people literally clamoring for my next book, I'd better get moving.

My husband has a network of amazingly supportive friends where he works, most of whom have purchased at least one copy of my book. Last week, he shared a bit of a short story with them that I'd written for my mom forever ago. And his friend immediately asked when THAT story was being published.

I told him he has to stop talking about my stories. He asked why. I said, with my current schedule, there's no way I can keep up with his mouth! :)

The biggest challenge of plotting out my trilogy has been deciding who lives and who dies. Really, only a handful of characters have proven untouchable. But I also don't want to kill characters off for the sake of killing them. There has to be a purpose, or reason, for their death that makes sense from the plot perspective. And I'm kind of worried, because there are a couple of characters I deeply love who might meet their end in THE TYRANT KING. I wasn't expecting that.

There's very little death in THE PEASANT QUEEN. I mean, most of the important deaths occur before the book starts. Only two characters die in the book, and they are the bad guys. But, in THE TYRANT KING, the villain is much more ruthless, and much more deadly--arbitrarily--than in THE PEASANT QUEEN.

But, in THE LOST PRINCESS, there isn't a murderous enemy. Most of the conflict comes from internal character issues, though there is a little bit of a power struggle the characters involved are not murderous. They feel justified that they are on the side of the right, so they don't feel they should have to resort to murder. But, it's not realistic for the events that happen to transpire without costing at least one life. And, it's a big death, a meaningful one. I'm still struggling with it. All the primary characters will feel it--they will all react.

I remember JK Rowling saying once, on this topic, that she'd tried to kill Mr Weasley several times, but he kept surviving. But the Weasley family couldn't be untouched by the events, as close as they were to them, so it did cost. When I look at killing off characters, I play out the events and then wonder what the cost would be. In one instance, a character poisons someone so he can escape, but logically, as he reaches the stable to get his horse to steal out of the castle, someone is there. Someone who would raise the alarm. Someone who, if injured, would die before help would arrive the next morning.

It's amazing how much logic and reason have to go into a fantasy novel. :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

But This Is

"Jesus Child"

The star shone high and bright,
in the sky above our heads.
We tried to tend our flocks,
but followed it instead.
How far it led us, we know not.
Nor do we really care.
For we'd have trod a thousand steps
to see who we saw there.
He was so small, this Son of God,
an infant child who lay
in a manger, with Mother dear
on a bed of hay.
His eyes, so bright, just like the star
that shone in Heaven above,
looked on us with approval
as we gazed at him in awe.
Others came, but we were first
this sweet child here to see.
And we knew then, deep in our hearts
our Savior he would be.

December 19, 1994

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

This is No Christmas Story

Somehow, I managed to get through high school, though I will tell you I spent the majority of my senior year on the homebound program, where a teacher visited me twice a week and left me with homework. Incidentally, if you're in my graduating class, that's where I was. I didn't drop out, I didn't have a baby. I actually graduated the same time you did. But, due to some rumors and lack of follow through, I'm not in the yearbook. Just so you know.

Shortly after graduation, we moved from the 3 bd house we were renting to a 2 bd apt. When I was 19, I applied for and got a job at a local movie theater. Free movies. Oh, yeah. I loved it.

But I promised to tell you about one of the days I almost died. So here it is. By the time I was 20, I'd been working at the theater for almost 2 years (I was a month shy of 21) and I was married to Bryan. We'd recently started trying to have a baby. I was majorly burned out working at the movie theater and had put in my 2 weeks' notice.

One Friday afternoon, as I was sitting in the box office alone selling tickets, a man walked up to the window. HI, I said.

Hi, he said.

Then he pulled the gun out of his pocket, and pointed it through the opening in the window where money and tickets pass through.

He calmly asked for all the money. I looked into his eyes. Dead calm. Intent.

I picked up the entire cash tray out of the drawer and slid it toward him. He pulled the meager amount out and stuffed it into his pocket.

Then he told me to sit on the floor and count to ten. In any other circumstance, I'd have laughed at the suggestion. But, a gun pointed at your chest is an amazing equalizer.

I got to about three before logic told me he wasn't waiting around to test my counting skills. I peeked over the counter and he was gone. So I grabbed my radio to call my supervisor upstairs.

"Michelle," I said. "We've just been robbed."

"What?" Disbelief.

I started to crack. "I've been robbed."

"I'll be right there."

That's when I started to cry.

In the moments that followed, some of the things management was grateful for was the fact that they had just done a cash drop, so what was in the drawer was less than $100. Take that, slimeball. The other thing they were happy about was that I was the one in the box office. I was the one it happened to, not one of the kids who worked there.

That's rather a backward compliment, don't you think?

I pulled myself together long enough to talk to the police and give a detailed description of the man. Think George from Seinfeld, with a few differences. Bryan was driving trucks back then, so he couldn't rush to my side to comfort me. My mom came and took me home, and stayed with me until Bryan got home.

In the days that followed, I did return to my job and work the box office the last week. I hated being home alone. And I got angry. Really, really angry at this man, because he stole something from me far more valuable than the money he got.

He took my sense of security, my feeling of safety.

The jerk.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Little More History

I've posted about all the exciting things, contests, books etc, during the last few weeks, and gotten a bit distracted from my writing history.

If you'll recall, the last tidbits I shared were in story form. Basically, I shared real events that happened to me in ways that were easier to talk about. Now I'm going to share with you how those experiences, and others, helped me write my book.

We all know that we're supposed to "write about what we know." Okay, well, I wrote a romantic fantasy novel. I don't know much about the setting and what might happen in an alternate world--never been there--but I do know something about captivity, real and figurative. I do know what it feels to be put in the role of "victim" and how I react to it.

Recently, I attended a signing where author Jessica Day George spoke about this very thing. Her books focus heavily on relationships because that's something she knows. So, while she has this fantasy setting for her novels, the characters resonate with the reader because she pours what she knows into them.

That's what I hoped to do. In my book, THE PEASANT QUEEN, Krystal is put in a position in her family where she is given an impossible choice: marry the village idiot or run away. I faced different circumstances, but a similar choice. Krystal is taken prisoner by an evil king. Okay, my captivity was more emotional than physical, and he wasn't a king, but I felt trapped just the same. And I did NOT like it, very much like Krystal.

At one point in the novel, Krystal is fighting of the unwanted advances of an older man. Been there. At another, she has genuine fear for her life. Been there, too.

Most of us don't know how it feels to look possible death in the face and the things that race through your mind in those moments. When we're granted the reprieve of continued life, we reflect on what we would have left behind.

All of this is very real for me. All of this is what I know, and what I hope to pour into my novels.

Next week I'll tell you about that day I almost died. At least one of them.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

MY GIFT TO YOU by Lori Nawyn

From the back of the book:

Trish Ingram works hard to maintain the perfect suburban household—or, at least, the appearance of one. By managing her outer world with lavish attention and rigid control, she’s able to ignore and conceal the darkness of her inner world, which is plagued by traumatic childhood memories of loss. Her terminally ill sister-in-law, Jamie, sees through the façade and reaches out in love to Trish, inspiring her to seek a more meaningful life and a more authentic self. But the childhood scars run deep, and despite Trish’s best efforts, she’s unable to be the wife and mother her family needs.

Devastated by the departure of her husband and daughter, Trish faces the challenge and opportunity of a lifetime. She desires to move forward in faith, but this desire alone cannot mend her family's shattered trust. The hollow realm of denial and fear has been her safe haven. To confront pain and transcend the shadows of her past will require a level of courage she’s not sure she possesses. This gripping story of familial love and conflict tenderly reminds us that forgiveness—of self, and others—is both a difficult choice and a precious gift.

Why I wrote the book:

“My Gift to You” is about forgiving ourselves, despite what we perceive as our shortcomings.
When we judge ourselves as less than acceptable for any reason, small mistakes can cripple us with discouragement. It becomes easy to lose sight of our potential, as well as precious opportunities for growth.

I was an only child with ample time to ponder the intricacies of human behavior. At a young age, I became fascinated by the fact that while several people in my life were happy, upbeat, and in possession of inner peace in most if not all circumstances, some seemed inherently unhappy no matter what happened—good or bad. Money and possessions didn’t seem to have a bearing, and I wondered what did.

Though I’d been baptized when I was eight, my family didn’t attend church. If I wanted to go, I had to attend on my own. It took me a while to grasp gospel concepts, and I found that most of the time I was among those who were unhappy. About twenty years ago I decided to stop asking Why me? and instead start asking What if?

One by one, I replaced negative emotions with those of a positive nature. Instead of wondering why I couldn't make everyone around me happy—and becoming despondent because nothing I did seemed to change them or their opinions—I started asking things like, "What if happiness really is a choice? What if it can be my choice, no matter what anyone else thinks or feels?"

Instead of commiserating over why my extended family couldn't accept me for who I was and what I believed in, I asked myself, "What if I could choose my own thoughts and emotions based on what I know in my heart is right and true?" In short, "What if I accept myself for who I am?"

And, "What if I forgive—knowing that forgiveness doesn't mean acceptance?"
When I began writing “My Gift to You,” I decided I wanted my main character, Trish, to discover something important about herself: I wanted her to discover her own inner strengths and worth—much like I had when I began to unravel my own life.

Some of the things I hope the book will lead the reader to consider:

What does charity mean? Why is it important we extend it to ourselves?

What can happen when we base our worth on what the world values? On what should we base our worth?

Why are women so hard on themselves? What defines true success?

What can result when we judge ourselves to be less than others? Why is important we have a clear sense of self and purpose?

Are cruelty and shallowness signs of strength, or weakness? Why can cruelty be the result of fear?


Lori Nawyn's award-winning writing has appeared in regional and national publications including Outside Bozeman, Segullah, Deseret News, CraziBeautiful Women, and Latter-Day Woman. She is also a columnist for her local paper and a former member of Utah Press Women. One of her short stories was published in the anthology Stolen Christmas. Her first novel, My Gift to You, was released in October 2010.

Lori is currently writing her next novel, Day, about a mother’s relationship with her son. She works as a freelance artist and is the illustrator of the award-winning children's picture book What Are You Thinking? which was released in July 2010 by ThoughtsAlive Publishing. She and her fireman husband live in northern Utah where they enjoy spending time with their four children and two granddaughters, plus an assortment of dogs, rabbits, and chickens.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My review: PERILOUS by Tamara Heiner

Review Disclaimer: Sometimes a book I review has been sent to me for free by a publisher or an author. This in no way effects my review, which is my own opinion about whether the book was a good read for me, fit my tastes, and if I would recommend it to others. Other than possibly a free book, I am not compensated in any way for posting a review.

I use “wow” too much, but how do you describe a book that just leaves you reeling?

Tamara Heiner’s book, Perilous, is a thrill ride of danger and adventure. I sat down to skim it one evening after the kids were in bed, and ended up reading into the wee hours.



Action packed. And it all started with a bad coincidence. I'm afraid by explaining too much I'll be giving something away.

You’re going to love it. And, like me, be waiting anxiously for the next installment.

For fun, here is the information on the contests Tamara has running for this blog tour (in her own words):

Book giveaway: The winner of this contest will be randomly chosen. Every
person who comments on any post during the blog tour will be entered into
a random drawing for a book. Which I can autograph, if they want. The
contest begins on Nov. 16 and ends on Dec. 15.

Kindle giveaway: This contest is point-based and begins Oct. 15 and ends
Dec. 15. Whoever has the most points wins the Kindle. There will only be
one Kindle given away. Here are the points:
1 point: blog comment (can comment on all the blogs, multiple times, on
the tour)
1 point: follow my blog (http://tamarahartheiner.blogspot.com)
1 point: retweet
2 points: blog about the blog tour
5 points: purchase the book (ebook or paperback, must email me the
confirmation email) if they actually buy the book in the store they can
mail me a copy of the receipt.
Have them add up all their points as well as their proof (links, etc) and
email it to me at the end of the blog tour (tamara at tamarahartheiner dot
People can earn an infinite number of points! I'm excited for this!

To get you going, check out the trailer HERE

And, you'll have to read Perilous to understand, but I'm really scared for Kristin.