Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Okay, that title is a little dramatic, but I just wanted to let everyone know the August Wish List Contest ends tonight at midnight or when I get up in the morning and stagger my way to the computer.  I'll be gone most of the day, so it will be evening by the time I get the winners announced. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

On the subject of reviews

As many of my readers know, I write a weekly review column for Meridian Magazine.  Some time ago I extended my Wish List contest to include comments made about my reviews on the magazine's web site.  Today I'm going a step farther and including a link to today's review right here.  All you have to do to read my review is position your clicker over the word's highlighted and click.

Reviews can be a great resource for deciding where to spend book dollars. Paying $24.99 for a book then discovering it's boring or disgusting is a painful experience.  Some people never bother to read reviews and that's okay.  Some would like to read reviews if they felt they could trust the reviewer.  The blogosphere is clogged with reviews these days by friends of authors who agree to post sales pitch reviews for their friends' books.  That's okay too as long as you know the source of the review and understand the purpose behind the review.  There are also independent reviewers who choose which books to review and make an honest attempt to be impartial; some are very good too.  There are also print newspaper and magazine reviews.  Most of these reviewers are very good, though some have become a bit jaded and negative.  A new trend in some newspapers is to print amateur reviews of varying degrees of quality and often are no better than "friend's reviews".

I make no pretense of being the best reviewer around, but I've been at it for a long time and there are a few things I can promise my readers.  At Meridian I only review books intended for an adult LDS audience.  Occasionally I will review one that crosses the line between adult and teen interests.  I don't review books that are offensive in language or content. I read and consider both print and electronic formats.  And I'm honest.  Sometimes I hurt people's feelings, though never intentionally.  My goal is to let readers know just enough about a book to make an informed decision before they buy it, and to generally let readers know which new books are now available.  I don't review every book sent to me, but I read them all--unless they're so awful I can ony get through the first fifty pages.  I try to choose books to review that are fresh, well written, and have interesting characters and plots. I welcome comments from readers who let me know what they're looking for in a review.  So that's your cue.  What do you want to see in a review?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Stay in Your Lane

I feel lucky to be alive; I drove to Provo and back Tuesday. That strip of freeway between Salt Lake and Provo is not for the faint of heart.  It's confusing, but there are signs that say STAY IN YOUR LANE.  I wasn't too sure what the signs were trying to tell me, but I stayed in the lane I was in, although it took me through narrow canyons of walls and trucks, around odd curves, and over a lot of bumps.  There were far too many vehicles going much too fast and a huge truck taking up two lanes.  However, I survived by stubbornly staying in my lane.

Perhaps I'm getting a bit philosophical, but it seems to me, becoming a writer is a lot like that freeway.  There's all that white knuckle slogging through learning how to write which includes a lot of reading, research, practice writing, attending conferences, finishing and submitting a manuscript or multiple manuscripts, rejection letters, and rewriting.  It's scary, intimidating, and can easily discourage a would-be writer.  But then there's a welcome stretch when the work is accepted and it looks like smooth road ahead.  Ha!  Then begins the editing, rewriting, reading and rereading searching for the tiniest errors, making appearances, being interviewed, booksignings, and reviews.  Before there's time to catch your breath, it's time to do it all over again.

At BYU Education week a couple of people stopped by my table to tell me all about the great book they're going to write "someday."  This scenario happens over and over at book signings.  I love talking to people who are seriously working at becoming writers, the ones who are slogging through the early stages, but stubbornly moving forward.  It's the "someday" ones who make me wince.  These are the ones who have never committed a word to paper, the ones who think writing is so easy they can dash of a book anytime they get around to it, the ones who think they'll become great writers when they "find time."  One of those at this signing commented, "I don't read.  I don't have to be a reader to write a good book."  All I can say to these people is "Stay in your lane.  If you didn't pick a lane that leads to the destination you want, there's little chance you're going to get there."

There were a few drivers who wove from lane to lane, exceeded the speed limit, and made the trip more treacherous than it needed to be.  Life is like that.  There are spoilers who cause problems for themselves and others.  Writers meet their share of spoilers too; "friends" and "family" who attempt to discourage.  They laugh and ridicule.  They refuse to respect time set aside for writing.  They dish out guilt for not making more money or failing to do something else that is more important in their estimation.  They deliver patronizing, what-a-fun-little-hobby, comments and put downs.  It's not easy sticking to your goal or staying in your lane when those around you are speeding, cutting in, and failing to take your determination seriously. 

To be successful at anything, including writing, commitment is necessary. Getting published may take many years.  Some writers seem to have overnight success, but this perception is usually wrong.  The lane they picked only took a different route with its own bumps and obstacles. No one becomes a doctor, a concert pianist, or even a good parent without sticking to their determination to reach that goal and doing the work needed to get them there.  Writing is no different.  Talent is only the beginning; hard work, perseverance, and  stubbornly sticking to the chosen lane is the way to success.

Stay in your lane.  Deal with the distractions without childish anger or seeking shortcuts and you'll be the one collecting royalty checks instead of the one sitting beside the road with a highway patrolman handing you a "double fine in work zone" ticket.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


When our children were small and we had very little money, we only took two kinds of vacations.  We spent a week with my family in another state and we spent part of a week tent camping in the abundant camping spots near our home.  Our children still plan a summer camping trip each year and go to the same places we took them as children.  Now they're introducing their children to those places and the joys and hardships of tent camping.

Many things have changed at those camp sites. One spot now has flush toilets and rangers who patrol the area.  Trails are marked better.  Where we encountered only a handful of other campers, now the camp sites number over a hundred and most are filled, many with fancy camp trailers, and instead of hiking and wading in the creek, the children race their bikes up and down paved roads.

Much has stayed the same.  No one cares how dirty the kids get.  Food tastes better cooked over a campfire.  Squirrels and chipmunks still scavenge for dropped crumbs. Melted marshmallows smashed between two graham crackers and a chocolate bar are pure ambrosia. There's something fascinating and mysterious about a tent, though sometimes the tent isn't quite so thrilling when night comes and with it bedtime.  There's time to talk and laugh together without the distraction of television.  Unfortunately there are now telephones.

Getting everything together for a camping trip and cleaning up afterward often make young parents wonder if the experience is worth it. In the end though our children must think it is because they treasure the memories from their childhood camping trips enough to want to give their children equally warm and enduring memories.

A few pictures from last week's camping expedition:

And a few from those long ago camping trips:

Thursday, August 4, 2011


My office is a cluttered mess.  The rest of my house is just fine; it's just my office. I'm basically a neat, orderly person, but somehow my office gets out of hand at times.  It's the catch-all for things I mean to look at later or my husband doesn't know where else to put.  On my walls are a poster of one of my early books, an award with a framed copy of The Bracelet, a painting of one of my book covers, four framed certificates, a picture of the Oquirrh Mountain Temple, drawings by four of my grandchildren, a small framed picture with the names of a previous Primary class surrounding the Savior, a painting of a horse by one of my daughters, and half a dozen family photographs.  Oh, and a calendar with big squares to write in and kittens to make a grandson, who is crazy about kittens, happy when he visits me.
My desk is worse.  Along with a stack of envelopes that need to be filed, a box of tissue, and the DSL modem, there's an accumulation of mementos from friends and readers such as a decorated rock, a sugar Easter egg, a purple stemmed goblet from a Mystery Dinner, a handmade ceramic pitcher, a plush goose, a paperweight style award, and a heart-shaped box.  That's just the top.  The so-called writing surface holds my monitor, keyboard, telephone, rolodex, pens, pencils, piles of paper, a couple of small files, notebooks, a bottle of lotion, and one of my sets of scriptures. That's also where the bare bones of my work in progress resides. 
I'll spare you the details of three floor to ceiling bookcases, a printer, a paper cutter, four file cabinets, two plastic bins and all the accumulated boxes, office equipment, and sundry items that adorn or occupy space under an eight feet long table.  On one shelf of the bookcase is my stack of "to read" books.  At least I try to keep the piles neat.
I already said I'm basically a neat, orderly person so every once in awhile, but not often enough, I tear the whole room apart, go through every paper, clean every file, shred, discard, clean, and reorganize.  No matter how much I itch to do a thorough cleaning while writing, I don't.  Most of the time I vacuum, dust what I can, and keep the piles neat.  A thorough cleaning only happens between books.
My writing style is a lot like my office or my office is the way it is because of my writing style.  I research before and during without throwing anything out.  I never know what I might need.  Sometimes I outline; sometimes I don't. I write notes to myself.  I create lists of names and characteristics.  I utilize two notebooks, a file folder, post-its, and several notepads. I jot down ideas. I make quick scene outlines.  Sometimes I print out a few pages for fast reference when I'm writing a follow up scene.  Add to that my notes for reviews in progress.
Once I think the story is in pretty good shape, I send it off to my beta readers.  I don't throw anything away.  When I get the readers' feedback, I plunge back into the story, fixing this, fixing that, and discover ideas have been circulating in my head while waiting that need to be incorporated into the story or used to strengthen a point.  When I'm satisfied I've done the best I can do, I send it to my editor.  I still don't clean up or discard anything. 
After varying lengths of time, if and when I get an acceptance, the rewrites begin and I refer to my notes and scribbles.  I'm glad I didn't throw anything away. I add exchanges with my editor, print outs of various stages , etc. to my files and clutter.
At last the book is off to the printer and out of my hands.  Do I clean up all the clutter at last?  Not really.  I scoop it all into a file to sort through later.  You see, I started another book while waiting for word from my beta readers; added to it while waiting for a yes or no from my editor, and I have a whole new pile of clutter.
*The August Wish List contest is on!  I'm not setting a specific theme this month, so just comment on any of my August blogs here or on the V-Formation or my Meridian reviews.

Monday, August 1, 2011

July Wish List Winners

My computer isn't behaving well this morning.  It might be the new operating system and it might be the huge rainstorm outside.  Anyway it's time to announce the winners of the July Wish List contest.  They are the Taylorfamily83316 and An Ordinary Mom.  Congratulations!  Please contact me by Saturday, August 6th.  Please send me your mailing address (US Postal) and a list of five or more LDS novels (more is better) you would like to have and I will select one from your list to send to you.  Be sure to include "July Wish List" in your subject line.