Monday, February 27, 2012

On Your Marks

February is winding down and I'm getting excited about the release of The Heirs of Southbridge.  I still don't have an exact date, but it is projected for early March.  I do have one signing set up.  It will be at the Valley Fair Mall Deseret Book on March 31, 6-8 for Ladies Night.  In the mean time the February Wish List Contest is almost at an end.  Wednesday, the 29th, is the last day for entries, so get those comments coming.

I'm going to make some changes in the contest over the next few months.  I'm planning to highlight specific books and give readers an opportunity to win those books.  I welcome suggestions for changes in the contest.

Winners of the February contest will be announced Thursday.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Under Construction

If any of you wander over to my web page, you'll find it's under construction.  My web master determined that to improve it, she needed to strip it back to the basics and start all over on the core frame. The important thing is you can read the first chapter of Heirs of Southbridge there.  Just click on either my picture or the cover of my new book on the sidebar and you'll get my web page.  There's a link on that page to the first chapter of the Heirs of Southbridge.  It's available for advance orders too at most stores that sell LDS books.

Today is one of those holidays that doesn't get much attention.  It's a day to honor past presidents of the United States.  Kids don't even get out of school in most school districts for this day.  I'll be the first to admit there are some presidents that don't deserve much honor sent their way, but most did their best, and some were exceptional men and leaders.  We should, at the very least, fly a flag.

In a time when most people don't have much confidence in our present president and the GOP is waffling around to find an acceptable alternative, maybe it isn't the candidates we should be looking at, but ourselves. We live in a day when polls carry far too much weight and too many people leave it up to the media to decide who to vote for.  We'd rather be entertained than try to grasp an understanding of serious issues. Both major parties have been hi-jacked by extremists and the average citizen places more weight on watching mindless reality shows than shuffling off to a caucus. I'm not sure our American electorate should rank any higher than Congress with its miserable 10% approval rating. Perhaps instead of drifting along with the loudest viewpoints we should give some thought to what this country really means to us and what we need to do to keep it growing and becoming better.
Possibly we need to strip a lot of fluff away, rediscover the basic consitutional frame, and build something more attractive on it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Much of writing fiction is about conveying feelings or emotions. The desire to feel something is shared by readers. If how a character feels and responds to the events surrounding him or her is phony, the story doesn't resonate well with the reader. Neither does the reader like to feel manipulated by calculated tear-jerker events. When the writer touches a reader emotionally, and when the reader feels what the book's characters feel, a bond is established and the story becomes a success. Creating realistic feelings is one of writing's greatest challenges. In this area the writer draws heavily from two sources; first from his or her own experiences and second from careful observation of the emotions of others.

Careful writers learn to distinguish between their own real responses to both good and bad situations and the feelings they think should be the response. They also learn that other factors may determine how intense the response might be. For the writer to be in touch with his/her own feelings or reactions to certain situations is not enough. The writer also needs to observe how someone else, particularly those with similar characteristics to the character involved, will react. This is where observation becomes an essential part of writing.

Writers who have never experienced an intense love relationship may substitute sex for love because it's easier to describe physical reactions than emotional ones. Happiness is often watered down or confused with possession or winning for those who don't understand it. Anger is easier to describe because few people get through life without experiencing some anger. Hate is something else as it goes far beyond anger to something dark and dangerous. Fear is another feeling that is experienced to some degree by most people and often is the emotion that carries the excitement that keeps a reader turning pages. Sadness, loneliness, arrogance, compassion, etc. all need to be portrayed in a believable manner that fits the character and touches a response in the reader. I'm not sure what that says about human nature that it is often easier to honestly portray the negative emotions than the positive.

Lately, myself and many others, have grown annoyed or angry over the profusion of hateful political messages and lies spread on face book, by telephone, by mean-spirited PACs, through radio and TV, and through telephone calls from so-called organizing committees and polls. This anger and our reactions to these things are entirely different from the anger we feel at someone who steals our identity, murders a child, or injures a loved one. It's important to remember when writing about anger to suit the reaction to the situation and the character.

It can be helpful to observe how other writers show emotion, but the best guide is a good look at ourselves and the observation of others. When we see a two-year-old have a complete meltdown we can learn a great deal, but it is important to remember that adult or teenage meltdowns may have some of the same elements as that of the two-year-old, but age generally comes into play in how this total frustration is expressed.

Very often it isn't the big dramatic reactions that teach us the most about feelings. Sometimes it's the tottering old man helping his equally aged wife from a car, it's the impatient customer tapping her fingernails against the glass counter, it's the man who checks his pockets then kicks the parking meter, or it's the little boy who asks Mom if Madeline can come to his birthday party. It's the outpouring of relief for tsunami victims, the need to hold our own children safe when two little boys are senselessly murdered by their father, or the laughter when the Globetrotters come to town.

Imagination is an important element of fiction, but feelings or emotions are too much an integral part of us for us to buy into a story where the emotions involved don't feel real. If the writer doesn't feel it, neither will the reader. If the reader's feelings are not engaged in a way that he or she can identify with, the story won't succeed. A successful writer must forge a bond of empathy with the reader through the emotional responses of a book's characters.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Almosta Blog

I sat down to blog tonight and nothing happened.  A blank page just kept staring back at me.  I checked a few other blogs; no ideas sprang to mind.  Next came Facebook, zero again.  I read a few news stories; some stirred strong feelings, but still no blog ideas. 

It's not like nothing has been happening lately.  I was shocked and saddened by the murder of Susan Powell's little boys.  There's plenty I could say, but it's been said by others and I don't use that kind of language.  Just thinking about Josh Powell and his creepy father makes my blood boil and I really don't want to go into that tonight. 

I talked about politics last week so I'll refrain from saying anything more along that line.  That's another area where I have plenty of strong opinions, but I'll leave it at that for now except for one thing; if you're not registered to vote, get registered.  If you or family members are in the Service, on missions, or away from home, request absentee ballots.  

I could blog about my new book, Heirs of Southbridge, but I already did that and right now I'm playing a waiting game for the printed copies to appear and the e-reader copy to appear on Amazon.  Did I mention it will be released early in March and it is now available for pre-order at several bookstores?  I'll get the first chapter up on my web site and linked here to see if I can tempt readers in the very near future.  There's also an ego satisfying waiting list at several libraries. In the meantime I'm busy with the rewrite for the book after this one--no title yet--and not even a hint when it will be released, but I do have an acceptance for it. 

There are two weddings and half a dozen birthdays coming up in my family over the next few weeks.  I'll probably have plenty to say about some of those events, hopefully a few pictures too, at a later date. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm tired; my knees hurt, it's late, and I don't have anything to say that's more important than sleep.  Good night all.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Exciting News

I was notified this morning that I am a finalist for the Mystery/Suspense category of the Whitney Awards for If I Should Die.  Five finalists were selected in this category.  The other four authors are writers I respect and admire; Gregg Luke, Stephanie Black, Traci Hunter Abramson, and Anne Perry. Of course I'd love to win, but these writers are friends of mine and I can't help wanting them to win too.  Whether I win or not, it will be so much fun to see them at the awards dinner in May. 

There are seven category or genre awards given to LDS authors by the Whitney Academy each year plus an award for the overall Best Novel of the Year and another for the Best Novel by a New author.  For a complete list of the thirty-five nominees for these awards, go to the Whitney Web Page.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Winners of the January Wish List contest are Runaway Bridal Planner and MarthaE.  Congratulations to both of you.  To collect your prize, please send me a list of at least five (more is better) LDS novels on your wish list and I will send one from your list to you.  In addition to your list, I will need your mailing address.  Send your list and address to bhansen22 at msn dot com and include the words Wish List in the subject line.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I try not to inflict my political views on my readers often so bear with me while I say a few things about the present political circus in the good old USA.  Most Americans aren't happy with the current situation in Washington.  Some want change, any kind of change, just so they don't have to think too much about it. Others want to throw everything and everyone out whether good, bad, or indifferent.  Some just want to be on the winning side, right or wrong.  Some are tired of PACs controlled by unions, fringe groups, big businesses, extremist groups, etc., having more say than the candidates or voters. Am I wrong to believe there are good, concerned people who want to see our country's economic condition improve, who don't care about a candidate's race or religion, who want to see intelligent, morally decent, loyal Americans in public office? 

Once, back in college, I was asked to serve as a debate judge for a junior college debate tournament.  I listened carefully, took notes, and made my decision based on who I thought was right.  Afterward I learned I did it all wrong.  I was supposed to pick the winner according to who made the most dramatic presentation, who zinged his opponent the most times, and who had a rebuttal for the most statements made by his opponent whether the rebuttal was right or even made sense. With the plethora of GOP debates on every channel and discussed on every forum, I feel like I've gone back in time.  Only these debates are even more weird; often the moderator seems to be one of the debaters and his purpose seems to be jabbing the candidates.  In my lifetime debates have become a major component of the candidate selection process, but I haven't noticed that the good debaters have been particularly good presidents. The one thing these debates have convinced me of is that debates are a poor way to pick a candidate for a post as important as President of the United States.  

I spent some time as a newspaper reporter and I'll admit it's more fun to write about kooks, oddballs, rule breakers, and quirky or outrageous people than calm, peaceful, hard-working individuals. Face it, they're more fun to read about too, but are these "interesting characters" who we really want to be our leaders and hold the power of a US President? Reporters learn, mostly through experience, that people who yell the loudest for a cause often have secrets and exposing secrets is a major triumph in journalistic circles. A good journalist should go after the story behind the story, cross check facts, and dig a little deeper than the average person.  But here I'm seeing a failure of honest, even-handed reporting, especially by the networks.  I'm getting awfully tired of little stacked panels and interview questions that reveal more about the interviewer's bias than about the candidate's character and platform.  

To be honest, I don't like caucuses.  I don't like the disproportionate amount of power placed in so few hands.  I know anyone can attend a caucus, but in reality they're poorly advertised and the general population fails to see their importance since they don't really vote for candidates and they're held so far ahead of elections most people aren't really interested yet.  Which brings up another peeve of mine; the campaign process starts way too early.  While most people are focusing on Christmas, we're supposed to be considering candidates?  States who hold January and February caucuses and elections receive disproportionate attention and higher value is placed on choices made there than in the rest of the country.  I understand that candidates can't give every state the attention they presently give to the first handful of states, but it would certainly be more fair to hold regional elections giving the total electorate a chance to thin out the candidates rather than using the flawed and biased present system. 

I've always wondered what kind of ego trip compels a person to be a third party candidate or to stay in the race long after it  has become obvious that person has become a joke or the laughingstock of the country.  Usually these people simply become spoilers, securing just enough votes to cripple a major candidate and ensuring the election of a possibly major, but inferior candidate. I wonder too about the people who vote for an extremist candidate who has no chance of winning.  Too often their allegiance to what they consider a principle results in the election of the person the most distant from their supposed principles. 

I've been active in politics all of my adult life.  I vote.  I attend caucuses.  I've been a delegate (state and county).  I've held party offices.  I've worked on campaigns.  I've been a legislative page. I even won an election myself to a town council. Still, the things that bothers me the most about our political process is the number of people who don't care, the number who are uninformed, the ones with short memories concerning a candidate's past poor choices, biased and bigoted voters, and the number of voters who value freedom so little they vote on a whim or not at all.