Friday, January 27, 2012


Would you like a peek at my new book?  I finally have a cover for Heirs of Southbridge.  What do you think?  I don't have the first chapter posted yet, but it always starts to feel real once I see the cover.  Some bookstores are accepting advance orders and though it isn't available yet, it will be on Kindle.  And speaking of Kindle, all but a couple of my books are now available for Kindle e-readers and the last couple soon will be. 

Heirs of Southbridge is an historical/romance that takes place in the last half of the nineteenth century.  It takes place beginning in Alabama, travels west, then returns to the South.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 13, 2012

LDS Fiction--Good, Bad, or Ho Hum

It's been a while since I last blogged.  Even though I got my flu shot last September, I came down with a rip roaring case of the flu last week, then I've been reading Whitney nominees. (I have two and a half books to go!) There are twenty-five entries in the category I've been asked to read and they haven't been as much fun as in other years.  Only about twenty percent merit consideration for any kind of award.  Far too many are unedited or sloppily edited and the writers, many of whom show great potential, need to study the elements of story-telling.  A lesson in proof reading and word usage wouldn't hurt either for some. 

Some of the things I've found annoying in this year's crop of nominees are crude or dirty language, absurd and far too many comparisons using like or as, unlikable protagonists, shoddy research, an assumption the reader is too stupid to read between the lines of what really goes on when two people without religious convictions share a living space, stupid, unrealistic heroines, weird unpronounceable names, turning relationships into game playing, poor word choices ("turn on the sink" Really?), boring middles where nothing happens, and unappealing, tedious beginnings. 

Okay, that's enough complaining about the poor entries.  It's the half dozen or so at the top that keep me from throwing up my hands and saying, "I quit."  The authors of these books renew my faith in LDS fiction.  They're clever, they touch the heart, they understand creating a fiction arc, they make it almost impossible for a reader to set down their books.  Their characters are so real the reader feels he/she has a new friend.  Some made me laugh, some impressed me with their use of words, a couple brought a tear or two, and at the conclusion of each I was glad I had the experience of reading that particular book. 

Overall, I'd say there are some truly talented authors in today's LDS fiction market.  There is also a large number of potentially great authors if they'll take the time to study their craft and improve their skills.  I'm well aware writers and critics look carefully at each other's writing and we help each other a lot by pointing out flaws and weaknesses as well as applauding a job well done.  The Whitney Awards were designed to showcase LDS writers, who in the eyes of their contemporaries, have written something exceptional. To some extent writers learn if they're doing something right when they get their royalty checks, but readers might be surprised how much writers appreciate feedback from readers in the form of letters, emails, and blog comments. 

As a Whitney judge, I don't think it would be ethical to list my favorite LDS novels, but I challenge readers of this blog to list in the comment trail which novels you found the most memorable in 2011.  It would be interesting, too, to share the things that annoy you about LDS fiction and which things you like most.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Christmas Wish List Winners

The winners are leah and Sara.  Congratulations.  Please send me a list of at least five LDS novels on your wish list and your mailing address.

Happy New Year!  I'll blog and announce the next contest in the next couple of days.