Status: Drafting the fourth book in the PERILOUS series!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Review: A Future for Tomorrow by Haley Hatch Freeman

Blog contests are great. I love them. I won another book through the monthly blog contest at LDS Publisher (all you have to do leave a comment and you get entered into the contest). This time I won A Future for Tomorrow, by Haley Hatch Freeman.

I'll be honest, I was suspicious of this book. It's non-fiction, and immediately that made me think, 'Dry, documentary-type.' Also, the subject is Haley's battle and victory over anorexia. I had the opinion that this topic has been over-written, over-dramatized, and over-done. I've read a number of books on the subject and doubted that Haley's book had anything new or important to add.

I was wrong. Haley's book, written in the first person, is as tense and dramatic as a thriller novel. And though the information she gave might not have been new, she portrayed it in an engaging, personal, and interesting way. In fact, the journey she took as a young girl into an eating disorder and how she clawed her way out of that pit will have you biting your nails, wondering how on earth this will work out. (I mean, you know it's going to, since she survived enough to write the book. Though that would be an interesting plot twist.)

The only thing I really didn't understand was why she had the first part of the book in backwards chronological order. She explained it in the preface, that she wanted to reader to see the depravity of the situation and view all of the decisions that led to it. But I found it disconcerting. I loved the narrative of part one, but couldn't wait for it to end so I could read the events in the order they occurred. Maybe it was just me. Go figure.

All in all, it was a great book. I recommend it for all, even if you think you know everything about surviving from an eating disorder. And kudos to Haley. It took a lot of guts and courage to come forth and bare her soul like that, open for judgment and ridicule alike.

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 23,561
actual: 23,581 (+2,020)
tomorrow's goal: 25,581

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Happy Meeting Day!

On this day, five years ago, I met my husband. Our marriage has been hard. We've had more than our share of downs. But as I spoke to him on the phone today, and reminded him of the importance of this day, I was also reminded of how much I love him. In spite of it all, I love him a heck of a lot more than I did five years ago!

Here's an account from our wedding album:

Tamara's version:
Mark and I met at ward prayer. I walked into the house where the ward (BYU 107th) was assembled. I saw this guy sitting in a chair against the wall, talking to some people. When I looked at him, he looked at me, and we made eye contact. I thought he was cute but didn't think much else of it. But at ward prayer, he and his apartment introduced themselves. His roommates mentioned he likes to run and teased him about his build and pretended like they wanted to take his shirt off. He seemed embarrassed,which I thought was endearing.

Then he proceeded to tell a story. What impressed me was how animated he was, and I remember thinking he seemed enthusiastic. But still I wouldn't have done anything--except as I was walking out, some people in front of me stopped to talk, which meant I had to slow down. The result was that I happened to be right next to Mark for a few minutes. He turned and started talking to me. I asked if he was a BYU student,and he said he'd just transferred from the University of Montana, to which I said, "Oh, the U of M?" and he said, "Yeah! You know it?" And I laughed and said no.

Then he asked if he could give me a ride home and I said, "No, I live close by and I like to walk." So he said, "Can I walk you home?" I said sure. As we walked I mentioned that I'd served a mission, and at my house he looked at my mission pictures. He seemed impressed by me and when he stood up he said, "Can I get your phone number? I like you." And he laughed and said again, "I like you." I gave him my phone number and then he left. He came over a little while later with two chocolate chip cookies, one for me and one for my brother. He asked me to go for a ride with him but I turned him down. That is how we met and that was the first day we knew each other.

Mark's version:
I first saw Tamara from a short distance jsut before the start of sacrament meeting on August 29, 2004. On the same Sunday I was asked to give a spiritual thought for the ward prayer meeting, which is a regular practice among the BYU wards. When we arrived I was secretly hoping that I might get the chance to be seen by her when I spoke. I was happy to see her come in that night. After the meeting I asked to walk her home and she said it was alright.

Upon arriving home I learned a lot about her that I really liked. I was shocked to learn that she was a return missionary, thrilled that she was from the south (a beautiful accent) and lulled by her beauty. I wanted to spend more time with her, but I really wanted to go home and tell my roommates about how I felt. I was so excited--almost giddy! That night I decided that my plans were going to change. I had to be in a position to be around this girl. The next day I bought a cell phone and enrolled for night school and quit my day job. I could see where this relationship was going to go from here!

Well, there you have it, folks. I don't know what he was talking about southern accent wise (because I don't think I have one), but there were definitely sparks the day we met. (At least from his side--I thought he came on a little strong, but I warmed to him!) How fun. He's been a lovely acquaintance.

Gonna have to take a nap today. Really tired!

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 21,354
actual: 21,561 (+2,207)
tomorrow's goal: 23,561

Friday, August 28, 2009

Spotlight Friday

I am directly stealing this idea from Sara Eden. She's doing a "Friday Friends" or something like that in an effort to make more friends. So I decided to do the same! She didn't copyright the idea, so I don't feel bad using it. Plus she's so cute. She totally reminds me of my dear friend Abby. (Hello, Abby! No, I haven't forgotten you, I just never ever call or email. I still love you!)

Sometimes I'll spotlight authors, famous celebrities, and millionaires looking for a tax break. Other times they'll just be people like you. In fact, it might even be you!

Today I'm having some serious doubts about my sequel. I'm afraid it won't be as good as the first. The first one went through so many drafts. I just don't have the time or manpower to take that long with this one! What if I finish it and my editor laughs? Scoffs? Doesn't want it?

Silly thoughts. I have to get the first draft done. I'm sure most authors feel jittery, nervous, even uncertain. I do need to make things realistic. Did you know the FBI actually has a page on their website for artists? IE, authors and filmmakers. They have an 'info request' hotline just for us! Isn't that awesome??? It's so nice when people cooperate with you.

On another note, I think I'm being too easy with myself. I set my goal to 1,000 words a day but consistently hit at least 2,000. Sometimes, though, I start playing online because I think, "I already hit my goal for the day." So I'm bumping my goal up. 2,000 words a day. Hold me accountable, people! I'm pumped. At that rate, first draft might be done by the second week of October.

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 18,683
actual: 19,354 (+1,671)
tomorrow's goal: 21,354

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Must Write

I'm like going obsessively crazy because I can see the entire book 2 in my head. And I want to get it down on paper NOW. Like, this instant. It's driving me crazy! All I want to do is write, but unfortunately real life calls to me too.

But I think we're on chapter 5. And things are about to get crazy. I wish I could tell you what's going to happen, but per WiDo's publicist, I'd have to kill you afterward. Too bad.

On to another note. The car started today without any problems. Except the auto-down and up button on my window won't work. Weird. Oh well! Everything else looks good.

And I won a blog award! It's called the Lemonade Award, and I'm not sure the origins behind the title. Maybe I'm a sour person? With lots of sugar to try and make you feel better about my sourness? Who knows. But here it is, and now I get to give the award to ten lucky bloggers!

Thanks, Frankie, for the award!

The Lemonade Award is a feel good award that shows gratitude or a great attitude.

Here are the rules:~Put the Lemonade Award logo on your blog or post.~

Award at least 10 blogs that show great attitude or gratitude.~

Link your awardees within your post.~

Let the bloggers know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.~

Share the love and link to the person from whom you received the award.

So the ten blogs/people to whom I give the Lemonade Award are: (Click on everyone's name to go to their blog and check them out!)

5. InkMom

I realize I need to expand my circle of friends. Most of them already received this award. Congrats anyway!

For those of you wondering how I did in the Christmas Story contest, well, there's a reason I haven't said anything about it. Need I say more? Okay, I'll elucidate a bit more: I was told it was too short and not fleshed out enough. What can I say? Not good at the short story thing.

Totally random update: It's naptime for the boys (that's when I write). I heard Asher in his room kind of grunting and fussing. He did it for long enough that I decided to check on him, since often that means he's thrown his stuffed animal overboard and won't sleep without him. I open the door and there's Asher, walking around the room! HE SLEEPS IN A CRIB. Crib was still up, in one piece, but there's Asher. I know my mouth fell open and I was totally flabbergasted.

HOW DID HE GET OUT??? I'm hoping he used his magnificent climbing skills and scaled the crib using the dresser next to it. I moved the dresser. If he gets out again, I'm putting a camera in the room so I can catch him next time and send it to America's Funniest Home videos.

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 16,118
actual: 17,683 (+2,565)
tomorrow's goal: 18,683

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A New Battery and a Plan

I guess jumping the battery yesterday didn't completely revive it. It was like a zombie for a day, functioning but not really. Today, as I go to leave the house (of course--when else except when you have your children buckled into car seats and you put the key in ignition are you going to notice these things?), the car won't start. I realized at that moment that we had a bigger problem: the battery had run out of its own juice. I needed a new one, or I'd be jumping it after every stop.

Sigh. Jump car. Buy a new battery.

At least the tatooed man at the car shop was complimentary, telling me I looked like a cute little hippy fairy. He invited me to a hippy festival. Thanks, dude! (I don't look like a hippy, btw, nor even know how to act like one. But I'm wearing a long, flowing skirt today. I guess that counts.)

Next month I'm not spending any money on this car. I promise. My fingers aren't crossed.

So! Next item of business. Because I know you're all dying to find out how I plan on cleaning my kitchen, let me detail it out for you. First, I'm unloading and loading the dishwasher. Second, I'm getting everything off the counters. Third, empty the cupboards (yes, I know I changed sentence structures. No parallel structures here). Fourth, clean cupboards. Fifth, reload cupboards. Sixth, clean counters/stove. Seventh, restock counters. Eighth, sweep floor. Ninth, mop floor. Tenth, clean laundry room. Ignore the fridge.

There. It doesn't sound too hard now that I have a plan.

And an update on little Asher! He hasn't thrown up since last night!!! Let's see if we can make it all day...

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 13,953
actual: 15,118 (+2,165)
tomorrow's goal: 16,118

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Having an Anti-Domestic Day

Wow. I am totally and completely stressed out. For you to understand, I need to start at the beginning.

Remember the ants? My ant invasion? I won. I killed them. Don't ask me how, but I did it. Now, for the last five or so days, I've been finding dead bodies. Everywhere. (I see dead ants. All the time.) In my cupboards, behind my sugar jar, everywhere they were. Ahh!! So, I decided on Sunday that this week would be deep clean week.

Let me tell you something about myself. I hate cleaning. HATE IT. I used to think it was a woman's honor, pride, etc etc. to be a good housekeeper, mom, cook, everything else. I have relinquished my ego. If I had the money to hire a maid and never clean again--I would. (One more thing I'd do with my billion dollars.)

And then Sunday night Asher (the baby) started throwing up. He's done this before. (warning: lots of nauseous terminology ahead.) But usually he only throws up maybe twice a month. And it's the big throw-up, the projectile vomiting, the kind that shoots out three feet and leaves his clothing untarnished. One good thing.

Sunday he started throwing up and hasn't stopped yet. I told myself yesterday, if he's still throwing up today, I'm taking him back to the doctor (we were just there a week ago). I did manage to deep clean the living room yesterday. Poor Asher. He's not sick. No fever, no runny nose, no cough, just vomit after every bit of food.

He threw up on my bed last night. Changed the blankets. Threw up on it this morning. As I'm throwing all my blankets and sheets into the washing machine, I call to make a doctor's appointment. Then we head out to the car. I'm buckling in Jacen (my 3-year-old) and he says, "Mommy! You left it open!" I look at what he's pointing at. The mirror on my visor. And there's a light on that mirror. Stomach drop. Uh-oh.

Sure enough, I get in and the car won't start. Luckily Mark's car is in the driveway next to mine, so I pull out his keys and my jumper cables and jump the car. Twenty minutes later, we're on the road. Whew! We get stopped behind the train track, to Jacen's joy and my dismay. And then I hear it. Asher. Throwing up. In his car seat.

Wow. Not good.

I strip him before I go into the doctor's office. My car stinks. I need to wash his car seat. And the doctor doesn't know what it is. He looks and acts perfectly fine. But since Asher's growth has been a cause of concern (he's in the zero percentile. Yay Asher! No one else is ever so small!), we made an appointment with the Children's Hospital in Little Rock. For a consultation in October. Not even the actual procedure. Have I mentioned that Little Rock is four hours away????

Mark will be home by then. He can help. In the meantime, they gave Asher a prescription to help the vomiting. If it doesn't help, we have to go back, b/c the poor kid has to keep some food down over the next six weeks.

I just put the kids down for a nap. I don't know that I'll get to the kitchen today. I need some me time. That means writing. Excuse me while I scream and throw pillows around the house.

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 11,495
actual: 12,953 (+2,458)
tomorrow's goal: 13,953

Monday, August 24, 2009

Review: Abinadi by H.B. Moore

As previously mentioned, I had the fortunate luck (how's that for redundant?) of winning a copy of H.B. Moore's book, Abinadi. Set in Book of Mormon times, Abinadi explores the (fictionalized) life of the prophet for the three years before he was martyred. Moore includes wonderful gems of cultural history, including the clothing, the food, and even a wedding ceremony.

The story line itself is obviously predictable, since the fact that Abinadi dies by fire is...well, a fact. The love story is also predictable: Raquel loves Abinadi but thinks he won't like her because she's rich and not a believer, and Abinadi loves Raquel but thinks she won't like him because he's not rich and is a believer. Any questions how it will play out? Didn't think so.

Perhaps the most interesting character was Alma. I was a bit surprised at what a big part he had to play, since I thought it was Abinadi's story, but it sets up the second book, Alma, quite nicely. Alma was so multi-faceted and interesting. Raquel and Abinadi were far from flat, but they definitely weren't as dynamic. Their romantic relationship didn't feel quite genuine or real to me, until the end when they said goodbye. Moore did a good job of capturing the emotions of a husband and wife separating for a time.

The book fits the genre of historical fiction. Not a heart-stopping thriller with nail-biting page-turners, but historically fascinating and enjoyable. I look forward to Alma. I think this book will be even more satisfying.

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 10,174
actual: 10,495 (+1,321)
tomorrow's goal: 11,495

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Choosing the Right Publisher

Disclaimer: I get on this blog and post things like I'm some sort of authority on the subject. Well, you ought to know that I'm not! So feel free to comment, disagree, or tell me you think I'm a genius.

There are so many different kinds of publishers out there, and much of it depends on what you want out of your publishing company. I thought of this the other day when reading a friend's blog and she mentioned how her agent is shopping her book around.

I've often heard that getting an agent is even harder than getting published. But if you want to get published by one of the big dogs, you gotta have an agent.

That's where I decided I didn't want to get published by a 'big dog.' Or at least, I didn't want to spend three years trying. Of course I wouldn't mind if one of them decided to publish me. But I decided to go with a small press, one that still took author submissions. This path ended up working out for me.

There are other presses that are only for certain genres. Others are only certain formats. Some companies (like the former Mystic Moon Press) are primarily e-books. Others might only be POD (Print-on-Demand) or you might only be able to buy through Amazon.com and not bookstores (like Marcher Lord Press).

Here's what I wanted: a company that I could directly submit to, that would offer me a contract, that would pay for all of the printing/distribution costs and offer me royalties, that would get my book online and into bookstores, and that would represent me well. I found it, in WiDo Publishing.

So, while you are shopping for publishers, here are some questions to consider:

1) Do I require an advance? If so, how much?
2) Where do I want my book to be sold? Bookstores? Online? Independent bookstores, specialty shops? All?
3) What is my genre?
4) Who is my audience?
5) How much to I expect in royalties?
6) How many people do I want my book to be available to?
7) How much marketing am I prepared to do?
8) Do I want to work with an agent?
9) Do I consider this a 'starter' book to get me in the door, or do I expect this to be my bestseller?
10) Will I be happy with a small press or do I want a bigger name?

These are some of the questions I could think of. You might have more. But keep these things in mind while you are publisher-hunting, and you will get what you want out of the deal.

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 8,210
actual: 9,174 (+1,964)
tomorrow's goal: 10,174

Friday, August 21, 2009

If I Had a Billion Dollars

Steph's blog challenged me to write about what I'd do if I had a billion dollars. Okay, I'll bite, though it might be extremely boring. I mean, this goes way beyond the normal million dollars!

The first thing I'd do: Pay off our debts. I'd flat out buy our four properties so that all rental income would suddenly become income! As it is, the rent helps our net be -$200 instead of -$1200.

With that out of the way, I'd finance our dream house up on our mountain. With step 1, I paid for the land. Now we build. The is the Heiner house. The one with a room for all of our kids so when they come to visit with their wives and children, we can have a big reunion in our house! If I only had a million dollars, this house would take up several. But I've got a billion, so I'm still good to go!

Third, Mark and I would go on three missions for our church. I thought about four, but decided that's too much, even for me. So three! These are expensive. No biggy. I've got millions of dollars left over.

Next, we could focus on our philanthropic desires and travel the world at the same time. Two birds with one stone! We love to vacation. We also want to sponsor one family at a time, after extensive research and interviews, and give that family an education and help them get a job. The goal is to have that family become a self-sustaining, productive entity in the community, and thus raise the standard of life for all who come into contact with that family. Our dream has always been to do that for one family. With millions, we can do that for many!

Oh, and somewhere in there, Mark got to quit his day job and open a private school and a group home. That's been his dream.

I'm not sure, but I think I still have a lot of money left over. Well, probably not, because I forgot to calculate for the amount the IRS would take. That's okay! We'd be sitting pretty!

Almost forgot.

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 5,757
actual: 7,210
tomorrow's goal: 8,210

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Is it Friday Yet?

My big reason for asking is because I got a new book!!! I'm so excited to read it. We're keeping up with the weekend reading. This one is by H.B. Moore, Abinadi. I got lucky enough to win it in her weekly contest. How's that for great?? A new book and I didn't have to pay for it! (Which is great, because I took the boys out for lunch, and after chicken nuggets, chips, and churros, our bank account is one new book negative.)

One of the things that most excites me about this book is the research Moore's put into it. She's got notes about her research! Orson Scott Card, another of my favorite authors, also had notes of research at the backs of many of his books. (Ah, the wonders of Enchantment. How I loved this book.) This so impresses me. I'm not into the whole research gig. I do it because I'm like, yeah, I know, I made this up. And someone's going to notice. So I guess I'll get the truth. But that's more work! On top of the fact that I just spent three years writing and revising the thing!

Okay, so, I haven't put that much effort into a book yet. But I know it's gonna happen. And then I'll have to buckle down, put on my undergraduate shoes, and research. I know how. You don't graduate with an English degree without knowing how. But I don't like it.

Anyway. I'm not touching Heather's--I mean H.B. Moore's--book until tomorrow. If I feel like it, I'll post a review. So keep reading.

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 3,716
actual: 4,757
tomorrow's goal: 5,757

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Notes from my Editor

Just an update! My editor really liked draft #2, with the detective updates. So we moved onto draft #3. She really liked that one too! So now another editor is going to look at it. This editor wants a hard copy. I bought ink and paper and printed out the entire MS so I can mail it off.

Allie (my editor) said not to expect a reply for about a month. In the meantime, I'm to get to work on my sequel!

Okay. The hardest part for me is writing a rough draft. If I can just get that down, I can embellish it, rewrite it, cut it, perfect it in revisions. But the rough draft is hard. So I'm going to set some goals. Let's say, 1,000 words a day. That's about two pages a day. That means it should take me roughly three months to write this draft. Minus Sundays. Yikes.

I'm not stopping. The first draft may be choppy and awful. I've just got to set my mind to this. I'll post my word count at the bottom of every blog.

Sequel word count: 2,716
tomorrow's goal: 3,716

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Interview with Karen Jones Gowen

We have with us today on my blog Karen Jones Gowen, author of Uncut Diamonds, a new release from WiDo (pronounced Widow) Publishing.

Me: Karen, I really feel like I've gotten to know you over the past month. I admire you and your writing. Thank you so much for doing this interview with me and my humble blog. I don't know how you manage to do what you do with so many children! Can you tell me, how long did it take you to write Uncut Diamonds?

Karen: I started it 10 years ago when my youngest child started first grade.

Me: Ten years ago! That sounds like my book! It must feel like a huge triumph to finally see it in print. How did the story change in the editing process?

Karen: It has gone through so many changes. It originally was first person and written in a diary or journal format, with the chapters being the seasons of each year. That was back when blogging became a word, and I thought, Oh of course people will want to read this long book that sounds like a blog. Ha! It got about three rejections, then I reworked it into a novel format, third person POV, from Marcie’s viewpoint.

Me: Good for you. Sometimes it really takes courage to see the need for change in our writing! One thing I'm dealing with right now is trying to come up with a new title. Did the title change?

Karen: The original title was "Writings from the Table," and I had a vision of the cover art being this young mother with her blond ponytail sitting at the kitchen table typing away while her children played around her feet.

Me: Hm. Yeah, that would've been a good cover. So you covered most marital/financial drama in the first novel. I'm very curious about the second. Can you give us a hint about the sequel? Does it have the same characters? Any major plot twists?

Karen: It will have the same characters, although of course Marcie and Shawn have a couple new babies! Cindy and Karl have a second child about 6 months old, the same age as Marcie’s seventh, only there is something not quite right about Cindy’s baby. This becomes part of the plot of the second book.

Me: Ah. I'm so glad you chose to touch on that. Many women have to deal with a special needs child. I imagine they often feel overlooked or forgotten. It's nice when our own trials and situations are recognized. What writers/books have most influenced you?

Karen: The writers who have most influenced me are Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen, when I’m in my classical literary mode; and Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mark Twain when I’m in my get real mode. My favorite light reading is Agatha Christie and other mysteries. I grew up loving Nancy Drew and my lifelong goal at age 8 was to own every one of the Nancy Drew mysteries, which I never did.

Me: You were more advanced than me! I was stuck on Sweet Valley Twins and The Babysitter's Club. What kind of books do you enjoy reading? Obviously mystery, but what else?

Karen: Well, can you tell from Uncut Diamonds that I love relationship novels? I think it’s fascinating how people develop relationships that are lasting, and how couples find one another. I love the everyday elements of daily life, and I believe in the enduring quality of family life, how people can survive great hardship and grow stronger as a result.

Me: I feel that way too. I always think how interesting my life is. I'm sure my diary would make dreary reading, though. What about movies? Which ones do you enjoy watching over and over again?

Karen: Again, probably relationship movies, which is why I love Woody Allen films. They’re all about relationships and how people find and lose one another, with brilliant dialogue and subtle humor. And sometimes very odd and tragic twists, as in Manhattan or Interiors. I have seen Sleepless in Seattle countless times, for the same reason...funny, good dialogue, and the mystery of how these two people find each other. Same with Green Card, I’ve watched it a million times.

Me: How did you start writing?

Karen: Like most writers, I started young, knowing this is what I wanted to do with my life. My favorite card game was Authors, do you remember that one?

Me: No. LOL. I think that was before my time.

Karen: I took writing courses in college, but found the study of great books was a better path to teach me writing than classes on creative writing, for me at least. I wrote all through my adult life, sold a few stories to The Friend, and wrote copiously in my journal, but my home and family took so much of my time that I couldn’t complete any major writing projects. When my youngest started school, I thought, Okay, now it’s my time. I see so many young LDS mothers writing and publishing tons of books, and I don’t know how they do it. I don’t think I was organized enough to write much when my kids were young.

Me: I'm not organized. I neglect my diet and my house. But not my kids. [Big smile.] Do you have any other books besides these two?

Karen: Before Farm Girl, I wrote “The Gowen Family Food Book,” with recipes and a collection of everyone’s food memories, as a class assignment. We had it bound one year as a Christmas gift for the family. I don’t think it counts as a real published work!

Me: Who has been your biggest supporter? Who reads your rough drafts?

Karen: My husband has been incredibly supportive, also two of my sisters, and several of my children. They have all read numerous rough drafts and have always been very encouraging.

Me: Do you have a writing process, or do you fly by the seat of your pants?

Karen: It happens that one day I know I have something to say, that needs to be said. And before long, characters in my head are saying these things, and I have to start writing it all down. I never have much of a plot when I start writing. I think people are way more interesting than plots, so I have to force myself to plan some kind of action, or it would be a book of people talking and nothing much happening. The people always come to me before the plot.

Me: I'm like that too. All of my books start out as just day-to-day life. And then I realize (or get told by someone) that while nicely written, it's just not engaging. That's when I try to figure out some exciting thing to happen. Hard! If you could write any kind of book, with unlimited funding to travel and do all the research you need, what kind of book would it be?

Karen: I would go to Great Britain with my husband, we would live in London as our home base and tour England, Scotland, Wales, where our ancestors came from, and get to know the people, and I would write their stories. I would probably be channeling Agatha Christie and Miss Marple, so there would be some kind of mystery involved with each book. It would all be very British.

Me: I hope you get the funding to do that! It sounds like fun. What sort of legacy do you hope to leave behind with these books?

Karen: I hope to leave a literary legacy, that a Mormon woman can write exceptionally well, without sentimentality, without an agenda, just to write about people who may or may not be LDS, and to do it well. Does that sound too vain?

Me: Um. No. I think it's a great aspiration. A bit more noble than mine, which has a lot to do with money and fame. Anyway. What do you enjoy doing besides writing?

Karen: I like to read, knit, daydream, eat meals out, sometimes cook, spend time with family and friends.

Me: Do you find writing fulfilling, or is it kind of a crazy obsession that you have to do, like it or not?

Karen: I find writing very fulfilling, except for when I’m finishing a project and am in the mad phase of revising and editing, it can get crazy. Spending hours on my laptop, not answering the phone, or talking to people, or getting out, just completely involved in the environment of my story. When it’s all over, I can feel quite weird and strange, like I’m not normal. So I have to take breaks to avoid the insanity. Yes, I guess that does sound like a crazy obsession.

Me: Wow. I haven't had to go through that yet. Karen, thanks again for doing this with me! I sure enjoyed getting to know you more! For those of you who've stopped by to meet Karen, stop over at her blog (link at top) and say hello. Better yet, buy her book and support her as an author!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Drawing from Experience

One of my best friends came over on Friday night. She and her two little girls stayed the night. She's been my best friend since fourth grade. As we lay on my bed and giggled like two school girls, I thought of all the experiences we've been through. Man, we've been through it all, really. Quite a soap opera it would make.

And then it dawned on me yesterday in church, when I was about to pull my hair out because the baby wouldn't stop screaming and hitting me. I could write about us. Not call us 'us', of course, but take those experiences and give them to my characters. I got totally, totally excited for it. Ours is a very rich friendship, where we clung to each other even though we didn't necessarily agree with what the other was doing. We stood by each other.

We write about what we know, but also about what moves us. Boy, these experiences in high school moved me. They impacted the rest of my life. And I kept a diary. The kind that you write in every day.

It adds a whole dimension and depth to my characters. I know what their future has in store for them. And it's not always pretty. But we make our own paths with the choices we make. And I'm sure most everyone will be able to relate.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Character Ramblings

The relationship between my characters is changing, evolving.

My characters have a huge back story. Most of it is never revealed in the book. It has been revealed, piece by piece, in deleted scenes. The bits and pieces that do come out, I have to be careful to make sure it makes sense in context, since the rest of the back story isn't revealed.

But now with the requested changes from my editor, I'm trying to get to know my characters again. How they interact with each other. By changing one small event, such as if Katie kisses Joey (not real characters in my book, btw), I have to re-evaluate the drama between Katie and her nemesis Julia, and the closeness of Katie's friendship with Joey's sister Cara. Suddenly, the whole book changes.

The good thing about this is it opens a new world for me to explore and right about. The bad thing is, it terminates the old world.

It's affecting the sequel, too. Which is now looking three sequels instead of one. Maybe even four. I already outlined sequel #1, even have the first 30 pages written. Looks like not a lot of it applies anymore. I have so many ideas, I think I will go ahead and outline the other sequels, or at least create a thesis statement for them. (Yes, I've never gotten over the English major mentality.) It's going to change. I don't expect a lot of it to be the same by the time I get to writing these sequels.

Back to work. I'm changing POVs today.

Oh, and don't forget. On Tuesday, August 18, I've got an author's interview with Karen Jones Gowen right here. Be sure to check it out and find out more about this new author!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Rewrites and the Emergency Room

Yesterday my little one got a fever that wouldn't go away. Tylenol knocked it down a degree or two for the first twelve hours. But after that it quit working. Could be because he vomited everything up right after I stuck it in his mouth. When he started whimpering and getting lethargic, I dropped my oldest off at a neighbor's house and headed for the ER.

Four hours later, I left with an unhappy, feverless one-year-old. His fever had been high enough that they ran a bunch of tests to rule out anything serious. Blood tests, throat and nose tests. Nothing. They gave him something for the fever and sent us home.

Four hours with not even a book to read. I had a lot of thinking time. After being certain that my baby was okay, I could relax and--well, not enjoy the time in ER, but at least make good use of it. And, I'm excited.

I don't think I'm allowed to talk about the plot of my book in detail. Just peripherals. The romance that originally began and ended in this book no longer ends. In fact, it barely begins. This gives me a whole sequel to give life to the romance. I see this as being a two-book series. But I'm seeing another two-book series somewhere down the road, with the same characters, several years later. This could go on forever. The hard part will be making each novel fit the same 'thriller' genre that we're doing for this one. I don't know how many exciting adventures I can think up.

And I'm tired. Trying so hard to stay awake and work on rewrites. But I think I might sleep...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Countdown: 14: Submission and Rejection

In 8th grade, my English teacher, Ms. Ada Wax, submitted my name for a young writer's regional conference. I was accepted, and I headed off to the conference with great excitement and anticipation. (This is, by the way, the only writer's conference I've ever been to. How ironic is that?) I met several other young writers and got the address of a publishing house that specialized in publishing books written by young people.

I could hardly wait. I got home, printed out my novel, and mailed it off. I remember how nervous I was, standing in line at the post office. I wanted my mother to come in and stand by me. But she had to take my brother to a soccer game.

I can't remember how long it took to get a response. But I got one. They returned my manuscript with a nice, detailed letter from the editor. He pointed out things he didn't like and invited me to revise and resubmit. I was pumped. I spent the rest of 8th grade and the beginning of 9th grade revising. By now I had mastered typing, which made it easier. My cousins teased me over Thanksgiving because they thought I couldn't tear myself away from my video games. Goofs. I was writing. My dad sat with me on vacation and helped me dissect the novel, chapter by chapter.

I was ready. It was good now. (For then. Ha ha. Seriously, when this is all finished and my publisher says I can, I'll post the first chapter. Then and Now. So you can laugh with me.) I just knew they were going to accept it. I mailed it off, more confident this time, and sat back to wait.

I never heard anything back from them. I waited for months. Nothing. In hindsight, I should've contacted them to see if they'd ever received my manuscript. But I didn't. I got discouraged. I put the whole thing aside and forgot about it. For ten years.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Cost of Compromise

I recently had the experience of my editor advising me to cut some of my favorite scenes. A flurry of emotions followed her advice. These scenes, to me, represented the real heart of my novel. All the rest of it was fluff so I could get this story told.

And somehow, I had failed to make it come across as essential, or even important.

Failure, short and simple.

I felt completely lost. If I cut these scenes, then I no longer knew why I'd written this book. What exactly was I agreeing to? Sure, the book might be good, but would it be mine?

I felt like I'd sold my soul.

Luckily, I have a fantastic editor. I am so glad for that. I told her what I thought, and she and I--compromised. We came to an agreement. And I'm very satisfied with it, because it leaves much of the heart to be told in a later story. Which will lend more life to my sequel.

All you authors out there who read my blog--because I know there's a lot of you--have you faced similar situations? How did you deal? What was the end result? I'm so curious.

Oh, and a head's up--on August 18 I'll be interviewing Karen Jones Gowen, author of Uncut Diamonds, here on my blog. Many of you probably aren't familiar with this new author. The interview will give you a chance to meet her. And don't forget about the Christmas contest going on. Read all the entries and vote on the best one here (can't vote till August 16). I do have an entry.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Detective's Word

So, I know you all have been waiting all weekend to know how it went with the detective! Here's what happened:

Last week I emailed both the Springdale and Fayetteville police departments, asking to interview a detective for a book I'd written. No response from Springdale. Fayetteville played phone tag with me for a day, until I finally spoke to Lieutenant Fields, who's in charge of the detective department. She told me to email her my questions and she'd find the right detective for me.

So I did. Well, she must've sent those questions on to the detective and not the rest of the story, because the email I got from the detective went something like this: "These are not questions I generally answer for the public. I need to know who you are, why you need this information, and why you contacted the Fayetteville police department." Let me tell you, I felt my heart leap into my throat! I thought, "Man, he's gonna send a patrole out and search my yard for dead bodies."

Keeping my calm, I emailed him back and explained what it's for, even offered to show him a copy of my signed contract. I didn't hear back from him until the next day. But he answered my questions! The odd thing was...most of my fabrication was correct. Well, many of the answers were, "Depends on the department. It could happen like this, or it could happen like this." Which made my scene plausible.

So I didn't have to change too much, and my first revision is off to the editor! We'll see how it goes from here. We're also in the process of changing the title. Oh, and I heard back from the Springdale police department today. Just emailed my questions off. I wonder if the responses will be different?

One last thing. Thanks to my dear friend M. Gray, I was inspired to enter a Christmas story contest. I can't tell you which entry is mine, but if you'd like to take a peek at the entries, go here. You have to read them all and voting doesn't start till the 16 of August, I think. Check it out. It'll be fun!

Monday, August 10, 2009

My Fantastic Weekend

This weekend I put my novel aside and spent four days with my husband. That's right, four! (We did talk about my novel, but I didn't work on it at all.) It was seriously the best weekend of my life. Well, the drill sergeants still try to run the show, but we learned when to have his cell phone off.

When Mark finally (after trying to convince me for three years) joined the Army, I was less than thrilled. I felt like we did it because we had no choice and I gave in. Mark always felt inspired to join the Army. He felt like he was doing what God wanted him to do. I went along with it.

After seeing him this weekend, I must say it appears I was wrong. Mark looks great. He is thriving in this environment, though his face is thin, his head is shaved, and his arms are huge. It's hard for him, just like it is for everyone, but he is excelling. His confidence is up and I found myself swelling with pride. He is maturing. He is changing.

First they told us we'd have Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night together. Last week that changed to Friday and Saturday night. By the time I got there on Thursday, somebody had made the wrong drill sergeant angry and it was changed to just Saturday night. Heavens! At least we got to see each other on the other days. And Saturday afternoon, when Mark saw he'd missed a call from his platoon leader, he turned his phone off. We couldn't take the chance that the guy was calling to say he couldn't stay with me Saturday night, now, too.

I have a lot on my plate now. I'm supposed to get Mark enrolled in a college and get him a job lined up so he doesn't miss a beat when he gets home. And I'm still supposed to take care of my other responsibilities. Yippee! I hate job hunting. I hate it when I'm doing it for me. It's even worse when I'm doing it for someone else.

But the weekend was fantastic. I've never been more in love with my husband. I can't wait for him to come home.

I'll write about the detective tomorrow!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I'm in Missouri!!!

I got to see Mark today!!!!

I can't even say how wonderful it was to see him, to spend a few hours together. He doesn't get to stay with me in my hotel until Saturday night, but I get to see him all day tomorrow too. I probably won't be online.

Oh! And I heard back from my detective! I'll post more later.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Contact with the Police Department

Thank you, Jamie Fields!

Lieutenant Fields from the Fayetteville police department called me back today. She asked me to email her my detective questions, and she'll find the right detective to answer them for me. I'm so excited! Of course, I want to meet with the detective in person, because one answer might lead to another question and so forth, but if I have to conduct it via email, that's better than nothing!

She was very respectful, wanted to know what it was for, and said she'd help out. I was nervous. Had this weird fear (is it weird?) that she'd be rude and like, "We're fighting crime. We don't have time for something like this."

You other authors out there, how have you approached things like this when you need to do research? Have you ever had someone tell you no? Was it discouraging?

Of course there's the chance that I'll never hear from Lt. Fields again. And then I'm back to square one. But that hasn't happened yet. So here I am, sitting by my phone, watching and waiting!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Detective Hamilton likes pickles!

Yesterday I finished the first draft of my detective scenes!!! Whoo-hoo! I'm so excited about this. Whew! What a job. I know there's going to be a lot of revising that I'll have to do. (after all, this is the first draft. I haven't even read through it yet.) I need to add setting and figure out a name for the chief. I came up with so many new names that I got tired of it and the chief got stuck with "The Chief."

Now I need to interview a detective and make sure my information is actually accurate. I've contacted two police stations and one police officer that goes to church with us. I got an email back from the Fayetteville police station, asking me to call. I did. She was in a meeting and told me she'd call back because she had some questions. It's been about three hours. I'll give her until tomorrow.

And it's time to start putting my villain's POV back in. Originally I had several passages in his POV, but I cut them for the sake of word count. Now I get to up my word count. I have my publisher's permission. And my editor wants the villain's POV! How exciting! I'm going to need to create a few more passages, but he's not going to get the same amount of screen time as the kidnapped girls or the detective.

We're really getting somewhere!

And then last night I realized that Detective Hamilton has a pickle fetish. Any kind of pickle. He likes a cold, dripping pickle when he's stuck on a case. It refreshes his mind. And I didn't include that anywhere. I'm going to have to insert pickles.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Review: Uncut Diamonds by Karen Jones Gowen

I finished reading this book late Saturday night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The main character, Marcie, goes through a wide variety of emotions very similar to myself, for us being young moms forty years apart. Karen Jones Gowen does a fantastic job of showing the experiences of the times.

Set in the seventies, Uncut Diamonds follows the life of Marcie McGill, an LDS (Mormon) mother with four children. Marcie struggles with the economy, reconciling their losses, accepting her wilder younger sister, and dealing with an unemployed and then absent husband. Most of us can relate to the high gas bills (not that high), making bread and beans and rice because we're saving money, and feeling frustrated with our husbands because they don't help out at home.

Marcie's parents, the Pritchards, also play a part in the book. A sweet, elderly Methodist couple, they are the kind of characters that touch your heart and make you wish you knew them. Karen Jones Gowen does a great job of painting them with an aura of love and generosity.

The book is divided into two parts, one during the recession and one after. The first one shows the damage and the latter the recovery.

I found Marcie to be so like me that it was often uncanny. Many times I wanted to highlight a passage and write in the book something like, "This is so me! I do this!" Her life situations, from struggling with the family business and debt to worrying about sick kids and spirituality, even down to the fights with her husband, matched my own life and perspective.

There were a few things I didn't like: The beginning of the book started out rough for me; there were a few typesetting errors and fewer commas than I'm accustomed to. Also, the characters were introduced by their first names and then referred to by the last name, leaving me a bit confused as to who was who in the first two or three chapters. Finally, Karen Jones Gowen includes inserts from Marcie's grandmother's diary. I would've enjoyed these more if they had been smaller inclusions. Marcie is an intriguing character. I would rather have read Marcie reading these things, Marcie's reactions and thoughts, than just reading verbatim the grandmother's words.

This book is not a thriller, mystery, suspense, or any of the nail-biting genre. It's very real. You feel like you're taking a peek into someone else's life, and it's entertaining. I very much enjoyed the book and can see it becoming something of a literary, historical classic. I definitely recommend it.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Don't bother me, I'm reading

Sorry I don't have much to say today. I'm busy reading.

I will give a detailed review on Monday, or Tuesday, whenever I finish reading Uncut Diamonds. (I hope Karen doesn't mind; I'm a critic, and I'll point out what I think is good and what I think is not so good.) I will say this, though: the book is holding up to its promises. I'm caught up in the lives of the characters and have already cried and laughed. Now that's an indication of a good book.

And it's not a soap opera. It's real life.
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