Demotivational Poster

All right, so this one came off of The funny thing is, I actually do find it motivational! LOL! What does that say about my confidence level in regards to my writing? :o)

No Time to Say Hello, Goodbye

I just wanted to quickly write a little NaNo update for my devoted blog readers, who have all probably been dying to know how my novel is coming. Well, as you can see from the sidebar there, it's coming along quite nicely. I've written about 42,000 words so far this month, and I need to somehow tack on another 8,000 by Monday at midnight.

No sweat, right? :o)

The thing is, though, that I know I can do it. I don't just hope I can - I know I can. I might not be able to do the laundry and the dishes and cook a hot meal three times a day while doing it, but I can do it. And laundry and dishes and hot meals will always be there, waiting to be accomplished. They can wait another couple days while I finish my novel.

An Angel on Main Street

I had the opportunity to read Kathi Oram Peterson's newest book, An Angel on Main Street, this past week, and I have to say I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Here's the backliner from the book, because it explains what the book is about better than I could.

"Micah Connors promised his mother he would be good in their new town. But with Christmas only three days away, being escorted home by the sheriff does not bode well. Can the towering officer be trusted not to tell what happened? Perhaps the ramshackle stable that has appeared on Main Street will sidetrack him from spilling the day’s events — or maybe his interest in Micah’s widowed mother will do the trick. The last thing Dawn Connors needs is to hear her son is in trouble. She has enough to worry about with her husband gone and her daughter, Annie, ill. Even though Micah has told his sister the rustic structure in the middle of town is simply part of the town’s holiday decorations, Annie is sure that unseen angels are building the crude stable — which means baby Jesus is coming, and he can make her better. Terrified that his little sister might die, Micah vows to find the baby Jesus for Annie, even if it is only a plastic doll. But as Micah gets nearer to his goal he finds angels are closer than he ever would have believed."

The story was touching, especially since it was shown through the eyes of a character who doesn't believe in the magic of Christmas, but who comes to believe in miracles over the course of the story.

The story was never slow, yet there was enough description to make the town and the character really come to life. And although there are miraculous events that occur in this book, the real magic of the story lies in the love and help the people in the town give to each other. The Christmas spirit is all about the way we can serve as angels to our fellow men.

Without giving away the plot line, I'd like to say to those who may not believe in miracles to give this book a try anyway. After all, if we can suspend our disbelief long enough to enjoy It's a Wonderful Life and The Polar Express, we can enjoy the spirit An Angel on Main Street brings to our Christmas season as well.

I love to look for new Christmas stories every year to add to my library, and this is a book I'd recommend to those who are looking for a good one.

You Can't Tell I Have Writer's Block Today Can You?

NaNoWriMo comic Day 2 - inspiration

I LOVE Inkygirl's comics. She's drawing a new comic for every day of NaNoWriMo - in addition to writing a novel of her own, of course.

Click here to see an archive of all the comics she's done so far.

Here's another one I love:

Glee and NaNoWriMo

Now, stop reading my blog and get back to writing, guys! :-P

More NaNo Stuff

Contests and Offers and Widgets, oh my!

So, here are a few random things that may be of interest to those who might be doing - or even considering doing - NaNo. (sorry for anyone who visits my blog for any reason other than finding information about NaNoWriMo. ;o) It's just all I'm thinking about lately.)

There is an awesome special offer from a company called "CreateSpace" for everyone who wins NaNo and uploads more than 50K words by Nov 30. We'll all get a special, secret code to get a free proof copy of our book! You don't have to get it right away, either. You have time to clean it up over the course of a few months or something. And people who did it last year said shipping was free, too, even internationally.

Go to this website and click on CreateSpace for all the details.

There's also a contest for those who are writing YA novels. It's a competition for the best YA book pitch. The winners get their submissions read by editors at a bunch of awesome publishing houses, and a one-on-one pitch with a literary agent. You submit a title and 250-word beginning of the novel. You have to submit by Nov 30, so you'll have to think about getting this entry ready in the midst of the NaNo craziness.

Here's the web page that has all the info. on the contest.

And last of all, you can get a cool widget for the sidebar of your blog, or other webpages or whatever, that automatically updates your wordcount as soon as you update it on the NaNo site. You can see mine over on the right there, under the "War of the Words" heading. It says jennylou at the top, because that's my screen name on the NaNo site, for anyone who wants to add me as a buddy. :o)

Click here to see all the different widgets they have available and to get the code to embed them on your website. If you're logged into your NaNo account when you view this page, it'll show your personal info in the widget automatically. I thought that was pretty special. And where it says "Participant" - that changes to say "Winner" automatically when you hit 50K! How nifty is that?

So, now that I've thoroughly distracted you from your writing, I'll bid you all adieu. Have a great day and Happy NaNoing!

NaNo Pep Talk by Jasper Fforde

I really loved the Pep Talk that came into my inbox today by Jasper Fforde. I wanted to link to it, but it isn't on NaNo's website yet, so I thought I'd just post it here. It was very inspiring to me, and I hope it helps all of you out as well.

Dear Writer,

I once wrote a novel in 22 days. 31 chapters, 62,000 words. I didn’t do much else—bit of sleeping, eating, bath or two—I just had three weeks to myself and a lot of ideas, an urge to write, a 486 DOS laptop and a quiet room. The book was terrible. 62,000 words and only twenty-seven in the right order. It was ultimately junked but here’s the important thing: It was one of the best 22 days I ever spent. A colossal waste of ink it was, a waste of time it was not.

Because here’s the thing: Writing is not something you can do or you can’t. It’s not something that ‘other people do’ or ‘for smart people only’ or even ‘for people who finished school and went to University’. Nonsense. Anyone can do it. But no-one can do it straight off the bat. Like plastering, brain surgery or assembling truck engines, you have to do a bit of training—get your hands dirty—and make some mistakes. Those 22 days of mine were the start, and only the start, of my training. The next four weeks and 50,000 words will be the start of your training, too.

There’s a lot to learn, and you won’t have figured it all in 50,000 words, but it’ll be enough for you to know that you don’t know it all, and that it will come, given time. You’ll have written enough to see an improvement, and to start to have an idea over what works and what doesn’t. Writing is a subtle art that is reached mostly by self-discovery and experimentation. A manual on knitting can tell you what to do, but you won’t be able to make anything until you get your hands on some wool and some needles and put in some finger time. Writing needs to be practiced; there is a limit to how much can be gleaned from a teacher or a manual. The true essence of writing is out there, in the world, and inside, within yourself. To write, you have to give.

What do you give? Everything. Your reader is human, like you, and human experience in all its richness is something that we all share. Readers are interested in the way a writer sees things; the unique world-view that makes you the person you are, and makes your novel interesting. Ever met an odd person? Sure. Ever had a weird job? Of course. Ever been to a strange place? Definitely. Ever been frightened, sad, happy, or frustrated? You betcha. These are your nuts and bolts, the constructor set of your novel. All you need to learn is how to put it all together. How to wield the spanners.

And this is why 30 days and 50,000 words is so important. Don’t look at this early stage for every sentence to be perfect—that will come. Don’t expect every description to be spot-on. That will come too. This is an opportunity to experiment. It’s your giant blotter. An empty slate, ready to be filled. It’s an opportunity to try out dialogue, to create situations, to describe a summer’s evening. You’ll read it back to yourself and you’ll see what works, you’ll see what doesn’t. But this is a building site, and it’s not meant to be pretty, tidy, or even safe. Building sites rarely are. But every great building began as one.

So where do you start? Again, it doesn’t matter. You might like to sketch a few ideas down on the back of an envelope, spend a week organizing a master-plan or even dive in head first and see where it takes you. All can work, and none is better than any other. The trick about writing is that you do it the way that’s best for you. And during the next 50,000 words, you may start to discover that, too.

But the overriding importance is that the 50,000 words don’t have to be good. They don’t even have to be spelled properly, punctuated or even tabulated neatly on the page. It’s not important. Practice is what’s important here, because, like your granny once told you, practice does indeed make perfect. Concert violinists aren’t born that way, and the Beatles didn’t get to be good by a quirk of fate. They all put in their time. And so will you. And a concerted effort to get words on paper is one of the best ways to do it. The lessons learned over the next thirty days will be lessons that you can’t get from a teacher, or a manual, or attending lectures. The only way to write is to write. Writers write. And when they’ve written, they write some more. And the words get better, and sentences form easier, and dialogue starts to snap. It’s a great feeling when it happens. And it will. Go to it.

-Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde is the best-selling author of the Thursday Next and Nursery Crime books. He has been writing for twenty years, but only published for ten. His training took a while. His eighth book, Shades of Grey, will be published in January 2010. He lives and writes in Wales, has a large family and likes to fly aeroplanes.

Here's the archives of previous years' pep talks for your perusing pleasure as well.

And one last tidbit - a video with some tips for Wrimos. Happy writing everyone!

Happy Halloween from my family!

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

NaNo November

So, I've decided I need a break from Stolen Dreams.

I know it probably sounds crazy since I've done pretty much nothing /but/ take breaks from Stolen Dreams. ;o) But the project is stressing me out so much, and I've been having a LOT of fun lately writing YA in first person present tense.

With NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for those who don't know) coming up in a few days, I've decided to throw caution, stress, and even plotting to the wind and just have fun writing. 30 days and nights of literary abandon, baby! LOL.

This goes along quite nicely with my desire to write with more of a practice makes perfect attitude. I need to practice writing with the internal editor turned OFF, and this will give me a great chance to do that, too.

I've never written a story before where I didn't have a good idea of where it was going. Some of my stories, the end has even been the /point/ of the thing. But this time, all I have are some interesting characters in an interesting situation. An idea is not a plot. An issue is not a story. But that's discovery writing for you, and it's what NaNo is all about. Chris Baty's book, after all, is called No Plot? No Problem!

So, I'm gearing up to do it. It works out to be exactly 2,000 words a day that I need to write if I don't write anything on Sundays. It's only 1,667 a day if I did write on Sundays. That makes it sound pretty tempting, doesn't it? LOL. But I've never written on Sunday before, so why start now, right? :o)

I "won" NaNo the first time I attempted it in 2007 (meaning I made it to 50,000 words) but ever since then, every time I've tried to do NaNo or any other BIAM challenge, I've flopped flat on my face. I really think this time is going to be different, but I'm feeling a bit nervous, I do have to say. Wish me luck!

Practice Makes Perfect

I heard Anita Stansfield speak again at a church fireside last week, and I went up and talked to her afterward about the things I learned from her class at UVU.

We talked briefly about the concept of practicing 10,000 hours to become a grandmaster author, and she said something else that helped me out. She said that if I were practicing the piano, I would just practice over and over until I perfected a song. But when we're writing, we expect to be able to write something great the first time. I'm trying to look at my writing that way now. I need to just practice writing without feeling so serious about writing the Great American Novel every time I sit down at the computer.

So at the top of a blank page this morning, just to remind myself of what I was supposed to be doing, I wrote: "This is called PRACTICE. Imagine you are practicing the piano. Not every run through a song has to be recorded and sold. Practice writing with the same idea. It doesn’t have to fit with the rest of the storyline. You don’t have to go back and figure out exactly who said what before what you’re writing now. You do not have to use these exact words or even these very scenes in the final draft. Really. This is p-r-a-c-t-i-c-e!!"

Yes, I do think it's helping. And, yes, I did count those 79 words toward my daily wordcount. ;o) (But I'm not going to count this blog post, so I better get back to writing.)

Contest Winner

Hi everyone! I ran a contest last week and promised the winner would receive a copy of Achieving Your Life Mission by Randal A. Wright.

Well, the results are in. :o)
I put all the entrants' names in a bowl . . .

Pulled one out . . .

And . . .

Congratulations Stephanie! I hope you enjoy your prize.

And for everyone, just another gentle reminder to figure out what your life mission is, and then go to work putting in the hours it takes to be able to fulfill that mission to the fullest.

WiP it Wednesday

I just surpassed 100,000 words in my WiP, Stolen Dreams! What a perfect thing to blog about on WiP Wednesday. :o)

I'm going to be taking on Tristi's October Writing Challenge starting tomorrow, and my goal is to finish this rough draft once and for all!

Happy Dancing!!

100th Post Extravaganza

I went to a writer's conference at UVU on Thursday, and came away with several very good tidbits. I thought I'd share them with you guys, 'cuz I'm nice like that. :o)

I also realized just in time that it's my 100th post. I don't want to blow by that without doing something to celebrate. So read on, contest lovers. Read on.

The class I got the most out of was Anita Stansfield's. I heard Anita speak in '01 in Lisa Peck's basement, but haven't seen her since despite all the conferences I've been to. So I was excited to hear what she had to say. And I had two very loud, big a-ha moments in that class.

The first was regarding the left and right brains. As writers, we all know about the dreaded "internal editor." If my 10-year-old were here, she would be making a scary music sound effect right now, that goes something like this: du-du-duuuu, in a low, descending pattern. ;o) Kinda hard to make it come alive in the written word, but I gave it a shot. Anyway, so we were talking about our internal editors. Du-du-duuuu.

The question for me hasn't ever been why I should shut her up while I'm trying to write my first draft, but, rather, how. Well, I think I have some new ammo for that now. See, what I learned is that first drafts come from the right side of the brain. The creative side. The storytelling side. Edits, on the other hand, come from the left side. The logical, grammar-checking side.

Every time you're writing along and you start thinking there might be a better way to say this, or that your word choice isn't quite right, or that you don't know if your character would be doing this, all those happily firing synapses on the right side of the brain come to a screeching halt and the electrical current has to go through this little connecting tissue between the two halves of the brain to access your editing capabilities. Then, when you've decided on a word, or on just exactly how that scene should play out to be the most compelling to keep the reader flipping pages, the current has to then travel back to the right side of the brain and get back in place to start writing again.

Are you starting to see why this is bad? So far, I've found this imagery of the left and right brain halves switching back and forth to be extremely helpful in keeping my internal editor (du-du-duuuu) at bay. She made a very good point, too, that goes along with it. She said the first draft is when you figure out what you want to say, and the subsequent drafts are figuring out how you want to say it.

The other thing she talked about is a study that was done by K. Anders Ericsson. He found after studying violinists at Berlin's Academy of Music for 15 years that those who became virtuosos had put in 10,000 hours of practice. Those who were merely good practiced for 8,000. And those who were good enough to teach music, but weren't performers, had put in just 400 hours. The most amazing part is that there were no violinists who were so naturally talented that they emerged at the top without practicing as much. And there were none who were so awkward as beginners who didn't make it if they put in their 10,000 hours.

I found another interesting related study today as well. Some researches at MIT studied the brains of grandmaster chess champions compared to other great chess players who hadn't reached grandmaster status. They found that the grandmasters had laid down two billion neural pathways and linkages in their brains. At that point, they have achieved a level of conscious subject matter expertise that those chess masters with less than 2 billion pathways haven't achieved.

If you want to read more about these studies, there are tons of articles and blog posts on the 'net. This is the article I personally found most clear and helpful.

We've all heard that "Practice makes perfect," and "Don't let your internal editor (du-du-duuuu) pop up while you're writing your first draft." But I found these two illustrations of those points immensely helpful.

So, the question I have to ask myself is, "Do I want to be a grandmaster author? Or am I okay with just being a good one?" And I have to say that I do want to be a grandmaster. And that makes it all the more important to sit my butt down in that chair and WRITE more. I get all seized up all the time worrying that my writing is junk. Now I know the cure - put in the hours it takes, and it'll get better! Hallelujah!

All right, so on to the contest. For you stalwart blog readers who made it this far through all my long-windedness, you have a chance to win a copy of Achieving Your Life Mission by Randal Wright. I haven't finished reading it yet myself, but so far, I've found it to be excellent. And my friend Ali has nothing but good things to say about the book.

If you happen to be Ali or someone else who already owns the book, or even someone who doesn't care to own the book, enter anyway and I'll come up with an equally awesome prize for you.

All you have to do is leave a comment telling me what, if anything, is important enough to you to put in the practice it would take to become a grandmaster? Writing? Home decorating? Music? Sports? Art? And I'd like to know one thing you'll start doing different in your life to work toward your goal.

I'll draw a winner from a hat on October 1st, so comment by the last day of September if you want a chance to win.

By the way, it occurred to me that if I had spent 100 hours on each of these 100 blog posts, I would now be a grandmaster blogger! Instead, I'm merely a great one. :-P

Saving Madeline - Review, Interview, and Contest

I recently had the opportunity to read an advance copy of Rachel Ann Nunes's new book, Saving Madeline, and I loved it.

The very beginning wasn't as compelling as I was getting into the story, but soon, like many of Rachel's books, Saving Madeline gripped me and wouldn't let me go. There was such a sense of urgency throughout most of the book that I could barely put it down, no matter how late it was or how many dishes were piled in the sink.

Saving Madeline is the story of Caitlin McLoughlin, public defender, and her client Parker Hathaway, accused of kidnapping his 4-year-old daughter. It's Caitlin's job to discover the truth - is Parker a criminal, or is he acting in his daughter's best interest, protecting her from danger?

I sat down with Rachel over coffee to discuss her book. (Just kidding. It was an email conversation, and neither of us drinks coffee. The interview just sounded more exciting that way.) Anyway, here's what she had to say:

Jenn: You've had nearly 30 books published over the past 13 years. How has your experience changed over the course of your career? Has it gotten easier over the years, or are there things that are as challenging or even more so in writing your 30th published book as they were for the first?

Rachel: For me actually writing the books has become more time-consuming because as my children grow, they have become far more demanding. I've had years where it seemed like I lived in the car. This year the driving aspect is not as big an issue, but six many children always seem to need something. It was all so much easier when they were toddlers around my feet.

Over the years, I've seen publishers go from moderate to very conservative and now back to moderate again. It's sometimes hard determining your plot when you have to worry about that. However, the publishing process is easier now, working with editors and others, taking feedback. But launching a book, keeping up on the website, balancing speaking engagements with family, responding to e-mails is all just as difficult as it's always been.

Jenn: Some of the aspects of Saving Madeline are heartbreaking, and I've noticed that many of your books deal with difficult subject matter. Is it harder to write those books? Why do you choose to tell those stories?

Rachel: I tell these stories because they grab me and won't let me go until I write them. Subjects that dig deep are what people want to read about. When a reader is emotionally vested in a story, that's when it becomes hard to put down. I do experience a lot of emotion when writing certain stories, some more than others. I usually learn far, far more about my subject than I ever put in a novel. But the same rule applies to me as it does to readers. If I feel strongly about a subject, even a difficult one, I can write with a lot more feeling and realism.

Jenn: What do you think Caitlin should have done when she had the incriminating evidence in Chet Belstead's case? Do you believe that the end justifies the means, at least some of the time? If so, how do you know where to draw the line?

Rachel: I really don't know. I think that had I been in Caitlin's place, I would have quit the field long before such a thing came up. I don't know that I could survive under such daily pressure. I never used to believe that the ends could ever justify the means, but after the real-life drug case in Utah and several other stories I researched, I think that sometimes on rare occasions, it can and should. Where to draw the line in real life is a very personal decision, hopefully one made with a lot of thought and prayer.

Jenn: What do you hope your readers will take away from reading Saving Madeline?

Rachel: I want them to be aware of the challenges some children face. I want them to look around in their communities and see if they might help someone. I want them not to be so quick to judge others because they may not know the full story. Life is sometimes very gray, but we must make choices. Sometimes it's hard to know which are the right ones. We will probably make mistakes, but we can't ever give up. And of course, I want my readers to enjoy themselves, to spend a little time relaxing away from their hectic lives. I want them to fall in love right along with Caitlin.

Jenn: Why did you choose to give a secondary character a mental handicap? Did you feel it was integral to the story and the development of the main characters? Or was there some other reason?

Rachel: Caitlin is a strong woman working in difficult career. Having her care for her mentally disabled sister allows the reader and the other characters to see a part of her she doesn't normally show. Amy was present mostly for character development because only when real sacrifice is involved, can we really know where a person's values lie.

Jenn: This is probably your most-asked question of all time, but how do you find time to write two books a year while raising a family?

Rachel: I don't sleep. Just kidding. I really don't know. I basically just plug away, a little each day until the novel is finished, stopping to do whatever I need to do for my family. I don't go out a lot with friends, I don't shop, I'm not a stickler on having the house perfectly clean all the time (I assign all the housework to my kids as chores, which does wonders for their character), I don't garden, and I'm hit and miss at exercise. So mostly, I try to put writing up in priority right after my family. Saying no to things, even good things, gives me more opportunity to do what I love.

Jenn: Why did you decide to become a writer? What draws you to continue writing books? Is it the limos, the second home in Maui, getting to meet Oprah for lunch once a month? Or is there something else that compels you to keep going despite whatever challenges have surely come your way over the course of your career?

Rachel: Limos? A home in Maui? Oprah? I wish! Actually, I'm in writing because of the stories. I knew from the time I was in the fifth grade that I would be an author. I loved reading and yet I couldn't find the perfect story that I wanted to read, so I decided to write it. All these years later I'm still writing because I can't stop. It's really a part of who I am. Even if I tried to get a better paying job, the stories won't leave me alone. I'm happier when I write. I'm more relaxed. There's something unique and fulfilling about creating a story that I've never felt with anything else. Besides, there's still always that chance for Maui--right?

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Rachel. :o)

Rachel is doing a book give-away contest, and all you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post. You won't get multiple entries for multiple posts, but you can get more entries by commenting on other blog reviews. To find more reviews of Saving Madeline and get more chances to win, visit Rachel's blog at She is giving away at least one book, but will give away more based on how many entries she receives. The winner will be chosen after the last review is posted on September 25th.

On Being Realistic

I've subscribed to Flylady's emails off and on. But I've gotten them often enough to understand a principle called, "Paralyzed Perfectionism." For those who haven't heard of it, it's pretty self-explanatory. You're so worried about doing something RIGHT and PERFECTLY that you don't even know where to start, so you don't do anything at all.

That's me to a T.

It happens when I sit down to write a scene in my book. It happens when I look at my sink full of dirty dishes. It happens when the kids get home from school and want to play and I know they really have to read and do homework and practice the piano and do chores. It happens when I decide I want to start an exercise and diet plan. It all just feels so overwhelming that I just get a chocolate bar and go read a book in my bed.

But the thing I'm mostly thinking of right now is that it happens when I set a daily wordcount goal for myself.

Part of why I set unrealistic expectations is because I've performed at high levels of efficiency in all of the above areas in the past at some point. I've kept my house clean every day when it was on the market. I've followed a rigorous diet and exercise plan, felt great, and lost 20 pounds in a few months. I took on the NaNoWriMo challenge and wrote 50,000 words in 1 month. Etc., etc., etc.

But a couple days ago as I was falling farther and farther behind on my words every day, I just thought, "Why don't I change it to writing 500 words a day instead of 1,000. Who cares if I went a whole month writing almost 2,000 words a day 6 days a week? What matters right now is that every day I fall behind, I feel more and more hopeless of being able to catch back up and stay on target to meet my goal.

So I changed my spreadsheet (yes, I'm obsessive about spreadsheets) to reflect a 500 words a day goal instead of a 1000 words a day one. And it feels awesome! 500 words a day feels do-able to me right now. Partly because I'm having a hard time writing every day, hence the falling behind. But if I write 1,000 words one day and then miss the next day, I'm still on track! I love the feeling of being on track. :o)

How do YOU set reasonable goals and keep yourself on track? I'd love any extra tips you guys have for me.

Out of the Rut and Into the Groove

I've been in a writing slump for the last month or so. I only wrote 2000 words or so in August, and almost all of them were in the first week of the month.

Then, I went on to write exactly nothing for the first 9 days of August. I just didn't feel inspired. I've been trying to dig up some stuff for my critique group every couple of weeks, but I always pull out something I've already written because I'm farther into the writing of the book than my critique group has read.

But yesterday, I felt inspired. I've been letting my fears and doubts and hang-ups keep me from working on this book for far too long. So I pulled out the last chapter I worked on, read up to the point where I'd stopped, and just picked up from there. And it was amazing! I feel like the story is just flowing right now. So today, I sat down and wrote some more. And I don't feel ready to stop. I just want to keep going and finish this book already. Slow and steady wins the race and everything, but this is kind of ridiculous. Of course, I do need to work on the "steady" part still. :o) Once I've got that down, I'll have arrived.

Oh, yeah. And how do you like my new blog background? Pretty nice, if I do say so myself. (Which I just did.) I even changed up my header to match the colors. I'm really excited about how it turned out.

And one more thing - don't forget to vote on my little mini-polls at the bottom of each post. :o)

I'll check back in soon with more updates. For now, I'm off to write another scene. It's about a boy, and a girl, and a drive-in movie . . . :o) (And, no, it's not what you think! You'll have to read my book to find out what happens. LOL!)

Book Review - ALMA

I just finished reading Alma by H. B. Moore. After reading Abinadi last year, I knew I would enjoy Alma as well, so I was excited to get my hands on it. And by about the middle of the book, I almost couldn't put it down.

Moore does an excellent job of putting in tons of cool details about the people, lifestyle, and customs of the ancient Nephites, while still writing in an easy-to-read storytelling style that keeps the pages turning fast.

I loved seeing what happens "next" for all of the fabulous characters from Abinadi. The action was great, and I felt the tension held pretty taut throughout the book. The story just came alive for me in so many ways. I even got out my Book of Mormon at one point to check it and see - did that really happen? And, come to find out, of course it did. It just never hit me the way it does in the book because I didn't care so much about the characters until Moore brought them to life for me.

The only complaint I have of the book is that Alma isn't in the forefront of the story most of the time. I'm sure it was partly due to the fact that there was so much going on during that time period with Amulon and King Noah and the Lamanites, and then you throw in the plot lines that involve Helam, Raquel, Maya, and other characters from Abinadi, and there just isn't a lot of billing space left for Alma's personal life to be developed in great detail. We got what we needed, though, and he came more to the forefront near the end of the book as well. And Alma was well developed in Abinadi, so I already knew the character and didn't need as much setup and such in this book.

It's not that I didn't enjoy the rest of the storylines, either. In fact, the opposite is the case. Everything from Abinadi flowed nicely into Alma as the story progressed. All the characters I cared about were back with new challenges and heartaches and triumphs.

I do recommend that you read Abinadi first, although I think this book could stand just fine on its own, too. You'd think with historical fiction, when we already know what happens, that there's no way to "spoil the ending," but you'd be wrong. Moore has developed many characters that aren't in the scriptures, based on the people of the time period, and there's no way to know what happens to them without reading the book.


I've been having fun with the digital macro setting I just found on my digital camera. It's not the nicest camera, but I'm really impressed with how nicely some of my pictures are coming out. So I thought I'd share some of them. (If you click on them, you can see a larger version with a lot more detail.)

I also thought I'd post a picture my husband took of me in Oregon. They really want to make sure you know the speed limit around there. :o) We took some pictures and meandered across a bridge that spans the harbor while we waited for our tire to get fixed. Even fixing a flat turned out to be a fun time. ;-)

I've been getting a little writing done on my vacation, too. But I have to admit, I'm not in the groove right now. I'm hoping to get into a good writing schedule when the kids start school next week.

New Blogger Feature

To go along with my new blog look, I've added a new feature. You can "react" to any of my posts by clicking the box next to "funny," "interesting," or "inspired" at the bottom of the post. It's a little mini-poll. Fun stuff.

New Blog Look; New Attitude

As you can see from my post title, I'm dumping the #s. It was fun. It was real. But it wasn't real fun. :o)

I've decided to get serious about my writing. Professional, even. As one by one my AI friends are moving over to the published side - un-incognito-ing themselves, so to speak, I've been feeling very dissatisfied with myself. I could be among them. I have the vision. I have the talent. And those of you who know me well know that I'm not a conceited person. I'm not trying to talk myself up here. I'm just recognizing the gifts that I've been given. I know I could be published if I was more dedicated.

Right now, I'm only about halfway done with my July writing goal.

Looking at the glass half-full, though, I have written over 20,000 words in the last two months. Give me some props for that, at least. :o) I'm very proud of myself for stepping up to the plate and hitting a few base hits. But if I want to be as successful as I know I can be, I'm going to have to set my sights higher and go for some home runs.

I only have 2 days left, but that's no reason to say there's no use in trying. Sure, I probably won't hit 27,000. Though, I could. More words have been written in less time by people I know and love. But even if I don't, I want to do my best. And so far, I haven't been doing that.

Over the course of the last week, I've written a few pages on a different project other than Stolen Dreams. I'm calling it Free Agents, and it's a YA dystopian. I feel so fancy even knowing what that is! I'm having a LOT of fun writing it. But I'm also not going to let myself get sidetracked. First things first, and the first thing I'm dedicated to doing is writing Stolen Dreams. While it sits in a folder for a little while and my brain rests from that project, I'll work on Free Agents some more.

What I need to do NOW, though, is get off the internet and start writing. 13,813 words is a lot to shoot for in 2 days. :-P

#88 - First Drafts Suck

This first draft sucks like our sea monkeys suck algae off the bottom of their pool.

So far today, I've written 2 words.

No, that's not a type-o.

But I did design some really nifty T-shirts . . . .

I just need to close my eyes and start typing.

#87 - To Expose or Not to Expose

That is the question.

And, no, I'm not talking about how graphic I should make my make-out scenes. (Although I do wonder about that sometimes.) ;o) No, I'm talking about exposition.

Part of why I hate my first draft so badly is because it feels so incredibly flat. The books I most love reading are very rich in description, but I feel like my writing has little to none.

Part of the problem, I think is that I've had it pounded into my head at so many conferences and workshops and, yes, even critique group meetings -- it being, "get right into the scene, don't stop to describe anything, keep it fast-paced or they'll put your book down and never pick it up again."

But part of it, I fear, is that I just can't really do it very well. It's easier to just stick to the action, the dialogue, the quick sentence that gives a rough description of someone or something before zipping back into the scene and taking off again. Not that I'm really very good at any of that, either, mind you.

Le sigh.

I just remembered an idea I got from one of my writing friends recently. I'm going to take some of the books I've really liked and use different colored highlighters to visually see how much dialogue vs. exposition there is throughout the books. One color could be "setting," another one "character description," etc. Then when I go through my own book, I can see how the flow of my writing matches up with those.

These are all just thoughts for future reference, though. Because right now, I have a first draft to write. Speaking of which, I'm doing AWESOME. Ever since a whole one day ago when I renewed my dedication and changed my goal to match what I need to do from here through the rest of the month, I've been on fire. I refused to put my computer away last night and go to bed until I'd passed my new 1612 word goal for the day, even though it was late. Like, to the point that some people would consider it early. For the next day. To get up.

So, here I am, 1/3 of the way to meeting my goal for Saturday's wordcount, taking time off of writing to whine about how crappy this dumb first draft is. But, I'm taking a breath and going back in now because, really, the point is just to write the dumb thing. I'll come back and expose to my heart's content later.

#86 - Plugging Along

Well, I'm not hitting my daily goals, but I'm still going along one day at a time, trying to get some writing in. Sometime, I need to start carving out a piece of time every day that I dedicate to writing. Not that kids won't interrupt or anything, but I need to have some time where I don't let myself get distracted with other stuff.

I've written about half the number of words that my goal dictates I should have written at this point of the month. So, should I look at the glass as half-empty or half-full? I'll try the half-full approach. After all, I'm writing. The creative juices are flowing. I actually have some scenes down on paper that I didn't have before.

As you can see by my sidebar, I'm a little bit obsessed with tracking my wordcount. :-D I've always tracked it in an Excel spreadsheet, but now I've moved on to putting it right up on my blog. I don't know if anyone actually comes and looks at it, (other than Ali, of course, because I tell her to) ;o) but I do feel more accountable knowing it's there.

I've realized something about myself in the past few days. I've thought of it before, but it really hit home recently. Unlike many other authors, I HATE the first draft and I LOVE the revisions. That's why I've revised my picture books, etc. 50 times each. And it's also why I get fed up with writing new stuff, and instead keep going back and revising the first half of the book that I've already written. I'm a perfectionist. It's true. You wouldn't know it from looking at the state of my house, though. ;o)

So, it's even more critical for me than it is for most people to just put my blinders on, tell my internal editor to shut up, and write like crazy to get to the end of the first draft. I can always revise it later. I can even re-write it completely using the same process, and then revise THAT. But what I can't do is revise if I don't have something already written.

I have almost half of the month left. I'm going to really pour it on from this point on. To make up for the fact that I didn't meet my goal for the first half of the month, I'm going to up the ante for the second half in order to meet my original goal to write 27,000 words in July. So now, I have to write 1612 words every day. That's my new goal, and I'm sticking to it. For reals.

I'll report back soon. :o)

#85 - July Book-in-a-Month

I'm BIAM-ing again. My good friend Tristi Pinkston is doing another Book-in-a-Month Challenge, and I was crazy enough to sign up. Really, though, between you and me, I'd be crazy not to sign up for something that could help me finish this awful first draft so I can move on to revisions!

So, I challenged myself to write 1,000 words a day, every Monday-Saturday for the month of July. That works out to be 27,000 words for the month. Yes, that's 20,000 words more than I wrote in June. But it's 23,000 words less than I wrote one year for NanoWriMo. So I know I'm capable of meeting it.

Yesterday was my first day and I kicked it off with a major bang, exceeding my daily goal by 134 words. I'm going to hold myself to 1,000 words a day, though, so I'll still be trying to hit 1,000 more words today, rather than letting myself off the hook and saying I only have to write 866 to get 2,000 total for the 2 days. If that makes sense. It does to me, but you never know. . . . :o)

Wish me luck! And come check back often. You'll see the tickers on my blog ticking their way up to 27,000 over the next 30 days, even if I'm not posting every day. :-D

#84 - June Writing Contest

I've kept some tickers and crazy imagechef doo-dads on my sidebar for what I've written in the month of June, but never explained to the general audience out there what they're for. I decided it was high time I should, since I only have - what? 8 days left? I'm sure you've all been waiting with bated breath . . . :o)

The long and short of it is that my fellow blogger, critique buddy, and BFF, Ali, and I decided to have a contest to see who can write more words in the month of June. Just between you and me, she's whoopin' my butt. But I'm not going to go down without a fight!

I've had a lot of things happen in the last few weeks that have been emotionally draining. Throw in a weekend trip out of town and a general feeling of despair when thinking about all the problems with my book, and you have a recipe for a dangerously low wordcount.

I got some general encouragement and uplift-ness at critique group tonight, though, and I'm going to give it my all over the next few days. Wish me luck, and check back often to see how I'm doing. Whether I post or not, you can count on me to make silly little imagechef thingies. (Can you tell I don't know what to call them?) :-D

#83 - Benefit Yard Sale

Some good friends of ours in American Fork are having a yard sale on Saturday. Their son Ammon is very sick with Lyme disease, and the insurance company won't pay for the treatment. All of the proceeds of the sale will go toward paying for his medical expenses.

Go to this website to learn more about Ammon and his situation, or go here to just read the flier about the yard sale.

Anything you guys can do to help would be appreciated. If you want to donate stuff for the yard sale, but you can't or don't want to drive it over there, bring it to my house by Thursday night and I'll get it to them. And if you just want to go and find some cool yard sale deals and help a good cause at the same time, drop by the yard sale on Saturday.

#82 - I "Heart" ImageChef

If you can't tell from my sidebar . . . . . - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

I have been wasting unconscionable amounts of time on ImageChef today. It's just too fun. To make a picture or video like this would take me hours . . . days . . . a lifetime! But with ImageChef, I just plug in what I want it to say, and it sticks my own words into the picture / video / whatev. Love. It.

I made the video below just because my kids and I COULD NOT STOP LAUGHING about it. I hope you enjoy . . .

personalized greetings

#81 - It's Hot to Not

My 4th grader came home with a CD today. It's part of a Utah State drug-free curriculum. We've listened to the CD a couple times now, and it's sparked some great conversation between my daughter and I.

Anyway, there's this song called "Hot to Not." My kids LOVE it, and, of course, the message is great.

You can go here to listen to a sample of the song, read the lyrics, and look at the other materials.

There is tons of information out there about how to talk to your kids about drugs, alcohol, smoking, et al, but this is one that I think is particularly helpful.

Whatever you do, though, get a conversation going, and don't make it a one-time sit-down-and-talk thing, either. One statistic says that kids who say they benefited from drug discussions with their parents are 50-percent less likely to use drugs. You can read an article about it here.

#80 - I'm in a Rut

And it's not just any rut. It's a doll-garn, dad-gum, heyday of a rut.

It's true that I've had a lot going on. My entire household suffered from a week-long stomach flu that burned the candle at both ends, if you know what I mean. My dear hubby is still sick, too. He can't quite kick it.

And then there was the whole bike accident incident thingy. I bit it up in the mountains and lost a lot of skin on my arm that I'd like to have back, thank you very much. On top of that, it got infected. That's always fun. It's been a week and I'm just starting to see signs of healing.

And then there was the whole kid jumping off the swing incident. My sweet little 6-year-old followed the example of her crazy big brother and jumped off the swing. She landed on her arm and was still complaining that it hurt two days later. So we took her in. It turns out her bone didn't actually break. The doc says sometimes with little kids, their bones bend like little willows in the breeze. So, her bone has a slight bend in the wrist, and she had blood in her elbow joint. So I in my bandage, and her in her sling, are quite a pair.

Oh, yeah, and my dog ate my manuscript, even!!!

So, as you can see, I have a lot of excuses. But the truth is, I just feel BLAH! If it wasn't for my critique group making me send out 10 pages twice a month, I wouldn't be writing at all right now.

Maybe I need to see my doctor about changing my medication. (I'm just joking of course . . . . Or am I?) LOL.

#79 - Did I Mention the LDS Storymakers Rock?

This time, I'm sure I got my plurals right. :-D

Here are a couple of hilarious things that you just have to see. It's a taste of the LDStorymakers Conference for those of you who couldn't make it.

First off, the Storymakers' take on "I Wanna Be a Rockstar." Read the words first because they're a little hard to understand in the video.

I Wanna Be a Bestseller

I'm through with submitting to agents who won't read my queries
It's the end of the world if I never get published
This novel hasn't turned out quite the way I want it to be
(Tell me what you want)

I want a two-book deal, for a hundred million bucks
And a bathroom I can use my laptop in
And a king-sized office big enought for my ego 'n me
(Tell me what you need)

I need a five-star listing from Kirkus Review
And a medal from the Newbury committee too
Gotta hit the New York Times list the first week my book is out
(Been there, done that)

I want a cabin full of Whitney Awards
And a top ten rating on Amazon
Somewhere between J.K. and Stephenie is fine for me
(So how you gonna do it?)

I'm gonna trade this book for fortune and fame
I'd even change the end and get a pen name

'Cause we all just wanna be Big Best Sellers
And live in huge houses getting great big checks
the muse comes easy and the words come cheap
We'll all stay skinny 'cause we're too stressed to eat
And we'll hang out at the Book Expo
In the VIP with Stephenie Meyer
Every vampire writer's gonna wind up there
Every wanna-be author with their chapters to share

Hey, hey, I wanna be a Bestseller
Hey, hey, I wanna be a Bestseller

I wanna be great like Dan Brown without the angels
Hire three assistants to answer my emails
Take a two week tour and expense my signings for free
(See ya in Barnes and Noble, ha ha)

I'll bring bathrobes 'n slippers back into fashoin
Call my editor from my agent's mansion
Gonna date an actor who wants to star in my movie deals
(So how you gonna do it?)

'Cause we all just wanna be Big Best Sellers
And live in huge houses getting great big checks
the muse comes easy and the words come cheap
We'll all stay skinny 'cause we're too stressed to eat
And we'll hang out at the Book Expo
In the VIP with Stephenie Meyer
Every vampire writer's gonna wind up there
Every wanna-be author with their chapters to share
I'll be too busy to check my reviews
Won't matter to me 'cause Paramount's on line two
I'll remember what it used to be like back when
My books got rejected by even my friends

Hey, hey, I wanna be a Bestseller
Hey, hey, I wanna be a Bestseller

Gonna sue anyone who has a similar story
Gonna act real surprised at all my glory
I'll get famous authors to endorse my book
Tell Oprah how I come up with my hook

'Cause we all just wanna be Big Best Sellers
And live in huge houses getting great big checks
the muse comes asy and the words come cheap
We'll all stay skinny 'cause we're too stressed to eat
And we'll hang out at the Book Expo
Gonna follow Stephenie Meyer around the show
Every vampire writer's gonna wind up there
Every wanna-be author with their chapters to share

Gonna sue anyone who has a similar story
Gonna act real surprised at all my glory
I'll get famous authors to endorse my book
Tell Oprah how I come up with my hook

Hey, hey, I wanna be a Bestseller
Hey, hey, I wanna be a Bestseller

Okay, here's another one. The story of Stella and Tedward. Not to be confused with the story of Bella and Edward. Although, you might find some scary similarities. :-D Don't worry, it didn't win the first chapter contest. It was disqualified. Read it straight from Tristi's website because I just don't want to copy the whole thing here. I'm lazy like that. :o)

Good times. Good times.

#78 - LDS Storymakers Rocks

I'm not sure if that should be "rock" or "rocks." Is "LDS Storymakers" singular or plural? I could say, "The LDS Storymakers Rock!" I'm pretty sure that would be right . . . Maybe I should buy Annette Lyon's new book? I'm sure she'd know. :o)

Over the weekend, I went to the LDS Storymakers annual conference. Best thing I ever did. Aside from some other great things I've done. It is doubtful that there is any writing conference on the planet that is more fun, wacky, zany, and awesome than this one. I've already booked my hotel room for next year. ;o)

Anyway . . . I've been feeling very blah about my writing lately. I took on Tristi's Book in a Month challenge and have only written . . . well . . . you can see how pathetic the number is in the sidebar there. I'm too embarrassed to say it out loud. Then I decided to take on Elana's Writing Throwdown. Haven't been back to the website since I signed up.

I've been so frustrated and bored and ambivalent and discouraged.

But the LDS Storymakers rock. They know how to put on a conference and they know how to do it in style. There was inspiration, encouragement, advice, instructions, and a whole lot more. Including men in drag, music videos, a totally rockin' skit (that I wrote and had a cameo appearance in to boot), and fun at every turn.

And then, on top of all that, there was Ali. She put up with me for two days and two nights as my roomie. (By the way, sorry to all those who slept within a 6-room radius of us those two nights. We knew we were laughing too loud, but, well, I'm afraid we didn't care enough about you guys to stop talking and go to sleep.) :-D If the Storymakers Rock, then Ali Rocks times 12. She's my new BFF, and even though she's guaranteed to get published before me, I'm gonna be nothing but 9 kinds of happy for her.

I have signed in blood a contract to finish the first draft of Stolen Dreams before writing even one more word on any of my other projects. Part of how I'm going to accomplish this is by working on a Character Bible for each of my characters. (Thank you Mr. Savage for your excellent class on how to do this!) I'd forgotten why I was so passionate about this book, and I think that's why I've been having such a hard time. If I flesh out my characters and make them come alive (not just for the reader, but for me, too), I think the book will pretty much write itself from here on out.

I wish I could name names of all the awesome people I met and associated with at the conference. But we don't have all day, and I'm afraid if I tried to do that, I'd leave someone out. Because I'm spacey like that.

But I will drop one name. Julie Wright is my hero, and if you haven't read her books, well . . . do. My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life is wicked awesome. I can't wait for her new book that's coming out in July. If anyone has worked harder and deserves success more, I don't know them. :o) Julie has been a great friend to me ever since I met her four years ago. I'd like to think it's just because I'm so special ;o) but really, Julie is just a great friend to everyone she knows. If you're reading this, stop blushing and just admit it. You rock.

Well, I'm off to become a best-seller. Ciao.

#77 - Overcoming Procrastination

I was just going through some paperwork because, really, it's been way too long since I filed, and I needed to just do a bit of cleaning up before I could really get down to working on my book. I came across the Feb '09 Lariat as I was working on it. So I opened it up and there was the cutest cartoon about overcoming procrastination in there. And I had to read it, of course, before I could get to work on my book.

And then, you know, I had to come on here and post it for all of you to see. Because, you know, that's really important. Letting people know not to procrastinate their writing. :D

So I went on the 'net and found the cartoon. And it turns out there are a whole bunch of them that are all totally cute and funny. The cartoon strip is called Will Write For Chocolate. I would post a bunch of them on here, but the artist - Debbie Ridpath Ohi - only allows non-profit blogs to post up to 2 a month. So you'll have to go to Inkygirl to check them out for yourself.

So here's the one I saw in the Lariat. Hope you all enjoy it as much as I did. :) (Click on it for a larger, more readable version.)

Oh, yeah, and my word count so far for the month --- drum roll, please --- 247. Gasp! Cringe! Cry! Okay, I'm really, really going to write some more words tonight. I absolutely PROMISE!

#76 - It's That Time Again

Time for Tristi's Book in a Month Challenge! My goal for the month of April is to finish this ridiculous first draft of this ridiculous book that I'm going to be so sick of by the time I finish writing it, I won't ever WANT to see it in print! LOL.

So, here's the amazing thing. I sat down today to get to work on it and the words just flowed. I just kept writing and I got three chapters done! That's 5,285 words just today alone!!!

No, really, I haven't started yet. April Fools. :P Here it is, 10:30 on April 1st, and I have written Nada, Nuttin', Zipp-o.

Shoot me. Shoot me now. *sigh*

I'll be back to report with better news soon. I promise! This is not a joke. Do not pass 'Go'. Do not collect $200.

#75 - I Did What I Never Thought I Could Do

I never would have thought I could write a synopsis for a book I hadn't written yet, in addition to the first 10 pages of the book, in less than 2 days.

I'd like a raise of hands from anyone who thinks they could do that, no sweat. :)

I do have to confess that I didn't start just totally from scratch. When I was going through my hard drive recently (see Confession #74), I came across a little story idea I'd written up. I had a premise written down, and a 2 1/2 - page prologue.

Another added challenge - I've never written a synopsis before. That's something you do /after/ you write a book. Right? And I've never finished a book. So, there you go.

So, I'm going along with life, thinking I'm doing pretty well. I have a meeting with an editor in a month and I'm supposed to send her the first 10 pages and a synopsis. Time goes by and I think I just need to do some polishing because I'm going to send her this fairy tale I wrote years ago that has been revised so many times, I don't think a single sentence is the same as it was in the beginning. So, in other words, it's ready. And there's no need for a synopsis because it's only 9 pages long.

But, I thought I should email the event coordinator and ask if I need to send something in place of the synopsis and she emails me back and tells me the editor doesn't do picture books.

*crickets can be heard chirping for several minutes*

I have lots of books I'm working on. All of them are farther along than the one I chose. But I chose it because this particular editor does sci-fi / fantasy, and this is the only book I even had a concept of that fits in that category. (Or so I thought at the time. See below...)

So . . . I did it. I wrote the synopsis with some help from a couple seasoned sci-fi / fantasy writing friends of mine. And I wrote the first 7 pages of Chapter One. In a day and a half.

I had time to read it all over a couple times, and then I had to hit 'send.'

Cross all your fingers and toes and eyeballs, and anything else that can be crossed, for me. Or, rather, say a little prayer. With your arms crossed. :)

The hardest part for me was writing the synopsis. In order to write it, I had to figure out how to get my character in a big mess, and then OUT of it. That's part of why I don't finish the books I start. Because I don't know what's supposed to HAPPEN.

Maybe I need to write synopses for all the books I'm working on. :)

So, for all you interested fans out there, here is a list of the books I'm currently writing:

- LDS Women's Fiction
Approx. 62,000 words

- Fantasy
Approx. 13,500 words

- Historical Fiction
Approx. 3,400 words

- Humorous Contemporary
Approx. 1,000 words

- Women's Fiction
Approx. 14,000 words

- Futuristic Sci-Fi
Approx. 2,600 words

My daughter told someone a couple days ago that she's writing two books. Then she said, "My mom's writing six books. I don't think I would want to write six books at once. I think I'd get confused." She's very wise.

Some of you may have noticed I have a fantasy I've been working on that's over 13,000 words. This editor does fantasy, so I could have sent that to the editor. I could have. Really. If I'd thought about it. Like I said, my daughter is very wise.

But I console myself with the fact that I'm really bored with that story right now and I'm really excited about the new one I just wrote this week.

So, am I completely insane???

(Don't answer that question.) :)

#74 - How Could I Have Forgotten You?

Have you ever gone through your hard drive and found a 45-page, 14,000+ word manuscript that you wrote 3 years ago that you'd completely forgotten about? Okay, that's a rhetorical question, because I'm pretty sure none of the rest of you are that out of it.

I made a discovery today, and I'm not really sure what it says about me. I started a book a few years ago and got 45 pages into it. And I'm in the middle of reading it to find out what happens. Seriously. I can't remember. I just read the most awesome scene. I love it. There is the most awesome old lady ever. And there's also this really cute guy. And the most awesome scene with a little girl stuck in a car, and the hunk saves her . . . Really, it rocks.

I'm kind of stunned because I kind-of sort-of remember writing this, but I did not remember any details, at all. Like, the scene with the old lady. Whose name happens to be Violet. (But that name totally fits her. No way could she pull "Vi" off.)

But if you do want to read a rockin' story about a girl named Vi, go read my friend Elana's story and write a review telling Amazon how seriously awesome it is. She's a quarter finalist for the "Amazon Breakthrough Novel" Award. Go Elana! :)

Sorry for the aside. My point is that I don't remember writing about Violet. It's like I put this book on the back-burner and then I got cooking some other stuff and set it to the side of the stove and then all my dishes piled up and I didn't even see it back there for the last few years. I don't know; I'm still trying to figure it out.

I've been searching on my hard drive today to find something I want to take to the LDS Storymaker's Conference for their annual "Boot Camp." You get to sit at a table with authors and other writers and read over pieces of your work to have them critiqued, etc. I'm so bored with all my current projects and they've all been recently critiqued and hashed over. So I thought I'd snoop around my files and see if I could come up with something to take. I found two story ideas that I've written the first 2 pages on, each. Both really cool concepts, if I do say so myself (and I just did.) And then this 45-page one . . .

What are your thoughts? Maybe I'm just the "absentminded professor" type? Maybe I just don't know how to focus and finish anything, so I've started too many projects to keep track of? And what does it say about me that I'm thinking, "this story is so great! I can't wait to see what happens next!" about my own book?

That concludes this episode of The Twilight Zone . . . . :D

#73 - I have a desire to create

My friend Stephanie shared a video on her blog that really touched me. I remember when Elder Uchtdorf gave this talk and I loved the message. Basically, he tells us that the desire to create something that didn't exist before is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul.

It doesn't just apply to painting a picture or writing a song or penning a poem. It can be as simple as creating a loving atmosphere in the home. Creating a feeling of happiness in someone's heart.

This is the video that was put together based on his talk:

One of the reasons this resonated with me is that I do have the desire to create a book. A painting. A poem. I love the feeling of finishing a project and seeing what I've made. Of knowing that someone else might see it and be touched and be better for it.

So, Stephanie issued a challenge on her blog and I'm going to respond and offer the same thing to all of you.

The first five people to respond to this post will get something from me!
My choice. For you. Handmade.

This offer does have some restrictions and limitations:

1- I make no guarantees that you will like what I make.

2- What I create will be just for you.

3- It'll be done this year.

4- You have no clue what it's going to be (nor do I at this point).

The catch is that you must re-post this on your blog and offer the same to the first 5 people who do the same on your blog. The first 5 people to do so and leave a comment telling me they want to receive a homemade gift from me will indeed receive one.
And be sure to post a picture of what you win when you get it!!!

#72 - Renewing my goals

I've been thinking about my goals the last few days, and how I'm doing (and not doing). Unfortunately, some of those goals fall squarely in the "not doing" category. For instance, my goal to get back in the habit of daily scripture study this year . . . not doing. My goal to get the kids doing their homework right after school every day . . . you guessed it. Not doing.

Other goals, I'm hovering on the "doing" side of the line, but just barely. Writing 30,000 new words on my novel in January . . . If you look at the raw numbers, you could say it's a "not doing" because I didn't hit my goal. On the other hand, I wrote 9571 words that hadn't been written if I wasn't striving for 30K. So was it a failure? Definitely not. But it wasn't exactly a success, either.

I've also been doing Body-for-LIFE for about 2 months now. Even considering the fact that I took a 10-day "free day" over the Christmas holiday, I've still lost about 15 lbs since I started. In the beginning, I was faithful. I wasn't cheating, I wasn't skipping workouts. But for the last few weeks, I've lost some of my steam. Most days, I'm eating something or other I shouldn't be. I'm missing workouts occasionally, although I'm still doing pretty good on that.

So every once in a while, I'll get really dedicated and I'll lose a few pounds, and then I'll start cheating here and there, and I'll maintain, or gain a pound or two. But so far, it's been a 2-steps-forward, 1-step-back kind of a process. So, does this fall in the "doing" or the "not doing" category?

Part of my justification for being lax is that this is a lifestyle change, and if I push too hard during this 12-week challenge, I'll burn out. But if I don't push hard enough, I won't ever really get to my goal. Even if I don't maintain it, I want to get in amazing shape, at least for a little while, just to prove to myself that I can do it, and to see how good I can look, and to see how awesome it feels to be there.

So, today, I'm once again renewing my dedication to my challenge. Right now, I'm on day 57 of an 84-day challenge. So, I officially have just over 3 weeks left to see what I can do in the 12 weeks. After that, I'll just start over with a new Day 1, and move on to a new challenge. Not because I failed this one, but because I want to continue on with my progress.

So I got in a nice workout this morning, and I'm about to make my favorite breakfast - a scoop of protein powder, a cup of water, and some frozen fruits and berries, with a little bit of fish oil mixed in. (If you make this, get the lemon flavored fish oil at the health food store. It actually makes the shake taste better. Crazy, but true.)

I have a Body-for-LIFE blog, and I wanted to invite all of you to come over, whether you're doing Body-for-LIFE, or some other form of diet and exercise, or just trying to get or stay healthy. If you want to be a contributor to the blog, let me know. I have some friends on there, but activity is slow right now, so I'd love to round up some more action on the blog. :)

Go here to check out the site and jump in with anything you can contribute!

Here's to my "new month resolutions" - and yours! Don't forget you can start over any time you want. You don't have to wait for 2010 to make a fresh start. :)

#71 - What's In A Name?

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?

My confession today is that I've been thinking for a while now about changing the name I go by.

When I was a kid, my parents called me "Jenny." As I got older, I thought that was too baby-ish, so I asked to be called by "Jennifer" from then on. (My parents still call me "Jenny," by the way. :) But I wouldn't have it any other way. It just feels right coming from them.) So, most of the world called me "Jennifer" after that. Except for those people who naturally like to shorten names, who called me "Jen."

I went through a phase in High School where I wanted to be called "Jenny" again. I knew this really sweet girl who went by "Jenny" and I wanted to be that person. Plus, there were about 2.2 million people at my High School named "Jennifer." There were even 2 other girls in the school with my same first AND last name, since I have a very common maiden name. But my "Jenny" phase was short-lived and it never really stuck. And some of my close friends called me "Jen" anyway. :)

When I met my husband, he always called me "Jennifer." He even commented at one point when we were first dating that he preferred that I go by "Jennifer" just because it was a more beautiful and sophisticated name. So, forever afterward, I referred to myself as "Jennifer." (Although my friends and those people who naturally like to shorten names continued to call me "Jen.") LOL.

Then, you have the nicknames that have been imposed upon me over the years. My brothers called me "Knifer." That name actually stuck for most of my growing-up years. My husband (yes, the same one who wanted me to have a sophisticated name) decided to give me a nickname for the first half of my name instead of the last half. So when he's in a teasing mood, he calls me "Jennif."

So, what's the point of all this blab about my name? Well, I have a friend who decided she wanted to be called Cyndi instead of Cindy. It makes more sense with the spelling of her full name, anyway. I realized as I thought about it that the person I picture when I think of "Cindy" is different than the person I picture when I think of "Cyndi." I can't explain why, but it just is. Maybe some of you know what I'm talking about.

After that, I got to thinking about what name I wanted to be called by. I have a picture in my head of what kind of person each name represented. It's interesting how my image of myself changes as I think of just changing to a different version of my name. I can't imagine myself with a different name altogether. I know a couple people who go by "Jenn" and there's something about the image I have of that name that I like.

The fact that a lot of people call me "Jen" influenced my decision as well. :D For those of you who know me in real life, though, I'd like to ask a question. Could you think of me as a "Jenn?" It's crazy, I know, but I have doubts about whether I can pull "Jenn" off. I almost feel like I'm not cool enough to be a Jenn. Like I said, it's crazy. :D Am I the only one who feels so strongly about the image they have of themselves that's connected to their name? Or do you all get what I'm talking about here?

As my friend Ali pointed out, we sometimes have a hard time naming our characters because we want to find just the right name that fits them. And, of course, everyone has trouble choosing the names they will give their children. There's just an image that goes along with each name. And maybe everyone has a different association with each name, depending on the people they've known with that name.

Anyway, I'd love to hear all of your opinions on this subject. Do names evoke a strong sense of what a person is like? And, how do you feel about your own name, nickname, etc.? Do you feel like it fits you? Or would you change it if you could?

#70 - I Love That Feeling!

I just love the feeling of setting a goal and actually accomplishing it! And I think the best way for that to happen is to set mini-goals for yourself.

For example, if your 2009 resolution was "get more organized," well, when do you know if you've done it or not? It's hard to reach an exhilarating feeling of "I DID IT!" when the goal is so ambiguous.

So, I've been doing a program called Body-for-LIFE and some of my goals are: Lose 25 lbs, get into a size 8, etc. in 12 weeks. One of the things I'm doing is a cardio interval program. You run for 20 minutes at various intensities, finishing up with a final all-out burst of energy. As I've been going along, I've been able to run a little harder over time. When I first started running 2 years ago, I would start to get dizzy and my vision would black out if I ran much more than 5 mph. I'd get through about 1.4 miles in 20 minutes. As I've continued to run and push myself harder, I got to where I could run 6 and even 7 mph and not even feel as spent as I did in the beginning at 5. I've also been able to keep up the pace for longer, to the point that I don't even have to stop and walk during my recovery minutes.

So, I've been increasing the distance I could run in those 20 minutes, to the point that I was getting in the 1.8 mile range. I kept hoping to be able to run 2 miles in that time, but didn't feel like I could do it. But one day I said to myself, "I want to run 2 miles in 20 minutes. And I want to do it in the next 2 weeks." So, each time I ran, I'd figure out ways to increase my speed here and there in order to get there. I used to take more time warming up. Jogging at 4.5 mph or so for a couple minutes to loosen up the muscles. But I found that if I run at 5 - 5.5 mph during that time, I still don't feel like I'm pushing myself too hard in the beginning. It still feels like a warm-up. Yet, I'm running farther as I'm doing it. I also found that I don't have to slow down and recover quite so much during each of my recovery minutes. I set a mini-goal last week to never set the treadmill below 5 mph throughout the whole run. Since 6 mph is the 10-minute-mile pace, I started gauging how many minutes I spent below 6, and tried to counter them with an equal number of minutes above 6.

And on Saturday, the deadline for meeting my goal, I pushed myself hard and I actually did it. I ran 2 miles in 20 minutes. And it was an amazing feeling! To know that I had set my mind to do something, and I actually did it, felt so empowering and exciting.

So, I need to get back to my January challenge goal. I slacked off too much during the first half of the month. I'm tempted to just say, "I can't write 30,000 words this month. It's just too hard at this point to catch up." But, on the other hand, if I can run 2 miles in 20 minutes when that used to seem too hard, then why can't I write 30,000 words in January? I have 12 more non-Sundays left in January. That means I have to write 2055 words per day to get there. Why can't I write 2055 words per day? That's not unattainable. So I'm going to do it.

I'd say, "Wish me luck," but I'm not going to need luck. What I'm going to need is determination. So, "Wish me determination." LOL!

#69 - Victory, Sweet Victory!

Okay, that's the blog title I should have saved for when I actually meet my goal to write 30,000 words this month. :D But, it's how I feel right now, having actually exceeded my daily goal for the first time. I feel like things are starting to flow a little better now.

I experienced something last night that has happened to me a few times before. I wrote something random, just because I'm trying to write words and I didn't know what else to write about. And it wasn't until after I wrote it that I figured out how absolutely perfect it is for a curveball to throw at my heroine! Anyone who reads this book will think this was a major part of my plot from the beginning because it works so perfectly.

Sorry, though. No spoilers. You'll just have to buy the book. (Or publish it, if there are any editors out there reading . . . anyone?) :)

Anyway, I'm writing strong and feeling good. Let's cross our fingers that things stay this way.

#68 - David Bowman's Art

I wanted to share these beautiful pictures and what the artist has to say about each one of them! You can ALL win a FREE signed 8x10 print of your choice (out of the three prints), by copying and posting to your blog or website this whole post by noon on January 5th! After you post then send an e-mail to David ( with your website or blog address telling him you posted it and that you read about this offer on my blog. Also send him your name and mailing address and he will send your signed 8x10 print of your choice :)

David Bowman has had a passion for art ever since he could pick up a pencil. He loves creating images of the Savior that inspire and uplift. Along with his Christian fine art, David has also written and illustrated a series of scripture storybooks for children titled "Who's Your Hero". Check out his website at to see more of his precious art.

The Savior tells us we need to become as little children to inherit the kingdom of God. I've often wondered what it is about little children Jesus loves most, and I think its their innocence. They are clean slates, seeing the world and others through untarnished eyes. Their hearts are pure, without the baggage of cynicism and self-doubt. In this piece, I've tried to imagine how a child would act upon meeting the Master for the first time. Without reservation or inhibition, I think he would simply want to play with Him. He would be at complete ease, allowing his pure little heart to soak in the love and laughter of His pure, infinite heart. Its no wonder Christ delights in these little ones and sets them up to be our examples.

One of the greatest human needs is a sense of security. In all aspects of life, we naturally gravitate towards anything that makes us feel safe. In this piece, I wanted to convey a sense of complete peace and calm like only the Savior can provide. It's a security that allows us to rest assured, without fear or worry, when we put ourselves trustingly in His arms. Little children have that inherent kind of trust in their parents, so it's fitting that the man and girl who modeled for "Security" are actually father and daughter. They generated the exact feel I was looking for.

"My Child"
This piece conveys an intimate, up-close-and-personal feeling of the Savior's love. Notice how all the lines draw your attention and point towards Jesus' face in the center. I chose the name "My Child" because the only thing that could compare (even remotely) to Christ's compassion for us is the love of a parent for his/her child. This image is also intended to put things in perspective. Above all, we are God's children first. He allows us the privelege of experiencing parenthood for ourselves and we are entrusted to be the mothers and fathers of His children here on earth.