October 23, 2009


 A word is not the same with one writer as with another.  One tears it from his guts.  The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.  ~Charles Peguy
It would probably be assumed that most LDS authors, maybe especially those who write in the romance genre, are long-time LDS author readers. They have one or two favorite authors and know the names of most others, know what style to expect, and are eager for the writing of any new author that comes into the fold.
I have a confession to make:
I have read Weyland's Charly and Sam (when I was at my aunt's house in Spokane at the end of one summer and my cousins all started school during my stay-- I didn't know there were books about fictional Mormons the way there are books about fictional everyone else... Kennewick, WA was not a hub of LDS literature for 12 year olds at the time), Yorgason's The Greatest Quest (in college), and Card's Lost Boys (when my oldest was crawling, borrowed it from my dad). My mom-in-law hesitatingly gave me Evans's The Christmas Box after we lost a baby girl. The Secret Journal of Brett Colton, by Kay Lynn Mangum and one called Place of Sage by someone else, and Wright's Christmas Jars were introduced through a book club I belonged to in Walla Walla years ago, and Lund's The Fire of the Covenant (got it for Christmas). That's about it. Oh, and his first 5 books of The Work and the Glory, and Kingdom and the Crown. Oh, wow, and the amazing Great and Terrible series by Chris Stewart. I have read lots and lots of LDS non-fiction. We inherited piles of it. Not so much fiction, especially LDS romance. It just wasn't available to me in the areas we have lived, and so, unfamiliar.
When I took the challenge to write fiction at my writer's club, and then completed the first draft of The Orchard, I gave it to my friends and asked, "I have no idea if this fits with what others have written. I feel like I should be reading other LDS romances to compare."
"No," was the reply. "Not yet." Carla suggested it might be better if I didn't until I was sure of my voice.
So, it wasn't until last spring, after I completed the Finding Home trilogy, that I borrowed Stansfield's Gables Faces East, and Gables Against the Sky, then Nunez's Chasing Yesterday. Then, I bought Stansfield's The Sound of Rain, to get a feel for her modern romance. Next, I ordered Counting the Stars and it's sequel, All the Stars in Heaven, by Michele Paige Holmes, after learning about the Whitney Awards and that she had won Best New Author for Counting, and Jennie Hansen's Beyond Summer Dreams, because she has written SO much and I was curious. The Last Waltz, by G.G. Vandagriff, rounded out my exploration, for now. All, new names to me.
I am very glad I waited. It was fun and interesting, reading the words of these women. I found myself, instead of comparing, just reading and enjoying these stories with a new appreciation for the craft. That these women succeed in pursuing their love of writing gives me hope. Their styles are unique. Of course they are.
So, that list to the right, of LDS Authors? I don't really know them, and they certainly do not know me, although G.G. and I have sent happy and gracious emails to one another, and M. Gray knows I love to travel and she doesn't, and she likes my rhythm (thank you, M.). I am unpublished (for now... thinking positive), so why would they even check me out?
The list is for me. I read their blogs, learn about this business, find great tips and links, and sometimes comment, like I did when I read G.G.'s book and let her know I reviewed it here. I am getting to know these authors and adding to my reading list. I sense their apprehension in sending out a new book, relish their excitement when the box of new copies arrives on their doorstep, and pay attention to their marketing strategies. I like how their names appear frequently on one another's blogs. These women are friends and weave a tremendous support network for each other. And, they're funny. I feel refreshed and inspired after my weekly "stalking", running down the list.
And this is only a fraction of LDS authors I could add. I am still exploring, listening, and hoping.
Has this had an effect on my voice? I don't think so. It encourages me to stick to my own. Following is only good for Blogs and Commandments.

October 21, 2009

Music For "The Lake"

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Enjoy this soundtrack for The Lake, the third book in the Finding Home Trilogy.

Music For "The Inn"

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I have this thing about music to go along with these stories I'm writing. The Inn is the second book, after The Orchard, in the Finding Home Trilogy. Enjoy!

October 20, 2009

I Forgot Hobbes

I am writing a new novel about a young woman trying to overcome her mother's alcoholism, have a book published, open her heart to a man she needs to forgive, and face the challenge of caring for her niece when her addict sister appears, then disappears. It's a comedy. Just kidding.
Actually, my protagonist is a little fighter and the antagonist is a little clumsy, so putting them together makes for some entertaining twists in all the drama churning around them.
And there is a little dog. A brown curly-haired mutt named Hobbes. I'm on page 200-something and last night I realized (as I drove by myself to P/T conferences listening to Journey's greatest hits) that I had forgotten Hobbes in the last two chapters. I hit the steering wheel. "Hobbes. Oops."
But I had to ask myself (after the experience of being assigned to cut certain characters because of their unneededness... is that a word?) is Hobbes so unimportant that I should cut him?

My answer is... no. I need Hobbes. He is somewhat of a catalyst in several scenes, so he stays. I am so glad. I will be happy to go back and retrieve him. Though he may not be so. I left him on an Oregon beach. He loves chasing those darn seagulls.

October 16, 2009

Chapter One

I have now posted all of chapter one of The Orchard, as it now reads. The publishers are still in the review process, but I thought I would get over a little fear and just post the entire chapter for you (are there three, or four of you?). Enjoy!
Click here, or at the link to the right. *NOTE: Because THE ORCHARD is now under contract, I cannot post the first chapter without the publisher's permission. I will post it again if permission is granted. SORRY!

I was able to spend a few days in Jackson, Wyoming, while my husband attended a conference there at the beginning of this week, and I was very anxious for two reasons. One, I hadn't been away from home without the kids for a very long time, so it was a nice retreat. Two, the sequel to The Orchard, The Inn, is situated in Jackson, at this very time of year. When I wrote it last year, I hadn't been there for several years. It was so fun to trace Elizabeth's steps and find out I was right on in some instances, a little off on some, and that I could add more detail and exactness to the setting. And it was nice and quiet in the mornings, before I hit the boardwalks of town, so I could sit in my hotel room and go back over The Inn, adding and fixing what I had discovered.
It rained. A lot. But I had already written that in my book, so it felt right.
Mountain weather.

The Last Waltz

"Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but, most important, it finds homes for us everywhere." -Hazel Rochman

I started The Last Waltz, A Novel of Love and War, by G.G. Vandagriff, yesterday at 11:00 am, after my chores were done. I read until 2:00 this morning, and stayed up another hour thinking.
Historical novels, when done well, draw you in, make you forget where and when you are, teach you about the time almost interactively, and have you loving, fighting, struggling and triumphing with the characters.
After reading all the research and life G.G. Vandagriff put into this novel (it was twenty years in the making), I had to put it on my reading list. I wanted to see what this well educated, enduring woman could do with her knowledge and experience.
And I had just studied this era, 1913-1938, through WWI and II, last semester. Most of what I knew about Austria came from Sound of Music. I have Austrian blood, as does my husband, a descendant of the Strasser line, the famous singers of Gruber's Silent Night... my mother-in-law's maiden name is Strasser, and yes, she has a lovely singing voice, as do her six brothers and sisters. So, as I read, I found myself keenly aware of my connection, my ancestry, roaming the streets of Vienna and Salzburg in the background. When house help was mentioned, I pictured my great grandmother, leaving Austria with her sister for America before the German Anschluss. I was carried away.
For a closer look at this novel of love and war, click here.
G.G. Vandagriff is The Writer in the Cranberry Tower, linked here and below, right. She is currently in Italy, luckily researching her latest novel. I love her posts.
Thank you, G.G. I feel like I just sought out of the best books (Doctrine & Covenants 88:118). And it is still on my mind.

October 10, 2009

A Search

I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.  ~Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977

I have half a dozen spiral-bound notebooks around the house. They are mine. There has never been a formal announcement, but everyone knows. I write down to-do lists, project needs, phone numbers, recipes. And I write down anything of note, any thought, any event, a dialogue for a novel, a point I want to make, figure out the words.
I was looking for something this morning and came across this entry. I had just spent the first week in a quiet house... my youngest had started all-day kindergarten, the house was clean, everything was (for the first time in years) checked off my to-do list. I had picked up my seldom read copy of works by William Wordsworth. Questions weighed heavily on my mind. What am I supposed to do... be? What do I do with my "talent"? Do I go to school? Do I go to work? Do I have more to do than my kids? If I did, I wanted to find it. Despite my gratitude for being able to be home all these years, I was very frustrated. Lost. I read this:


"If thou indeed derive thy light from Heaven,
Then, to the measure of that heaven-born light,
Shine, (Krista)! In thy place,
and be content..."

"These words struck like lightning, and my tears broke, startling me as I read them.
How am I to shine? I feel the light, but it is held within, without escape. Is it foolishness to pursue release... as if to swallow the moon whole, so that its light shines out my eyes and fingertips, like Jimmy describes in It's a Wonderful Life?
I wish to shine... and be content."

Only a few weeks later, I joined a new writer's club, and started my first book, Sudden Storms and Sunlight. It's a real story. Truth. Three rejection letters and five and a half fiction novels later, I am still working on Comes The Sunlight (the title has evolved) and it will probably be the most important thing I have ever written.
Am I content? No. And that is good.
But, I am content with the direction I have been given. Something more to do... to be.

October 5, 2009

My post at LDS Publisher.com!!!

I am a guest blogger!  Check out my recent post from Krista Lynne Jensen at LDS Publisher. I'm so excited!!!
Thank you, LDS Publisher.

October 1, 2009

Enjoy The Ride, Avoid The Wreck

Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

~William Safire, "Great Rules of Writing"

Writing a good story, or even a great one, is a kind of train ride: an adventure, an escape, with momentum and trudged hills and breathtaking descents, worrisome ledges and delicate bridges, some stops to refuel, passengers to board, some to depart, and some to throw off. Sometimes it is sad to reach your destination, sometimes it is a relief... but then the brakes squeal with effort, there is a tremendous lurch, and you are thrown into the re-write. The ride has been an effort of one kind, but now you must start at the beginning, and tear it apart, piece by piece, becoming a conductor instead of the engineer, making sure everyone has the proper tickets, seeing that the right compartments have been found, that safety precautions are met, that the ride is enjoyed as it is meant to be.
*I found this list of words to avoid. When writing that first draft, let 'em fly... then throw 'em from the train.

a little        almost        anyway       at the present time      began to       by means of         certainly       considering the fact that         definitely       even        exactly       fairly       in order to       in spite of the fact      in the event        is     was    were       just       perhaps       probably    proceeded to       owing to the fact       quite       rather      real       really      seem       slightly       so      some       somewhat      sort of       started to       such       that      the      usually      very      which

Using these words in narration draws the reader another step away from the story, pulls them out, reminds them of the author lurking behind the pages.  Of course, some of these words would be used by characters in dialogue... it is, after all, language. But, find some, and try to rework the sentence, the scene, with as few as possible.

Here is an example of an edit from The Orchard.

“Naughty Jane”, Alisen whispered and smiled wryly as she opened the door and let the cat into the long, narrow mudroom.  This was as far as the cat was allowed.  She purred around Alisen’s legs as she opened a cupboard and scooped out some food to place in a dish, and filled the water bowl from the utility sink.  She crouched down and rubbed Jane’s neck.  The purring grew a little louder.
“We should have named you Motor,” Alisen observed.

Now, edited. 

“Naughty Jane,” Alisen whispered and smiled wryly as she opened the door to the long, narrow mudroom, as far as the cat was allowed.  Purring rose around Alisen’s legs as she scooped cat food into a dish and filled the water bowl.  Alisen crouched down and rubbed Jane’s neck.  The purring grew louder.
“We should have named you Motor,” Alisen observed.

There are numerous ways this could be edited, but this is the combination I chose. The editors may have other ideas.
I wish they would let me know what they were.  

*10 Easy Steps To Strong Writing, by Linda George, The Writer, Jan 2004
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