November 30, 2009

The Best Books Club- December Selection

The Art of Civilized Conversation, by Margaret Shepherd
In our fast-paced, electronic society, the most basic social interaction (talking face-to-face) can be a challenge for even the most educated and self-assured individuals. And yet making conversation is a highly practical skill: those who do it well shine at networking parties, interviews, and business lunches. Good conversation also opens doors to a happier love life, warmer friendships, and more rewarding time with family.

For those intimidated by the complexity of personal interaction, or those simply looking to polish their speaking skills, The Art of Civilized Conversation is a powerful guide to communicating in an endearing way. In its pages, author Margaret Shepherd offers opening lines, graceful apologies, thoughtful questions, and, ultimately, the confidence to take conversations beyond hello. From the basics (first impressions, appropriate subject matter, and graceful exits) to finding the right words for difficult situations and an insightful discussion of body language, Shepherd uses her skilled eye and humorous anecdotes to teach readers how to turn a plain conversation into an engaging encounter.

Filled with common sense and fresh insight, The Art of Civilized Conversation is the perfect inspiration not only for what to say but for how to say it with style.

November 20, 2009

Applying the Science to the Art, and Hiccups

I try to leave out the parts that people skip.  ~Elmore Leonard
 I recently asked the great editors of Writing on the Wall about transitions between sequels. I know we are to be careful with too much backstory, often referred to as "info dump", and flashbacks. So, how does that translate in a sequel, where characters are re-introduced, time has passed since the last book came out, and you want to bring the readers up to speed without causing them to get out the first book and look things up to remember, but you also don't want them to sigh and think, "Yeah, I remember all this, blah blah blah, skip to next scene."
I have come across both in the many series I have read. How do you find that happy place in-between? The smooth transition?
This summer I finished a really lengthy novel, 748 pages, called Remnant. It's a speculative novel about what happened after the final battle at Cumorah in the Book of Mormon. My friend Norma had just split her WIP into two sections and is adding a third book and I borrowed her idea. It worked. Halfway through Remnant I found the perfect leaving off/starting up again point in the story. A 2-part series.

But now I need to apply the advice given me. Heather B. Moore, the author of Abinadi and Alma, among other series, replied to my question and I hope she doesn't mind me sharing her advice,(paraphrased). As I edited the "jump" from one book to the other, I kept in mind what the reader would need or want to be reminded of, and made those changes. The example below are from Remnant, Book II.

-Use internal dialogue and very short explanations.

She nodded, barely making out his silhouette in the shelter.  She yawned loudly.  “I am ready.” She trusted Muhozheena, one of the leaders of these people who had found them in a darkest hour, helped them though they were strangers to this land of boiling mud and bursting steam. They had saved Teomni’s life. And Zerom’s.

-Do not, as the author, veer from the action or dialogue too long. This is when skimming occurs.

“Do you have a longer name, like the others?  Pengwi is Mane…Manegitepengwi.  Bigwiyaa is Bigwiyaahio.  And… Wahatewe… Wahatewe…” she blew out a breath and Sho laughed.
“Yes.”  She pointed to him as they dropped over the bank.  “Sho…?  Shomaniwayatuka?”
He laughed again, shaking his head.  They knelt down and washed the cups and pot. She would learn these names, if only to show her gratitude to this people, to address them with her respect.
“Shohopanogua.”  He sat back and reached his hand against the trunk of the young tree above them.  “Shohopanogua.”  He shook the trunk and looked up.
She repeated him.  “Shoho-panogua.”
He smiled and nodded, and patted the tree.
“You are named for that tree?”
He nodded, then turned to go back to what was left of camp.

-Use dialogue to remind readers.

Lahonti was quiet.
“What of Kirianah?”  There, he had said it.
“What of her?” 
Limhi noted the softening of his son’s tone. “Do you love her?”
Lahonti stopped, and Limhi turned around.  He heard the steps of Nawatweda pause.
Lahonti put his hands at his hips and looked away.  “Of course I do.”
Limhi stepped to him.  “My son, I know you have refused to consider what I talked to you about so many years ago.  But, if the time of danger has passed, don’t you think—“
“She thinks of me only as a brother.”  Lahonti walked past him and motioned Nawatweda on.
Limhi sighed.  He could not argue.  He followed and noted they were climbing up a ravine, out of the canyon.
“You have not shown her any other behavior.”
“There were times, I tried.  We have been raised together in war.  What else do we know?”

-Bring out an article to remind readers of a previous incident.

He gently laid her down and reached for his pack.  He drew the attention of Sho and Pengwi as he withdrew the carving, the deer he had brought out of the boral wood so many months ago.  He dug and found his knife.
Zerom returned to his place at Kirianah’s side and ran his hands over the wood of his home, over the progress he had made along the way.  His fingers ran over the animal’s eyes, and he caught his breath.  He began to work, occasionally pausing to brush the shavings in a small pile.
Pengwi brought him a bowl of some sort of stew.  He smelled berries and meat, but kept his focus.  Sho offered him water, and he did pause to drink, and nodded his thanks to Sho, then furrowed his brow and went back to work, the pile of shavings growing.
Finally, he stopped, and turned the carving in his hands.  Sho nodded across from him.  It was not finished, but he would save it for another time.  He set it down and carefully gathered up the shavings.  He motioned to Pengwi, pointing to the bowl.  Pengwi quickly got him what he wanted, and Zerom dropped the shavings into the empty horn bowl.  He picked up the still smoldering herbs and blew on them, holding them over the shavings.  He blew again, and glowing particles swirled and dropped into the bowl.  He continued, until the tiny embers were enough to start a thin line of smoke from the shavings.  He softly inhaled.  It was enough.
Carefully, he lowered the bowl close to Kirianah’s face, and wafted the herbs through the wood smoke.  Boral wood, the smells she had described of her father’s workshop. He did this patiently, hope drifting through him like the scent filling his memories.  He watched her face.

I will keep trying, but I am so grateful for the good advice I am finding. I will need to apply the same thing to The Inn and The Lake. I already know I have my work cut out for me. Info-dump sites.
BTW, still no word from the editors on The Orchard, but I am keeping busy and looking forward to the holidays. Still a little wring of my hands and an occasional brain hiccup, like yesterday when I was leaving Albertson's, my mind on the book, and I turned into the very wrong lane, facing down a mac truck across the intersection. Fortunately the light was red, and I was able to find my lane, with my hand over my face, and get out of there, wondering if I could change the color of my car and apply for a new license number.
As my friend Matt would say, it's all good.

November 10, 2009

I Chose This

A critic can only review the book he has read, not the one which the writer wrote.  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960

I have heard from the editors. They are ready to take The Orchard to the managing committee for final review. So, as per their request, I am making an itemized list of the revisions they asked me to make and how I addressed them, so they have the list there as they go through the book again.
The quote above is from a work titled, as you can see, The Neurotic's Notebook.

Mm-hmm, yep.
I think it's a good, nervous anxiety, though.
Back to work.

November 6, 2009

Finished It

Grace & Chocolate, by Krista Lynne Jensen

With the harsh scrape of chair against linoleum, Jill jerked out of her day dream as the dripping moss-hung trees of an ancient forest dissipated into the bland meeting room of the offices of Brasher Books, Inc. Blinking, she heard more chairs pushed away from the conference table. They had been dismissed.
It wasn’t like her, to lose focus like that.
She looked over the notes she’d just taken, circling the number she was to call the minute she returned to her desk, where she’d absently left her phone on a pile of paper. Again, out of character. People filed out of the room, murmuring about trends, clients, and the Labor Day weekend they had planned.
“Is this a manuscript?”
Jill hastily looked to the manicured fingertips pressed on the stack of documents next to her. “Oh,” her gaze moved up to the face belonging to the red lacquered nails, “Ms. Martin. Yes. I mean, no. I mean . . . I was just cleaning out my desk before the meeting and it was tucked in my—“
Rowena Martin, managing editor of Brasher Books Publishing, pointed to the name under the title. “This is you?”
“What is it about?”
“Umm . . .” She swallowed. She had just read somewhere that an author should have two really good sentences at the ready, so she can answer that exact question. Jill hadn’t taken the time to think of any. “It’s a novel . . . based on a woman’s faith . . . and overcoming obstacles against all odds.” Ugh. Boring. “It’s a romance.”
“What faith, if I may ask?”
She took a deep breath. “I’m LDS.” Wait for it. “It’s a Mormon novel.”
Ms. Martin’s sharp eyebrows rose. “And this is the title?”
“Yes. Tentatively.”
In a quick movement Jill’s manuscript was in the woman’s arms. “Are you any good?” She looked down, lifting the top page. What kind of question was that? The woman didn’t seem to expect an answer. “I’ll take a look. We’re exploring a new division, as you heard. Faith-based fiction. Ripley and Grosskopf have already approached me with their own ideas.”
Jill thought to argue that though Ripley and Grosskopf were slush-pile editors, given the mind-bending task of sorting through doubtful first submissions, they were probably above mere secretaries on the publishing ladder. She held her tongue.
The woman perused the unbound pages. “This falls into that category, does it not?”
Jill nodded numbly, her voice receding somewhere deep inside her abdomen, not to be found. The woman turned on her heels and walked away.
Jill blinked, then panic slapped her in the gut, dislodging her voice. “Ms. Martin!”
The woman turned, looking over her rectangular glasses.
Jill stood and steadied herself, eyeing the manuscript in such powerful hands. “I’m sorry, Ms. Martin, but I can’t let you take that.”
The woman stared, disbelieving.
“I mean . . . that’s only the second draft, a partial. It’s a mess. Since then I’ve cut two characters, an aimless subplot, and thirty pages off the ending. That’s not the copy you want.” She swallowed and tried to stop grasping at her hands. She pulled them behind her back. “Actually, I’ve already submitted it to Brasher. The edits were based on remarks in the rejection letter.” Jill lowered her eyes, but then blew out a breath and stepped forward, lifting her chin. “I can get you a copy of the finished revision, though. It’s on my jump-drive.”
Ms. Martin gazed at Jill, then snapped her wrist over and glanced at her watch, then at the title page in her grasp. She handed the manuscript back.
Jill’s voice fled back to its hiding place, along with any hopes this encounter had conjured.
“I’ll be in Bob Brasher’s office until 2:00. Get the copy to me before I leave, Miss Parish.”
Jill’s heart raced. “Yes. Thank you. I will.”
The glass door closed behind Rowena Martin, soundless.
Jill stood, magnetized in place, trembling hand holding the partial manuscript. She had nearly thrown it out while cleaning her desk, but decided last minute to hang onto it with the crazy notion it might, just might, be valuable someday. It was sheer luck that she’d mistakenly grabbed it with her notebook in her haste to get to the meeting.
“I would get on that if I were you.”
Jill jumped at the soft voice next to her ear. A shiver dispelled any lock the moment had on her. It was not pleasant.
“Not so close, Ortiz, I’ve got your wife’s cell phone on speed dial.”
He put his hands up defensively, his dark eyes wide in feigned innocence. “Hey, hey. Just sayin’ you shouldn’t waste time, that’s all.”
Jill cut him a sharp look, ignoring his smoldering grin and heady cologne, and gathered her things.
He chuckled. “I love it when you call me by my last name.”
Ugh. She pushed through the door. She could think of a few things she’d rather call him. She made her way to her cubicle.
Marci popped up over the partition, her red bob bouncing. “Hey, how’d it go?”
“You mean besides the visual groping I just received from Ortiz?” Marci grimaced. Jill took a deep breath. “Ask me in twenty minutes.”
“Right-o.” Marci dropped back down.
Jill liked that about Marci. Not too pushy. She opened the top drawer of her desk. “Keys, keys, keys . . .” they weren’t there. She began again, methodically this time.
“My keys are gone. My keys are gone . . . Marci.”
Marci popped up. “Yes?”
“Have you seen my keys? You know, four keys, library card, very important zip-drive?”
Marci was nodding her head, searching the unusually littered desktop over the partition. “Yeah, with the silver palm tree. No, I haven’t seen them. Wow, I’ve never seen your desk this messy.”
Jill spoke from below the desktop. “I was cleaning it out.”
“Why are you cleaning your desk now?”
“I wanted it done before the long weekend.” Jill blew out an exasperated breath and scanned her desk on her knees. She attacked the drawer where she kept her keys once more. “Wait a minute.” Her eyes came up, searching. “Where’s my phone?” She stood up. I left it here on top of this pile.” She glanced around the office. “Has anyone been at my cubicle?”
“I didn’t see anyone while I was here. But I’ve been down in editing for the last hour.”
Jillian sat down hard on her chair and rubbed her hand over her forehead. “Okay, okay, I’ve got it at home.” She looked at the time. She’d never make it. And her keys were missing. She dropped her elbows on the manuscript. “Why would this happen right now?”
Abruptly, music started playing and she jumped.
“Is that your phone?” Marci asked.
“No, I don’t have that ringtone.”
“Well, it’s coming from your desk.”
“It is coming from my desk. What in the . . .?” She sorted under some files and wrapped her fingers around the slim phone. She pulled it up. 3 Doors Down played Away From the Sun. “This is not my phone, but the call is my number.”
“Well, answer it.”
“Don’t you think this is odd?”
Marci shrugged, her blue eyes unquestioning.
Jill lifted the phone to her ear. “Hello?”
“Hey, I believe you have my phone.”
“Who is this?”
“Stand up.”
She didn’t have time for this. “Why should I? Do you have my phone?”
“Relax, Sister Parish, and the phone won’t get hurt.” His voice was friendly. “Stand up . . . please.”
Carefully, she stood.
“Now, walk to the east windows.”
Marci followed her as Jill canvassed the east windows beyond the next row of cubicles. She entered the empty conference room she had just left and stood facing the next glass building on their block. Cape & Moore Publishing occupied the same floor in that building as her company did in this one. They were a smaller company, new.
“Is something going to blow up?” she asked, only half joking. Marci widened her eyes and stepped back, twirling a short lock of red hair in her fingers.
The voice chuckled. “No. Well, maybe your temper, but I hope not.”
Jill took a deep breath and folded her arms. “Who is this and how did you get my phone?”
“Fourth window from your right, straight across.”
She counted. She saw him. “Wave.”
He did. He placed his hand in his pocket. Scott Gentry.
Marci peered forward. “Ooh, do you know him?”
Jill covered the phone and steadied her breathing. She did know him. A little. She doubted he remembered. “He moved here a couple of weeks ago . . . goes to my church.”
“Hm. Church-going, and bold. And cute. At least from here. Well, what does he want? Not to blow us up, I hope.”
Jill’s curiosity was overcome by her sense of minutes ticking away.
His voice came across again. “Do you have a key to that drawer in your desk?”
Jill took a deep breath. “Yes.” She pictured it in the tray, next to the place her keys should have been.
“Hm. You should use it. By the way, your desk is a mess.”
“How dare you. Listen, I—“
She stopped at his soft laugh and watched him as he paced casually behind the window. “Please, the front desk was busy, so I asked someone where I could find you. I only wanted to get your attention.”
Her heart flopped unpleasantly. “Why would you want to do that?” If he remembered anything at all, he would say so now.
“I don’t know, I was hoping we—“
Wrong answer. “So you stole my keys?”
“Well, I didn’t want you driving off. And I borrowed them. They’re ransom.”
“My phone isn’t?”
“Well, you have my phone.”
“Not for long. You have my attention Brother Gentry, but I don’t think it’s the kind you’re after.”
“See, you do know me. And it’s Scott.”
Her teeth ground at the clumsiness of her heartbeat. “Listen, Scott, I am in dire need of those keys.” She glanced at her watch. “There is something on that zip drive and if I don’t get it in the next ten minutes, I could miss the opportunity of a lifetime. Do you understand me?”
She watched him fumble in his pocket, then look at the drive in his hand.
“I’m sorry.” The play in his voice had gone. “What do you want me to do?” He looked her way.
She thought. Elevators would take too long. Sprinting down the stairs in heels would be risky in more than a few ways. “Unless you have a high-powered slingshot, I suggest you stick that drive in the nearest computer and send me the file called Grace and Chocolate.” She’d like to tell him where else he could stick it, but hung on to what was left of her composure.
“You’re serious?”
“Yes, Scott, I am. So serious, my fingers are hovering over the number for the downtown Portland Police Bureau.”
He disappeared from the window. “I’m uploading the file right now. Where do I send it?”
“jparish at brasherbooks dot com.” She shook her head at the ceiling and made her way back to her cubicle. “What were you thinking?”
“Is this a book?”
“Yes, and you are to delete the file as soon as I receive it, got that?”
“Hey, this is you. So, you’re a writer.”
“Aren’t most of us?” She could name at least a dozen aspiring authors on her floor alone.
“There, it’s sent.”
She breathed a silent sigh of relief as she watched her inbox. “I hope it prints in time,” she mumbled.
Marci leaned over her back. “Does somebody want it?”
“Maybe. Rowena Martin.”
“Rowena Martin?”
Jill found herself annoyed Scott Gentry was still on the phone. “Yes, Scott, Rowena Martin, Managing Editor of Brasher Books. She gave me until two. O’clock.” His silence reminded her of her previous question. “Well, what were you thinking?”
“I . . . well it’s pretty lame, now . . .”
“I’m thinking it was pretty lame before.”
“I asked about you. I heard you were . . . well, that you were . . .”
“That I was what?”
“That you were difficult to . . . distract.”
“Distract from what?”
“From your busy life.”
She felt a small lurch in her stomach. “Well, Scott, you’ve certainly succeeded in distracting me for several infuriating minutes, but now I have to get back to that busy life and see if I can make something of it. I have the file. You can pick up your phone at our front desk. I’ll expect to find mine there, too. And my keys. Goodbye.”
She handed the phone to Marci. “Could you please take that down for me? Scott Gentry.”
“Sure.” Marci took the phone. “Mind if I wait around, have a peek when he brings yours in?”
“If you do I don’t want to hear about it.”
Marci gave her a pout, turned her petite frame, and pranced away to the elevators. Jill sent the file to the high-speed printer in the copy room, and only then did she fold her arms over her messy desk and drop her head on top of them.
Difficult to distract? Difficult to distract? Compelling a man to theft? Whatever happened to a rose and a telegram, like in the old movies? Or a chance encounter . . . briefcases colliding and eyes meeting over the mess of papers. That is a distraction. Finding each other at sunset along a tropical shore . . . But, theft? Who had he been talking to? And he certainly did not remember . . . it was a long time ago. A lifetime.
Jill groaned into her arms. “I have a busy life.”
Her eyes lifted to the computer screen. Printing: 85% complete.
She jumped out of her chair, stuffed her purse into the cabinet and locked it with the key from the drawer. She hurried to the copy room, only then remembering the phone call she had been assigned to make as the meeting let out. Jill reached for her cell phone, then pulled her hand back from her empty pocket. The call would have to wait.
Jill strode toward the desk in front of Robert Brasher’s corner office, the manuscript feeling warm, thick, and new in her arm. She had almost slipped it into one of the large copy envelopes, but decided against it, using only a big jaw clip on the top edge. Out of sight, out of mind. She looked down again at the title page. Right out in the open.
Saved By Grace and Chocolate
Jillian Parish
“Whoa—” Something heavy slammed against the book and her arms. She felt the pages fan out and her fingers grappled to keep them together in that thickness she loved, but the clip had other ideas, slipping away and flinging to the floor, followed by the gentle fluttering of three hundred and twenty-eight newly printed pages of a faith-based fiction romance.
“Oh no,” she heard him say.
She dropped to her knees as her eyes were drawn to the origin of that voice. Scott Gentry was dropping down with her, tossing his own things aside, scrambling to pick up page after page after page . . .


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November 2, 2009

Now Hosting "The Best Books Club"

Welcome to the new and tentative home of the Best Books Club, a book club taking up where Cody 3rd Ward Enrichment book club left off.
If you read October's selection, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, please feel free to leave a comment or email me your comments and I will post them here. I know not many of you were able to get your hands on a copy.
Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women: Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone. Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken. Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own. Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed. In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women—mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends—view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

Click HERE for study questions about The Help.

November's Selection Choices are:
These Is My Words, by Nancy F. Turner: Based on the real-life exploits of the author's great-grandmother, this fictionalized diary vividly details one woman's struggles with life and love in frontier Arizona at the end of the last century. When she begins recording her life, Sarah Prine is an intelligent, headstrong 18-year-old capable of holding her own on her family's settlement near Tucson. Her skill with a rifle fends off a constant barrage of Indian attacks and outlaw assaults. It also attracts a handsome Army captain named Jack Elliot. By the time she's 21, Sarah has recorded her loveless marriage to a family friend, the establishment of a profitable ranch, the birth of her first child?and the death of her husband. The love between Jack and Sarah, which dominates the rest of the tale, has begun to blossom. Fragmented and disjointed in its early chapters, with poor spelling and grammar, Sarah's journal gradually gains in clarity and eloquence as she matures. While this device may frustrate some readers at first, Taylor's deft progression produces the intended reward: she not only tells of her heroine's growth, but she shows it through Sarah's writing and insights. The result is a compelling portrait of an enduring love, the rough old West and a memorable pioneer. First serial to Good Housekeeping; author tour; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club selections. (Feb.) FYI: Selected as the March 1998 Good Housekeeping "Novel of the Month."
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

The Wednesday Letters, by Jason F. Wright, is the story of Jack and Laurel. Married 39 years, the Coopers lived a good life and appear to have had a near-perfect relationship. Then one night, with his wife cradled in his arms, and before Jack takes his last breath, he scribbles his final "Wednesday Letter."
When their three adult children arrive to arrange the funeral, they discover boxes and boxes full of love letters that their father wrote to their mother on every single Wednesday. As they begin to open and read the letters, the children uncover unimaginable adventures and the shocking truth about their past.
The Wednesday Letters has a powerful message about redemption and forgiveness. And it just might inspire you to begin writing your own Wednesday Letters. A New York Times Bestseller. Jason F. Wright is the LDS author of Christmas Jars.

Google either of these titles for more information on the stories and authors. Enjoy, and I look forward to hearing from you!
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