Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Best Writing Gift

One thing I have always loved to write is church talks. I don't even give them in church. I just write them. Richard G. Scott once called this type of thing..storing up treasures of knowledge. Writing down the sacred things I've learned helps me to organize the thoughts and principles of the gospel in a way that is more concrete than just thinking about them in my head. I like to keep them in a special journal, saving them for a future date to give to my children. They're my own little "Plates of Brass". I write those sacred things in the hopes that someday they will be of value to my children. I believe it helps me in my secular writing endeavors as well. Being able to record things in a meaningful way helps me to put more heart into my other writing, and it helps me learn to touch and inspire others with my writing at a deeper level.

Someday I will pass these treasures of knowledge on to my children. And I believe it will be the most important writing I've ever done.

Kersten Campbell
"Confessions of a Completely Insane Mother"
www.kerstencampbell.com

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Eyes Like Mine" by Julie Wright, Reviewed by Tristi Pinkston

"Eyes Like Mine" is the new offering from best-selling author Julie Wright.


From the backliner:

William has been missing for two days. And even though the rest of the wagon company has decided they must continue on to Zion, Constance Brown refuses to go any further until she finds her husband. All she can think about is the last time she saw him—he lovingly touched her face and then sang their baby girl to sleep. Will that memory be all Constance has to hold on to?

In a future time and place, Liz King is a teenager struggling with her identity in the modern world. The embarrassment she feels because of her parents’ divorce and her family’s newfound financial problems turns to bitterness.

Through an inexplicable twist of fate, Constance and Liz are brought face to face. Liz recognizes Constance’s name from her mother’s endless lectures on their family history, and she also recognizes her eyes—they are exactly like her own. Were these distant relatives brought together in order to help each other?

Will Constance be able to return to her own life and find William, and will Liz be able to keep from telling Constance how her story ends? In this irresistible novel filled with gripping adventure and heartfelt emotion, two young women from drastically different times and settings learn that the challenges life holds for them are not so different after all.



Time travel with pioneers makes me nervous. The possibilities for triteness are so great, the chances for missteps are so many ... in fact, I've only ever seen it done well, twice. The first was in Willard Boyd Gardner's "Race Against Time." And the other?

In "Eyes Like Mine."

I love Julie Wright, not only as a phenomenal writer but as a good friend. She has a way of bringing light into a room whenever she steps into it, and that's what her writing does, too. You open a book by Julie and that light surrounds you until you're done reading. I found her story intriguing and compelling. The solution didn't come about quite as the characters hoped - they had to work a little harder for it, and I liked that. I appreciated the way she wove history and genealogy and modern-day trials into one cohesive tale. And you betcha, I can't wait for her next book.

(This book was published by Covenant Communications in 2009.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

"How Do You Know You're a Writer?" by Michele Ashman Bell

Writers are strange and bizarre people. I've been doing some research to figure out the qualities writer's possess and decided to share my checklist with you. Feel free to add or even debate any of the qualities listed. That's what writers do . . . question and re-write.

1. Imagination. Truth is stranger than fiction, but an author knows how to take a nugget of truth or inspiration, and spend months turning it into a story. Ideas are the seeds, but imagination is what makes them grow.

2. Observation. People ask me where I get my ideas from. I tell them . . . everywhere! A writer is continually watching people and gleaning ideas from things they see, hear and read. I also tell people to be careful what they tell me, it might end up in one of my books!

3. Discipline. Don't think that writers are always so full of inspiration that they can hardly wait to write. Sometimes it's pure heck and frustration to sit and write. The key though is to do it regularly, whether you feel inspired or not. Sticking to a writing schedule is crucial for a writer.

4. Perseverance. He who gives up, loses. It's not about talent, it's not about luck, it's about hard work and never giving up. Plain and simple.

5. A love of words. Finding the right way to say what's in your heart is truly magic. Nothing brings more joy to a writer than to read something you've written and think, "I don't even remember writing that," or be surprised that it's actually pretty good! (Wish that happened more often.) Writing till you say it just the right way, to express the action or emotion is pure bliss!

6. Passion. It's important that you feel passionate about your project, whatever it may be. Your goal is to share what's in your heart because when you do, the reader feels it in his heart. This is probably the most magical part of writing.

7. Humility. Writers are always trying to learn and grow and improve their craft. We also spend a great deal of time doing rewrites and revisions. Believe me, this will keep you humble.

8. Having a finger on the pulse of what's going on in the world. The luxury of writing for the sake of writing doesn't really exist, for the most part. Writers have to be aware of market trends, hot sellers, shifts in readers interest, etc . . . Write what's in your heart, but make sure there's a market for it.

9. Thick skin. You will never, ever please everyone. Some people will love your work. Some will hate it. Don't take it personal.

10. You can't not write. Whether I ever got published or not, I would always write. It's how my brain works. It's what I do.

Feel free to share your thoughts and feelings. I can take it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Having Hope by Terri Ferran - reviewed by Tristi Pinkston

"Having Hope" is LDS author Terri Ferran's latest novel and is the sequel to "Finding Faith," which I reviewed here.

Kit Matthews has been waiting for her missionary for the last two years. During that time, she has grown in her own knowledge of the gospel and feels more comfortable with the whole Mormon culture that had her so baffled when she first moved to Utah. When Adam comes home, she hopes a proposal will come her way, but she's completely surprised to find her heart turning another direction - she is presented with the opportunity to go to Romania for a few months to help in the orphanages there. Herself an orphan who was adopted into a loving family, she feels the need to help these Romanian children in any way she can.

Of course, Adam will miss her while she's gone, but he understands this is something she needs to do. However, the distance between them physically soon puts distance between them emotionally as Kit receives e-mails from Adam's sister that a new girl has moved in on Adam's free time and seems to be pegging herself a spot in his family that used to be Kit's. As Kit falls more in love with the orphans she serves, she realizes there might be a place for her in Romania, and if a handsome medical student just happens to go along with the package, would that be so bad?

I appreciated this look into the Romanian orphanages and the trials these institutions face, with little operating money and so many children to care for. I was also pleased to see another installment in Kit's story. She's a character you think about long after the book has come to an end.

(This book was published in 2009 by Bonneville Books.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Instead of Waiting for 'the Dream,' Here's How to Make that Dream Happen" by Michele Ashman Bell

It hasn't happened yet. Every night I go to bed and think, "Will I have the dream tonight? The one where I wake up and have a brilliant idea that becomes a best-selling novel series that turns into box office hits starring hunky male leads and smolderingly beautiful female leads?"

Yeah, right.

I may be a fiction author but I do live in the real world. These "success" stories are far and few between. Yes, they do happen, no question about it. But until you have that career-boosting dream, there are a few things you can do to make it happen the good old fashioned way, with hard work and imagination.

So, what exactly goes into a best-selling novel?

I've researched this question and have come up with a few ideas. Please feel free to add more. Believe me, I'm open to all the help I can get.

#1: Plot should be the driving force of your story. Characters and background are secondary. A good plot will pull the reader in and not let go of them until the last word of the last page.

#2: Have passion for your characters. Write characters that readers can love, at their best or at their worst. Make them human, give them flaws, let them show their humorous side as well as their neurotic side. They will be irresistible to readers.

#3: Find a way to appeal to the reader's wildest dreams and fantasies. People read to escape. If your character is dull and boring and they do ordinary things, readers are going to be disappointed. Write about the impossible that becomes possible. Let the reader escape into the wonderful world you've created.

#4: Keep the tension high all the way to the end. Make the reader crazy if you have to. Readers actually want to bite off all their nails, hold their breath, groan in agony and stay up all night reading. Hold them off, clear to the end, then . . . . give them the ultimate, satisfying ending.

#5: Have your background information so believable it becomes a character. When you decide on a setting for your story don't forget to look at what's right in front of your nose. You may be able to use material from your own life or surroundings that will add a deep level of authenticity that only you can offer.

#6: Use the details of place and time as tools to create your characters. Make characters an extension of their world; how they dress, how they speak, what they eat and all other ways they interact with their surroundings. Books become magical when the reader believes that characters and their world are real.

#7: Be unique. Everyone one of us comes to the table with a set of experiences, interests and abilities. Taking advantage of our own personal uniqueness will allow us to write stories that no one else can write. Embrace it. You really do have qualities that will set your story apart from everyone else's.

Perhaps what we can learn from this is that we don't really need a dream. Maybe where we get our ideas isn't as important as what we do when we get an idea. We really can make magic happen.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Be Still

For the last few months my creativity has been alarmingly low. I haven’t come up with any new book ideas. I haven’t worked on any of the active projects I already have. I’d do just about anything to avoid writing. That’s not me. I felt as if I’d lost a crucial part of myself, but I couldn’t figure out how to get it back.

Finally, in a fit of waving the white flag I started going back through some of my favorite writing books, trying to figure out what I needed to do to get it together. I think I found the answer in one simple phrase I ran across.

Stop reading.

Now, that can’t be right, can it? How could an author advise another author to stop reading? Isn’t that supposed to be “read everything you can get your hands on?”

Well, yes and no. The author’s point was you can’t expect to find your own voice, your own words and magic, when your head is full of everybody elses. When you are actively writing, he suggests putting other books aside so yours has more room to grow.

That got me thinking about my own life. Like most writers, I’m an avid reader. I read constantly, but it’s more than that. I keep a stack of books by my bed, on the kitchen table, by the couch, and one in my purse. I listen to audio books in the car, while I clean house and while I take my morning walk. On any given day I can be “reading” as many as 7 different books. Was it any wonder, then, that I didn’t have room for my own words?

Then, I really started thinking. Was it just the books? No. I couldn’t remember a time in months that I hadn’t been multitasking and filling my time with “stuff” of all sorts. All very important “stuff” to be sure, but I know myself better than that. I need quiet time to myself, yet it’s always the first thing to go and the first thing I’ll feel guilty about when I let myself take it. But, that stillness, that quiet and peace are the very core of my creativity.

We live in such a crazy world. There will always be more to do, more to say, more to think, more to read, more to write than we could possibly squeeze in. Yet we continue to try. We know we want to write. We scramble for those few free moments. We learn to write with the kids coming to blows in the next room. And, we drain our creative wells, then wonder what happened.

Remember, part of nurturing the creative gift that God has given you is not only the act of writing, but respecting where the creativity comes from. Take time to be still. The next time you have a few moments, stop yourself from running directly to the computer. Step back and find some peace first. Get rid of the rest of the worries and concerns and other books you’re reading. Take a moment to read and ponder a scripture. Pray. Meditate. Do yoga. Take a shower. Yes, staring out the window at nothing is a very important part of the writing process.

Bring your mind back to a state of harmony and peace. Be still and let your creativity know it is welcomed and valued. Then go to your computer and do what your heart longs to do with joy rather than dread.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What if I'm not funny?

Many people have the misconception that they can't add humor to their writing because they aren't funny. This is a myth. Humor can be learned. Humor has basic formulas that are fueled by what every writer has an abundance of: creativity. I'm living proof of that fact. Before I studied humor, I had no idea how to be funny. But now that I've studied some of the science behind what makes people laugh, I understand that humor comes from a combination of certain factors laid out in a certain way. I recognize it more in other people's work and I can add it to my own.

I'll give you and example of one basic formula that can be learned. One of the most basic ideas in humor writing is incongruity. When two ideas that don't make sense are put together it makes us laugh, whether it be in a character, a plot, or a dialogue. For instance, much of the dialogue in the movie, "The Emperor's New Groove" is incongruous. The two main characters are about to fall over a steep waterfall and the emperor asks, "Sharp rocks at the bottom?" And his companion very calmly answers, "Yup." Then the emperor replies straight-faced, "Bring it on." This dialogue is all said in the most calm manner, making us laugh because it is the total opposite reaction than they should be having to the scary situation.

An example of an incongruous character is in C.S. Lewis's "Voyage of the Dawn Treader". "Reepicheep" is the tiny mouse who is braver than anyone else and a swordsman that no one can defeat, yet he is the tiniest of all the creatures on Prince Caspian's ship. It makes us laugh when this tiny mouse shouts out huge threats at people in a squeaky little voice. The incongruity of someone who is in reality so tiny, but acts like he is ten feet tall is funny.

So if you want to add humor to your writing, but think you're not funny, don't be discouraged! Just take the time to study one of the many books on Amazon.com that teach the formulas for writing humor. It will be well worth your time, because sometimes humor is the edge that gets your manuscript to stand out above the others that are all alike in the slush pile. Good luck! and let me know how it goes!

Kersten Campbell, author of "Confessions of a Completely Insane Mother"
www.kersten4.blogspot.com
www.kerstencampbell.com

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Anne's Book Review of Alma by Heather B. Moore


Heather B. Moore has done it again! As I finished reading a preview copy of her latest novel, Alma, I groaned. The book was so good I wanted to keep reading for another few hundred pages – and that was after soaking up some three hundred already.

I admire the way Heather brings scripture alive in her books, and adds a third dimension to familiar stories. Alma is no exception. Characters I met and loved in Abinidi grow and mature in Alma as they endure trials and afflictions that test the strongest faith to its limits. It’s heart breaking to witness the burdens these people carry, yet satisfying to see how prayers are answered and right prevails.

Even though I’m familiar with Alma’s story in the Book of Mormon, reading about him in Heather's fiction—which maintains scriptural accuracy, by the way—is like seeing everything open up in real time. Heather’s writing is masterful. Her descriptive passages employ all the senses, taking me into the heart of the story, letting me see, feel, hear, and smell my surroundings as though I was actually there in ancient lands.

The love stories weaving through Alma are so believable and touching, that from now on I know I’ll have a hard time putting them into the “fiction, not fact” compartment of my brain. I certainly have a much greater appreciation for Alma, the great warrior prophet, thanks to Heather’s book.

In my personal Book of Mormon daily read, at the same time as I finished Alma, I reached the Mosiah chapter seventeen account where Alma is writing up Abinadi’s words in secret after being hounded out of the city. What a happy coincidence that was. My scriptural Alma suddenly became so vivid I wanted to tell him not to worry, millions would one day read the things he was writing, and to keep up the great work as it was vital information for future generations.

I give Alma by H. B. Moore ten out of ten, and am already looking forward to her next work, Alma the Younger.

Below are a few of the many glowing endorsements for Alma, which comes out September 2009.

Alma has it all: vibrant characters, danger, spiritual challenges, and bittersweet joy. Moore has created an epic tale that’s simply impossible to put down.”—Jason F. Wright, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Wednesday Letters

“H.B. Moore brings the remarkable characters to life through well-researched detail, a hard-to-put-down storyline, and scripturally accurate counsel that reflects the author’s own deep understanding of the scriptures. I have thoroughly enjoyed this series and the way in which the books cause you to ponder the scriptural accounts.” –Al Rounds, Artist

“In a pattern that has become warmly familiar, H. B. Moore crafts a page-turning yet well-researched story of the challenges that a Book of Mormon personality faces when trying to lead a colony of believers to safety, not once but twice. Alma the Elder, who begins his life in debauchery, becomes the respected adviser to a king and the leader of his church, and more. On a personal level, this man becomes the model for all of us who seek to arrest a wasted life and turn it into something grand and meaningful.” -S. Kent Brown, emeritus professor of ancient scripture, BYU.

Review by Anne Bradshaw
www.annebradshaw.com
Anne's Place

DISCLAIMER:
*I do not receive either monetary or any other form of compensation. I do however receive the review products at no charge to evaluate and express my own opinion.*

Monday, November 16, 2009

Show It Like It Is

"Showing" is how writers help a reader feel as if they're seeing and experiencing the conflicts and resolutions of your story just as the protagonist is. The three best ways I've found to show a scene rather than to tell it are to include dialogue, action, and details.

First, dialogue and action are more than self-explanatory, they are critical to fiction; for if your characters aren't saying or doing anything besides looking at your imaginative setting or thinking about what they want to do, they are stagnant. Boring. Your readers may even, heaven forbid, close your book and never pick it up again. So as you look over your manuscript, make sure your characters are doing and saying something important.

Adding descriptive details is another invaluable tool. And when I talk about details, I'm referring to those that reflect all 6+ senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, and intuition.

As I was revising my novel, MISSING, I was happily surprised by how much stronger one of my less action-packed scenes became when I incorporated such details as what one of my villains was listening to on the radio and how she felt when an unexpected stranger passed by.

Now for the big question: how do you know if you're telling more than showing your story? The answer's simple. As you glimpse over each page of your manuscript, watch for these indicators:

1. Your page is filled with long, uninterrupted paragraphs.
2. There is no dialogue on the page.
3. Your characters aren't doing anything but looking or thinking.

If you have any of these factors, take a good look at your manuscript and see if you can add dialogue, action, or details. I bet you'll be able to, and your writing will be stronger because of it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Manual Labor and the Creative Process



I pondered upon this, my maiden posting for this blog, as I was rolling out a pie crust the other day. Though I used to make about 300 pies a week when I had a small wholesale bakery, nowadays I may make ten a year. I haven’t lost my touch though, and muscle memory carried me through the process and allowed my thoughts to wander.

Counting the Cost, my most recently published book, was actually my first novel , written during the very early morning hours as I rolled and fluted crusts and did the other endless, repetitive jobs of the bakery. Later in the day, when I could finally sit at a keyboard, the narrative flowed onto the paper as smoothly as the whipped cream I piped onto the sour cream lemon pies before I sent them off to my customers. (Want the sour cream lemon pie recipe? Click here.)

That was a completely different experience from my other books, which were blocked, outlined, and written at the computer. It’s like the difference between an artesian well and a well where the water has to be pumped to the surface. The water is good in both wells, but artesian water is a gift. The other has to be earned.


To put it another way: Counting the cost came to me unbidden as I worked in dough and as I cleaned up my colossal mess. My other books have been summoned, cajoled, wheedled as I sat on my ample rear in my ergonomic office chair.

From this experience, I’ve come to the conclusion that manual labor-- repetitive, mindless things like scrubbing or sanding or shoveling or weeding—is good for the creative process, though why, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the repetitive rhythm that hypnotizes us and allows our subconscious to take over. Or maybe it’s the endorphins released by the physical activity. Or maybe it’s the sense of accomplishment when we see the concrete proof of our activity--the weeds piled in a wheelbarrow or the pies lined up on a counter—that helps us believe we can accomplish whatever we set out to do.

I’ve had people ask me how I deal with writer’s block. I’ve never had writer’s block, but if I ever do run up against it, I’ll just get my rolling pin and pastry cloth out and start making pies for the neighborhood. That will get the story rolling again, I’m sure.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Book Review - Illuminations of the Heart by Joyce DiPastena

Siriol de Calendri, recently widowed, has no where to go. Her brother has died, and without the protection of a husband, she fears that she may have to fend for herself. But the world is a frightening place for a beautiful young woman. Although she has the skill of creating beautiful illustrations for books, and feels she can support herself, she will be the target for any man who tries to interfere with her. Loving his sister and wanting what was best for her, her brother makes arrangements for her before his death. He sends her to live with his good friend, Triston de Brielle, of France.

Siriol is astonished when, at her first meeting with Sir Triston, he sweeps her up and gives her a passionate kiss. No, that's not just how the French do things (although they do have a kiss named after them, as I recall). She reminds Triston of his late wife to such an extent, for a moment he thinks she's come back to him. When his senses return and he realizes that he's just smooched a total stranger, he apologizes and then puts up emotional walls against her. However, as they come to know each other, he realizes that while she is not his dead wife, and indeed is different from her in so many ways, he feels attracted to Siriol and finds her refreshing.

Joyce DiPastena has a vast amount of knowledge about all things medieval and she paints pictures in the minds of her readers. You see the clothes, you imagine yourself walking along the stone corridors, and you can smell the feasts that are offered up in the kitchens. You feel as though you have truly stepped into her story. If you're looking for a really romantic, truly authentic medieval tale of love, treachery, and intrigue, well - what are you waiting for? Click here.

Book Review - The Route by Gale Sears

We all know that giving service is a good thing to do. We think about it from time to time, and we generally stop to lend a hand when the need occurs right in front of us, but how many of us actually leave the house with the specific intent of going out to serve? I know I don't do it a whole lot, and I found Gale Sears' new book, "The Route," to be highly inspirational. It's the story of a woman who did this very thing - she left her house every single week to do some good as a volunteer for Meals on Wheels.

Carol is an older woman who is looking for something just a little more in her life. She wants to feel of use even though she no longer has the demands on her time she did as a young woman, but at first, she's intimidated by her assignment. She must pick up the meals by a certain time so they can be delivered when the recipients need them, and one client in particular is very persnickety about her lunch. Carol meets people from all walks of life, from the very active to the homebound, from those who are still brimming with life to those who have practically given up. In each person, she finds something to love, and she learns something from each of them in return.

I have always felt an affinity for my elders, and "The Route" reminded me of just how important it is that we stay connected to members of every generation, even if we sometimes feel a little shy about reaching out to those older than us. Their stories and their strength can give us courage in facing our own trials, and I loved reading about Carol's experiences with the program and how she found those missing pieces of herself in those she served. I give a big round of applause to this touching novel.

(Published in 2009 by Walnut Springs Press.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Welcome!

Welcome to Make Me a Story, the new blog created and maintained by your friends at LDStorymakers. We're a group of authors who love to read, love to write, and love to share what we have learned along our pathways to success. Whether you're a writer or a reader, you'll find something here that speaks to the word lover in you.

We encourage you to visit back often - we have a cadre of bloggers who will fill this page with hints, tricks, reviews, and all kinds of literary delights, daily. Thank you for popping in, and we hope to see you again soon.