Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Amazing Prizes For Writers

No, not here. Over at The Bookshelf Muse blog.

But stay tuned. I did say recently that I would offer a contest where you could win a t-shirt. Well, not ALL of you personally. One of you personally, or maybe two.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Post wherein I interview said author

It was less than a year ago I was interviewing Author-with-a-capital-A, Kathi Oram Peterson, about her recent release Angel on Main Street. (Read that review.) Now here she is with another recent release, The Stone Traveler. I should have asked her HOW DO YOU DO IT? But I didn't, so we'll have to make due with the questions I did ask.

And keep in mind that something big is at stake here, the KINDLE. You can win this baby by following Author Kathi's blog tour and commenting on every blog along the way. There is room for repentance if you've missed any of the stops, just go here to find the blog list and play catch up before September 30. (My tour date was yesterday, but I didn't have room to include the interview. Return to my previous day's blog to leave a comment for the contest. AFTER you comment on today's!)

Now here we go...

Tell me about the moment you got the story idea for The Stone Traveler. What inspired it specifically? There really wasn't a single moment. This book was made up of many moments in my life and was inspired by my parents and my son. My parents owned a cabin at Palisades Lake. In the living room of the cabin was a picture of Christ talking to the twelve apostles on the road to Jerusalem. Dad and Mom had served a [church] mission in Cali, Columbia and they were always telling Book of Mormon stories, thus the reason for the grandmother in my book telling Tag, the main character, those stories as well. The inspiration behind Tag, was my son. No, he's not an artist and his father is still here, but my son has had some of the same struggles as Tag. (Tell him to beware of shining stones.)

Is Samuel the Lamanite and his story a particular favorite of yours?* Oh yes. Picture it: he's preaching to the Nephites and is run out of town. And as he's finally on his way home, the Lord asks him to go back and preach to them again. They won't let him into the city, so what does he do? Climbs up on the city walls and preaches. The courage and devotion that would take I can't imagine. (Personal fav, too.)

Besides this one, what's your favorite time travel book? Well, if I can't say The Stone Traveler, how about The Forgotten Warrior (see, another book she's had published!), but I have the feeling you want a book that I haven't written. Well, I've read my share, but my favorite time-travel story was Somewhere in Time the movie with Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour. Yes, I'm a big romantic. (Yeah, that darned penny! I'll never forget it.)

What time period would you most like to travel back to and why? There's so many time periods I find fascinating: Colonial times, Civil War era, and Biblical times. I've been working on a time travel that takes a brother and sister back to the time when Christ was born. The sister finds herself in the belly of a Roman ship, the brother ends up with a shepherd family. The political atmosphere in Rome and Jerusalem were both amazing and scary at that time. I'm so grateful for Mary and Joseph and the great courage they had. The moment in time I'd most like to travel back to would be in the stable after Christ was born...for me that has to be the ultimate moment to witness. (Ahhh...I love that answer.)

Give me a line from your story...no context. This is tough. Asking a writer to do this is like asking a parent to pick her favorite child. Well, maybe not that bad. How about this: Then he walked away, leaving me standing in the garden of Blood Flowers wondering whom I should trust. (That is a very nice child, I mean line. Garden of Blood Flowers sounds just plain facinating, doesn't it? Despite the trust issue.)

Thanks, so much, for the interview, Kathi! I'm off to give the book to my teenage son who is always on the lookout for a good read. My husband read it (he snagged it before me) and enjoyed it. It's definitely a book that can be recommended for the whole wide family.

*If you're unfamiliar with Samuel the Lamanite's awesome story, go HERE to get a free copy of The Book of Mormon. His story starts on page 397.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Compelling Characters and The Stone Traveler

Triple duty today, kids.

I am part of The Stone Traveler blog tour and my stop on the tour is today.

I also signed up for The Great Blogging Experiment where over 150 bloggers will be sharing their thoughts on Writing Compelling Characters and today is the day of the experiment! (Find list of other bloggers here.)

Also, I must point out that I was interviewed at Sarah M. Eden's website today at I Need Friends Friday. (I don't know how to make this picture smaller...sorry.)

(I vow to consult my calendar a little more closely next time.)

Maybe we can roll the rest of this into one big ball of blog fun. Let's get started...

I'd like to talk about the compelling character I just read about in The Stone Traveler by Kathi Oram Peterson. (See how I smushed the topics into one mass right there?)

Tag is one of the point of view characters in this time travel story. He's the perfect example of a compelling character because though he tries to fool everyone by his unique exterior, we get a few clues into his heart and find him a very sympathetic kid. He's dyed his formally red hair jet black, he wears black eyeliner and black nail polish (and this is Idaho), plus the requisite black attire and chains that would round out such a look. Yet, his mother says, "Tag, you might dye your hair and paint your face, but you can't change your blue eyes." His mother still sees a spark of his real self and so can we as we come to know him through the story.

At the start, Tag shows he's got some oomph when he decides not to join a local gang, the Primes. It's a great reversal after being shown what he's dressed like as he heads out to school that morning. He shows his spark when he feels obligated to rescue the cousin he despises from a gang beating. He doesn't want to, but he does it anyway.

A compelling character is one who despite the way they portray themselves, we see there's a small spark of something good or even great, and we discover it as we read. It's the spark that catches our attention. It's the contrasts and surprising reversals that make them compelling.

Tag pays for his deed when his mom sends him off to his grandpa's for the summer with the despised cousin. Time travel ensues when Tag is thrust back into ancient America and meets up with Samuel the Lamanite's daughter. (If you know your Book of Mormon history you'll be saying, "What daughter?" but that's where the fiction and the fun begins.)

Now for details of the book and amazing prize pack! Keep in mind that I was supposed to announce this tour a long time ago. Now you'll have to play catch up and go comment on all the blog posts to be entered to win the amazing-of-all-amazing Grand Prizes.

The Stone Traveler - Blog Tour Contest

When: Weekdays in September.

Important Rule: Leave a comment on "every" site on the tour.

Monday through Friday commenter names will be collected from the blog tour. On Saturday a name will be drawn to win a prize that includes a very cuddly toy jaguar; a stone necklace; and chocolates with the flavor of South America—real cacao and chili. The winner will be announced on the following Monday.

The GRAND prize for The Stone Traveler blog tour will be a (drumroll, please) Kindle. (Yes, KINDLE!)

The cutoff to be eligible is midnight on September 30. The winner will be announced October 4th. If you find the tour midway through (hmm, like here on my blog?) and want to participate, you can still go back and comment on every blog simply by going to kathiswritingnook.com. Starting in September the sidebar will list each stop on the tour as they are posted, making it very easy to click to any of the sites and leave a comment. AND even if you’ve already won one of the weekly drawings, your name will still go in the jar for the Kindle.


Thursday, September 23, 2010


Check out INFF, but also stop here where I will be blogging my book review for The Stone Traveler by Kathi Oram Peterson. For now check out the tour and prize situation here. I was supposed to be a dutiful blogger and post about the tour and the awesome prizes offered in advance, no less, but I've been organizing my novel's plot.

It was so much fun I went and organized my pantry.

See where the plot thickens around the 3rd shelf? (Oh, and yes, that's my husband's matador apron from Spain hanging there on the left. Ole!)

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I see fictional people

I get into the car to go somewhere and two characters immediately start talking to each other in my head. I don't know how they got in there, but they're there and they're talking, but not to me. They purposefully wait, though, for a quiet moment so I will overhear their conversation. They're sneaky like that. And it's always the same exact dialogue until I write it down, then they'll move on to a new, but often related topic.

They never really tell me what they're doing, like, I'm going over to so and so's house and tell him off and then he's going to... No. They just talk, chat away, carry on their little conversations and then they want me to figure out the whole story around the conversation.

Sometimes now I show them. When I get into the car I say, "Be quiet. I'm not going to listen to you today. I need to ponder what you're going to do next in the story,"--then I'm the one talking to myself (they will not participate in this part-they're ornery like that), so again talking to myself, I'm like, okay, she could go to so and so's house and tell him off, then that would make him...

No one wants to read a story that's all dialogue and they know it--that's why they need me.

Reminds me of Anne Lamott's book on writing, Bird By Bird, where she writes of characters driving the plot and we are just the typists who get it all down on paper. Good typists listen, she reminds us: “Your plot will fall into place as, one day at a time, you listen to your characters carefully, and watch them move around doing and saying things and bumping into each other. You’ll see them influence each other’s lives, you’ll see what they are capable of up and doing, and you’ll see them come to various ends.” She quotes another author, Carolyn Chute, who was discussing rewriting, “Over and over, I feel as if all my characters know who they are and what happens to them… and what they are capable of doing, but they need me to write it down for them because their handwriting is so bad.”

I can see that my characters need to step it up a bit and give me more clues about what they want to be doing. They can't be all talk and no action or I'm going to have to make them start doing the typing.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Are you failing 4th grade Math, too?

In the fourth grade I was a math whiz.

It's true.

At the front of the room my teacher had a poster of a tree with lots of branches, each one representing one of the times tables. The students had their own owl with their name on it and the owl would move from branch to branch as we passed off the ones, then the twos, then threes, and so on. My owl made it to the top of that tree. And in a very timely manner, I might add.

Now I find that I fail at 4th grade Math. My daughter asked me to check her work and I ended up helping her to change nearly every answer. The next day she came home and said they were all wrong but three.


I just don't understand the terms they use nowadays--mental math, front-end estimating...I can't even remember the others. I've already had to call my school-teacher daughter twice this school year to ask her what something meant. They just don't teach the same anymore.

Whatever happened to cute owls on branches?

(at least Spelling hasn't changed, right?)
(I was spelling champ in my 5th grade class.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

eat pray write

I made myself a tee shirt.

DISCLAIMER ALERT!! I'm not here to promote the book (which I did read) or the movie (which I didn't see) by a similar name. I just like the twist on the sentiment and thought it fit pretty well with my writer's life. Snacks and prayer are pretty important parts of the equation.

I thought I might wear this shirt when I'm all alone, just me and the computer, but then I happened to follow a link to Elizabeth Gilbert's website (author of Eat Pray Love) and was so impressed with her thoughts on writing I had to share.

She's talking about sharing your work... Find it here.

"...At least try. And when the powers-that-be send you back your manuscript (and they will), take a deep breath and try again. I often hear people say, “I’m not good enough yet to be published.” That’s quite possible. Probable, even. All I’m saying is: Let someone else decide that. Magazines, editors, agents – they all employ young people making $22,000 a year whose job it is to read through piles of manuscripts and send you back letters telling you that you aren’t good enough yet: LET THEM DO IT. Don’t pre-reject yourself. That’s their job, not yours. Your job is only to write your heart out, and let destiny take care of the rest.

As for discipline – it’s important, but sort of over-rated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “...I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love)."

Gilbert says that most writers think their writing is not up to par. Even when she was writing Eat Pray Love, she thought the same thing. But she says she had a "clarion moment of truth" while writing the book.

Again in her words, "One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.

I have a friend who’s an Italian filmmaker of great artistic sensibility. After years of struggling to get his films made, he sent an anguished letter to his hero, the brilliant (and perhaps half-insane) German filmmaker Werner Herzog. My friend complained about how difficult it is these days to be an independent filmmaker, how hard it is to find government arts grants, how the audiences have all been ruined by Hollywood and how the world has lost its taste…etc, etc. Herzog wrote back a personal letter to my friend that essentially ran along these lines: “Quit your complaining. It’s not the world’s fault that you wanted to be an artist. It’s not the world’s job to enjoy the films you make, and it’s certainly not the world’s obligation to pay for your dreams. Nobody wants to hear it. Steal a camera if you have to, but stop whining and get back to work.” I repeat those words back to myself whenever I start to feel resentful, entitled, competitive or unappreciated with regard to my writing: “It’s not the world’s fault that you want to be an artist…now get back to work.” Always, at the end of the day, the important thing is only and always that: Get back to work. This is a path for the courageous and the faithful. You must find another reason to work, other than the desire for success or recognition. It must come from another place."

Yeah. What she said.

(And if you need a pen, you don't have to steal one, I'll give you one of mine.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Quips for a happy writing day


Love being a writer, hate the paperwork.

I love my job. I get to sit around all day making stuff up.

I write, therefore I am.

I prefer to think of it as prepublished.

Don't be jealous of my sweet writing skills.

My weapon of choice...the mighty pen.

What does not kill me makes a great plot point in my next book.

I am, therefore I write.

The voices in my head are plotting against me.

Deadlines amuse me.

I'm in my own little world. (It's okay, they know me here.)

Writers get the last word.

Why do writers write? Because it isn't there.

Blank page, I shall thwart thee.

Haiku are simple
But they often don't make sense

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.

Writing today...if I don't get these characters out of my head they threatened to trash the place.

And finally...

You're an awesome writer, now get back to work.

[many of these seen on cafepress.com]

Friday, September 3, 2010

Prepare to be impressed

I casually followed a link in a blog post Tuesday morning (thanks to Elana Johnson) and fell into a blog post series on story structure [Alexandra Sokoloff, thedarksalon.blogspot.com]. I've read about this topic before, and experienced the resultant epiphanies that improved my story, but this time (because I'm DESPERATE to FINISH) it clicked for me in a big way.

It was time to outline.

Instead of running screaming from the blog post, I decided to face it head on. So Wednesday, armed with a pen and a prayer, I set my entire novel to sticky notes. As I said...prepare to be impressed...and take notes for your kids and grandkids for when they have to analyze my novel in English class...ha, ha...

Isn't it beautiful? Each scene has its own sticky note, each chapter its own color.

You can't read it from the photo, but it's divided into acts--I have ACT 1, then the few chapters that comprise that, then the ACT 1 Climax, then ACT 2, then the Midpoint Climax, then the rest of Act 2--etc, etc. on to ACT 3, the final Climax/Resolution.

You may wonder...can't you just write your story any old way you want? Possibly. But the old way is a structured way. It's the way as human beings we like to hear a story. There's a flow, a growing of the character, there's build up, there's satisfying resolutions. Since this is my first attempt at a novel why not try what's tried and true. I think that's what will get an editor's attention...well, after they're hooked by the unique storyline and killer writing skills...again...ha, ha...

Thursday I began to analyze my story, which I can finally do because I can actually SEE IT. Before it was a jumbled mess in my brain, scattered through 26+ files in my computer. It overwhelmed me. So I moved a few sticky notes around (not too many it turns out) and I added a bunch where I need new scenes. I had major emotional epiphanies about my ending and how to broaden its scope (check out Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas if you don't know what I'm talking about)

Now my storyboard looks like this...all those yellow stickies at the far far right are things I need to add...

I took two pages, front and back, of notes for my book and printed off Alex's story structure list to use as my checklist. I was surprised to see that my story naturally contains the elements she talks about. Like Act 2 is comprised of laying out the MC's plan, the gathering of allies, then the tests (the blocks to the plan) begin and basically never end till the end. She talks about the "Dark Night of the Soul" moment when your character is at their very lowest point and there's no way they can go on, but...OK, getting carried away here... It's so fun, you should try it with your novel!

It inspired me to write on Thursday afternoon and to even clean up my writing area Thursday night--which was to the point of "I can't write in these conditions!" plus I wanted to be able to display the lovely storyboard on the shelf above my computer. Now it's right there in all its multi-colored, sticky note glory! Apparently, I'm a visual person and didn't know it.

Alex's blog series goes way beyond outlining and story structure--you should totally check it out. Thanks for the link, Elana.


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