19 January 2015

Cause and Effect

The other day I was making fruit smoothies. Orange Julius style for those who are interested. It was for a church thing, so a couple of us were in the kitchen at the church building, blending away.

Perhaps I should have prefaces with the fact that this was on a Saturday morning. Apparently the only productive and safe place for me to be on a Saturday morning is in bed.



Allow me to explain.

I'm a clean person. I hate putting a dirty spoon on the clean counter for two reasons, 1) it gets who knows what on the spoon (because let's be realistic, actually how clean are the counters in our houses?) and 2) it gets whatever is on the spoon on the counter.

In an attempt to keep any of these things from happening, I will often use a lid or a box to set my spoon on. Especially if our handy-dandy spoon holder thingie is dirty. Still. Again. Whatever.

As I was dumping ingredients into the blender, I put the end of the spatula on the back side of the foil, yogurt lid. Good idea, right? It fit just perfectly.

Well, after I got everything into the blender, it wouldn't turn on. I won't go into the almost bad words that were uttered in the church (because I did NOT want to clean out the blender we had used to make the peanut butter banana smoothies in) or the very technical checklist I went through to get the dang thing working. At one point I even poured all of the smoothie stuff out into a picture so I could get to the bottom of the blender. Nothing wrong. It worked fine. So I poured it all back in and ta-da, Orange Julius. Yum.

But where had the top of my yogurt gone? I had to use the juice can for my spatula. Probably on the floor, where I would be sure to step on it later.

Our activity didn't start for about 30 minutes, so I poured the smoothie back into the pitcher and put it in the freezer. Right before we started, one of the girls poured the smoothie out into cups. After she had poured at least ten, she said, “Uh, what's that?”

I said, “What's what?”

“That?”

I blinked. I'm sure I made a face. I grabbed a set of measuring spoons and pulled it out chop-stick style.

Stupid yogurt lid. How had it gotten into the smoothie!?!?

And now it was in pieces.

The disclaimer I gave the audience was funny, and quite awesome. I feel like having something go wrong at the very beginning allowed everything else to run smoothly. You're welcome, everyone.


And only two of the girls found bits of foil. I told them they were strong to have survived my assassination attempts.

As we were cleaning up, and still laughing about the whole thing, I got to thinking about how characters in stories need to have these little quirks. The need to keep the counter clean (which did work, by the way) resulted in foil in smoothies. One little thing. Who knows what can happen?


05 January 2015

The Not-So-Simple Things in Life

I was perusing an writer Yahoo group I’m a member of, and an author referenced this article. The article includes a lot of good writing stuff—for lack of a better word—but one part stood out for me.

You see, I write YA science fiction and fantasy. Building a world is a daunting task akin to running a marathon or simply running up the stairs with a load of laundry. Others find it a huge bag of fun. I grumble at the bag and kick it out of my way a lot. I just want to tell my story!

Here is the bit from the article that may actually help me in my ongoing problem with world-building.

“Much of my work involves writing about scenes set far in the future or deep in the past. How to immerse oneself in the moment-to-moment nature of a time and place you’ve never personally experienced—and perhaps cannot?

How to immerse oneself in the moment-to-moment nature of a time and place you’ve never personally experienced?

Well, I would put a question to you. What’s the difference between you and your great great great-grandfather? What makes you different?

I think the answer is this: What you take for granted.”

When I read that I was like, whoa. Just like that. Whoa.

Because it hurt my head! It’s so simple, but not.

Let’s take the main character of my current work in progress and a teenage girl of today who lives in a comfortable family in the U.S.A. And let’s limit it to just a few categories: Shelter, food, communications, education and safety. Let’s call the girl in our world Christina and the character in my story Wendy.

Shelter

Christina-A house with climate control, running water and electricity. I’d have to say that most (but not all) teenage girls will take this for granted.

Wendy-Lives in a leaky cabin in the mountains, both running water and electricity are possible, but rely on old machinery that breaks down a lot and the amount of water in the nearby river. Climate control is called a fire.

Food

Christina-Grocery stores. There are dozens around and there is always food in the pantry. If she is in the mood for something else, she goes to the store and buys it.

Wendy-A disease has poisoned most of the food on the planet, and it is spreading. Food is scarce, and you have to have enough discipline to not eat the bad stuff, or you’ll die.

Communication

Christina-Phones, cell phones, internet, the antiquated (but still useful) postal service.

Wendy-If you want to talk to someone, you have to walk to them and talk. And try not to get killed along the way.

Education:

Christina-Is expected to go to school and receive an education. But it’s not that hard, because Google knows everything. Christina gets to learn to cook from her mom or a friend, and is always trying out new recipes that she finds on the web.

Wendy-Learns what she needs to know from those around her. Most lessons include staying alive, fighting and figuring out how to keep the generators working. She isn’t allowed into the kitchen area because she burns everything, and they don’t have the food to spare.

Safety:

Christina-Knows what areas to avoid after dark, always has her cell phone on her and can change a flat tire. She knows how to use a gun, but doesn’t have one. She took some self defense classes once.

Wendy-Has to be on guard at all times. The world is not safe. Strangers are dangerous. People will do anything for a little bit of food. She learned to fight when she was six years old, and she’s used it every week of her life.

I’ve never done a comparison like that before. It’s kind of fun! I’m going to have to put this little exercise on my list of things to do before I actually start a story. World building might be a little less horrible now.


But I’m not holding my breath.

29 December 2014

Gabriel's Daughter-Janet Kay Jensen Interview and Giveaway

Put on your behaved faces, everyone. Today we get to meet Janet Kay Jensen, author and woman of awesome. Her book, Gabriel's Daughter, is going to take the world by storm next month.




Now we shall put Janet through the gambit that is my 10 random questions about life, the universe, and her book.

1-What did you have for breakfast this morning? What did you wish you had had for breakfast? 

I like to have fresh fruit or a smoothie for breakfast. This morning, however? I had a piece of Praline-vanilla fudge made by the Cox Honey Company here in Cache Valley. It is heavenly fudge. And, after all, it’s two days before Christmas as I write this, so I’m entitled.

2-What is your favorite morning ritual? If appropriate. If not, please make something up.

Being greeted by Gus, my BorderBeagle, is a favorite morning ritual. He’s just so happy to see anybody, and he’s unconditional in his love and affection.  

3-What is your favorite color, and would it look good on your favorite car? 

I am drawn to blue but I’ve never had a blue car. I did rent a darling little blue Fiat and loved driving it. I’m not a car person, so that was surprising. I loved how small and compact and convenient it was, but I doubt it could hold its own in a collision.

4-When was the last time you played with Legos? Inquiring minds want to know.

I’ve quit asking Santa for the original pirate ship, because he never took me seriously. This was long before the Pirates of the Caribbean movies---it was just plain Lego fabulous. I built a lot of castles with my boys, but I’d have to say I haven’t really played with Legos for about 20 years. I want to visit LegoLand again, though! Those creations are amazing. Creativity at its best.

5-Since it is the holidays, do you have any fun, holiday traditions that you love?

We have a Christmas Eve family party at our home and we always play Balderdash. Last year, even the Finns participated. Their English was quite good. I’m not so sure about playing it this year, as we will have a guest from Mexico who doesn’t speak English….I think we’ll have to pull out a few of the nonverbal games.

6-Name three of your favorite books. Just to see if you like to read fluffy or not so fluffy stories.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Ethan Frome, A Separate Peace

7-Your book deals with some heavy topics, what draws you to them? Why not unicorns and glitter?

Others do unicorns and glitter so well. Hmm. I really don’t know why I’ve felt drawn to serious topics. It’s a challenge to write realistic characters who struggle with real problems, but I also like to toss in a bit of humor.

8-Polygomy is a hot topic right now. Let’s say you’re a sister wife or whatever. In your mind, what is the biggest advantage and disadvantage to it?

Sister wives say they share the responsibilities, so I would assume I wouldn’t be head cook….I don’t think there would be any privacy in these large families. And I wouldn’t be good at sharing a husband. On the other hand, some plural wives say putting up with a husband once a week is quite enough. Frankly, I think the other wives would probably vote me out of the compound.

9-What is it about your book that you love? What drew you to write it? (This is the part where you dazzle us with the awesomeness that is your story) Feel free to go on and on. How did you come to write this particular book or series?

Long after high school, I became aware that one of my classmates had been raised in a polygamous family. I never knew this about him in high school; he was a handsome, serious, quiet student. Years later, I saw him interviewed on television, and his family was featured several times in newspaper articles.
Then my husband and I drove through Hilldale, Utah, a polygamous community, and although the red dirt roads were empty we knew people were watching us from behind their curtains. We could feel the hostility they have toward nosy outsiders, and a few little children dashed into their houses when they saw us. The cemetery had its own stories to tell, and those stayed with me.

I began to do a lot of research and I read a number of books about polygamy, both fiction and nonfiction.Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys was published first; Gabriel’s Daughters is the stand-alone second. Zina’s story was originally included in early drafts of Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys. I began to write the stories of both Louisa and Zina in alternating chapters. That led to logistical problems as the events occur in different time periods. Zina’s story also began to take on greater significance and in fact threatened to take over the whole book. To do it justice, I had to pull it out and promise Zina her own book. She was very patient. Gabriel’s Daughters is her story.

There may be a third book sometime in the future. Louisa, Zina and Amy haven’t told all of their stories. We shall see.

10-What character in your book would you most like to have over to dinner and why? 

Miss Lily Carolina Bates. She hails from Kentucky and is a Healer. She also talks to bees, rides a mule named Harold, gathers yarbs and other natural remedies in the forest, and is very wise. I’d ask her to fix some of her squash soup for me and then I’d listen to her tales of Johnny Appleseed (he was real) and Dumb Suppers.

If you would like to stalk Janet, please try these avenues:

Facebook


Twitter


Blog

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16 December 2014

Things that Make Me Grinchy

Last night I went to my niece’s Christmas Choir concert. She’s a junior in high school. The concerts are usually pretty packed, and last night was no exception. We ended up sitting close to the front. With only a few rows in ahead of us, I figured I would at least not have to endure someone playing on their phone or tablet the entire time.

Which happens way more often than it should. And all too often it is the adults that do it.

I mean really, this is a concert. A classical concert. Put the electronic devices away people. Surely you can sit and listen quietly for an hour.

This is apparently too much to ask.

First we had a teenage couple sit two rows in front of us who waved at whomever they knew on stage for two songs straight. Desperately trying to either get the attention of their friend of embarrass them.

They left. Thankfully.

Then worse came. Four teenagers who I’m pretty sure either never learned manners or completely ignored the lessons their parents tried to teach them. Their behavior was so bad that I’m suspecting it is the first.

Three boys and one girl. They whispered through three songs. They too tried to get the attention of those on stage through waving and whistling. They texted one another as they were sitting there. They laughed. They giggled (let’s point out the fact that they were at the front, under the microphones, and the concert was being recorded) and even entertained those of us behind them with some very Lady Gaga like dance moves. They crawled over one another. I’m not sure any of their butts stayed in their seats for more than fifteen seconds at a time.

I could tell my sister wanted to drag them out by their ears. I would have helped. But we both refrained. Because it’s rude to get out of your seat or talk during songs at a classical concert.

For crying out loud, my 10 year old nephew can sit quietly through a concert without needing an electronic device. Usually he just listens. He might not want to, but he can do it, and his mother has made it very clear that this is the expectation.

The only part of me that defends people who act inappropriately in situations like this is the fact that they at least came to support their friend.

Either that or they had to come for a class in school. I try not to think about that option. It makes me craky.

Lucky for them and me, they left after a few songs and allowed the rest of us to enjoy the end of the concert, which included both the choir and the orchestra. So my Christmas spirit got the chance to bounce back.


Sometimes I curse my mother for teaching me manners.

01 December 2014

The Leap from Book 1 to Book 2 for Readers

The Leap from Book 1 to Book 2



I’m not here to talk about the difficulties of writing a book 2. I already ranted about that like ten times. No, I’m here to chat about reading sequels.

I’ll be totally honest, the only sequels I’ve read in the past five or six years have been from the Monster Hunter International series and The Hunger Games.

Last night I finished reading the book Cinder—Cinderella is a cyborg, a mechanic and much, much more. It was a great story. Very cool. I really liked it.

My hubby looked at the book on the table and asked when I was going to read the second one.

I mentally shrugged. I hadn’t thought about actually reading the second one. Like I said, it was a good book, the ending wasn’t a cliffhanger, but it led directly into the next one. I’m interested, just not enough to go out and buy or borrow book 2.

Since then, I’ve been wondering why. Why don’t I ever go on?

I’ll make a list, because I like making lists.

1-Volume. I write YA, therefore I need to read a lot of YA. Almost all YA books are part of a series these days, which is somewhat annoying. On the other hand, if you love, love the first book, then of course as a reader you want more. But I have a mountain of YA books waiting to be cracked open. I figure once I’ve read the first one in a series, that I get the gist of how the author writes and plots and presents their ideas. Time to move on.

2-Time. This pesky time thing is irritating, at the very least. There are only 24 hours in a day, and so many hours in a week and I work some of those and I have some devoted to writing and I have to entertain my hubby or he gets really weird and frightens the neighbors and if I don’t work-out not only do I get more chubby but I get grouchy and I do better when I go to a class and someone tells me what to do rather than self-motivating myself, I have a church calling that takes out one evening a week with awesomeness…so you see, there’s a lot going on. If I don’t adore a book, I won’t read the next one. Even if I thought it was great. Adore is different than great.

3-Interest. I like stories in all their forms, and if I’ve already guessed the end of the series before I’m finished with the first half of the first book, then why go on? YA is intricate, but it often relies on tropes that don’t get old as much as they get to be stale. Maybe that’s the same thing. However, I use tropes in my books—teenagers haven’t been introduced to all of the tropes, so this is totally fine. If my interest isn’t piqued, then I’ll move on to something else.

4-The Feel. This goes toward all of those dang dystopian books. If the feeling in the first book is dark, dank, dreary and morbid, then I probably won’t go on to the rest of the series. I like good endings. They don’t have to be perfect, but there needs to be something to smile about. If I’m not liking the feel of the book/series, then it’s kind of dead to me.

That’s my 2 cents worth.


What about you? Do you read a whole series? Why or why not?

16 November 2014

Becoming Beauty

Hi everyone. Today we have the talented and lovely Sarah Boucher. Her debut novel, Becoming Beauty, just came out. Go buy it. Now.

Normally I would tell you all to be nice, but Sarah is pretty tough. Do your worst!

1-What did you have for breakfast this morning? What do you WISH you had had for breakfast?
I didn't have bacon. 
I wish I'd had bacon. Lots and lots of bacon.
I love bacon so much that when I see animal rights activists'* pictures of sweet little piggies tagged with Why would you ever want to eat this??? I want to reply, Mmmm...bacon! 
(*No offense to animal rights activists: Go Animals!)
2-What color of car makes you roll your eyes or blatantly make fun?
That's a little tricky because I've had a revolution in taste over the last few years and have fallen in love with bright colors & patterns. Pink, maybe? And any color of Smart Car and/or large dudes driving Smart Cars.
3-Tell us about your dream closet? Would all of your shoes get special beds?
Actually, one of the selling points of my condo was the large indoor closet with built-in shelving for shoes. When I stepped in there the first time, it was as if angels were singing. I think I said, "This is where my shoes will live!" Yes, I'm that girl.
4-If you and the main character in Becoming Beauty both had more money than you knew what to do with, who would end up with more shoes? Handbags?
Yes and yes. Bella and I share a love for fancy things. However, she'd probably invest in more jewelry while I'd expand my collection of maxi skirts and maxi dresses. No matter what we spent our money on, a shopping spree with Bella would be a blast! And really, really expensive.
5-What are your feelings on unshaven men? 5 o'clock shadow?
Uh, hello. This is what it see when I turn on my iPad:
Hello, nurse! Let me add that both main men in Becoming Beauty are beardy fellows, so I'm obviously not adverse to the idea of beardliness, though the idea of kissing it is another subject.

6-You seem to cook a lot. Is this your secret plan for taking over the world? One stomach at a time?
It's my secret plan for everyone looking normal, well-fed, lovable, and maybe a little plumpy. Really though, baking is something I learned from my mom & settling into the cooking groove relaxes me when everything else goes haywire. Plus, at the end you have something delicious to eat. Hopefully.

7-On a scale from 1-10, how snarky are you? What about your main character? Feel free to expound. I'd be disappointed if you didn't.
Wow. A snarkiness scale. I wouldn't even know how to rate myself...
What I will say is that being raised with five brothers doesn't make you into a pretty, pretty princess. And since Bella is composed of the best & worst of me, she is quite sarcastic. However, where I try to make people laugh, Bella speaks her mind, even to crotchety, old Beasts. Bella's not nearly the people pleaser that I am.
Now If you'd given me an awesomeness scale...

8-In terms of dessert, how did typing the final sentence of Becoming Beauty taste?
Can we go with the Triffle/Shepherd's Pie Rachel made on Friends?
"It tastes like feet!"
The final line of what was then Bella, has been hacked to pieces and rewritten at least 20 times. Some people struggle with beginnings or middles, but crafting that last sentence and tying things up in a neat bow without sounding completely stupid was definitely a challenge. 

9-Take 150 words and sell us on your book. Okay, maybe 200. Make it count.
The Beast has lived in isolation for years, nursing his wounds and hiding his shame from the world.  His seclusion is destroyed by the arrival of Bella, his new maidservant, who proves she isn’t the Beauty her name would indicate.
With a less-than-sweet nature and an inborn sense of entitlement, Bella refuses to be cowed—even by someone as imposing as the Beast. In no time, Bella finds herself railing at and casting insults at her new master, while pondering ways to escape.
Caught between the two is the Beast’s sole companion, Jack, who has remained loyal to his master throughout the years, but is intrigued by Bella’s spirit. 

For the first time in her life, Bella must choose to set aside her dreams of becoming the pampered mistress of a wealthy household to help others escape the pain of the past. But she may find the price too high to pay.

10-What part of Becoming Beauty will take your reader's breath away? (Spoilers are up to you.)
There's some primo kissing that doesn't quite make your ears pop, but might make your toes curl deliciously. And there are definitely some reveals regarding the Beast and Jack and Bella's feelings toward them that I had fun writing and watching my writing group read. When people say, "If you leave [insert character's name here] out in the wind, I'm going to beat you!" it actually makes you feel more empowered than not. Making someone love, hate, and go on a journey with your characters is what all authors aspire to.


About the Author
Sarah E. Boucher spends her days instilling young children with the same love of literature she has known since childhood. After hours, she pens her own stories and nurses an unhealthy obsession for handbags, high heels, baking, and British television. Sarah is a graduate of Brigham Young University, who currently lives and teaches in Ogden, Utah. Becoming Beauty is her first novel.


Contact Sarah on her website SarahEBoucher.com, or find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or Goodreads.

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Becoming Beauty is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and books & things. Add it to your Goodreads shelf today!

10 November 2014

When is a Setback Actually a Step Forward?



This is a question that I've been struggling with this week.

As many of you know, I earlier this year, had two novels published. The second in my trilogy is currently with my publisher, and I have another book-a totally unrelated novel-ready for beta readers.

Well, at least it was ready for beta readers. Until I decided to get some professional advice on the matter.

Novels are tricky things. You could give the exact same plot to five people, have them write a book on it and come up with five very different stories.

The problem with that is that I can re-write my own story ten times, end up with ten different stories, and have no idea what the best version actually is. I love them all. Like candy bars. (I'd say children, but I don't have any, and I'm allergic to cats and dogs.)

So I called an editor. We chatted for an hour regarding what my book is about and a few plot points that were either good or weak. He even came up with a fix for an aspect of the main character that I've been struggling with.

All that was good.

Then I asked him the question. The question that changed it all.


"Should I publish this as one book, or split it into two?"

The book is over 90,000 words. A bit thick for YA.

We talked about it. he encouraged me to add 30,000 words and split it into two books. Which I wasn't horribly upset with until the next day.

You see, I have an outline that is really good. It works, it's solid, it flows well and I've jammed every bit of story I could into it.

And now I have to change it.

Not only once, but twice. Now I have to figure out how to make the first part of the book-with some additions-a complete story with a satisfying but still slightly mysterious ending. Then I have to do it again for the second half.

It's like I've already painted my house once, and now I'm only using the original color on about 40% of the outside. The rest is brand, spanking new. 

Again.



But I keep telling myself that it will be fine. It will be a better story. Just as soon as I figure out what promise I'm making to the reader in the first chapter that I'm NOT following through on in the finale.

Right now it feels like a setback. Later it might feel like a step forward.


I'll keep you informed.