Tuesday, September 30, 2008

3 Steps to Change the Nation's Future

I know this has nothing to do with writing or books, but it easily falls under blogging about anything else I feel like :)

Are any of you a little unsettled about the financial welfare of our nation? Does the idea of throwing $700 billion at the problem make you nervous, especially when we are already so in debt that the gov't doesn't have $700 billion?

Here's an alternative from financial expert Dave Ramsey. Check out his plan to change the nation's future and pass it on.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." --Edmond Burke

**And I might slightly change it: The only thing necessary for the triumph of short-term political expediency is for the people to do nothing.**

Monday, September 29, 2008

Word of the Week #22

Brobdingnagian - [brob-ding-nag-ee-uhn] - adjective

Definition: of huge size; gigantic; tremendous

Usage: The Brobdingnagian financial bailout the government is discussing has many tax payers worried.

Note: I was reading a book that has beautiful writing (and enough vocabulary words to keep my Word of the Week going to the end of the year) when I came across this word. It stopped me dead. I had no clue, even in context, what it could mean, not to mention how to get my tongue around its pronunciation. You all probably know this word, but I guess I should read Gulliver's Travels.

Status: Getting back into the writing groove
Song: "Underwater" by Vertical Horizon

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Writing non-fiction part 2

As promised, here's the next part to my musings on writing non-fiction.

If you're writing just because you want to, or to share with friends and family, then you can write about whatever you want, however you want. But, if you plan on selling your writing, then there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. These questions could even apply to fiction.

1. What type of piece is it?

There are four general types of non-fiction:

a) Expositive - informs or explains a subject. For example, a book on how to organize small spaces.

b) Persuasive - presents reasons and evidence to convince the reader to think or act in a certain way. Self-help and motivational books fall in this category.

c) Narrative - describes real-life events. Biographies, memoirs, and autobiographies fall into this category, as well as stories about actual events, like SeaBiscuit, The Perfect Storm, etc. *This is different than historical fiction, where the main characters are fictional. In narrative non-fiction, the characters are the real people who experienced the event.*

d) Descriptive - uses details related to the senses to create mental images for the reader. *I'm honestly a little fuzzy on what exactly this is, or for examples. I think essays fall in this category, but you really don't see a lot of essays outside academia.*

2. Who is your audience?

If you're writing for kids, you will use different words than for adults. If it's technical information in a certain field, then you need to know the jargon. Figure out your audience and write to it. For example, PEOPLE magazine articles will be faster reads than how-to articles about home painting techniques.

3. What is its purpose?

Why would people want to read it? What's your end goal? What makes your writing different? (This is an especially important question if you want to sell your work to editors or agents.)

4. When will it be read?

This is more important if you're dealing with topics that have to do with holidays, trends, or events. If your writing is timely then plan accordingly. For example, Christmas articles/books usually must be submitted many months in advance and right now is a vertiable avalanche of books on political candidates.

5. Where will it be read?
Is it a magazine or e-zine article, book, pamphlet, blog, etc. Guess what? Blogs are non-fiction writing. *gasp* Although many blogs read more like fiction, even though they're not. Hmmm, maybe blogs would fall into the Descriptive Non-fiction category. What do you think?

*Tip: Humor will help your non-fiction writing in almost every case. Almost. Medical journals--not so much.

So there are some questions to ask yourself. If you can answer them, it will help hone your writing.

I think this post is long enough for today. My little girl is needing some attention. Check back in a few days for Writing non-fiction Part 3 where I'll show you an easy exercise to write any kind of non-fiction.

Status: Grateful the allergy medicine is working.
Today's Song: "My December" by Linkin Park

Monday, September 22, 2008

Word of the Week #21

mephitic - [muh-fit-ik] - adjective

Definition: offensive to the smell; noxious, pestilential, poisonous

Usage: A small classroom filled with twenty ten year old boys on a hot August day can have a very mephitic atmosphere, so the teacher requested donations of air fresheners.

Status: windblown
Song: Here it goes again by Ok Go

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Non-fiction DOES NOT equal boring

Status: trying to ignore a headache
Song of the Day: "Wrapped Around Your Finger" by The Police

I have written and published two non-fiction books, so I have a special place in my heart for non-fiction.

What is non-fiction? The boring definition is: informational text dealing with an actual, real-life subject. Even though the definition may sound dry and boring, bringing to mind college textbooks that break your back and require caffeine to get through, non-fiction does not equal boring!

I taught a class on non-fiction at a writer’s conference with Shirley Bahlman (who is anything but boring) and we tried hard to get this point across. Most people read non-fiction to learn something, for reference, or to be entertained. Yes, to be entertained.

Here are some excerpts of some non-fiction books, and I don’t think any of them sound boring:

“Whatever may be said in praise of poverty, the fact remains that it is not possible to live a really complete or successful life unless one is rich.” –From The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles

“There were all kinds of stories told about the war that made it sound as if it was happening in a faraway and different land. It wasn’t until refugees started passing through our town that we began to see that it was actually taking place in our own country. Families who had walked hundreds of miles told how relatives had been killed and their houses burned…. Apart from their fatigue and malnourishment, it was evident they had seen something that we would refuse to accept if they told us all of it.” --From A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

“We believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible and spending as much time as possible in deliberations. We really only trust conscious decision making. But there are moments, particularly in times of stress, when haste does not make waste, when our snap judgments and first impressions can offer a much better means of making sense of this world.” –From Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

“America is always at its most powerful and most influential when it is combining innovation and inspiration, wealth-building and dignity-building, the quest for big profits and the tackling of big problems. When we do just one, we are less than the sum of our parts. When we do both, we are greater than the sum of our parts—much greater.” –From Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman

“I came to the painful conclusion that while I often felt content to be an LDS woman, so much of my life was dictated by routine and habit that I rarely paused to rejoice in my divinity. And I had to admit to myself that even sometimes I merely felt resigned to be me. I realized that I did not truly rejoice in who I was. Like most of us, I looked forward to and planned on having joy once I made it back to Heavenly Father, but I just wasn’t finding it on the way there.” –From Enjoying the Journey by Jaime Theler *I know, shameless plug. But it’s my blog, after all.*

Have I convinced you yet that non-fiction doesn’t have to be boring? Do you have an idea for a non-fiction book or article that’s been buzzing around in the back of your mind like an annoying mosquito in your bedroom in the middle of the night that won’t let you sleep?

Does it help if I tell you that non-fiction out-sells fiction? That non-fiction lasts on the shelves longer than novels? That you can write about literally anything? And I mean anything. There’s a magazine out there devoted to the porta-potty industry. And they need articles. Or what about the magazine actively looking for articles on raising sheep? *These are real, honest-to-goodness, magazines. I didn’t make it up*

So you can write about anything, don’t necessarily have to have a degree in a field to write about it, and especially with the Internet, you can find people who are interested in the topic. And, best of all, it doesn’t have to be boring!

Soon I’ll post easy steps on writing non-fiction that anyone can follow. And then we'll turn to fiction, because I love it, too.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Quickie post

Status: Brain is mush
Song of the day: "Headlock" by Imogen Heap

I know I'm a bit behind in posting, but it's late (for me, crazy woman who gets up around 5:30 a.m.) and my brain is toast. In my brain-is-mush haze I came across a good blog post by author Ally Carter about writing for the YA market. She talks about the wrong questions people ask about writing for YA.

Check it out here. And I promise to write something more soon. Night!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Word of the Week #20

vertiginous - [ver-tij-uh-nuhs] - adjective

1. whirling; spinning; rotary
2. affected with vertigo; dizzy.
3. liable or threatening to cause vertigo.
4. apt to change quickly; unstable.

1. I used to chase dust devils to try and get caught in the vertiginous air.
2. Even though I don't have a fear of heights, being really high up makes me slightly vertiginous.
3. Spinning my daughter around and around is a vertiginous game (for me).
4. With the news of Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy, Wall Street showed its current vertiginous nature.

My Status: Feeling Better
Song of the Day: "Feeling Good" by Muse

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Recommended Reading: Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer

I'm recommending another favorite series today. The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer is targeted to a young adult audience, but my husband and I both really enjoy them, along with all three of our kids, my older brother, and many other authors I know.

The word I would use to describe these books are: clever. Oh, and imaginative with fantastic voice. Technically, I guess that's 4 words. In case you can't tell, I really love these books.

Artemis Fowl is brilliant, devious, a technological genius, filthy rich, and the mastermind of a criminal empire. He is also twelve years old. His father is lost (along with the family fortune) and presumed dead. His mother slipped into a catatonic state from the shock, and Artemis is left holding the reigns of the "family business." He has big plans to restore and surpass his family fortune, but not in a normal way. His scheme is to trap a fairy from the world underground (where magical creatures retreated to once humanity overran Earth) and hold her for ransom for fairy gold.

But the fairies haven't been living underground on fairy dust alone, they are technologically superior to those on the surface. Well, to everyone except maybe Artemis Fowl. Unfortunately for Artemis, the fairy he kidnaps is Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaisance), the first female on the squad who is not only tough as nails, but very good at what she does. Things don't go according to plan, either for Artemis or the fairy comrades who come to rescue Holly. The result is a rousing tale, full of characters we like and leaving us anxious for more Artemis adventures.

Author Eoin Colfer describes Artemis Fowl as "Die Hard with fairies." I think that sums it up pretty good. Artemis Fowl, published in 2001, is the first of the NY Times Bestselling series. So far there are six books. The first, Artemis Fowl, is followed by Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident, Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code, Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception, Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony, and the most recent, Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox which was just released in July, 2008. Pop by the really fun Artemis Fowl website, complete with a book trailer for The Time Paradox and an online game.

You can't beat reading these books, but I would also recommend the audiobooks. We have checked them all out of the library and had a blast listening together as a family. Nathaniel Parker does a fantastic job as the reader, and I enjoy his performance as much as the award winning audiobooks for Harry Potter (which are excellent, if you haven't listened to them).

Eoin Colfer lives in Ireland with his wife and two sons. He was a teacher until the publication of Artemis Fowl, which allowed him to resign from teaching and concentrate on writing full time. You can find out more about Eoin Colfer on his website.

My Status: Fighting a head cold.
Song of the Day: More Than This by Peter Gabriel

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Hound of Rowan Review Part 2

A while ago I posted a review of the book The Hound of Rowan by Henry H. Neff. I'll be the first to admit that the review wasn't exactly glowing (you can read it here), not because of the writing or story, but just because I felt it was too similar to Harry Potter.

Well, the author stopped by and left a comment. Here are some things Henry Neff could have said:

* Oh yeah, lady! Let's see you do better.

* Who's the one with the book deal, hmm?

* I read the excerpt of your work and guess what? It sucks rocks!

* Obviously my agent and editor disagree with you. Do you have an agent? Didn't think so.

* The gazillion people who have bought the book have better taste than you.

* Did you notice I also illustrated the book? I can sketch in my sleep better than you. (Probably true.)

* Pthththth.

* Whatever. What do you know anyway?

* I don't see you with a national title.

* Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries! (For those going "huh?" it's a Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail reference.)

I wouldn't have blamed him for any of those comments, but he didn't say anything like that. In fact, he was very gracious.

So because I am impressed with his response, I'm going to pick up the second book in the series and read it. I'm hoping I like it better, because after checking a little more into the author, he seems like a genuinely nice guy. I mean, how could you not like a guy that admits on a public website that he's a terrible dancer ? I quote: "If you ever see me cavorting on a dance floor, please call me a cab." You can find out more about Henry H. Neff at his website. And the illustrations were pretty cool.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Contest and Free Book!

Have you been thinking to yourself, "Man! I really need to get a copy of Jaime's book, Enjoying the Journey" but just haven't gotten around to getting one? Well, here's a super-easy way to get your hands on a free copy.

It's a contest!!

Author Anne Bradshaw reviewed Enjoying the Journey on her blog and is running a contest for a free copy. How to enter:

1) Check out her review.

2) Post information about the contest on your blog with a link back to hers .

3) Leave ONE comment on the contest post telling her you've completed #2.

A winner will be chosen at random on Monday, September 15th, and announced the same day. The book will be signed and mailed by the author.

So, for me... enter and spread the word and maybe you'll get a signed copy delivered to your very own mailbox! How easy is that?!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Word of the week #19

hirsute - [hur-soot] - adjective

1. shaggy; hairy
2. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of hair

Usage: The cavemen in the Geico commercials are definitely hirsute examples of humanity.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What am I working on?

**This picture is from an ad for the lapdog writing stand - got to make sure I don't mess with copyright issues**

I think many writers are curious what others are writing, so I'll share a little of what I'm working on. My last book went through sooo many re-writes that I needed to take a break from non-fiction for a while. So I am in the latter stages of finishing up a children's fantasy novel. Especially for the boys who like magic, mayhem, and cool weapons.

The idea was born during a bedtime story I told my son one day. He kept begging me to repeat it and I thought, "Hey, this would make a good book." It has changed and developed since then, but he knows this book is for him.

Right now I am almost finished with the rough draft (coming in around 300 pages) and at the same time editing the first half of the book. My working title is The Gateway, but it isn't a title that sends tingles up and down my spine. The publisher will probably change it anyway. Did you know the publisher has final say on the title?

It's been a lot of fun and I have a lot of respect for fiction writers. For all of you who may be curious, here's an excerpt. It's the first couple pages. Be kind in your comments :)

Dread kicked Bryan Abbott’s heart into overdrive, his palms sweated, and his lungs struggled for air. He would have welcomed even the sound of someone creeping up behind him, would have raced to greet the source of the footsteps, just to have someone—anyone—close to him. But as he waited in the deserted parking lot, there was no doubt that he was alone.

Thirteen-year-old boys should have outgrown such a baby fear, so Bryan was pretty good at faking it—most of the time. Movement made it easier. Bryan sprinted toward the duffel bag he had dropped on the sidewalk. It was just like his dad to be late. Jump—soar—land. It happened often enough.

He readied himself for another long jump. He always had swim practice on Fridays. His dad knew that. But today the Rec Center closed early for the first night of Franklin’s Fall Festival.

Jump—soar—land. Yes! That was the longest one by far! Bryan bowed grandly to the nearby trees, hearing in his mind the roar of applause.

Bryan sighed and plopped down on his bag. His dad probably forgot it was his weekend. Again. Bryan’s parents switched the weekend schedule around because of something-or-other, and his dad always forgot when they changed things. Or he got busy at work. Or he had other plans. Or a million other things came up.

The daylight fought a losing battle with the approaching darkness, sending out feeble strands of orange and purple that got swallowed halfway across the sky. The early autumn air had a distinct bite now. Bryan stared miserably across the empty parking lot and the equally vacant road leading to it. Icy drops of water from his wet hair trickled down his neck.

How long had it been since the last person left the Rec Center? One hour? Two? Logically, Bryan knew it couldn’t have been that long—probably half an hour at the most—but his pounding heart wasn’t listening to logic right now.

He jumped to his feet. Got to move!

Chewing on his lower lip, he paced the sidewalk. With loud crunches, his footsteps pulverized dead leaves littering the ground. He wasn’t really alone. People lived in the houses across the baseball field. But it was getting darker and no lights shone in the house windows.

Bryan rubbed his hands together. How could his dad do this again? He knew Bryan hated waiting alone.

With a massive swing of his leg, Bryan punted his bag so hard it soared over the curb and skidded to a stop in the parking lot. Fine! He was leaving.

Bryan grabbed his duffel bag and ran across the baseball field. The middle of town would be full of people at the Fall Festival. And it would be harder for either of his parents to find him in the crowd—if they bothered to look for him. Let them worry a little bit.

A small light flickered in the air to his right. Probably just a firefly. Normally he liked to try and catch them, but all Bryan wanted to do now was get to the Festival.

Darkness crept across the sky—only a thin line of sunlight shone above the mountains on the horizon. Bryan walked as fast as he could on the cracked sidewalks. Once in a while he saw more small flashes of light from the corner of his eye, but he ignored them.

Weird noises encircled him—creaking, snapping, and skittering like bare bones grazing concrete. He craned his neck from side to side, searching the deepening shadows. Just keep moving.

In his rush, Bryan didn’t watch his steps carefully enough. He stumbled over tree roots and uneven concrete. A large chunk of sidewalk caught the edge of his shoe and he went sprawling, skinning his hands and knees. Just great. More bruises to add to his almost-constant supply.

His best friend, James, liked to say that Bryan could trip over a shadow. He tried to laugh when James said that—which was a lot—but it was more embarrassing than funny.

He was hurrying past a really creepy house when a bright orange light flared over the neglected front lawn, illuminating the blank windows like glowing eyes. A small light drifted at eye-level. Fireflies didn’t glow orange or flash that bright. As he looked at it, the orange light continued to hover and pulse dimly. Fireflies didn’t pulse, either.

The light flashed again, morphing from orange to yellow. Then it throbbed yellow.

Bryan couldn’t resist a mystery. He walked closer. The light gleamed bright in the darkening night again, but green now. As he drew near, it drifted away from him.

He halted. The light stopped and hovered, still pulsing.

Bryan took another step. It flashed again, this time red, then moved farther away. When he tried to move closer, the light floated away from him, staying far enough away that he couldn’t get a good look at it.

He decided to try something different. He sprinted to the light. It darted away down the road, faster than he thought possible. Then stopped. Almost like it was waiting for him.

It continued to dance, tantalizingly just out of reach, clear into the center of town. Bryan tried various ways to get closer, and failed each time. As he drew nearer to the bright lights of the Fall Festival, it grew more difficult to see the mutant firefly—or whatever it was. Ahead of him, it darted around the corner of the library building.

Bryan careened around the corner after it and was abruptly drenched in light and sound. Most of the town was gathered for the Festival. The large front lawn of the library was full of people. He unclenched hands he hadn’t realized were balled into fists, and the knot in his stomach unraveled. He looked this way and that, but couldn’t see any small, hovering, color-changing light.

If you want to read the whole first chapter, you can check it out here on my website.

Have a great week!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Book Review: The Santa Letters by Stacy Gooch Anderson

How can I be thinking about Christmas when summer is barely over? After being lucky enough to participate in a blog tour for Stacy Gooch Anderson's book, The Santa Letters, I definitely have Christmas on the brain.

The story:
One year ago on Christmas Eve, William died. For Emma, the hit-and-run driver killed more than her husband; he killed her joy in life itself.

Now, as Christmas approaches again, Emma Jensen finds herself sinking into a depression that nothing can breach; not her job, not her love for her children, and certainly not the season. Money is tight, and emotions are taut, and this year Christmas will be a meager, empty, and painful experience.
Only six-year-old McKenna believes in miracles and the magic of Christmas. The rest of the family knows that Christmas can never be the same.

But when a mysterious package and an ornate letter arrive on the doorstep, things begin to change.
Each day, a package and a letter signed Santa arrive for the family, and together they come to understand that the joy of Christmas does not have to be lost forever, and that God s love can heal any wound, no matter how deep. The Santa Letters will take the Jensens on a journey through a Christmas experience that will have the power to heal them all.

I must admit, I'm not a fan of mushy Christmas stories. I love the Christmas carols, the lights, the Christmas Spirit, and the focus on Jesus Christ, but things like Christmas specials on TV make me roll my eyes. I must admit that I picked up The Santa Letters with trepidation, prepared to trudge through something "heartwarming," "uplifting," and be force fed dripping sentimentality.

The Santa Letters was not what I was expecting. I didn't have to force myself through it at all. And while perhaps a couple times it got close to the line of dripping sentimentality, it never crossed over. You feel for Emma, and can really sympathize with her pain, grief, and despair. Stacy Gooch-Anderson does not write in flowery prose or with imagery that will dazzle, but the more down-to-earth writing style brings home difficult emotions and really lets us identify with characters that could really be you or me. How many of us don't go through times when, although we may not be facing the death of a spouse, we feel as if we just can't go on, yet we have to.

I would have enjoyed a little less head-hopping and think the story could stand on its own if it stayed mostly from Emma's point of view. And sometimes Santa got a tad long-winded in his letters. Regardless, The Santa Letters is a wonderful story to help us remember the blessings we have and how we can turn to God to get through tough times. The Santa Letters is heartwarming and uplifting, but not hit-you-over-the-head heartwarming and uplifting.

I also love that it is based in real life experience. (I must admit I am stealing Stacy's story from the first stop on her blog tour over at Shirley Bahlman's blog, where you can find a great interview with Stacy.)
Question: What gave you the idea for writing the Santa Letters?

Stacy: A few years back, I found out that two of my sons had been in a sexually abusive situation. And since some of the perpetrators had been wards of the state, there was a lot of pressure for us to back off. At one point, I had so much anger for what DCFS had put us through that I almost let it destroy me. But this wonderful little voice reminded me of all the things my parents had taught me and insisted that if I wanted to raise sons with integrity, love, compassion and forgiving hearts, I had to learn to do that myself and be an example. Since there was no money for Christmas - it all had gone to legal and counseling bills - I came upon the idea of the Santa Letters as a way to help our family heal and remember all the gifts we had been given throughout the years. I never intended our experience to become a book but I had a friend who when she found out what we'd been doing, she encouraged and challenged me to share it with others.

You can find out more about Stacy and The Santa Letters on her website, www.santaletters.org and stop by her blog.

For a special treat, here's a trailer for The Santa Letters.

You can order copies of the book online at Amazon or Deseret Book.

Word of the Week #18

Just because I like this word. Not to be confused with mop :)

fop - [fop] - noun

Definition: A man who is overly concerned with or vain about his dress and appearance; a dandy.

Usage: If your date constantly checks out his appearance whenever you pass anything remotely reflective, he may be a bit of a fop.