Wednesday, February 25, 2009

You Go Get Your Palace

One of my favorite movies is Cool Runnings. It's about the first Jamaican Bobsled team and I really like the actors who played the four main parts, along with John Candy, their coach.

In one scene, one of the characters, whose name is Yul Brenner, dares to mention his dreams and he holds up a picture. He says, "I'm going to live there." Another character, Sanka, laughs himself silly at the picture because it's a photo of Buckingham Palace. So Yul gets all embarrassed and crumples the picture. A third character, Junior Bevil, retrieves the picture and straightens it out. He gives it back to Yul and says, "Go ahead Yul Brenner. You go get your palace."

I love that part of the movie the best. (I hope I've remembered everything more or less correctly. It's been awhile since I've seen it). Many times when I've been discouraged or ready to throw away a silly dream, I remember that line.

Makes me also think of Langston Hughes:
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die,
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

That's poetry I can wrap my brain around.

Writerly Encouragement

Long, long ago, in a mindset far, far away, in the days before I was published, I used to lap up positive writing quotations and stick them on the wall by my computer. Once I'm published, I used to think, I'll be over this insecurity.

Well, guess what. That mindset isn't really far, far away. I still grab onto positive thoughts regarding writing and publication because it's never a sure thing, especially in the market right now. What is a great career now can change on a dime if you're not careful.

One of the best quotes I came across was from Anne Rice. I think I found it in either a Writer's Digest or maybe online somewhere. I didn't write the source down and I wish I had. At any rate, this is it:

"...[People who write have to] a)believe in themselves totally, b)work like demons and c)ignore the rejections.
When you mail out a transcript, you are not turning in a paper for a grade. You can mail out a perfectly wonderful and publishable novel and then have it rejected 10 times. And the reason it's rejected is because you hit 10 different people who, for various reasons, don't want to work with this idea. You have to keep going. You have to never interpret rejection as a failing grade. They are not failing grades. they mean almost nothing...I kept writing and kept mailing out. My attitude was, 'I'm going to become a writer.' I was a writer

And that's Anne Rice! Like her or not, you must admit the woman tells an amazing story and has done really, really well with it. The fact that, for me, this advice came from such a credible source was a real kick of inspiration.

I'm not sure how many writers read this blog, but if you're out there and wondering if your work will ever see the light of day, take heart! It's possible, it's doable, you just cannot, cannot quit. You hone the art, you perfect it, you polish and scrub it, you get objective, kind feedback, you work and work and work.

I love that billboard that has a pic of Edison on it. The quote is, "After the 10,000th try, there was light." Good thing he kept at it, or we'd all still smell like kerosene.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The View From My Front Door

In the winter, on days like this, I think the scene can't possibly get any prettier.

And then, spring comes. I look outside and think the scene can't possibly get any prettier. Then summer, everything is so green! And I think the scene can't possibly get any prettier. Fall comes, ushering in a break from the insane heat, the leaves on the tree turn colors and my entire front yard is enveloped in a golden glow. And I think the scene can't possibly get any prettier.

I do love seasonal change. Each has its own beauty.

Good Times in the Snow

So Anna and Gunder built a snowman. Well, Anna built the snowman. Gunder coached and made snow angels. Then he wanted to tackle the snowman, but we told him we had to wait until Dad came home and saw it, first.

Dad came home, but Gunder's snowsuit was still soaked. So rather than put all the wet stuff back on, we decided it was a good idea to just pose beside the snowman. Maybe we'll tackle it in a few days.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Wacky Internal Clock!

"Go to bed. Whatever you're staying up late for isn't worth it."-- Andrew Rooney

I have been a night owl ever since I can remember. I could happily sleep every morning until at least 10:00 and still get up feeling flu-like. The problem is that I get a second wind at night time and then in the morning I wake up feeling like I've been hit by a truck.

Every morning! No matter what time I go to bed, really! Come to think of it, I can't blame the second-wind thing!

My dad, however, wakes up before his alarm at 5 a.m. He hits the ground running, literally, (well, now he cycles), and feels all kinds of snazzy. Kharma does come back around, though, and no good early-to-riser goes unpunished, because by 10 p.m. he's out for the count.

Why are we all so different? I even grilled my friends at our last card-making broo-haha. "Are you an early riser? What's your secret? How do you do it?" Somebody, please help me feel human in the morning!

My friend Jewels suggested I take a multi-vitamin before bedtime, which I have yet to try. I'm ducking my head in shame. My mother would say, "You haven't tried it? Then you must not be very tired." When we were kids and hungry for some midday snack, she'd offer something we'd think was totally stupid and then she'd say, "Well, you must not be very hungry, then." (You know what's funny? I now use it on my kids. "What do you mean you're cold? Go put on a sweater. You don't want to? You must not be very cold, then.")

Well, I've resigned myself to the fact that I will probably live each day of my life feeling like death in the morning. It's ok, really. I'm usually somewhat human by noon.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My hero

"I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal." --Abraham Lincoln

And *sigh* Mark said he couldn't read my blog because it was too cluttered. I'll see how long I can stand the plain.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

And in honor of Valentine's Day...

"Is not this the true romantic feeling--not to desire to escape life, but to prevent life from escaping you?" -Thomas Wolfe

Truthfully, sometimes I'm desperate for life to not escape me, and other times I'm wishing it would just keep flying by so I can reap my eternal reward for sticking it out.

I love the days when I feel like I've got life by the throat and want to accomplish everything under the sun. Oddly enough, (or not oddly enough, if you ask my parents and grandparents), I'm happiest when I'm productive. Nice as it would be to sit around and do nothing but eat chocolates, (or chips and salsa), I feel such supreme satisfaction at having cleaned a horribly messy room or written thousands of words.

It's all about balance. That's kind of my life philosophy. Too much of any one thing leaves us lopsided. Everything in life requres balance, love included. Too much love and you're an obsessive stalker. Not enough love and you have damaged relationships.

Since it is Valentine's Day, I hereby give a shout-out to my husband. He makes me laugh, and always has. It's one of the things I love the most about him. When his sense of humor runs out, I'm kicking him to the curb. We're coming up on our 20th anniversary and I want him to know that it really does feel like it's flown by.

There's a quote whose source I can't remember, but in essence it's this: Eternity can be a long time, but with the right person, it's not long enough.

I'm glad I've signed on with someone who makes me laugh, or eternity would be long indeed.

I love you. :-)

Monday, February 9, 2009

I'm a Finalist!

Woohoo! The list for the Whitney Award finalists is out and I'm on it!

I've never really understood how people could honestly say, "Oh, it's such an honor just to be nominated!" but now I do. Isabelle Webb, Legend of the Jewel is up for an award in the historical category and I'm in some really good company. I can honestly say that even if my book doesn't win, well, wow- I was up against some really good stuff.

The Whitney Awards are going to be held on April 25th in Provo. Yummy food, good company, lots of laughs- I'm sure it will be a night to remember.

And truly, I'm honored.

Friday, February 6, 2009

How I Became a Writer

You know, I started this blog with the intention of using it to connect with readers and people who are interested in writing, and I've realized that lately I've talked very little about books or writing. So I decided to give the brief version of my writing history.

Loved to read and scribble as a kid. My idea of a good time in the summer was a Nancy Drew book and a popsicle in the back yard. My sisters will agree with me, this was great. Our husbands find us particularly pathetic. But I so loved to read.

Fast forward to me graduating from college and giving birth to our first daughter. My husband and I spent just under a year in Atlanta and I had been reading a time-travel romance. I missed my family terribly and decided that I wanted to start writing a story about a Civil War time-travel to divert my thoughts. Well, interestingly enough, my husband decided he wanted to go back to Utah to finish school and we've been here ever since. (I like to remind him that it was his idea to return whenever he pines about missing the east coast. He's from Florida).

So I began the book in Atlanta on a computer that was as big as a coffee table and had a word processing program that couldn't keep up with my speedy typing. I had to pause every few minutes to let it catch up. (These fingers are strong! I learned to type in 7th grade on a manual typewriter. Computer keyboards are like warp speed in comparison).

I kept working on the book when we returned to Ogden, Utah, but put it away at intervals, thinking it was just a waste of time. When we got a new computer with a fancy dial-up internet connection, I became involved in a wonderful world of writers and readers. I received encouragement from friends I'd never met in person and decided to finish that book.

I did some local research, reasoning that I had a better chance at publication if I tried a local market first. The big players at the time were Deseret Book, Bookcraft and Covenant. A lot of fiction I spied on shelves at bookstores came from Covenant, and as it happened, when I finished the book and mailed it off to those three pubs, Covenant was the company that accepted it and I really feel that I landed in a very good place for me.

I've since published 8 other titles with Covenant. In fact, by the time the first book was finally accepted for publication, I had already almost finished the sequel. There were four romantic adventures at first, followed by a series of four Civil War volumes. My ninth book came out last fall and is a mystery/adventure/romance set in 1865 India.

All told, I love to write so much. I can't pick a more perfect career for myself. Someday I'd love to do postgraduate studies in writing or literature, but for now, I am so content. I love, love what I do. I also hate what I do. Writing is hard, and there are so many reasons not to sit down and write. But once I do, I get absolutely lost in another world and I'm always amazed at what appears on the screen.

When people tell me they've always wanted to write, I tell them to sit down and do it. That's the hard part. Once you have something on the page, you can tweak it, edit it, delete parts, add to it, whatever. Write for the joy of putting another world on the page/screen. Write to escape. Write to learn. Write to leave memories for yourself or your kids. Just write something! It's such an amazing form of self-expression. Sometimes I look back on journal entries and think, "Ok, I am a complete and utter dork." Other times, I laugh and think I'm pretty funny.

What I wouldn't give to have something from my grandmothers and great-grandmothers-- their journals, letters, something. These women are a part of my life because I often imagine channeling them to help me with problems or issues. I picture them with me, and I'd love to have a written account of what they did, how they lived. I'd even love to read something fictional they'd written, because you can see a person through the writing, even if it's "pretend."

So I rambled a bit, but that's the start of my writing story in a nutshell. Now my challenge to you is to pick up a pen or start a new file on your computer. Start writing something. Anything. Truth or fiction, scary or funny, memoir, short journal entry, ANYTHING. Your grandchildren will thank you. And if you don't ever want anyone to read what you wrote, well, that's ok too. Keep it for yourself. You'll be amazed at what comes out.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Distinctive Voices

Just sitting here listening to a little Fleetwood Mac and thinking that I'd know Stevie Nicks' voice anywhere. There are some voices like that- you recognize them right off the bat because they're so unique.

A few more that come to mind: Freddie Mercury, Barbara Streisand, Britney Spears, (much as I dislike her voice), Steve Perry, (until you hear his replacement for Journey, which sounds just like him!), Celine Dion, Elvis, (of course- and I can't stand his voice!)...

Ok, this list was way long longer in my head when I started this post and now I'm drawing a blank. You know what I mean, though. The kind of voice you hear in a new song and you don't have to ask who the artist is.

I'm probably un-American to admit to not liking Elvis. I do like Frank Sinatra, though, so that counts for something. (Sending pleas for forgiveness heavenward to my grandfather who thought Sinatra was a not-talent hack. We're not Italian, though, we're Scots. Maybe that's the difference. Had my grandfather been Italian, it would have been in the blood. I mean, can you be Italian and not like Frank Sinatra? I should think that would be morally reprehensible or something. Somehow defiling a natural law of the universe).