Thursday, March 27, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig

I am back.

When I walked in the door, it was wonderful to be back in the cacophony of my everyday life. The first day back I totally "vegged." Sure, there was 10 loads of laundry waiting for me, YW's responsibilities, 235 emails and the entire house looked like it had been turned upside down and shaken, but I just laid back and played with the children. It was great. We caught up on American Idol, House and played Wii. Then I took my daughter to track practice (which had been cancelled) so we went to Subway and shared a $5 sub while chatting about life in general.

My husband was a little disappointed that more wasn't accomplished but I loved being HOME! Today I'm back at it. I already had YW Presidency Meeting, sorted through stacks of papers and mail, prepared two meals and once I finish, plan doing a room by room pick up and then taking the boys out to play hoops. Tomorrow we are going to the zoo, IMAX and are ending the day with bowling with extended family.

But at the back of my mind looms the memories of the LDS Storymaker's conference. To be honest, it wasn't at all what I expected and has left me in a sullen mood. It was very well planned and I enjoyed boot camp thoroughly. It gave us each an opportunity to share the work we had done and critique it with a group of our peers. That was useful. I also loved James Dashner and Jeff Savage- they are very funny. Jessica Day George was an absolute crack-up. I loved her wonderful attitude about life and that she is not going to "hell" (had to be there.)

Many of the classes were very helpful. I especially liked Mr. Gordon Ryan who spoke about his characters with such emotion but I learned something that we VERY depressing. Brandon Sanderson and Jessica Day George both spoke about the many writers conferences they attended in order to find their agents and finally get accepted in the national market. Janet Rallison also mentioned the importance of using your time productively. I guess what I learned most of all from Annette Lyon, Josi Kilpack and Heather Moore, among others is that the only way to be successful is to seriously work at it for hours and not just the writing part either. There is editting and editting and editting, marketing, publicity and anything you can think of to increase readership. Writing is a lot of hard work! .

I began writing as my escape from hard work, but now that my foot is through the door, I'm not only committed but a little addicted to my current and future projects. So, I guess I better just roll up my sleeves and dive in.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

LDStorymakers Writer's Conference

Today I'm going to the airport twice in one day. Just after twelve noon I'm headed out to the airport to pick up my sister's dog, "Patches." She called and told me that he was not working out in their family. He found out he could get out of the backyard and he is too jumpy for their small children. Since we lost our dog, and none of my children are small or shy I think we'll be OK. She is flying the dog out and my children are so excited.

Then at 3pm I pick up Rachel, my good friend from Minnesota. She'll come home for one evening and then at 4am the next morning we take off in the new convertible for UT and the writer's conference. I'm so excited to meet everyone!!! On Thursday Night we are meeting at Jim's restaurant and I'll be introduced to the authors then on Friday Night, I think we are still going to have an ANWA table at dinner (need to double check) and Saturday is the Whitney Awards- still have NOTHING to wear. It is going to be really fun.

I've got all my writing examples for bootcamp and am ready to rock and roll. I even did a huge shopping job so the Easter stuff is here and all the food for the weekend is set. It is sad I'm missing Easter but my husband's parents are coming so I think it will be alright.

Can't wait to tell you all I've learned when I get back.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Tribute To Tinker

Last week Tinker died. She was almost sixteen years old and was the best dog we have ever met. Tinker came to us in an unusual way- through visiting teaching. I was visiting a sister that had a little farm. My boys had come to ride her horses while we visited. She also bred blue heelers and shelties. As we watched my two young boys each straddling unbrushed geldings, whacking their legs against horses that were far more interested in eating than walking, the conversation turned and Rene said to me, "I'm not looking forward to this afternoon- I have to drown a puppy."
"What?" I screamed, horrified at her words.
"One of my shelties got in with Pearl by accident and she's got one mutt. If I don't get rid of it, I can't sell the rest of the litter as pure breeds."
"I'll take it." I pled. Maybe it was because I had a new baby at the time but the thought of killing a new life just sickened me.
Rene shook her head, "You do not want a new pup. You have to feed it every few hours. You want to get up in the middle of the night for a mutt? And its not worth anything."
"I'm up with the baby anyway, I can feed them at the same time." I answered bravely and so that morning we went home with a little two-week-old puppy.
At the time we already had a dog named Belle after Disney's "Beauty and the Beast." It would have been more accurate to have called her "Beast." Belle was half chow and half golden retriever, a gorgeous dog to look at. Although she was wonderful with the children, her protective heart and aggressive nature were making me a little nervous. She had killed a chicken and tried to bury the evidence in the sandbox and attacked the meter man who had gone into the backyard unannounced with the children back there.
Luckily, Belle welcomed the new puppy happily and we decided to name our new dog, "Tinker," continuing our Disney theme because if you put the two names together...( it's tacky I know.) Unlike our beautiful Belle, Tinker was not really attractive. She had the markings of a sheltie but the white of her coat had the mottled look of a blue healer which always made her look dirty.
By the end of that year, Belle had jumped the fence and ripped a little dog to shreds that had been annoying her. We felt we had to put her down with much tears. But Tinker's personality was turning out to be the total opposite. She loved attention of any kind. The children would dress her up in baby clothes and she would just pant happily, loving being loved. As Tinker grew she proved to be even more incredible.
One long weekend we decided to go visit family. We left a good supply of food and water in the garage, and the garage door open just enough so she could get in and out. After making sure the dog was outside, we took off, not really concerned. As we pulled up to the house three days later, we couldn't see the dog anywhere. We called and called and then one of the kids opened the door. She had been trapped inside that whole time. I had a pit in my stomach thinking about all the mess I would have to clean up but there was none. She had lasted three days without a single accident- she must have had an iron bladder.
Tinker was great around everyone. The only person she ever bit was a dishonest contractor that I wish I could have bitten. I loved her for that too. She travelled across the country with us, didn't bark excessively and loved to have her belly rubbed. She was a good dog and we'll miss her.
They say "All Dogs go To Heaven" and I believe it. But I also believe that when some dogs are bonded to a family like Tinker was to ours that she'll be waiting for us. And when that day comes that I cross the veil to the loving arms of my family, I have a strong feeling that there will be a wagging tail and turned up belly waiting to be scratched there too.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Not Until The Taxes Are Done

I was born on Tax Day. Yup, my birthday is April 15th. You might think that as a result that I would have a found relationship with the event that shares my special day but you couldn't be more wrong- I hate doing taxes!!!

So you ask me why don't I just take them to the little tax kiosk in Wal-mart and have it done there. Well, the reason is because when you just bring in your W-2's, Mortgage statements and Tithing slips, your refund is next to nothing. But since I'm writing and actually made a little bit of money last year at it, I can add up my bills for the house and deduct a portion of that for my office expense, plus all my postage and other losses. Then there are two days of work on investments. Greg uses a broker who doesn't electronically download so I have mountains of data entry. Finally all the little signed receipts with notes of all the clothes I've donated to DI, Goodwill and Salvation Army get added up. Then we had a move so I have to go through all the same stuff for two different states. I hate it! But when I'm done, our refund is HUGE!

It usually takes me a week of complaining and probably about fifteen hours of real work, but the worst part is if I get interrupted and lose my place, then I never want to pick it up again. That is what happened this year. I started on the taxes, got out all my documentation and then got a rejection for copyright so I had to do a rewrite and send it back in if I hope to keep to my deadline. Meanwhile the kids have messed up all my neat piles and I so DON'T want to start again.

My husband has been bugging me about it for a few weeks now and when I got home from the YW's basketball game this morning he frowned at me and asked if I would get in the car with him. I was prepared to be nagged at but instead he went to the car dealership around the corner. The kids' car is on its last leg (or wheel would be more accurate) and it looked like our tax return might be enough to afford a little used beater car with good gas mileage.

He began by looking at full-size pickups (you can take the boy out of the ranch...) and then went to smaller SUV's that still didn't get that great of gas mileage and cost more than we ever could afford. Finally, I thought if my husband was looking at his dream cars, I'd look at mine. I walked over to the bright red mustang convertible and drooled but they wanted $36K. Near to it was this cute little seebring, white with a tan top. It was adorable but when I looked at the sticker, I was shocked- it was under $10k. After the test drive, I was in love and couldn't believe it when my husband was willing to go along with it. He actually bought the car!
As we were walking out of the dealership with the keys, I was itching to get behind the wheel with the top down and whizz through mountain roads. I couldn't wait. Then my husband turned to me and said seriously, "You can drive this car as soon as taxes are finished." I couldn't believe my ears but he was adamant- and I got to face my desk. So right after I take my daughter to the school dance, I'm going to plunge into the stacks and stacks of paper and drive that cute little convertible to church tomorrow morning- if it takes me all stinking night!
Wish me luck.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why Do Bad Things Come in Threes... or Fours

Yesterday was an awful day. It just was. Our house was supposed to sell and the buyers backed out last minute. I got an email telling me that my next book was rejected from church headquarters for copyright and that I have to bring 44 quotes down to 10-- its killing me!!! And I was supposed to go to a baptism with a teenager who was investigating the gospel, but we walked in as they were closing the font doors and the missionaries looked like they wanted to kill me- well, maybe only beat me up really badly. It was a bad day.

I wish life was fair, that when you have a really stinky day like that the next day is filled with incredibly happy successes like a publisher from Harper Collins happened to read my little fragment on Hatrack and offered me a million dollar advance to write it or that the last four years of my tax refunds were miscalculated and I really should receive twice as much back-- or maybe just that someone really wants to buy my house.

So today instead of finishing the manuscript and sending it back to church headquarters or finishing the taxes which are still hanging over my head or working on my next manuscript which I really want to have completed within two months to boost my first book sales, I played literi on yahoo for a couple hours and won almost every game! Then I called three of my sisters and four old friends long distance, gabbing happily for hours catching up on the news, our children, and life in general. As the children bounded through the door home from school, each kissed me on the cheek before running outside or upstairs. I have to admit it was a pretty great day to be surrounded by that much love. I know I couldn't possibly afford to spend every day just playing around, but now and then I think everyone needs a day where they simply enjoy life. All the responsibilities will still be there waiting for me tomorrow but for today it was nice to let it all go.

And it almost offset yesterday- almost.

Friday, March 7, 2008

A Great Blurb

My blurb came today. You know, the few paragraphs on the back cover of a book that either grab you so you buy it or turn your stomach so you slap it down and run away. Well, mine came. So here it is- what do you think...

The nurse looked at Cath with raised eyebrows and then laughed out loud with a raspy smokers’ laugh. “Let me get this straight,” she snickered. “You are new, and the ladies from the Mormon Church, who probably knew exactly what they were doing, strapped you with a totally incoherent visiting teaching companion and a bunch of inactives? That is rich. What did you do to get on their bad side?” She chortled again.

Who would have thought that moving into a new ward could be so hard?

Cath Reed is at the end of her rope. Her husband travels constantly, her teenage daughter is going off the deep end, and to top it off, her new ward has made it clear that they wish she’d never moved in. Now Cath has been given the worst visiting teaching assignment in history—and a companion who never wakes up! The stern Relief Society secretary tells Cath not to visit her sisters in person. Cath doesn’t feel that neglecting her calling would be right, but is she ready to face the challenges of visiting unfriendly or even hostile women? And how can she visit them if she can’t even speak to Gwen, her visiting teaching companion, who stays asleep most of the time?

Between hot fudge, a valuable organ, and a lot of crayons and scratch paper, life will take Cath on a roller coaster she won’t ever forget—her sleeping companion is about to awaken her to a whole
new world of possibilities.

So I guess my question is, does it do its job? Does it make you want to read it?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

My New Cover is Here!!!

It is incredible that it is finally here. First, I wrote a story. It was a quiet and lonely experience except when I was yelling at my kids to keep it down so I could focus and get in one more scene. Or when my children totally ignored me and wrestled around happily anyway.

Then I sent it out and did a victory dance. It was exciting for a few weeks but after the contract was signed- nothing. It was as though it had never been accepted- like it had all been a dream.

I expected the editing process to be extensive but there weren't many changes so two days of working with my editor (I'll take this as a sign that I had very clean copy) and even that seemed almost surreal. It was like I knew I had a book coming but the words seemed empty as though I was making it up.

Yesterday the cover arrived, and now it is REAL. You can even see my two boys about to jump into the "potty pond" on the front cover, if you look really carefully (it is the crayon picture.)

Just a few more weeks and I'll be able to actually hold it in my hands- "The Crayon Messages: A Visiting Teaching Adventure". I can't imagine!

I think you are going to love this book.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Sometimes You Just Need to Start Writing

I've been doing a lot of reading about plotting a book, laying out characters, creating a calendar of events and prep work that helps a story to be more solid and consistent. So I decided to try it. I had a rough idea of where I wanted my next novel to go but wasn't clear on conflicts or details and set aside an afternoon to diagram it out. Well, it was one of the worst afternoons of my life. Nothing. I couldn't envision my characters, I was constantly side-tracked and ended up wondering if I should abandon the story completely.

Then yesterday my cleaning lady came. I've never had a cleaning lady before but with my writing finally being published, my husband agreed and I LOVE her. She only comes once a week and when she gets here the house usually looks like a tornado hit it. We work in tandem. I do laundry and pick up the kids clothes and other junk, while she does the floors, bathrooms and windows. When she leaves, I love my house again and dance around feeling free! So after she left, I was in a great mood and pulled out the computer, wanting to create something fabulous. Without knowing where I was going, I just started writing. By the time the kids came home from school I had written eight pages of really good stuff. My setting was clarified as was my conflict. It was a fabulous day!

I guess what I need to learn from the experience is that different techniques work for different people. I do think when the first draft is finished, calendaring would be wonderful, but for me I'm not ready to go there until the story is written because I like the story to take form on its own. To unfold like a flower, rather than to be forced into a preconceived form. I hope that way the story is more believable, opens the readers eyes to a new perspective and touches their heart, encouraging them to action.

So today I'm on to chapter two. I don't quite know where it's going to go, but that is the fun of it.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Testimony Meeting

This Sunday I sat in the middle of the row. With my huge teenage boys and husband on either side of me and Anna, Sarah, William and Camron at the edges so I was sure to be safe and trapped. There was no way I was going to stand to bear my testimony. I'd been feeling off all morning and was worried about it.

The bishop began the meeting by sharing about a miserable defeat he had in court this week. He is a lawyer and I think the term he used is that "he got creamed." He spoke of personal times in his life where he was dispondent and discouraged (his first wife died of cancer), but his patriarchal blessing warned him that was the devil's tool and he needed to overcome those feelings.

The next man who got up was our high councilman who told his story. He too had lost a wife to cancer but just recently. When this happened he totally shut down, even stopped attending most of his meetings. So the Stake President called him to be a high councilman. He prayed about it and realized that he needed to stand up and do what he should so that he could be with his wife again. He said that he was filled with the assurance that he was going to do what it took to be in the Celestial Kingdom and that eventhough she was in heaven, that they were both learning the things that they needed to at this time. It was remarkable to see the healing. Then last week the Stake President called him to be in charge of the older singles- that man is going to be snatched up in a heartbeat.

Speaking of heartbeats, you could hear mine from across the room. I sat there knowing I should stand, my heart pounding, until I squeezed out of my comfort zone and stood. Literally, I'm not sure what I said. I talked about how we can't change some feelings on our own. Those changes are gifts of the Spirit. The lifting of grief, the desire to move forward, the hope that we can make it come as we open our minds and hearts to Christ. I ended with telling about a friend who asked me once "what if it's not true." I laughed because I've seen and heard too much with my own eyes and ears. I know it is true without a doubt. That isn't even the question. The question is "Am I true?" and that's a question I'm still trying to work out day by day.

I sat down feeling like just once I'd like to be an example of what to do, instead of what not to do. But I also knew I had fulfilled what I was asked and smiled because I was asked. If my prayers weren't answered so miraculously time after time, if I hadn't been given impressions that have saved my family from heartache and if I never felt compelled to stand up or speak out when I really didn't want to, I would mourn for the loss. It is nice to feel like the Lord loves you enough to ask. You know?