Showing posts from 2007

2007 Top 5's

I've got a few minutes left of the old year. As I looked back over 2007, I decided to make a list of some of some highlights. With little time left, I'll just do my favorite books of the year and my favorite family moments.

Top 5 Books Read in 2007:

"Nerd" Book: Word Myths, by David Wilton
A true delight for all word nerds, this book seeks after the sources of many common word myths and then in "Myth Buster" fashion either proves the myth correct or debunks what we thought we knew. Absolutely fascinating. (No, people's last names were not changed at Ellis Island, regardless of what Aunt Lucy says. People did that on their own later to appear more "American.")

Writing Book: The Writer's Journey, by Christopher Vogler
Out of print but worth finding used, this book has turned my way of looking at plot and character upside down and inside out. In a good way. I think my husband must be tired of me piping up during a movie with, "This is the Or…

Mel's Wild Kingdom

Not long ago, my sister Mel began working on a collection of essays about her childhood. When I read them, laughing so hard I cried, my kids raced in to see what was wrong. Part of my enjoyment surely came from remembering the events she describes so vividly (and accurately!), but a lot of it is simply that Mel's a great writer.

Long-time readers here may recall that as a sixth grader (totally grown up, from where I stood in second grade), Mel began scribbling stories in notebooks. That's when the writing bug bit me, because emulating your big sister is really the coolest thing ever, right?

After Mel sent me a few of her pieces, I decided that the world needed to see one of these trips down memory lane, so with her permission, below is one of several that had me rolling on the floor.

It's longer than your average blog post, but it's well worth every word. Enjoy!

Lions and Tigers and Bears—But First, a Poodle

by Mel Henderson

I spent pretty much the entire fifth grade mad at …

The Finish Line

I made it! As of two days ago, I turned in my Manti temple manuscript. I had promised my editor he'd get it before Christmas. It was touch-and-go for a bit there, but it's done.

For those who have been following my progress, that means I reached all three of my personal writing goals for the last few months. First I had two word count goals that helped me get it drafted. Then I had a goal to get the first round of revisions done and the manuscript out to some of my personal readers. And finally, it was going over all of their suggestions and inputting them into the manuscript before turning it over to my editor before Christmas. (Wait. I think that makes more than three . . .)

I am hereby taking the next several days off to enjoy family and Christmas. I doubt I'll be near a computer much. I'll probably be reading, playing games, and taking a nap.

Sounds like heaven.

Merry Christmas to all!

Conference Time!

Yes, Christmas is just around the corner, but there's something else in the air as well.

Registration for the 5th Annual LDStorymakers Conference, March 21 & 22, is now available here. The conference is always such a shot in the arm for me. It's one of my favorite times of year. (Christmas in the spring!) We've simplified the registration process so you can pay online.

This year is shaping up to be our best conference ever. Among the highlights:
One of our keynote speakers is Timothy Travaglini, Senior Editor at G.P. Putnam's Sons (a division of Penguin Group, USA). For those of you who know Janette Rallison, he is her editor (known by her blog readers as the "bow-tied" one).The return of Boot Camp, the hugely popular hands-on critique workshop prior to the regular conference each day.A Publishers' panel, with representatives from all the major LDS publishing houses.Pitch sessions with both Covenant and Deseret BookManuscript reviews with Tim TavagliniCh…

Wisdom at 5 Years

Today's post is brought to you by the sweet little mind of my 5-year-old. She is a joy in so many ways, not the least of which is her determination to give the best hugs anywhere and "permanent" kisses that can't wash off.

I almost feel guilty for enjoying this stage with her so much, because when her three older siblings were this age, I was so busy taking care of everyone else that I don't think I had the luxury of reveling in the sweetness like I can with her as the youngest.

Some of her most recent nuggets:

1) Maybe they should add this one to Merriam-Webster:
"Some boys get their ears pierced because they’re dudes. Dudes wear earrings."

2) In her efforts at keeping the family's manners in check, she insists on hearing, "You're welcome," any time she says, "thank you."

I pour a glass of milk, and she says, "Thank you . . . " If Mom doesn't respond fast enough, it's, "I said thank you!"

3) A word escap…

The Truth about Signings

In my pre-publication days, if I ever imagined having a book signing, it included images like people actually wanting to buy my book and have me sign it. Maybe (if I was getting really deep into the fantasy) a line of people.

Of course, reality crashes down after publication, and you realize that unless your book is about teenage wizards or vampires, you won't have a long line. Or any line. And you'll be lucky to sell more than one that your mom came to buy to support you.

You do book signings anyway to show your publisher you're committed to promoting yourself. You chat with the employees and get to know them. You try to meet customers, and when they pay you the slightest attention, you try to encapsulate your book into about five seconds, because that's as long as they're going to give you before moving on.

And that's if you're lucky enough to get someone to make eye contact, because as people walk in the door, they instinctively look away from the lonely au…

Blame Josi

It wasn't that long ago that I had my 100th post and with it as many random things about me.

Now Josi has tagged me, and I'm to come up with ten more.

Let's see if I can think of something interesting that most readers don't know:

1) I've never skied in Utah, although I've lived here most of my life. I went skiing once in Finland with our youth group, but that's it. When it comes to winter sports, I'm a skating girl.

2) I always, always, always wear waterproof mascara and have never worn anything else. Ya never know when you're going to get something stuck in your eye, cry, or walk in the rain. Or through sprinklers. Or whatever.

3) The one Nintendo game I'm good at (or used to be) was Diddy Kong Racing. I used to play it with my son when he was younger as Mommy/son bonding time. I got pretty good. I pretty much suck at any other video games and have no desire to play them now anyway.

4) I learned to play chess by sitting on my dad's lap as he pla…

Calibrating the Rude-O-Meter

I've gotten used to people thinking I'm weird. Characters talk in my head, I find bizarre and otherwise useless facts interesting (and wonder how they could work into a story), and so forth.

But I had no idea I was abnormal in other ways. I continue to discover just how many areas this covers when my critique group calls me on stuff my characters do or think.

Things that apparently are NOT normal.

The biggest eye-opener was with the first book I brought to the group. Everyone kept saying how completely unlikeable the heroine was. She was rude and snotty and all kinds of things.

I was horrified as they pointed to bits of dialogue to prove their point—parts that I never in a million years intended to be rude or snotty. Parts I never realized could be interpreted that way.

Apparently my rude and snotty meters needed adjusting. I know I'm not the most socially-talented person on the planet, but I suddenly realized that yikes—I had probably said lots of things in the past that had b…

Horses Are Like Snow

There's something magical about watching snowflakes flutter to the ground, especially on a moonlit night where the stars twinkle magically behind the white flecks carpeting the ground and transforming the world. I love curling up with a mug of hot cocoa and watching the mesmerizing view as peace descends and all worries melt away.

But I hate dealing with snow. You know what I mean: the driving on slick roads, the shoveling, the wet boots, the cold hands, the lugging coats around and all that other miserable stuff.

If I could have a winter where I could just see it without dealing with it, I'd enjoy the season far more than I actually do.

With my current WIP, I've got a similar phenomenon when it comes to animals of the equine persuasion. Horses are beautiful creatures. I love watching them (or watching people ride them) as their muscles ripple and their manes and tails fly in the wind.

I do not enjoy dealing with horses, whether that's riding them or working with them in t…

Other Eyes

For one big reason, I feel as if I won the Utah writer lottery (assuming there would ever be such a thing!): I belong to one of the most remarkable critique groups on the planet.

It began with Lu Ann and Stephanni, who both lived in Spanish Fork and wanted to start up a group. Lu Ann pulled out her trusty directory from the League of Utah Writers and began calling around to writers in the area. This is a very scatter-shot way of creating a group, and by all odds, it shouldn't have worked as well as it did.

I remember distinctly when she called me. It was a July evening as I bathed my two children and was monstrously pregnant with my third, due at the end of the month. I was also finishing up my third year (and second pregnancy during that time) in the Young Womens presidency of my ward. I had been writing faithfully for some time, getting rejections and publishing a few articles, but I hadn't managed to get a book contract yet.

So when Lu Ann asked if I'd like to join, the an…

Thinking of Christmas

With December (and the first big snowfall of the year) here, my mind is turning to Christmas. This will be the third one in a row that I'll be an ocean and a continent apart from my parents, and it's making me sentimental.

As a child, I enjoyed Christmas more than any time of year. Now as a parent, I try to pass on some of the same traditions that made the season so special for me.

What I'm thinking about in particular right now:

1) Bing Crosby and company.
Bottom line, folks: It ain't Christmas if there isn't any Bing. My dad is of the Rat Pack generation, so I grew up listening to all the greats on his reel-to-reel tape set, almost exclusively during December. Our first married Christmas, my husband bought me a Bing Crosby Christmas CD, knowing that I'd need it to feel at home that year. I still have it, and we listen to it more than any other Christmas music.

I'm a bit like my older sister in that for years it was hard to listen to contemporary artists singin…

Signings in the Air

You can tell that Christmas is around the corner.

I know this in part because of the music on the radio and the decorations in the stores and the lights twinkling on the houses around my neighborhood. (Oh, and those insanely long lists my kids keep writing—and revising—for Santa.)

Another clue is that my book signing schedule has revved into gear. This time around, nearly all of them are Fridays from noon to one o'clock. This is intentional; with the busyness of the season, I need to keep the impact on the family to a minimum, and lunch time does that. (Apologies to those who prefer a weekend or evening hour!)

Starting tomorrow (Friday, November 30), I'll be on the signing circuit. First off will be at the American Fork Seagull, and then that evening way up in Logan at the Book Table for their annual Midnight Madness event. Heather Moore and I will be going up together, and there are always lots of other authors there.

Then every Friday between now and Christmas, I'll be at a …

More Dot to Dot

As I've mentioned before, I like to incorporate elements that connect my books to one another. The connections are always small threads, but I include them sort of like those "Easter eggs" you discover on DVDs, or a way for me to say hello to readers whether they recognize the message or not.

Just this last weekend as I had some holiday book signings, a store employee came up and asked about a young boy who appears briefly in Spires of Stone.

"Was that the Indian guy from your St. George book?" she asked.

I grinned. Yes, I told her. Yes, he was. His name is Abe. I'm so glad you caught it.

She clapped her hands and then turned to a fellow employee. "I told you it was him!"

I promised in that previous dot-to-dot post that my upcoming (and still untitled) Manti book would connect to Spires, but I was unsure for a long time of what the thread would be. I figured it out a few weeks ago as I was finishing it up. One character from Spires shows up briefly in …

I've Been MIA

I've been off-line for a little while. First it was the Chocolate Show craziness and then preparing to host Thanksgiving for my siblings, and then the big day itself. (Got to have the entire family over, plus have a web chat with the parents from the other side of the planet. Good times.)

Three highlights from the non-holiday time:

1) I had the opportunity to read Michele Paige Holmes's second book as she prepares to turn it into her editor. If you've read Counting Stars, you will have read the opening chapter of this book, as it was included at the back of that one. Remember Jay? This is his continuing story, and what a ride it is!

I loved it, and I'm sure her readers will too.

2) I did a bit of digging and found a couple of resources for my next project. This was a relief to me, because the temple I'll be writing about doesn't have nearly as much written about it as the others have.

3) The other--and somewhat less enjoyable--big thing I did was do a deep-cleaning …

VIP Winner

Short post--as you can imagine, it's a busy day, being Chocolate Show week!

But I had to congratulate Kimberly, whose story was selected as the VIP pass winner.


Her confession had me laughing out loud:

My husband bought a bag of lindt chocolates to have around as an occasional treat. I snarfed them all while he was at work one day (my three year old made me do it! I swear!), and promptly panicked. I loaded the kids in the car, drove to the grocery store, and bought another bag. I then wrapped the offending wrappers up in several grocery bags and pushed the bundle to the bottom of the garbage can. He never suspected a thing. And his sympathy over me feeling ill that night? Just a little bit torturous.

Since Kimberly's not in Utah, she's decided to pass the tickets to a good friend of hers who can use them.

I definitely plan on using more stories in future issues of The Weekly Chocolate Fix. (Want to subscribe? It's free. Click here.)

So Karlene and Amber will …

We Are Vindicated

For pretty much forever, I've been the butt of jokes regarding my choice of college major: English. Few other majors get so many people poking fun. The sad thing is that in some cases, the teasing is warranted; a lot of English majors don't know what they want to be when they grow up or what they'll do with an English degree when they get it (flip burgers?).

Then there are those of us who know precisely what we're going to do with it. In my case, that meant being a writer. To remain practical, I also went into Secondary Education and planned to get a teaching certificate to be a high school English teacher. (I decided in the end to graduate sans certificate, but that's a story for another time.)

But even those English majors who were pre-law or had some other big career plan would get razzed about their major because so many people think that English is somehow easy and has about as much depth as cotton candy—that anyone could do it.

In fact, I had a close family memb…

Mission Complete!

I don't think I've ever posted twice in one day, but I just had to report.

In short: I did it!

My Manti book still rough in a couple of spots, but it's drafted. Everything is bridged and coherent. The story is complete. (Not sure I'm 100% satisfied with the closing scene, but I'll tinker with it later.)

The current word count is eerily close to what I predicted: 95,044.

I still need to finish up the historical notes section in the back and then go through the stack of papers lingering on my desk from my critique group before I give them the entire manuscript to some of them to hack apart.

But all of that can wait until Monday.

For now, I'm going to revel in the fact that I reached my goal of having this book drafted by Saturday, November 10, 2007.

And it feels good.

Now, where's the chocolate?

Such a Good Liar

Before I start, I have to remind everyone to send me their chocolate stories for a chance to win VIP chocolate show tickets We've gotten two really fun entries, but I want more, more, more!

As for the liar meme:

I don't know if I should be proud of this, but out of fifteen guesses, thirteen were wrong--and one of the correct ones (Karlene's) was just because no one else had guessed that one yet.

Here's the low-down on each of my four statements:

1. Once while camping in the High Uintahs, I stood too close to the fire one morning in an attempt to warm up. I locked my knees and passed out into the fire pit, effectively singing off my eyebrows and eyelashes.

FALSE. This is the lie. I took a note when Josi said that people usually don't pick #1. Tee hee. This actually did happen to Cathy, a childhood friend of mine. I was on the same camping trip, but in the tent at the time, so I just heard about it afterward--and saw her singed lashes. Surprisingly (as Don pointed out) sh…

Chocolate, Chocolate, Everywhere!

For Utah chocolate lovers, the time is almost here. Next week is the 4th Annual Utah Chocolate Show! Woohoo!

Read part of the press release here, and then continue below it for a chance to win TWO VIP EVENT PASSES, worth $95.00!!!

(I usually don't indulge in lots of bold type and exclamation points, but this is a moment that warrants such enthusiam).

About the show:

Chocolate lovers of every stripe have waited all year for what has become a fixture on the state’s holiday event calendar: The Fourth Annual Utah Chocolate Show, November 16 & 17 at the South Towne Expo Center, with more to do, see, learn, and experience than ever before.

Some of the best chocolate that Utah and the U.S. have to offer will be there, including V Chocolates, Utah Truffles, See’s Candies, and Utah’s own bean-to-bar creator, Amano Artisan Chocolates, plus many others. Attendees can sample chocolates and enjoy show-only specials as they get a jump on their holiday shopping.

Specialty Classes that require pre-…

True or False?

Tristi tagged me for a liar meme.

The idea is that I share some tidbits about me, ONE of which is not true. You guess which is the lie, and I’ll reveal the answer in a few days.

To sweeten the pot, I’ll draw one person’s name out of all the comments (regardless of whether they guess correctly) to receive a copy of Spires of Stone. Be sure I can contact you through your comment (or leave your email address).

Here are the four things. None are earth-shatteringly exciting, but hey, they’re mine. Somehow they’re mostly about my early years. No idea why; they’re just what I thought of.

1. Once while camping in the High Uintahs, I stood too close to the fire one morning in an attempt to warm up. I locked my knees and passed out into the fire pit, effectively singing off my eyebrows and eyelashes.

2. My senior year, I didn’t make it into our high school musical because the choir teacher thought I was a junior. He wanted to give more seniors a chance to perform before they graduated. Uh, whoops.


Grace Period

I'm crying "uncle" on my current writing challenge.

Realistically, there is no way I'll reach 95,000 words by Wednesday.

Several factors played into this, among them the fact that I'm not just drafting scenes anymore, but filling gaps, smoothing over sections, and sometimes deleting sections that no longer work. Just this morning I ended up cutting 500 words belonging to a brief scene that I now see doesn't need to be there at all.

Ironically, that's still progress. We're in the shaping and molding phase of this book now, which means that sometimes the total word count decreases before it goes back up again. But I've been working--really, I have--and consider it quite an accomplishment to have numbers officially assigned to SIXTEEN chapters. (If you know how totally spastic I write, that's impressive.)

Compound that with the fact that I think I'm coming down with a bug. Just sitting at the computer hurts.

Oh, the joys.

The upshot is that I'm…

On My Own . . . or on YouTube

In honor of the October writing assignment over at, here is my contribution.

It’s not a witty essay or a piece of fiction—just something silly that the prompt brought to mind. (That’s what a prompt does, right? Bring things to mind?) Had I managed to have more than three seconds to think straight over the last two weeks, I might have written something really inspiring and literary.

Or . . . maybe not.

* * *
As I’ve mentioned before, I went to high school with a bunch of thespians. These are people who took acting and made it a lifestyle. Their favorite party games were acting games. (Ever played "In the Manner of the Adverb"?) Their favorite pastimes were viewing or participating in plays—or listening to Broadway soundtracks.With their insane music ability, it was a snap to stand around a piano while one (take your pick; it could be any one of half a dozen of them) sight read music and the rest sang along in perfect harmony. (Except me. "Give Annette the melody…

The Big 1-0-0

I feel like I've reached a milestone with my 100th blog post! In keeping with tradition, below is a list with 100 things about me. 1. With my children, I duplicated the family I grew up in: boy, girl, girl, girl. 2. I’m the middle girl.3. My children don’t at all resemble my siblings.4. Especially my son, a very mild child who hasn’t given any scars to his little sisters.5. But my brother gave me a scar when he was being nice, not during the times he held me over the bannister, locked me in a closet, or threatened to kill me. 6. Thanks in part to being a secretary in college, I can type really fast, which is one reason I cannot write books long hand.7. The other reason is that my handwriting is atrocious. I blame my older sister for that.8. I have six screws in my jaw from a surgery when I was 16. Not the easiest way to fix your bite . . .9. Recovery included having my jaw wired shut and being on a liquid diet. (Ensure, anyone?)10. With my swollen face, I look like a demented alie…

Executive Decisions

I feel a little sneaky; a moment ago I wrote, "Chapter 6" at the top of a page.

Lest you think that makes no sense, I'll explain. Since I often write out of order, jumping ahead to scenes, coming back to flesh things out and bridge gaps--and since my first attempts at beginnings are rarely set in stone--I generally begin my chapters with plain old, "Chapter" until I know for sure that there's nothing missing before that one and it's clear where it belongs and what number it would be.

At least two months ago, I decided that chapters 1-5 were solidly in place and ready for their designations. In went "Chapter 1," "Chapter 2," and on through "Chapter 5." But looking at the next section, I wasn't sure.

I hesitated, going back regularly to look at it and thinking that I really should return to another character's storyline after Chapter 5 before continuing with Tabitha's situation, which was the next one written. But I …

Big Whitney News

We have a new development on the Whitney Awards front: Winners will receive cash prizes in addition to the actual award and all the acclaim that goes with it.

The award is becoming an exciting new entity in the market, and I am thrilled to have a seat on the sidelines to watch it happen.

One major purpose of the Whitney Awards program is to raise the quality of the literature we publish. That can only happen if the best of the best are on the ballot, and that can only happen if readers nominate books so they'll have a shot at being a finalist.

Once again I'm encouraging readers to nominate their favorite books published by LDS authors during 2007. Nominating is easy at the Whitney Awards website.

The following was announced just two days ago by the Whitney Committee:




The Whitney Awards Committee announced today that they will be offering seven large cash awards to be presented at the …

More on Manti

First off, I have to say that the writing conference was terrific. Several other author friends were there, including Josi (my abosolute ball of a roommate) and Jules. My co-director for the 2008 LDStorymaker conference, Heather, was also there, and the two of us had our brains going the entire time in planning mode, noticing how they did certain things and getting new ideas for the conference.

It was also a great chance to learn some new things, refresh your mind on others, and just get charged for writing in general. I even squeezed a little writing in on my Neo.

I thought I'd post a little more about the Manti trip, since it was such a great day and my husband and I took so many pictures. (Trust me; I'll spare you most of them--like the dozens of headstones--but some are just too cool not to share!)

First, to address one question from last time: I have no idea why there used to be a tunnel through the bottom of the east tower. Wild tidbit for which I have to answer!

Now for a f…

To Manti We Will Go

A week ago I took a trip down to Manti for research purposes. While I've been there before, it's been several years, and I had never been there using my writer eyes, if that makes sense. I notice things in a very different way when I look at them as possible writing subjects, such as the many old homes still in Manti.

While I normally notice and enjoy things like that, I probably wouldn't remember any particular home after leaving. And I certainly wouldn't drive really slowly through the streets of Manti with hazard lights flashing, jumping out every so often to snap pictures of potential homes for locations in my story. Here are two buildings that will figure quite prominently in the book:

It was also good to be able to see the layout of the city and determine how far my characters would have to walk to get from A to B and whether my scene where I describe C could really have taken place where I put it (fortunately, that one works as I wrote it).

There are a couple of sc…