Friday, September 28, 2007

"Twins" Revisited

One of my earliest posts here was about my long-time friend Sheryl. By long-time, I mean since we were all of four-and-a-half years old, when my family moved two houses down from hers. We spent so much time together growing up that we both practically had two homes.

At a recent lunch (see my last post), I finally remembered to get a picture of the two of us together.

Since I'm guessing most readers didn't read the original, here it is again (although now the time period involved is twenty-nine years . . .), along with a photo of the two of us.

Now you can answer the burning question for yourself:

Do Sheryl and Annette look alike?

What do you think?

Originally posted August 4, 2006:

Since it’s been happening for twenty-eight years, you’d think I’d be used to it now, or at least I’d be able to figure out why it’s happening. But no.

When I was four it made some sense for people to mistake Sheryl and me for sisters, twins, or each other. It doesn’t take much for two chubby-cheeked, strawberry blonde little girls with pig tails to look alike. Have them play together a lot, and they’ll naturally end up acting and talking like one another.

But when our baby fat melted away and my hair lost any trace of strawberry (Sheryl kept hers) and mine was a plain old dishwater blond, people still thought we looked alike. Maybe it was the pigtails. We still wore those.

The worst case of the identity mixup was around second grade when I took dance lessons. The studio picked you up for class in a van and dropped you off afterward. I had gone to my first dance class the day before, and now my sister had hers. The van pulled up just as Sheryl crossed my lawn to come play. The driver assumed the girl had to be my sister since she looked like me.

When he tried dragging her to the van, saying, "Come on. You don’t want to be late for class," poor Sheryl thought she was being abducted.

The look-alike thing continued all through high school. When people saw our prom picture, they’d say, "How neat! Twins taking twins to prom!" Not quite. Twins taking a pair of childhood buddies to prom.

On Sheryl’s birthday our senior year, I passed out dozens of suckers to the student body with instructions to give them to Sheryl and wish her a happy birthday. If they didn’t know who she was, I’d say, "She looks like me," and immediately I’d get, "Oh, yeah. I know who she is."

By the time we went to college, we were adults with our own hairstyles, fashion tastes, different heights, and different majors. But I’d still get high school alumni yelling across the BYU quad, "Hey, Sheryl! How ya doin?" I’d wave back and make a mental note to tell Sheryl that so-and-so says hi.

Sheryl and I have since married and had kids. We live apart and see one another maybe once a year. Not long ago I arrived at the school with my kids to see a lady who had grown up a street away from me. Our sisters and mothers were both great friends. Immediately her face lit up and she said, "You’re a Stringham!"

I laughed and said, "Close. Two doors down."

We keep finding new variations of the old theme, like with my sister, who has always insisted she could never see the Sheryl/Annette resemblance. Recently at church, she reached down for something and saw a woman across the room—upside down from her vantage point. "Wow," she thought, "That girl looks like Annette." When she righted herself, she realized it was—you guessed it—Sheryl, who was visiting for the day.

Or the time Sheryl’s son saw my picture in the back of one of my books and declared, "Mom, she looks like you."

But the most unusual variation came last April [2006] when my friend Jeff Savage came to speak to my ward book club after we read his House of Secrets. His wife, Jennifer, came along. I’ve known Jen for years, and never once had we ever gotten asked what we were that night:

"Are you two sisters?"

We looked at one another and with a laugh, shook our heads. I took another look at Jen and thought, "Wow. I never noticed that Jen looks a lot like Sheryl."

Which means . . . Oh.

Sheryl and I used to joke that some day we’d end up in the same nursing home as old ladies and be able to fool the nurses.

Ha. Like we’d still look alike in another fifty years. What are the chances of that?

With twenty-eight years down so far, the chances are looking better all the time. We might as well start planning how to really have fun switching places and confusing the nursing home staff.

Just so long as they don’t mix up our medications or give me her enema.

Okay, folks, now here's the picture, taken just days ago. Do we look that much alike?

Hmm. I've kept the cheeks (as we all know . . .) and she's lost hers, but maybe there's still some resemblance.

Dedicated Babes

Long, long ago, on a distant fourth of July, eight overly-dramatic teenage girls spent the day together. Some were already close friends in various groupings, but they had never been together like this, although they all knew one another from school or church.

They followed the big Freedom Festival parade in Provo, not standing in one spot and fighting the enormous crowds, but rather walking the route against the parade. They spent the time chatting, laughing, and being all-out silly, and ended at one of the girls' homes near the end of the route.

Deciding that they were very, very, hungry, they piled into a van and headed out to a local restaurant, not realizing that fighting parade traffic is worse than facing BYU game traffic. A couple of miles and about two hours later, they finally arrived at Training Table and stuffed their faces while bonding over cheese fries.

And thus "The Babes" were born.

I can literally attribute much of who I am today to the years I spent with the Babes. We've gone through enough drama to fill up a year's worth of Soap-Opera Sundays and not finish, but through it all we've remained friends.

That original lunch was (dare I do the math?) more than sixteen years ago. While we're somewhat spread out now and don't get together very often, we keep in contact on some level throughout the year. We rarely get together in a group; usually it's two or three of us at a time.

But today was special, so I tried to get as many together as possible. Why? I wanted to honor their long-time influence in my life. Part of that came because of all the fun we had seeing movies together, including Much Ado about Nothing, which, if you've paid any attention here at all, you know that Spires of Stone is based on.

So if you open up the front of Spires, you'll see that it's dedicated to, yep, The Babes.

Those that were able to make it came to my house for lunch today, and they each got their own copy of the book. Of course, three of us are missing from the picture (okay, fine, two of them live a couple of states away; I guess they can be excused), but getting five out of eight together isn't too bad.

Em, I made your brownies for dessert in honor of your absence. Granted, I know you couldn't eat them had you been here, but we thought of you. And yes, they were delicious.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Abnormalities of a Writer

I've got a wooden sign on my office wall made by Josi that declares the following:

I will NOT live like a NORMAL person. I AM A WRITER!

Truer words were never spoken.

A few pieces of evidence that indicate that no, I am NOT normal:

-I carry a book with me. Everywhere.

-My list of "to be read" books grows exponentially faster than my "books I've read" list.

-I have shelves lined with 3-ring binders that include research ranging from the history of denim to colic in horses.

-My bookshelves also include many classics.

-Nearby are titles that are not exactly classics: books about poisons, fraud, weapons, forensic medicine, the criminal mind, and even one on Snoopy's word of wisdom on writing.

-I think semicolons rock.

-I hear news stories and start coming up with other "what if" scenarios, imagining characters and possible conflicts that could spin off from today's headlines. I imagine what it would be like to be there myself. Or even try to get into the bad guy's head and (to me, what's more interesting) wonder what the HECK was HE thinking?

-Some of my favorite people don't exist. And never have.

-I talk to these people, and they talk back.

-I read aloud to my kids or my husband and interrupt myself to go, "Wow. Now that's a cool image."

-I fall asleep at night thinking about storylines, conflicts, and lines of dialogue.

-I catch myself making weird facial expressions and gestures at the computer in an effort to explain them on paper.

-When something bad happens to me (like when I broke my nose recently), I pay special attention to the details because you never know what might be fodder for a book.

-I prefer typing to speaking. I can always go back and revise, erase, and edit words on the screen. Not so with words spoken--and all too often they come out wrong.

-I have a hard time reading books purely for the pleasure of it.

And my personal favorite from just yesterday:

My preschooler demonstrated why her copy of Watch Your Step, Mr. Rabbit! was in the kids' bathroom: She sat on the toilet, and with her pants around her ankles, which dangled in the air, she opened up the book, saying, "See? Now I'm like you, Mommy."

Yes, folks. I admit it. I read magazines in the bathroom. These include things like Writer's Digest, publications that I write for (or what to write for), and so on.

It's called multi-tasking, right?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Buzz, buzz, buzz

I've been spending a few weeks now at a really fun social networking site. It's different than Facebook or MySpace, and I'm really enjoying it. Yes, you have a profile, but there's so much more, from your site blog to your regular blog to photos to podcasts, and the ingenious rating system.

I've found people I never in a million years would have before (including a completely awesome Brit gal living in Finland. (I KNOW! It's like my second home. What are the chances?)

I'm chilling with several other writers as well, some published, some not. Some in my market, some not.

But there are communities for everyone, whether you're in business, electronics, sports, art, or want to classify yourself as a mom or dad. You get to visit other profiles, read their stuff, and vote for how great you think it is. Others do the same for you, which is one major element in determining your "buzz rank," which in turn helps other people find you and see how truly amazing you are. :)

(You can see my buzz ranking on the sidebar widget there--right now I'm #2 in Fiction. Whoop, whoop.)

While the site,, is in beta (and therefore not open to the public yet), I still have some invites I can send out for those interested.

Even better, the Women's group is wide open. You don't even NEED an invite to get there. Just click here. My blogging buddy Brillig has a goal for the Women's group to reach 100 members by the end of today (that's Friday, September 21). Since she helped point a few writers toward my community to help it grow, I'm returning the favor.

So here's the deal: If you're female and interested in being part of the Cre8buzz Women's community, go to the link and sign up. Note that you can always switch your profile to another community down the road if you decide you'd rather be in Moms, Photography, Running, or, well, WRITERS.

And if you'd like an invite directly from me, let me know! That means guys, too, who well, can't use the link. :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Calling Book Clubs

It's up! We've created a new section for my website especially for book clubs.

So far we have all kinds of fun stuff for book club use geared toward Spires of Stone, including a trivia quiz, discussion questions, an author interview, and even a character comparison between Much Ado about Nothing and the book.

Most of the information is also downloadable in PDF form, so you can print out the trivia quiz and pass it around (and award chocolate or something else awesome as a prize for the person who remembers the most about the book!).

On the "For Book Clubs" page, click on the cover of the book. For now Spires is the only one complete, but we'll be adding book club fun for all of my other books in the near future.

You'll also find tips for creating a great book club and some titles of books I love that I think provide great fodder for book club discussions. I plan to add recipes for book club refreshments as well.

For those living near me (essentially the Wasatch Front), I might be able to come to your book club. If not, I may be able to "attend" via telephone. Arrange for either of those from my website as well.

If you or your book club have any questions about the book, my research, or whatever, drop me a line and let me know, and I'll do my best to answer. Reader questions and their answers may end up on the website as well.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Writing Challenge

About a week ago I joined Tristi's Book in a Month Challenge. For me, I'm not trying to finish a book, just keep plugging along at a steady pace and hit the homerun stretch by the time we're done.

So I'm calling it my 4-Week Challenge, and to keep myself motivated, I'm reporting my progress on the sidebar: The date the challenge ends, my beginning word count, and where I am so far. With any luck, that kind of accountability will make it happen.

When it's over, I might do another 4-Week Challenge to actually get the book finished.

On a different note, my foodie side has to pass along a recipe I used last week. On Friday I had the opportunity to visit the South Pointe Deseret Book store with author Gale Sears. The two of us brought breakfast. We met the staff, ate food, and talked about our newest releases. Lots of fun.

My contribution to breakfast was homemade muffins, and if I say so myself, they turned out great. But I have to give credit where credit is due. I got the recipe from Luisa at Novembrance, using her "Mother of Invention Muffins" recipe. I highly recommend you check it out and play with it. She had three substances you can switch around.

Here's what I used:

Substance A: Grated zuchini.

Substance B: Sour cream.
The options in the actual recipe are buttermilk, milk, or water. Since I sometimes use sour cream as a substitute in another recipe, I thought I'd give it a shot here as well.

Substance C: White flour.
I personally would have preferred at least half whole wheat or all whole wheat, but I know not everyone does. As I was making these for other people, I thought I'd play it safe.

Another change that I made shouldn't be a huge shocker for anyone who knows me. Instead of dried fruit or nuts, I decided to throw in chocolate chips.

Great for curling up with a good book, especially now that fall is around the corner!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Spreadin' the Love

The first book review of Spires of Stone is in!

A snippet:

Taking her theme from Shakespeare's "Much Ado about Nothing," Utah Best of State Medalist Annette Lyon weaves a tale of romance, tragedy, and humor that takes on a life of its own as the characters step out of their molds and spin the story a whole new way. The third in Annette's temple series, but her fifth novel overall, it's easy to see why she has such a devoted following of dedicated readers.

Thanks, Tristi!

To read the full review, click here. At the end, you can read some of her other reviews of my books as well as an interview she did with me awhile ago.

And to keep the happy vibes, flowing, I'm going to shamelessly promote buddy James Dashner's new blog. I've told him this many times, but I'll say it again. The guy has one whacked-out imagination! This translates to rip-roaring stories that literally kept my kids begging me to read "just one more chapter." Since books three and four of the Jimmy Fincher Saga have short chapters, it got hard to tell them no.

Coming in March is a new fantasy series, The Thirteenth Reality, and buzz about it is already starting.

I'm sure I'll be up late reading it aloud to my kids just like we were with Jimmy's adventures.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I'm on TV!

Or, I will be.

Tomorrow (Friday, September 14) I get to have a little fun in front of the camera. Randi from Park City TV is having me come on their Mountain Morning Show to talk about Spires of Stone.

I'll be on at 8:30 am (Mountain Daylight Time).

For those not in the Park City area, you can still "tune in" on-online through live streaming on their website. From the home page, just click on "Watch Now."

Exciting stuff!

Now I have to figure out what I'm going to wear . . .

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Middle Name Meme

Jenna tagged me for a middle name meme. It's taken me a good week to do it, because I've got a bunch of tricky letters, and I couldn't quite come up with what I wanted. I'm still not sure if I'm happy with the result, but it's been long enough.

However, I had to bend the rule, because I wasn't given a middle name. Legally, my middle name is my maiden name, Luthy, so that's what we're using:

L-Linguistic. Thanks to both Mom (a book fanatic), and Dad (an actual inguist, as in PhD, retired professor of Linguistics), I've developed a passion for words and language. Although I was an English major, my favorite classes weren't the ones about literature, but about the English Language. (Too bad there were only 3 like that.) My OED on CD is one of my favorite toys in the world. I love learning about etymologies. Listening to my kids learn to speak was delightful not just in a growing-up sense: I loved hearing my son flip the velar stop and the alveolar nasal in one word. This stuff fascinates me. If I ever go to grad school, it'll be hard to decide what to study. Linguistics might win.

U-Unique. A nice way of saying I'm weird. And I am, on so many levels. I have odd quirks (I have to go to sleep on my left side, I wear socks in the middle of the summer because my feet freeze otherwise, I can't put a red shirt on a pink hanger because that clashes—I could go on forever). But I'm also unique in that there isn't anyone else quite like me, and I think that's a good thing.

T-Tyrant. That is, when it comes to grammar, usage, and punctuation. I get an eye twitch when I see lay/lie used wrong in a published book. I about had a conniption after seeing a t-shirt from a teacher's convention that had a punctuation error. This is particularly bad for my poor editor, who had to deal with my freak-outs about these things. ("Who put that colon in my manuscript?! No, no, no! It should be an em dash!") Run and hide, people. It's safer that way.

H-Huggable. I grew up in a very physically affectionate family (again, thanks, Mom and Dad!). I never left the house, came home, went to bed, or said good-bye without saying and hearing, "I love you," and getting a kiss and a hug. When I became a mom, I couldn't help but hug and kiss and cuddle my kids. I'm such a touch person that I can't fall asleep if my husband doesn't have him arm around me.

Y-Young-looking. Not the blessing everyone seems to think it is. Sure, I know that if this lasts and I look as amazing as Mom does when I'm in my 60s, I'll love it. (People have thought she must be Dad's trophy wife, but they just celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary.) Until I'm older, having people mistake me for a college student when I'm approaching my mid-30s isn't fun. People treat me like I must be immature and have no life experience. I'm proud of all my years, thank you very much (that's 34 years in December). I'd like credit for them.

As for tagging . . . hmmmm . . . I'll go with Josi and Jules.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Stages of Grief

February of 2002, I became one of the luckiest people in the LDS publishing market: I got Angela as my editor. She became my guide through the labyrinth of getting my manuscripts to print. She’s the one who called me to say my first book was accepted, and she’s been with me ever since, through all of my books.

Over the last five and a half years, she’s been patient with barrages of my idiot questions. Even more impressive, she’s put up with my utter control-freak behavior, especially when I vent her direction about people trying to mess with my voice or my punctuation (“people” is not her. Angela doesn’t do those things, but she's certainly heard me gripe about them).

Angela is the consummate cheerleader, guide, and advocate.

Most importantly, she’s a dear friend.

A few months ago I jokingly told her that while she’s always spot-on with her editorial eagle eye, sometimes I have issues with freelance editors’ suggestions. Her response was, “Well then, I’d better never leave and go freelance.”

Ha ha, very funny, I thought.

Then a panic attack gripped my chest.

The very fact that she was hinting about leaving made me realize that some day she might do just that. Probably would. Relatively soon. Over the last few months, I’ve been more worried about such an event transpiring.

What would I do without Angela? She can spot a character motivation hole a mile away. She can diagnose a plot's ailment with precision, but never, ever tells me how to fix it. Instead she gives several excellent ideas for a jumping off point, then I figure out a fix. If I’m in a panic over a deadline or some other issue, she’s the one who investigates the problem and tracks down a solution.

Without her, I’d be lost.

So it was with great sadness this week that I read Angela’s official message that she would be leaving Covenant as a full-time editor.

Actually, the sadness didn’t kick in right away, because I quickly entered the first stage of grief: denial. No way. She’s not gone. I’ll still get one more book through the pipeline before she goes. I have to. She can’t abandon me.

After that I skipped over the second stage, anger (how could anyone be angry with Angela?) and entered stage three: depression. My publishing life is over. I’ll never manage to put out a decent book again, because Angela won’t be at the helm. Sniff. Sob. Wail.

Stage four, bargaining, entered the picture. I know there’s no way to get her to go back to work; she has her own life to worry about. But I’ll almost certainly beg and plead to have Angela as my freelance editor in the future, and if bribing with chocolate works, consider it done. If she freelances, then she’s still sort of my editor, right?

As for the final stage, acceptance, I’m not quite there yet. I’m still bouncing between denial, depression, and bargaining. I’ll have to find acceptance soon, because in a few months I’ll be beginning the publishing process again when I turn in another manuscript.

The silver lining in all this is that I’ve been handed off to Kirk, who is an excellent editor in his own right. At that news, I let out a breath of relief, then did a jig, feeling as if I had been handed a lifeline. I’ve heard great things about Kirk as an editor, and I’ve met him a couple of times. I think we’ll get along great.

However, I can’t help but feel a little bad for him. Poor guy has no idea what he’s in for. Brace yourself, Kirk. I’ll try not to get too manic on you.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Yarn Thing I Do

I'm mentally working on a new meme from my buddy Jenna, but while I sort that out, here's the latest from my preschooler.

She noted my knitting on the floor by the couch and asked, "How do you start knittling? I mean, before you've knittled a whole bunch, how do you get it on the knittling needles?"

Then yesterday she declared that one of her girl cousins is cute, "But I'm cuter."

Ya know, it's hard to argue with that. She is dang cute.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Recycling Gone Amiss

Last night my family was enjoying a leisurely dinner when the doorbell rang. I got up to answer it and discovered my neighbor from across our cul de sac. Without any formalities, she shoved two papers toward me and demanded, "WHAT did he say?"

Umm . . . excuse me?

To figure out what in the world she was talking about, I took the papers and looked at them. On one side were drawings my daughters had scribbled. The other side revealed manuscript pages from Spires, pages 150 and 154, to be precise. At least, of that draft. Comments in red ink were in the margins, courtesy a member of my critique group.

See, after I use one side of paper (and I use a lot), it goes into a stack, where I'll print on the back of it (saving money, saving trees . . .). My kids know that they need to use this scratch paper stack first, so they freely doodle, draw, and otherwise use up that same pile.

And then those pages often end up in the recycling bin.

From there two pages must have floated across the street with the wind and landed in my neighbor's front yard.

Now here she was, demanding to know what happened between pages 150 and 154. What did Ben say, and why is Hannah wet? And what happens next?

"Ben didn't say anything," I told her. "He and Bethany were interrupted by Hannah."

I could have told her what he was about to say . . . but didn't.

"You got me hooked," she said with a sigh. "I guess I'll just have to go buy it and read it."

I told her it should be hitting stores any day now, but that she could download the first 28 pages from my website while she waits. That didn't quite satisfy her. After all, page 28 wouldn't answer her question about pages 150 and 154.

It was so much fun to see someone hooked on two pages of my book, pulled out of context, someone who now wants to buy it.

Hey . . . maybe I should toss manuscript pages in random areas all over town . . .


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