Thursday, November 29, 2007

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 different Utah Valley Seagull. Just check out the schedule on the sidebar there.

Please come; I'd love to see a friendly face!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

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 one scene in a way that makes sense for him to be way down in Manti instead of Salt Lake City.

(I'm realizing that I need to clarify how old he is now, because this book takes place quite a bit later than Spires did.)

It'll be fun to see if readers notice him for who he is.

The other day another connection dawned on me, sort of a duh moment. Generally, I connect a book with the one that was released immediately before it. But this time a second possible connection occurred to me, so I'll be adding it.

This one will jump backward a couple of books, connecting Manti with my first historical temple novel. The thread will be in chapter one.

When this book is released, keep your eyes open for Lizzy from House on the Hill as she shops on Main Street.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

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 on my girls' room. Ugh. The room is packed more than it should be. We're turning a former bedroom into my new office, and while we wait for that to be done, I'm still in my old office. That means all three of my girls are crammed into one bedroom.

We thought it would be a 3-4 week thing. They could handle it that long. That was in June. Yeah. Life's been busy. (I'll have to post pics of my new digs when the place is done. Can you say "built-in-bookcases"? I can't WAIT!)

In the meantime, however, having three young girls, three beds, three times the toys and garbage and artwork and silliness all in the same room tends to create a monstrous-sized challenge. It's not as if they aren't required to clean their room regularly, but if Mom isn't involved, certain things don't get a good cleaning. Toys end up under the bed. Garbage Mom would have thrown out gets pushed into corners. Dress-ups get mixed in with regular clothes. And so on.

I'm not sure how many hours we worked on that place, but in the aftermath, I carried out eight grocery-sized bags of garbage plus a good armful for the recycle bin. I'm sure I could have found more to clean (under one bed wasn't totally cleared out, I'm afraid, and we didn't organize the desk drawers, either).

We also spent time cleaning up the basement play area for when the cousins played there after the feast. Again, I'm not sure how much time I spent on that (certainly not as much as the girls' bedroom), but it was longer than the 3.8 seconds it took the crew to trash the place when they descended on it.

All in all, it felt good to get rid of all the garbage, to set things in order--even if it didn't last long.

But truth be told, it has also felt a little weird over the last week and a half to not sit down and write or blog. I've been under self-imposed deadlines for literally months, and now . . . nothing. It's intentional; I'm letting myself rest. But part of me has looked around, wondering exactly where I put myself.

I'll be taking a few more days off of the heavy stuff until I hit my manuscript revisions.

But I can't guarantee I won't be visiting blogland in the meantime.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

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.

CONGRATULATIONS!

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 each get four show tickets, good for the expo on both Friday & Saturday.

Ladies, just let me know if you want those to be for THIS WEEKEND or for the 2008 show.

Now I'm off . . .

Hope to see some of you at the show!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

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 member (who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent . . . or, er, guilty) who was a manager at a company. When hiring employees, she rolled her eyes at anyone trying to apply with a degree as "fluffy" as English (her word, not mine—right in front of me, though).

During my last big semester of college, I had an American Literature class usually taken by seniors. Daring souls who were not English majors could take the class as an Arts & Letters elective, and the semester began with three such students in our class.

Within about a week, two of them had dropped the class because it was too hard.

(Can you hear my maniacal laughter?)

The final non-English student was (and I'm not making this up) pre-med. Not exactly a stupid person, right?

He stuck it out through the entire semester, but boy did he struggle. His returned papers looked like someone had dumped a bottle of red ink all over them. His tests were much the same. As the rest of us would review and compare notes prior to quizzes—discussing American Romanticism and Whitman, maybe—he'd say, "Huh? What does that mean? Where was that? I don't GET it!"

He was used to memorizing answers in science classes. Having to use an analytical side of his brain, find evidence and prove your point with words about killed him as he had to apply literary theories to works we had read. (If I recall, he also said things about the books like, "That chracter died? Where?")

The poor kid just scraped through the class, while I left each day smiling. The class was a challenge (yes, even for the English majors), but I loved every second of it. Yet it was brutally hard for him—and too hard for the other students who didn't even dare try to get through the course.

The pre-med guy is one reason I'll always remember that class; it felt good to see someone gain respect for what I had chosen to study.

Another reason I remember it is because of what happened mid-semester: President Hinckley became the new prophet.

For those of you who don't know, he was . . . dun-dun-dun . . . an ENGLISH MAJOR.

My professor, the beloved Richard Cracroft, had seen and heard plenty of put-downs about his chosen field just like the rest of us had.

I'll always remember what he said the day after President Hinckley was ordained:

"We have an English major as a prophet. We are vindicated!"

Amen, Dr. Cracroft. No one's about to mock that man's English degree.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

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) she wasn't hurt otherwise, likely because so many other people were nearby and caught her quick. Our Young Women group went on a week-long backpacking trip in the Uintahs each summer (lovingly called, "The Powder Puff and Huff"). Some of the best experiences of my adolescence, bar none.


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.

TRUE. I didn't find out the reason I didn't make it into the play until months later. It made no sense when I wasn't on the cast list, because I knew I was good enough to at least be in the chorus (I had no delusions about getting a lead role), and there were others who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket who were on the list (seniors, I might add).

Worse, most of my friends (being those uber-thespians I've mentioned) were in the play, so they all got to spend months together, leaving me to hang out alone because they had rehearsals and such. That holiday season pretty much sucked.

Then, a month or two after the play ended, I walked into the choir room and our teacher (a dear, dear man whom I still adore) asked how my testing had gone. I had no idea what he meant, but then remembered that the juniors had some state test that day. "Do you mean the junior testing?"

"Yes," he said.

"I'm not a junior."

He went pale. "You're a senior? Oh."

I didn't think much of it until after class when he called me into his office and apologized for not casting me in the play, telling me how it happened.

One of many reasons my senior year of high school was not exactly stellar.

3. For some totally weird and inexplicable reason, instead of continuing with French which I had taken in eighth grade, I took two years of Russian in high school.

TRUE. I even won some award at BYU's high school language fair with my Russian, which never was that good, especially accent-wise. But I still get a kick out deciphering the Cyrillic alphabet.

A random but somewhat connected tidbit: The third date with my future husband was at a mission reunion. He went to Czechoslovakia (when it still was that--now it's the Czech Republic). We sat around a table while one guy played the guitar and everyone sang Czech folk songs. It was freaky to see how similar that language was to Russian but in the Roman alphabet. I had a distinct thought that maybe this is why I studied Russian in high school--that this guy and I might end up going there as a married couple on a mission some day. Yeah. Third date. Being as I was all of nineteen at the time, it freaked me out a bit.

4. I've had four epidurals, one natural childbirth.

TRUE. I know, I know, this was sort of a trick question, which Josi guessed. Many of you know I have four children. With #2, the idiot anesthesiologist (Dr. Bob--I kid you not; that was his name) did the epidural wrong. Not only did he take about half an hour to place it (something that should take oh, a minute--and keep in mind here, I'm in agonizing pain as he's trying to place it during contractions), but I had bruises all over my back for three weeks after the fact.

Worse, he put it in the wrong spot, so it never took effect AT ALL. Not one tiny bit.

By the time my doctor realized the epidural was dripping medication somewhere other than my nerves and wasn't going to do diddly, it was time to push. At that point I pretty much flipped out and wished, wished, wished, I knew something about breathing and relaxation and all that. I remember holding my husband's hand and crying, "I can't do this."

But I did, of course. Somehow.

Dr. Bob came in afterward and apologized for the bad epidural in a way only he could: "I'll only charge you half."

Had I not been so wiped--and holding my baby--I would have jumped off the bed and punched the lights out of him.

I delivered my next two babies in the same hospital, but swore that if ever Dr. Bob darkened the door, I'd personally shoot him.


Now for the fun part: I put everyone's names into a bowl and had my 5-year-old pick out the winner of a copy of Spires of Stone. She selected (drum roll, please) . . . Marcia Mickelson!

Congrats, lady! Hope you enjoy it.

And for the next fun part, tagging people:

I'll go for three of my thespian friends, the only ones from that group I'm aware of who have blogs. They were all (of course) in the play that year, which was Auntie Mame.

Em at Downstage Left (Who played the amazing Vera; holy cow, she was hilarious, although I didn't recognize her at first with the dark wig.)
Sarah (also known as Brownie) and
Blondie (who just got her own blog--I believe this is her first tag. :D)

Friday, November 09, 2007

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-registration—a long-time attendee favorite—are back, as are free how-to demonstrations on the Gygi Culinary Solutions Chocolate Stage.

A Woman’sHeart.org, the show’s support platform for benefitting The American Heart Association in Utah, benefits their initiatives for women. The “I Love my Heart” 5K run/walk takes place Saturday, November 17, before the show opens that day.

Other new show features include a chocolate wedding cake competition display gallery and the Utah Loves Chocolate Photography contest, sponsored by V Chocolates. Young show-goers will be delighted by a special appearance by the Chocolate Princess on Saturday from 2 to 4.

An exclusive VIP opening celebration will be Thursday, November 15, the night before the 2-day main event. That evening, the “An Introduction to Fine Chocolate” tasting class will be free, and after judging by three of Utah’s foremost pastry chefs, chocolate wedding cake competition winners will awarded. A live-action Jeopardy!-style game featuring local celebrities will benefit the American Heart Association in Utah. Vendors will offer VIP night-only specials.

Main event show tickets are $7.00 each and are good for both Friday & Saturday. Children 5 and under free. VIP passes are sold only in pairs for $95. Tickets and passes can be purchased on the show’s website www.UtahChocolateShow.com, as well as at the door at their respective events.

###

Back? Good.

So here's the deal: One of my main jobs with UCS is writing the Weekly Chocolate Fix, a free electronic newsletter with fun chocolate trivia, recipes, show updates, and more. We award show tickets each week and chocolate prizes each month (the one for November is worth $50.00!).

Every so often, I throw in true chocolate confessions and funny chocolate stories--such as times when a mother steals from her kids' Halloween stash or licks the chocolate off her kids' toe. You know, the things real chocoholics do but don't really want to admit to.

That's where you, dear readers, come in.

Add your chocolate confession/story of no more than 150 words to the comment section (or email it to me: annette at utah chocolate show dot com).

You've got two big things going here:

1) If I select YOUR story to include in the next issue of the Weekly Chocolate Fix, you get the two VIP passes that are good for the VIP opening night celebration (which has tons of fun stuff not available at any other time--visit here for the low-down on the fun), but they'll also get you into the two-day show. And they're worth NINETY-FIVE BUCKS.

2) If I don't pick your story now, but DO decide to use it in a future issue of the e-letter, you'll receive FOUR free tickets to the 2008 show.

Really, folks, it's a no-brainer.

Now for the technical stuff: All submissions become property of the Utah Chocolate Show and may be edited for length and/or clarity.

To subscribe to the Weekly Chocolate Fix, click here. After the show, we always take a holiday hiatus before starting up again in January.

But please join us (both on the Fix and at the show next weekend)!

If you come, be sure to find me and say hello. And then give me chocolate. :)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

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.

3. For some totally weird and inexplicable reason, instead of continuing with French as I had in eighth grade, I took two years of Russian in high school.

4. I've had four epidurals, one natural childbirth.

Guess away!

Monday, November 05, 2007

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 giving myself a bit of a break. On the other hand, I really do need this puppy done soon in order to have time to get feedback from my priceless critique group and do necessary revisions.

Therefore, I'm revising the challenge (it's my challenge; I'm allowed): I'm giving myself until Saturday night (that's November 10th) to finish drafting this thing.

If I manage that, I'll have to treat myself to a long bath, a day of reading, or an ice cream sundae.

Update, 8:40 pm:
I now have chapters 1-19 labeled and several scenes fixed and working. Unfortunately, my net word count for the day is negative 180--the reason I'm not updating my word count on the side bar. When I have a word count higher than what's there, I'll add it.

Onward and upward!

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