Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Some may recall a reference to Much Ado in At the Journey's End, which was deliberate, because I knew I'd be writing this one next (or at least thinking about it).
The first draft followed the play pretty closely for the most part, with of course historical changes and so forth, but subsequent versions started morphing the story and especially the characters. The result is a book that sort of mirrors the Bard's version, but ends very differently. (Although I admit the ending was a bit different even in my original version. I just didn't work Old Will's way!)
I've put up a character list on my website to help clarify which characters in my book are essentially representative of which ones in the original version. If you go there, you'll note that Phillip is listed next to two characters.
The reason is that Phillip has two jobs, plot-wise. Since I'm not giving spoilers, I'll refer to him in terms of Much Ado only, so that if you really, really want to (or are already familiar with the play) you can keep track.
Phillip essentially takes on the role of Don Pedro when it comes to how Benedick and Beatrice's story plays out. But he also—quite accidentally and innocently—creates a problem, the same problem that Don Jon creates deliberately in the play.
One of my early readers asked why Phillip's name begins with a P instead of a J (noting his Don Jon-like role). My answer: He's just as much Don Pedro as far as his story responsibilities go. But more importantly, his character is a very good one, unlike the villainous Don Jon. I certainly didn't want to give him a villainous connotation by naming him something with a J.
But this brings up another issue. Again, I don't want to spoil anything, so let's just say that there's a Spires character who ends up behaving very differently than in the play, and as a result, I've had at least one reader assume that this person is Don Jon.
Not so. Not in any way.
It just so happens that my characters took on lives of their own and simply refused to behave the way they were "supposed" to.
The result? A different very different ending in Spires than in Much Ado.
And that's all I'll say about the characters for now.
Countdown: We're a week away from the release!
Now for a quote from Phillip. I've cut out a bit in the middle. (How weird . . . I'm ellipsing myself . . .)
"Look, I'm not a poet, Claude. I can't write a love letter. . . . I read scientific books, not anything about love and fairy tales. Any letter I could write for you would sound like a proclamation from a newspaper."
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Then there's my next two little (ish?) ones, who were so thrilled to get to school that all week they woke up before I did and even packed their own lunches. It won't be long before their enthusiasm dies down and I have to drag them out of their slumber-induced stupor each morning, but for now I'm enjoying that they're raring to go to school before I'm even out of bed.
On Monday my youngest begins preschool. At first she was wary of the idea, but her Dora backpack and a visit to the preschool itself changed her mind. (I think it was the big plastic McDonald's play set that really did the trick. Hmm. Will she be disappointed when there aren't any fries?)
As strange as it is to have the kidlets growing up, I'm looking forward to having some semblance of a routine again, something that was sorely lacking over the summer. I need a structure and a routine. Last summer I had a ridiculously strict schedule, so this time I tried to be more lax. The result is that over the last few months, the kids did fewer chores, read less, and spent far too much time in front of the television. Maybe next summer I can find a happy medium.
As for our Spires quote of the day, next time I swear I'll post an excerpt from someone besides Ben or Bethany, but I just had to do one more about them:
Even now she wondered if she could have handled the situation differently, but she still hadn't figure out how she could have mended it. It all happened so quickly, over the course of less than twenty-four hours—a one-two punch of elation and then despair.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Chatting over lunch with her did not disappoint, and all too soon, I had to say good-bye to relieve the babysitter. Luisa is just as delightful in person as on the computer screen. (And yes, she looks strikingly like that darling childhood picture of herself on her profile!) I hope I get to see her again soon. Maybe I can find some excuse to fly to New York . . .
In the meantime, I'm having a ball with pulling quotes from Spires of Stone. I thought I'd let Ben keep going. He was one of the most fun (and talkative) characters I've ever had walking around in my brain. As I wrote the book, I'd bust out laughing at some of his shenanigans. He cracked me up. (It's no use saying I wrote his lines; he wrote them himself.) Sometimes even now I'll hear a phrase or a joke and think, "That's something Ben would appreciate/do/think/say."
Here's today's installment, from chapter 6:
"Some things are up to fate—or a certain female who shall remain nameless. If she acts up, I must defend myself. And you'll still owe me."
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Yesterday I used one from Bethany.
Now it's Ben's turn:
"I thought I had trained him well and that the effects would last. Yet what does he do the first chance he has when we return? Fall over his own shoes because of a girl."
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Signings in general are a tough animal. I'm an introvert. I'm shy. It's tough to get out of your shell and talk to perfect strangers.
Fortunately, I'm not as uncomfortable doing them when I first started out—and that's not just because in 2002 I was doing book signings 8 1/2 months pregnant, swollen like a beached whale—but they're still not exactly on my top ten list of favorite activities.
Frankly, they're exhausting—you have to be "on" for two hours straight, smiling and being energetic (if you know me, the gal who spends hours each morning in her PJ's, that should tell you something). Sometimes I feel like a used car salesman as I pitch my book to customers who really came in to buy a baptism gift and have no use for me. Or I feel like a carnival freak show that everyone's trying to avoid looking at. (There's just something about a book signing table that makes people avert their eyes and run for cover.)
But today was different!
For starters, it wasn't just me braving the crowds. Two tables graced the walkway where the BYU bookstore stationed me. I shared mine with the delightful Suzie Roberts who wrote a cookbook about freezing dinners beforehand (something I think I need with my family's growing hectic schedule!).
Down the way a bit was the second table, with Chad Hawkins (who I tried picking temple research brains with) and Matthew Buckley (a really funny guy who has a rather smiley countenance,which I didn't expect, since I had only ever seen his oh-so-serious picture). Then Marsha Ward, who is in town for Education Week, stopped by, as well as author (and now BYU MBA student) Rob Wells. Not only that, but my Relief Society president came over between classes to say hi.
I didn't feel lonely at all! And I even sold quite a few books. How many, I'm not sure, because I was really enjoying myself, so I didn't count how many this time. Usually I have a mental tally going on. Even better was getting a good dozen comments from people walking by who stopped after seeing my covers, then said something like, "I've read those. I loved them!" I don't think that has ever happened so many times in two hours. Hearing it was gratifying and yes, fun.
At one point over the PA I heard a voice announce that Al Rounds was upstairs. I about hyperventilated. I was unaware of his name three years ago, but since then it has meant a ton to me. He is the artist behind all of the temples on my book covers. (William Whittaker is the artist behind the women on them). I have loved and adored all of my historical covers, and for a long time, I've wanted to meet him and express my admiration for his work.
I ditched my table and ran to meet him. He had just left his table to be part of a presentation, but I was informed that he'd be back soon and that my signing ended well before he'd be leaving for the day. Pumped, I returned to my table. But when 1:00 hit, I went back upstairs.
Al Rounds is one of the sweetest men I've ever met, and he seemed glad to meet me after contributing three paintings to my books. (He had imagined me older. Yeah, I get that a lot with these cheeks . . .)
Over the course of our conversation, I dropped a few big hints about which two temples I'll need next . . . not exactly placing my order, but sort of crossing my fingers, because I'd hate to reach a point where my covers don't feature Al Rounds.
If you're interested in seeing the full painting that the the detail on Spires of Stone is from, visit here. The painting is entitled, "City Creek," but in my cover you can't see the creek part, because the girls are in front of it. I have a secret hope that maybe someday I'll own a small print of each temple of his that has graced my covers.
Speaking of Spires of Stone, no, it wasn't at my signing today. It should reach stores in a week or two. (Woohoo!)
And just for fun while we wait, from now until it's on shelves, I'm going to post quotes from the book.
Here's one for today:
"I will personally never understand the fascination with the other half of our species, but if one of them makes you happy . . ." —Bethany
Monday, August 20, 2007
Because is you don't, I'll be lonely.
This is BYU Education Week, also known as the time when authors do book signings for the hordes of people descending on campus. Theoretically, it should be a great time to sell books, because there are so many people.
But the trick comes in that Ed. Week attendees use the BYU bookstore as a highway. Sure, you get hundreds of people walking past your table, but 99% of them are bent on reaching the Cougar Eat or getting to their next workshop before it starts.
If you aren't careful, you'll get trampled. It's enough to make a writer want to wear a helmet.
I'm making it sound worse than it is, but that's to guilt my readers into coming to say hi. (Is it working?)
To sweeten the deal, here's a nugget:
The gal who scheduled me for the signing said there's a small chance that Spires of Stone will actually BE there!
How small a chance? No clue.
It might be infinitesimal (or not), so I'm crossing my fingers and toes just in case. Wouldn't it rock to have it THERE two weeks early?
Here's the specifics:
I'd love to see a friendly face or two!
Friday, August 17, 2007
On the up side, this year I remembered to bring a camera. On the down side, I didn't remember to take it out very often, so I don't have pictures of things I really should have: hanging out with Michele Holmes and Stephanie Fowers at the Covenant breakfast, spending time with Josi Kilpack and Julie Wright, and chatting it up with the Covenant editors, especially my very own editor, the illustrious Angela (who rocks beyond measure and recently found my blog. Hi, dear!).
So we'll make do with the few photographs I did get.
First is a picture of the Whitney Awards booth, where I spent the time between the Covenant breakfast and my signing, helping to spread the word about the Whitney program and getting retailers and other industry professionals to join the voting academy. (The gent you see in the picture is BJ Rowley, one of the members of the Whitney Committee.) An example of the award is off to the left, but being as the award itself has no color and is transparent, it's hard to make out. It looks (quite fittingly) like an open book.
Next is the giant banner with my book cover on it. Last year when I saw At the Journey's End on such a banner, it was so dang cool to see it blown up so big that I vowed to be sure to bring a camera next time. So I did. :)
Lastly, there's a picture of me at the signing table with a stack of ARC's of Spires of Stone that I got to touch, hold, and flip through for the first time. On the right is a basket with white chocolate temples I made to give away with the books because I'm a total idiot and make more work for myself than necessary (hey, but I have fun doing it)!
This was the day that the reality struck home. Spires will be on shelves in a couple of weeks now! The road getting it to press felt long, and at the time the release felt a world away, so the fact that it's staring me in the face is wild. It crept up on me fast. I'm suddenly realizing all the promotional things I wanted to do and now need to get going on because it's TIME.
Funny thing is that I've been telling people that my fifth book is coming out, and then I have to stop myself and count to double-check. Yes, that's right. Five. A whole hand! The journey to this point has been amazing, and I'm so grateful to be where I am, writing the stories I do and having the chance to share them with readers. I can't tell you how gratifying it was to have book store owners get their copy yesterday and talk about my books in such glowing terms: asking how many more are coming, when the NEXT one will be done ("Hurry!" they said, even though one is just now coming out. I am trying to hurry. I am!) Several people had to be turned away from getting a copy after the 50 brought for the signing were gone.
One moment from the day stands out for me. Backing up: A creative writing professor I had in college warned the class that the chances of any of us getting published were pretty slim. He also said that most of us weren't good enough and really shouldn't be writing. He was just being realistic, trying to not inflate our hopes, I know, but I decided right then and there that I would prove him wrong.
Yesterday as I walked from one side of the hall to the other, I saw him. He was there because his own latest book just came out. He recognized me, and we had a brief exchange. I have no idea if he remembers what he told the class over a dozen years ago.
But he does know that at least one of his students defied the odds.
And that fact makes the success just a little sweeter.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
The past several months my muse has been sputtering. Due to rewrites, edits, and proofs—and several other items that constitute both my writing and personal life—I didn’t get a solid start on my Manti temple book until school let out.
Try writing with the kids home all day.
Seriously, I could have gotten a lot more done than I have, even with my sweet little people needing attention. I even organized our days so I’d have some writing time each week. But even after I got off the (literally) stupid medication that made it hard to think, I’d sit down and wonder what scene I was supposed to write next—and then question each one I had already written. I felt like I was forcing each word of the story.
Worse, I was treading water rather than producing much of anything. Every so often I’d get a scene down that I was happy with, then think, “Yes! I’m on a roll now!” only to run into another sputter and stop the next day.
It wasn’t quite writer’s block—I was producing a bit on some level—but it was darn close.
Fortunately, I think I stumbled upon the reason and the cure this weekend: I had lost the joy of reading. Sound odd? It did to me, too.
See, I’m one of those people who believes that to be a good writer, you must read. This should be a good thing.
But with the hyper-controlling brain of mine, I turned reading into one more chore on my to do list.
Read today? Check.
I’d find myself reading because I “needed” to. I’d open a book just to get through a few more pages so I could move on to the next one I “needed” to read. When I finished one, I’d mark it off on the trusty list I’ve kept for years of what I’ve read each year, and feel like I had accomplished something.
Then this last weekend, I took a book that (of course) I felt I needed to read to keep up on my market, and decided to (holy cow) throw caution to the wind and read for hours on end.
It’s sad for me to admit that I don’t remember the last time I did that. I’ve been fitting reading into the cracks of my life for months now. I made sure I found time for reading (because, well, good writers read)—but often (and I’m dead serious here) it would be while brushing my teeth or while eating my breakfast. You know, those snippets of time that would otherwise be wasted if I weren’t multi-tasking. ALL. THE. TIME.
I finished that book and put it down, feeling like my children look after they get to play at the park. My mind felt alive with new energy, words, images.
Yesterday I produced about twice as many words on my work in progress as I have in any single day for months.
Coincidence? I don't think so.
Note to self: Remember to play with books. Reading is not a job.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
This time, fortunately, the surprise from my almost 5-year-old isn't of the dump-a-bottle-of-maple-syrup-on-the-floor variety like when she was a year and a half old.
No, this time her imaginary play has gone places I never expected.
When her older brother was this age, he'd either act out entire episodes of his favorite PBS shows or pretend he was a sword-wielding character from just about any Disney movie. I hadn't realized how many sword fights are in those movies until my son imitated them with butter knives, wooden spoons, and anything else roughly narrow and long. Swords are in them all, from Peter Pan to Aladdin to Sleeping Beauty.
When older sister #1 was her age, it was Barbies.
When older sister #2 was there, she loved Fisher Price Little People.
And of course, both sisters did the usual playing House and Mommy with their dolls.
My youngest has done the Barbie thing. She's very much into Polly Pocket, and she loves playing House and Mommy.
But in the last week, she's added a level to her play, one that has made me take pause and wonder just what is going on in that little brain of hers. She's thinking, that's what.
Earlier this week, her grandmother bought her a Happy Meal with a toy teddy bear in it. My daughter loves her regular-sized teddy bear and sleeps with it every night. Holding both bears, she informed me, "Look. Teddy's having a baby."
I glance over, expecting to see perhaps the teddy bear cradling the miniature one.
Instead, the baby bear is being "born." She's holding the little bear behind the big one and slowly pushing it between the big bear's legs. Sure enough, Teddy "had a baby."
I'm not entirely sure where she learned that; I don't think we've had that talk, but maybe she's overheard me discussing baby stories with the older kids or with other women?
Then the other evening, I came across her drawing her toy dog, Perrito (named after Dora the Explorer's dog). On the other side of the paper were squiggles that were supposed to be words, plus a picture of a lollipop. I complimented her on her artwork.
She looked at me with the most somber expression her cute little chubby cheeks could muster and said, "Mommy, I'm pretending that Perrito died. This is the newspaper telling about it. And this picture [the lollipop] shows how he died. He had too much candy."
I stood there trying my best to look solemn. I nodded gravely. "That's so sad," I said, trying my hardest not to smile or laugh.
She spent the next hour making additional copies to give to all the family members.
Where, oh WHERE, did she learn about obituaries?
It looks to me that she's entering that era of childhood that's coming out of the toddler phase and into big kid phase. She's grasping what life means and needs to experiment with both the beginning and the ending of life.
So in spite of my twitching mouth, I left the room pondering on how play helps her sort through her world, and how much that little mind of hers is always working.
And then I couldn't help but envy her a little bit. Wouldn't it be nice if we grown-ups could simply play our way through life's questions as we try to solve them?
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Whether Best Foods tastes any better than other brands, I don't know, but I certainly agree with the sentiment. We live in such an over processed, nasty food world, that sometimes I ache for tomatoes just picked from the garden instead of their red, cardboard-tasting counterparts at the grocery store.
I'd give a lot these days for a bite of my dad's famous rainbow trout, caught and cooked the same day with his own special recipe. (Beats any freeze-dried halibut you're trying to pass off as food.) And for birthday cake? Mom's Finnish cake recipe, complete with moistening the layers with lemon juice and filling them with fresh jam. (Forget that artificially-colored atrocity at the grocery store bakery.)
I grew up with a mother who was way ahead of the health-food curve (and by way ahead, I mean something in the neighborhood of light years). My family was pretty much seen as the freaks of the neighborhood, and it wasn't unheard of for Mom to tell us not to mention that we ate raw honey instead white sugar, because people will think we're weird. (They did.)
She had read enough scientific literature to know well before the general public did that butter is better for you than margarine. (If I haven't mentioned it before, Mom is a bibliophile, only not so much with novels. The woman reads and reads every piece of non-fiction, especially about nutrition and health, that she can get her hands on.)
We never had margarine growing up (and I still can't stand the taste of it—I can hardly believe there are people in the world who can't tell the difference between butter and that nasty goo). But I had friends (even as an adult, I've run into them) who insist that margarine is better for you.
But we didn't even buy Crisco. "Shortening" to me meant butter. Most people I knew thought we were crazy.
It wasn't until about five years ago that the term "trans fat" became common when referring to the fat in margarine and shortening. At last, Mom was vindicated.
Like most of the country, Hubby grew up on margarine. It was cheaper and, as far as the family knew, healthier. For special occasions like Christmas, his mother would indulge in butter—and what a treat it was! So you can imagine his reaction when he married me and I put my foot down, insisting we'd always have butter, thank you very much. (Butter all the time?! Score!)
Recently, I asked a neighbor if I could borrow a cube of butter. She said yes, and I sent one of the kidlets to pick it up. He came home with a cube of margarine. I had half a mind to call her back and say, "I asked for BUTTER, lady! This isn't BUTTER." I didn't use the cube; I couldn't. We just made something else for dinner.
Same goes with other "real" foods. The fake variety just doesn't cut it. In addition to real butter, I grew up on homemade whole wheat bread that was so hearty it broke our toaster. (Dad, child of the Depression, jimmy-rigged the thing so it still worked. But you had to poke a homemade "key" into a special hole he drilled to make the toaster go down.)
Another real food I prefer is brown rice. It is real. White rice, while tolerable, is FAKE. You have to strip all the good stuff off the brown rice to make it white, just like you have to strip all the good stuff off the wheat kernel to make white flour.
My manic protestations to the contrary, hubby still prefers white bread and white rice. But I've converted him to other things over the thirteen years we've been married.
My biggest success has been getting him to genuinely appreciate—of course—REAL chocolate.
Whoops. As if one chocoholic in the family weren't enough.
Monday, August 06, 2007
No, I'm not talking about the Matrix.
Many people have asked about my favorite writing tool, so I thought I'd finally get around to blogging about it.
It's a lifesaver for me. Without it, my last two books wouldn't have been written nearly as quickly as they were. It's how I squeeze writing into the daily chaos that is family life. It's also how I can sit beside my husband in the evening as he's watching TV without abandoning him for the computer (but still get some writing in).
What is it? It's my AlphaSmart NEO.
Begun as a way to teach grade school students how to type without the enormous cost of lots of computers, the AlphaSmart quickly found a cult following among writers, and for good reason.
At its most basic, an AlphaSmart is a portable word processor. It's got a sturdy shell, a small screen that holds 4 lines or so of text (depending on your model and the font size), and a full-size keyboard. It uses so little battery power that my rechargeable battery gets charged maybe three times a year. There's no saving involved. Once you type something in, it's there until you delete it. And there's no boot-up time, either. You push a button, and it turns on. You push it again, and it turns off (or just wait a few minutes; if you don't type for a while, it'll turn off to conserve power).
The earlier versions (the AlphaSmart 2000 and 3000, no longer available) had slightly clunkier keyboards and design than the NEO, which is sleeker and requires a much lighter touch to type with. As a result, I can type much faster on the NEO than I could on the 3000. The NEO also has a word count feature, which I really missed on the AlphaSmart 3000 I owned before.
It has 8 files you can write in, and each one can hold something like 32 single-spaced pages worth of material. I've never yet filled a file, but I like being able to have several things going at once. New with the NEO is the ability to remove (but save) a file from being active and use that spot for another work, essentially giving you several times more than 8 files to work with. I've never needed to use this function, because I always transfer my work to my computer pretty quickly after writing on the NEO.
The DANA version has a few bells and whistles, but also a few drawbacks, like how you have to save, and I know of DANAs that have had problems like fatal errors, things I've never heard of with a NEO.
If you're looking for a high-powered laptop, this isn't it.
But if you're looking for something light-weight, easy to transport, easy to turn on, that won't lose power after hours and hours and HOURS of writing, that keeps your work without any effort on your part, something that costs a fraction of a decent laptop, this is your toy.
I mean tool.
Mine has been dropped and stepped on (this happens with four children running around), and it's taken the abuse. I use it all the time.
We inherited a 2000 recently, and I passed it on to the kids so they'd stop trying to use my NEO. They love writing their own stories, and with 8 files, they each get to "own" two of them. It's perfect.
When it's time to transfer my work to the computer, I just launch the "get" utility program and push the "send" button on my NEO. The infared does the rest.
I can also transfer from the computer to the NEO, but since the NEO is best for drafting rather than revising (at least for me; that little screen is tough to revise on), I rarely send anything the other direction.
My NEO has let me draft on car trips, in hotel rooms, in the lobby of the dance studio, in the doctor's office, on the deck swing as the kids play outside, poolside while the kids are in swimming lessons, on a bench at the park. Without it, I wouldn't get nearly as much done.
For more information, here's their website.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Four Jobs I've had:
WordPerfect Beta Tester
HPRC/PE Secretary at BYU
R&D for Write Express
Assistant Director, Utah Chocolate Show
Four Places I've Lived:
Four Favorite TV Shows:
Frasier (back in the day)
Four Favorite Foods:
-Karjalan Piirakoita (a Finnish holy cow yummy single-serving savory "pie" that looks sort of like a football. Made with rye dough outside and rice cooked in milk on the inside. Especially good with egg butter and sliced tomatoes on top.)
-Fazer Blue milk chocolate bar (from—you guessed it—Finland)
Four Websites I Frequent:
My Library's website
Utah History Encyclopedia
(Man, I'm such a nerd . . .)
Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now:
Getting a massage
Helsinki (to see Mom & Dad and visit all my old haunts)
On a writer's retreat somewhere beautiful
In the high Uintahs on a week-long hike
Four Movies I Love:
A Knight's Tale
Four Bloggers I Tag Next:
I'll try to tag people I haven't tagged before . . .
Lu Ann Staheli
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
For readers interested in reading the first part of the book, I've posted a sampler on my website.
Just follow the link on the home page. It'll take you to where you can download the PDF and then read the prologue and first two chapters.
One note: The cover image on the first page is pretty high resolution, so downloading the file might take a minute. (But of course it's worth waiting for, right? :-D)
If you know of someone else who might enjoy reading the first 30 pages (okay, the first 27), please, spread the word!