Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Not on My Watch

Warning: Rant ahead.

Let me say upfront that teachers have my utmost respect and admiration. They have one of the hardest jobs in the world, and are way underpaid for it. Most go into education for the love of the students, hoping to mold the young minds of the future.

I had some fantastic and influential teachers in my day, and I owe them much. (I just found one of my best high school teachers, now retired, on Facebook. I wanted to send her a big long letter about how awesome she was.)

Today, I count my lucky starts I didn't get a doozee of a teacher like the one I'm going to rant about.

Here's the problem: My son hates his English class. Nay, he abhors it.

With a passion.

Almost every time I pick him up from the junior high, he has a horror story to tell. Worse, he gets totally confused with what the teacher is trying to teach, and he hates the assignments.

He dreads going.

To English class.

MY son?!

Put aside for a moment the fact that reading and writing are my life. Look at who he is and explain to me how this makes any sense:
  • Last year he was in the Creative Writing class.

  • This year he's in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing class.

  • He's been an active member of the Fantasy Writers Club for two years.

  • This year, he's the club "emperor" and teaches a writing lesson there every week.

  • He loves the play-writing unit he's in the middle of in his Advanced Drama class.

  • Many, many nights I check on him before going to bed and find him up, reading a good book he just can't put down.
And he hates his English class? What the?!

At the beginning of the year when he complained about the teacher, I nodded and sympathized but insisted he needed to stick it out. You won't always have teachers you love, you know. It'll be okay.

But now he's had her for seven months, and I'm changing my tune. As far as I'm concerned, this woman has no business being in education and giving the entire field a bad name.

Mama Bear is coming out.

This is way beyond, "I really don't like my teacher."

My son hates English.

It must take a superpower for a teacher to take a kid who lives for reading and writing and make him hate the subject.

She can make a fun topic like mythology feel like lead (jealous gods and battles . . . really?!). She reads to the class aloud, but she's so monotone it's hard to listen to or follow, let alone enjoy. He has a hard time knowing if he'd like a book without her negative influence on it. When she explains a grammar concept, it's convoluted. And she's a grouch, to boot.

I can't count how many times he's expressed confusion with a grammar rule she spent the entire period lecturing on (like that is the best way to keep kids interested). I explain it in a simple way (in about thirty seconds), and he has a light bulb go off over his head. "Oh! That makes sense. I get it."

It's great I can explain concepts in a way he understands (in that sense, good it's not his math teacher), but isn't that her job?! I end up gritting my teeth all the time, because Mrs. What's-her-name should be doing this herself, and in a way that won't make him hate the subject.

The other day, his English horror story of the day showcased her incompetence to the point that it had me laughing with tears in my eyes. The topic of the day: show-not-tell. This is something my son knows well. He's heard me lecture on it, he's read about it, and he's taught it at Fantasy Writer's Club.

His teacher had an exercise where she put up a "telling" sentence on the board and supposedly demonstrated how to make it "show" instead.

The kicker: her final sentence didn't show.

My son was exasperated. "That isn't show-not-tell! That's still telling!"

And he was right.

He has reached the point of thinking that taking English is stupid and useless. (He knows more about writing than she does, for Pete's sake!) I worry because he can't see the value of learning grammar. This from a kid who is a WRITER. HELLO?!!!

His teacher has nearly ruined him in several areas of English, and it's all I can do to white-knuckle it through the last part of the school year.

Next year, assuming she hasn't retired (we can all hope), if he's assigned to her class again, I will insist he gets transferred. She will not be allowed to influence him again.

Not on my watch.

Today's tour stops:
I Blog about Nothing
Views from Hobbit Hole

Monday, March 30, 2009

Temple Trivia: St. George

The settlement of St. George was so significant to building the temple there, that that's what I'm focusing on today, rather than on specific temple stories. (I can go into those another time.)

After I learned about the settlement of southern Utah, I'm amazed anyone stuck around. Many didn't.

The original reason for getting a settlement down there was so the Latter-day Saints could be more self-sufficient. The Civil War had broken out, which led to a decrease in the cotton supply out West.

Combine that with the fact that Brigham Young didn't like to rely on outsiders for anything, and he decided that the Saints needed a way to get their own cotton.

(I found it ironic that even when the Cotton Mission was up and running, they always, always relied on dyes from back East to color the fabric.)

They'd already had success growing flax in what is now Utah Country, but they needed a warmer climate for cotton.

After scouts came back to Salt Lake and described the area, a lot of people were understandably wary. Volunteers were requested to settle the "Cotton Mission," but only one man raised his hand. The next week, Church leaders just called people from the pulpit, folks who had the skills they needed (everything from farmers to blacksmiths to coopers and even a mineralogist and a fiddler).

I'd heard about those kinds of mission calls and always marveled that the men just accepted their calls and did their duty. Not this time. About a third declined. They knew what a harsh environment they were being asked to live in. No, thanks!

Of those who did go, some turned around and went back as soon as they saw the area, and still more left after giving it a go for a time. The heat and other issues just made eking out a living there hard.

One early trial was an outbreak of malaria. (In the desert. I know; I don't get it either.)

A continuing problem was the Virgin River. The settlers had to dam it to reroute the water so they could actually water their crops. They spent much of the winter of 1861-62 making a dam and ditches. In the spring, floods washed out the dam and filled the ditches with mud. This delayed building their homes.

The dam washing out (and then rebuilding it) became a common theme: it broke again and again over the years, making it hard to grow food and build shelter, let alone to grow the cotton they were there to produce.

The settlers eventually began construction on a tabernacle, and then, on the counsel of Brigham Young, construction on a temple. I go into some of the challenges in building the temple in At the Journey's End, so I won't here. Just know that the people had their work cut out for them. I would have sat down and cried.

By the time the Cotton Mission was disbanded, there was quite a large settlement, and living there wasn't quite as big a sacrifice.

One interesting item is that a handful of people who were originally called to the Cotton Mission made a point of growing a token amount of cotton in their gardens every year even after the mission was closed.

Their reasoning: They'd been called to grow cotton and hadn't ever been released from that duty.

The early settlers had little in the way of material goods, and they sacrificed greatly to build both a tabernacle and a temple.

At first glance, building a temple there doesn't make much sense. The bulk of Church membership certainly wasn't in the area. The Salt Lake Temple was under construction (although it wouldn't be done for some time). Before long, the Logan and Manti Temples were being built and would serve more members of the Church.

In the end, President John Taylor, who became prophet shortly after the dedication of the St. George Temple, explained why it was built there: "Because there was a people living here [in St. George] who were more worthy than any others. Who were more worthy of the blessings of the temple"

Essentially, only the best of the best not only agreed to go down there, but they stayed and endured and sacrificed greatly because of their faith and dedication to God. That devotion was repaid with the blessings of eternity.

I'd say it was worth the price.

Today's tour stops:
An Ordinary Mom (in which I'm long-winded with thoughtful questions I've never been asked before)
If You Give a Mom a Moment (where she quotes lines from the book and tells why they resonated)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Video & A Graphic Novel

First, a reminder about my TWO book signings happening TODAY. See the sidebar for times and places.

My techno-genius teenage son figured out how to compress the file of his animation so Blogger could handle it. (Missed the still-shot? It's on this post here.)

For those who wanted to see the goblet turn into a sword:

Another gem: this week's Tuesday tour stop was too great to pass up. Rob Wells has a brilliant sense of humor, and what he created for his tour stop was so original that Mormon Times even picked it up and linked to it.

Click the picture to enlarge and laugh at a mini graphic novel called Bethany's Story, created entirely with my book covers. I tried to get it to post here so you could click on it to enlarge, but my techno-idiocy is shining through again.

To see the graphic novel (and laugh), click HERE.

Today's tour stop is one that touched my heart. Keith Fisher, who I met years ago at a writing conference, is one of the dearest men alive. He talks about reading Tower of Strength to his dying father in the hospital. I'm still misty over it:

Keith Fisher at LDS Writers Blogck

Friday, March 27, 2009

Writing Journey: Part XII

Part I Part II Part III Part IV
Part V Part VI Part VII Part VIII
Part IX Part X Part XI

I generally get three reader evaluations back from my publisher on every accepted manuscript. There's a patten with reader evals, one I can't explain, because as far as I know, the three readers are never the same people.

For some odd reason, every time, one eval hasn't been helpful. It's either too vague, or the commentary is way off in left field, or something else. But the other two tend to be good, pointing out both strengths and weaknesses and giving a direction to go on revisions.

With Spires, the evals were a bit different. As usual, one didn't really help. And the other two . . . conflicted on almost every single point.

One eval said to add more of this, while the other said to take out what I already had of the same thing.

One described something as a strength, while the other called the exact same thing a weakness.

And so on. I read through them over and over, knowing I had to turn in a revision within a few weeks, and having no clue where to go.

I asked my trusty critique group. They helped on several issues, but even they were split on several other things. They're usually my perfect place for advice, but in this case, they were already jaded by seeing the original manuscript; they couldn't give a real objective answer.

I decided I'd better ask yet another person, someone who hadn't yet seen the book at all. I begged and pleaded for my good friend Josi Kilpack to read it and tear it apart. If I'm the Grammar Nazi, Josi is the Big Picture Nazi. She'll catch a plot hole the size of a pin prick, won't let you get away with motivation issues, and can simply zero-in on what the problem is.

I told her the different directions I could go with the revisions and then sent her the file. So Josi read it. And then sent back a very long e-mail. As expected, she nailed several key points, finally giving me a place to go.

I spent weeks of long days reworking the book, adding here, taking away there, expanding this, clarifying that. Due to a variety of issues, my editor hadn't been able to read it yet, so I was on my own. Doing revisions without the guidance of my beloved editor was freakishly painful.

Not having a clear road map was so stressful that a day or two before the rewrite was due, when my visiting teacher came by, I about broke down in front of her. She could tell my sanity was hanging by a thread. She brought my family dinner that night so I could make my deadline. (Bless her!)

I finished the rewrite, turned it back in, and tried not to curl up in a ball and rock back and forth.

Angela finally read it and gave me her content edit. As always, it was on target and perfect. Unfortunately, it also conflicted with much of what I had just rewritten.

I needed to rewrite AGAIN, this time under a tighter time crunch, so I pulled long nights and went without showers.

At this point, I wanted to cause someone serious bodily harm, because if my editor been able to read the thing from the get-go, I wouldn't have gone through those first weeks of heinous revisions only to have more ahead the undid much of that first work. I could have gone through a week or so of mild ones based on her suggestions.

By the time I sent her the second rewrite, I had no idea if the story was even coherent anymore.
And I was so exhausted I almost didn't care anymore; I was just relieved to have made the deadline and still be standing.

Then I got a line edit back from some nameless contract editor.

Hoo-boy. I cared again. With a vengeance.

Today's tour stop:
Little Grumpy Angel
(Where the title starts with, "I Don't Believe David Archuleta is the Lord's American Idol . . .")

Today I've also been interviewed:
Scribbit, where I answered lots of questions about writing.
Kathi's Writing Nook

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rejection Stinks

Not long ago, Rebecca asked how to get through rejection. Shortly after that, a cousin sent an e-mail saying she'd just gotten her first rejection and asking for advice on what to do next. Since I've gotten the same question from two directions, I thought I'd answer it here.

Here's basically what I told my cousin:

Congratulations! Now that you've been rejected, you're an official writer! Keep that first letter and start a rejection file. Then FILL IT UP.

One major thing working against new writers right now is the economy. Publishers have come back to reject manuscripts they've previously accepted because they're cutting back on how many they're publishing at all. Other books are getting release dates shoved back. So it's not always a matter of quality. Sometimes it's about plain old numbers.

With the typical timeline, Tower of Strength (which was just released this month) would have come out last September, and my next book, which I turned in October 08, won't be out until Spring 2010. That's about twice the lag time I'm used to.

But after all the horror stories I've heard, I'm just counting my lucky stars that I'm even getting another book out at all. The bottom line: breaking in as a first-time writer is harder now than ever before.

That, and if you didn't ever get rejected at all, I'd have to hate you. (It's a rite of passage for writers. Everyone needs that experience!) This isn't to say you're doomed and shouldn't submit. Just know that you need to up your game. Prove that you're the best person for the job. Rise above the competition. Polish, polish, polish.

I've got a pretty good-sized rejection file going back to 1994. It's part and parcel of the whole writing gig.

My best advice on getting through rejection:

1) Drown your sorrows in your food of choice. Then:

2) Analyze the feedback you received (if any) and see if it has merit. Is there a kernel in there you can use to improve, or are they totally up in the night? (I've had both experiences. Sometimes the commentary is just plain dumb, and other times, I can think, even if it hurts, "Yeah. I guess I can see that.")

3) Consider submitting the same piece to another publisher, possibly after a rewrite, and most definitely after you cool down.

4) Regardless about what you decide on #2 and #3, immediately move on to another project. Don't stop writing, or you'll get yourself into a self-doubt rut. Keep the wheels turning.

5) One huge shot in the arm is hanging out with other writers. Find a local writing group (early on, I found a lot of support in my local League of Utah Writers chapter). Consider attending the 6th annual LDStorymakers Writers Conference April 24-25, which will be in Provo this year. It's a great conference (and I'm not just saying that because I'm on the committee). Being with other writers can energize you like nothing else can.

Hang in there! Rejection stinks. There's no other way to put it.

For any other writers out there, feel free to throw in your own rejection advice in the comments!

Today's tour stop:

aMAYzing Wonder Woman

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

WNW: How Come?

Quick announcement: This Saturday I'll be at two book signings in Utah County. Check the sidebar for details.

On to Word Nerd Wednesday:

Friend, closet word nerd (don't deny it), and Whitney President Rob Wells asked why in the world we sometimes say, "How come?" when we're really asking, "Why?"

On the surface, "how come" really makes no sense, does it?

I had no idea whatsoever, so I did a little digging.

I discovered some consensus that "how come" is a shortened version of, "How did it come to be?"

Which, you know, actually makes some sense.

Similarly, Shakespeare used "How comes it" several times (such as in Comedy of Errors and Hamlet).

Supporting Shakespeare's way of thinking is one source I found that claims German and Dutch have a similar phrase hearkening to, "how did it come to be." (I don't know either language, so I'll have to take his word for it.)

However, The Word Detective says that the actual phrase, "how come" didn't come around until the mid-1800s in the U. S. My Oxford English Dictionary agrees, saying it turned up in print around 1848.

The Word Detective goes on to explain that "how come" uses "come" in the sense of something happening, such as, "Come next July, we're going to Disneyland."

Then you add "how" as an adverb, which asks, "in which way," and you get "how come."

Basically, "How come" means, "in which way did that happen/is it going to happen?"

The same article notes that:

Unlike “why,” “how come” strongly suggests that the questioner has already developed an opinion on the situation and has decided that something is not proper or fair.

Examples abound for anyone who has at least two offspring. ("How come SHE gets a cookie?!")

As with many words and phrases, there's ongoing debate on whether "how come" is correct in standard English. I've seen it enough in print that I think it's pretty much accepted in most circles, with some academics being the last to say it's not correct.

Surprisingly, however, I don't have a strong opinion either way.

(Me? Not have an opinion? Quick! Call Ripley's!)

Today's tour stops:

Rarely Home Mom
Queen of the Clan

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Watch out, Pixar

Okay, so how cool is this:

When my son was just a tiny baby in one of those baby swings, I began writing alone for the first time instead of with Sam, my collaborator on two previous projects. As I've mentioned before, it was darned scary.

The book was a Young Adult fantasy which I entitled The Golden Cup of Kardak. It's a fun story, if I say so myself.

Here's the relevant part: near the end of the book, the goblet turns into a sword.

A couple of years ago, my son, who was no longer that little baby but a big kid, decided to read it. He marked it up with his own editorial red pen and seemed to really enjoyed it. At the end of one chapter, he scrawled, "Cool!" and on another, "Fantastic!" High praise from a then-11-year-old.

Fast forward to 2009. He's really into computer animation and wants to do it as a career when he grows up. He's been doing tutorials with Blender software and making a bunch of cool things with it.

Recently he said, "Hey, Mom, remember the Golden Cup of Kardak? Check this out."

Unfortunately, the file of the actual animation is way too big to load onto Blogger, but here's a still-shot of the goblet-turned sword.

Isn't that fun? (And even cooler that he remembered the story two years later and wanted to animate something from it!)

Today's tour stop:

Rob Wells on Six LDS Writers and a Frog, wherein the girls on my book covers are part of a graphic novel.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Temple Trivia: Salt Lake

Below: Me next to an Salt Lake Temple Earth Stone. Those puppies are huge!

(Taken roughly where Claude went after the dance his last night in the city, at least in my funky writer brain that has no grip on reality and thinks it really happened.)

One of my favorite pieces of trivia about the Salt Lake Temple is that Brigham Young originally wanted to build it out of . . . adobe.

Seriously. He even lobbied in general conference for it. He argued that adobe would outlast stone. (Wha-ha?)

When I first read that, I was confused. How in the world could he have assumed that the magnificent structure he saw in vision was made out of dried mud? Of course it was gray granite!

At first sandstone won out. It was relatively lightweight and close to the Temple Block. Work moved right along until, due to Johnston's Army, they buried the foundation to protect it and fled the city. As many people know, once the foundation was uncovered some years later, it was cracked and had to be replaced.

That is when the gray granite we know and love was chosen for the stone. Spires of Stone goes into some of the difficulties in transporting the stone and how long it took to bring ONE stone to the temple compared to the sandstone (4 days round trip for one stone versus a couple of stones per day with sandstone). The work basically came to a standstill.

More on the transportation problem in a minute.

So the temple was going to be built out of gray granite after all. But I still couldn't figure out why Brigham Young had ever thought it should have been adobe. He'd seen the temple in vision! Couldn't he tell?

Then I came across a quote from a captain in Johnston's Army, describing what Salt Lake City looked like as they marched through. Many of the homes and other buildings were made from adobe.

Which he described as looking like cut, gray stone.


My opinion is that Brigham Young thought what he saw in vision was the same substance he saw around him all day long. Adobe is what he was familiar with, and it makes sense to me that his mind would have gone there first instead of assuming the grand, gray building was made of granite (which probably wouldn't have even occurred to him).

Back to the stone-hauling issue: So eventually they determined to use the granite up Little Cottonwood Canyon. But as I said, it was seriously heavy and far away.

Leaders tried to come up with all kinds of solutions to the transportation problem, because at the rate they were going, it probably would have taken a century or more to build instead of 40 years. My favorite (because it's just so out there) was building a canal from Big Cottonwood Creek and floating the stones to the Temple Block.

They basically built the canal (quite a feat, considering all the ravines and obstacles it had to get through). It was twenty feet wide at the base, gradually widening at the top, and was four feet deep.

But it didn't work; it wouldn't hold water. W. C. A. Smoot said the soil across an area in Parley's Canyon was loam, which acted like a sieve for the water. It drained about as fast as it came in.

You kind of need water for a canal to work. So the canal idea was abandoned.

They tried a wooden railroad, but it didn't work, either. Wasn't strong enough. They eventually halted work at the quarry and built a commercial railroad that could take dozens of stones to the Temple Block in a day. And that is when the work finally picked up.

In the end, it was a good thing that the Salt Lake Temple took four decades to complete. By the 1893, science and technology had improved to the point where the temple had better heating, hygiene, lighting, plumbing, and more than it possibly could have had even a decade before.

This temple—by far the largest ever built even yet—would serve the people better (and safer) than it could have otherwise. It could immediately handle more people and reach its potential, whereas before it would have been too big to manage such a feat.

I think the Lord knew that.

Today's tour stops:
Dunhaven Place (In which Tower of Strength becomes Tower of Terror.)
Temporary? Insanity

Friday, March 20, 2009

Writing Journey: Part XI

Part I Part II Part III Part IV
Part V Part VI Part VII Part VIII
Part IX Part X

(I know I've already said so, but I had no idea I'd be carrying this series on this long . . .)

Somewhere along the way as I was researching the Salt Lake Temple and bemoaning the fact that I couldn't do my really cool idea for retelling Much Ado about Nothing, I had a brain flash:

Why the heck not?

(Sort of a V-8 moment.)

So what if I'd originally imagined the retelling in a contemporary setting? Who said I couldn't retell the story in the 1800s?

And thus the plot and characters for my next book were born. Instead of trying to adapt Shakespeare's story to the twenty-first century, I could make it work in the mid-1800s.

That meant figuring out a lot of plot points: in what way could the Claudio character mistake one woman for another and how could it be believable to the reader? I came up with using a situation involving a photograph, which necessitated research into the photography technology at the time.

The technology had to dovetail with the temple history, preferably at a point in the construction where something interesting was actually happening. Those two factors are what led me to zero in on 1867 as the year the story would take place, making it my earliest historical.

I pulled out my volume of complete Shakespeare and reread the play. Sometimes I had it next to me as I drafted. I cannot tell you how much fun some of the scenes were to write, especially those between Ben and Bethany (Shakespeare's Benedick and Beatrice). I purposely mirrored much of their dialogue. There were times I found myself laughing aloud and grinning ear to ear.

Part of the joy of adaptation is that you can change things. For my story, I decided to combine the characters of Don Pedro and Don Jon, but only as far as their plot purposes, not their actual personalities.

Don Jon is the villain in the play. He purposely sets things up to go wrong. Don Pedro, on the other hand, is a good man who figures out that Benedick and Beatrice still have feelings for one another and decides to play cupid.

I gave Phillip both jobs, but I had him inadvertently cause the problem Don Jon purposely sets up. Phillip is good like Don Pedro and would never intentionally do something villainous. That's why his name starts with a P instead of a J.

(Contrary to what some readers have thought, no other character plays the part of the villain Don Jon. Which is why a certain person's name I won't mention also doesn't start with a J.)

One big change came when I was more than halfway through the first draft. I suddenly realized that the characters would not play out the story the same way the Bard's did. There was no way I could redeem the Claudio character the way the play did. It wouldn't work, for starters, because the further I got into the story, the more I realized that the Hero character would have none of it.

Then out of the blue, Phillip started doing all kinds of things that threw a pretty darn big wrench into the original story.

(I'm trying hard not to include major spoilers. I'm hoping that only people who know either the play or Spires of Stone will know what all this means.)

Instead of freaking out and trying to force my characters back into their proper roles, I gave them free rein, and they played out their story the way they wanted to.

Things morphing at the end of the book necessitated me going back to earlier chapters and changing quite a lot there. I went through more drafts than I'd done in ages on any other book.

When I finally submitted it at the end of the year, I was pleased with the way it had turned out. I didn't bother attaching a title to it, because 1) I'm bad at titles and 2) they always pick the title anyway, so I just submitted it as my "Salt Lake Temple Book."

When it was accepted (for another fall release!), I was thrilled.

Sometime in February, my editor sent me the reader evaluations and asked me to do some revisions based on what I agreed with in them. (One of the eval suggestions: It needs a better title. Um, ya think?! I laughed.)

My editor said some areas needed rewriting, but didn't really point me in a direction. I had almost a month to get the new version to her.

A simple request, one would think. I'd done revisions before, so I wasn't worried.

I should have been.

Today's tour stops:
Write Bravely
Regarding Annie

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Few Hours

As a writer, you hope people will open your book and be hooked, unable to put it down until they've read the last page.

I've already gotten a few notes along those lines about Tower of Strength, and each one makes me realize that I've been holding my breath, waiting to see reader reactions, because I'm past the point of being able to accurately judge this one. Every time I hear that someone enjoyed it, I can relax just a little bit more.

I know I can't please everyone, and that there will be people who don't like my work. I'm okay with that. But I love hearing from those people that my books do resonate with on some level.

(The best is finding out that I've kept a woman up until three in the morning so she could finish one of my books. I'm so sadistic.)

But no matter what, fears will still build up inside. I like to hope I'm improving with each book, but what if I backslide? (Rebecca totally made my day when she said she thinks it's my best one so far. Yay!)

And there's this other, unexpected, side to getting the exact feedback you've been hoping to receive, the, "I couldn't put it down," thing, like I got a day or so after the release.

One of my best friends sent me a note through Facebook saying she'd bought it and read it "in one sitting."

And that's when the weird reaction set in.

I wanted this to happen.

But . . . at the same time, there's this little a part of you that thinks, Wait. She read it in ONE sitting? How is that possible? It took me nearly a year to write and revise and edit that book, and it's done and OVERWITH in a few hours?

As if readers should read a book at the pace it was written or something.

Writers really are a funky bunch.

Today's tour stop:
Away from It All

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

WNW: "Into" or "in to"? ACK!

Today's Word Nerd Wednesday is brought to you by astute reader Lucy from An Ordinary Mom, who requested I clarify for readers one of her peeves:

The difference between into/in to and onto/on to.

First, let's take out the TO part and just deal with IN and ON.

IN and ON are both a plain old descriptors. They describe where something currently is.

The book is in her purse.

The cat is on the pillow.

When you add movement to the sentence (when the subject isn't just existing in a location anymore, but getting there), you have the option of adding to to the end of the word, creating one longer word:

She put the book into her purse.

The cat jumped onto the pillow.

You don't have to add to when there's movement. The sentences work just fine without it:

She put the book in her purse.

The cat jumped on the pillow.

So here comes the part that confuses people:

When do you use IN TO and ON TO as separate words?

You make them separate when they're not working together, when they just happen to land side by side.

For example, take this sentence:

Joe came in to check the stove.

To check the stove is acting as a phrase explaining what Joe came to accomplish. TO CHECK is the verb of that phrase. It's not connected to IN.

The IN belongs elsewhere, to the location Joe happens to be entering on his errand.

We could expand the sentence to clarify where Joe went to show that IN and TO aren't working together:

Joe came in the kitchen . . . to check the stove.

Here, in is clearly separate from to because the kitchen is where Joe was headed.

See how in the shorter version, ("Joe came in to check the stove.") in and to just happen to be next to each other?

If you add that Joe came INTO the kitchen, you still have to add another TO when you explain why he's there: TO check the stove:

Joe came INTO the kitchen TO check the stove.

You can't have INTO alone and have that sentence make any sense:

Joe came into check the stove.

He came into WHAT? He can't go into a CHECK. He came in. And he checked the stove. Two separate actions.

Another example where they are TWO words:

She went back IN TO take the test.

Analyzing it:

She went back IN (silent question asks: TO WHERE?) TO (or, IN ORDER TO) take the test.

Like we did with Joe, let's tweak the sentence so we can make it one word after all. Like before, if we're adding INTO and a location, we still need another TO for the verb:

She went back into the classroom to take the test.

We added the classroom so we can say where she's going INTO. (Answer: the classroom.)

Remember, INTO means movement.

Back to the original sentence:

She went back IN TO take the test.

Can how see how IN and TO don't belong together?

More examples of INTO as one word (note that there's always movement AND a location):

He put the cheese INTO the fridge.

She jumped INTO the pool.

The baby put his fingers INTO the mashed potatoes.

The same concept applies with ONTO/ON TO.

ONTO shows movement.

ON TO are two words that happen to be next to each other, doing different functions.

When in doubt, pause after IN or ON and then continue the sentence. Does it sound funky? Then you probably need INTO or ONTO.

Let's try pausing:

She moved on . . . to other things.

Yep. That sounds right. She's moving on, doing something new.

Making it one word ("She moved ONTO other things") would mean she's getting on top of other items, say, climbing a pile of books or a stack of tires.

Another pause:

He climbed on . . . to the table.

Nope. This time there's movement, and we know where he's going:

He climbed onto the table.

Next week: Why in the heck does "how come" mean WHY?

Today's tour stops:
Not Entirely British
Alison Wonderland

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Questions #4

Below are the final set of reader questions. But first, since it's St. Patrick's Day, I have to mention a minor issue. A year ago, I blogged about how I totally scarred my daughter on St. Patrick's Day during kindergarten because I forgot to send her in green, so she was pinched all day long. (The horrors!)

That kindergarten trauma was FOUR YEARS AGO.

Now, her little sister is in kindergarten. Last night, I was ordered in no uncertain terms to MAKE SURE #4 wore green today so she wouldn't suffer as #3 had. I laughed and assured them both I would.

Apparently my word isn't good enough. Both older sisters got #4 out of bed early (she's in afternoon kindergarten) and dressed her in case I'd forget. Then they kept telling her what a great St. Patrick's Day she'd have, unlike #3's in kindergarten, which was just so horrible . . .

I'll never, ever live that day down.

Today's questions:

Heather asked: Are you going to write a sequel to Band of Sisters (release date: spring 2010)?

Most likely (assuming Covenant wants it). I'll probably have to start research on that pretty soon.

Sher had a few questions:

1)What's your biggest guilty pleasure?
Probably the silver bag of Guittard jumbo chocolate chips. They aren't for baking. They're for eating straight.

2)What do you do in your spare time to wind down/relax (besides blogging, of course)?
Spare time? What's that? :) I enjoy reading, knitting, and taking long baths. In theory, I love hiking in the mountains, but that's a rarity.

3) When do you want to have lunch with me again, so we can talk some more? (Is that way too stalker-ish?)
Let's talk. I want to see you again too! :)

Charlie Moore had a multiple-part question: What is the one idea, vision, concept or premise you've had that for one reason or another you haven't put down on paper? Why?

I have several partial manuscripts that might fit that description, but I don't think there's any big concept that has hit me that I haven't at least partially put to paper.

There's one manuscript particular that had a concept I really wanted to write about. Several years ago, I got a few chapters into it but haven't finished it. Part of me is afraid to; I don't know if I could do the concept justice yet. Maybe someday.

He also asked: And have you ever incorporated an idea, vision, concept or premise that wasn't part of something you were working on into that body of work and made a cohesive fit?

Yes, for sure. One of many examples is when I saw an author being interviewed on TV (no memory on who it was anymore) and somehow it came up that in this one room of their house, someone had died and someone else had been born.

The idea smacked me like a ton of bricks: life ending for one person and beginning for another in the same place. What if the two events happened close to one another in time? That would be a sacred moment for sure. I was writing House on the Hill at the time, and that idea made it in.

I think I've gotten a flash or two like that for every book.

Heidi Ashworth: Approximately how many words a day do you write when you are writing a book?

That depends on a lot of factors (am I also researching, do I have freelance edits or articles due, etc.), but in general, if I'm getting in a steady 1,000 words a day, I'm pretty happy.

Jami: What's the silliest thing that you do regularly?

Stay in my pajamas WAAAAAY past what is normal. That's not too silly, is it? Tough question.

Karlene: Josi asked about your fav book of all time. I know the answer to that.

[Me here: You thought it was Anne of Green Gables, didn't you? Surprise! :) ]

So pretend there are no Anne books (I know, scary thought). Then what would be your fav book of all time?

Aside from my answer last time, I might have to say that some of my all-time favorites are Pride and Prejudice, The Great Divorce, East of Eden, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Totally different books all, but I loved them.

Also, what is your fav style of shoe?

I'm really not much of a shoe person. Indoors, I'm in socks all the time. Forget the shoes. But in general, the favorite shoes I own are ankle boots.

Your current brand of shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant?
Whatever I can get for a rockin' good deal through The Grocery Game. I'm not picky. But don't give me Ultrabrite.

Are you a dog or a cat person?
As a general rule, I hate dogs up close. They're fine at a distance. I love the right cat, but not all of them.

If you were a guy, would you wear boxers or briefs?
I've never thought of that before . . . I have no idea. Probably briefs.

Amber: How many hours a day do you write?

Again, totally depends on the day and the project. Counting articles, blogs, and other freelance work as well as my fiction, I'd say a couple of hours a day. Sometimes more. Sort of depends on what you define as "writing."

Which is longer for you, the writing or the editing?

The writing, probably. I can easily edit more than 1,000 words a day (my average for drafting), so editing goes faster. The trick is that sometimes I end up with several drafts, so in that sense, editing can take longer.

Do you know Brandon Mull? (My daughter is a HUGE fan).

I do. I've met him a couple of times and even sat at the same Whitney Gala dinner table when he won last spring. He doesn't remember me, though.

Tink: I know you said you've been writing since you were little, but I'm wondering what finally inspired you to submit a manuscript and who was the inspiration behind it?

That would be my husband, who lit the fire under me to finally send in my first submission (and learn how to submit and all that). Part I of my Writing Journey talks about that first manuscript and how he got me to send it out.

Melanie: Could you please your best, absolute most amazing chocolate experience for us?

Man, this is a tough one to answer. I'm going to go with the chocolate experience that impacted me most as a kid: visiting the Fazer chocolate factory in Finland. You drive up and see giant silo-looking structures filled with melted chocolate. The parking lot smells like chocolate.

You go inside, watch a video about chocolate and how they make things, then go on the tour. The machines were so dang cool (I loved the ones where they made the cookies like U. S. Oreos--only better). Periodically, we got to stop at taste-testing booths and eat all we wanted. The only catch: you couldn't get a drink or take of the samples with you.

But yeah. Talk about chocolate heaven.

Today's tour stops:

Half Full Life (You gotta read this one. It begins, "If I say it stinks . . .")
Inksplasher (From someone who's NOT a romance fan.)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Temple Trivia: Manti

One of the best part about writing novels based on historic temples is learning so many cool tidbits that most people never hear about.

I learn far more than ever makes it into my books (first and foremost because they are novels, not history lessons), so I thought it'd be fun to pass along a few fun things that aren't in my books, starting with Manti.

First off, David, a friend of mine (who has a private blog, or I'd link over) passed along an article about the Manti Temple. It's a great read. Thanks to my research, I already knew most of the information in it.

(Edited Oct 2011 to add: The old link above stopped working, so I've replaced it. Another piece about the Manti Temple is HERE. Also, I've since learned that a commonly stold story about Scandinavian boat builders basically making a boat and flipping it upside down for the roof is almost certainly untrue. There's no evidence of it, and the roof doesn't resemble the hull of a boat at all.)

One part of the above article made me smile: it includes one story that's retold in Tower of Strength.

I won't say which, but if you read the book, you'll recognize it. (Okay, fine. Two words: Parry mules.)

The Washington Monument
Before my research, I hadn't known that a stone was cut from the Manti Temple quarry and brought to Washington, D.C. to be used as part of the Washington Monument. In the center is the word Deseret and above that the all-seeing eye. The stone sits near the top.

Workers' Wages
One common misconception is that no workers were paid for their labor on the Manti Temple. Early on, Brigham Young did declare that no one would be paid and that the temple would be built entirely with volunteer labor. Because he said that, people assume that was how things actually played out. (The quote is even on a plaque at the base of Temple Hill.)

However, after President Young's death, his successor, John Taylor, changed things. While there was still a lot of volunteer and tithing labor, many workers did get regular pay. He, the quorum of the Twelve, and the temple officers set the rates based on the different jobs, paid in either cash or commodities.

Among the wages: common laborers received $1.25 to $2.00 per day, quarrymen $2.50 to $3.00 per day, and the master mason, E. L. Parrry, received $5.00 a day.

Personal Donations
After they were settled and doing well (and being creatively thrifty--there are lots of fun stories about that), the people sacrificed and donated what they could to the cause of the temple.

Ellice Moffit, who was a young girl at the time, reported that their family had saved up enough money to buy a few gallons of linseed oil and white lead for paint so they could paint the fence around their house. The Church asked to use it as part of the first coat on the temple.

The family simply handed it over. Sister Moffit reported, "We all felt good about that, we felt blessed." (A Folk History of the Manti Temple, by Barbara Lee Hargis)

Fun Characters
A lot of Danes settled the area, and they were great at laughing at themselves. Another story in A Folk History is retold about "Silent Pete," a man who was very unlike the talkative Danes; he usually gave one-word answers.

The story goes that Noble Andrew, a Dane, asked (I'm not repeating the accent recorded in the original, and I'm not sure what was meant by "bot" flies): "I understand, Peter, that your horse got bot [sic] flies. What did you give him to get rid of them?"

Silent Pete answered, "Turpentine."

A week later, they met again. Noble said, "By the way, Peter, what did you say you gave your horse to get rid of the bot flies?"


"That is what I thought you said. It killed mine."

Silent Pete answered, "Killed mine, too."

Today the tour is very busy:

Summer's Nook
Mormon Mom Blogs
Book Blogging Babes

And I was interviewed at:
Modern Molly Mormon

(Be sure to visit MMB for a chance to win and entire SET of my temple books!)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Grand Prize Winner!

What a fun week this has been! Thanks to everyone who participated in giveaway!

Today's post will be short and sweet, announcing the grand prize winner, who gets the Colorado Kernels Gold Gift Basket, worth $40.00!

As a reminder, here's what the winner gets:
Tall 12oz. Chocolate Avalanche
Tall 12oz. River Bottom Crunch
Tall 3oz. Cheddar Cheese
6oz. Cherry Cordial
6oz. Caramel Corn
6oz. Seasonal Flavor


And the winner is: Hi, it's me, Melissa C!


(Be sure to send me your mailing address!)

See you all Monday!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Winners #4 & Writing Journey: Part X

First, announcing the next set of FIVE winners from my giveaway:

1) TWO people get the Love Notes CD of romantic music performed by Glenn Hatch. Those two people are LexiconLuvr and SO.

2) The SLC Baby Bandz gift pack goes to Lolli.

3) The Sew Sara bib goes to Krystal.

4) And The Worldwide Ward Cookbook goes to Brooke.

Congratulations, all!

Winners, be sure to send me your mailing address so the sponsors can get your prizes shipped! (annette at annettelyon dot com)

Tomorrow I'll announce the Grand Prize winner of the Colorado Kernels gourmet popcorn gift basket. (Not entered yet? This is your last day. Do it quick on the giveaway post!)

Now, continuing the Writing Journey series:

Part I Part II Part III Part IV
Part V Part VI Part VII Part VIII
Part IX

Unfortunately, in the end, the financial risk was deemed to be still too high to publish girl chapter books like the two I'd submitted about St. George.

Let me say one thing: rejection stings. No matter what.

It's painful, it's icky, and it makes you miserable. You never, ever get used to it, even after you've been published and even when you can intellectually see past the situation and know it's nothing personal.

To make matters even stickier, right around this time I also submitted a YA fantasy I'd written years before, since Covenant had done a few of those (like K.L. Fogg's Serpentide and David Farland's Of Mice and Magic). They didn't take it, either.

I guess the good part is that these rejections didn't crush me like others in the past had. But it was still difficult and, well, not fun.

You'd think that being published (having my fourth book accepted and in the pipeline at that point) would have given me this great self-confidence and ego armor. Hardly.

Also, know that just because you've been published doesn't mean you'll continue to publish. I know lots of authors who have gotten rejected by their own publisher after having more than one book published by them.

There are simply no guarantees in this business.

I was given the green light to submit the girl series elsewhere. I did. Within a few months, I got an answer from the other big LDS publisher. Basically, they said the same thing: we love the idea, great manuscript, but it's not a financial risk we can take.

I knew the books were so specific to Utah that they likely wouldn't work on a national level, even if I took out the religious stuff. I knew this, but I still took out the religion and tried finding an agent for it. Of course, I was told that yup, it's too regional to work nationally.


Getting the rejections on these chapter books was frustrating in a new way, because I wouldn't have ever written those stories if someone else hadn't suggested it first. I felt like I'd totally wasted time, effort, and emotional energy to create something that was for naught.

Then again, it was totally my fault for getting my hopes up and spending all the time on what was a doomed experiment from the start. My daughters were particularly disappointed, because these books were the only things I'd written that were sort of for them. Bummer.

I still have those two "St. George Girl" books, and I might put them up for download on my website some day as e-books if I find some interest in them.

I reluctantly set them aside and moved on to plotting my next temple book: Salt Lake. Once again, I was burning daylight (a common theme with me . . .).

I'd spent the first several months of the year researching and writing those two chapter books, and while I'd also done some work on the Salt Lake book, I hadn't made much progress. And here it was April again.

Would I be able to pull off practically the same timetable as I had with ATJE (get it written, polished, and submitted by the end of the year, and have it not stink)? Yowza.

When I first started the research, I had no idea what story to tell. For starters, as you likely know, the Salt Lake Temple took a whopping forty years to construct. Obviously I couldn't cover all that time.

A tricky issue was that for much of that time, construction was pretty uneventful ("Let's see, this year we laid another row of stones . . .") What would the story be, and where between 1853 and 1893 should it take place? Once again, I had nothing. No characters, no plot. Last time both of those came after I started the research. So I dove in and hoped someone like Maddie would show up.

But this time, I was antsy on a different count. For years, I'd wanted to write a modern-day adaptation of my favorite Shakespeare play. I'd even written notes about certain scenes and how I'd make them work in a contemporary setting. I'd envisioned entire scenes with characters and dialogue . . .

Now? Well, I had willingly stepped into a historical box and had promised to stay in it for a while at least.

Man . . . too bad I couldn't write that Shakespeare book. It would have been a ball.

Today's tour stop: Overstuffed.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Winners #3 & Lurkers I Didn't Know I Knew

First, the important business of the day: the latest giveaway winners!

If you haven't entered yet or still want to get more entries, it's not too late. Visit the GIVEAWAY POST for details. Friday midnight MDT is the deadline to be part of the grand prize drawing.

1) The winner of the April Showers personal blog header is Mrs. Darling!

2) Sandra's Urban Botanics bath and lotion gift set in the White Pearl scent (inspired by Tower of Strength) goes to Wonder Woman!

3) And finally, the lucky person who gets Rebecca Irvine's new family scripture study CD, Adventures with the Word of God, is Taffy!

Congratulations, everyone! More prizes tomorrow!

Now, today's post. Lurkers, beware.

With one exception, if you don't comment, I don't know you're reading my blog.

I know my parents read it (Hi, Mom and Dad!). It's one way they have of keeping up with what's going on in my life while they're out of the country. Once in a while, they'll drop me an e-mail about a post, but otherwise, I just assume they're reading.

But for everyone else? No. Clue.

I have no idea which neighbors might be reading it. (Does my Relief Society president read it? G, you tell me!) Who else in my ward might be reading it? What about high school buddies?

I go into most situations assuming whoever I'm talking to doesn't read my blog. (I mean, heck, I'm not the size of Scribbit or CJane or anything. Why would I assume someone's read it?)

But here's the deal: Apparently I have many close friends who read my blog but don't comment. Total strangers leave more comments (thank you, thank you!) than people I've known since childhood.

Why? I don't get it.

Since I assume people don't hang out here at The Lyon's Tale, I've run into embarrassing situations. I'm rather good at that.

I'll be talking to someone in the ward or a friend I haven't seen in months, and we'll get chatting. Suddenly I'm reminded of something that happened recently and I'm telling the story to them.

They start nodding, and then they interrupt. "Oh, yeah. I know. That was so funny. I read it."

Wait, what? Oh, yeah. I blogged about that. And this person read it?

Cool, I guess. But I didn't know they read my blog. Because they didn't leave a comment.

We start talking about something else, and invariably, the same thing happens:

"Yeah, I know. It's on your blog."

It's a bit maddening.

First off, if you're one of these people (and you so know who you are . . .), why not comment? It's a nice way of saying hi. As an added bonus, I'd avoid looking dumb by retelling stories you already know.

Or next time you see me, just mention that you were on my blog so I don't start getting all redundant on you.

But there's another issue: Why am I apparently repeating myself so much? Do I seriously have nothing to talk about besides things I've already shared here? My life is bigger than my blog, I promise.

Maybe it's that writing things down makes the experience more real, more cemented in my brain so the things I talk about here take center stage. Maybe.

Or maybe it's that I tend to be a little private here about some areas of my life. Yeah, that's it.

Either that, or I'm a really boring person.

Hmmm. I'll take the first two.

Now comment already, lurker people who I know in real life!

Today's tour stop:

Superfluous Miscellany

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Winners #2 + WNW: What Are You Implying?

Wow! This giveaway has become such a riot; I'm loving it!

I've even got an update: ONE MORE prize has been added to the pot:

One lucky winner on Friday gets a copy of The Worldwide Ward Cookbook, by Deanna Buxton. If you don't win, no worries: the author is showing off some of her chocolate recipes at a fun event called, "Confessions of a Chocoholic Cook" on March 18 at the Scera lobby in Orem at 7pm. (I KNOW!) The event is free, but you must RSVP by the 16th. Just e-mail covenant promotions at gmail dot com. The book is now on the giveaway post.

(You are entered, right? You have until Friday night.)

NOW . . . today's prize winners from my week-long giveaway:

1) The open circle pendant from Jenn at Handmade from the Heart goes to: Rachelle at Rachelle Writes!

2) Brittany Mangus's book, Prepare Now for the Temple, goes to: Cheryl at Happy Meets Crazy. (Holy cow! We've got almost 400 entries so far, and she's won twice! Multiple entries are worth it, people!)

3) The TWO winners for copies of the CD An Angel to Watch over Me, a tribute to mothers, donated by Covenant Communications, goes to: Shauna at Trying to Stay Calm and to Beth L, who had only ONE entry. So even THAT works!

(Beth, your blog is private, and I have no e-mail for you. Be sure to contact me so you can get your prize!)

Come back tomorrow for the next set of winners!

Now, on to our regularly scheduled Word Nerd Wednesday:

I'm a fossil with some English issues, and today's topic is no different: imply vs. infer.

These are constantly mixed up, and I mean constantly. I've seen the mistake in General Conference reports. I mean, come on! It's so prevalent (much like nauseated/nauseous) that it wouldn't surprise me at all if eventually the rule goes away.

Which would make me sad. And seriously annoyed.

The wrong way is actually listed in one dictionary I checked (but not until the 4th definition, so that's something). Remember, dictionaries report what people are saying, not what's correct.

So what do imply and infer mean, and when do you use them?

They are two sides of the same relationship or event, much like speak and listen. One person is speaking, telling something, and the other person is listening, hearing the speaker.

Same event, different ends of the relationship.

It's the same with imply and infer. One person speaks and implies, or hints at, something, say that the neighbor's dog is really ugly.

But they don't say it outright. Maybe they say, "That dog Fuzzles looks like an ape."

You as the listener take that statement and interpret it as you will. You are inferring the meaning from what the speaker just said.

You could infer that your friend likes apes and therefore likes Fuzzles.

Or you might infer that your friend thinks Fuzzles is ugly because he looks like an ape.

Or you might infer something else that your friend never meant. (Maybe that Fuzzles has a missing tail because apes don't have tails?)


The point is that the speaker IMPLIES and the listener INFERS.

Another way to remember it: INFER has an F in it. When you infer, you FIGURE out the meaning, which begins with F.

The most common error is using infer for the speaker as in, "She's so rude. She totally inferred in the nastiest tone that these pants make me look fat."

No, the LISTENER inferred when the SPEAKER implied that the pants might not be the most flattering.

So I can imply my opinion on all kinds of matters without clearly saying what I mean.

Then I hope that whoever is listening to me infers my true meaning.

Clear as mud?

Today's tour stop:
Scripture Mom
And in case you missed it, Novembrance, who also chronicled how we became friends.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Winners #1, Questions #3

First, the today's giveaway winners.

Selected by using Random.org:

1) The 2 oz. bottle of "Tabitha" perfume, donated by Karlene of Urban Botanics, goes to Mindi at The Battraws!

2) The cookbook by Luisa of Novembrance, Comfortably Yum: Food for Body and Spirit goes to Sandra of Sandra's Dance!

3) And Sherrie Shepherd's pre-release CD, Solitude goes to Cheryl at Happy Meets Crazy!

Congratulations, everyone!

Stay tuned for more winners tomorrow! (You do have all 13 entries you're entitled to, right? Check the giveaway post to see how to get them all!)

Now for more reader questions:

AmandaD asked: What other LDS authors do enjoy reading?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some I enjoy:

LDS Market:
Michele Paige Holmes (Counting Stars)
Josi S. Kilpack (Her Good Name and others)
H.B. Moore (Abinadi)
Julie Wright (My Not-So-Fairytale Life)
N. C. Allen (Isabell Webb: Legend of the Jewel)
Robison Wells (The Counterfeit)
Sandra Grey (Traitor)
Angela Hallstrom (Bound on Earth)

And from the national market:
Janette Rallison (All's Fair in Love, War, and High School)
Brandon Sanderson (The Mistborn series)
Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game)
Jessica Day George (Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow)

I could go on, but that's a pretty good start. :)

AmandaD also asked: What are your favorite movies?

Much Ado about Nothing, A Knight's Tale, and some of the old Hitchcock greats like Charade and Wait until Dark. I also love old musicals like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and The Slipper and the Rose.

JustRandi asked: If you could write and be successful in any genre, would you choose a different one?

Ideally, I'd love to write in three or four genres. My next book is a slight genre switch, going from historical romance to contemporary women's fiction. I have really enjoyed writing historical fiction, but some day it would be fun to branch out into murder mysteries or young adult fantasies.

She also asked: When your husband isn't coming home for dinner, do you still cook?
Rarely. The kids are old enough now to cook a bit themselves, so I let them have at it with pancakes or macaroni and cheese.

QueenMemory asked several questions:

Who is your favorite actor?
One of my favorites was Heath Ledger (hence A Knight's Tale being in my list of top movies). I also love Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Kenneth Brannaugh.

What is your favorite family activity?
I love a good family game night. The few times we've gone camping or have just gone up the canyon for a campfire and dinner have been awesome too.

How did you meet your husband?
We were cha-cha partners on one of BYU's summer ballroom teams. I wrote all about it here.

Who is your favorite fan?
My mom. I love how everywhere she goes, she brags about me and my books, even in the most obscure places. She's bragged in the streets of Jerusalem and at a health food store in Helsinki. It's awesome.

Do you teach knitting?
Not unless you're my eleven-year-old daughter, and even then, it's a frustrating experience!

Luisa asked:
Have you gotten fan mail? If so, how have you handled it?
I get some, but not tons. I try to answer every letter or e-mail I get. I also keep them all. Writers tends to swing between great self-confidence and absolute despair so often that I need to read something positive when I'm feeling like I'm kidding myself.

Amelia's questions:

What was the process of getting your first book published?
Lots of writing, submitting, getting rejected, networking, getting critiqued, and not giving up. Part II and Part III of my Writing Journey series cover most of the story of my first book.

How do you handle criticism from an editor/publisher?
I've been in a critique group for over nine years, so I've got a pretty thick skin. I will say it's easier to take criticism from my group (since I know and trust them implicitly, thanks to our long history together) than others, but my editors have always been great too.

As a writer, you have to reach the point where you know in your heart that criticism from editors is not a personal attack. In my experience, it's always been aimed at improving the work. How could I not welcome that? I may not agree with everything, but I don't get upset over suggestions and criticism, and we always find common ground. I've been very lucky with the editors I've had; they're both excellent at what they do.

Who are your favorite authors?
Aside from the LDS writers I listed above, of course there's L. M. Montgomery. I also love Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Harper Lee, C. S. Lewis, and John Steinbeck.

And for the record, I despise Faulkner.

Today's tour stop:

Monday, March 09, 2009

A Week FULL of Giveaways!

As part of the celebration for the release of my book Tower of Strength, I'm doing a giveaway that will last through Saturday, with winners drawn every single day! (Can I hear a woot, woot!)

I have lots of sponsors providing oodles of prizes, and trust me; you'll want to win!

When you enter, you'll be automatically eligible for each day's drawing, so you don't have to come back every day to keep entering (just to see if you won!). You'll especially want to enter for a chance to win Saturday's grand prize. (See below. Oooh, yeah.)

First, the prizes:
See all the great stuff my sponsors are giving away and then read below for how to enter to win them (including how to get up to THIRTEEN entries!)

Here's what you're entering for:

1) Remember my post about designing a perfume for Tabitha in Tower of Strength? Now you get a chance to win a 2. oz bottle of "Tabitha" (valued at $24.95). The rose scent is tempered with China musk and gets a slight kick from a drop of juniper. I don't usually like floral scents, but the rose is subtle, and the entire scent is totally awesome. It's a soft perfume, not at all overpowering.

I use the Tabitha perfume and hand lotion every single day. LOVE it!

To learn more about the Tabitha scent click HERE, and to find out more about Urban Botanics, visit THIS PAGE.

2) One of my oldest bloggy friends, Luisa, is known as the consummate cook, and she has finally put some of her recipes together into one place for the rest of us who love food and want a taste of her brilliance.

She's giving away a copy of her cookbook, Comfortably Yum: Food for Body and Spirit. Visit her blog, Novembrance.

3) If you've seen my book trailer, you've heard the work of Sherrie Shepherd, an extremely talented musician. (Hearing her stuff has gotten my teenager son excited about playing hymns on the piano. That's got to be a super power.)

Sherrie has a CD called Solitude coming out soon. I personally can't wait! You can pre-order the CD at her website HERE and listen to more of her music HERE. One of today's winners will receive an advance-release copy of Solitude.

1) Today's first prize is handmade by Jenn, who sells darling necklaces and scented soaps at Handmade from the Heart.

She's giving away a necklace with her most popular pendant, the open circle:

The winner gets to choose a sentiment, names, or a special word to be stamped into the pendant. Then they'll choose a glass pearl in light pink, cream, or charcoal to hang from the center, or a sweet, stirling charm to finish it off. Value: $25.00.

2) You'll also be entering to win Brittany Mangus's book Prepare Now for the Temple, a great guide for those getting ready to go through the temple for the first time, written especially for women.

3) Then two lucky winners will receive copes of the new CD An Angel to Watch over Me, a musical tribute to mothers. It includes music from Joshua Creek, Jessie Clark Funk, Jenny Jordan Frogley, Dave Blasucci, Lyndsi Houskeeper, Lauri Carrigan, and more. The CDs are donated by my publisher, Covenant Communications.

1) April of April Showers (and the designer of my cool bloggy giveaway button . . . let's give her some props!) is giving away a personal blog header, designed especially for your blog.

(I'm tempted to rig the drawing so I get it . . . I won't, of course, but I seriously do need a header on this thing, and I like April's work.)

Check her out HERE, where you can see some of her stuff. (She's awesome, isn't she?)

2) Sandra is offering an Urban Botanic Parfume gift collection using her new scent, "White Pearl," inspired by Tower of Strength, a $45 value.

The scent is a light, refreshing blend of coconut, rose, and white musk. It's very feminine.

The gift pack includes 3 Urban Botanic products scented with "White Pearl": Parfume spray, Nourishing Body Lotion (honestly, the UB lotion is my favorite, as if I haven't said that enough times lately) and a Refreshing Shower Gel.

Plus, a bit of fun news: If a man wins this prize, he'll get the gift pack in a scent Sandra designed for the hero of Tower of Strength, Samuel, called "Timeless." The UB shower gel doubles as a shaving gel, and the lotion is a great after shave. "Timeless" is masculine but not overpowering. I really like it.

(If a woman wins and wants the gift pack for the man in her life, I'm sure Sandra would be happy to oblige.)

Visit Sandra's site, Your Scent Your Way.

(A note on the two UB scents: "Tabitha" is more along the lines of a soothing Bath & Body smell that lingers, while "White Pearl" is more of a feminine, perfumy scent--if that makes any sense. They're both awesome, but quite different.)

3) Today you also get a chance to win Rebecca Irvine's new CD, Adventures with the Word of God. (If you have kids, you'll definitely want this to help with studying scriptures!)

More about the CD: Do your children's eyes gloss over as soon as family scripture study starts? Adventures with the Word of God is exactly what you need to get them excited about scripture study.

Interactive scripture reading makes family study fun for the whole family. Help your children learn and understand gospel principles directly from the scriptures with a year's worth of scripture study themes, such as:

  • The family proclamation

  • Pioneers

  • President Hinckley's "Be's"

  • Charity

  • Testimony

Together, your family can study and learn from sets of verses on similar topics, which helps children to better understand the language of the scriptures. Helpful hints are included to provide additional ways to encourage children to pay closer attention during family study time. With this handy helper, children can gain the tools they need to begin personal scripture study and increase their individual testimonies.

4) UPDATE: This is a NEW prize just added to the giveaway:

A copy of The Worldwide Ward Cookbook, by Deanna Buxton!

If you don't win but live in Utah County, no worries: the author will be the center of, "Confessions of a Chocoholic Cook," an event at the Scera lobby in Orem, on March 18. It's FREE, but you must RSVP by the 16th to covenant promotions at gmail dot com.

Covenant has again generously donated 2 copies (so there'll be 2 winners!) of another music CD, this time Grammy-nominated pianist Glenn Hatch's, "Love Notes: 24 Romantic Favorites." Songs include the love theme from Somewhere in Time, Clair de lune, "Think of Me" from The Phantom of the Opera, and many more. Gorgeous music.

2) SLC Baby Bandz is donating a great gift pack that includes a Scandinavian Ribbon Bow, a Rose Garden (Hot Pink) clip, White Daisy clip, and a white hair band, a total value of $15.00 (tax included). All three accessories attach to the baby band or can be worn separately as hair clips, so it's great for all ages.

Be sure to check out their other products HERE.

3) This darling bib from Sew Sara has a crew neck (like a T-shirt) and pulls easily over baby's head. It fits babies all the way up to toddlers! Sara's 2 & 3-year-old kids STILL wear them!

The best part is that kids can't easily take off the bib. She uses 100% cotton fabric on the front, and the funky bird and tree applique scream, "Spring!" (Something I think we're all dying for about now.) The back is plush cotton chenille and the edges are double-stitched with a zig zag edge. Very fun and hip! Measures approx. 11.5" wide x 16.5" long--generously sized for lots of coverage.

Visit the Sew Sara website to see more of her darling products.

Grand Prize time, people!

The Gold Gift Basket from Colorado Kernels, my hands-down favorite gourmet popcorn company EVER.

Here's what you get:

  • Tall 12oz. Chocolate Avalanche

  • Tall 12oz. River Bottom Crunch

  • Tall 3oz. Cheddar Cheese

  • 6oz. Cherry Cordial

  • 6oz. Caramel Corn

  • 6oz. Seasonal Flavor

HO-LY YUM! (River Bottom Crunch is totally one of my favorites. And Cherry Cordial. Okay, and Chocolate Avalanche. Dang. Maybe I shouldn't be giving this one away . . . I want it!)

The whole shebang is valued at $40.

Thanks to all of my sponsors! Be sure to visit them. They all rock!

Simply leave a comment on this post!

Be sure I can contact you if you win, whether it's through you own blog or through an e-mail address in your comment. If I don't get a response within a day of the winners being announced, I'll draw another name.

For TWO MORE entries, mention the giveaway on your blog and link back to this post (not just my blog; use this post's permalink).

For FIVE MORE entries, put this handy-dandy button on your sidebar and have it link back to this post.

(Right click on the image and save it to your computer. Then add it as a gadget in your sidebar. In blogger, when you do that, you have an option of telling it where to link to. Add this post's permalink there so the button clicks back here.)

And for FIVE MORE entries (for a possible THIRTEEN total entries!), post the book trailer for Tower of Strength on your blog.

Find the trailer on YouTube here. (I was going to give you the embedding code, but it didn't work for some reason. As always, I'm a techno-idiot.) From YouTube, copy and paste the embedding code into your blog post (under the "edit HTML" tab). Easy peasy.

To simplify things, feel free to post about (and link to) the giveaway AND post the trailer all on the same post (that's 7 extra entries for you in one fell swoop). I'm helpful like that.

For any extra entries you do, be sure to drop me a line either in the comments or via e-mail to let me know you've linked, posted the button, and/or posted the trailer so I can be sure to add all of your extra entries to my list before I do the random number generator thingy.

WINNERS will be drawn each morning and announced here.

Ready . . . set . . . go!

Today's tour stops:
Pulsipher Predilictions
Blok Thoughts
Tristi's Takes


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