Friday, May 29, 2009

Writing Journey: Part XVI

Catch up on the rest of this series HERE.

So I waited nervously for my big, scary revisions call from my new editor, Kirk.

The phone rang. I answered, my heart picking up its pace. He asked how I was doing, shooting the proverbial breeze for a few minutes. I wasn't so good at shooting the breeze. My leg was bobbing up and down with nerves. I grabbed a pen in a death grip then found some paper to take notes with.

And then things got interesting. 

See, with my publisher, each manuscript gets three readers evaluating it, and each reader fills out a gigantic form (something like 12 pages long) about the manuscript. I still have the evals from my first five books.

Kirk didn't send me the evals for this one. I still don't have them. I've never laid eyes on them. 

Instead, we discussed them over the phone. I wasn't sure what I thought of that at first. On one hand, it's nice to see directly what someone said about the manuscript, to get criticism or praise from the horse's mouth, as it were.

On the other, getting criticism is harder from a nameless entity than it is from my critique group (friends I'd trust my life with) or my editor (someone I know is out for the best book we can make together). And sure, every so often, an eval will have a random comment that feels personal and sticks with you like a burr.

So in hindsight, I'm glad I've never seen the evals for Tower of Strength. Kirk and I discussed what needed discussing, and I heard both the good and the bad from him.

The conversation went something like this: 

"Two of the readers thought such-and-such. What do you think?" 

He actually had me weigh in on every topic. Often I agreed that the readers had a point.

He'd follow-up with, "Do you have any ideas for how to change it?"

Hmm. Let me think. We brainstormed together, and quite often I'd come up with a solution that we both agreed would work.

Each topic went about the same way. Very much, "Here's an issue. What you do think about it?"

In one or two cases, I outright disagreed with an eval and didn't want to change anything about the issue. Kirk was good with that. In those cases, he could totally see my point. So we moved on to the next thing.

Once he mentioned a reader comment that he disagreed with it and that I should ignore. Rock on. (By this point, I was really liking Kirk . . .)

At the end of the conversation, I had one-page list of notes (which I really didn't need to take; Kirk e-mailed me the same list later that day). Only one note would even remotely take time or much thinking. (And that one did make me do a lot of thinking and reworking, but it was so worth it.)

I loved how Kirk really cared about my opinion. A couple of times when I expressed a reason for why I'd written something a certain way that went against the evals, we worked together to find a way to make the book better while still keeping my original vision in the process.

I could tell he was in my corner the whole way. I hung up the phone in a fantastic mood. Kirk got me and was willing to work with me not only to make a better book but to make me happy as well. Yes! 

The entire conversation lasted about 25 minutes and was probably the most painless call it could have been.

I got the rewrites done in all of two (easy-going) weeks. Then came the waiting and the waiting for the edit to arrive.

I was about to take a trip, and the edit would be ready about the same time. Kirk asked if I'd like to have it with me to read on the plane. I declined, preferring not to work during a vacation and promising to get right on it when I got home.

When I returned and opened the package, I was prepared for the usual editing process: take out my red pen and those sticky flags to mark anything I disagreed with and/or wanted changed (or changed back, as the case may be . . . remember my STET-craziness with Spires?). I assumed I'd spend several days, maybe even a week, going over the entire manuscript to read every red mark and note with a fine-toothed comb.

Once again, Kirk surprised me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

WNW: The Ryon's Tale?

Funny story connected to an interesting linguistic phenomenon.

First, the language part, then the story.

It's commonly known that many Asian languages (such as Chinese and Japanese) don't have the typical [r] and [l] sounds that we have in English, and that native Asians learning English as a second language often mix up the two and/or struggle to make them sound different at all. Many can't even hear the difference.

This fact is often used for jokes in television and movies, such as a Japanese person intending to say, "clap" but who instead says, "crap." There are cruder examples, but I'll spare you.

According to our favorite online encyclopedia, the Japanese R is pronounced much like a soft Spanish R, where you flap your tongue against the palate behind your teeth. It's not at all like the English R. Plus, Japanese has no comparable L sound.

The article also states that the Chinese "R" really isn't one in the English sense. Instead, it's a "voiced retroflex fricative," which means it's more of a [zh] sound than an [r] as we'd know it. So again, Chinese people have no context for the English [r] and [l].

If you've lasted this long, you get to have the funny story part:

My maiden name is Luthy. (Pronounced like "Lucy" with a lisp. Not Lutchy. Not Loochy. Not Lutty. LUTHY. Got it? Good.)

As I've mentioned probably six hundred times, my dad has a Ph.D. in linguistics and taught at BYU until his recent retirement. He often had foreign students in his classes. 

An Asian student once turned in a paper on this very concept: the difficulty in pronouncing  [r] and [l] for Asian speakers of English.

I have no idea how good the paper itself was, but this student apparently also struggled with the problem and needed to brush up on distinguishing between the two sounds . . .

because the top of his paper listed his teacher as "Dr. Ruthy."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I'm a Nerd Elsewhere, Too!

I first "met" Jordan McCollum in bloggy land. I learned a lot about blogging and her philosophy on motherhood (one close to my heart) from her personal blog, MamaBlogga (see the link below).

Not long after, I got to be the guest-judge for Scribbit's monthly Write Away contest. The judging was totally blind; I was sent the entries without any author names on them. As I read through them and marked them up, putting them in various stacks (maybe, definitely no, etc.), one entry stood out from all the rest. I deemed it the winner.

I found out later that the winning entry was Jordan's. Dude, the girl can write.

Shortly thereafter, she came to one of my book signings and kept me company for a good half hour. (So did Wonder Woman . . . thanks for that! It was so fun!). 

I discovered during our chat that Jordan was an actual linguistics major (Hello!!! One of my favorite subjects ever . . . even though I'm an amateur and don't have a degree in it).

Then I about passed out when she mentioned knowing  about the Kalevala (a book near and dear to my heart, the collection of Finnish mythology/folktales). Who in the world knows about the Kalevala (besides J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and other folks who are into Norse mythology . . . like Jessica Day George? Oh, and Burt Wilson, who began the entire BYU folklore program because of the Kalevala, but I digress).

At BYU, Jordan had even heard my dad lecture about the Kalevala. (When I was a freshman, Dad was the Linguistics chair and had a nice, big office with a couch. I took a few naps there when I was wiped, since most of my classes were in the humanities building anyway.) Dad retired as Associate Dean of Humanities. So I think I went up a coolness point or two when Jordan realized I'm his daughter. (And that was a really cool lecture, Dad.) 

Jordan herself went up a few coolness points for me when I found out her dad also went on a mission to Finland like mine did, which was part of the reason she became interested in linguistics, and that she can pronounce Finnish words almost perfectly.

In addition to being a great blogger (check out MamaBlogga when you need a boost as a mom), she's also a writer, professionally and otherwise. She's working on some novels right now, so at that book signing, I convinced her to come to the LDStorymakers conference in April.

While at the conference, she asked me to guest post on her new writing blog, specifically on her May theme: verbs. I said sure! I'd love to!

But then my brain froze, taking a post-conference vacation somewhere along the way, because it took me three weeks (or so) to come up with something interesting to say about verbs that would be Jordan-worthy. (She'd already covered passive versus active and modals and all kinds of good stuff. Not that I was intimidated or anything. Not at all . . . nope . . .)

Today my guest post is up! It is about verbs, but specifically about verbs in dialogue tags, so I think it's a good refresher for all fiction writers out there.

Check it out here!

(In it, I refer to a horrid, self-published book, but not by name, because I'm not cruel. I still have the book more than a decade later. It's like a train-wreck I can't stop looking at. I flip through it when I need a good laugh or when I need to remind myself that yes, I do know a few things about this craft.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sherrie's Soothing Sounds

Update: If you tried to enter Sherrie's giveaway but couldn't get the comment form to work, try the new link below!

My first contact with Sherrie Shepherd was through her blog. I think I found her through Motherboard, but I don't remember for sure.

She is an absolute doll. Extremely talented, gorgeous, skinny, and even a marathon runner. (And I love her anyway! You can't avoid adoring Sherrie.)

My first contact with her music was when I was looking for something to use on my book trailer for Tower of Strength

All the free music sites I was listening to just didn't hit the spot, and some other sites I found just had bad recordings. Nothing quite worked. And then Sherrie gave me permission to use her arrangement of "Come Thou Fount/If You Could Hie to Kolob" on the trailer (it's cut short on
 the trailer, but it'll give you an idea):

Bingo. It was perfect. I became an immediate fan.

I pre-ordered her new CD of inspirational piano solos, Solitude. Thanks to her pre-release promotion, I got to download the sheet music of one piece, "On the River." My son is the best pianist in the house, and he was thrilled to get it. (The piece has lots of triplets, which will provide just the right challenge for him.)

When my copy of the CD arrived the other day, I popped it into the CD player. No joke here: within seconds, all four of my kids were gathered around, sitting on the floor, listening intently.

My son went on about how he wants to learn to play them all. He also wants to put the songs onto his iPod.

Next child down, a daughter, said the same thing about wanting to play the music herself (she might be a couple of years away from that level, though). I promised that when Sherrie releases a book with all the sheet music, we'll be sure to get a copy.

Next daughter raved: "That is so pretty, Mom! Let's listen to all the songs." (She then proceeded to look over the list and keep changing the one we were listening to. "Let's try this one! Okay, now this one!") I had to stop her and say, "Let's just listen to the whole CD straight through, k?"

Meanwhile, my youngest was happily swaying to the music. She's six, and even she was enthralled.

Let's just say it was a hit in the Lyon household.

Sherrie's doing  a blog giveaway where you can get up to NINE entries. So hop to it!

If you win, give the CD as a gift. Because you know you're going to want to BUY one for yourself anyway!

Do so HERE.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Writing Journey: Part XVI

(I'm not going to link all the other parts anymore. Just click on the "Writers Journey" label to read them!)

Last time in this series, I talked about when the idea for Tower of Strength hit me like a bolt of lightning . . . and then how I had to wait a week to begin it.

For this book, the original drafting was pretty enjoyable. I had a lot of fun writing about Tabitha and Samuel individually as well as together. They both had some fascinating issues that I'd never explored before.

As always, though, a few moments crept in that gave me fits when my critique group saw them. I remember having to rewrite one scene (the one where Will sort of wrecks the printing room) several times to make it work. I've since heard from several readers that it's one of their favorites. (So yay for revisions!)

One big problem I ran into is something I've mentioned several times before, but THIS POST was my biggest rant over it.

This challenge began when I discovered (yes, I discovered it . . . I didn't make it up) that a horse would be a major part of the story.

Holy hannah.

Might as well tell me to write about the life of the jellyfish.

I remember sitting on the couch next to my husband, feeling pale-faced, and telling him, "I just found out that I have to do a ton of research for my new book. Crap!"

(He's used to living with a weird writer. This didn't faze him. I believe he patted my knee and said, "Good luck.")

So I hit the Internet for research with a vengeance. Many a time, I consulted a friend who grew up with horses.

I swear, those horse scenes gave me the biggest stress of the entire book. I rewrote and rewrote and rethought and at times had to restructure and replot, and at times wanted to torch the whole darn thing. But that part of the story became integral to everything else. I couldn't cut it.

Plus, one of the last horse scenes came to me very early on (the one where Samuel comes into the stall when Tabitha's already there . . . trying not to give spoilers here). I wrote it right away and then the rest of the drafting worked toward that scene. It belonged in the book.

Okay, then. Horses it is.

My horse-guru friend told me several things one day that she read weeks later in draft form and insisted were wrong. But I didn't invent them; there's no way I could have, because I didn't know a lick about horses. I'd gone off what she'd told me. But it was still wrong. I had to rewrite. Again.

To be on the safe side, I sent the final manuscript to yet another horse person for verification, and they caught a few more minor things (thankfully, nothing majorly significant that required hair-pulling revisions) to help me get it right (at least I hope). Phew.

Then I had a couple of critique friends read the whole thing front to back. They pointed out some flaws and holes. As always, they were right; I needed to fill in a few spots. (It's complete in my head . . . why doesn't it just come out on the page that way?!)

I turned it in and hoped for the best. This time, I was particularly nervous, because I was in the hands of a new editor. He wasn't new at editing by any means, but he was new to me.

I'd been exceeding lucky in that I'd had the same, very talented editor, Angela, for five books in a row. I trusted her judgment implicitly. She'd held my hand and talked me off many a wall and went to bat for me lots of times.

Plus, I'm not a person who deals well with change. So as grateful that I was to be handed over to Kirk (who I'd heard great things about), I was anxious about what the editing process would be like with someone else.

After the book was accepted, Kirk called. He asked if we could schedule a phone conference to discuss revisions.

Gulp. I'd never had an editorial phone conference. I mean, sure, Angela had called a few times here and there to clarify sentences or to ask a question about something small, but we'd never had a . . . DUN-DUN-DUN REWRITES DISCUSSION.

Did this mean there would be massive changes to make? I didn't think my nerves could handle another round of major rewrites of the likes I'd gone through with Spires.

I tried to sound all chipper when we scheduled it, but inside, I was an inch away from freaking out.

Some people had trouble ordering There, Their, They're yesterday. Some had success waiting longer after hitting the "Buy Now" button. Others have found that the site works better through Firefox. If you can't get it to work, e-mail me directly. I can e-mail an invoice via PayPal so you can get it!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Some People Like Me!

Two posts in the last two days have put smiles on my face. The most recent was from long-time friend Tristi Pinkston, whom I'm known for five or six years now. She's a riot, and I love being around her and even getting the occasional e-mails along the lines of, "Is this sentence using lay/lie right?" or "What about this comma?" 

When my grammar book, There, Their, They're: A No-Tears Guide to Grammar from the Word Nerd, Tristi was the very first person to order it from the site. Her copy arrived yesterday, and then she posted one of the coolest things ever. Go check it out. It brought me much joy, even if the first paragraph is entirely fictional.

One piece of very good news for people wanting to order online: 
My husband created a new e-store where you can get the book for about half the shipping costs as the "real" site. Instead of four or five dollars for shipping (on an eight-and-change dollar book, hello), it's only two bucks for shipping on our new site.

The site is called Lyfe Books. Since it uses PayPal, you can leave a note saying whether you want your copy autographed and/or what inscription you want in it.

The other cool post was yesterday, when I received a bloggy award from In Time Out at by the hair of my chinny chin chin:
Here's the purpose and instructions for the NENO'S Award:
*a dedication for those who love blogging and love to encourage friendships through blogging.
* to seek the reasons why we all love blogging.
* put the award in one post as soon as you receive it.
* don't forget to mention the person who gives you the award.
* answer the award's question by writing the reason why you love blogging.
* tag and distribute the award to as many people as you like.
* don't forget to notify the award receivers and put their links in your post.

Thanks so much! I'm honored!

So why do I love blogging? 
I have always loved writing, and this is a great outlet for that. While my first love is writing novels and always will be, there's something intimate and immediate about blogging that you can't get anywhere else.

But possibly the best part is the friendships I've made--what a totally unexpected but wonderful thing! Some of them I've never met in person, but I consider them dear friends anyway. Blogging is truly an amazing thing.

I'm passing the award to:

Is it Just Me? A blogger who never fails to make me laugh and lift my day. Her Friday Flair posts are one of my favorite parts of my weeks.

Alison Wonderland Few people keep it as real as she does. She's made me laugh and cry. She's awesome. 

Jordan McCollum A fellow word nerd. Need I say more?

Regarding Annie A great writer about motherhood, wifehood, and life in general. She's also a weekly newspaper columnist.

Summer's Nook A mom and a wife . . . and a survivor. She writes about some painful times with her health with such intense honesty that I can't help but stand in awe.

Happy Meets Crazy One of the first bloggers I met in real life, and she's downright awesome. She's got one funny personality, and she's very open about her struggles with things like depression . . . something I can relate to all too well.

Temporary? Insanity If you've read her blog for any length of time, you know why she's listed here. 'Nough said.

Novembrance One of my dearest bloggy friends. I doubt I'd be blogging as I am without her influence. (Her cookbook is now available! Go buy it!)

I could go on and on with a gigantic list, but I'll stop there. 

(Remember, you can order There, Their, They're with far less shipping at Lyfe Books! Thanks again for the mention, Tristi! You rock!)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

WNW: (Parentheses) and [Brackets]

A little while ago, Heatherlyn asked two questions about parentheses.

1) How do you handle punctuation with parentheses, particularly with question marks?

The vast majority of the time, the punctuation will go outside the parentheses:

Jen accidentally dropped her cell phone into the toilet (no big loss; she hated her phone anyway).

The comment inside the parentheses is just that: an aside. It's not a sentence in and of itself but part of the larger one. Because of that, you end the big sentence with a period on the outside of the closing parenthesis.

With commas, put them on the outside. There might be a situation where inside is correct, but I can't think of one. 

As for question marks inside or outside the parentheses, the answer to that is: it depends.

Ask yourself: Is the inserted (parenthetical) thought a question itself, or is the full sentence the question? That'll tell you where the question mark belongs.

A question mark goes INSIDE if the parenthetical is a question:
Jen accidentally dropped her cell phone into the toilet (didn't she hate that phone anyway?).

If the entire sentence is the question, the question mark goes OUTSIDE:
Didn't Jen say she dropped her cell phone (which she hated anyway)?

2) Can you do parentheses within parentheses?
Sort of, yes. You can definitely have a parenthetical thought inside another one. 

But . . . when you do that, it's similar to when you're doing a quote within a quote: you use a different punctuation mark for the second set.

You start with regular parentheses, and then for the second set, use brackets. Be sure to close the brackets before you close the parentheses:

Jen accidentally dropped her cell phone into the toilet (no big loss [she hated the color anyway], but the phone was a gift).

Hope that helps!

Note for picky readers: Yes, I know that there's a misplaced modifier in that last example. I'm too lazy to fix it.

Bragging rights to readers who know what I'm talking about and can identify it!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Family Time: Priceless

This weekend, we made the leap and bought an annual pass that will allow us to camp whenever we want without having to pay the fee to get up the canyon.

This was big for us. For a variety of reasons, we haven't camped in years. We used to go more, and I thought our older kids at least had happy memories from those times, especially the trips we took with my in-laws and the ones we went on with my dad. It was a bit startling when #3 said she had no memory of ever sleeping in a tent. She'll be ten soon.

What the what?

Then I remembered that one of our big camping trips was while my sister and I were both 8 months pregnant. I was pregnant #3. Of course she didn't remember sleeping in that tent. (Fun night of sleeping that was, let me tell you.) So yeah, it had been too long.

We picked an early weekend in the season mostly because we wanted to avoid the Memorial Day camping rush  and because so many other weekends are already getting sucked up for the summer with things like Girls Camp (HOW do I have a daughter old enough for THAT?!) and Scout Camp.

But as the weekend approached, I started feeling guilty. Three of our kids ended up with party invitations for Friday, including my dear little kindergartner who'd never been to a birthday party for someone not in our neighborhood. This was a class friend inviting her. Wow! But we had to reluctantly RSVP our regrets. 

Friday afternoon, we packed up the minivan until we were up to our gills, drove up the canyon, and picked out our site. We set up the tent as a family, hung out by the fire, read stories aloud, roasted hot dogs and made s'mores and did a bunch of other camping-type things.

No Nintendo DS interrupted the time. No iPods came along. I brought a book, but didn't open it. The time was purely hanging out with family. The kids were silly. They had a ball just hanging out with us and talking. They snuggled with Mom and Dad. They warmed up by the fire. When it was close to bedtime, we holed up in the tent and played a game of Outburst, Jr.

At one point early in the evening, we heard, "I'm so glad we came. This is a lot more fun than any party."

And the response: "No kidding! I don't understand people who say they don't like camping. It's so fun!"

The only negatives:
-Our youngest ran across the pavement in an eager rush to get somewhere, biffed it, and got a fat lip and a pretty good scraped across one cheek.
-In the tent, a plastic lantern fell and hit #3 on the head, giving her a goose egg.
-We picked a site next to a river. May nights are already on the cold side, but we learned that a river thirty feet away will make you FREEZE at night. Just a word to the wise.

I still have a bunch of supplies to put away and smoky clothes to wash, and all day Sunday, we were all kind of wiped, but it was a happy kind of wiped.

I can't wait to use our pass again. It was the best time we've had as a family in a long time. 

And this time, they're all old enough to remember it!

Maybe next summer, Grandpa can join us, assuming he and Mom aren't given another calling the minute they get back this fall from their latest mission. (Let's all knock on wood really hard. Five years of straight service is enough to deserve a break, right? RIGHT?)

The best part for me: no distractions. No technology. No responsibilities. Just one-on-one time with family, talking and being together.

I think we'll be doing more of that. Just a guess.

Friday, May 15, 2009

On Inspiration

I've chronicled how some of my characters and stories "show up" in my head fully formed. Several readers have found that interesting. 

Let's debunk a myth right now: For me, such "inspiration" does not drop from the sky out of nowhere, even if that's how it appears in the moment.

In every case, there's been a lot of work done beforehand. I've done weeks of research. I've come across kernels of ideas or facts that might work well in a story. I dwell on those for days, trying come up with ways to use them in a plot. I might run across a news story or read something in a book that sparks an idea. I think about types of story lines and characters. As best I can, I immerse myself in the location the book will take place to get to know its "personality."

All of this is effort, which is entirely in my head, is major part of my creative process at work. 

It helps me uncover dozens of puzzle pieces that then float around. I have to sort through the pieces: which ones belong in the book I'm going to write and which ones don't? I have to look at what's left (often I don't sort them perfectly and have to resort) and then figure out how they fit together into a cohesive picture.

There's a lot of thinking involved, a lot of turning off the car radio and letting my brain ponder as I drive. A lot of daydreaming while I'm making dinner or folding laundry. A lot of jotting down random notes that only I would understand the meaning of.

Then, and only then, while I'm in another one of those moments where I can ponder and still do some brainless activity (like drying my hair) do I have those magical moments where two or three of those puzzle pieces snap together in one quick moment, and I see the vision of what the full picture just might look like. 

One bit of irony is that the harder I try to chase the inspiration, the more it eludes me. I have to let it percolate mentally, reaching out with tendrils, coaxing it with whispers to come out of the corner and reveal itself.

Sometimes the process takes longer than others, and that's when I start to panic. What if there isn't a story hiding in the shadows this time? What if I can never coax this one out?

But that's usually the point where the idea, unbeknownst to me, is already maturing somewhere in my head. That's when the puzzle pieces are drawing near one another, getting ready to click together into a new character, a line of dialogue, or a specific scene.

I imagine some writers do have magical moments of inspiration that come out of nowhere, but mine always arrive as the reward for lots of ground work.

A section of Stephen King's On Writing describes writing as uncovering a fossil, uncovering what's already there. I can relate to that. The longer I think and work, the more of the dirt is brushed away. At some point, the bones of the story will be exposed for the first time--but not without all that dirt clearing first.

That's how I work, anyway. I'm sure there are as many ways as there are writers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

WNW: Celebration! It's HERE!

Finally! After a number of techno-delays, There, Their, They're: A No-Tears Guide to Grammar from the Word Nerd  is officially available for order. Time to par-tay!

To order, visit the e-store by clicking on the pretty cover image on the sidebar. (The cover should show up on that page in a couple of days.)

Thanks to Tristi and Heather of the EO, who already ordered their copies!

For those who pre-ordered at the conference, I'll ship them to you just as soon as I have them in hand. Those lucky people don't have to pay for shipping. Booyah for them! Their copies are on the way to me as I type.

And of course, Lara and Mel will get their free copies as a thanks for their help coming up with the title.

No great WNW lesson today. I'm too excited to think along those lines. But if you really need a word nerd fix, check out Jordan McCollum's blog

She's an even bigger word nerd than I am, and I mean that as the highest possible compliment!

A recent post of her explained passive voice and debunked a peeve of mine: people claiming that "was -ing" verbs are passive. They are not passive. Thank you, Jordan for explaining that to people! (Seriously, if you like WNW-type stuff, check her out.)
I've been asked to guest blog (see, now that was passive) during May, a month she's focusing on verbs. (Get it? Verbs during MAY?! A verb? Hahahaa!) I hope I can do her justice. 

Jordan is an actual linguistics major. So . . . no pressure or anything. :) 

I've had the chance to meet her a couple of times now, and she's awesome.

Next Wednesday I'll be back in the saddle addressing Heatherlyn's questions: 
1) How do you handle punctuation (specifically question marks) with parentheses? 
2) Can you have parentheses within parentheses?

If you have grammar, usage, or punctuation questions (or peeves!), feel free to send them in. I keep a running list, so I may well use them on a WNW post and/or include them in a future edition of There, Their, They're.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Random Claims to Fame

I happen to have some friends and acquaintances from years gone by who ended up doing cool "famousy" things in the entertainment industry. It's reached a rather annoying level for family members when I watch LDS movies, because I yell out, "I was in a play with her!" or, "I went to high school with him!" or I start telling a story about so-and-so.

Just for the total gee whiz of it, here's a list of some of people I have connections with--my random claims to fame.

Tayva Patch
She pulled my hair on stage. Rather, she pulled my wig. I was Rapunzel and she was the Baker's Wife in Into the Woods. 

We had a separate wig piece clothes-pinned to the wig that she'd pull off in one scene. Each night before I climbed my tower, I clipped it on. Before one show as we got dressed, she said, "Thanks so much for having the hair piece there. I keep wondering what I'd do if it wasn't."

Of course, Murphy's Law kicked in. That very night, the piece FELL OFF the clothespin as I climbed the tower. I had no idea. I dropped the long wig. She searched for the piece, looked up at me in a panic and whispered, "It's not here!" I whispered back, "Yes, it is!" She ended up ripping a wad of actual wig strands and using that for the rest of the play. Cute.

Every performance after that, I held onto the extra wig piece until I dropped the whole wig. That way, if it fell off the clothespin, it would land on stage. Of course, we never did have another malfunction.

Tayva has appeared in several LDS films, including Brigham City as the FBI agent and The Hometeachers as Sissy, the trashy RV lady (I almost didn't recognize her in that one). But most people probably know her best as Lucy Mack Smith from the new Joseph Smith movie. You can see her in costume from that film. The picture came out tiny. I hope you can click on it to enlarge. If not, go here.

Mindy B. Young
I knew her as Mindy Berry when we were in a youth theater production of Joseph and, the following summer, in Fiddler together. In the former, she played Potiphar's wife. She was good at that role.

So good that when the director found out that a Seventy (one of our church's upper leaders) would be in the audience, she swore the rest of the cast to secrecy. Mindy wouldn't be seductive enough if she knew he was watching!

You might recognize Mindy from her role as Sister North, the funny, loud lady in Baptists at Our Barbecue. She's very calm-looking in this picture. Very unlike her character in the movie. 

David Nibley
I graduated a year behind him from the same high school. Then his best friend married my little sister. (I know! We're practically related!) You'd probably know him from his starring role in The Best Two Years and as Alvin in the Joseph Smith movie. Thanks to my connections, I was able to snag him as the entertainment for the 2008 LDStorymakers conference, where he did a great stand-up routine.

He's also in a scene from High School Musical 2 (when the scouts take Zac's character to dinner). I went up a few coolness points in my daughters' eyes when I pointed out Dave and said I knew him. Check out his website. He's got some awesome stuff on it.

Emmelyn Thayer
Yet another person from the Joseph Smith movie. I've known Emmie for more years than I'll admit to. Our fathers have been friends as professors and fishing buddies even longer. I wrote about her before on this post where I described some of her early theatrics. She's one talented actress, let me tell you.

Some readers will recognize her as Mary Fielding (Hyrum's wife) from the Joseph Smith movie. Em is absolutely gorgeous (visit her website to see her in her glory), but I'm putting an image here where she's in that more recognizable role even though this picture  doesn't do her justice. Apparently, some of the footage of her as Mary Fielding was used in the movie Emma. Oh, and Em's blog is awesome.

Maureen . . . 
Dang. I think that was her name, but I'm forgetting. She appears in The Hometeachers as the home teachee lady with the dog, and she has an English accent. I can't find her on IMDB. She played Jack's Mother in our production of Into the Woods until she had to pull out halfway through due to some reason I don't recall and another lady replaced her.

Kurk Davidson
He was "my" (Rapunzel's) prince, from Into the Woods. He's very talented, but I have to say that it was odd playing opposite someone who could have almost been my father. I was 18, while he was in his thirties somewhere. Hwent on to become an understudy for Jean Valjean in Les Miserables.

Christopher Holmes
Until I decided to do this post, I didn't know for sure whether our Pharaoh from Joseph had gone on to big things, although I was pretty darn sure he had, because at 17 he already had an amazing voice and had been involved with the Utah Opera Company. 

Once at a cast hangout, I heard him sing "Stars" from Les Mis when someone just asked him to do it on a lark. I about fell over. A Google search later turned up that yes, indeed, Chris has made a name for himself in the opera world.

Heather Brown
She's a little sister to one of my many thespian high school buddies, and plays Mary in the most current Church movie about the birth of Christ. A lot of footage from that is also used in the film Testaments: One Fold, One Shepherd and images of it are on pass-along cards showing the holy family. I didn't realize it was her when I first saw the film (I hadn't seen Heather since she was in junior high, probably), but when her sister mentioned Heather as having the role, I had a V-8 moment. Duh. Yes, it most definitely is her. 

Couldn't find a picture--sorry. (But you might have the DVD at home. Check it out!)

Backstage secret: After the initial filming, they had her come back for a few more shots. By then, she'd gotten braces, so for all those parts, her mouth is closed and covering her teeth. She does a lot of closed-lipped smiling, and that's why; of course Mary didn't have braces!

Derryl Yeager
I took jazz classes from him and even performed at a recital a few feet away from him while he danced with our class. No pressure . . . actually, lots of pressure. I fell out of a turn, I was so freaked.

He's performed on Broadway and in film (most notably the "My, you are big," guy in Girls Just Want to Have Fun), but LDS people will most likely recognize him from another film. It took me years to see him in that role and take him seriously, because I couldn't get the Derryl I knew out of my head. (Watch his movements. You can totally tell he's a dancer.)

I'm probably missing someone, but that's the basic list of some of the people I've crossed paths with. It's kinda fun to have even small connections to them.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Writing Journey: Part XV

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

Many times over the years while doing events for my temple novels, I'd have people excited about one book or another specifically because of the temple it features. Maybe their daughter attended Utah State in Logan, or the reader was married in St. George or their parents were married in Salt Lake. 

But I frequently got one  question: What about Manti? 

Turns out that Manti is one of the most popular temples. More people seem to have a personal connection with it than to the others.

"It's next," I said every time.

But yeah . . . no pressure on writing a book about that one. 

As I'd done with three prior temples, I spent time seeking out sources about the Manti Temple and the founding of the city. I found a couple of books and two master's theses, all with great information.

But I ran into a couple of problems. 

First, most of the information I found was either about the founding of the city or about later improvements to the temple. Sure, there was stuff about the groundbreaking and fundraising and whatnot, but I wanted meaty information about the construction itself.

Second, I wanted the book to be set in the 1880s when the temple was well underway. But after reading about the settlement of Manti, I also wanted significant story elements from that era. Those two didn't really fit, because a twenty-something main character in the 1880s wouldn't have been born when Manti was settled.


I spent weeks sort of freaking out because I had no characters and no plot. I half wished I was doing another Shakespeare retelling as I had with Spires, because at least then I'd have a skeleton of a story to go by.

One day, right about the time I was going to panic, I was blow drying my hair (which in and of itself is pretty rare; I'm an air-dry girl). Hair drying is one of those brainless activities like vacuuming and going on a walk during which, I believe, your creative side can work without you always knowing it.

With my hair half dry, a line of dialogue popped into my head. "It's Tab, not Tabby. I am not a cat!"

I grinned into the mirror.

It was as if Tabitha had walked onto my mental stage. I knew who she was. I knew her past. I knew her personality. I knew about her son. I knew some of the challenges ahead of her.

I didn't know a lot about what her story would become once she returned to Manti. I had yet to meet Samuel or Jeremiah or Mantia, for starters, although I did know about the newspaper. 

Most importantly, I knew I had a story, and I couldn't wait to get to the computer to pound out what I'd found and discover more of it.

Only I had yet another minor problem: Easter was in less than a week. I had to sew my three daughters Easter dresses. It was either disappoint my girls, who were counting on me keeping up the tradition, or bottle up the creative energy and let it sit on a shelf for a week.

The dresses won out. But after Easter, you couldn't tear me from the keyboard.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

WNW: Quotes Marks and Italics

Last week's Word Nerd Wednesday talked about using single quotes and double quotes in dialogue. What it didn't go into was when to use quotation marks and  italics in titles.

That's today's topic, a section pulled from There, Their, They're. (For today, let's forget the no-tears guide part; I'm about to cry over all the delays I've had trying to get the book here. Soon, I promise! Soon!)

Quotation Marks versus Italics
First and foremost, never, ever use quote marks or italics when a title is actually acting as a title.

In other words, don’t italicize or put quote marks around your title on your own title page. The title is being a title, not being referred to, so it doesn’t need to be set apart.

Have you ever seen a title on an actual book italicized?

Ever seen a magazine article title with quotes around it at the top of the piece?

Didn’t think so.

On the other hand, when you’re referring to your own work, then your title is not behaving as a title. That's when you need to either italicize or quote mark it, such as in a cover letter or query:

Enclosed is “Please Publish Me,” a fantasy short story of 4,000 words.

Rule of Thumb: Italics and Quotes
Use QUOTE MARKS for things that are SHORT.
Use ITALICS for things that are LONG and/or can be broken into shorter pieces.

Another editor once suggested to me a way to remember this by going back to the days of typewriters, when they used the underline key to represent italics.

A long line reminded her of a bookshelf, or something big that a shelf could hold up.

Quote marks looked like nails or hooks, something that would hold up something little.

Okay, so what constitutes short and long?

Quote marks go around short works.
Poems: “Prometheus,” by Lord Byron
Songs: “The Star Spangled Banner,” by Francis Scott Key
Magazine Articles: “Learning from Lincoln’s Wisdom,” by William Kristol
Short Stories: “A Rose for Emily,” by William Faulkner

Short also means pieces of a bigger work.
Episodes of a TV show: "The Trouble with Tribbles" in Star Trek
Chapters within a book: "The Boy Who Lived: in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Italics set apart larger works.
Novels: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling
Magazines: Time
Television Shows: Star Trek
Movies: Shrek
Ships: The Monitor

Hint: If something can be broken down further, the main title is italicized, and the smaller pieces get quotation marks.

The magazine or newsletter will be in italics, while the articles inside it will be in quotation marks. The TV show will be italicized, while the individual episodes will be quote marks.

I have no clue why ships are in italics. That’s just the rule.

Names: Do You Italicize or Add Quotes to Them?
Which do you use for names? Neither. Basic names (versus titles) get neither italics nor quotation marks. They get plain caps.

For example, all of the following are just names: a brand of soda or jeans, a big mansion (think Tara in Gone with the Wind), and a store.

Just like you wouldn’t italicize or put quotation marks around Hermione’s or Luke Skywalker’s names, you don’t add quote marks or italics to names of places or objects.

Caps are enough for plain old names like Coke, Wrangler, and Macey’s.

(I hope to have good news about the book next WNW!)

Monday, May 04, 2009

A Note to Gymnastics Parents

As the gym has extremely limited seating for parents, please keep in mind that the handful of chairs that line the one available wall are to be claimed by people who will actually use them. Simply stated, they are for the parents.

Note that a one-year-old does not need their own chair. Kudos to you parents with multiple small children for taking your older child to gymnastics class and juggling the other one (or two) on the sidelines.

But be aware that your toddler who spends the class period wandering the gym and jumping on equipment that shouldn't be touched anyway is not using the chair you saved for them. When they do spend time near you, it's on the floor munching fruit snacks, driving toy cars across pads, playing with their dolly, or possibly hanging out on your lap. They're never on the chair.

Furthermore, when a parent who is at least ten years your senior (although, thanks to chipmunk cheeks might not look it) comes looking for a chair to sit on and there is only one left, it behooves you to let that parent have the #*@&^@ chair. 

Do not claim the chair for your young offspring. Do not point at your diapered toddler, who is swinging like a monkey off a bar ten feet away, and say, "Sorry. That chair is my son's/daughter's," and make the older parent sit on the concrete floor and get joint pain.

To the grandmother who takes her grandchildren to class, you of all people should know better. Those in polite society regularly give their seats to you, but you seem to think that the same courtesy should not be extended to others. 

Your grandkid, cute though he may be, really does not need a chair to himself. Note that he refuses to sit in it and then spends the hour running around the gym like a banshee. When he calms down, he climbs not onto the chair that you thoughtfully reserved for him (and that you refused to let a mother use), but he climbs onto your lap. 

He doesn't even touch the chair you reserved for your beloved posterity, an act that made a grown woman (who could be a grandmother in ten years herself) sit on the hard, cold floor.

In short, chairs in the gym should be reserved for those who can speak in complete sentences, can cut their own food, and who don't have a diaper to cushion their behinds from the concrete.

Thank you for your cooperation.


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