Friday, October 30, 2009

Not That I'm Counting

In the rush of getting Halloween costumes on for school this morning (we've got a cyborg, a cave woman, a half man/half woman, and a cheerleader), the kids forgot to rip off the last link in the paper chain.

There it is above, just waiting to be torn to shreds in celebration, because that final link means one small but significant thing.

This is it. Today is the day.

Mom and Dad (Grandma and Grandpa) are in the air. They land tonight. Five years and two missions are finally over. I get my parents back.

We'll be the ones at the airport with the balloons jumping up and down and screaming like banshees as they come down the escalators.

As fun as that part will be, I'm most looking forward to something else: feeling their arms around me again, holding me tight as I breathe them in.

Welcome home, Mom and Dad. I've sure missed you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

WNW: Every Day or Everyday?

Which do you use? When? What's the difference? Is there one?

The everyday/every day mix-up is easily one of the most common mistakes I see in my editing work and one of the most common questions I'm asked.

Kinda figured it made sense to address it here. I do mention it in There, Their, They're as well, and I think I do a pretty good job of it. But recently, I had a brain flash about how to explain it even better.

I'm hereby using that brain flash in this post and reserving the right to reprint it in the second edition of the book. 'Cause I can do that. :)

Every day
This phrase is pretty much what it sounds like: something that happens on a daily basis.

I brush my teeth every day.
Every day, I send my kids off to school.
I check the mail every day for another rejection.

It's easy to know whether to keep the space.

Just ask: Can I add the word "single" between "every" and "day" and have it make sense?

If so, keep the space:

I brush my teeth every single day.
Every single day, I send my kids off to school.
I check the mail every single day for another rejection.

They all work. Woohoo!

Everyday (one word)
Going all technical for a second, this is one word because it's an adjective. It describes what comes next.

Try replacing "everyday" with a different adjective, one that means something similar, like:
  • regular
  • usual
  • typical
  • normal
  • common
Does the sentence still work?

For example:
Running out of toilet paper around here is an everyday (normal/typical) event.

Her everyday (typical/regular) migraines are debilitating.

Is this type of outburst an everyday (normal/common) occurrence for your daughter?

If you notice, those kinds of words don't work as replacements for the two-word variety (every day):

I brush my teeth every day (typical/normal?).
Every day (regular, common?), I send my kids off to school.
I check the mail every day (usual, normal, typical?) for another rejection.

In summary:

Ask: Can you replace the phrase with a word such as regular, typical, normal, common, or usual?

If YES: Make it ONE word, no spaces (everyday). It's an adjective.

If NO: Use TWO words and a space (every day). The phrase is just referring to a regular time period.

If you've decided the phrase needs a space, test it further by adding "single" between "every" and "day," making it, "every single day." Does it still make sense? If so, you're good to go.

See? Easy peasy.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I'm Taking It as a Compliment

Last night after dinner, I ended up sitting around the table chatting with my two older girls. (I love that they're old enough for that!)

Their dad walked in and stopped. "Girl talk, huh?"

"Something like that," I said, enjoying myself.

Actually, we weren't talking girl stuff. (Fortunately! They're a little young for that stuff. I hope "girl talk" is a few years off yet.)

We got into talking about a series of books, and they were asking me something about the topic of the series, so I explained quite a bit about it. Suddenly my 10-year-old grunted.

With a roll of her eyes and a shake of her head she said, "I swear, Mom, you know everything. Or if you don't know something, you go look it up."

I grinned and said, "And you know where I got that from? The part about looking stuff up?"

They both knew and answered in unison. "From Grandma."

"And that was before Google existed."

They mock-gasped at that and began making jokes about my growing up in prehistoric times.

But the reality is that I grew up with a mother who taught me to find out about something if I didn't know it.

If one of us kids asked a question at dinner and she or Dad didn't know the answer, she'd literally hop up from her chair, race downstairs to the encyclopedia (remember those things?) and come back ten minutes later with five cross-referenced volumes.

Then she'd read all the entries aloud as we ate. When she was satisfied that we all knew the answer to the question whoever had posed, she'd close the books with a nod, stack them up, and return to her now-cold dinner.

This was not an unusual event.

At one point, we suggested getting a bookshelf of reference books installed in the kitchen.

Is it any wonder that people regularly assumed my mother had several doctorate degrees?

My daughter may have been rolling her eyes and joking around, but she couldn't have given me a higher compliment than to compare me to my mother.

(Four days. Not that I'm counting.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Writing Journey: Summer of Chocolate

With the writing conference over, I figured I had roughly four months to pull together a chocolate cookbook. I'd told the managing editor I could probably get her a manuscript by the end of August, and this was late April.

Originally they had pictured a number of recipes somewhere in the neighborhood of their last cookbook: 200. I sort of choked. Since that book included appetizers, main dishes, salads, desserts, and all kinds of categories and this was all chocolate, I asked if we could lower that number. We settled on what still seemed high but at least in the realm of possibility: 120.

120 recipes in 4 months. I already had several recipes in my own stash, plus others my Utah Chocolate Show sister would be willing to help me out with. So it wouldn't really be 30 each month, or one a day. I would be more like 20 or 25 a month, and if I could whip out 2 recipes a day, three days a week, I'd be so golden.

I'd have the recipes done in July and could spend an entire month adding content like chocolate melting and storing information and a glossary and fun chocolate tidbits and all kinds of cool stuff. Then I'd have extra time just for polishing.

This would be a piece. Of. Cake.

Murphy laughed.

What I hadn't counted on is that while I could easily make 2 or 3 recipes in a day, having all of them turn out every time wasn't guaranteed.

Not even almost. I ended up doing EIGHT batches of chocolate cupcakes before I was happy with them.

The first few batches tasted great, but they fell in the center. My kids kept saying I should just call them "Chocolate Bowls" and fill them with ice cream. Um . . . sure . . .

The seventh batch was pretty darn good, and I almost stopped there, but several weeks (and a few dozen other recipes) later I had an epiphany and realized how I could make the cupcakes even better. Being the masochist that I am, I made an eighth batch. (It was worth it.)

Then there was the chocolate brittle . . . which I scorched the first time (and smoked up the house and made the entire family sick with).

Then there was the chocolate marbled pumpkin chocolate chip bread that took six tries to get right.

And so on and so forth.

Some recipes (YES!) turned out great the first time, like the chocolate waffles. Oh, those were good. I celebrated such successes by eating them and then hurriedly typing them up while I could still read my scribbled notes.

I kept vigilant track of how many recipes I had in my recipe binder: how many did I still have to try out versus how many I'd already succeeded with and how many ideas I still needed to come up. (See my pretty binder above? Note the flour, sugar, and cocoa splotches on the cover.)

The numbers climbed way too slowly.

I'm not a very good cook. I admit to that fully. This was a giant and hard learning curve in both baking chemistry and in chocolate, which is another beast that reacts differently than any other substance when you add it to ingredients.

But I had to learn, and fast.

The cool part is that I did learn. I remember seeing a so-called "recipe" online that was basically thrown together store-bought stuff and thinking, "How lame. I could totally do that from scratch and make it ten times better." A light bulb went off in my head. I jotted down my idea of something similar but oh-so-much better and ran with it. The recipe worked, and it'll be in the book.

I could never have done that a year ago.

But as the summer went on, no matter how hard I worked, the number of successes never came close to climbing fast enough because the successes didn't come quick enough.

(There was also the fact that entire family got sick of chocolate. I once walked into the kitchen, caught a whiff of cocoa, and felt nauseated. I never thought that was possible.)

One of my biggest hurdles was time.

In June, one of my children got a horrid bug and was sick for over a week.

For the fourth of July, we had a family reunion on my husband's side.

Later that month, my husband and I both got some nasty flu bug (I think it was H1N1. The doctor didn't swab us to confirm, but it was going around our neighborhood at the time), and we were both laid out for nearly two weeks.

The last week of July, I had to travel for speaking engagement. Plus I had two children's birthdays, and my son was ordained a teacher, so we had lots of family visiting.

(That last part was a very happy time, but a time-sucker nonetheless.)

The upshot is that by the time the dust settled the second week of August, I knew full well that I wouldn't have a manuscript by the end of the month. There was just no way I could possibly pull it off.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

WNW: Shibboleths

Shibboleths are fun. Unless you're an Ephraimite, that is.

Just the word makes me smile. Generally speaking, they're a single word that easily distinguishes a person as not belonging to another group because of the way they say it.

It comes from the story in the Bible, in Judges 12, verses 5 & 6. Not a happy story. The Gileadites managed to defeat the Ephraimites in battle. When the refugee Ephraimites tried to cross the Jordan river, they were given the Hebrew word shibboleth to say to prove they were Hebrews. If they couldn't say it correctly (using the SH sound at the beginning), they were killed:

And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay;

Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand.

Because of that story, any word that points out a person as obviously being not part of the group is a shibboleth. But a shibboleth can also be an inside joke or something else as well.

Shibboleths have been used in war many times, just like in the Bible. During WWII, there was a time where U.S. soldiers used the word, lollapalooza as a code word to distinguish Japanese Americans from Japanese spies. If the first two syllables came out with Rs (rorra instead of lolla), they shot the guy without waiting for the rest, knowing he wasn't really American.

In some of my digging, I found out that the Finns (yay, my Finns!) used two specific shibboleths during their nasty war with Russia, a war they by all accounts should have lost (and did have major losses from, but managed to be the only country bordering the Soviet Union that never fell to Soviet rule).

The first shibboleth was the Finnish word for one, or yksi. Contrary to what you'd think, the Finnish Y is a vowel. It doesn't have a typical Y sound like English or most other languages. So if a Russian dressed as a Finn tried to put a ya or some other sound at the beginning, again, they'd shoot the guy, knowing immediately that he was an impostor.

The other shibboleth totally cracked me up, because it was almost too cruel. There is no way anyone but a real Finn or someone who knew the language extremely well could have a prayer of saying this word (I know how it's pronounced, but I'm sure I have an accent):


First off, the Russians don't even have an H. They didn't stand a chance on that count alone.

Then the ö and y vowels are both really tricky. But putting them together into öy? You have got to be kidding me. Learning how to do that literally took me a year. (And I was living in the country and attending public school.)

And then in the second half of the word, you have another y.

The poor Russian (mean killer) spies were dead before they opened their mouths.

What does höyryjyrä mean? It's a totally random word. It just means steamroller. But man, it did the trick. No one but a native could possibly say that right.

Hot dang, talk about the perfect shibboleth!

On a lighter note, a good example of a cultural shibboleth situation is in What the Doctor Ordered, by Sierra St. James (also known as Janette Rallison), where the hero character decides to attend an LDS singles activity and pretend he's LDS.

The woman he's interested in knows full well he can't pull that off, but they make some sort of bet on it. He goes to the activity, and sure enough, he totally flounders. When people start talking about home teaching this and food storage that and buying bulk toilet paper . . . and then expect coherent responses out of him and he can't give them, it's one massive shibboleth.

He gives himself away. It's not long before everyone there knows without a doubt that this guy is not Mormon.

(It's a hysterical scene, by the way. I laughed my head off as this man, a respected and intelligent medical doctor, desperately tries to pretend he's Mormon and fails miserably simply because he's doesn't know the jargon and the culture.)

All of us have shibboleths in our lives, whether it's regional dialects, or family quirks that make it clear we belong to our family, or even inside jokes that crop up among close high school friends that no one else gets. They're some of the things that make life--and language--fun.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Six Bits of Monday Randomness

Random Bit #1
I've been out of town and computer-less since Thursday, spending some much-needed (and enjoyed!) time away with my husband. It. Was. Awesome.

As a result, however, today I opened my Google Reader to find 254 unread posts. Did you get the full impact of that number? Let's spell it out:


Holy schmoly, you people are prolific!

Um . . . I don't think I'll be getting to all those posts. Just a tiny little guess. Don't take it personally or anything. I'm just not Super Woman.

Random Bit #2
Yesterday the lesson I got to teach the Sunday School class for the older teens was about . . . get this . . . the Salt Lake Temple and its foundation. I'm so not kidding. Ya think that's a topic I know a tiny bit about?

The point of the lesson was about the importance of building your spiritual foundation on Christ, and it compared the Salt Lake Temple foundation to that, including the original sandstone foundation that cracked and needed to be replaced with something stronger so it could hold such a large and magnificent building.

I knew so much more about the story than what was in the lesson because of my research, so I basically tossed the manual aside and had a ball. I don't think I've ever enjoyed teaching that class quite so much.

Random Bit #3
The only down side was that one of my students skipped out of Sunday School after sacrament meeting. He was one of the youth speakers and did a phenomenal job, and I wanted to give him some praise.

He was also one of the band members coming home when the bus crashed last week, and he told some of his personal experiences related to that and connected them to his faith. I won't share the stories here, because they're his and rather private, but I had tears rolling down my cheeks. Let's just say he's a remarkable young man.

Stinker for not coming to class so I could tell him so.

Random Bit #4
My kids are getting really good at teasing their mother and enjoying it. Last night at dinner, one of the girls said a real zinger (I don't remember exactly what it was now), and I about busted a gut. It was so on target that I laughed to the point I couldn't breathe.

The whole family was laughing, and when we calmed down, Dad said to her, "You do realize that I could never have said that and gotten away with it."

#3 then goes, "Of course not. You're the husband. But I'm a kid. Kids are cute. We can say all kinds of things and can get away with them."

They're awfully perceptive, those little people. I warned her that it won't last forever. She's 10. In 5 years, such a comment won't be so cute. (But holy cow, it was hysterical yesterday.)

Random Bit #5
As dinner ended, I was informed that I would be playing Monopoly with the younguns, mostly because #4, the baby of the family (now 7), had never played it. I braced myself, knowing just how long that game can run, and told them that it's going to end at 8:00 when it's time to get ready for bed, regardless of whether it's really over. (They tried to hide the clock from me during the game. The fact that I was wearing a watch somehow slipped their notice.)

It was the most bizarre game of Monopoly I've ever played. I went around the board twice, literally landing on every space my youngest had right after she did, and therefore owing her rent on every single turn and never getting to buy my own property. So bizarre. It took three times around the board before I managed to buy the one piece of property I ever bought. I ended up bartering for another, and I got that only because #3 (who'd mocked me so well two hours prior) took pity on me.

Who won? By 8:00, the 7-year-old had the most assets by a landslide. She was so excited about it (and not exactly a good sport, apparently) that she walked downstairs to get ready for bed, chanting, "Burn, burn, burn!"
Aw . . . what a sweetheart.

Random Bit #6
Mom and Dad come home from Helsinki in eleven days. (Squeeeee!)

My kids have this little habit now. Anytime someone mentions how many more days until Grandma and Grandpa come home, it's followed by them all saying in sync, "Not that we're counting," and then lots of giggles.

We all know full well that we are counting . . . and have been for several months.

In fact, today for family night, we're making a paper chain. I know they're coming home, but I don't really know it, if that makes sense. They've been gone on missions since right before my second book came out, since my baby was 2 years old. To think that they'll be home, just twenty minutes away . . .

Okay, I better stop, because I'm getting weepy again.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

WNW: Words from My Books

Just for the fun of it (because I know I need to lighten up a bit and laugh), I decided to pull out a few words that have caused problems in old manuscripts for one reason or another. As I came up with this list, it cracked me up to realize that every one of them came from Spires of Stone.

Maybe it's because the entire process of writing, rewriting, editing and just getting that puppy to press was so traumatic (see my Writing Journey series for the whole the whole messy story in parts XI, XII, XIII and XIV).

Whatever the reason, here are some of the gems we ran into.

Disclaimer: I mention a couple of frustrating situations I ran into with Covenant's contract editors below. I've published six (almost eight) books plus a short story with them. Their editorial team and contract editors are top-notch. So I mention these experiences below specifically because they were so totally bizarre and out of the realm of my experience. Spires of Stone was my fifth book with them, and I'd never, ever come across anything like this one incompetent line editor before or since, and I doubt I ever will again.

I know the difference. Really, I do:

She peeked around the corner.
The snow fell off the peaked roof.

See? I do know the difference. Even so, I have a tendency to type the wrong one (it's my fingers' fault!), and I have to go back through my manuscripts, checking to be sure I didn't use the wrong word at the wrong time. Inevitably, I miss a couple, and a line editor will have to fix them. I swear, this has happened in nearly every book.

What is my problem?!

Not to be confused with peak or peek even though they're pronounced almost identically, used as in, "to pique one's interest."

The problem I ran into: I had an anonymous line editor for Spires that seriously circled this and wrote, "This isn't a word."

My first reaction was to laugh my head off. (Did she check the dictionary before making fool of herself?) My second impulse was to write in the margins, "You're paying this person to edit books?" (She also inserted four misspellings into the book. I'm so not kidding.)

I resisted. After wiping away the tears of laughter, I simply wrote STET (the editorial term meaning, "leave it the way it was." and moved on. But I still snicker at the memory.

Okay, this one made steam come out of my ears. I had one last brief glance at the final galleys of Spires (one that was happenstance; I had already done my final proof and wasn't supposed to see it again). Long story, but I ended up helping out my editor with some final touches and saw what was supposed to be the final, final proof. And I ran into a lay/lie error someone else inserted without me knowing about it. (It should have been lay but was laid.)

I. About. Died. It wouldn't have been such a big deal for another writer, maybe, but I'm known for being the grammar police woman, the Word Nerd. To have a lay/lie error in my book? ACK!

Readers generally don't know that not every single word is the writer's. A mistake really, truly might not be my fault. I looked at my version, and sure enough, it wasn't there. Granted, my original sentence was a slightly clunky and needed to be smoothed out, and I'm glad someone fixed it. But not with a glaring grammar error, thankyouverymuch.

I was so relieved I caught it in time. (At least, I hope it's fixed. I haven't had the heart to open the book to check.)

One of my early beta readers apparently didn't have a very large vocabulary. She read through a scene and circled this, assuming it was an incomplete word or that I must have meant something else.

I had to explain that no, this is a word, and then give her the definition.

Similar story here, only this time I can give the reader a little room for not knowing what it meant, since it was a guy in my critique group, and guys don't necessarily keep up on fabrics beyond, "It won't shrink if I wash it in hot water, right?"

I won't embarrass the former member of my critique group by saying the name of the person who didn't know what muslin is.

Let's just say the women in the group assured him the sentence was fine as it stood; female readers would likely know what I meant.

Another word inserted into Spires that I was not okay with. I had used the simple term, "woman-hater" to describe Ben. And while I'm generally a proponent for shorter, crisper descriptions, this one didn't wash for me.

I was pretty sure I knew what misogynist meant (nothing more than a woman-hater), but, if I say so myself, I have a pretty large vocabulary, and even I wasn't 100% sure, so I looked it up. I could imagine many, many readers raising eyebrows at that word, assuming Ben was something really, really nasty.

Plus, the word just sounds sleazy. It might not mean anything bad, but the connotation is far worse than someone who simply has a vast dislike for women. I didn't want the connotation; I wanted readers to like Ben. I insisted they go back to "woman-hater."

Ah, the joys of edits and arguing over little bits like that. Amazing how a single word can spark a debate. (Can you imagine the headaches I give my editors when one word can get me so riled up? Go ahead and pity Kirk. He deserves it.)

The End
This is the funniest of them all. When I finish a manuscript, the feeling is fantastic. There's nothing like it in the world. I have a little celebratory moment of writing "The End" and then dancing through the house like Snoopy through a daisy patch.

I usually remember to delete those two little words before submitting the manuscript, because to me, they look amateurish in an actual book. But I have to write them, because the act is so fulfilling. It's the official moment of saying, "I'm done! I did it!"

I forgot to delete them for Spires when I submitted the manuscript. Not a big deal, I figured. I just deleted them from the first edit when I got it.

I got the second edit. There they were: "The End." Odd, I thought. Someone isn't doing their job. They're supposed to take the author's editorial marks and apply them. I deleted them again.

I got another edit. "The End" graced the last page. Another edit. There they were. Again and again and again. Through every content edit, three line edits, and two proofs.

Over and over. No matter how many times I deleted them, they were like a possessed boomerang. With all the other problems that went on with the book, this was just the final straw.

When the galleys arrived with "The End" plastered on the last page, I about blew a gasket.

I sent an e-mail to my editor, gently (I hope) saying that I'd tried deleting the phrase every time I'd seen it, but someone keeps putting it back, and can she please make sure it gets taken off before the book goes to press, because I think it looks really cheesy. Please! I was desperate.

Her response took me totally off guard. Her reply began with something like, "This is too funny." I'm thinking, Oh, no, it isn't. I had no idea. Yes. Yes, it was.

Since the book was a retelling of a Shakespeare play, she assumed I wanted it there, sort of like you'd see "curtain" at the end of a play. She figured it was a literary device I was using, sort of an inside joke to the reader.

She was the one putting it back every time someone (who apparently was doing their job) deleted it.

I might have fallen over laughing at that point. Or maybe I just sat there and cried tears of relief. I don't remember.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Hero and a Family of Hundreds

My senior year, our high school started up a marching band program, and all I heard from my friends that were part of it was about how the one school to beat was American Fork.

That was, well, a very long time ago, and today? Well, the American Fork High School marching band is still the one to beat. It's won the state title something like 19 years in a row. It's so good that it was invited to perform for George W. Bush's second inauguration and in the Macy's Day parade.

But it wasn't until our family moved into a neighborhood with many youth involved with that same marching band that I started to see just how huge the program is. Almost as soon as we got here, I was called to work with the Young Women of our ward. The marching band or color guard (which performed with the band) was a huge part of many of their lives.

They were proud of their involvement, and it was their number one priority. Even though the marching band and color guard consisted of a large number of students, they were a tight-knit group, and anyone who used to be one of them belonged.

Even though I've been here for six years now, I still didn't quite get how deeply that love and closeness among them runs until this weekend.

Many of you have probably already heard about the accident. You can read about it here, but the basic story is that the band was coming home in four buses from a first-place win at a competition in Idaho.

The driver on one bus got sick and lost consciousness. Immediately and heroically, Heather Christensen, the woodwinds instructor, jumped up and took the wheel, trying to steer the bus to safety and stop it on the side of I-15.

In spite of her attempts, the bus rolled. She was thrown from the bus and killed. Several other students were injured, but none severely (although three were helicoptered out and hospitalized for a day or so).

The first I heard about the accident was through a Facebook status of a band parent on Saturday night . . . right as my own son was heading home on a bus from the Shakespeare competition in Cedar City.

I wondered which youth I personally knew who'd been on the trip. I did know, thanks to that parent's update, that his son, who is in the Sunday School class I teach with my husband, was safe (thank heaven for cell phones). But I felt sick at heart and worried for who else was hurt. At that point, three students were still trapped in the bus.

I thought through the neighborhood, wondering who else could be on that trip, who might have been in the bus that crashed (turns out another boy in our class was on the trip but not on that bus, plus one more boy from the ward, also fine). I was relieved to remember one of my young women from the band who had graduated last year, so I knew she couldn't have been on the bus.

I went to a breaking news article online. Scared parents commented with things like, "Does anyone know if the sax players were on that bus? I haven't heard from my son." Several comments mentioned that the teacher who had died taught elementary band as well as high school band. My heart sank further. My seventh grader recently settled on the flute, but a year ago, she played clarinet.

She'd just gone to bed. I called down to her. "Who was your clarinet teacher in band last year?"

"Miss Christensen," she said. "Why?"

I closed my eyes and took a breath, hoping my voice would come out natural. "I'll tell you later," I said. "Good night."

The following morning, I knew I had to tell my daughter what had happened, before she got to church. I knew that talk of the crash would buzz through the halls and in classrooms--and I had a feeling our bishop would likely address the youth about it as well--and I knew she needed to hear it from me instead of randomly in the hall. The news was a shock to her. She cried.

That night, the high school held a remembrance for Miss Christensen. Many people I knew with old connections to the band were asking all over Facebook about when it started, what time the private band meeting was, and when the public portion began. My daughter wanted to go, even though she hadn't known Miss Christensen that long and is still in junior high. I didn't expect that. She went with a friend.

Today I discovered that Jeri at A Fickle Pickle, a former marching band member, posted a touching tribute not only to Heather but to the band HERE. She expressed the deep feelings connected to those who have played with the band and why, even though she personally didn't know Heather, she feels her death so keenly.

When I was in high school, the AF marching band was something others looked to as an example of hard work and excellence, something to aspire to (and maybe to feel a tiny bit jealous of). And sure, it is all that. But it's so much more.

My heart goes out to Heather Christensen's family and all who knew her and loved her.

And that includes the entire American Fork marching band family.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Linkage & An Upcoming Giveaway!

Links about the Hero's Journey

First, for those who attended my presentation on The Hero's Journey method of plotting at the League of Utah Writers meeting in Provo in June, (or those who didn't), Jordan McCollum has posted many of her notes in two different posts.

I used a lot of fantasy stories as examples (Star Wars, Harry Potter), but some attendees asked how the archetypal structure applies to romance. Good question. It does, since I use it and write romance myself. (In fact, I think using it helped me plot out my last book, Tower of Strength, quicker than any of my others.)

Today, Jordan has a guest post addressing that very thing. See it HERE.

Read her other posts about my presentation and The Hero's Journey concept HERE and HERE.


Coming very soon (dates and details TBA), I will be doing a review and giveaway through Accent Furniture.

I get to review a particular product, which they'll be sending me to try out, and then one of my blog readers will get one of their own as well.

I won't reveal what that product is until I review it and the giveaway begins (stay tuned!), but even though mine hasn't arrived to test out, let's say that I think I chose well, and that the winner will thank me.

This should be fun.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

WNW: Mr. Smith, You Have an Accent Too

I get the Utah jokes. I really do. I get the cultural jokes. The political jokes. I can laugh right along with the best of them.

I do, however, get a teeny, tiny bit annoyed with what I call the California Syndrome. I first ran into it in the form a kid named Jake in high school geometry who had unwillingly just moved from California. In hindsight, I think he was just bitter over his parents' divorce, but the way he lashed out, everything in Utah was just plain stupid.

Back then I was a very quiet and shy kid (you'd never know it, huh?). I still had strong opinions, but I kept them bottled inside nearly all the time. But this kid? Man, he just wouldn't stop. One day I turned around finally laid into him about how Utah isn't the the armpit of the world, so would he shut up already? He pretty much hated me after that. Like I cared.

More years than I want to admit later, my son has a teacher at the junior high who is from California. He loves to poke fun at the Utah accent, or what word nerds would more accurately describe as the Utah dialect.

His favorites are how we leave out the "t" on mountain so it comes out as moun-ain and how we leave off the "t" at the end of words like right. (Oooh, he's creative . . . Utahns use lots of glottal stops. I could have told him a lot more than that about the Utah dialect.)

So Son comes home from school thinking that Mr. Smith is downright hysterical, going on about how funny Utahns speak, and Mom, did you know that we talk like this?

(Um, son, you do know who your mother is, right? A word nerd person? So yeah, I'm very aware that many Utahns speak like this. And I could add a whole lot more to the list than Mr. Smith did. So can your linguist grandpa.)

I say that in a more gentle form then add, "Did you know that Mr. Smith has a California accent?"

After a moment of puzzled silence, Son says, "He does? Really?"

What both Son and Mr. Smith don't get is that everyone has an accent. It doesn't matter where you live. Standard English as a variety of pronunciation does not exist naturally. We just think it does.

I had theater major friends who, for an assignment, had to choose a Dr. Seuss book, practice it in the Standard English dialect, then record themselves reading it. It didn't matter if they were from Spokane, Mesa, Salt Lake, Boston, LA, or Tallahassee. This was a tough assignment, because every one of them spoke with a dialect that they had to learn to overcome and instead speak in a fake dialect that sounded geographically neutral.

After I was first married, I told my linguist father about some neat quirks in one of my new grandmother-in-law's speech, assuming they were indicative of an Idaho dialect. Not so, he told me. They were definitely a Southern dialect. Confused, I asked my husband about it. Sure enough, his grandmother grew up in the South. Her accent had softened a lot in the 50 years she'd spent in Shelley, Idaho, so I didn't pick up on it right away, but some of her Southern dialectal quirks still came through. It was fascinating.

Back to my son. "So what does the California dialect sound like?" he asked. I had no idea, but I knew it existed, because every location has its own dialect.

So I looked it up and showed it to him. I pointed out something I'd already guessed, that northern and southern California have different speech patterns. Something else I read made sense too: California didn't develop a clear dialect until after the Gold Rush, Dust Bowl, and other immigration settled down. In other words, not until they developed their own community where their own dialect could develop.

But develop it has.

I showed my son several words that Mr. Smith probably pronounces differently than Utahns do. For example, stand for southern Californians often becomes a slight diphthong with a long E at the beginning, so it sounds a bit like stEand.

Son was downright fascinated as we went through the list and even listened to recordings of two words in the southern California dialect. (You can see the web page we were looking at HERE of linguist Penny Eckert's work.)

Yes, some of the older farmers in Spanish Fork, Utah, might refer to the crick instead of the creek and their harse instead of their horse, but in California, the brook is the bruck and and it meooves instead of moves and if you ask whether you went there, you say you ded instead of you did.

We all have our quirks, no matter where we hail from.

Or in Utah, that might be "where we hell from."

And that's okay. No dialect is inherently better or worse than any other. To show we're educated, we do need to learn Standard English and use it in writing and speaking (although good luck getting rid of your dialectal pronunciation).

So here's my plea: regardless of where you're from, don't fall into the California Syndrome by thinking you're better than someone else because you're from another area and supposedly "don't have an accent."

'Cause guess what? (And I'm talking to you, too, Mr. Smith.)

You DO have an accent. Just like everybody else.

Monday, October 05, 2009

I'm Almost Back!

If all goes well, I'll be turning in my chocolate cookbook today.

The stupid school district up and made today a professional development day, which means the kids are home right when I need them to not be.

Luckily, my sister-in-law's kids were dying to have mine over to play, and since she knew I had a deadline, she thought that heck, let them hang out there for most of the day.

Boo. Yah.

So in a little bit, I'll be driving the munchkins over to her place and then settling my behind into the chair to write. The cooking part is done. (Can you hear the angels singing? It's truly a glorious sound.)

I've written down the recipes as they've succeeded, but I still have a lot of other stuff to work into the book about ingredients and chocolate (lots of stuff about that) and a glossary and a bunch of other fun stuff in between that I hope readers will enjoy reading as they run into.

After turning it in, I'll have to celebrate, but it can't be with chocolate (I had no idea that it's possible to get tired of the stuff. It is! Who knew?! After six months of constant chocolate experimentation and cooking, my entire family is about to gag.)

I think I'll grab a bag of corn chips and salsa (Salt! I need salt!) and curl up with a book. So I'm not quite back to my regular blogging schedule, but I'll return soon. Ish. I promise. I just need to take a deep breath once I turn this puppy in.

(Oh, and I'll probably get the edits on my next novel soon and may have to break briefly for that, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there . . .)

But today I thought I'd leave you with an actual, unedited e-mail exchange between me and my 12-year-old daughter. This is the girl my husband says is a miniature version of me because she's so stubborn. (Thanks, babe. Okay, not that it isn't completely true or anything.)

Just the day before, she'd prepared a lesson for the junior high's writing club on how to get ideas to write stories. Ironically, she then e-mailed me the following. The exchange covered a few days. Her e-mails are in red, mine are in black.

mom i want to write a story but i have no idea's

Give yourself your own lesson about coming up with ideas. :D

i did, but i wouldn't listen

Man, that stubborn self . . .

i know!!!!!!!

Next time either ground yourself or bribe you with chocolate. That might help.

Tride, i am to stubbon, i wonder who she gets it from


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