Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Love Letter Anthology Cover Reveal! And News!

It's downright amazing to think that it's been over a year and a half since Heather, Sarah, and I sat down around my kitchen table to hammer out the concept of creating anthology collections with clean romance stories.

We're close to releasing our SIXTH collection, each of which has six stories: three novellas in addition to the three written by us. The others are all by authors we've hand-picked for each theme.

That means this collection marks EIGHTEEN guest writers we've worked with and that I've edited, in addition to twelve stories by Heather and Sarah I've edited, and the six I've written for the collection myself.

(Although full disclosure: as of today, my novella for this collection isn't quite done. Soon!)

(And I love where it's going!)

Here's the new cover for the collection that will come out on February 1:


Isn't it pretty?!

As you can see, this time the theme is Love Letters. But unlike any collection we've done so far, this one will have both historical and contemporary stories.

I love the cover, and I'm excited for our readers to get their hands on the whole collection!

Note: There are whisperings among the three of us about a possible development regarding the anthologies. Stay tuned!

P.S. Be sure to enter the GoodReads giveaway for a hard copy of Lost Without You. Use the link in the sidebar!

P.S.2. This week, the Kindle version of At the Water's Edge is on sale for only 99 cents. Sale ends Saturday night, December 21!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

This Is Your Writing Brain on ADD

My older sister and I are similar in a lot of ways. We're both writers. We're both readers. We both majored in English. We both adore good chocolate. And on and on.

We're dissimilar in a lot of ways, but it turns out that one thing I thought was a difference actually isn't.

As an adult, Mel was diagnosed with ADD. The diagnosis made so much sense for her, at least with my limited understanding of the condition. She can jump topics in a conversation like hummingbird flitting from flower to flower, only faster. I can keep up, but I assumed that it was because I grew up around her.

The thing is that Mel's ADD has a bit of the hyperactive ADHD in it, although I wouldn't classify her as hyperactive in the typical sense. She's high energy, for sure. When I've mentioned to close friends that ADD runs in the family, they always follow that up with, "Mel, right?"

And then I have to say that well, yes. She's the one who is buzzing around all the time, always doing and thinking. But there's also the son of a different sibling with significant ADHD, and I suspect the parent of that same nephew has it too, which is why a desk job is out of the question. Plus at least two of my kids have it.

And so do I.

For a very long time, I had no inkling that I had the condition, and I haven't been officially diagnosed, but I recognize it all too well . . . now.

The thing is, back in the day, I did well in school. I was never a behavioral problem. Yet now that I know the signs, many of which I just thought were normal things, and that everyone was like that, I can point to parts of my personality that are actually signs of ADD and realize with startling clarity that yes, that's me. I see the signs in my childhood, with a big memory that screams "ADD" from 2nd grade. I'm betting my parents could point to some of the same things much earlier.

I've learned, thanks to early posts on The Weed, that technically the condition I have is ADHD-I. The means I have the inattentive sub-type of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Essentially, I lack the hyperactive component, but it's considered to be under the same umbrella. And because I don't fly around like a hummingbird, I had no clue that I also had the condition.

It took me researching ADD for the sake of one of my kids to realize that holy cow, this is me. My son is quite open about his ADD, so I feel all right mentioning him here. Like I did, he did well through grade school. Sure, he was disorganized, forgot notes, and his backpack was a disaster. He has horrible handwriting (as do I). But it turns out that he's very smart, and grade school frankly isn't that hard. The first time his grades plummeted, getting him glasses was enough.

Enter junior high and puberty, however, and we had a perfect storm for his ADD to cry uncle. His grades tanked, he grew frustrated and depressed, and nothing I did helped. He misplaced simple things like flashcards and other small but important items, which yes, he'd done in grade school, but now the stakes were much higher.

I learned that he'd drift off during conversations, but you wouldn't always know it, because he'd still be looking right at you, seemingly fully attentive, but his brain was off on some other planet, designing a video game.

He had no control over such drifting. The effort he put into homework, only to have nothing to show for it an hour later, was heartbreaking.

At one point I thought he had to have hearing loss, because I could be six inches from him, but he wouldn't hear me. I even had his hearing tested, but it came back normal. I dug around further.

That's when I started researching ADD, and I learned about hyper-focusing, which is exactly what he did. I tested him once when he was making a batch of cookies. While they baked, he sat at the computer, maybe ten feet from the oven, reading an article or playing a game or something. When the timer went off, I waited to see what would happen. Nothing.

I didn't turn it off. I waited. It beeped for a solid minute. Nothing. Finally I called his name. Again. And a third time. I raised my voice with his name, and he jumped. "What?!" he demanded.

I stood there staring at him expectantly, waiting for him to hear to obnoxious beep and get his cookies out of the oven. Instead, he just looked at me and again said, "What?"

"Do you hear something?" I asked.

Only then did he tune his attention elsewhere, notice the timer, and get up to take the cookies out of the oven. Classic hyper-focusing. He was so focused on the computer that nothing else existed. The house could have been burning down, and he wouldn't have noticed until the monitor was obscured by smoke.

Hyper-focusing suddenly sounded awfully familiar. I remembered reading a book in eighth grade and having no earthly idea how much time had passed or that a classmate was asking me an important question (likely several times) before I was pulled from the story and back to earth.

As an adult, I could focus so intently on my writing that reality faded, and my fictional world came to the fore. There were times I drove my husband crazy because my focus was so totally on one thing, and I was entirely oblivious to something else that really did need my attention.

When we told my son's teachers that he had ADD, no one believed us. He was well behaved, they said. He paid attention in class. (Sure, they thought he was paying attention. He looked like it. He wasn't climbing the walls with hyperactive behavior. He was even sitting still and looking right at the teacher.)

As a teenager, I did well in school by focusing on nothing but AP US History or whatever else was on my plate. Yet I probably had no idea what was going on outside my bedroom door. Very much like my son. I was one of the lucky ones; I was able to use a symptom to my advantage. Hyper-focusing became my superpower. It's how I got stuff done. (Other stuff fell by the wayside, of course. I was supposed to clean out the kitty litter? A week ago? Wait. What kitty litter?)

My son's case was far more severe, and I knew we needed to do something. I'd previously been anti-medication, but that was back in the days when I smugly thought that ADHD was usually just bad parenting. My son was suffering, and he needed help. I'd learned enough from other sources (a neighbor with severely ADHD kids, my nephew, Mel) to finally admit that medication can help because this disorder has a biological basis.

So I buried my pride and went to our family doctor. He listened to my son's symptoms (which consisted of a lot more than what I've discussed here) and agreed that my son was a likely candidate. I also learned something that was huge and worth mentioning here:

ADHD medication doesn't act like an upper on someone who has an ADHD brain.

Rather, we'd know within a couple of days if the medication was helping the symptoms, and if it wasn't, then, in his words, "The proof's in the pudding." If meds didn't alleviate his symptoms, my son, quite simply, didn't have ADD.

Some people think that medication is about zoning kids out, as if it's Valium or something. That's not what the medication does. In a sense, people with the condition have part of their brains that can't stay "awake." Medication turns that part of the brain back on, so everything else can focus. For hyperactive kids, they act out and move around constantly in an effort to wake up their brains. When it's woken up, they can sit still and focus. 

For someone without true ADHD or ADHD-I, however, the medication does act as an upper, which is why the medication can be abused in the wrong hands. Someone with ADHD doesn't get addicted to the medication; it simply helps them think clearly.

No, that's too simplistic. Meds do far more than that. In the cases of my two children who have both been diagnosed, medication has been a huge boon in helping their self-confidence, easing depression, and calming anxiety, because they can try to do something and actually accomplish it. For a growing teen, those things are huge. Simply put, medication helps them be their best selves.

After a week or so on medication, my son couldn't tell a difference, but his dad and I absolutely could. He was more himself. It was like I had my carefree, happy son back. The daily hair-pulling frustrations fell away, leaving his awesomeness to shine. We could have long conversations, which he was fully present for.

When he forgot to take his medicine one day, he came home from school with his eyes opened. "I had no idea what it was doing, but now I do. Today, school was so hard." He took his medication faithfully after that, although he'd often spend weekends and school breaks off it. A couple of years later, he said it wasn't working as well as it used to. I thought that maybe he was building a tolerance to it, or maybe he was imagining something.

But when we saw the doctor next, he nodded and said, "He's grown three inches really fast. Of course he needs a higher dose. He's a bigger kid now."

We've done more than give him medication to manage his condition, of course. We've studied a lot and implemented coping skills and techniques, and he's done much of that on his own as well, wanting to understand himself and how to best succeed. For example, in his high-school psychology class, he researched ADD and wrote a paper about his theories on how it works and why certain behaviors he'd figured out on his own helped him cope.

The same goes for my next child with ADD. She knows that she'll forget important papers or items at home if she's rushing out the door in the morning, so she's made a habit of packing her backpack the night before to be sure she doesn't forget stuff. She makes detailed lists to keep herself on track. She color codes her to-do list. And, like her brother, she uses timers as well as other tools.

As for me, I've come to see how ADD has affected my writing in both positive and negative ways. There was a time when being able to hyper-focus helped me crank out words fast. But as I age, I find that sustaining that hyper-focus is getting harder and harder. I've almost lost my one ADD strength altogether; I can't really hyper-focus anymore.

Some of my coping mechanisms are things my son figured out that work for him, which he then shared with me, and I do all the time. But things have gotten worse in the last few years. I simply cannot accomplish what I used to.

My youngest child has been in school for several years now. Some time ago, I dreamed that when this day came, I'd be able to write for five hours straight. In theory, I can write 2,000 words in about 45 minutes. (A benefit of having been a secretary in college: I type fast.) For argument's sake, if 2,000 words took me longer, say a full hour, and if I could focus for five hours, I could whip out 10,000 words a day, meaning the equivalent of a NaNoWriMo book every work week.

Instead, I'm lucky if I can focus long enough to get in 1500 words a day. On some days, I can't do that much, but not for lack of trying. I recently had the chance to go on a trip with my husband as he traveled for work. He attended a convention during the day, and I stayed in the hotel room and wrote.

My past records for writing all day long without interruptions were well into the five figures. The few times I'd holed up somewhere for a Saturday and cranked out words were years ago, but my one-day record for writing was over 14,000 words. 

On our trip in November, the best I managed to write in the hotel room was 5,000 words in one day. And getting those words in was hard. My brain was beyond fried at the end of each day. While I made good progress on that manuscript, I came home with nowhere near what I'd hoped to accomplish. After all, I used to be able to do more, when I could hyper-focus. Now I'm just plain old ADHD-I, without the hyper-focusing superpower.

Managing my ADD is getting harder with age, no question. The condition is unquestionably getting worse. I don't know if that's typical, but I do know that I'm in the position of constantly trying new coping techniques, taking new nutritional supplements, relying on my accountability partner, and so on. Even so, I'm quite sure that I'll soon be the third family member on medication.

I'm eager to give it a try. My tired ADD brain has so much it wants to do, but the broken part of my brain keeps those things from happening, interfering with the smallest everyday activities. ADD not only rears its head when it comes to my writing; it also interferes with my family life, with being a wife and a mother. It causes problems with housekeeping, grocery shopping, errands, and with so many other very basic things that people with normal brains take for granted.

At times, I have to remind myself that I'm not crazy; I'm just ADD.

Somehow, I'll get things done, even if it's a lot slower than for other people and in a less direct way. And, unfortunately, a lot slower than I used to be able to do the same thing back when I could hyper-focus.

I'll report back if and when I get on medication. If I do as well as Mel has (she's finishing up her MFA in creative writing!), I'll be able to reach my goals . . . finally. I hope.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

WNW—Sandy Hook and the "They" Conspiracy

Today's Word Nerd Wednesday has a more somber topic than I usually take here, but I think it's a relevant one in light of how news is covered in the US and how we interpret evidence presented to us by various sources.

This post has been on my mind for almost a year, when I first heard conspiracy theories after the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012. With the report of the shooting released this week, concluding that Adam Lanza acted alone, and with almost a full year passing since the tragic events of that day, I'm taking a stab at the issue the conspiracy theorists brought up in hope of shedding some light on the situation and, I hope, on not jumping to conclusions in relation to the language used in news reports and other situations.


Shortly after the shooting, I listened to several tapes online where people discussed how, in their strong opinions, there had to have been multiple gunmen in Sandy Hook, and that the federal government was hiding that fact.

One video went so far as to insist that President Obama himself had ordered the shootings so he could have a leg up in passing new gun control laws. My jaw dropped at that accusation. Obama isn't perfect, and he's made mistakes as President, but would he seriously order the murder of children for a crap-shoot chance for passing a new law? Is he really evil, a mass murderer? Not a chance.

Over and over, I came across one piece of so-called "evidence" that these theorists used to "prove" that there was more than one gunman. I won't link to the videos; I don't want to give those people extra attention. The point of this post is to show how relying on language used by victims in the heat of a crisis cannot be psycho-analyzed as a reliable way to justify a personal agenda.

The "Evidence"
In more than one spot on a tape (I believe it was a 9-1-1 call), the person on the phone, an eye witness in the school, used phrases such as these (not quotes, but they give the general idea):
They're coming down the hall!
They're shooting!
They've got more than one gun!
Conspiracy theorists based their conclusions, in large part, on the fact that the witness had used the word they while relating ongoing events during the shooting, that a single pronoun somehow proved that more than one person was carrying out the attack.

Let's back up the trolley a bit.

Almost three years ago, I blogged about how their is gradually becoming a singular pronoun. In English, we simply don't have a gender-neutral third-person, singular pronoun. We have he and we have she, and I suppose we also have it, but we don't use it when referring to people.

Often, when we don't know the gender of the person, or when the gender is irrelevant, we have to get creative, and that often means falling to the easiest way to explain with the fewest words.

In publications, we often see constructions such as he or she, or sentences rewritten so they have a plural verb and can justify the plural pronoun their. That happens mostly in scholarly publications in academia, student's college papers, and, probably, in any resume you submit.

In everyday, casual speech, we often use their as a single pronoun. 

Why? For several reasons. For one, using he or she gets cumbersome and often sounds hoity-toity. In addition, we tend to go the simplest route when speaking; why use three words when one will do? The English-language culture has shifted. Today, their is largely accepted in conversation as just fine when it's acting as a single pronoun; you won't generally find it in most published works, although that's changing in fiction, especially in dialog, which tends to mirror actual conversation.

The reality is, when someone is under duress, and isn't an English professor who is so used to using he or she that the phrase rolls off the tongue without a thought, even in a moment of crisis, a witness will almost certainly use they when referring to an unknown perpetrator.

Heightened emotion does that to people: while under stress; we slip into the registers of speaking we're most comfortable in. We're far less likely to adhere to grammatical standards, especially ones we aren't 100% familiar with. Even if you know the difference between the verbs to lay and to lie and which forms to use when, but you have to think about which form to use even for a split second, chances are, if your life is on the line, you won't give the verb that split second of thought, and a word will pop out, which may well be technically incorrect.

In other words, even if witnesses could tell that the shooter was male, we can predict, even without hearing any 9-1-1 tape, that witnesses would describe the shooter's action in terms of they, and not as he.

Granted, I doubt the new report will sway die-hard conspiracy theorists, even though they are just as likely to unconsciously throw in they when speaking, even when technically he or she would be correct.

I hope that the report of a lone gunman helps give a little bit of closure to the families affected by the horrific events of that day.

For the rest of us, I hope that by talking about these things, we gain some clarity. Like how people use casual and "incorrect" words in conversation and especially in life-or-death situations. Like how they're liable to use incorrect grammar or slip into more colloquial usage in tense moments. How we cannot use such speech as a basis for making broad accusations or assumptions, especially when such theories cannot hold water in light of how the language is used in the real world.

As much as I hope we never have another shooting or other similar tragedy in this country, I'm not naive enough to think we've seen the end. But I do hope that whenever we hear a tragic news story and people coming up with theories about them, we can take a step back and look at the fact objectively, not over-analyzing a single word and assuming what the person speaking meant by it. Especially, as in this case, when that single word was interpreted so wildly off base.

I'm all for unraveling stories to reveal the truth, and language does have the power to do amazing things along those lines. This isn't one of those times. Saying that the use of their automatically means there had have been multiple people committing this crime only causes grief, quite literally, to so many people involved, including the law-enforcement officers who, I believe, really did do their best to find out what happened.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Barbara Park & a Little Girl's Wish

Last week I heard the news that Barbara Park, author of dozens of kids' books and best known for the Junie B. Jones series, had died from ovarian cancer. She was only 66, younger than both of my parents. She lost her battle with the same killer that took my maternal grandmother.



Whether you like Junie B. Jones or couldn't stand her improper grammar, the character became a cultural phenom and influenced millions of children, including my own. We have a shelf full of Barbara Park's books, and they are all well read. Even though my kids have outgrown Junie, I have no intention of getting rid of the books. They are a reminder of great times spent with my kids, laughing at Junie B.'s antics, and teaching my kids to read.

Recently, my youngest and one of her friends decided to make a Junie B. movie, and they began adapting the book into a screenplay first. I think Barbara Park would be pleased.

Park was more than an influential writer, something I bet that most writers would like to be remembered for when they pass. I'll always remember her for something else, as well, something she didn't announce publicly, something you cannot find a news clip about (at least, I couldn't, and I knew exactly what I was looking for).

The most public hint you'll get is in the dedication of one of her books. But I'll get to that in a minute.

A cousin-in-law's daughter, Makenzie, became very ill back in 2006 with a low-grade brain stem tumor, which threatened to take away her eyesight as well as her life. The extended relatives on that side of the family held group fasts and prayers for this young girl, who loved to read, and, yes, who loved Junie B.

Makenzie's dream was to grow up to become a real-life published novelist someday. We all hoped she'd grow up, but that wasn't a guarantee. In the meantime, enter Make-A-Wish for the next best thing. They arranged for her to meet and spend the day with Barbara Park, her idol. I don't know what all went on that day except that it was a very special time between a special lady and a special little girl. That was November of 2006.

Barbara Park didn't broadcast the fact that she'd done this wonderful thing. The only clue anyone had was in the front of her next book, which was released the following February. She dedicated that book to Makenzie in the voice of Junie B.

Open Junie B., First Grader: Dumb Bunny, which has Junie B. in a pink Easter bunny costume (see the cover at the top of this post), and you'll find it:
Dear my brand-newest friend Makenzie Moore,
This book is dedicated especially to you from me!
I hope it makes you laugh and laugh!
                 Love and hugs,
                 Junie B., First Grade
r
P.S. Plus also, thank you to Make-A-Wish for introducing us!
(You can also read the dedication on Amazon using the Look Inside feature.)

Fortunately, seven years after their meeting, Makenzie is still with us, and, last I heard, she is doing well as a teenager, with doctors still monitoring her tumor.

With Park's death, I thought the right time had come to let a few other people know about a small thing she did that, to me, shows the kindness she had in her heart and the love she had for children, which is so evident in her books.

I find it strangely sad that she died of cancer after a different kind of cancer hit the young girl Park helped to cheer up one day. I hope she has her own angels now, making her wishes come true.

RIP, Barbara Park.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

WNW: Abbreviations, Acronyms, Initialisms, & Monograms

Weeks (months?) ago, I pasted a note from Twitter to remind myself to do this post. I'm pretty sure the suggestion came from TJ Bronley, and here I am, finally getting around to answering his request.

For this week's Word Nerd Wednesday: What is the difference between acronyms, monograms, and abbreviations?

(I'm adding initialisms to the list; you'll see why.)

First off, let's look at what an abbreviation is.

An abbreviation is simply a shortening of a word or phrase using components of that word or phrase. Some abbreviations use a period at the end, but not all require one.

Examples of abbreviations:
  • Quart = qt
  • Minute = min
  • Doctor = Dr.
  • Mister = Mr.
  • Et cetera = etc.
  • International Police = Interpol*
  • AM, PM
  • BC, AD

The last two on that list are so common that we've almost forgotten what they stand for (ante meridiem/post meridiem, meaning before and after noon, and Before Christ/Anno Domini, meaning in the year of our Lord).


Here are some modern abbreviations that developed from e-mail and texting. (This list could go on forever, but I'll keep it short.)
  • FWIW (For what it's worth)
  • IMO (In my opinion)
  • LOL (Laughing out loud) 
We use abbreviations for all kinds of things, including the United States (the US) and the group of countries that comprise the United Kingdom (the UK). 

Acronyms are a type of abbreviation. They typically use the initial letters of a phrase or name and (here's the important part) acronyms can be pronounced as a word. Some acronyms are spelled out as all caps. Others use periods between the letters, and some are entirely lowercase. Check your style guide to know how to write one out. Examples of acronyms:
  • NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
  • laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation)
  • AIDS (autoimmune-deficiency syndrome)
  • scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus)
  • CD-ROM (compact disc read-only memory)
That last one mixes things up a bit, as only the second part (ROM) is pronounced as a word. We still say the letters separately on CD, of course.

Initialisms are similar to acronyms. They're also a type of abbreviation. Like acronyms, they use the first letters, but the big difference is that initialisms aren't pronounced as words

Many initialisms are abbreviations for organizations, such as television stations, government entities, or universities. Examples of initialisms:
  • FBI
  • CIA
  • NBC
  • FCC
  • BYU 
Tip: If you don't say it like a word, it's just a regular abbreviation or an initialism, not an acronym.


RAS Syndrome
This is a silly name for something that crops up a lot because of how often we use abbreviations. RAS is an abbreviation of Redundant Acronym Syndrome. Say the full name (with syndrome at the end), and we've got a repetitive phrase with RAS Syndrome in action: Redundant Acronym Syndrome Syndrome.

Silly, yes, but this kind of thing really does show up all the time. I bet you've heard people talk about a PIN Number, when the N in PIN already means number, so they're saying, Personal Identification Number Number. 

Or what about a screen's LCD display? We don't need that last word, because then we're saying liquid crystal display display.

Monograms are another animal altogether. Unlike the other terms we've talked about, they aren't a type of abbreviation. Instead, monograms are symbols or logos with one or more letters made into a single image. Monograms were often used as symbols of a monarch. Today we see them a lot in corporate and school logos. They aren't words at all, just images that tell the viewer instantly who or what it stands for.

An example: For many years during her talk-show period, Oprah used a big O with a specific font to symbolize her name and brand. We still see it prominently on her magazine today.

There you have it! If you have suggestions for future Word Nerd Wednesdays, drop me a line on Twitter. You can find me here: @AnnetteLyon.


*I believe InterPol technically has a longer name, but I'm not doing the research on that one today. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Author Interview: Christy Dorrity

Today I welcome Christy Dorrity to the blog and interview her about her new release, Awakening. I haven't read her book yet, but I'm intrigued; I love mythology, and her cover is awesome!

I love what she had to say about crappy first drafts (TRUTH, people!), and that she enjoys my good friend Robison Wells' work. Enjoy!



About the Book
. . . because some Celtic stories won’t be contained in myth.

A little magic has always run in sixteen-year-old McKayla McCleery's family—at least that’s what she’s been told. McKayla’s eccentric Aunt Avril travels the world as a psychic for the FBI, and her mother can make amazing delicacies out of the most basic of ingredients. But McKayla doesn't think for a second that the magic is real—it’s just good storytelling. Besides, McKayla doesn’t need magic. She recently moved to beautiful Star Valley, Wyoming, and already she has a best friend, a solo in her upcoming ballet recital—and the gorgeous guy in her physics class keeps looking her way.

When an unexpected fascination with Irish dance leads McKayla to seek instruction from the mute, crippled janitor at her high school, she learns that her family is not the only one with unexplained abilities.

After Aunt Avril comes to Star Valley in pursuit of a supernatural killer, people begin disappearing, and the lives of those McKayla holds most dear are threatened. When the janitor reveals that an ancient curse, known as a geis, has awakened deadly powers that defy explanation, McKayla is forced to come to terms with what is real and what is fantasy.

A thrilling debut novel based in Celtic mythology, Awakening is a gripping young adult fantasy rife with magic, romance, and mystery.

Our Interview
AL: How long have you been writing and how did you get started? (When did the bug bite you?)
CD: Funny, it really was like I got the bug. I was pregnant with my fifth child, five years ago, and all of a sudden, I had this itch inside of me that I couldn't get rid of. I started writing and now, if I go a day without working on writing, I feel unproductive.

AL: Where did the idea for Awakening come from?
CD: My husband bought us tickets to go see Riverdance, an Irish dance show, and I was fascinated by the music and the rhythms. I began taking lessons and soon became enthralled with the Irish culture and mythology as well. When I began seriously writing, it was natural for me to write about something I felt so much passion for.

AL: What research did you have to do for the book? What was the most interesting thing you learned?
CD: Much of the research that I did for Awakening had to do with learning about Celtic mythology. I suppose you could count my Irish dance training as research, and that's the best kind of research, in my opinion. I would have to say that the most interesting thing I learned about is the geis—a complicated curse that I drew on for inspiration in this first novel in the series.

AL: What is your writing style? Are you an outliner or a by-the-seat-of-your-pantser? Somewhere in between?
CD: With Awakening, I wrote by the seat of my pants, and when it came time to edit, my manuscript was a disaster! I have since learned how to structure a story, and I am fully outlining the second book in the series. I'll have to see how it works out.

AL: What is your typical writing schedule like?
CD: I write in the afternoons when my big kids are at school and my preschooler is napping. It is probably my least productive time of day, but it is the only time I have right now.

AL: What is one big thing you've learned through the process of publishing your first novel?
CD: It doesn't matter how crappy my first draft looks—I can go back and fix it.

AL: Why did you choose to self-publish? What was that process like?
CD: I love the flexibility that comes with self-publishing. I can set my own deadlines, and have creative control over my content. The success of my books lie with me, and no one else.

AL: What's been the biggest surprise about the publishing process?
CD: I thought that I would feel somehow different when I released my first novel. That I would feel like I had arrived. But, instead, I'm thinking of the next book and forging ahead. We all know that it's about the journey, and not the destination.

AL: Which authors are your biggest literary influences in the national market?
CD: I love big, sweeping series, such as Twilight and Hunger Games. But I also love small, character-driven stories about every-day people. Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton, and Descendant by Nichole Giles are a few of the books that I've loved recently that have a similar vein as my novel. Other books I've been loving lately are Open Minds by Susan Kay Quinn, Variant by Robison Wells, and The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen.

AL: In the LDS market?
CD: I have to say that I was very much influenced by Jack Weyland's books as a young adult. His books were real to me and helped me learn in a way that wasn't preachy or forced.

AL: Any advice for aspiring authors?
CD: Believe in your book. Write it, put it out there for everyone to see, and be proud of it. If you don't, who will?



About the Author

Christy Dorrity lives in the mountains with her husband, five children, and a cocker spaniel. She grew up on a trout ranch in Star Valley, Wyoming, and is the author of The Geis series for young adults, and The Book Blogger’s Cookbooks. Christy is a champion Irish dancer, and when she’s not reading or writing, she’s probably trying out a new recipe in the kitchen.

Find her on Facebook and Twitter. Get Awakening at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Friday, September 27, 2013

What Stan Lee Taught Me About Writing

I suppose that "What Stan Lee Reminded Me About Writing" would be more accurate . . .

The first weekend of September this year marked a monumental event: the first-ever Comic Con in Salt Lake City. They sold completely out of tickets. The place was so incredibly packed that I understand the fire marshal showed up at one point.

I got to attend on the busiest day, Saturday. Walking the floor as part of a moving river of human beings was stifling at best. (Good thing my claustrophobia didn't kick in; it totally could have.)

I got a front-row seat!
When I freed myself from seeing cool things like the Hulk made out of balloons, a life-size Tardis, Sasquatch, and the most amazing costumes on attendees, I found myself on a relatively free end of the hall. I'll call this celebrity alley.

Along this area, various celebrities, largely famous for roles in science fiction or fantasy television shows and movies, had areas roped off. At the far end of each area were tables and chairs and a giant poster featuring the celebrity's name and several photographs from their most famous roles.

The photos were particularly helpful. I didn't always know the celebrities' names, but you can be sure I know who Q is. Times were listed during which fans could line up to meet them and get photos and/or autographs (each of which cost a pretty penny) (I didn't get one).

Among those I walked past: The aforementioned Q (John de Lancie), Henry Winkler (cool to see the Fonz, although I'm not entirely sure what he was doing at a SF/F con), and Kevin Sorbo (known as TV's Hercules). I'm kicking myself for not writing down all the names, because there were many more. Cool stuff.

(Note: Q is getting old. I suppose time didn't stop for him in 1994, which means it didn't for me, either. Ahem.)

The highlights for me, though, were getting up-close seats to hear from William Shatner and then Stan Lee. Shatner was fun to listen to, but it was Stan Lee I'll always remember.

He came onto the stage looking small and old, which I suppose he is. He had the signature glasses he always wears. I don't think he stopped smiling or laughing the entire time. He cracked a lot of down-to-earth, funny jokes, some at his own expense, and I immediately liked him. He didn't have the air of a celebrity gracing his fans with his presence.

Fans stood in two lines, one flanking each side of the stage, to ask him questions. A lot of them were things you'd expect: Who is your favorite Marvel superhero? Who is your favorite Marvel female character? If you were to actually admit to liking DC Comics, which of their superheroes is your favorite? Which was your favorite cameo in a Marvel movie?

Because I'm a writer, two of the questions jumped out at me.

The first was asked a few times in various ways, and it always got the same answer: If superheroes X and Y fought, who would win?

Stan's response each time: "Depends on who's writing it."

His answer brought me back to a League of Utah Writers conference I attended probably 15ish years ago, where Orson Scott Card was the keynote and taught a couple of classes. In one of his workshops, he led the attendees through an exercise during which we created an entire world and plot within 50 minutes.

He noted that in the past, he'd make sure that everyone agreed in advance not to use the story generated by the workshop, but he didn't do that anymore, because he'd realized that every  person in the room could go home and write about what we'd just invented, and there was a good chance that each story would stand totally on its own as original.

That's because, contrary to what some people think about the mystic act of writing, writers get to pull the strings and make things happen. We decide on the character motivations, stakes, personalities, complications, and everything else. Sure, sometimes we discover stuff that changes our original plan, but in a sense, we're still the creators of our fictional universe. Because every writer is different, each writer's work will be different too. It's a beautiful thing, this power we hold.

(But with great power comes great responsibility; right, Stan?)

The other question, or, rather, Stan's answer to it, struck me even harder, and I think I'll remember it forever. A fan asked, "What inspired you to create all of these great characters?"

Stan had a couple of responses. The first was sort of tongue in cheek, just one word: "Greed." Then he chuckled, his shoulders shaking. "Just kidding," he said. "Sort of."

He went on to explain how writing was his career. That if he hoped to feed his family and keep a roof over their heads, he had to keep writing and producing. It was his job. That meant coming up with new stories and new superheroes to populate the stories with. He couldn't decide one day that he just wasn't feeling it, or he'd have lost his job altogether. And he wasn't rich and famous then. He hadn't built the Stan Lee empire of Marvel Comics. Not yet. He was just doing what he did well to keep dinner on the table.

In other words, Stan Lee didn't wait for the muse to strike before he sat down to write. He was and is a professional, and that means BIC-HOK: Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard (or, in his day, probably Hands on Typewriter). While he didn't say so, I'd wager that the more often he sat down and did the work, the more often the muse showed up right on schedule. It's like a muscle; train it, and it'll work when you need it to.

He did the work because it needed to be done, and because that's what professionals do. All writers can take a lesson from that.

The recipe sounds deceptively simple, but trust mewriting to deadlines and being as incredibly creative and prolific as Stan Lee became isn't easy. I can guarantee there were many days he didn't want to write another story about the Hulk, or he didn't want to rack his brain for an original superpower to give to a new superhero. There were probably days he didn't even like his characters.

I'm sure Stan Lee fought every creative battle out there. And he won, creating the Marvel empire that has influenced millions and even affected our culture.

Recently I heard an up-and-coming writer ask how to "get" herself edit her current WIP when she really wanted to draft a new one. The fact that she was even asking the question makes me think that maybe she's not quite ready for the answer.

Here's how: You just do it, because that's what professionals do. 

Easy? Heck, no. But the writing life never was.

Awesome? Yes.

Easy? Not even close.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

It's Like SYTYCD

Every three months for a little over a year now, I have a new kind of writing challenge. And by that I don't mean the same challenge every time, but something new, a challenge like I've never had before.

You know how, after a big exercise day, you'll wake up the next morning sore in places you didn't know you had muscles?


It's sort of like that, but in a totally awesome, cool way. Only I'm exercising writing muscles I didn't know I had. In some cases, it's felt like I didn't even have the muscle at all, and I'm developing it as I go.


It began, if memory serves, back in the spring of 2012, when Heather came up with the brilliant idea (she comes up with great ideas quite often) and invited me and Sarah to join her.


The idea: Write and publish clean romance novellas in anthologies. For each anthology, invite three other proven romance writers we know and respect. Everyone involved helps promote the anthologies, which then, in theory helps fans of any given writer involved to get new readers.


Plus, how fun is that?!


So far we've published four collections under the Timeless Romance Anthologies brand, each with a theme going along with the seasons: Winter Historical, Spring Vacation, Summer Wedding, and Autumn Suspense. One thing that continues to impress me is how differently each writer involved interprets the theme. Every novella is so different from the others, and that's part of what makes the collections so fresh and fun.


One big thing we've heard from readers is how glad they are that the novellas are clean. That means there's no content in them beyond a PG rating. More specifically, as for the steamy factor, you'll find nothing steamier than kissing.


Heather and I attended the first Romance Novel Convention this summer and came across a writer who thanked us for writing clean romance. She herself wrote erotica, yet she didn't want her teenage daughter reading the kinds of books she wrote. Not yet, at least, not until her daughter hit adulthood and could make an informed choice.


I don't think any of the writers who've been involved with the anthologies would ever suggest that they're only for young readers—not by a long shot. But it's nice to hear that kind of feedback and know that there's a need for what we write even beyond our intended audience of grown women. (For the record, I've used my sixteen-year-old daughter as a beta reader, and she's read some of the collections. They're that clean.)


Yet embarking on this journey felt intimidating, to put it mildly. Years ago, I read every short story by L. M. Montgomery (of Anne of Green Gables fame), which were being republished in collections (grouped by the editors into themes—a fun coincidence). I remember thinking that I'd never, ever be able to write something so short, that my story ideas needed a novel-sized chunk to tell. 


Keep in mind that LMM's "short" stories aren't that short; they're really more like the length of novellas we're using for our anthologies, which run 13,000-15,000 words, roughly 45-50 pages double-spaced in Word.


Something like twenty-five years after reading those stories, I'm faced with the prospect of writing not one, but many stories in the space of about 13,000 words, after a decade of writing novels at least 90,000 words long. My longest novel, At the Journey's End ran close to 115,000 words. So, yeah. I needed a big paradigm shift to make this work.


The first thing I had to do is boil down how exactly I'd write a novella. Fortunately, I've been writing long enough that I know roughly how long my typical scenes end up being: in the neighborhood of 1500-2,000 words. I figured that gave me roughly six scenes to work with to introduce the characters, setting, and conflict, build to a climax, and resolve the plot, especially with the romantic thread. I also knew that I didn't have room for much of a subplot (something that became an additional challenge with the Suspense collection, which required a subplot to work).


I created a very basic outline—a skeleton, really—of the plot for the Winter collection. I remember writing much of that story, which is set in a very snowy, very cold canyon, while on a family trip after spending a day in Island Park, Idaho, in the middle of a very hot summer.


We're currently in the middle of production for our fifth anthology, which will feature historical stories set in Europe, and we have our brand-new cover to reveal.


Here it is:



 
Two thoughts:

(1) Isn't it gorgeous?


(2) Did you notice whose name is written first? (AAAACK!)


I'm trying to stave off a panic attack at the thought of my story leading the collection. That's what readers sampling the anthology will read when they decide whether to buy it. (Eeep!) Part of my nerves may be because this novella has been my hardest one to write so far (which is saying something), although I'm not sure why. I do have a theory, though.


Remember the whole exercise/muscle analogy? I don't think it's too far off. Memory fails me when I try to recall who first came up with this next oh-so-fitting analogy: for the three of us involved in every single one of the Timeless Romance Anthology collections, the exercise is not unlike So You Think You Can Dance, where dancers are thrown different styles and genres each week and are expected to excel in them.


The ballroom dancer has to suddenly do disco. The ballet dancer is assigned hip hop. The tapper must perform contemporary.


Do it, and do it well, or be voted off.


In our case, of course, the stakes aren't as high as winning a cash prize and the title on a reality show. But I still consider each challenge something special, and I strive to do my best with every novella.


We have a devoted fan base, which grows with each new collection. I want to give every reader a smile and maybe a happy sigh at the end of each story. I give each one everything I've got.


That's not to say my knees won't be knocking as this next collection goes live on November 4; they totally will be.


I'm just glad we don't call our collections So You Think You Can Write...


(Find the Kindle versions here! Or get them on the Nook or the first two collections in other formats from Smashwords.)


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

WNW: The Outrage over "Literally"

Today's Word Nerd Wednesday tackles a topic that has lit up the Internet in the last week or so: the so-called "news" that the word literally has a new definition, meaning figuratively, which is technically the opposite of what the term means.

Note that I put "news" in scare quotes. That's because it's not really news. Dictionaries have been adding that second definition for years. Literally. (Hah!) People noticed this time, because it was a new change to Google's dictionary.

I got my copy of the OED about ten years ago, and the alternate definition of literally is there. Granted, that definition is the last of five, meaning that it's the least common and least accepted one. Plus, it has a note that it's "improper" to use literally in a figurative sense.

HOWEVER . . . (You knew that was coming, right?) as with every word in the OED, this definition includes quotations from the earliest usages of literally with each definition. And guess what: the quotations for using literally meaning  figuratively go way back to Dryden (hardly a hack) in 1687. You'll find quotations from the 1700s, 1800s, and 1900s, as well.

In other words, people have been using literally as figuratively for a very long time.

So now what? Should we all adopt that definition because it's in just about every dictionary? Not so fast.

First let's talk about what dictionaries actually do. Dictionaries don't record what is correct. Dictionaries report what is said and written. They're the non-judgmental messenger.

In other words, a word or a definition showing up in a dictionary doesn't give that word/definition any kind of stamp of approval. It may still be considered incorrect according to Standard English.

Plenty of words and definitions that aren't Standard English (or at least, not yet) appear in dictionaries, including ain't, which isn't in the ballpark of Standard English.

The bottom line is that language changes over time; that's a simple fact. Try reading Beowulf or The Canterbury Tales in their original text, and you'll see just how much English has changed over the centuries. (Hint: the text doesn't even look like English.)

For that matter, if we're stuck on what a word "really" means, let's look at the OED's first two definitions of literally: 1) By the letters 2) In literature.

So if we're going by the definition from the late 1500s, my English degree made me literally smart, where literally refers to literature. No one's crying foul that the meaning of the word has drastically changed since then. And that's fine.

For that matter, in the OED's entry for literally, today's most common definition ("in a literal sense") isn't listed until number four.

If this sort of thing interests you, here are two other posts that relate, where I've ranted about how English evolves and also how we need to know Standard English to be taken seriously in most educated situations.


I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, so I can spend the time I saved eating brownies, because seriously, they won't eat themselves. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Fans of Sarah M. Eden, Take Note!


Big, fun, fabulous news for Sarah M. Eden fans!

For the first time, Sarah is having an awesome launch party at The King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City for her brand-new release, the second book in Shadow Mountain's Proper Romance line: Longing for Home.

This isn't a glorified book signing. Oh, no. It's a full-on party.

Attendees get a chance to hear Sarah talk to her fans (or possibly do a reading from the book!).

Plus they'll be treated to  awesome Irish-themed refreshments (fitting because the main character is from Ireland): FIVE flavors of scones (not Utah scones; authentic ones), plus clotted cream and strawberry jam, THREE flavors of tarts, shortbread, mini quiches, and sausage rolls.

And of course, you can get your book signed.

I mean seriously, people! It's going to be epic!

The launch party is TOMORROW, Tuesday, August 20, at 7:00 PM.

See full details on the Facebook page. You can pre-order a copy of the book at the bookstore link above, or you can buy one there.

It'll be awesome and fun, and I can't wait to see Sarah there to celebrate this big step in her writing career.

If you haven't met her, trust me: she's one of the funniest, loveliest, smartest people around, and that's in addition to being incredibly inspirational as she fights for her health in ways I can't imagine and is in chronic, mind-numbing pain. Yet she smiles and laughs and creates beautiful books.

And she's a great friend, too. I'm blessed to be able to count myself in that number.

So COME! And be on time so you can hear her speak. See you there!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Blog Hop Winners!

The grand-prize winners for the overall hop have already been notified. I've sent two readers e-copies of my grammar book.

Now to announce the winners of A Portrait for Toni. We have 2 randomly selected winners.

The first is from those who e-mailed me the correct answer to the trivia question (After he read my grammar book, how many points did my son's ACT English score go up the next time he took the text? Answer: a whopping SIX points!)

The second is from those who left comments about grammar/punctuation peeves or trip-ups. Great comments on a variety of grammar and mechanics issues!

Toni is still a couple of weeks away from release. These two lucky blog hoppers are the winners of a free e-copy as soon as it's out:

Trivia Question: Holly L

Comment: Jayme S

Congratulations!

I've had a whirlwind of a summer. As vacation time wraps up and school starts for the kids again, I'll be back to blogging more regularly. I have some fun things coming up that I can't wait to tell you all about. Stay tuned!


Monday, July 29, 2013

Blog Hop's Over!

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the Summer Splash blog hop!

Winners from my blog and all the others, including the grand prize winners, will be notified soon!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Blog Hop: Win Books & Other Prizes!



From  Friday, July 26 thru Monday, July 29, I'm part of a giant blog hop extravaganza, where you can hop around from the main Summer Splash Blog Hop site to enter to win a ton of awesome prizes, including e-books, paper books, Kindles, and much more! It begins and ends at midnight on those dates (EDT), so don't miss out.



**WIN BIG TWO WAYS**

1) Visit  every blog included in the hop, and you'll be entered into win one of 3 prizes, including big bundles of e-books and signed paperbacks. (2 copies of my grammar book will be awarded as part of the prizes!)



2) Spread the word about the hop on Twitter, using the hash tag #splashwithus for a chance to win one of these awesome prizes:
  • Kindle Fire HD 8.9 (The one worth $269.00!)
  • $100 Amazon gift card
  • $50 Amazon gift card

***WIN HERE ON MY BLOG!*** 



You have 2 ways to win a copy of my soon-to-be-released contemporary romance, A Portrait for Toni. I'll choose 2 winners at random who do either of the following (or do both of the following for 2 chances to win!)

Win a Copy of Toni, Option 1
Visit the review I wrote for my grammar book on GoodReads (FIND IT HERE) then EMAIL ME the answer to the following question. Send the answer to annette (at) annettelyon (dot) com

The question: After reading my grammar book, how many points did my son's ACT English score go up the next time he took the test?

DO NOT leave the answer in the comments! This post will be on moderation, so if you comment with the answer, your comment will be deleted, and it won't count as an entry. 


Win a Copy of Toni, Option 2
Leave a comment on this post listing a grammar, usage, or punctuation rule that's either a pet peeve of yours or something you always have to check to not mess up.

(Remember, comment moderation will be on, so if your comment doesn't show up right away, don't sweat it. It WILL show up soon!)


That's it! TWO ways to win a copy of A Portrait for Toni here on my blog, and lots of chances to tweet and otherwise participate in the hop to win lots of other prizes. Some of the blogs have some really fun contests and activities; be sure to check them out!


Monday, July 15, 2013

On Beauty, Dove, and the Lies Society Tells About Women

I'm getting all soap-boxy today. It's about a topic I've been thinking about for months, and it's finally come to a head.

You've all seen the Dove Real Beauty commercial, right? The one with the forensic artist? If not, here it is. Or watch it again to refresh your memory:



Many women's reaction to the video was powerful emotion. Some women cried at the message, which is captured in the tag line: "You're more beautiful than you think." Yes, I am, was the overwhelming response as thousands of women shared the video through social media.

Then came the backlash about whether the forensic artist was biased because he knew about the experiment, and how the majority of the women were Caucasian, and maybe that's the kind of beauty we're being told is somehow "real." Those arguments may or may not be valid.

It was a different response that make me sit up and pay attention: the one saying that outward appearance/beauty shouldn't be what society looks at anyway, and that making a commercial that focuses on it is wrong.

I even saw well-intentioned men get on the same high horse. They did mean well. I get that. Society is too focused on beauty. Isn't that the point? The truth  is, we live in a society that does put an extraordinary amount of emphasis and significance to outward appearance. That is a fact.

Another fact: Women are often way too hard on themselves because they can never measure up to the airbrushed models and movie stars bombarding them every day.

I know I'm only one among millions of girls who grew up with a gorgeous mother who was convinced she wasn't good enough in whatever way (too fat or whatever else). I've tried hard not to pass on those kinds of ideas to my daughters, but ironically, discovered that I have, at least with one of my features, and one of my daughters now worries about that very same feature, even though she's totally gorgeous.

Dangit.

Dove took a new angle on the beauty war. Instead of using those images of impossible beauty, where the models themselves don't even look like that, they used everyday women and showed the beauty they have.

To me, it was refreshing to see a company essentially back up the trolley and give women a dose of positivity. Should beauty be the only thing we're concerned about? Of course not. But it'll take a huge paradigm shift, and likely generations, before we move past it. If we ever do.

To any man claiming he gets it, or that he somehow values all women equally, no matter what they look like, I say, hah. Even women don't/can't always look past the outer shell, and we're the targets of the issue every minute of every day. It's not a man problem. It's a societal problem.

Case in point: One of the men I saw who was up in arms about this commercial and its focus on beauty (rather than brains, or other qualities, it was implied) had previously referred to his wife on Facebook and elsewhere as his hot and gorgeous wife. For that matter, pretty much any time I saw him refer to her, the word wife was preceded by a word or phrase describing her physical beauty. And I'm sure he did so out of love.

But after a lengthy discussion on a thread about this commercial, and my (always vocal, sometimes obnoxious) opinions on how our society values appearance so much, I noticed a change. I have no idea if it was intentional, but suddenly this same good man started referring to his spouse as his smart, brilliant, and talented wife.

If we think it's wrong that Dove made a commercial about beauty, then we should be ticked off at every women's magazine cover, every makeup commercial, every movie.

The problem is so widespread that not too long ago, one of my writing idols admitted in a blog post that if she could take a pill to be prettier but stupid, she's take it. I was horrified, in part because she's so stinking smart (and she's already pretty anyway, yet apparently doesn't think so), but also because she was pandering to the lowest common denominator in society. Not even this brilliant woman of letters was exempt.

(I was also dismayed because I'd lived the stupid/pretty pill thing in the form of medication side effects that made me lose a bunch of weight but made me dumb as a rock, and I was absolutely miserable the entire time.)

So men: Do you think you get what it's like being a woman, or that appearance isn't that big a deal? Read this post about sexual harassment at a science fiction/fantasy convention and think again. Women, it's an important read for us, too.

Even better, watch this video with Dustin Hoffman. Years ago, I'd heard about the epiphany he had playing a woman in Tootsie, but I'd never seen this video where he describes it. This clip has been making the rounds on Facebook lately, so you may have already come across it, because I didn't get to putting up this post early enough.

If you've seen it, watch it anyway. If you haven't, watch it now, and then watch it again.

I dare you to think about women and beauty, society, appearance, and intellect, in the same way.



(I always knew there was a reason I admired Dustin Hoffman . . .)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

WNW: Please Trash?

Last winter, our family took a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth. Because I'm a nerd and can't entirely shut off my editor brain even on vacation, I couldn't help but notice a recurring grammatical problem on the trash cans in Disneyland and California Adventure.

While I took plenty of pictures of the kids, I found myself snapping pictures of trash cans and other things that made me laugh. Soon my husband was in on it too. (My sickness appears to be contagious.)

Let's take a look.

The folks designing the cans for recyclables did an okay job. Note this can, with the polite request to recycle:


We could argue that they could have added a comma between the two words, making it RECYCLE, PLEASE, but at least the request makes sense.

The receptacle standing right next to this one, however, uses the same type of phrase, including please, but they ended up with an unintentional humorous meaning:


Now obviously they don't want park goers to throw things around and otherwise waste stuff. No, what they're asking is for people to put their waste in the can. But that's not necessarily what the can says. Because waste can be both a verb (don't waste your money) and a noun (garbage = waste), the two-word phrase could mean either, "Please put your waste here," or, "Please do waste the park." 

The problem was compounded by the fact that its twin, the RECYCLE PLEASE can, used a verb first, making it all too easy to assume that the other can also has a verb in its almost-matching phrase. Look at the cans side by side, and you'll see what I mean.


Jiminy Cricket wasn't the only one with the problem. We found the very same issue in Frontier Land.



It became a chronic problem everywhere we went day . . .



and night. 

Interestingly, at least one time, Jiminy and company found a way to make the request in a full sentence (minus the period). They totally should have done this elsewhere:


Monsters, Inc. added only into the mix, but that didn't help; the resulting phrase could have meant "Do nothing but waste," as well as "Put nothing but waste here."


Here's a case where they changed up the phrase on one can. They kept the request structure, but here (hooray!), the actual request is clear: KEEP IT CLEAN.


After seeing so many problems on trash cans, I thought that maybe the problem was solely in the rubbish division. But then I spotted this door at the Muppet theater, and I shook my head, sure someone had messed up again. Didn't they know that if something or someone is alarmed, it can mean more than one thing?


But I should have trusted that the Muppets knew what they were doing. I walked closer and noted the smaller text in the the brown rectangle:


Oh, yes! Woohoo! The person who made this sign is smart, knows their grammar, and has a killer sense of humor.

After a great trip, we flew home. But as we rode the airport shuttle to the parking lot, it happened again; I laughed at another sign. This one seemed to be an attempt to sound official, but it sounded rather silly.

In English, we often create objects by adding ee to the end of a word. For example, I've heard a tutor call the person they teach a tutee. Not a real word, but we know what it means: the recipient of the tutoring.

So what in the heck is a standee?


As is often the case in public typos, this is probably a case of over thinking it. The sign-maker people could have used the exact same number of letters by simply stating: NO STANDING.

And for the fun of it, as proof that we did Disney, here's a family photo of Splash Mountain, wherein we're inwardly freaking out but purposely looking bored.




Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wix's Life Lessons for 8th Graders

As the school year winds down (and my oldest child graduates from high school!), I wanted to share a cool list made by my daughter and her classmates. For the past two years, they've been in a special advanced program for English and social studies (nicknamed "Acad," short for Academy), and this year they had the same teacher for both classes.

This teacher (nicknamed "Wix") combined the two subjects. For example, when he taught about the Civil Rights era, the class followed that unit by reading and discussing literature about race issues. He integrated both subjects seamlessly, and as a result, the students learned more in his class than any other in their lifetimes.

Wix taught my daughter how to be a critical thinker. Wix challenged her in ways few junior high kids ever are. He made her grow and stretch and do more than she thought she could.

Wix is retiring, so this is his last set of students ever. As a going-away gift, my daughter had her classmates share favorite Wix-isms, things he'd taught them. Even in a public school setting, he managed to teach them values.

My daughter typed up the Wix lessons and framed them as a parting gift from their class. Some are clearly inside jokes that I'll have to learn about sometime. Some are silly, funny, or painfully true ("I want to hug you, but I can't"). And still others are profound lessons.

Here's to another great year of school gone, a great summer ahead, and to taking the lessons we've learned with us. Thanks to Mr. Wix and so many other great teachers out there.


All We Need to Know We Learned from Wix
Forgive one another | To keep a cow from exploding, stab it | For whatever reasons . . . | Alcohol is the stuff to drink for those of you it hurts to think | Ask questions | Don’t wake up hibernating bats | I’m telling you straight up |The world isn’t black and white | There are two kinds of people in the world | There is no such thing as a stupid question | Knowledge is not the same thing as information | Pay one extra payment on your house yearly | Appreciate real beauty | Bugs are part of any healthy diet | Palm trees can be dangerous | All knowledge is equal | Read your scriptures | I love you | There is always more than one way to spell a word | Dingbat is a language | Not all chocolate is equal | Are you ready? | Everyone is a child of God; treat them that way | You cannot worry about the speck in your neighbor’s eye when you have a beam in your own | Honor your parents . . . even if they are Republicans | I want to hug you, but I can’t. | Always hug Noah | Everyone can win in the end | Reality is a misconception fostered by the imaginary need to feel important | Failure is good | Remember the Rondas in your life | What’s the point of education if I can’t force you to be miserable? | I’m not reading too fast; you’re listening too slow | The basis on which you judge others will be the basis on which you will be judged by God | Never talk to someone in English if they are listening in Dingbat | Love cannot be explained in words | Don’t judge head hunters | Beauty is in the eye of the beholder | You can always lie yourself through college | Sometimes education can get in the way of your learning | One day the girls will notice you |You don’t want your last memory to be Wix giving you mouth-to-mouth | Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana | Only follow the rules that don’t matter | That which is essential in life is invisible to the eye | The difference between intelligence and stupidity is that intelligence has its limits | Some people are harder to love than others, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t love them anyway | Step out of your bubble | We have reached a bizarre moment in life | Love your neighbor | Stand up for yourself | Being gifted is a gift, not a curse | Take risks | A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets a chance to put its pants on | I love you.


From Your 2012–2013 Wix Kids
We love and will miss you

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

10 Years and a Great Conference


Every spring for ten years now, I've been at the LDStorymakers Writers Conference, which began as a tiny event (47 attendees) in a tiny venue (a small rented theater) and which has turned into a powerhouse conference that has to be capped. This year we had 450 attendees and a waiting list. I served on the committee for something like seven years, and one year I even co-chaired it with Heather Moore. It grows and improves each year, and it's a huge undertaking. (Next year, the conference is moving to a larger venue to accommodate up to 600, I believe.)

To catch up, I've blogged about the conference several times: HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

For five of those ten years, I've attended the Whitney Awards gala, two as a committee member and three times as a finalist (one of those years, I won—still one of the highlights of my career).

I look forward to the conference for many reasons. I enjoy teaching about something I'm passionate about. I love listening to other writers and learning at their feet. I love rubbing shoulders with both aspiring and highly successful writers. It's exciting to see writers grow and progress in their careers.

But as I said on Facebook the other day, it's also where, in some ways, I find my people. Because face it: writers are a weird bunch, and only fellow writers really get it.

Even when the conference is close to home, I make a point of staying at the hotel, because putting the Mom hat on and taking it off several times a day is not only exhausting for me, but difficult on the kids. They have a much easier time when they know that Mom's leaving on Thursday and coming home Saturday night (or whatever the situation is).

This year I shared a room with Heather B. Moore and Sarah M. Eden. As fun as the conference is, it's also exhausting. One night we all lay in bed in the dark, staring at the ceiling in silence. We were all wiped. That's when Sarah said, "This is the lamest slumber party ever." And it was, but we were happy about it!

This year was particularly awesome for several reasons.

One fun part was our critique group going out to dinner together (minus two members). (I'll do a post soon to explain the butter churns on our matching shirts.)

Left to right: J. Scott Savage, Michele Paige Holmes, Annette Lyon, Sarah M. .Eden, Heather B. Moore.
(Not pictured: Robison Wells and Lu Ann Staheli)
Another was hanging out with my dear friend and accountability partner, Luisa. (How did we not get a picture together?) She lives far away, so although we keep in almost daily contact, we don't see each other very often. Even at conferences, it's often waves in the hall with promises to find a time to connect. And then we never do. This year we found time in advance and penciled it in, and it happened!

The Whitney gala was a delight. Having an excuse to dress up is always fun.

With Romance Finalist Krista Jensen
Seeing friends and colleagues is great too. And even though I didn't win (and was quite sure I wouldn't; Paige was up against some awesome books), I had a great time. This year I was part of the losers cheesecake pictures, which Janette Rallison invented.

A bunch of us finalists who didn't win, acting all upset. (Janette's face cracks me up!)

I even got to meet Ka Hancock, whose book I fell in love with. Can't wait to read what she publishes next!

With Ka Hancock, author of the finalist Dancing on Broken Glass. (READ IT.)
But the highest point of the whole weekend was our keynote speaker, Anne Perry. Friday evening she gave her keynote address, and Saturday morning she taught a 2-hour master class (which I luckily signed up for before it filled up).

Her keynote address was nothing short of inspired. I could have listened to her all night (and not just because of her lyrical voice and British accent). Her words touched my heart in a sacred place, in a way no one else has ever done. Anne Perry is  a fellow Latter-day Saint and a master writer, and she drew on both of those things in her address. I was near tears the entire time. It's an experience I'll never forget. She changed me.

Saturday's class was a pure delight; she was not only witty and entertaining but deeply wise. She taught a lot of things that I knew already on some level, but that she reiterated in a way that had me nodding, reminded on a higher level about why certain things are important in writing and how crucial it is to keep working. (Truth be told, it was also nice to hear that even Anne Perry must revise and revise and revise.)

At one point on Friday, I saw her eating a meal alone at a table. I knew her seatmates would arrive shortly; she was at a table reserved for them. I wanted to go up and say hello, to tell her how I admired her as a person, how I love her work and her voice, and how reading her books has inspired me to raise the bar on my own work.

On one hand, I told myself that she's human, and that she would welcome a friendly hello. On the other, a voice screamed in my head that She's Anne Perry! You can't do that! So I chickened out. I regret that now and probably always will.

I doubt she'll ever read this, and I may never have another opportunity to tell her what her work and her words this year mean to me, but I'll never forget this conference or the influence she had on me and hundreds of others.

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