Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gratitude

In honor of Thanksgiving, and in tribute to a year I've had to struggle to come to terms with, here's something I wrote about Gratitude.

Gratitude: This year I’m grateful for time. 

Me and Dad, before prom my sophomore year of high school.


Losing my Dad this year was one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. But while it’s been so hard, I’m so thankful for time. 

I’m thankful for the time we had to spend with Dad earlier in our lives. Memories are full of thanksgiving feasts at home, family vacations, card games and rumikub. Full of memories of being at work events when my very popular and well-known Dad was there, too. His beam of pride when we’d encounter each other at those events. His “lady goes” game he’d play with each successive Smith family grandbaby. His complete and total support of us and the life decisions that led us to where we are.

With his diagnosis, we had time. Time to grow accustomed to the idea that Dad would leave us. Time to get used to the idea of cancer and all that it brought with it. Time to say goodbye. Time many families don’t get. We learned so much about life, living, death, and dying from Dad. My father really changed my attitude about facing a terminal illness. I learned that not every illness is a fight. Sometimes the task is merely to endure to a quiet peace. All of it was just amazing to bear witness to...it changed me profoundly.

During our Disney trip, we had one afternoon. It was the Sunday when everyone had finally collected together, when all five kids and both my parents were in a room together, when time seemed to stop. It was one of those moments in life I will never forget. We had the door open to the Florida August heat, Dad was always chilly near the end. We could hear the piped-in Disney music, but it was beautiful. Dad kept telling us to listen to the music. He’d cry. We’d cry. Then in the next breath he’d say something sarcastic and we’d all laugh so hard we’d cry again. The afternoon seemed to stretch on for an eternity, even though now looking back I realize it was over in a blink. But it was time. Precious, beautiful time. 



This moment is forever frozen in time for me, now. 

And now, just over three months later, I’m grateful again for time. It does what people always say about grief. It softens the edges. It dulls some of the pain. It gives you time to get used to living without that person on this earth with you. It’s not easy. But it gets less hard. With time.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Things I'm thankful for as a writer

In honor of this day when we are thankful for all the great things in our life, I though that it might be appropriate to list the things I'm most thankful for in my writing life. 

8. Websites with story inspiring photos. Like photos of crazy abandoned places (thanks, Karen for sharing on facebook!), abandoned water slide parks particularly, or Wikimedia's photo contests of the year.


2nd place in last year's contest, a coronal mass ejection.  Photo from flicker, courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 generic license. 

7.  Hair washing time, because that's seriously when I come up with my best ideas. The downside of this is that sometimes I think too intently when I get excited . As a result, in the past month I have 1). Shampooed my hair after conditioning; 2). Put more shampoo in my hair when there was already some in there.
Shortly after the last incident, I took the Nair bottle and moved it out of the shower.
  
6. All the writing tips on the internet! Here are some of my favorites:


5. Chocolate with caramel inside. Not the kind that's all hard and gets stuck in your teeth, or that super sugary kind that has a weird grainy texture. I'm talking about the nice, almost liquidy kind, particularly if it's smoky caramel. Yeah, that stuff. I am very thankful for that.


4. Tea. I'm a night writer, so coffee is not my writing drink of choice. Or wine. Wine puts me to sleep. But tea is hot and delicious. I especially love to have a huge cup of sweet mint tea when I'm writing. Or toasted rice green tea. It smells exactly like toasted rice, but it has a nice, light, almost fresh flavor 



3. My cats, for providing leg warmth, snuggles, and the occasional reminder that I should get off the computer and do something in the real world (preferably playing with them, in their opinion).
Kaylee and Sir Samuel 

2. My laptop. I do not understand how anyone ever wrote by hand. How else would I jump back and forth between chapters, and delete whole sections in a blink? I mean, I've tried to write longhand before, and I went insane with all the crossing out and not being able to move words around with ease. Writing things out by hand is sometimes more satisfying, but too much work overall. 


1. My friends, family, and Prosers, and fellow co-writers, who are always there when I need inspiration and encouragement. Who cheer me on, who read my stories for me and ... who give me critiques and advice and tell me gently when my ideas are just a little bit too silly. And whose own fantastic writing always inspires me to strive to be better. Don't know what I'd do without you all.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Those Sobbing Characters

This is going to be a short post today because of Thanksgiving in just a few days.  I still have lots to do, and I want to sleep. 

Anyway, this is a topic I’ve been thinking about off and on since I heard this quote from Orson Scott Card.

“If your characters cry, your readers won’t have to; if your characters have good reason to cry, and don’t, your readers will do the weeping.”

I understand the reasoning behind this advice.  Crying may seem like an easy way to show emotion and elicit an emotional response from the reader, but it doesn’t work and in fact, can make the character annoying if he/she cries too much.  Crying itself isn’t enough to show the emotion, the reader needs to feel the buildup of emotion and the reasons behind it.  In other words, it is more important to focus on the internal emotion of the character and not just use external cues to express it. 

But this advice bothers me for three reasons.

1.   I don’t like advice that speaks in absolutes.  While it may be best to avoid crying, there are going to be moments when crying is the right response.

2.  It feels a little calculating, as if this advice suggests that the writer tries to manipulate the reader into a specific emotional response.  I understand that storytelling is usually about forging an emotional connection with the reader, but I think that emotional bond should come honestly.  Personally, I try to capture the authentic emotional response of the character, and if the readers connect with the character, they too should feel it. 

3.  It reinforces the idea that crying (even in real life) is wrong and/or a sign of weakness.  There is definitely a preference for the emotionless, stoic characters.  These characters are believed to be stronger than their more weepy counterparts. As an emotional person who, I think, is strong, this perception drives me nuts.  Crying is a healthy, natural reaction to stress, fear, and grief.  From my experience, a good cry can relieve all those negative emotions and leave my mind clear to focus on the course of action that needs to be taken.  I get strength from crying; sometimes I even feel empowered by it.  It is a release.  I wish more books would portray crying in this way rather than showing a sobbing character falling apart.  I think we need to change our social attitude in regards to crying, and the best place to do that is in stories.

Crying in stories does need to be limited.  If a character cries in every scene, it does become annoying and it also loses the emotional impact.  But I do not think that crying should be eliminated completely.  Just show the emotion behind the tears and use it sparingly.  Like everything else, there needs to be balance.

So I’m curious, please share your thoughts on characters who cry.

~MaryAnn

 

 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Moonless by Crystal Collier (Book Review)


Synopsis (from amazon):

In the English society of 1768 where women are bred to marry, unattractive Alexia, just sixteen, believes she will end up alone. But on the county doorstep of a neighbor’s estate, she meets a man straight out of her nightmares, one whose blue eyes threaten to consume her whole world—especially later when she discovers him standing over her murdered host in the middle of the night. 

Among the many things to change for her that evening are: her physical appearance—from ghastly to breathtaking, an epidemic of night terrors predicting the future, and the blue-eyed man’s unexpected infusion into her life. Not only do his appearances precede tragedies, but they’re echoed by the arrival of ravenous, black-robed wraiths on moonless nights. 

Unable to decide whether he is one of these monsters or protecting her from them, she uncovers what her father has been concealing: truths about her own identity, about the blue-eyed man, and about love. After an attack close to home, Alexia realizes she cannot keep one foot in her old life and one in this new world. To protect her family she must either be sold into a loveless marriage, or escape with the man of her dreams and risk becoming one of the Soulless. 



My Review:  
I don't remember how I stumbled onto Crystal Collier's blog, but I always enjoy it. She reviews new books, is sweet and engaging, and has a great sense of humor. What isn't to like? So when I had the chance to get a copy of Moonless in exchange for a review, I jumped at the chance.


I didn't know anything about Moonless when I started reading it, and frankly, I was a little worried by the end of the first chapter. I'm not a fan of Gothic Horror, and this book is definitely written in that vein, although if there was a continuum, I would put it more on the Gothic Romance side of the line. And then there are the zombies. Nope, I'm not a zombie fan either. I've never made it through a zombie book before, and that includes attempts at reading several zombie books recommended here at Prosers.

I hope Crystal doesn't mind that I refer to the Soulless as zombies, or that in the future I will say with pride that I finally like one zombie book. The relationship between the Passionate and the Soulless was fascinating. Kiren was a tortured and dreamworthy hero, but Miles is the character who won my heart. I can't wait to find out what happens to him next. 

Crystal has compared Moonless to Jane Eyre, but in my opinion it was more romantic than that. With zombies. The prose in this story is lyrical, and Crystal has such a strong voice. If you are a fan of lyrical gothic horror, Moonless will not disappoint you. And if you are not a fan, Moonless might just change your mind. You can purchase Moonless here.

Or you can enter to win a copy, or another great prize! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 18, 2013

To the People Who Don't Like the Swearing In My Book.

***Yesterday, something bad happened, that wasn't associated with anyone who reads this blog, and because of that, my feelings were hurt, and I commented on it here. I appreciate so much the support from my Proser family, and the discussion this post added. Interesting, interesting stuff.

But I want to defend my friends and family. All the people I've mentioned, picked up my book because of my name on the cover. That's the only reason why they bought it. Some of them bought it outside their normal reading zone, and I am beyond thankful that the love me enough to know that this is important, and they put their cash down to support me. Then they actually read the book. That is true service for an author, and all we can ask of anyone.
.
My book made them feel uncomfortable. My book went beyond their line of comfort, and so when I asked what they thought of it, they weren't giving me a look of shame, I think they were giving me a look of "It made me uncomfortable, but I love you, and I don't know what to say."

These are amazing kind people. And I got my feelings hurt, and lashed out at them.

I'm truly, truly, sorry if I hurt anyone's feelings. Especially if these are people who had hurt feelings after showing me love.

I should have warned these people who I know well enough to know they'd feel uncomfortable, so that they'd have the choice to read it. I promise from this point onward, that I will be forthright and let people know exactly what's in my books before unleashing them on you.

Everyone has a line of decency. We can't cater to all lines, but we have to cater to our own. And then we have to be comfortable with the fact that someone out there, maybe even someone we love, and whose approval we crave, may not approve.

I'm not going to stop writing with honesty.

But I will accept all honesty back, with a loving and forgiving heart.

Thank you. To the people who didn't like the swearing in my book, but still like me anyway, thank you for your support. Whatever you feel comfortable giving, that's enough.

***


I've heard my mom swear before.

We were in our car, a few miliseconds before we slammed into the car in front of us. She had her hand over my shoulder to protect me, and a swear word popped out.

The Prosers
I use bad words.
I've heard my friends swear before. Actually several times before. One friend swore as I stood in front of her door while she yelled at her children. I knocked. She opened the door with a smile, and I pretended I couldn't hear anything.

I've heard my mother-in-law swear before. It was an accident. One of those times when you mean to say one word, but then accidentally say a different word. It was hilarious. Everyone in my husband's family was there, and we all busted out laughing.

We all swear. Some of us with more shame than others. I have to tell you, that I don't care if you swear. They're just words. A collection of syllables. My two year-old swears every time I tell him to sit. He's just trying to repeat my words, and I don't make a big deal out of it.

Yet somehow, the seven swear words in Alchemy are the only thing any of my friends or family can talk about.

Here's the conversation;

Beautiful family member: "I'm reading your book."

Me: "Oh, what do you think?"

Beautiful family member: The look of shame. "There's a lot of swearing."

Every time. That's the conversation. "I don't like the swearing." "I really had issue with this one word." "I liked it, but I can't let my teenagers read it because of all the swearing."

To be clear, there's not a lot of swearing. There's seven swear words in the entire 120,000 word book, and every one of those swear words can be found inside the bible.

I think it's the look of shame that accompany the words that hurts the most. It's the, "I really liked your book, but you should be embarrassed by those seven words. I'm embarrassed to know you."

I hear those words in the quick change of subject afterwords, or complete absence of subject. Even as I bring it up. Repeatedly.

Me: "Here's my soul and my spirit in book form. What do you think?"

Them: Look of shame. Empty silence that is so full of words. Words that sound like this: "I really liked it, but I can't share it with the teenagers who I know would like it, because someone should protect them from the horrors of minor swearing...because the teenagers I know NEVER swear. Or even if they do, I want them to know that it's not okay, that the words they say aren't okay, and they need to pretend, like I do, that they are perfect person. Otherwise there's no way they'll ever be look like they're happy. And I just want people to be  look happy. All people except for you. You who just had her heart dismantled because I weighed, measured, and judged you inappropriate because of the seven words you didn't say."

Oh yes, maybe this is important. I didn't swear in the book.

Maybe it's the fact that I was the only one of us who DIDN'T swear, so people feel safe to judge or criticize these girls who've become the other half of my brain.

Or maybe this is just me. Maybe it's just my corner of this world. Sabrina and Melanie have not seen or heard the look of shame. Maybe it's the soul crushing need for perfection, and to have someone they know admit imperfection in print reflects on them, and that isn't fair. Books last forever. My children are going to read this. One day they might be ashamed of the words I didn't write.

The Craptastic Guide to Pseudo-Swearing
A real book
Why are these arrangement of letters more imperfect and damning, then the steamy kissing scenes? No one has complained about the kissing scenes. Why is it, when I was in High School, we had to edit out all the swear words in our school plays, but could drink *alcohol, cheat on wives, commit suicide, or play strippers? And that was in just one season of shows.  It's in a celebratory LDS meme I wish I could have found about The Hunger Games that talks about how it never swore once. Yes, there are children killing other children in the most grizzly way possible, but no one said fudge, so it's okay.

It's in the fact that Orson Scott Card, Stephenie Meyer, and Anita Stansfield, have all sworn inside their books, but because these Mormon writers were successful, it's okay. While our tiny book hasn't exploded yet, (wait for it) so it's fine to criticize me to my face about my lack of morals, and how I don't live up to my Mormon standards. It's about how if enough people like something, then the rules change, because the standard of morality isn't based on what's good or what's bad, but on what people think. And people... I mean, People, have decided that these few arrangement of letters and sounds, are shameful. You know, unless enough people like it. Then it's fine.

If you are one of the people who don't like the swearing in Alchemy, please know that I respect you. Thank you so much for reading our book, and for supporting me. I probably should have warned you, and I'm sorry I didn't.

We're only human. Please be my friend, close the door, and smile. Pretend you didn't hear anything, the way you'd want me to if I'd walked by your house on an off day. See who I am beyond seven words.

Everyone swears. Some with more shame than others.

Books should be a place where you can be real without shame.  Books can be a place for the imperfect, the interesting, and the inspiring. Books can give a voice to those who don't have one, and sometimes, those voices swear. Especially on an off day.

Books are about off days.

If you agree with any of my comments, please check out the book.

Alchemy is 99 cents right now, and if enough people support the 119, 993 words that aren't swear words, then you can help me silence the shame of those seven words I didn't write. If enough people like it, then it'll be okay for the people who love me to support me.

I want to know what you think. Why is swearing more easily criticized, then kissing, violence, or murder?
~Sheena

 Sheena Boekweg is the author of  Funny Tragic Crazy Magic  (which doesn't have any swear words in it) and the coauthor of Alchemy (which does). 

* ginger ale in a wineglass

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Google + Hangouts for Writers: Writing Alone, Together

One of the bigger challenges about being a writer is the sad fact that writing as a profession is a very solitary experience. Writer’s need time and space without (many) distractions to be able to create.

I’m an introvert, which means that I’m well-suited to this writer life. I ascribe to the classic definition of introversion as well represented in Susan Cain's book, which doesn’t mean I’m anti-social or socially fearful, but rather that I need quiet time to refuel. I need alone time to feel “normal.” (whatever normal is, anyway!)

Writing turns out to be a great match for my personality type because of this need for writing to take place in calm and quiet. Please let’s not mention the piles of piles that my writing desk currently contains. They are quiet piles. Silent, even. Just paper.

However, as a writer and an introvert, I still crave regular human contact. I achieve some of this through digital means – both via online connections as well as phone calls. But I also like to actually see people I’m talking to at least some of the time. Plus it’s lonely to write, and I long for the company of other people on the same or a similar journey.

Enter Google+ video hangouts for writers. This has been an excellent way for me to achieve my goal of writing, but also connecting with others in similar positions all over the globe. I have done Google+ writer’s hangouts with several professional writers in my circles in the past and it’s a great way to also get exposed to a wider group of authors, making new connections and establishing additional relationships.

At the beginning of 2013 I took an online workshop with author Mary Robinette Kowal. We used Google+ hangouts for each weekly 2 hour class meeting, with additional work in between our class sessions. After the class completed, my classmates and I established a regular set of writer hangouts on Google+. We’ve since absorbed an additional group of Mary’s class alums into our core writing group.

Here’s how it works. We have two standing meeting times that we’ve selected in an attempt to suit everyone’s schedules. Since we have people as far away as Alaska and Finland, this is not an easy task. But we’ve settled on one evening and one weekend morning each week as regular meeting times.

Then, a day or two prior, one of us creates a “google event.” You can select a fitting theme for your meeting (this can be a fun time-waster if you’re a procrastinator like me,) then give your event a title and select the right date and time.


On the far right is a pull-down menu option for “Event Options.” Pull this down and select “Advanced.” This is where you specify your event is “online-only.”


In the To: field, enter the names of any Google+ members or communities (I believe G+ communities can be created with non-G+ members, or they can participate in communities without having a gmail account, but don’t hold me to this…) Then the invitation will go out to those who have subscribed to emails for this sort of thing (you can change what notifications go to your email in your Google Settings.) 

The invitees will also receive an email at the start time of the event, with a helpful “Join Hangout” button right in the email. It’s a simple task to click on the link where you will be joined into the video chat group.



A few helpful hints about video chatting:
  • -       Take turns talking. When you realize you’re interrupting someone, stop and either visually indicate or say something to show you recognize you were overtalking. Like on a large conference call for work, overtalking makes it so that nobody can understand what anybody else is saying. At least with a hangout we have the visual cues, too, but you still need to be careful and respect other participants.
  • -       For optimal writing output, establish some sort of “writing and then chat” routine with your hangouts. One of our regular meetings includes a 90 minute free-write at the beginning, followed by a chat afterwards. Another strategy is to take a break for 15 minutes once each hour to chit-chat before returning to writing.
  • -       Engage in some friendly competition. Here in November, National Novel Writing Month aka Month Of INSANITY I like word wars as a way to spark my competitive streak and get more words down.
  • -       Look at yourself when you first come onto the hangout. If it’s dark where you are, consider if you need to turn on a lap so your face can be shown. Tilt your webcam so it shows your face well. See if there’s anything weird or distracting in your background and try to remove it. Good luck if the weird/distracting thing is kids and/or pets, they have a way of derailing even the best conversations.
  • -       Try to avoid moving your webcam, it can make other participants motion sick.



-        Now I challenge you to go connect with other writers in video calls of some sort or another. Go forth and write, alone, together!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Posting redux: Wait, does this need a title too?

This week's particular blogging laziness is brought to you by the cold that I've had all week. My creativity is dead, so here is a post from December 2011 about strengths and weaknesses.

As an update, I'm happy to report that I finally figured out how to get those stupid bags open (protip: get your fingers just a little bit wet, the bags open much easier). Still can't make fried potatoes though.

Anyway, enjoy!




*******

In Sheena's post on Monday, she asked us for tag-lines, and my brain veered onto the superhero route (Prosers: It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a 3000 word sprint!). And that made me think of my own strengths and weaknesses. Now, I know it's bold to declare my weaknesses as a superhero writer where the whole world could see, but I'm just crazy like that (I don't fear you, Malaysian spambots!)
It's not the general weaknesses that we're going to talk about tonight. No, we're going to talk about the really, really irritating ones. The things that it seems inexplicable that anyone could fail at. In my case:
-I can't make fried potatoes to save my life (no matter how many tips people give me).
-It takes me freaking forever to open those stupid plastic produce bags at the grocery store. (THIS SHOULD NOT BE HARD)
-I can't wear clothes for five minutes without getting something on them, no matter if I haven't drank, eaten, or left my house (I don't own a lot of white).
-I'm terrible at naming things

They taunt me with their delicious crispy goodness!


It's the last, of course, that causes me the most trouble as a writer. I do okay naming characters, but as a fantasy writer, I'm always trying to create new worlds and places, all of which seem to require names. The Steve* Forest might be funny at first, but you can't name everything in your world Steve without causing great confusion.
I've searched around for tips, but none of them seem to work for me. I fail utterly at making up random words, and though I can sometimes entertain myself by playing with Google Translate, coming up with names by searching random words in 20 plus different languages is not very time efficient.
hat whole situation is annoying, but what's really bad is my inability to come up with titles for a story. And titles matter. I myself am guilty of judging by titles. I certainly picked up A Fistful of Sky by Nina Kiriki Hoffman because of the title, and it was an awesome book. Now she's one of my favorite authors, but I wouldn't have made a random selection of the book if the title hadn't grabbed me. It works the other way around as well. For example, I haven't read The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss yet in part because of the title. It's supposed to be really, really good, but every time I see the title I think, "The name of the wind is 'Steve'!" And then I snicker to myself for a few minutes before picking up a different book.
I'd always known this, but the message was really driven home for me recently. After years of sending around my story "Marbles" and not getting it accepted, I finally had the brilliant inspiration to call it "Music in Glass." And yes, it did take me years to come up with that alternate title.

The problem continues – one of my short stories in progress is currently called "Curse Story" because I have no other ideas for titles. And my novel is currently called Graveyard, which would be kind of boring even if a certain famous author hadn't just won every award imaginable for The Graveyard Book.
I prefer to wrap up posts with a positive note and solutions, but I really have no clue on this one. Any magic suggestions for how to find great titles for stories would be much welcome. I've tried all the standard things here too (looking at other titles I like and adjusting them to my story, for example), but none quite work for me.
And to not make myself seem like a complete incompetent, here are a few pointless things that I'm really awesome at:
-Identifying gulls in winter plumage to species level**
-Baking chocolate chip cookies
-Drawing stick figure zombies
What are your random strengths and weaknesses?





*Sincere apologies to anyone named Steve. I actually do this with a multitude of names, but this is the one that went in the post tonight.
**It is impressive! I swear! At least other ornithologists think so...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What Makes a Great Story...Or the Marginalization of Mormon Writers by The New York Times

I want to start out by confessing that I don’t read literary fiction.  I know right there that I have lost all credibility with Mark Oppenheimer, the author of this New York Times article that I’m going to discuss shortly, but I’m okay with that.  I, however, have read many books and plays that are brilliant, important, and profound.  Most of these have been classics, so I'm not sure what literary critics think are important contemporary stories.  But I think we all know what makes a story truly great.
 

I came across this New York Times article recently which discusses the failure of Mormon writers to produce any works of literary value and speculates if the LDS culture “militates against highbrow writing.”


I’m not going to discuss the article’s subtle jabs at the LDS culture or its sweeping generalizations of a very large group of people (Just because one man’s parents told him to only write about happy things in his journals doesn’t mean that all or even most Mormons follow that or have that same mentality.  Or that bookish young Mormons will gravitate towards Mormon authors instead of just reading books that interest them).  Okay, I might touch on those issues slightly, but what I want to mainly focus on is what makes a story great.
 
The article makes this statement as a reason Mormon writers don’t write more important, critically acclaimed literary novels.
 
“But there is a specifically Mormon logic to the trend, too.  Realist literature for adults often includes aspects of adult life like sex and drinking, and the convention is to describe them without judgment, without moralizing.  By writing for children and young adults—or in genres popular with young people—one can avoid such topics. Mormon authors can thus have their morals and their books sales, too.”
 
Now this is where I have the biggest problem with this article.  If I am understanding this correctly, highbrow, important literature tends to be realist literature for adults with a specific (causal or nonjudgmental) view on sex and drinking.
 
First of all, once again a sweeping generalization that Mormon writers won’t or can’t write this type of book.  They can write about sex and drinking without preaching if they want to, and they won’t get excommunicated for it either.


Second of all, isn’t this saying that important, highbrow literature needs to fit a specific world view?  I know nihilistic and realist aren't the same thing, but it seems to me that those lines can blur. If a story seems positive or hopeful in any way does that automatically make it idealistic?  If someone has a nihilistic world view, then isn’t it possible that any non-nihilistic point of view may seem romanticized to him?
 
And furthermore, why is a realist literature inherently superior?  Some of Shakespeare’s greatest plays were comedies, such as Twelfth Night and Midsummer’s Night Dream, and they weren’t any less profound than Othello or Hamlet even though they displayed more idealistic and romanticized views.


Finally, sex and drinking are not essential to every adult themed plot, and if an author chooses to include them, any attitude towards them that the author chooses to use is valid.

 
We all have our own world view, and they are all deeply flawed in some way. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but what I see from this article is that Oppenheimer’s perceived Mormon world view (ignoring the fact that Mormon’s are individual people and that each of their own individual world views) isn’t valid. That Mormons are na├»ve, idealistic, and out of touch with reality. That their world view can’t be used to write important literature.

In other words, it seems to me that Oppenheimer is saying that only people who think like him have important things to say.
 
The greatest thing about literature to me is that it opens up the world to us.  That it can show us others' perspectives.  That it can help us understand each other.  I think that is the value of a really great story; that it makes you think and see something in a different way.   


Every world view is valid.  You don’t have to accept it or even like it, but it does have worth and the ability to show you something new if you let it. 


The problem is that those great, profound stories are just so rare.  They are the work of true geniuses who are able to craft a powerful story with pure, unflinching honesty.
 
I’m not sure if a Mormon writer has achieved this yet, but I haven’t read every book written by Mormons.  Even if no one has, that doesn’t mean we are hampered by our culture, just that true geniuses are rare.


~MaryAnn

 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Boomwriters

I have a cool friend. Well, in the interest of full disclosure I should mention that I have LOTS of cool friends, but one of those cool friends inspired this blog post. She's the kind of friend every author dreams of having. She showed up to my house at 7:30 this morning so I could autograph a copy of Alchemy for one of her students, and she didn't take pictures! (I'm not telling you her name so that you can't steal her away!)


This is the cake she had made to
celebrate the release of Alchemy.
That is just one of a million ways she has done everything possible to help me be a successful author. One of her newest ideas is something called Boomwriter. Have you heard of it? It's a program where a guest author writes a first chapter for a class. The kids read the chapter, and then write their own second chapter. All the chapters are read and voted on, and the one with the most votes is adopted as the classes second chapter, and so on, until, by the end of the year, your class has an entire book, which is sold in the Boomwriter's bookstore. (A quick perusal of their site leads me to suspect that the books sell for a flat rate of  9.99).

The website has sample first chapters, some written by published authors and celebrities, or you can use your own, which is where I come in. My friend (hereinafter called "Jess") is having me write the first chapter for her class. In the process, they've learned all about me, and many of them have bought my book. The chapter I write for them must be less than 1000 words.

In addition, this project can pique the interest of the entire community. Jess mentioned that the principal is considering asking the newspaper to do an article about it. I'll keep you posted on that development.

For the most part, I think this is an amazing idea. I have mixed feelings about the competition angle. On the one hand, knowing it is a competition will likely make the students try harder. Competition can be a great thing. But I also think that competition is often not the best way to build confidence or true creativity. I know my children were raised in the "participation trophy" era, and I see the problems inherent in that. Still, writing is a hard enough skill without that added pressure, but I'm sure teachers must be able to tailor the program to their own classroom's individual needs.

So every student writes a chapter, and one gets picked. All those students whose chapters didn't get picked may have had a whole story arc that is now obsolete. I know from experience how frustrating it can be to try and force your brilliant ideas into a space in which they no longer fit. Of course, sometimes those moments create the best new ideas. I know that from experience.

Yes. Boomwriters is an exciting program, and I get to be a part of it!
Do you know of any other programs that encourage writing or that help authors be part of the educational process? Please share!


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Cover Reveal- Soul of Flame by Rebecca Ethington!!!

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I'm so excited to be a part of this!

I've loved these books from the second my friend Rebecca sent me a beta version of Kiss of Fire she planned to publish just for her Grandparents. It exploded, and has sold more than 70,000 copies in one year.

Today is the cover reveal for Soul of Flame (Imdalind #4) by Rebecca Ethington!

Soul of Flame

Soul of Flame is releasing on December 2, 2013

The Time for the final battle has come.

Edmund's armies have surrounded the Rioseco Abbey, trapping the few survivors inside. The sight that Ilyan was given a thousand years ago is about to come to pass.

If only Joclyn was able to fight.

Joclyn is tormented by the hallucinations that Cail’s mind has left her with, her magic an uncontrollable torrent that even Ilyan cannot control. Her moments of lucidity are broken by fears of dripping pipes and bleeding walls, and a desire to kill Ryland that she is trying to ignore.

Love may be the only key to her sanity, to her strength, and to Edmund's death.

But that love may stand in her way, and a single choice may tip the scales and secure their future, or destroy their fate.


Giveaway

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About Rebecca Ethington

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Rebecca Ethington has been telling stories since she was small. First, with writing crude scripts, and then in stage with years of theatrical performances. The Imdalind Series is her first stint into the world of literary writing. Rebecca is a mother to two, and wife to her best friend of 14 years. She was born and raised in the mountains of Salt Lake City, and hasn't found the desire to leave yet. Her days are spent writing, running, and enjoying life with her amazing family.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Happy Blogerversary!


Happy Blogerversary! The Prosers have been around now for 2 years now. Two years. I thought it'd be great to dig into the vault and post one of my favorite posts.

The Dating post.

Prepare to be analogized, peeps.
***

Okay, so for this analogy, pretend I'm a young Brad Pitt. Take a good look at the picture on my right, and imagine the person talking is that guy.

MaryAnn, I think you looked at me just a little too long.

:P

The Dating Analogy


Seriously, MaryAnn. My words are over here. 

When I tell people I'm a writer, the first thing they often ask is "Where do you get ideas?" 

The fact is, idea's are everywhere. Imagine that you are in a bar, ( which apparently is a place where you meet people...I don't know, I'm a Mormon.) or at a party, trying to fall in love. Ideas are like cute girls, and as a writer/ young Brad Pitt, it's my job to pick up any of these girls/ ideas and try to make things work. 

Ideas, like hot girls, can fall into a few categories. Please allow me to label you.

The Girl that is Too Hot For Me.


There are simply story idea's that are out of my league.  Now, I'm a young Brad Pitt of writers...obviously... but still. :) 

Some idea's I'm just not ready for/ would laugh in my face if I attempted to pick them up. I know this, so I don't choose them. No offence, hot idea. Maybe it'd work out, but I'm not gonna waste my time only to be rejected.

The Two Timing Girl


 This has happened to me more than I'd like to admit, but often I start writing an idea, and then I find out that the idea is currently dating another writer. Has this ever happened to you? You start writing a story, only to find out that someone else, often a smarter, more published writer has already climbed that hill. Doesn't work. Heartbreaking, but you got to move on.

 The Bad News Girl Who Won't Let Go


I knew this girl who dated a great guy for a while, and then they broke up, because they knew it wouldn't work out between them. It wasn't anyone's fault, they just weren't compatible. But they wouldn't stop hanging out, and she lost years... YEARS... on a guy she knew wouldn't work for her. 

I've seen this happen to writers too. Sometimes an idea just won't work, nothing wrong with the idea, nothing wrong with the writer, they just aren't compatible. But as the writer focuses on this bad news idea, there isn't room in their head or their schedule for any other idea. Walk away, girl. Walk away.

The I'm Not So Sure Girl


This is the relationship I'm in right now...writing wise. I have this idea. I like it. I like the dynamic between  the girl and they guy, the casual flirting, the history of pain. I like the system of magic. But it hasn't swept me off my feet. 

I keep writing it, asking questions, finding out more, spending time and energy trying to have a relationship with this idea. And you never know... I could get all the way to the end of this story without ever committing.  I guess you could say I'm settling for this idea until a better idea comes along. You could also say I'm a jerk.

I don't care. I'm a young Brad Pitt.

The Love At First Sight Girl


Our eyes meet across a crowded room. This is the one,  I  think. We start talking, and every expression, every second I'm with her is amazing. My heart starts racing. When I'm not with her, I constantly think about her. While I'm working, while I'm making breakfast, while I'm in the shower (...did I just loose my G rating?). A song will come on the radio, and I'll think of the girl. I have to tell everyone I meet about this girl; my mom, my friends, even complete strangers, all need to hear about this perfect beautiful girl. This is the girl I can commit to. 

See, writing a novel is a commitment. But when you can write something you love, it's not work. When the idea is right, writing is like falling in love.

Now, for fun, I'm going to label boys/writers. Super Fun!


The I Won't Ask Anyone Out Guy


You've met him. He's nice. He's not bad looking. He would be a great boyfriend/ husband/ father but he won't ask anyone out. Maybe he's spending too much time at work, or playing video games, but this guy just won't show up at the party. He might make an occasional appearance, click on Word, look around the blank screen, ignore the hot girls, and then go back to playing Zuma. This guy/ writer is wasting his time, and his good looks on video games/Facebook/ Pintrest.

Sad.

The Big Talker


He talks a good game. He tells the girl how he wants to be in a committed relationship, the house, the kids, the publishing contract. But then after a couple of weeks( or chapters) he finds a reason to end things. And then he's back to talking big, about his goals, his dreams... Girls flock to him, but then nothing happens. He could even fall in love. Meet the girl of his dreams, complete a novel to the end, and then never pop the question/ submit a query.

Sad how much I resemble this jerk.

The Best Friend


This is the guy who has it right. He's trying. Honestly he's trying. He's there for the girl. He asks the right questions, submits to the right markets. But all that happens is the big fat rejection. It's scary being this guy. Putting his heart out there so often, waiting for the time it'll click. Soon, he might stop trying. Soon he might give up.

But then, he'll find a girl. Things will click, the right words will fall into place, the story will start making sense, and all of the heartbreak, all of the rejections, will prepare him to treat this girl right. 

Things work out in the end for the best friend, they always do.

You just can't give up.

What other comparisons can you come up with?

~Sheena 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

On Writing Longer than Short Stories

I heard recently from a writer friend who mentioned that the venerable publication Asimov’s does not receive many submissions of novella length, thus the magazine hasn’t published a novella in several issues. (Sidenote: I love hearing about these "problems" which I could solve by simply writing, don't you?)

Hmm.
(Using the image from the Ender's Game audio book since this cover is the one I originally read the novel with.) 

I just today saw the movie Ender’s Game. Few know that Ender’s Game started out as a novelette (very fun fact: which my agent, Ben Bova of the Barbara Bova Literary Agency, originally purchased from Orson Scott Card in the 1970s. Ben edited Analogmagazine from 1972 – 1978.) The novelette Ender’sGame first appeared in the August 1977 edition of Analog Science Fiction and Fact.

The novel (longer length) was first published in 1985, with an updated version released in 1991.

I’ll have to talk about the movie in another post (short point: see it.) But one really strong sense I had from the movie, having read both the novelette and the novel of Ender’s Game, is that it adhered closely to the action present in the novelette. Much of what was added to make the novel was not part of the movie (e.g., the subplots related to Peter and Valentine back on earth.)

Hmm.

Could it be that short novels (however you call them – novelettes, novellas, blue blobs of ink on paper) offer some advantages to full length novels? And some advantages over short stories? Particularly when adapting to movies comes in? Evidence: I am Legend, the Will Smith vehicle from the 1954 novella of about 25,000 words. 

Most books are 250 or more pages. Most screenplays are in the 120 page range. Roughly half a book (yes, yes, formatting peculiarities make for some differences in actual length, but this rough guess of a screenplay being about half as much content as a book holds in general.)

Length estimates for short story/non-novel distinctions usually vary quite a lot, but I tend to use the designations Wikipedia lists. Good enough for me. Most recognize a break in the 17,000/18,000 word range, and a smaller one around 7 or 8 thousand.
ClassificationWord count
Novelover 40,000 words
Novella17,500 to 40,000 words
Novelette7,500 to 17,500 words
Short storyunder 7,500 words

Hmm.

An additional point of evidence around novellas and other short novels/long short stories is the fact that independent publishing has removed conventional rules around story length. We writers are able to write to the length that stories take us to tell them. We don’t have to write longer because that’s more “marketable.” Who cares how long (or short) a story is?

So all this to say – what are you waiting for? Go forth and write shorter-than-novel length…somethings! There’s clearly a market for them both within the current professional fiction marketplace, as well as inside Hollywood.