Monday, January 31, 2011

Who's At The Door

Today is the last day of the New Cedar Fort Author Blog Hop. To try out for my giveaway of $15 Amazon gift card, do these three things.
1. Become a follower of this blog.
2. Skip over to Dan Harrington's Blog and become a follower.
3. Leave a comment after this post.

Trust me folks, I only have a few contestants, so your chance at winning is huge! Also go to Dan's, Mike's, or Cheri's blog if you want more chances! So, all in all, you have a chance at winning $60 in Amazon bucks. Now, that's a sweet deal.

Today I review Dan Harrington's Who's At The Door: A Memoir of Me and the Missionaries.

Okay, so when you read the title, what's your best guess at the story-line? Guy meets missionaries and gets converted, right? That's what I thought. But don't let the title trick you, this isn't a run of the mill conversion story.

A reporter from Maine, Harrington met the missionaries with the hopes of writing a human interest story on them. But what he got from the experience was more than he bargained for. Throughout his journey with the missionaries Dan learns much about the Mormon faith but also much about lasting friendships.

Harrington tackles faith-based questions with candor and grace. In a world where it is never considered okay to bash someone for their sexual orientation or race, many still believe being mean to someone because of their religion is fine. In fact, in Dan's book, he points out several instances where people took pride in the mean things they did to the missionaries. In stark contrast, Dan befriended them and although he didn't fully agree with some points of Mormon doctrine, he was kind and respectful to the church and its members on all fronts.

I enjoyed his book. The writing flows nicely and is a fast-paced read. Harrington shows the reader that sometimes the most important lessons are learned through the journey and not in the destination.

Here are some questions for Dan Harrington:

Maggie Fechner:Before reading your book, I assumed it was a conversion story. Without spoiling the ending, how does Who's At The Door differ from other memoirs of people who meet the Mormon missionaries?

Dan Harrington: The ending for one. lol
Most books I've read about this subject simply persuade people to think one way or another.
In those books, the missionaries are treated as vehicles to conversion, nothing more. My memoir is a human interest story exploring what it's like to learn about another faith and culture and how endearing some of those experiences and people can be.

MF: How much of your study of the Mormon faith was based on your friendship with the missionaries? Would you ever have studied the church without their companionship?

DH: My initial studies were very much based on my friendship with the missionaries. I never would have found their church so interesting if they didn't come to my door at the same time that I was looking for my next newspaper story.
I think it's indicative of what happens to most people outside the midwest. The LDS Church is not even on our radar, nor would it ever be without the door-to-door missionaries.

MF: A few of the missionaries were very dear to your heart. Describe each of "your" missionaries in three words or less.

DH: This sounds like fun. Let's do it!

Luke—the consummate professional
Childs—suave ladies' man
Neilson—always the optimist
Dowling—tough but humble
Kelsey—duke of donut
Bailey—confident but grateful
P—heart of gold

MF: Now that you've had a long time to think about it, how would you respond to Elder Dowling's quote of Matthew 24:36 that even Jesus Christ wasn't told ALL of what Heavenly Father knows?

DH: I should have had a snappy come-back, right? They always have those on television. lol
That moment in the story—but more importantly in my life—really spoke to me. What I've taken from that conversation is how ingrained secrecy is to the LDS faith. The basic idea is that God doesn't reveal everything He knows, so naturally His church won't reveal everything it knows either.
If you're going to be Mormon, you have to accept that.
I guess my response now would be that I believe God always makes the right choice. I don't feel the same way about people.

Thank you Dan for the interview and good luck with your book and your continual spiritual journey! Since this is my blog and my opportunity to share my beliefs, I would respond to the last Q&A in this way:

As a life-long member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have never felt it to be a secretive church. Just as Harrington quotes in his book, there are some "sacred" but not "secret" topics that are not discussed outside of the temple. And also as he quotes in his book, I have learned more doctrine "line upon line" and "precept upon precept" as I became prepared for furthering my knowledge. I also feel that any knowledge I have gained has only been a more in-depth version of the gospel principals I have been taught since primary. There has never been something I have learned that has shocked, surprised or even thrown me for a loop.

Now enough of the super serious stuff. Come on people--go win a prize! I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Yay--Best Cover Award!

I just found out LDS Publisher selected Growing Up Gracie as its Best Genre Cover of the year for General/Women's Fiction. (This happened back on January 10th, but I guess I'm a little behind)

Congrats to the Cedar Fort Design Team! And thank you for making the cover of my book so beautiful and true to the story.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Let's talk romance

Who doesn't love a good romance?

There's some form of gorgeous scenery, and a pair of uber-attractive folks who fall in love with each other, and then comes the conflict. There must be some reason it's hard for them to be together: they fight too much and can't admit their love, there are miles between them, families don't approve, aliens attack and whisk one of the lovers away. Whatever.

In the end, of course, they find a way to be together and either are married or "committed" to each other in a state of pure bliss.

Now on to real life. For most of the married population of the world, that wooing or courting stage lasted a short while. Maybe a few months to a few years. Then the married part of life ensued which we hope lasts for about 50 or more years.

So here's my question. If courting is such a tiny part of our romantic lives, why are most romances based on that? Is it because the bulk of married life is just too darn boring to make a story out of? I don't think so.

Is it possible to write a GOOD romance about a couple who is already married?

I don't mean a suspense novel or a history lesson or anything like that where their love is just kind of laced in. I mean a true romance novel where it's entirely about their being together.

Have you read one?

Come on, let's get some comments going here! I want your opinions.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Rogue Shop review (New CFI Author Blog Hop)

The Rogue Shop by Michael Knudsen is a story about a young man venturing into Mormon country with only one thing: a vow to his aunt to never become a Mormon. He immediately finds himself penniless and desperate, and the unsuspecting neighbor of two cute LDS roommates.

Chris Kerry is in need of a job, and quick, so he dons a shabby suit and makes his way into the highly dysfunctional Regal Formalwear in downtown Salt Lake City. Between his experiences with his roommates and his coworkers, Chris comes to discover truths about his past as well as a hope for his future.

I enjoyed The Rogue Shop and especially found the characters to be the high point of the story. Each of Chris's coworkers jump off the page with their realistic quirks and dialogue.

In fact, I liked Michael Knudsen's characters so much, I invited them down to Mommy's Always Write for an interview. Here is a panel discussion with the characters of the book. Please check out the bottom of my post for more chances to win in the New Cedar Fort Author Blog Hop.

Maggie Fechner: Chris, What about "the Mormons" most threw you for a loop when you arrived in Utah? Was any of it as bad as your Aunt had warned you?

Chris: I was blown away by how they all seem to know stuff is true. I mean, Joseph Smith and his first vision, and that gold plates stuff? I couldn't get over how they just seem to take his word for it.

MF: Angie, What is your ideal first-date menu?

Angie: If I really wanted to impress a guy, I'd hit him with my marinated pork enchiladas, rolled in handmade white corn tortillas and smothered in a smokin' chile verde laced with fresh pressed habanero and a hint of raspberry syrup. Yep, raspberry. That was the secret ingredient until, well, just now.

MF: Stan, Should every man OWN a tux?

Stan: Rentals are okay for proms and weddings, but for Pete's sake, man, get with the program if you want to have any chance with the ladies.

MF: Eva, What was your personal favorite gown you ever designed?

Eva: I would have to say the very first satin gown I made in America, the one Mr. Park gave me the fabric for in 1949. I had no model, so I made it for Katherine Hepburn, who I had seen in a movie. That gown launched my career as a designer.

MF: Travis, Do you read the dictionary every evening before bed or are you simply blessed with an unbelievable vocabulary?

Travis: Pester me not with your patronizing interrogatives. How I became a walking verbal superpower will remain my secret, and mine alone.

MF: Willard, Have you ever been punched for your inseam measurement practices?

Willard: I know what I'm doing, so buzz off. Accuracy is everything when it comes to measuring inseams, and I'll do what it takes to get it right.

MF: Teresa, When you're not home-wrecking, what hobbies do you enjoy?

Teresa: I collect matchbooks. Hmmm, fire.

MF: Rick, Go ahead, tell us the names you reserve for your co-workers behind their backs.

Rick: Stan Park is an incompetent businessman. Willard Rush needs to be put out of his misery before he destroys Regal Formalwear. Travis--well, Travis just needs to stay upstairs and keep his big, wordy mouth shut.

For a chance to WIN a $15 Amazon gift card, do these three things:
1. Become a follower of my blog (the little button on the right-hand side of the page)
2. Become a subscriber of author Michael Knudsen's blog
3. Leave a comment on this post with one tidbit of info about Michael found under the "About the Author" portion of his blog. Here's the link.

*You can also earn more chances to win by linking to these author's blogs Michael Knudsen, Cheri Chesley, and Dan Harrington and following their instructions. We don't have many entrants yet, so your chances of winning are pretty dang good!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

From My Mommy Being With Me

Last night I was in a rush to get the obligatory book read to the children so that the bedtime routine could be completed. It had been a long day (isn't every day?) and I was ready for them to go to sleep.

Their choice was a book my mother-in-law gave me when I first became a mother called "From My Mommy Being With Me." It's a small paperback that I just noticed for the first time, was published by the same publisher as "Growing Up Gracie."

I dove into the book that I have read many, many times and felt a whole new response to its sweet words. The book talks about the lessons a little girls learns as she grows up simply by her mother "being with her." I was fighting the tears--and I'm not really a crier!

It made me re-evaluate what my children have learned and are learning from my "being with them." Sometimes I'm sure they've learned to be stressed out. Or maybe to yell. Or to have a great plan in the morning and have it all go down the toilet before breakfast is on the table.

But, I hope they've also learned that I love them. And I want them to be happy. And that I know they are children of God and that I am so very blessed to have the opportunity to be their mother.

It also made me think about what I learned from my own mother. In one word: selflessness. She embodies that word perfectly and always has. I know I am far from mastering that one, but I hope to improve each day.

What did you learn from your mommy being with you?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I've got lots of stuff I need to update my faithful readers on (And YAY, there are now more than 7 of you!)

***FIRST and Foremost, please come visit me at my book signing at The Brass Plates LDS Bookstore on Saturday from 2-4 for an author signing. 15704 E Sprague Ave, Spokane Valley.***

1. I was the "cover" story of the Latter-day Saint Sentinel yesterday. This is a weekly online publication for LDS folks in the Spokane area. Check out the interview here.

2. A few of you have heard Growing Up Gracie is a Whitney Award nominee and have asked me what in the world that means. The Whitney Awards are the awards that go to the best LDS books published each year. I am excited to be nominated, but the real news comes on February 1 when the board announces the finalists. Check out my competition here.

3. My LDS Momma contest was closed as of Saturday. Boo, we didn't get the required 10 entries to do the B&N award. But YAY, we did get a few! Thank you so much to those who participated. You guys are awesome mommas, and I plan to use your stories in one way or another! Also, just for being such good sports, I have three prizes: The Peasant Queen by Cheri Chesley goes to Shelley Martin; Who's At The Door by Dan Harrington goes to Kristina Calkins; and The Rogue Shop by Michael Knudsen goes to Diana Wallace.

4. NOW, everybody enter my New CFI Author Blog Hop Contest. Entering is pretty dang easy and I don't have a single entry yet. Hello? Do you want to buy something at Amazon for free or what?

Thanks guys. Happy Reading!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Interview with a princess...AND a chance to win

This is the first day of my New Cedar Fort Author Blog Hop. Read my review here and read below for a chance to win a $15 Amazon Gift Card!

"The Peasant Queen" by Cheri Chesley could have been a big disappointment in my list of current reads. Fantasy is not my favorite genre, and I approached this novel with a good deal of hesitation.
But Chesley's quick pace and great development of characters pulled me in from the get-go. This fun novel has a "Graceling" feel, but requires less time commitment from start to finish. It is a clean read and one I recommend to young adult and adult readers--whether you love fantasy or not.
The novel is the story of Krystal a farm girl who is kidnapped by the wicked King Gregory. Her loyal dog Damen follows her and is a life-saver in many instances. Krystal is ordinary in most ways, but her courage and commitment to help others when even she is in danger are often extraordinary. There is, of course, a nice love story mingled in with the action. And although set up for a sequel, this book definitely leaves the reader satisfied.
My only critique of the book is its cover. Chesley is a new Cedar Fort author. The company is known for its fantastic covers, but I feel this one was way too boring for the exciting pace of the story.

"The Peasant Queen's" courageous heroine Krystal, stopped by for an interview, and here is what she had to say:

Maggie: Krystal, would you say back on the farm Damen was your closest friend or did you have other friends as well?

Krystal: Damen was my only friend. As a little girl, I'd befriended a girl on a neighboring farm, but they moved away some years ago.

Maggie: You seem to catch the eye of every eligible bachelor. As a regular farm girl, what's your secret?

Krystal: Truly, I didn't catch Curtis' eye. His father and my brother, Andrew, arranged that match. I think Douglas exaggerated the rest. Or they like the smell of sweat and hard work on a woman, I really don't know. As far as Gregory and Jareth, well, I can't really fathom what they find so appealing. I'm just a regular girl. I think I appealed most to Gregory because Jareth loved me. Loves me. Still getting used to that. :)

Maggie: Which would be worse: marrying a wicked king or the village idiot?

Krystal: Marrying the king, definitely. That's not to say marriage to Curtis would have been easy, but I'd have had my family close by and Curtis is not exactly difficult to fool. Gregory wouldn't have let me out of his sight, and would have demanded so much more than I could give.

Maggie: Krystal, what do you imagine for your future in Fayterra?

Krystal: Children. I know it's the queen's duty to provide heirs and ensure the family line. But I think I will enjoy motherhood. I'm kind of dreading learning all the royal duties and etiquette, though.

Maggie: Do you ever see yourself going back to the simple life?

Krystal: I strive to make whatever my life is as simple as possible, but it doesn't always work out that way. I prefer close friends, family and clothes that don't require two people to get me out of.

Maggie: If you were born in the 1980s or 1990s, what would be your current favorite song?

Krystal: Bon Jovi's "It's my Life." I find a great deal of truth in those lyrics. But don't ask me to sing. Please.

Thanks Krystal for stopping by, and thanks Cheri for a great fantasy read! It is available on Amazon.

TO WIN: Only three steps lie between you and the $15 Amazon gift card.
1. Become a "follower" on my blog
2. Hop over to Cheri Chesley's blog and become a "follower" on her blog
3. Answer this question in the comment section of my post: Cheri Chesley is a mom of how many? (the answer is easily found on her blog)
*If you do these things your name will be put in the pot for the prize which will be drawn at the end of the next two New Author Blog Hop Mondays.
*Hint for more chances at winning: Cheri, Dan Harrington, and Michael Knudsen are all doing their own drawings for Amazon gift cards too. Check out their posts today to get more chances!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Family Saga defined

I am struggling through my revision process, and I was so happy when I read this definition of family saga:
The family saga as its name implies is a literature genre that chronicles the lives and occurrences of a family and may cover several generations. The family saga can also deal with several related or interconnected families such as neighbors,
and friends. Through the novel, you read about the tragedies, betrayals, triumphs, and reconciliations that the family faces. The setting can span several continents or remain in the same city or town throughout the entire novel, usually in the sagas
events set in motion by the grandparents have drastic effects on the lives of their grand or even great-grandchildren.

I was beginning to wonder if my current novel was just a huge mish-mash. And it is--family saga style! It fits the family saga definition to a tee. Although it needs some serious work, I think the potential is there for it to be great. I hope I can get it to exactly what I want it to be.

Momma Contest

This is the last call for my momma friends out there. The deadline for this contest is this Saturday (1-15-11).

I am asking for submissions from LDS MOTHERS. Not writers, per se. Just MOTHERS. Yep, that means you!

Here is what I want: 400-1500 word essays on one of these four topics.

1. Major Mommy Follies: Any mess ups you've had as a mother, like the time you almost had a heart attack after you drove 200 miles and realized your child's car seat wasn't attached to the car.
2. The Unbelievable Things My Children Have Done: What did your child do that just about put you over the edge?
3. Other Mothers: The women you admire and how they have improved you as a mother.
4. I Knew There Was A Reason I Became Your Mother: The wonderful moments that make it all worth it.

Here's what you get: I will give a signed copy of Growing Up Gracie to the first person who enters a legitimate submission to the contest. If I get 10 or more entries, I will give a Barnes and Noble gift card of $25 to one writer (chosen at random). If I get 20 or more entries, I will give a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card to two writers (chosen at random).

Rules: You must be willing to see your entry reprinted (on this blog or in print). Your entry must have no profanity or show abuse in any way (such as I am a bad mom because I beat my kids). Your entry must be legible. You must be willing to allow editing (for grammatical and spelling type errors) of your submission. You can submit entries in each of the topics, but your name will only be considered as 1 of the 10 for the drawing.

Submit entries (not as an attachment)at I won't open attachments so just write it in the body of your email message.

Lots of you have told me you've always wanted to write. Now here's your chance!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Author Rebecca Talley's Review

Author Rebecca Talley reviewed Growing Up Gracie on her blog.

She compared the book to comfort food---And ooh do I love me some homemade mac and cheese.

I respect her opinion as an author: she's the writer ofHeaven Scent, Altared Plans, and recently The Upside of Down. And as a mother she's even more of an expert. She has 10 kids!

Here is the link!

Monday, January 10, 2011

How do author's do there editing?

Okay, did you catch it? Yes, there are two glaring mistakes in my title.

Author's, of course, should be authors.
And there, of course, should be their.
And in the third place, even with out the grammatical errors, that title is really quite lame.

Today's post is focusing on editing. If you are going to be a writer, you are going to have to get familiar with this subject. There will be various stages of editing. Your own revisions, rewrites and copy editing. And then that of your publishing house's authors. Some of you may even have an in-between stage with an outside editor.

I remember my newspaper days huddled over proof sheets with my fellow staffers. I held a blue editing marker in one hand and a greasy piece of pizza in the other. We'd start with our headlines. Misspellings and even glaring errors such as "Pet cat shoots boy" are common place in journalism. Then we would work our way through bylines, stories, ads, and anything else that was on its way to the press.

Imagine some of the costly errors that would harm a newspaper if its pages weren't properly edited.

Budding authors should treat their manuscripts the same way. No publishing house wants to hold an author's hand through the cleaning up process of their first draft. And in fact, unless the work is a masterpiece, most houses won't even give it a second glance if it is riddled with silly errors.

But, you argue, my rough draft is done! I am ready to shout from the roof tops, I've written a book! But hold the phone, there is still a lot of work to do. Here is how I tackle the post-rough-draft end of writing a book.

1. Put my rough draft away and absolutely don't look at it for a month. Fresh eyes do a novel good in my opinion.
2. Read a printed version of my rough draft, marking it up along the way. In this step I am looking for serious plot problems; areas where the novel is not developed enough; chapters that need reworked or even cut all together; that I maintained a consistent point of view and tense. I am especially making sure that the book stayed in line with the standards I have set for myself as a writer (language, morals etc.)
3. Make the changes I had noted and begin reading again. Now I am looking for SHOW vs. TELL, voice, lack of detail, and how natural the dialogue sounds. I also look at every verb and see if it can be "punched up" a bit.
4. Copy edit. This is the boring old blue marker part. This is a line by line edit of spelling, word confusion (such as there for their), and punctuation problems.
5. Then the book goes to my first readers. I give about four or five people a copy and request they please read it in some fairly quick amount of time (a few weeks to a month). I also give them an idea of a few things I want them to consider while reading it. I want their overall impression of the novel, their feeling about the plot and characters, and maybe if it ended too abruptly or something like that.
*On a side note, while the book is out with first readers I begin crafting a query letter.
6. I look at each of my reader's written suggestions and consider if they would make the novel better. If so, I make appropriate changes.
7. Finally, I read through my novel one more time. And this is going to sound silly, but I read it out loud. I catch many things I may have not noticed when I do this.
8. I print the final version and query letter and send out the book.

That is my process. I am by no means infallible. In fact, if you've found any mistakes in Growing Up Gracie, I apologize. However, an outside editor, my publishing house, and a top LDS reviewer all remarked that I had very few errors, which, in the LDS publishing world is fairly unusual. I attribute this to all those copy editing classes I had to master on the way to earning my journalism degree. (And also to the fact that I had probably re-read and edited the book a total of about 8-10 times by the time it went to press).

I think the bottom line is when submitting a book to a publisher, a writer wants to give their book the best chance to get out of the chute as possible. A clean manuscript is a fantastic start!

Please leave us your ideas or questions on your editing process.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Review of Reviews

Corny name, huh? But it describes this post perfectly. Being a new author I've started getting some reviews and the jury is still out on what I think of this. It's scary putting something out there that you aren't quite sure will be received the way you intended it.

There have been several great reviews of Growing Up Gracie. And for those I am so grateful. It makes me feel wonderful to know someone thinks my "baby" was worth their time and money. I'll post links to those great reviews at the bottom of this post.

There have also been a few less than glowing reviews. Nothing mean or horrible, mind you, but just not great. Of course I won't be posting links to those at the bottom of this blog post--I'm not into self-mutilation, after all.

What I wanted to talk about today was how an author--or a budding or a wanna-be author-- can graciously accept negative reviews or critiques of their work. After all, if you want to be in this business, you must develop a thick skin. (And I for one am starting with my feet, they are already like hooves!)

Allow me to first demonstrate how NOT to accept such reviews.
DO NOT scream this while throwing your 1960s typewriter through the third story window: "You dirty, no-good jerk of a reader! How dare you not stroke my ego! I bet you couldn't write your way out of paper bag. In fact I challenge you to write 80,000 words of anything and have it come out perfect!"

This might make you feel better, but only momentarily. Instead I challenge you to look at the review with these two questions in mind:
1. Is it right? Is there any truth I can take from this review that will improve my craft? For instance, one of the less-than-wonderful reviews I mentioned said Growing Up Gracie was very character driven novel and a bit lackluster on the plot. That is a specific thing I've been recently working on improving with my next novel.
2. Tell yourself, I didn't write this book for Bill (or whomever the particular reviewer may be). I wrote my book with only a few people in mind: myself, and my daughters (well, one daughter at the time). Anyone else who happens to read it and love it is just a fantastic bonus! I can't expect everyone to feel good about something that wasn't really meant for them in the first place.

These are my ways to combat the not-so-warm-fuzzies you may get. How do you deal with it?

Nice people who enjoyed Growing Up Gracie:
Fire And Ice Book Reviews
Rachael Renee Anderson, author
Michael Knudsen, author
Bonnie R. Paulson, author

And as always, please become a "follower" by clicking the button over there.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A case of the first date---er, first signing---jitters

This is a picture of the line at a Sarah Palin book signing. You've all seen images like this in the movies or perhaps you've even been a patient fan in a line like this. Well, starting this month I will be sitting behind a book signing table with pen poised and fresh copies of Growing Up Gracie at hand. And let me be the first to report, I feel like a 16-year-old girl nervously waiting for her first date to drive up.

Will he like me? Will I look cute? Will he even show up? How will my parents embarrass me? Well, maybe not that one.

I've never been a part of a book signing--from either side of the table--so I'd love some feedback here. I've read all the publisher-created ideas for making book signings successful, but I'd love to hear your input.

From my writer friends who've been in the trenches: What worked? What bombed? How did you get people to attend when all your buddies have already bought your book?

And from my reader friends: What do you enjoy at a signing? What gets you off the couch and to the bookstore? And what can an author do to make themselves approachable at the store?

Help a girl out here... I only have a first date once!

My two signings are scheduled for The Brass Plates LDS Bookstore in Spokane Valley on January 22 from 2-4 and at Aunties Bookstore in downtown Spokane on February 18th at 7.

(And as always, please click the button and become a "follower" while you're here.)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Cedar Fort's Awesome Artists

I just saw that the cover of Growing Up Gracie is in a Best Book Cover Contest for 2010.

I was so pleased to see this because I think the artists at Cedar Fort did a wonderful job on the book cover. They captured the feel of Gracie's life perfectly and beautifully.

I am definitely a reader who "judges a book by its cover" and so I hope to get to work with this team again on future books!

Vote at