Monday, October 31, 2011

The Help

I'm sure I was the last of you to read this. But lately Mr. Fechner has needed the computer all the time for school, so I had to read a good old fashioned paper book instead of a manuscript.

I loved The Help. I read it in just a few days.

Here are some discussion questions on the novel. Answer one of these if you want.

1. What do you think motivated Hilly? On one hand she is terribly cruel to Aibileen and her own help, as well as to Skeeter once she realizes that she can't control her. Yet she's a wonderful mother. Do you think that one can be a good mother and, at the same time, a deeply flawed person?

2. What were your thoughts on Minny's pie for Miss Hilly? Do you think a domestic worker would have ever gone this far to get back at their white employer?

3. What were your thoughts on the movie compared to the book. Do you think it was a good rendition?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A random thought about conversing (and the odd things I feel I must slip in...)

So one time my husband and I were on a date (or a non-date if you read this post about us being just friends) with another couple. We were talking about Hawaii, and I slipped in a little tidbit that went something like this, "ya, when my parents went there they went to the sugar cane fields," or something like that (because it was pertinent to the conversation). The guy who was the friend of my date turned around and looked at me and said this: "That sounded like you just said that so we would know your parents went to Hawaii."

I laughed it off, but I was kind of offended because I really had been just trying to contribute to the conversation. I mean who cares that my parents had been to Hawaii? Who's parents haven't been to Hawaii?

But tonight, for some reason, I got to thinking about similar conversation situations.

I feel like within each of us is some sort of a need to tell people certain things. Right? Are there some things you seem to tell people all the time (even folks you don't know well enough to?) just because you feel more validated as a person?

Maybe you HAVE to tell people you're a writer.
Maybe you HAVE to tell people you were a foster parent for triplets.
Maybe you HAVE to tell people you have an eleventh toe.

I don't know what your little HAVE TO mentions are. But here are mine:

*That I have big babies. I'm not sure if this makes me feel less embarrassed about the torpedo belly I grow every time I get pregnant or what. But I find myself slipping this in conversations all the time. And just because I can't resist, here it is: 9 pounds; 8 pounds 4 ounces; 9 pounds 6 ounces; and 9 pounds 6 ounces. Aaahhh how wonderful that feels (writing it, that is, not giving birth to it). Now don't you think I'm more of a woman? And maybe you'll forgive my wide hips? Ahem, anywho...

*That two of my children are close. They are 17 months and two days apart to be exact. Is this CRAZY close? No. Not really. I'm sure some of you have kids who are a year apart. In fact, a girl in my ward is like nine months apart from one of her siblings. But for some reason I feel validated by this statement. (And I even tend to exaggerate it to 16 months sometimes.) Because yes, that three days difference would really explain so much...... I know. I am certifiably insane.

*That I've been skydiving. See my ABOUT ME PAGE as case in point. Was it a blast? Yes! Would I ever do it again? Probably not because that one bone I had that used to be brave was forever lost when I plopped out a placenta and became a mother. Did I mention that was a pound too? Oh I digress.

*Money. This one makes me mad. Because I don't like when people talk about money. And I don't meet people on the street and say, "hey guess what? Our mortgage is xxxx per month" or anything embarrassing like that. But when I get around my besties or my family, money stuff (or the lack of it) seems to come out of my mouth a lot. I want to quit this. Make me stop.

*One odd thing I tend NOT to slip into conversations is that I am an author. This is terrifying to me for some reason (and could be a contributor to my book sales. Hmmm...).

So I'm hoping that by slipping these things into this blog, I can learn to refrain from slipping them into real-life conversations from here on out. In reality I am not a great converse-er. In high school and college I was outgoing and popular. I talked to lots of people. Then I married Mr. Shy and instead of me making him a Chatty Chatterson, he has molded me into a more sidelines kinda gal. These days I get all sweaty and nervous and fill the lulls in conversation with crazy stuff:

"Oh, did you say you grew cucumbers this year?....... That reminds me of my nine and a half pound baby."

What do you slip in to conversations? Do you wish you could quit this.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Five-Year Plan

This beezniss can be a tough one. I told my critique partner yesterday that I'm convinced we get 100 bad news-es for every one good news. And those good newses are SLOOOOOOOW coming. To make it as an author, you need to have an eye for the long term.

So, what is your five-year writer's plan?

Here is where I hope to be in five years:
-I hope to be enjoying writing
-I hope to have an agent
-I hope to have two more LDS published titles
-I hope to have at least one mainstream published book
-I hope to still be reading a lot of craft books, and just-for-fun books
-I hope to be attending conferences
-I hope to be still maintaining my platform through my blog (if blogging is even still around by then)

What about you. What are your long term goals?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Thoughts on Halloween

Here are Maggie's thoughts on Halloween:

1. "This is the song that never ends. Oh it goes on and on my friends...."
That's how Halloween feels to me. We have parties Wednesday, two on Friday, one on Saturday, and--oh yeah--the REAL holiday on Monday.

2. What I like most about Halloween: hearing the Monster Mash on the radio.
What I dislike most about Halloween: um, everything else??

Just kidding. I'm not that bad. I don't close my curtains and hide out on the Spooky Night of the year, but as I get older, I'm realizing I enjoy this holiday less and less.

First of all, every year my group of friends has a Halloween bash. Awesome, right? Yes! Tons of fun. Except for one thing: you HAVE to wear a costume. So, each year, I spend approximately thirty days running possible costume ideas by my husband. He spends approximately thirty days telling me why each one won't work. This is crazy making. And what usually happens is we throw something together in the last thirty minutes that is, well let's just say, not-award-worthy. The above picture is us a couple years ago as a Chick Magnet.

Second of all, my kids get sweets ALL the time, they don't really need a whole extra week devoted to loading up on more sweets. Remember when dessert and sweets were a special occasion? I remember hoarding my Halloween candy for ages because that was mostly likely the only candy I would be getting until my stocking on Christmas morning. But not any more. Here are some of the ways my kids get sweets: at home (duh, I like them too), at the bank, at church, at school, at the doctor's office. You know what I mean.

And finally the costumes. First off, I don't buy costumes. But before you go all "well-isn't-she-Miss-Betty-Homemaker-sewing-up-her-kids'-costumes-by-hand" on me, let me explain. I don't buy costumes. AND I don't sew costumes. I'm too cheap for either. If it can't be hot glued, forget about it. Yes, I am a mean, mean mother. Most of our costumes consist of regular clothes reconstituted. For instance, Daughter #3 is a ballerina (have all that junk); Daughter #2 is a old woman (pillows, a head scarf and mom's clothes make this easy peasy); Daughter #1 is a jockey (yeah, so this costume might not be easily guessed by others, but she thinks she looks like one, so who cares?). And baby? He gets a store bought costume! (Bought by my friend and hand-me-downed).
As far as adult store-bought costumes, I'm confused. How come no one dresses up as a nurse, a school girl, or a maid? But EVERYONE dresses up as a slutty nurse, a slutty school girl, and a slutty maid. There are even slutty kitty cats for goodness sakes. Why? Oh why?

What are your thoughts on Halloween? And... Have any good costume ideas for me and hubby?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

And the writer was...

Kristin got it right (in yesterday's post). The author of that statement (about improving your writing skill) was Stephen King in On Writing. I still don't know where I stand on his thought. I kind of agree with one of my commenters who said you can't teach the art of telling a story, but the skill of writing it can be improved.

In On Writing, King told about his road to fame which was fun to read. Can you believe he couldn't afford to keep his phone on and was writing in a laundry room when the letter came that Carrie had sold paperback rights for $400,000?

I also liked that he said even though writing is a huge part of your life, it need not be the center of your universe. He talks A LOT about how important his wife and family are to him, and I loved that.

I'm not sure I agree with all of his writing tips, for instance, he said writing conferences and classes don't do a whole lot besides affirm to you that spending your time writing is worthwhile.

But, I learned lots of other cool stuff. I loved his advice that when you write your first draft, you write with the door closed. Don't let anyone else in on your thoughts and just go gung ho. He said don't take more than a day off a WIP at a time or else you will lose your momentum. He said a rough draft shouldn't take longer than three to five months. When you write your second draft, write with the door open.

Another interesting tidbit he shared was this formula: second draft= first draft - 10%. He said he naturally was an adder of words, not a deleter of words, but since he's learned that formula his writing has greatly improved.

All in all, it was a good craft book and I enjoyed it.

Have you read this book? Are you a fan of Stephen King's fiction? What do you think of him?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What do you think?

I recently read this:

"...while it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one."

I can't decide if this depresses me or encourages me. I guess it depends on where I rank myself. I hope I am at least a competent writer.

How does this quote make you feel? Do you agree? Do you disagree? And for bonus points, who wrote this?

Monday, October 17, 2011

The rest of the story

On with the story of how Dan and I met.

So anyway, like I said, one of the guys of the group asked me out, but it wasn't Dan. We went on a few dates--one super fun one that involved jumping off a thirty foot bridge into a river--but decided to just move on. All the while I continued to hang out with the group of guys. Then one day Dan called and invited me to a group activity. I didn't think much of it.
When the three guys picked me up, they insisted I ride in the front seat (Dan was driving, but not the cool truck). Dan said "hi" and NOTHING ELSE for the entire two hour drive to the lake cabin for a day of boating (and yes, more swim suits for me).
Anyways, to make a monstrous long story a little bit shorter, more and more of these group things went on.
Then one day Dan called and asked me out. I thought this a little bit odd since I had kind of gotten comfortable in the group setting. But I said yes. We did a double date to the fair with a couple who was really lovey dovey. Then a few days later Dan took me mudding. Or, if you're from Washington, you would call it "four-bying." Psshhh. Either way it means tromping around on huge hills and muddy backroads in a truck. I had a BLAST! In fact, I hadn't had so much fun since Wyoming. Still, Dan barely talked and when he kissed me that night he was so nervous he almost fainted-- no joke!
We went on several more dates over the next couple of weeks, but not much changed. Finally, I couldn't handle the sitting in silence (I'm pretty social) and I told Dan the dating thing just wasn't working. I broke up with him and went back to the roster of potential datees.
But guess what? Dan didn't give up.
We went back to hanging out with the whole group. We started hanging out alone--as JUST FRIENDS. And you know what? As soon as the pressure of being a boyfriend-girlfriend was off, Dan opened up. He speaks!!!
Over the next six months, Dan and I became best friends. We weren't dating (at least in the regular sense). We didn't kiss. But we hung out every single day and I had the time of my life. The non-dates Dan and I enjoyed included: smashing pumpkins off of bridges; going on super long drives to nowhere; riding bikes; camping (don't worry, these trips were supervised people); and just hanging out. And talking. And talking. And talking.
One night after a super fun mudding trip, I walked in my door and said to my Mom "I'm going to marry him someday." I immediately covered my mouth and backtracked "No, I'm not. It's Dan!"
Dan was an awesome best friend.
I graduated college and took a few months off and started needing to figure out a life plan. I signed up to join the Americorp (think Peacecorp in America) and began getting ready to move to Maryland in January. Something in my heart told me not to go over and over and over again. But I had no real reason to stay. I didn't have a job. I didn't have a boyfriend. I was ready to move on in life. My plane tickets were on their way for me to leave in less than a month.
It was December and Dan offered to pick me up for the Church's annual Christmas Devotional broadcast. I told him he didn't need to and I rode with my Mom. After the program, Dan asked if he could drive me home. Again I told him he didn't need to I could ride with my mom. Talk about a major plan foiler! I went home and about an hour later he called and asked if he could come over.
Remember we were not DATING (in fact I was still going on dates with other guys although I didn't have a boyfriend). Dan came over to the house and we were down in my room talking but he was acting weird. He was so freaking nervous for some reason, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out what it was.
He kept saying stuff about how much fun we had together and everything like that. Finally, exasperated with what he was trying to get across, I said "Are you trying to say you want to try dating again?" (Remember I was planning on moving across country in a matter of weeks).
Dan went down on his knee pulled out a gorgeous ring and said, "Actually no. I'm saying will you marry me?"

Yes. Talk about a shocker.
Now, most of you kind of knew when your proposal was coming. Right? Me? Not. A. Clue. We weren't even dating! Beat that for shortest Mormon relationship!

It sounds corny, but with absolutely shaking hands I just said a silent prayer and asked Heavenly Father if it was right, and I knew it was. I really, really knew.

And I said yes!

We kissed. Told everyone else. And were married four months later.

Crazy huh? I love the behind-the-scenes story of our engagement though. On one of our nights tromping around in the backwoods I guess (I don't remember this) I described my dream wedding ring to Dan. He remembered. He bought it for me.

Also, during singles ward that morning, he had snuck out of Church and went and asked my Dad's permission to marry me. You know what my Dad said? "Don't feel too bad if she says no."

But I said yes.

It was a different route to marriage than most people's, but it had to be that way for us. It would have NEVER worked out the first time around (when he was still Mr. Silent), but becoming best friends was the perfect natural progression for one of the shyest guys in the world.

Dan is still a pretty quiet guy. Not at home, of course, but around new people. He is the most wonderful man I know. I am so blessed that he picked me. I love him with all of my heart. And I am so lucky we get to be together for eternity.

Share your real-lief love story. The long or the short of it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

That post with an overabundance of dashes and parenthetical statements

I bet you didn't know that you were going to read the story of how me and my husband met. Yep. That's what's on the schedule. There's nothing Mommy today. There's nothing writerly today. There's not the usual random crazy fodder to fill your brain. Today I have an actual story.

In high school I was a one-man-woman and had a relationship that lasted several years and spilled into college. After an especially hard break up I took it upon myself to test the advice to date a bunch of guys and just have fun.

And so I did.

I rolled down the singles ward list with vigor. There was the pre-mission guy who I was certain I'd wait for (does four months count?) There was the recent convert who LOVED the same football team as me (if that's not celestial enough, what is?) Unfortunately he also loved to date (and kiss) lots of girls at the same time. There was the guy down the hall who was still too immature. There was the fun guy who made me feel like a million bucks but was also stuck helplessly in a decade old love-triangle that he couldn't completely break free from. Next there was his roommate. He was a super fun guy. The only guy I'd ever dated who was shorter than me, but still very cute and training to be a pilot. For a date he invited me and previous-boyfriend-roommate-guy up in his little plane over Eastern Washington. Oh what fun, right?! Right... The ride started innocent enough. I offered to sit in the tiny back seat while the two guys sat up front. Yeah, I know. This is sounding less and less like a date. Anywho, about twenty minutes into the ride we started doing some left-then-right maneuvers. Some up-then-down maneuvers. Some oh-crap-I'm-going-to-barf-maneuvers. And when date looked back and saw me sweating profusely and completely green, he knew what was about to come up. He emptied out his pilot bag and I filled it faster than you could say Holy Ruined Date. But I digress. That man is not my husband. Moving on.

A mutual friend introduced me to a guy named Dan at a fireside and I didn't think much of him. Sorry. No love at first sight. He was nice, but he said "hi" and that was it. But the second time I saw him, I remember well. I was at a canoeing activity (new singles ward, new roster of potential datees). A huge black truck came barreling into the parking lot pulling a monstrous trailer of canoes and I had one thought: "Now this guy looks like a Wyoming guy!" (Everyone in Wyoming has a humongous truck and the lack of humongous trucks in Washington, since I grew up in Wyoming, was a serious beef of mine). A few weeks later the friend who had introduced us started inviting me to a few hangouts where Dan was. But--and let me get this straight here--I had no clue he liked me. If there was one thing I'd learned about Dan (besides that he had a great truck), was that he was silent. Very. Very. Quiet.

The group activities (in which I was usually the only girl in a big group of guys who had grown up together) consisted of swimming in pools and swimming in lakes and watching movies. And now that I think about it, I wonder if this was a ploy to get me in my swimsuit on multiple occasions. Hmmm... Anyway, guess what happened? One of the guys asked me out.

But it wasn't Dan.

Holy schmoley is this post getting long. Sorry. I will continue it on Monday!

Did this strike a cord with your dating life? I'd love to hear a dating disaster or experience of yours.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

This is what it's all about

I'm not even going to tell you all the things you should ignore about this photo (let's just say it's not my best). BUT... On to the post.

There are many things I love about writing, but number one, HANDS DOWN, is when a manuscript is finished. DONE! And ready to go.

Here is my third manuscript heading out the door. It's an LDS non-fiction book I wrote with a co-author (my crit partner Bonnie R. Paulson).

Wish this baby good luck!

Have you submitted anything lately? Getting close?

Friday, October 7, 2011

All about you

Boy looking back on the last few weeks my blog has sure gotten a little Look-At-Me Look-At-Me, hasn't it?

Oops, sorry folks. Back to our regular scheduled program.

So for this Fall Friday let's talk about you.

Check out some of my awesome writing friends:

Bonnie Paulson: Critique partner extraordinaire, lover of dirt bikes, awesome cook, and hardest worker I know. Bonnie is a super stud (and by the way she has a new novel out by Carina Press!)

Rachael Renee Anderson: This was the FIRST lady to help me in the LDS publishing world when I was a brand new newbie. She has three published LDS novels and is super sweet. She is a lover of happy endings. Go check her out.

Jolene Perry: If I only have time to check out one blog. It's Jolene's. Why? Because she's super witty and fun. And by the way this hard worker seems to post good news ALL the time. Am I jealous? Of course. Do I love her? YES!

Emily Rittel-King: This gal is newer to the blogging world, but she has some awesome tricks up her sleeve. How do I know this? She regularly pulls 30-ish comments on her posts! She is super sweet and fun and I can't wait to see some of her writing.

Brittany: I just found this blog a few weeks ago and instantly love it. Why? It's called My Life Herding Cats (and whenever I am trying to get all my kids moving in one direction I feel like I'm herding cats... Oops, back to me again.) Brittany's posts are fun and honest and I love them.

Jessica R. Patch: I love Jessica's sweet personality. She is a consistent commenter on so many blogs and her blog combines all things Christiany and writerly in a wonderful way.

Melanie Jacobson: This LDS Chic Lit author is so funny and honest, her blog will have you ready to pee your pants. She also has a new book out and is doing tons of give-aways. Check her out!

Kaylee Baldwin: Our books came out with the same pubber just a month apart and I've liked Kaylee ever since. She is really sweet and her writing is wonderful!

Any favorites you would like to add?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Our little crazies...

I've been feeling extra crazy this week--like even more than my normal never-going-to-make-it-through-this-day-without-breaking crazy. So I thought I'd share some of my craziness and maybe you could share yours (or maybe I'm just hoping someone else out there is as weird as I am).

Maggie's list of crazies...
-I hate feet. Hate them. After my kids are about two years old, cutting their toenails is about the worst form of torture (for me, not them) I could imagine.
-At times I hate writing. I feel a pull to it, and I NEED to do it, but I absolutely don't want to. Most times I really want to do it, but yes, sometimes there is serious hate.
-I have this odd notion that everyone is older than me. At Church I look around and imagine myself in the young crowd. When I find out people's ages (and yes, I stalk around a bit to discover this) I am soooo amazed to find out everyone I thought I would fit in with are way, way under thirty and I am an old, old woman of thirty-one.
-Certain days of the month (and yes, I'm just going to go ahead and say it) such as exactly ten days before that womanly monthly visitor, I am a pyscho. Seriously. I cry at songs on the radio. I yell at kids for breathing wrong (not really). I feel the need to reevaluate EVERY aspect of my life because NOTHING is going right. I strongly consider becoming medicated. Then I look at the calendar and take a big sigh of relief.
-I HATE loud clapping. Not the arena or sporting event version--that's fine. I hate when people clap for no reason. Why would people clap for no reason? I'm not sure. Maybe you should ask my husband.
-Since we're really revealing here (or just I am revealing, and I'm going to feel really stupid when I find out everyone else is really sane), I will admit that I am all kinds of crazy when it comes to cleaning. I NEVER sort laundry. And sometimes if I find a little toy and don't really feel like walking all the way downstairs to the toy box, I do exactly what CHILDREN do, I toss it behind the nearest piece of furniture.

There, I've said it. I'm crazy!

Are you?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Talking about our questions

Last week I asked you to pose some questions that you have and we would talk about them. I loved your questions. I'm going to list them here and give our readers a chance to answer. Then if we're still scratching our heads, I'll do a bit of research and give you the answers I come up with in a few days.

-Why do people hate adverbs?

-What do editors mean when they want more "high concept" fiction?

-What's a meme?

-What does it mean to "show don't tell"?

-Did Deseret buy Covenant and do I submit to them separately?

-What is a timeslip novel?

Alright, tackle one of these or all of these if you know the answer, or if you have more questions, add them to our list!