Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Halloween!

So much for the blogging hiatus! I could not stay away. Missed you all too much.

So a couple of things:
1. If you're here of the first time, welcome! Have a seat, kick up your feet. Would you rather Pellegrino or Aqua Pana?
2. If you haven't already, you need to go over to Theresa's Blog. Not only are there cool bloggers to meet but signed books to win.
3. Susan Fields is giving away her favorite writing books. Go over and learn about these books from one very awesome person.

Have a wonderful day, my friends!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Another Non-blog

I'm still not back until November 1st, but I AM over at Michele Emrath's Southern City Mysteries today. Come on over and see my very first vlog (i.e. video log).


And please go easy on me because it is, after all, my very first attempt at a video. :)



Thursday, October 14, 2010

Retreating

Thanks for all the input on my last post. The discussion was phenomenal! Now I’m retreating the rest of the month (first for a girl’s-only weekend with friends then with my manuscripts). So I won’t be blogging. However, if you leave a message after the beep… er… post… I will still be visiting your blogs.


And just because I hope every writer saw this, check out part of J. K. Rowling’s interview with Oprah. Please leave me a note about what you think of it!



(My opinion--because I always have one--I thought Rowling was open and down to earth while Oprah came across as cocky.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mormons in Fantasy

Stephenie Meyer, Orson Scott Card, Brandon Sanderson, Shannon Hale, Tracy Hickman, Janette Rallison, Brandon Mull, Jessica Day George, James Dashner, Mette Harrison, Lindsey Leavitt, and more that I’ve forgotten. It seems as if there are many Mormon (short for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Not an acronym, but a long story) SF/F YA authors.

First off let me be clear, I am not trying to convert or push specific beliefs on anyone. However, some of you know I’m Mormon. All of you know I write. A few of you know I like to write and read MG and YA fantasy, or at least ones with fantastical elements. And it’s curious to me that people of my faith choose to write in fantasy, specifically young adult fantasy.

My Tai chi teacher (not Mormon) teases me that it’s because we’re more open to believing in the extraordinary. He’s teasing that he thinks we’re easily deluded. While I laugh good-naturedly at the joke, I think he might have something there. We are encouraged to be a creative people and to develop our talents. We also DO believe in things fantastical. We believe the church was restored through God the Father and his son Jesus Christ to a boy prophet and that scripture of the ancient people on the North American continent was held in reserve to be translated by that boy. We believe in old and living prophets, miracles, priesthood ministry, and a pre-mortal life—all topics hard to fathom.

A year and a half ago, The Boston Globe wrote an article on what they called a “surge” of Mormons publishing in young adult literature. (You can read the article here.) The article mentions how many writers are drawn to writing books for younger audiences, especially fantasies. They speculate Mormons are attracted to younger books because they are generally cleaner. (If we’re talking MG I’d agree, but YA as a whole doesn’t really have any boundaries that coincide with mine.) Another reason they give is that we are a family and child-centered organization and want to create more books kids would read. (Maybe that has some weight… then again many religions feel the same.)

The truth is I’m not convinced there is a high trend of Mormons than there is of any other religion publishing right now. YA alone is seeing a surge of writers independent of an author’s profile. There are almost 14 million Mormons but I couldn’t tell you the percentage that write books no more than I know how many Lutherans or atheists do.

What I think prompts the appearance of a lot of Mormon authors in YA is the prominence of a few in the last decade (Ahem… Stephenie Meyer). And kind of like everyone making a big deal about JFK being Catholic when he was elected president, a religion different than what’s been seen in that profession in the past is one that will make the news. Then again, I could be wrong, I often am. :)

So…

I’d love to hear what you think, whether you agree with me or whether you have other thoughts concerning ANY spiritual persuasion creating a preference in writing genre. (NOTE: Please be respectful of every visitor’s feelings, though! We are talking religion here, something not discussed without deep emotions.)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Even natural disasters can't stop it

Today I helped out with a local relief effort to assist people in our community hit by a series of tornadoes. Poor Flagstaff. First huge snow storms,






then a forest fire,





next floods





and now tornadoes.



All in one year. What’s next, you say? Well there’s always the possibility of the two inactive volcanoes we live beneath blowing.

It’s been a crazy year. (No, I’m not ready to move. I’ll stick it out.)

But as I walked transects looking for people’s belongings the twister left strewn through the forest, I noticed how many children’s books were part of the occasional debris. It was sad to see them lost and ruined but it gave me strength to know books are still in homes. Children’s books are still part of a family’s life. The uncertainty of the economy or the digital age has not changed that. Apart from drywall and shingles, books were the pieces of debris I saw the most.

Books!

Fear not, writers, there will always be books and kids to read them.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Courage to Listen

When I finished editing my first book (now shelved) I hadn’t much of a clue how to go about getting it published. I finally decided to hire another writer in that genre to take a look at it and see what she thought. Just for fun, I pulled those notes out today and here’s what jumped out at me, “Maybe the story of the orphans is really a separate novel hiding in this one.”


Oh, how I laughed!


When I first contacted this author about critiquing my work, it was in hopes of having someone tell me if it was a novel I could get published or if I should move on from the years (!) I spent on it and try to get something else out there. The trouble is I already knew the answer to this question. Somewhere, deep inside of my being I knew that I could do better, that my writing had not become the caliber I would wish to sign my name to.


I just didn’t have the guts to call it a writing exercise and move on. Instead I kept revising, rewriting, reinventing. What I needed was to listen to myself. To hear myself say the vitality in the book was the obscure characters and their side stories. These were the gems in the mire of practice often necessary to gain knowledge of craft.


Now I’m learning (slowly) to trust myself when my inner voice tells me that a character doesn’t work or that a plot is too derivative. It’s taking time, but at least I’ve developed the courage to listen, to know I’m the one who knows what’s best for the book.


And do you know what? The author I hired was right. I had another story in there that wanted to burst forth. I knew it and she guessed it. No wonder the small secondary characters always threatened to take over. No wonder the main characters reacted rather than acted. They weren’t the story. The story was waiting for me to cowboy up and pluck it out.

That’s the book I’m writing today. That story was a seed inside the crap… er… fertilizer. I only needed the courage to dig it up and replant it.

Q4U: Is there anything you’ve needed the courage to do but couldn’t until someone helped you listen to yourself?

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Winner, A Bedtime Story, and Flash Back Friday

I. Thanks for all the kind comments about my review of Starcrossed by Elizabeth Bunce. Seriously, if you like fantasy or YA or both you need to go out and get this book. For a lucky one of you, that won't be necessary because

MARGO BERENDSON,

you have won a free copy. Come on down to the Price Is Right! *cheers!* Please email me your shipping address, friend, and I'll mail the book out to you ASAP.

II. As a (pitiful) consolation prize for the rest of you, here is a bedtime story... a FLASH BACK FRIDAY edition!
Once upon a time there was a blog that didn’t know how to reach out to followers. Faithfully the posts came, but clueless was the author. It’s a good thing the author believes in recycling. Here is her virtual attempt at reusing garbage:


ORIGINALLY POSTED ON SEPT., 19th, 2008
“Good Beginnings or Best Beginnings”

I'm doing a crazy amount of rewriting right now. Sometimes it feels like time well spent, others... not so much. I know editing has a big learning curve, but sometimes I wish I was preprogrammed to know what effective rewriting was. And I suppose like 99.9% of us, the only way to know is to keep at it. Over and over again.

Anyway, with all the rewriting--especially working on the first few chapters--I've been thinking; what makes a great beginning?

I was at my local Barnes and Noble buying a book for a friend when I began reading the design on the shopping bag. Now some of you will know that they are quotes from famous books, but for those of you that have never read them, this is what I saw:

"All children, except one, grow up."
"Call me Ishmael."
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."
"Happy families are all alike."
"My purpose in going to Walden Pond was not to live cheaply nor to live dearly."
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

There are others printed on the bag and though not all these quotes are at the exact first of the book, they have something in common. They are the first statement that set up the reader expectation. Perhaps some people will not agree, but I think these sentences are the lights that direct the eye to the center stage. They let us know where the book is going and provide something to draw us into the main plot. And these sentences do it so well that it's hard to think of them being expressed any other way.

Now my problem: come up with my own stage spotlight in my rewrites. I have good ones now, but I'm looking for something unforgettable and inevitable, just as these are.

October 1st, 2010 Update: I’m still rewriting (a different book) and asking myself the same questions about beginnings. Perhaps that learning curve was even steeper than I anticipated back then... le sigh…. :)