Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Two Reviews and Two Contests! Oh My!

Today I am so excited to tell you about two books I’ve been reading—Ammon by H.B. Moore and Just Shy of Paradise by Carole Thayne Warburton. I’m even having my first contest and you could win an autographed copy of Ammon, and a choice of books or a handmade frog by Ms. Warburton!

It’s so easy! All you have to do for an autographed copy of Ammon is, after reading the review post a comment for one entry, either Facebook or Twitter about it for another, or follow my blog for a third. Make sure you let me know what you are doing so that you can have a good chance at winning. The winner will be chosen at random and I'll announce the winner next Tuesday.

Ms. Warburton is offering her own contest with the release of her book. You’ve got to enter just for a chance at one of her pottery frogs! So, if you post a comment and mention her review on my blog that's one entry, share it on Facebook or Twitter, that's another entry, and then you can go to her link here, and become a follower of her blog, and that's another entry! But be sure to let her know what you've done. Easy, peasy. (Of course you don't have to do all three, but your chances increase if you do, and you might get one of those one-of-a-kind frogs!)

The Reviews

Ammon by H.B Moore

First I want to tell you about Ammon. Most of you know I’m a big fan of H.B. Moore’s work. Her book Abinadi really made me think in a different way about this prophet, especially the fact that I had always imagined him as an old man, when in fact we are never told how old he was. What if he had been a young man with a family? In Alma and Alma the Younger, those men were also rounded out in my imagination through Ms. Moore’s meticulous research and plausible characterization.

Because of this, I had no doubt that Ammon would be good, but I was surprised at how absorbed I became in Ammon. After all, I know this story well! But Ms. Moore’s writing of this prophet seems so effortless, it’s like we’ve really slipped back into that time period and are reading about his missionary efforts and the struggles that could have occurred as he tried to love his enemies. One thing that really struck me was, even though intellectually I knew that Ammon had given up a kingdom, for some reason this book brought it home more forcefully for me, and what sacrifices Ammon had made for the work. I just can't say enough about the quality of writing and the interwoven history and characters that come to life throughout this story.

This is a book I could not put down. I was completely pulled into the story and the people in it. There is just something so wonderful about a story that really strengthens the reality of Book of Mormon times and brings home to the reader the fact that these really were ordinary people who did extraordinary things, and they relied on the Lord to carry them through the struggles of life.

So, although my summer reading has just started, I don’t know that I will find a book to top this one on my 2011 favorites list. Ammon is incredible and is definitely a book for your must-have list!

Here is the backliner:

With the fire of newfound testimony, Ammon and his brethren leave Zarahemla to preach the gospel in Lamanite lands, carrying nothing but hunting weapons and the promises of God. Spotted by an enemy scout, they part ways in the dense jungle with hopes of reuniting at the close of their harvest. Ammon follows the Spirit to the borders of Ishmael, where he’s ambushed just seconds after spotting Elena, a fair-skinned woman who captures his interest.

As Ammon gains reknown in the kingdom, he defends Elena from the advances of Gad, the loathsome widower she’ll soon be required to marry. Then swearing allegiance to the Lamanite king and trusting in the Lord, Ammon further proves his strength and devotion by sparing King Lamoni’s flocks from plunderers. The amazed king and his court are converted to the gospel through Ammon’s powerful teachings and the miraculous events that follow, but each action Ammon takes causes more and more disruption throughout the kingdom. And when Elena is abducted by her own brother and hidden away in an unspeakable place, Ammon faces his greatest struggle yet: not just the outward challenge of lethal combat but also the inward challenge of loving one’s enemy.

Just Shy of Paradise by Carole Thayne Warburton

The other book I finished is Just Shy of Paradise. This book is about Lily a woman with anxiety disorder who is feeling unhappy about her life, and Sky, a Native American man who struggles with his identity and the things that have happened to his people.

Sky has dreams of the Bear River Massacre and the unspeakable things that happened to the Native Americans there, and he feels the emotion of his ancestor, Chief Sagwitch. The emotion of these scenes is really well done and it is easy to feel the depth of Sky’s anguish. Sky is such a three-dimensional character who really grows in the book and comes to find the path for himself by the end.

Lily is trying to work through her anxiety disorder and the fact that she feels she wasn’t worthy of having her life saved by an angel when she was little. She feels like everyone looks at her because of this and that certainly doesn’t help her anxieties. She finds an old fishing pole among her family’s things and that starts her down a path of self-discovery that leads her in directions she never thought she’d take.

Ms. Warburton kindly allowed me to interview her about her newest release.

Sky struggles with his ancestry and identity, but knows the stories from his Native American ancestors well. Did you have to do much research into those stories? How did you come to the decision to make Sky a Native American?

I've always wanted to do a story about a minority, but being white I didn't want to assume too much. However, I live in an area where the history of the North Western band of the Shoshone are talked about all the time. Sagwitch Basin where Chief Sagwitch took the tribe after the massacre is right out window. I read Scott Christensen's book "Sagwitch: Shoshone Chieftain, Mormon Elder" and became fascinated with the chief. But since I enjoy contemporary stories more than historical, I found a way to weave the two together, bringing out some of the stories from Christensen's book in Sky's life. So yes, I did research those stories, but it was so much fun. I purposely made Sky half Swedish, so that any mistakes I made in what it felt like to be Shoshone I could blame on the fact that he had a white mother.

Lily struggles with anxiety disorder. Did you know someone who struggles with that?

I've known people who have struggled with anxiety disorder and/or panic attacks. I researched about the disorder, causes, treatments, and symptoms. I also interviewed someone who suffered from anxiety and developed a drinking problem because of it.

There is a lot of fishing in this book. Do you like to fish? Are you good at it?

I used to fish some, mostly in Yellowstone but was not very good at it. I live close to some great streams and keep thinking I'll take it up again. My nephew is a master fly-fisher and has even participated in contests and done some guiding. I asked him a few questions and read up on it. I'm sure experts might find some details wrong. As a writer I'm aware that research is fallible, but so far no one has corrected my fishing stories.

What is your favorite time of day to write?

Morning after a brisk walk.

Is there anything that inspires you as a writer?

Almost everything inspires me as a writer. Definitely the places I live inspire since my first three books were set in the small town of Grouse Creek where my husband I lived for five years. "Just Shy of Paradise" is set in my current location in the town of Paradise/Avon. I think reading is essential to writing. I would never trust a writer who says they don't have time to read. Reading and studying how it's done is one way to hone your craft.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

If you aren't having fun then it isn't worth it. It's hard not to get discouraged. There is so much rejection in the process of getting published. If there was a way to not take it personally, that would be my best advice. Also to be easy to work with. I think I was a little bit difficult in the editing and publishing of my first book. The next time around I realized everyone involved just wanted me to have the most successful book possible. They may not have been right on everything, but at the end of the day the publisher had a lot more knowledge about the book business than I did.

If you had a million dollars what would you do with it?

If I had a million dollars I would pay off our house and property and buy my husband what he needs to make a first class horse ranch. Then I'd buy a new kiln and do some upgrades in my pottery studio. I would give each of my kids something they need, my son a house, my daughter a down-payment on a business. Now they'll both be rooting for me to get that million.

Where is the best place to buy your book?

The best place would be anywhere that has it. Deseret Book is supposed to be carrying it, and some independent bookstores. Amazon is always easy and their price is very good.

My thanks to both of these authors. And don’t forget to enter the contest so you can win!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Gratitude and Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day and our family will be doing a lot of the same activities as other families across the country. We will be remembering my grandfather, who was a decorated Korean War hero, and we will be remembering all the men and women of the military who have given the ultimate sacrifice—the military heroes of the world.

As Ronald Reagan once said, “Each died for a cause he considered more than his own life. Well, they didn’t volunteer to die; they volunteered to defend values for which men have always been willing to die if need be, the values which make up what we call civilization. And how they must have wished, in all the ugliness that war brings, that no other generation of young men to follow would have to undergo that same experience.”

So, in my mind, Memorial Day is really all about gratitude. To be thankful for sacrifice, not only of the soldiers who gave everything, but also to their families who hoped and prayed, and endured. Of course there are still many families today, in this time of uncertainty, who have loved ones far away, serving in foreign lands, to defend our freedoms today. One of my friends is the mother of a Marine and she once wrote an incredibly inspiring letter and I’d like to share part of it with you.

“First, may I just say that I don't fear my son being killed in Iraq. At least I don't fear it any more than I do the death of any of my children anywhere. What I fear is that the horrific experience, the truly awful things he must see and do and experience almost every day, will cripple him physically, emotionally, or spiritually. When I ask for prayers for him at certain times it's that he'll be able to endure whatever he must and emerge from it the same man we sent over. That or a stronger, better version of himself. The Church produced a DVD for military families that is the greatest comfort and strength in the world to me. (I watch it almost weekly) In it, General Authorities point out that Helaman was a warrior. Moroni was a warrior. Mormon was a warrior. War, in any generation, is hell on earth but righteous men remain righteous and return triumphant (but greatly humbled) because God and His angels are always there and always available, even when the soldiers and Marines are too tired and too stressed to watch out for themselves. But the scriptures tell us that we must ASK for that heavenly protection in order to receive it, and that is why I turn to you. Those are the prayers I seek and I thank you for from the bottom of my heart.”

To me, that is what Memorial Day is truly about—the families, the soldiers, the people who believe in a cause higher than themselves and are willing to put action to words no matter the cost. And then, even in offering such a great sacrifice, all they ask of us is a humble plea for a prayer for heavenly protection as they, or their children, carry out the missions that are asked of them. Because of this, on Memorial Day, my heart is full and my feelings of reverence and gratitude are front and center.

When we gather as a family today, I want to instill in my children the remembrance for those who have served and to remind our family to pray for those serving and for their families who are anxiously waiting at home for their return. To have gratitude ever in our hearts for what is ours in this land of the free.

Ronald Reagan said in that same speech quoted above, “As we honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor shall be justified and remembered for as long as God gives life to this nation.”

And with gratitude in my heart, that is my wish today as well.

Friday, May 27, 2011

First Page Friday

Welcome back to First Page Friday. For any new people, several agents and editors said recently that they really only look at the first page or two of a submitted manuscript and if they aren't hooked on the story by then, they reject it. So, that's what First Page Friday is all about, having a national book editor, (whom we affectionately call Ms. Shreditor) critique first pages that are submitted to the blog and help tweak them be their absolute best. (If you would like to submit your first page for critique, email it to juliecoulterbellon@gmail.com and put First Page Friday in the subject line.)

As always, authors should look at the good comments and bask in that for a moment. Then look at the constructive criticism and remember that feedback can make your manuscript submission stronger. :)

The Entry

by Melanie Goldmund

Bonnie Sorex jogged down the corridor as fast as she dared. It was busy at this time of day, and she had to dodge all kinds of people on her way to the medical centre. Niana, she thought, desperately reaching out to her twin, but their telepathic link was even more quiet than when Niana was asleep. At last, she arrived, and burst breathlessly into the reception area.

"How can I help you?" the man behind the desk asked.

"Geminiana Sorex," Bonnie gasped. "I was told she was here."

"Sorex," the man repeated. "Geminiana. Yes. Wait over there, please, I'll inform the medic that you're here."

There was already a fairly large group of worried people "over there" and all the seats had been taken. Bonnie leaned impatiently against the wall and watched them surreptitiously. She'd only been told that her twin sister had been involved in an accident and was now in the medical centre; now she had the feeling that others had been involved, too. And indeed, soon after, another relative arrived and was shown into their corner. Bonnie scooted over to make room. Again, she reached out telepathically to her sister, but again, the result was the same unnerving silence. Eventually, a woman in a white uniform came through a connecting door, checked a holopad, and called out a name. The man in question stood up and asked, "Is she all right?"

"Come with me," the woman said. She looked stern. "We'll talk about it inside."

It did not leave Bonnie with a positive feeling.. She waited while two other groups of relatives were called in, and the first man had come out again – alone and silent. Then the woman in white came out and called, "Trebonia Sorex?"

"Yes," Bonnie said, and straightened up from the wall.

"If you'll come with me," the woman said, and led her to an office.

"I'm Medica Vetrania," the woman said. "Geminiana Sorex is your … sister?"

"My twin," Bonnie said. The medic had said "is." That was a good sign, she thought vaguely. "Where is she? Is she all right?"

"She's alive," Medica Vetrania said. "She's in a suspended animation pod."

"What?" Bonnie gasped. No wonder she wasn't able to sense her sister. "Why?"

The medic sighed tiredly and said, "Exposure to heta gas. I'm afraid we're just not equipped to deal with it here on board the NL-13."

Bonnie wasn't sure she'd heard correctly. "Heta gas? Here?"

"It's only the newer transports that have to conform to government regulations about alternate energy lines," the medic said, then sighed. "This ship is old, and back then, nobody knew that heta emissions would react with both fire and water to produce heta gas."

"Fire and water … but how could that happen here?"

"There was some kind of explosion that blew open both an energy line and a water pipe," Medica Vetrania said. "Or at least that's what I've been able to deduce from the injuries. Unfortunately, the only people who can tell us for certain are dead. Your sister was one of the lucky ones. She's still alive, and we do have the suspended animation pods so that her condition won't worsen until she can get proper treatment."

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

The Good

There is a good mix of dialogue and exposition here. The story opens with action (Bonnie jogging down the hallway), and this creates narrative momentum right out of the gate. The writing is generally strong, with only minor copyediting issues here and there. Either this author is one heck of a self-proofreader, or she knows someone with solid proofreading skills. The text is quite clean for an early draft.

The story itself is quite intriguing. Telepathic twins and suspended animation pods and heta gas, oh my! There is a popular young adult sci-fi book/series, Across the Universe, that also involves suspended animation; however, the similarities end there. The telepathic twin angle diverges sharply from Beth Revis’s (The Chicago Manual of Style tells me to include the “s” after the apostrophe, and I am CMS’s slave.) bestseller and makes for a compelling plot element.

Speaking of Chicago style, I’d like to take a moment to encourage all authors to invest in a copy of the manual. The book is currently in its 16th edition, but the 15th edition will suffice for most stylistic issues. It is the gold standard of book publishing.

The Bad

I talked about nomenclature (i.e., naming conventions) in my first Friday critique. The names Geminiana and Trebonia feel a little forced. Is there a story behind these names? (If there is, you don’t necessarily need to cram it onto the first page; I just want to be sure that you’re not falling prey to the tendency to overdo first names.) It’s not that I’m against exotic names (to the contrary, they can be a welcome vacation from more conventional names, particularly in a futuristic sci-fi story like this), but once an unconventional first name surpasses three syllables, it starts to feel somewhat jarring to me. The twins’ nicknames, Bonnie and Niana, feel much more natural.

A stylistic note worth mentioning: When sharing thoughts inside your narrator’s head (Niana, she thought), make sure to italicize the thought itself (Niana, she thought.) This creates a clear delineation between the narrative and the rare glimpse into your protagonist’s mind. You also want to set up your autoformatting in Word to convert double hyphens into em-dashes. There is one in here that appears as an en-dash when it should be an em-dash. I won’t bore you all with a lesson on em-dashes versus en-dashes, though.

There are a few rough transitions in here, but nothing that a good copyedit couldn’t fix.

Lastly, use ellipses sparingly. They can become somewhat of a bad habit. They have their place (e.g., at the end of a piece of dialogue when words trail off), but authors sometimes overuse them to create rhythm in their dialogue. More often than not, more conventional punctuation can accomplish the same flow.

The Ugly

I think that the “ugliest” thing here (I hate using that word, but I couldn’t put part of Clint Eastwood’s three-pronged title out to pasture) is the length of the submission itself. At 538 words, this excerpt is much, much longer than a first page. A standard book page is 250 words, and a chapter-opening page is typically even shorter.

However, there is a silver lining here: This gives me an excuse to talk about the importance of following submission guidelines. I will digress from the sample at hand to address all writers reading this blog.

Read the guidelines very, very carefully before submitting your work for publication. Tape them to your bathroom mirror if necessary. Recite them to yourself at night instead of counting sheep. If the publisher calls for 60,000-65,000 words, don’t try submitting your 120,000-word behemoth. This is the fastest way to land your manuscript or proposal in the recycling bin. (And to any publishing houses out there that don’t recycle their office paper: for shame!) I won’t make a general practice out of critiquing samples this long, but the extended length of this sample provides a valuable teachable moment.

I have worked with unpublished authors who complain heartily when they fail to follow guidelines and wind up rejected because of it. Look, let me give it to you straight: If you can’t follow submissions guidelines, no publisher is going to want to work with you. The journey of a book from proposal to print is grueling, and the ability to follow instructions is vital to keeping the book on schedule.

Again, I'd like to thank Ms. Shreditor for her time and efforts. I really appreciate her. See you next Friday!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Importance of the Rough Draft

Writing a rough draft is probably the hardest part of the writing process for me because I’m always tempted to go back and revise before the draft is done. I’m sort of like an impatient chef. I’m always changing ingredients and trying new things and I never get the thing cooked or on the table in a reasonable amount of time. So, there my manuscript sits, half-baked and half-done, and I’m already discouraged and starving, so to speak.

That’s why the rough draft is so important. There are things I learn in the rough draft that I can’t learn if I’m constantly picking at it. It’s cathartic because with drafting, I don’t have to worry so much about word count and whatnot if I can just let myself go, (which I try really hard to do.) Drafting is really all about just getting the story down and shouldn’t be so much about trying for perfection at this point.

Drafting is a great teacher for me. When I’m drafting, I learn a lot of things about my characters—who they are, what their motivations are, and their reactions to the situation. Even if some of those things change in revisions, I have a core knowledge of them because I’ve written them. I’ve written their story from Point A to Point B and I know them.

The second thing I learn while drafting is the basics of my plot, and if this plot can really carry through the entire thing. I have a history of writing really great beginnings, but then I have a tendency to have a sagging middle before my ending. While drafting I can at least get the basics down to support my middle plot and pinch points, so then, when I’m in the revising mode, I have the foundation in place to make my middle just as exciting as the beginning. I’ve also noticed lately that more ideas will come to me as I’m drafting (that I can write in the margins to flesh out later, even though it’s tempting to stop and revise or add.)

The last thing I learn while drafting is that I can do it. I can write this book from beginning to end. Once I get to the end of that first draft, I know that I have the skeleton of my story down and now it’s just a matter of fleshing it out and dressing it up.

It’s exciting to me to have that first draft down because I know it’s a big first step in my publishing process, and although it takes some willpower, once it’s done, I am much closer to my goal than I would be if I’d stopped to change my recipe if you will.

Obviously, the manuscript is not ready to be submitted after a first draft---there’s still a long way to go---but that first draft is like my ticket into the Big Dance. I’ve paid the dues, now I’ve got to prove I’ve got the moves. (I’m just full of analogies today! Sadly, you wouldn’t want to see my dance moves. It would probably scar you for life.)

The rough draft is your foundation and it is an important step that shouldn’t be overlooked or thought about too hard. It’s just something you have to do and, in the long run, you’ll be glad you did.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Big Idea

Can you believe Hines won last night? Woohoo! I was so shocked about Chelsea (I’ve been spelling her name wrong. Oops) and Mark. I thought it would come down to those two and Hines and Kim for sure. It was definitely an exciting finale anyway. (Poor Maks. He’s never won.)

As for working Wednesday, I am thrilled to say that I got 2700 words on my new manuscript. When my husband’s alarm clock went off the other morning, I was still half-asleep and kind of dreamy when the plot of a new fiction novel came to me. I saw the first scenes and even how it all ended. Thankfully the baby slept in that day so I could get a bit more computer time than normal and I got the first scenes written down.

Since then I have given the book a general outline (which is three pages long) and I’ve finished the first chapter. I’m starting the second chapter today.

Most of you know that I only get snatches of computer time to write because I have a lot of children and a very busy schedule, but this book seems to be jumping off the keyboard onto the page, which makes it very easy to get a lot done.

My non-fiction book is coming along as well. So many ideas!

I’m really pleased with the progress I’ve made this week. Of course the children will be out of school next week, which can be good or bad for writing. I guess we’ll see.

How do book ideas come to you? When you’re half-asleep? Driving? Exercising?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dancing With the Stars--Hines or Chelsie?

Wow, I can’t believe the mirror ball will be awarded tonight. This season has gone by so fast! And one of my favorites made it all the way to the end. Kirstie and Maks really showed how far they’ve come last night and I think Kirstie looked great. Of course, the two couples that will be contenders for the trophy are Chelsie and Mark, and Kim and Hines, but I thought Kirstie did a wonderful job.

I wasn’t that wowed by the freestyles, though. I definitely think Chelsie and Mark had the best one. One of my boys loved the light flashing shoes and gloves and they did look fun to wear. (Could you imagine me wearing them, though? I guess I could wow the grocery checker. Or the librarian. Maybe I could wear them to parent/teacher conference? Ah, such is the life of a mom). But the whole routine was fresh and fun and full of energy. I think Mark is a great choreographer and very creative.

Hines and Kim did a good freestyle, and I know she was injured recently, but their routine lacked the wow factor for me. Which is sad, because I want Hines to win. I know, it’s going to be close because Chelsie is good, but there’s just something about Hines.

So, tonight, I think it will come down to Hines or Chelsie to win, and I hope it’s Hines.

(P.S. Does anyone watch Sister Wives out there? Just curious.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Food Storage 101

This past weekend I worked on organizing my food storage room. It might sound boring, but this year I started following a blog called Totally Ready. They have lessons on there about how to build your food storage that make so much sense to me.

I started here on Food Storage 101 Lesson One, at the beginning of the year and made my list of recipes that my family enjoys. I started my food storage reference binder. And I’ve gone from there. (You can find all the other lessons on the website). It makes me feel really satisfied when I look around at my food storage room and see how far I’ve come just since January.

I’ve still got a long way to go, but I feel like I’ve found my groove and can make my storage useful and used. Preparedness is a feeling all its own, and especially with all the flooding, fires, tornadoes and other natural disasters going on around our country, I feel good knowing that we could take care of our family in such an event.

Do you have any preparedness plans?

What We’re Doing for Family Night

Tonight I’m going to do the scripture grab bag. Several years ago I made a drawstring bag and put several pictures in it (sheep, boats, water, swords, etc.) Each time a child draws out a picture, he has to say what scripture story it could go to and why he likes that story. We’ve had some interesting discussions that way, since each picture could go to multiple stories and I find out what each child knows and thinks about the stories they’ve been taught. If you’d like to play this game I found a website that has a version of it and you can go here to download pictures (for free!) from each set of scriptures and just put it in a bowl or something.

What We’re Having for Dinner Tonight

Chicken Stroganoff

6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
16 oz. sour cream
2 oz. pkg of dry onion soup mix
1 can cream of mushroom soup
12 oz. wide egg noodles

Place the chicken in the crockpot. Mix the sour cream and soups in a bowl, then pour it over the chicken. Cook for 6 hours, then serve over the cooked noodles.

Friday, May 20, 2011

First Page Friday

Welcome back to First Page Friday. I am so grateful to all of you who took a chance and submitted your first page. We will be featuring them on the blog in the order in which they were received, just so we are fair to everyone. And there's still room for more. If you have friends who might like to participate, tell them about us! (And just a reminder, first page submissions should be double-spaced in a 12 point font, just how it would be if you were submitting to an agent/editor.) You can send your submission to juliecoulterbellon@gmail.com

The Entry

Ninjas and Knives
By Kimberly VanderHorst

Most teenage girls would scream if they woke up to find a ninja assassin in their bedroom. Alexandra just grinned. Finally, someone thought she was important enough to kill.

Judging by the ninja’s heavy tread, he had more muscle than skill. She watched him hunch over and edge closer to her bed, noting how he nearly tripped over a stack of her textbooks. He might be wearing the traditional black garb, but no way was this guy the real deal. What a shame. She could use a challenge.

Manhattan’s city lights poured through her windows and reflected off the small knife he held. She barely held in a laugh. What a goober this guy was, coming after her with a knife. Did he really think that would be enough to take her down?

Slowly tensing her muscles, Alexandra drew her legs up into a crouching position, rolled onto her feet, and leapt off the bed. The springiness of the mattress gave her just enough lift to come down on his head. One swift chop and she disarmed him, his knife skittering uselessly under the bed. She dropped to the floor behind him and enjoyed the way his stance shifted, exposing how vulnerable he felt.

And then the ninja began to glow, his dark clothing eerily backlit by the green light pulsating beneath his skin. He turned to face her, smiling like a jack-o-lantern. Crap.

“The knife was a decoy, little girl. Just to get you close. You’re coming with me.”

The light spread onto the surface of his clothing, green flames that licked down his arms and gathered in the palms of his hands. She threw herself into a roll but it was too late; one of the flames caught hold of the sleeve of her nightshirt. She smacked at it, but the fire quickly spread, engulfing her in a halo of sickly green.

Ms. Shreditor’s Comments

The Good: Where to start? The author tells us more in the first sentence than many authors manage to tell us in an entire chapter of information dumping. All we need are twenty-nine words to convey that this is a young adult story about ninjas—and that our narrator-to-be has a sharp sense of humor, even in times of crisis. The writing is fresh. It’s distinctive. The narrator is immediately interesting, and that is no small feat for a first page. I’ve read plenty of bestsellers whose narrators failed to be interesting after three hundred pages.

Take note, new authors: There is economy of language here. No flowery, overdone turns of phrase, no fluff or filler—and, mercifully, no information dumps. We learn things about Alexandra in slow increments through subtle cues in the story—the textbooks by her bed, the Manhattan lights through her window. The variations in sentence length create a nice, natural flow. If I had to guess, I’d say this author reads passages aloud to herself. Which you all should be doing, by the way. It’s amazing what slugs you can unearth when you read your own writing out loud. Forget slugs—I think I’ve dug up some snakes in my own writing that way.

Bonus points for using a semicolon correctly in the last paragraph. A lot of authors would have comma spliced and called it a day.

The Bad: There are some participle issues here. Example: “Slowly tensing her muscles, Alexandra drew her legs up into a crouching position, rolled onto her feet, and leapt off the bed.” She can’t do all these things while simultaneously tensing her muscles. There needs to be a sequence of action here. Perhaps recast like this: “She tensed her muscles slowly and drew her legs up into a crouching position, rolled onto her feet, and leapt off the bed.” Another offender: “One swift chop and she disarmed him, his knife skittering uselessly under the bed.”

Also, watch verb choice in descriptive passages. There was something that rang a bit awkward about flames licking down Alexandra’s arm or catching hold of her sleeve.

The epithet “goober” didn’t quite work for me. It seemed a little too innocuous, too silly given the circumstances. After all, this ninja has just accosted her where she lives. Referring to him as a “goober” dissipates the tension when the stakes are at their highest.

The Ugly: Last week’s sample hinted at needing a developmental edit, which involves extensive rewrites and sometimes a reconfiguration of the entire structure. There really is no ugly here. The writing is structurally sound; any issues are of the copyediting persuasion.

I’d like to thank Ms. Shreditor for taking time out of her busy schedule this week to critique for us. And I'd also like to thank Kimberly. It sounds like a great story start!

See you next week!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Criticism and Rejection are Hard Teachers

Writing is a hard business. We work for months and years creating something that we love and, in order for it to be seen by more than family members, we have to submit it for critiques and possible rejection. It is a refiner’s fire for sure.

Rejection is difficult to take. I mean, every time I submit a manuscript, the thought runs through my head—what if they don’t like it? And sometimes they don’t. It’s a huge letdown. I wanted them to see the beauty of my characters and story and it’s so easy to feel defensive when they don’t. But I’ve learned over the years, that defensiveness doesn’t help me. In fact, it hinders me from becoming the writer I’m hoping to be.

You see, I’ve come to realize that each criticism is a stepping stone to making me a stronger writer. I know, it sounds sort of cheesy, but it’s true. Yet, even with that realization, it all comes down to whether I can be a good student of constructive criticism and rejection, or if I will refuse to hear what is being taught and hide in my defensiveness.

For example, on the other side of the coin, when I was an editor I had several clients who were resistant to change anything in their manuscripts. They would argue with me until the cows came home about why it didn’t need to be changed and how so and so had done it that way and been published, and it was their favorite part of the whole book and they couldn’t possibly delete that.

At first, I would gently try to tell them my reasons. I would explain things over and over. I talked about how different things were weakening the story and that the changes were needed. And still I met resistance. They weren’t ready to be students of constructive criticism and rejection and, as a result, their writing stayed the same.

So, to every aspiring writer out there I would say---feedback is valuable. Don’t limit yourself by being defensive and resistant to change your manuscript. Make yourself ready to be a good student of constructive criticism and rejection. Your writing will improve as experts, critique groups, beta readers, whoever you have critiquing your work comes back with things like, “this didn’t work for me,” or “you have a plot hole here,” and “I didn’t feel like I was in the story, just that I was reading one.” Take all of that constructive feedback and really look at it. Make changes where necessary. Be brutal to your writing, because in the end, you will love the result. Your writing will be stronger and you, as a writer, will have passed the test.

Constructive criticism and rejection are hard teachers, but once you’ve gone through their refining process, I think you can truly say, “I’m a writer.” And you can definitely say, “I’m a better writer than I was.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Powering Through

As a follow-up to yesterday, the creator of Castle gave an interview and a few sneak peeks into where he’s taking Season 4. You can read it here

As for Writing Wednesday, I am so stoked right now. I’ve been playing with a non-fiction book idea for a while now, a unique spin on motherhood and being an LDS mom and last night the inspiration just flowed. The muse, well, mused for me, and it was amazing. I was only able to write 1500 words, but I have a direction. I have some motivation and excitement about a project that I haven’t had in a long while. It feels good.

I always marvel a bit at how when inspiration strikes everything seems easier. I can sit in front of a page and pound out a scene, but when it’s hard, it doesn’t feel fun. Yet, when I have an idea that I’m running with, it just flows onto the page and I can hardly type fast enough to get it all down.

I wish writing was like that all the time, but then, if it was, I guess I wouldn’t appreciate the good times as much, because I wouldn’t have been through the bad times.

What’s that scripture . . . there must be opposition in all things? Yeah, even in the writing process. But I’m all for powering through until the next burst of inspiration hits because when it does, there’s no feeling like it in the world.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Season Finale of Castle

(If you haven't watched it yet, don't read any further. Spoilers below will spoil it for you!)

I am still a little blown away by the season finale of Castle last night. Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic are some of the best actors on television today. They were so believable! I felt Castle’s palpable concern for Kate, he could hardly keep his eyes off of her every time she turned a corner, and the tension between them in her apartment was electric! I’m so glad they finally put that kiss they shared out there and the fact they almost died in each other’s arms. Poor Kate is so afraid to let him in. But the finale was non-stop tension from minute one.

I felt sorry for Castle when Kate’s dad told him he was the only one who could make sure Kate didn’t throw her life away, and then the Captain said pretty much the same thing. So much pressure!

But he really rose to the occasion. He totally called her on her fears, before she threw him out, but all of that was gone and there was just her when he carried her out of the warehouse and held her so she wouldn’t scream, stroking her hair. I could imagine that he was whispering comfort into her ear or maybe he didn’t need to say anything at all. He knew what was going on inside that warehouse and what would happen if she didn’t stay with him. To me, all he wanted was to protect her, to keep her safe and he would do anything to do that.

And that scene with Castle and his mom. Gah! The second-best line of the night: “For a man who makes his living with words, you sure have a time finding them when it counts.”

I was so sad about Montgomery. I loved his character. He was like a benevolent dad in the precinct, but I thought the writers did an amazing job of making his motivations believable and sympathetic. Poor Montgomery. And how heart-breaking was it to see him kiss his wife and daughters one more time! *sniff*

I could go on and on about how great the finale was. Ryan and Esposito’s scene in the alley was powerful. But I have to say the star of the night was Kate Beckett. The range of emotion she portrayed was incredible---exhaustion, anger, fear, anguish, and acceptance. I was riveted to my seat the entire hour.

The last two minutes, though, were hard to wrap my brain around. He finally said the words we’ve known he felt for a while. But is it too late?


It’s going to be a long summer.

Best Line of the Show? I love you, Kate.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Demon Reputation

So yesterday, I taught my Relief Society lesson. I was excited because I'd had an idea for a cool display that I thought would tie right into my lesson. I brought a picture of Jesus, a statue of children praying, and two gargoyles in the middle. Sounds awesome, right?

Before the lesson started one of the older women asked why I had demons on the table. I had never even thought that someone would think the gargoyles were demons! (They were authentic gargoyles that I'd gotten while I was in France, so I thought they were cool.) Yikes. Would everyone think I had brought demons for my display?

I was definitely nervous that I would offend someone after that, when all I wanted to do was point out that just like the gargoyles were unexpected in the display, missionary moments can also be unexpected. You want to be a living example of Christ and his love for all men, so you'll be prepared for those missionary moments when they come, whether it's when you're mothering, visiting teaching, doing family history, whatever. But I certainly didn't want the reputation of being the teacher who brought demons for a display!

So, even though no one else said anything to my face, if anyone from my ward is reading this, they were gargoyles. Not demons. I promise.

I'm going to redeem myself with a good FHE tonight. I think. It's also the season finale of Castle tonight and I’m nervous and excited for it. Anyone else read any spoilers? Are you as nervous as I am?

What We’re Doing for FHE Tonight

Since it is rainy and we are preparing for flooding in our area, I thought it would be fun to do a nice puppet show with the younger kids of Noah’s Ark (we have a fun little puppet stage and a lot of puppets, but you can make paper bag puppets that work just as well.) We’ll talk about preparation and why that’s important, then we’ll haul out our 72 hr. kits and update them. I think some of the clothing in there has been outgrown and the food needs to be rotated, so this will be a good thing. Plus, I want to make sure we have all our important papers, pictures, etc., ready to go in case of an emergency. With so many boys, I am used to hearing the Boy Scout motto of Be Prepared, so tonight we’re be working on putting that motto into practice.

What We’re Having for Dinner

This is another easy crockpot recipe that is a family favorite.

Sugar Roast

A pork roast about 5-10 lbs
3 c. white sugar
1 c. soy sauce
1 ½ c. water
½ tsp. Garlic salt

Combine sugar, water, soy sauce, and garlic powder in crockpot. Add the pork roast. Cook for six hours. Shred the pork in the sugar sauce and serve it all over rice.

Friday, May 13, 2011

First Page Friday

Today is First Page Friday and I'm really excited to share this post with you!

As I mentioned earlier, agents/editors often only look at the first page and it really should be your best work. That’s what First Page Friday is all about—-helping you tweak it to be your absolute best.

I’m pleased to welcome Ms. Shreditor. She's going to remain anonymous on this blog, but I can tell you that she is amazing! She's an editor at a national book publisher, and has graciously offered to critique these first pages.

The Entry

The First Page
by Anonymous Entry

Alysen Smythe shivered, remembering the dark and stormy night she wanted to forget.

The bell rang, and her thoughts faded away like the dye on an old, favorite pair of dark blue jeans that had been washed too many times. Silly Alysen, she thought, you are just freaking out over nothing. By the time she had gotten her lunch from her locker, she felt lots better.

“Hi, Aly-cat,” said her best friend Isla. Isla had beautiful, blonde hair and blue eyes, and she was really pretty. She was on the lacrosse and track teams but still managed to get straight A’s every quarter. Alysen smiled. She was lucky to have her.

“What’s up, Eyeball?” Alysen asked and Isla laughed. It was an old private joke between them from third grade that never got old.

“Did you see the new guy yet? Alysen, he is so gorgeous. I think his name is Ian and I heard he was expelled from his last school for something really bad.”



“So what did you bring for lunch today?”

“Carrot sticks and hummus, you?”


So the two girls walked to lunch together, just like any other day. But little does Alysen know that her life is about to change forever.


Ian Turner did not like Ocean Crest High School one bit so far. The kids were such snobs, and one of them even asked him to his face if he was expelled from his last school.

Like he was going to tell them.

When he walked into the cafeteria, he immediately saw this beautiful girl by the snack machines with long brown hair and dark brown eyes. She was laughing with some blonde girl, but he didn’t care about the other girl. It was like this girl was staring into his soul and she wasn’t even looking at him. Taking a deep breath, his heart began to race. Walking across the cafeteria, he stopped at the water fountain near her to try and hear her voice. Listening, she began to talk to her friend and her voice really was musical.

Ian Turner was in trouble.

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

The Good:

The first page raises some intriguing questions: Was Ian really expelled from his previous school? If so, for what? And just what did happen to Alysen on that dark and stormy night?

The private joke between Alysen and Isla establishes a sense of longtime friendship.

Ian falls hard for Alysen when he sees her. This introduces an element of romantic tension, which will be more than sufficient to hook many readers, very early in the story.

The Bad:

This may be personal preference speaking, but quirky, cutesy name spellings can be a distraction. All too often, these re-imagined names constitute a pale attempt to make a boring protagonist seem more interesting. You don't have to name your characters Jane or John, but think carefully before saddling them with trendy name spellings, which may ultimately date your book, unless there is a story behind them. Is the alternate name spelling ethnic? Historical/genealogical? If not, consider whether or not "Alysen" has that much of an edge over "Alison" or "Allison," or if it actually undermines her character. If the most interesting thing about her is her name, you have some work to do.

The first paragraph, just once sentence long, underperforms. It contains one of the more egregious clichés in literature, the proverbial "dark and stormy night." The author needs to dip into the heroine’s past with more than just a timid toe and a perfunctory description. A cliché is a buzz kill, not an attention grabber.

The simile that likens Alysen’s thoughts to worn blue jeans is clunky, clunky, clunky. If you have to contort yourself mentally and/or syntactically to make a simile work, don’t write it. There are more organic ways to convey an image or emotion.

Who is Alysen? We learn quite a bit about her best friend, Isla (none of which is particularly interesting or distinctive), but we learn nothing at all about the narrator herself. She needs to be more than a vessel to fulfill a plot-mandated romantic destiny. She needs to be more than some nondescript Everygirl.

The point of view shifts too abruptly to Ian—before we’ve gained any bearings in the story whatsoever. While there is certainly no hard-and-fast rule regarding scene length, try for scenes more than half a page long when introducing your main characters. And if they must be short, make them count. When you have half a page to lay down a scene, you don't have time to waste on information dumps and carrot sticks.

The Ugly:

Where the heck are we? We might as well be staring at a Google map of the entire planet with no place marks. Give us something to latch onto—at least a snowcapped mountain or palm tree to suggest climate zone. For all we know, Alysen, Isla, and Ian are doing a semester in Antarctica for college credit.

The dialogue shows few signs of life. Resuscitation and dialogue tags needed, stat. Instead of learning more about Alysen or digging a little deeper into her past, we must suffer through a rather inane conversation about carrot sticks and hummus. As delicious as these things can be, they do not an interesting story make.

The narrative switches momentarily to present tense before the break. Stick with one verb tense—past, present, or, if you’re really adventurous, future. It also bears mentioning that you should stick with one perspective (first-person, third-person, third-person omniscient, second-person, first-person plural, etc.). That same sentence marks a shift from third-person limited to the godlike third-person omniscient. There are some writers who can switch seamlessly between verb tenses and perspectives (e.g., first-person for one character and third-person for another), but they are experts. Do not try this at home.

Participial phrase abuse. I encounter this all the time in my editorial pursuits: well-meaning authors who, for whatever reason, think that participial phrases make their writing sound more sophisticated or dramatic. This is often not the case. Look at the second-to-last paragraph and some of the sentence openings: “Taking a deep breath…,” “Walking across the cafeteria…,” and “Listening…” This is a bad habit. Break it. Past and present participial phrases have their place, but not when A) they create dangling participles (like in the first sentence--which, as written, tells us that Ian’s heart took a deep breath), B) they cannot happen simultaneously with the main clause (Ian cannot walk across the cafeteria and stop at the water fountain at the same time), or C) every sentence you write contains one.

I have to thank Ms. Shreditor for her critique today. I also want each author who contributes to First Page Friday to remember to, first, look at the good that was said, then look at the suggestions made and decide whether it's something you are willing to change. Not every editor or agent's opinion will match yours, but it is worth looking at every piece of feedback as you polish your piece. Thank you Ms. Shreditor for taking the time to critique today.

If you would like to submit your first page for Ms. Shreditor, please email it to juliecoulterbellon@gmail.com with First Page Friday in the subject line.

And feel free to leave your own feedback on this first page in the comments.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Three Opening Things You Should Never Do

I talked earlier about going to a class at the LDStorymaker conference last weekend where the editors/agents said they usually only read a page or two before deciding to reject a novel or not. I also taught two classes at the conference called "Publication Primer," and "Bootcamp," (which is where the first 10-15 pages of a manuscript go through a deep critique) and several of the aspiring authors had done one of the "things an author should probably never do," so I thought I would mention three of them them here, since they are fairly big no-nos.

1) Never start your novel with a dream or prologue. It's looked at as a lazy way to provide a hook for your story and agents/editors hate it. I know you might think that you are a strong enough writer to do it, but honestly, it is extremely hard to do well, even for experienced writers. Just don't do it. Look for a stronger way to start your story.

2) Too much background information. This one is very common. Authors (including myself sometimes) think that certain pieces of background are important to the story and we put them on the first few pages, when in reality, it's too much and all of that info should be worked into the story at a later date. Background info can be like quicksand, sucking your story downward to its rejection and slow death. Use a dramatic event or something interesting in your first few pages to draw the reader in, make them ask questions, and above all, keep reading!

3) You might think that since dialogue can be a great hook, then you must go on for three pages with lots and lots of dialogue! No, just no. As I mention in my class, every scene has to have the foundation of setting, characters interacting in that setting, and dialogue. You really can't have a great scene with only dialogue, or just a great setting, or a couple of characters. All three have to be present in order to have a working scene that will pull a reader in.

My opening scene has a woman drowning in the Malacca Strait, her burka pulling and twisting around her, as she sinks to the bottom. I thought it was pretty clean, but the agents who reviewed it pointed out a few fat places I could cut and gave me some suggestions for more immediate emotion. I think that's what we're all striving for in our writing---immediate questions/emotions and clean copy.

So it's back to the drawing board for me!

**Don't forget that tomorrow is First Page Friday and we have a fun first page that I will critique, my editor friend from back East will critique, and then you, the readers, can also offer your feedback. It's going to be fun!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Totally Psychic Self & Working Wednesday

Can you believe I called it last night? Fare-thee-well, Romeo. My Dancing World will not miss thee or thy shameless plugs.

As for accountability on my writing this week, it was slow going. My excuse is that I’ve been playing a lot of catch up from being gone to the conference last week. But here's what I've done so far this week.

I outlined my non-fiction book I am working on.

I rewrote my first page on my fiction book that I’m revising, using the feedback from the editors and agents that reviewed it at the conference. It was interesting because my first page was read and it got a lot of visceral reaction from the panel. I was furiously writing everything down and one comment really struck me. “Make me feel like this isn’t something she does every day.” And I took that little statement and ran with it, and while I still have a bit of work to do, I’m really happy with where I’m going and the direction that one sentence pushed me in.

It’s amazing what one little snippet of feedback can do, isn’t it?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Show Me the Love

The Best Show on TV—Castle

First of all, did you see the promo for next week? Wow. Just wow. It looks like one of the most intense episodes since Knockdown. Although I am sad it’s the season finale of Castle next week. This season has flown by.

To see the Canadian promo, click here. It's a little different from the American one. Just another peek into what looks to be the most amazing ep of the year.

I’m glad it was a sort of fluffy Castle episode last night, leading up to the intense finale. I like the banter between our characters, and I can’t imagine the Captain retiring. The precinct wouldn’t be the same without him. So, I hope that it doesn’t stick this time, but we know next week is the start of some shake-ups. Just so long as no one gets dead-dead, I should be okay.

Best line of the night: The ME (Prometer?) Detective. (He greets Beckett with a smile. Then turns to Castle.) Writer. (sneer.) The way they played that was funny!

I also liked how Castle kept trying to think of titles if he were to write that case into a book. Death of a Beauty Queen, Deadly Action, haha

Best Scene: When Ashley and Castle were talking in the hall and Ashley says, “Have you ever loved someone who kept pushing you away?” then Beckett walked up behind Castle. Loved it!

Dancing with the Stars

Does is seem to anyone else that the judges have something against Chelsie? She danced the instant dance better than anyone else and they were still very critical of her. Sad. I think Chelsie is talented. My only critique is that sometimes Mark outdances her or makes himself the center of attention. I liked that he was the frame this week and really spotlighted her.

I love Kirstie and Maks. They have been the highlight of this season for me. They’re funny and honest and ridiculous. Maks is really himself with her I think, which is both good and bad. Kirstie isn’t the best dancer, but she is really going out there and doing her best. Her Argentine Tango was her best dance of the season. As for the instant dance, well, at least her shoe didn’t fall off and Maks didn’t fall down.

Ralph and Karina really bothered me this week with so much focus on the injury. I get it. I got it the first fifty times you talked about it. I think Ralph is a good dancer, but if he’s that injured then he should be the one to go home tonight.

Romeo and Chelsie did really well this week. I loved both of their dances and I like that Romeo is really coming into his own as a dancer. He’s definitely a lot better than his dad was. (Remember Master P? Haha)

Hines and Kim are (or should be) in the final two. Hines has such a great personality and does so great with his dances. I like that he’s humble and works hard. He’s definitely fun to watch.

My prediction for who will go home? I think it will be Romeo, but I hope it’s Ralph.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Power of Fifteen Minutes

When I came downstairs this morning, the mess from the weekend stared back at me. It was a teensy bit overwhelming because I didn't really know where to start in putting the house back together.

For some reason, when I was away at the writer’s conference, the children took it to mean that they didn’t have to do chores. Since my secret for looking like I’m a decent housekeeper is to make sure that my front entryway, living room and dining room always look presentable (because people can see those areas if they come to the door) I started there, just in case someone drops by. Of course, the kids will be catching up on their chores after school today.

I also updated my family calendar (where I write everyone’s schedule) from April to May. (I know, it's May 9th. Sadly, I don't have any excuse for that.)

So now I really should put some laundry in and start on the kitchen and family room. I also need to put some final touches on my family night and stick dinner in the crockpot. But I don’t want to. I’d rather sit and work on my writing because I got so many great ideas from the conference this past weekend.

This is where Flylady comes in and her power of fifteen minutes. I love Flylady and even though I don’t follow everything she advocates for an organized home, I love her idea of the power of fifteen minutes and I use it all the time because it works so well for me and my kids. So I can spend fifteen minutes writing down some of the writing ideas I had for my writing while Barney is on, spend fifteen minutes in the kitchen where the kids (even the little ones) can help, fifteen minutes working on my family night, you get the idea. And I am always surprised by how much I get done in fifteen minutes. You should try it!

What I'm Doing for Family Night Tonight

My two year old’s favorite game is hide and seek. So, tonight I will put a little cardboard sign on a string around her neck that says, “Eternal Life.” Then she will hide and the rest of us (teens, tweens etc.) will be seeking, “eternal life.” Then we will sit down and talk about what we have to do to gain eternal life. (Keep the commandments, read our scriptures, follow the Savior, etc..) Maybe I’ll have the two year old hide a few times and talk about a different thing we should be doing each time we find her. Then we’ll look in the index and Bible dictionary of the scriptures and see what we can find about eternal life in the scriptures. Closing prayer and the eternally good chocolate cake should round out the evening. Simple, yet fun for everyone! (I know the teens will probably roll their eyes, but hey, that’s the best I’ve got for today.)

What I'm Making for Dinner

Here’s what I’m throwing in my crockpot for dinner. It’s one of my family’s favorites and is so easy I do it all the time.

Italian Crockpot Chicken
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 oz. Cream cheese
½ c. milk
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 pkg (0.7 oz) Italian dressing mix.

Combine cream cheese, milk, soup, and Italian dressing mix in crockpot and mix well. Add chicken. Cook on low for 6-7 hours and serve over rice.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What's This All About?

I attended the amazing LDStorymakers writer’s conference this past weekend, and the question I got asked over and over again was, “How do you write when you have eight kids?”

It is not surprising to me that there are so many moms out there who want to be writers, but don’t know if they can do it when they have children. It’s a tough balancing act, that’s for sure, and no one, not even me, does it perfectly.

But that’s what I’d like this blog to be about. I want to give you all the tips and tricks that I use to find time to develop my writing talent, as well as try to be the best mom I can be. Of course, there are a lot of facets to writing, and motherhood, and being LDS, so in order to keep it straight in my head, this is how I’d like to organize things.

Monday Musings. Monday posts will be about being a mom and things I do to make my day go a little smoother. I love organizing family home evenings and doing quick and easy dinners, I also am trying to organize my paper hoard, (in my defense the paper does seem to multiply on its own when my back is turned) and squeeze in “mom time,” as well as do prep for my Relief Society lessons, so I can let you know how that’s working out for me.

Tuesday TV and Books. This is where I'd love to talk about the two shows I watch, Castle and Dancing With the Stars, as well as tell you about any great books I'm reading.

Working Wednesday. By mid-week, I want to talk about how I’m doing with my writing work in progress. I think this will be some good accountability for me, and I always love to share what I’m working on.

Thinking Thursday. I’m thinking Thursday will be my writing tip day. I was an editor for seven years and have a lot of experience that could help the aspiring writer.

First Page Friday. At the writer’s conference, all the agents said they usually only read the first page or two of a manuscript. They know after the first page whether they will reject it or keep reading. I would LOVE for blog readers to submit the first page of their work in progress to me at juliecoulterbellon@gmail.com (Put First Page Friday in the subject line, please) (I can also delete your name if you’d like it to be anonymous) and then I will critique it for you and give you ideas to make it stronger. Readers will also be able to comment, so you would need to be prepared for that.

Anyway, that’s what I’m envisioning for this blog. I hope you will take this journey with me and share me with your friends.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Getting Started

I'm so excited. And also a little nervous. I've been a part of the Six LDS Writers and a frog blog for five years and I've often thought about having my own blog as well, and here we are. It's sort of like moving away from home for the first time. Remember that? The tears at saying goodbye to mom, looking at her waving in the front yard as you drove away, then the smile as you walked into your own apartment for the first time, and the frown when you looked into the empty fridge. Did you ever wonder how many days you could live on Ramen noodles or counted out pennies at the grocery store till? (Not that I did that. Noooo.)

Anyway, this blog will be talking about things I've learned as a writer, a mom, and a few thoughts of a spiritual nature every now and then. I want to post writing tips, tell you about the new writing journey I'm on, and review some fiction that I'm reading. (Because everyone knows a good writer is also a good reader.) I hope you'll stop back often and leave a comment.

This is going to be fun.