Monday, May 9, 2011

Priming the Pump!

Priming the pump, gassing the engine, greasing the wheels; what ever metaphor you choose, every author knows what it's like to need a jump start when in a slump. I can't think of a better to get one than to attend a well run, well rounded, professional writer's convention where authors learn new concepts, are reminded of things they already know, and are encouraged by presenters and attenders alike to hone their craft.

LDStorymakers recent convention (see for photos and reviews) hit the mark on all categories. The available classes ranged from beginner level to 2 hour master classes that engaged and informed us. Classes I attended that were eye-openers were "Researching and Writing Credible Historical Fiction" by LC Lewis, "Creating Your Character Bible" by J. Scott Savage and Deanne Blackhurst, "The Six Core Competencies of Successful Storytelling," Larry Brooks, and "Building Author/Editor Relationships That Build Careers" with Kirk Shaw.

LC Lewis ( took us neophyte researchers on a guided tour of what to research for a historic setting, how to do it, and how to document the results. This class was so informative that I would like to see it made into a master class next year including a list of the most helpful research sites compiled by participating authors.

Classes by Scott Savage ( are always a delight and we were swept along by his enthusiasm not to mention the huge amount of insight he give on creating three dimension characters, protagonist and antagonist as well secondary characters and walk-ons. Doing the exercises in his class led me to a slew of new discoveries about the main character of my next book. I thought I knew her. I know her so much better now. Thanks Scott and Deanne.

Larry Brooks( a highly structured interpretation of storytelling to his masters class. The thirsty left side of my brain sucked up the information like a clean sponge just out of the clothes dryer. Since my approach to just about everything is random abstract, I was surprised and pleased when the revelation of seeing the writing process from Larry's point of view unexpectedly created a blue print in my brain like the pigeon holes in an old post office. The storylines and character developments that have been floating around aimlessly in my head suddenly have a destination and are happily filing themselve where they belongs even as I write this blog. Fabjous day indeed!

As the youngest and least experienced writer in our trio of writing partners I have often bemoaned being the low dog on the totem pole when it came to writer/editor relationships. Kirk Shaw's ( )class was a clear call to be proactive in developing the an appropriate healthy relationship with any future editors I work with. I appreciated his explanation of what editors in today's market can and cannot do. Thanks for the insights, Kirk.

The best critique for the conference came from a friend who was attending for the first time in preparation for writing her first historical novel based on ten years of research. She was so excited and energized by the classes the first day she wanted to skip the second and get on with her writing. Wisely she held to the course and got full benefit from her attendance. As a university teacher of LDS literature she was also very impressed the the large variety of works available by LDS authors in the bookstore.

So hats off to all the fine folks who made the convention such a rousing success! The experience gave me the information I needed as well as the encouragement to pursue my next writing project. You did a fantastic job. I am already looking forward to next year.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Rains are Here!

What makes Arizonans different from other people? When it rains, others go inside—but we go outside!

Rain is a miracle. We love the feel of those huge monsoon raindrops, the sight of mist rising from the streets as cold water hits hot tarmac, the way the desert smells after a rain. And I get a kick out of hearing the splay-toed frogs, who come out only after a monsoon rain. They sound like itsy-bitsy goats bleating.

This year the miracle was late in coming. June 15th was the official beginning of the monsoon season, like June 21st was the first day of summer, but those dates don't mean a lot when the rains don't come until mid-July and the temps have hit triple digits already in May.

I came back to Green Valley July 18th after spending ten days in Idaho for Gary's 50th class reunion and two family reunions, and I was stricken by how horribly dry everything looked. My area of Arizona is in the Sonoran desert, which gets more rain than the Mojave--Green Valley really is green. But we're in a drought that's lasted 10 years now, and every little bit of rain is precious.

So I was hoping that the rains would have come while I was gone, but no luck. When even the cactus start withering, it's bad.

Then Monday afternoon, I could smell rain in the air. Someone was getting blessed moisture, but not my neighborhood. Later in the evening I heard the first splats of rain on my skylights. What a delightful sound! I crossed my fingers, hoping it would continue for more than just a few minutes. It did, for several hours, which is not usual for the monsoon. Those rains are usually localized, hard, and short.

We heard on the morning news that our area had gotten almost an inch and a half. So Gary and I jumped in the car shortly after six to go see if there was water in the Santa Cruz river. It's dry most of the year, so seeing water running is a real thrill.

I'm happy to say that on Tuesday, July 20th, there was water in the Santa Cruz! And you've seen the photo to prove it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wednesday, and the Rally's over

Interesting how life goes. We plan something, anticipate it, enjoy it while it's happening—and then, before we we're ready, it's over and in the past.

Wednesday morning's agenda was short: breakfast and the closing ceremony, including acknowledgements, video presentations of inspiring words, and a fantastic video roundup of the rally. It was a fitting finale to a wonderful time.

Many thanks to the planning committee and others for making the rally so memorable. We were impressed by the organization of events, the quality of the entertainment, and the venue. Our only complaint was that we could never find the hotel elevator until the last day. Too late for the knees by then.

In the end, Nancy and I were most impressed by the members of the TRA. We made many new friends, I got reacquainted with a Bev Cozzens, whom I knew from my one year in Byron, Wyoming, and Nancy saw a side of neighbors Tom and Elaine Kenny she'd never seen before.

There are events in one's life that stand out, that will be remembered with fondness and, perhaps, longing. For Nancy and me, the 2012 Temple Rider's Rally is one such event.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tuesday at the Rally

Tuesday was packed from early morning until past midnight.

Nancy and I got up early so we could enjoy a leisurely breakfast before going to the temple in time to be part of the 9:00 chapel session. It was a great privilege to be going with these people who were strangers only a few days before, but who were all supporting me with their love and prayers.

The session following and the few moments we spent in the celestial room afterward were made extra sweet because we were in their company.

From the sublime we went to the... Harley-Davidson store for a barbecue lunch. Nancy and I got back to the hotel in time to change before going there. Nancy rode behind Carol Lindsey on her pretty green Gold Wing trike, and I got to ride in Kim's fancy-schmancy red sidecar.

I have to say it tickled me no end to see the folks who didn't have time to change pull up wearing their Sunday clothes--the men in white shirts and ties, the women in skirts and heels. What a hoot. I missed getting the photo I really wanted, one of a clutch of gray-haired ladies admiring the black Harley trike that was in front of the store.

That evening, we went to the Starlight Mountain Theater for supper and a performance of Thoroughly Modern Milly--and got rained out. Not only that, the bus Nancy and I were couldn't get traction on the wet grass, so we had to wait for a big tow truck to get the bus on the road.

Did we mind? Not too much. We were in the best company in the world.

Monday at the Rally

What a day! I got to go on one of the rides, thanks to Dave Harris taking me on his Yamaha (his wife, Jan, rode her Harley).

It was a relatively short ride going through prairie and farmland, from Boise to Mountain Home, then to Nampa and back to Boise, with stops at Emu-Z-Um, a family-owned frontier town with an amazing range of collections, and a pizza place for lunch. I felt very comfortable, even on the freeway. Actually, I loved the trip. I'm thinking I missed my calling as a Motorcycle Mama!

That evening, Nancy and I had a chance to address the group during the Family Home Evening. Nancy spoke about the creative process and had the audience laughing when she went through a series of "What Ifs" using the fictional Big Jim Beattie Bridge as a starting point. (What if Big Jim Beattie was really little?)

I decided to speak on a topic suggested by Mike Simmons when he issued the invitation: What miracles happened during the writing of the book, Leaning into the Curves? When I asked Nancy if she could name one, she said, "That we're still talking!" (More truth to that than you might think.) But for me, the real miracle had to do with temple attendance.

I hadn't been to the temple--hadn't even wanted to go--for a quarter century. But listening to Frank Reece (founder of TRA) and others talk about their love of temple work, I felt--for the first time in a quarter century--a faint urge to attend a session. Other nudges followed, and by the time I told the group this story, I could say that I had a temple recommend in hand and that I would be going with them the next morning!

Following our remarks, Brother and Sister Lundgren of Boise gave a very inspirational presentation on what The One can contribute--a single, small act of service can affect thousands in ways we can't begin to imagine.

All in all, iIt was a wonderful evening, and I'm happy to say that the response to our part of the program was very positive, especially after it was announced that every participant couple and individual would receive a copy of our book.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Landmark Places, Landmark Days

There are landmarks places and landmark days. Since we last blogged we've found one and experienced the other.

While hunting down Deseret Book store Saturday for our book signing, we relied on the instructions we thought we had and the memory Carroll was sure she had to get us there. Neither proved 100 % reliable.

One thing we knew for certain was that the book store was somewhere in the vicinity of the Boise Temple. I can't tell you how glad we were to finally see those landmark spires rising along Cole Road. With the fine directions from a hotel near by we arrived at DB with minutes to spare, enough to take a big breath and enjoy a frozen yogurt next door. We had a great time. The staff at DB were both charming and accommodating and we had the opportunity to connect with a variety of interesting readers.

Saturday evening we were entertained completely by the company at our dinner table and by the wonderful performance of Del Parkinson, classical pianist and professor. We were treated to both the terrific renditions of well loved solos and engaging narrative about the composers and Del's experiences as a performer and teacher. It was a lovely ending to a delightful experience.

Sunday was landmark day in itself, starting with breakfast from 5:30 to 6:30 am so we could arrive back at the temple (the one place in Boise we were sure we could find) by 7:00 am to attend sacrament meeting at the stake center next door. We walked in to the sounds of the TRA choir (you heard right--these bike riding, full armor of God warriors for the cause have a choir, and it's a good one, too) practicing "America the Beautiful" with skill and patriotic fervor. Carroll and I looked at one another with eyes already tearing at the spirit present in the chapel. She made a b-line for the podium and a supply of tissues.

We needed them to get through a meeting that called into remembrance the blessing of living in this country, the blessings of our faith, and the sacrifices our soldiers and our Savior and why their lives have been and are being given for us.

After we stood the sing "Star Spangled Banner" and listened to the closing prayer, Carroll turned to me and said she had never been to a better sacrament meeting. We were both filled to the brim.

The feelings of that meeting alone could have made the whole day, but the TRA don't do things in small measure. We returned to the hotel to have a joint priesthood and relief society meeting on the topic of being our Savior's hands on earth, followed by a small break and a two hour sacrament meeting.

That was all before 12:00 noon. After lunch, a nap, and a quiet walk along the river with a few moments to play our flutes, we dressed in our Sunday clothes again for dinner and a fireside with guest speaker Lloyd Newel, BYU professor and the voice of the Spoken Word & Tabernacle Choir. Brother Newell entertained us, informed us, and enlightened us with his tales of working with the choir. At one point he urged us to develop an abundant mentality, and even in times of trial to look for reasons to praise and not withhold.

That's what I call a landmark day!

This morning Carroll is off on her ride behind a TRA member, dressed in borrowed leather duds and tight fitting helmet. I am looking forward to the trike ride around the parking lot--an activity more in my comfort zone.

Tonight we're the speakers as part of the TRA Family Home Evening, the warm up act before the musical performances of Tom and Janell Lungren. We hope we do the TRA proud.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Is Less More? It just might be.

While researching for our book, Leaning into the Curves, a lady Harley rider, Cindy Gillman of Scottsdale, said she'd done some research on handcart pioneers and learned that they could bring along only 17 pounds of personal items. So on one road trip she limited herself to that amount of things. That was very interesting, so we had our main character, Molly, try to keep to that amount when packing for her first long motorcycle trip.

It worked really really well in our novel. But we didn't think of doing the same ourselves when we packed for our road trip to Boise, where we're attending the Temple Riders 2010 rally. Oh, no. We packed suitcases, garment bags, computer bags, bags of snacks, emergency supplies, and Native American Flutes and songbooks. To say nothing of Audubon reference books and binoculars. And then there was the DVD case, the CD case, and the cooler of Dr. Pepper and diet Coke.

Oh, yeah. I shouldn't forget the case of bottled water!

We didn't think there was anything odd about this until we passes a string of TRA riders on the freeway about a half hour away from Twin Falls and realized how man had managed to pack everything they needed in the hard cases on their Gold Wings and other cycles. Granted, some did have tagalongs--cute little matching trailers, but we might have had trouble fitting our load in the smallest of the trailer.

As we passed the line of cyclists, we wonder what in the world we'd been thinking. Okay, we wanted to be sure we had the perfect outfits and accessories for travel, our book signing, church and temple attendance, planned social activities, speaking, and going to an outdoor theater. But looking at the couples who didn't have trailers, it was obvious we'd overdone it big time.

We spent the next fifty miles laughing at ourselves and the overabundance of things we felt we needed to bring. That brought up some questions:

What did we really need?

What did we need to be prepared and comfortable?

Since we just arrived last night, we're still wondering how much of what we brought we'll actually use. We have already used both of our computers. Nancy has played her double flute, one that provides a drone to the melody. We've changed clothes once, and are glad we've got jammies and clean underwear. And when we go to see Thoroughly Modern Milly in Garden City, we'll be glad to have our jackets and the lap robe that was in the emergency box.

The thing the TRA people brought with them that has impressed us the most--wonder cycles aside--is their joi d'vivre.

Oh, the things Nancy didn't bring that we're really missing..... driver's license (we think it may have been stolen), two credit cards (also under investigation), and the jack for her new Kodak camera that has to be charged. So much for pictures to accompany our blog.

None of the above, whether what we have or what we're missing, is going to change our thorough enjoyment of our day. The TRA folk are off on rides. We'll be working on current projects and signing books at the Boise Deseret Book. The sun is shining, and life is good.