Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cold River Book Review

Warm up winter reading with Liz Adair's romantic suspense, Cold River.
From the back cover:
Mandy Steenburg thinks her doctorate in education has prepared her to run any school district - until she tangles with the moonshine-making, coon-dog-owning denizens of a tiny district in Pacific Northwest timber country. She's determined to make a difference, but the local populace still looks to the former superintendent for leadership. When Mandy lands in the middle of an old feud and someone keeps trying to kill her, instinct tells her to run. And though she has to literally swim through perilous waters, she finds a reason to stay and chance the odds.

The plot for this book holds general appeal because we get to watch someone who thinks she's going to take on a challenge and come out making a difference for those over whom she has charge. Haven't we all hoped for something similar? Of course it isn't that easy but we want Mandy to succeed. Her tenacity had me rooting for Mandy, even though she occasionally reacted as cold as her reception in Limestone. The politics within the town and school board took me into an interesting world. And the setting! I wanted to be there. Adair adds interesting characters and writing that skillfully flowed. I did wish for a bit more  suspense but found it an enjoyable, clean read with a satisfying end.    

You can purchase Cold River HERE  OR Visit Liz Adair's blog HERE 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Right Brain, Left Brain Rehashed

  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday! On Thursday I will post a review of Liz Adair's Cold River so y'all be sure to come back for that. Today my brain is going to take a holiday so I'll give a repost of my first blog post ever that you might even find comment-worthy. Hope you enjoy it. 
  I followed some writers’ comments showing variance in their answers to such questions as “Do you listen to music when you write?” or “How do you get the creative juices to flow?” Someone gives a tip that I really like and another time I think I would never try that. We are all so different and that is a beautiful thing. We need to find out what works and doesn’t work for us and balance that with a willingness to try something new that could potentially enhance our craft.
  This got me to thinking that maybe there is no right way to write. Maybe it’s a Right Brain/Left Brain thing.
  I've heard that a first draft should flow by letting whatever you are thinking come as fast as it can. Editing and cleanup comes later. Just get it down. Okay. Am I doing that when I type a couple paragraphs that seem to flow, but then I stop and reread them before I can go on with the next flowing sequence? I'm not spending time figuring out a better word or structure, but if something glares at me I will fix it right then. It feels creative to improve upon it. When I get to the end of reading the section I've written, I’m ready to go again. But only for a section. I don’t understand someone who can write the whole thing from start to finish without going back over what they've written. It’s as if my left brain's organization and structure wants to keep inserting herself into my right brain’s creative flow. Is this normal? Perhaps it is for me. Perhaps it’s only lack of experience.
  Try this for fun: Clasp your hands together with fingers interlocking. Which thumb is on top? Now fold your arms. Which arm crosses on top? Chances are they are the same. Right thumb or arm on top leans toward being left brained and vice versa. I should say here that everyone uses both sides of the brain but that we have a tendency toward favoring one side to some degree. The amount of favoring can change, especially before adulthood.
  Out of curiosity, I took a couple online brain quizzes. The shortest one pegged me as right-brained. Laugh out loud! I really do enjoy the editing process as much as the writing, music distracts me, and I look at a scene sequentially in parts that make up a whole. Very left-brained. Another had me almost totally left-brained and another put me as 58% left to 42% right. Go figure.
  In reality, it takes a mixture of left- and right-brained thinking to be a writer. Upfront, one can see the imagination it takes to dream up the story. Underneath, logic is used to figure out the path a character would take or which word is best. The trick is to play our strengths and become a more balanced thinker in the weak areas while we use our whole brains to write. That is when what we write becomes truly satisfying. 
Do you agree? So, which side dominates for you and how does it affect your writing?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Wishes

However you celebrate this season, here's my list to wish you a happy holiday. Enjoy!

Making the most of memories
Everyone you love around you
Reading the scripture story of Christ’s birth
Resting after rushing around
Yummy treats to share

Choirs singing carols
Hope for the upcoming year
Readying the tree with decorations
Iridescent lighting
Snow football or making snowmen
Traditions of cookies and hot chocolate
Mistletoe kisses
Asking what Santa might bring
Special feelings through service

Monday, December 12, 2011

Book Review

View The-Assas...jpg in slide showRod Miller's The Assassination of Governor Boggs is a fascinating read.
From the back cover: After an attempted assassination, Governor Lilburn Boggs couldn't prove who'd taken a shot at him, leaving the identity of his assailant a mystery. Twenty-five years later and after the passing of Gov. Boggs, Detective Calvin Pogue has been hired by the Boggs family to open this cold case and find out the truth about the assassin. From Missouri to California and into the heart of the Utah Territory, Detective Pogue relentlessly seeks clues that lead him to the legendary Mormon gunman Porter Rockwell--who still isn't making things easy for anyone! Join Detective Pogue as he steps into this hair-raising mystery and tracks down Gov. Bogg's enemies and friends to a finale you won't believe.
  This historical novel is not a quick, easy read. Miller packed so much information into these pages that it took considerable focus. The purpose of teaching Mormon and political history during the time frame through story form hits its mark with so many spoonfuls of fact and opinion that lead the reader to draw his own (though somewhat slanted) conclusion. The investigative nature of the book lends itself well to fact-finding events.
  What I liked: The historical elements, of course. I enjoyed the contrast of Rockwell's rough storytelling woven between the proper detective's fact-finding. Miller's writing added the flavor of the times and occasional verb inventions taken from nouns. Pogue stiff-legged his way somewhere, thumbed his button into place, or paged through his notebook.
  What I didn't like: The unsettling feeling of murder condoned by righteous indignation or by church leadership. The times were definitely different, but it's hard to wrap my head around this concept. If you like happy-ever-after endings, you'll find some trouble here--though more to the fault of history than the author. There was also a place or two where it felt like a fact info dump, but was easily forgiven. Overall, I believe many readers, especially western and history buffs, would enjoy this novel.
  Here is the purchase link:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Genres—deciding where to fit

  I used to think my historical novel, The Seventh City, targeted the adult audience. Hardly any sixteen-year-old young adult stories included widows dealing with mature themes. Then I got some feedback that the voice of my story felt YA. My next project, Perception, stars a high school senior. Maybe I am a YA author. I’m setting out to ascertain what young adult includes. Obviously it means more than wizards, vampires, and high school crushes. It’s time to start reading younger, learn the YA secret language, and figure out the guidelines.
  Whatever the genre, people read for entertainment and escapism. Readers want to be taken away from their own life or world. This doesn’t necessarily mean fantasy or sci-fi, but could be why they are so popular. Genres and subgenres have evolved with time and we are seeing the product of creative imagination.
  What do you like to read and why? And if you write YA, maybe you could leave a guideline or tip for me. I'd love to read your comments.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Bonus Book Review?

  I didn't do so well on my revision goals last week. Sickness, holiday with family visitors--need I say more? It was too ambitious for me to revise 75,000 words in a month with all the going-ons so I'm going to give it another month, and I'm not going to feel badly about it. I'll just keep chipping away . . . Did you make your nanowrimo goals? How do you feel about it?
  I did make time to read *smiling* Maria Hoagland's debut novel, Nourish and Strengthen. First, the back cover blurb:
Nourish & Strengthen After losing forty pounds, Chloe Taylor is finally happy with her body. What she doesn't realize is that she's not the one in control. When Chloe is called as the Primary president, she discovers that managing the highs and lows of a chronic illness may be easier than the ups and downs associated with family, friends, and church callings. Consumed by her won challenges, Chloe fails to recognize the issues her friends are facing and is in danger of losing their friendship. As Chloe sstrives to develop Christ-like love for herself and those around her, she learns that outer appearances are fare less important than inner peace and spiritual strength. But is she strong enough to face her most difficult trial yet?
  This LDS women's fiction novel was different from my typical reading choice so I had to gear myself into the mode of women with real-life issues and the fact that Chloe was going to talk about diabetes over and over again. It's an easy enough transition if you allow it. Hoagland could have been writing an auto-biography for all I know, with the detail and day-to-day reality in first-person. I thought she did an excellent job at keeping the scenes succinct and using nice description. Once the point was made, Hoagland moved on. She adds nice touches of description that do double duty to paint emotion into her visuals. And, of course, I learned a lot more about diabetes. There was even an aha moment when Chloe made me recognize something in myself that could have remained undiscovered. I got a bonus in the form of some self-helps to put into practice. Thanks, Maria, and good job! Even if others don't gain what I did, it's a thought-provoking read.
  You can find out more about Maria or order her book at one of the following:
Createspace for paperback:
Smashwords for all eBook:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Plotting 101: The "Secret" Formula

  So, you’ve got an idea for a story you want to write. Now what? Do you need an organized, detailed outline or can you write by the seat of your pants? It’s been successfully done in both extremes and points in between. The answer is yes—as long as you know the formula. There are many who will tell you methods they’ve devised or used, and searching these out proves beneficial to many. At the least, you’re armed with more information. At the most, you may find one that fits you perfectly. The main thing is to get it all out on paper. Revisions will come later and there is much to learn to turn your work into the kind of quality of which to be proud. Now back to this not so secret formula.
   In any good piece of fiction, certain elements must exist that the reader expects in order not to be disappointed. What it boils down to is having a main character with a goal and high stakes. That’s the formula. Of course, this includes a few obstacles placed between the MC and his/her goal and high enough stakes to make that character do what it takes to succeed, but we often wonder if he/she will because the danger is real.
  Each scene has a structure similar to the above and should be a story in its own right, according to Kirt Hickman in Revising Fiction. A scene should contain: 1) A hook that draws the reader into the scene, 2) A goal for the characters to accomplish, 3) An obstacle between the characters and their goal, 4) Action performed by the characters to overcome the obstacle, 5) Some reaction in response to the characters’ action, and 6) A problem leading into the next scene.
  Ingermanson's Snowflake Method works from a one sentence summary of the novel in fifteen words or less and expands from there.  This concise summary is similar to a query letter that reveals what the MC's goal is, what stands in his way, and what will happen if he doesn't succeed (motivation). Same formula.
  Okay, that should get you started. I’d love to hear how your work in progress is coming along. Happy writing.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review and Goal Update

My Nanowrimo goal is to carefully revise my novel, The Seventh City. Seven chapters/22,000 words are completed at this point. 30% there. Gotta step it up.

Here’s my reflection on Stephanie Black’s latest LDS Suspense, Rearview MirrorBack cover blurb:
On a rainy night eight years ago, Fiona Claridge lost control of her car and crashed, injuring herself and killing her roommate, Mia Hardy. Now, she strives to keep the painful past at bay by staying burrowed beneath the demands of her job as a college professor in a small New England town. But when someone starts leaving her gift-wrapped boxes containing malicious remainders of Mia's death, Fiona's guilt and grief come flooding back.
She assumes her stalker is Kimberly Bailey, a disgruntled student, and enlists the help of fellow professor James Hampton. But when Fiona encounters the angry wife of an old flame, it becomes clear her student isn't the only one with an eye for revenge. Cruel messages escalate to danger, then murder. As past and present become horribly entangled, Fiona struggles to unravel the truth about a determined killer--before she becomes the next victim.
What I thought:
  Black delivers the suspense from page one via the lives of interesting, imperfect characters—enough to keep you guessing who-dunnit. As details unfold, each character reveals reasons for targeting or protecting Fiona in a must read on manner. An exciting climax fulfilled my expectations (even though the title implied to me that the worst would happen in her car). A hint of romance rounded out the story, but the love interest seemed overly cautious. Even Fiona had her own understandably neurotic behavior, giving me the feeling that every character could have been in a soap-opera. I had to push that feeling aside occasionally and just let the suspense build. 
  I liked how most characters’s involvement, great or small, led to other choices that ultimately caught up to them. What goes around comes around and nobody’s secrets remain hidden forever. Another good book to put on your wish list. Click on BOOKS I'VE READ on my sidebar to see my Goodreads ratings and previous reads. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Getting Started Writing

  A friend asked for advice about getting started writing. Whew—where to begin. So much to learn, yet so many helps. This topic seems appropriate for National Novel Writing Month. Many are frantically setting their fingers to keyboards in efforts to reach 50,000 words in a month. They deserve applause and encouragement, but don’t forget they each had to start somewhere. My personal NaNoWriMo goal is to completely revise my novel. Now back to my friend and other beginners. I’m offering a few starter tips:
  1. Write. Set aside (find doesn’t work) time to write every day (if possible) or weekends. Anything worth doing takes practice. It can be in a journal or scene by scene toward your future masterpiece.
  2. Read with a writer’s eye. Mark or analyze passages you love or hate, figuring out why. Notice the effects of using dialogue or narrative, or why you became emotionally invested in a character.
  3. Join a critique group. The right group can give you motivation, new ideas for where your story might go, and instruction along the way. My group trained me until I became an equal. They were my single biggest push toward improvement. Connect with a non-relative or group that will show you the ropes and give helpful feedback. Seek a happy medium with both praise and specific suggestions/constructive criticism.
  4. Learn. After some experience, you’ll likely benefit from classes, conferences, or how-to books. You’ll either know what specific areas need your focus or you’ll enjoy soaking up anything and everything to make you a better writer.
  Please check back for more writing tips. Next Monday I’m posting a book review for Stephanie Black’s latest book Rearview Mirror. The week after that I’ll feature beginning plot ideas. There are some necessary elements all beginners should know so don’t miss out!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Scary Stories

  Freak me out!!! Do you love scary stories?
  There’s a wide gamut from ‘round the campfire chills that end in “Boo!” or eerie mind teasers to chain saw gore. I admit that I don’t care for the latter, but who doesn’t like to be scared sometimes—even just a little bit? The relief afterward feels soooo good. This tension and release element is a tool to master in any genre of writing. You don’t have to write Horror to make your readers hope and fear for the life of your main character. That’s plain, good writing!
  If you’re looking for a good scary story that still lets you sleep at night, I’d like to recommend the Dan Wells series I Am Not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster, and I Don’t Want to Kill You. It starts out with fifteen year-old sociopath John Cleaver (love the last name—it reminds me of what J.K. Rowling does with her character names) explaining his job in the family mortuary and his detachment to relationships. I found the first hundred pages interesting but not hooking. Another reader promised me it would be worthwhile to continue. She was right. The story gets better from there and so does the writing. Admittedly, I skipped the middle book because the third one landed in my hands instead. It captured me from the beginning but I found the ending to be amazing—full of twists and thrills with a sacrifice that reflected Christ archetypes and turned the tide for John’s normalcy. Loved the ending!
  What scary stories have you loved? 

Monday, October 24, 2011

How Many Times Before I'm Through?

  What’s your favorite revision method? (I’m talking about the near-final draft revisions where a critique group or alpha readers has already given their two cents.) There’s hundreds of ways and I’m in the thick of it right now. I’d love to hear your tips and comments, your successes and horror stories.
  Do you color code things to see how action or dialogue is spaced or which character is giving the point of view? I’m a visual person but it sounds like a lot of work. Perhaps it is worth it. How many votes out there like color coding?
  Maybe you start with a search engine to filter all those naughty little words that creep in very suddenly. You know—was, that, very, suddenly. Getting rid of those critters can do a lot to clean up before the next reading.
  Checklists are valuable for thoroughness. It’s a nice feel to check off each detail but there’s so dang many of them and they suggest you comb through focusing on one at a time. I’d get sick of reading each scene one hundred times. *Sigh*
  It takes a great deal of work but I want to get it as right as possible. There’s no way I’m going to put my work out there for the public eye unless I’ve given it my best. On the other hand, I can’t spend half my life on one manuscript. They say it gets easier the more you do it . . . . Time to get back to work.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Good Words

  My son is home recovering from surgery. It was a shock to him to feel weak and recognize that healing will take some time. It got me thinking about this instantly gratified generation. We want fast food, fast internet, the fast lane. In reality, many times the saying is true about good things coming to those who wait. Such it is with the writing craft.
  Getting published takes time and hard work. Staying positive goes a long way whether one is recovering from surgery or writing setbacks. What can we do along the mountainous road to keep our chins up and our fingers flying? Many things. Recognize that there's always gonna be another mountain, even after one is published. Find joy in the journey. Think of how far you've come, how much you've grown, the goals you've accomplished. Celebrate every thousand words with a little chocolate. You get the idea. Find what works for you.
  Now that I'm doing revisions, I see a lot of mistakes. But it only means I've learned something. Finding weak verbs, those thought words, that telling instead of showing. That's progress, right? Growth. Encouragement. Patience. Those are good words. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Award-Winning Entry

  Thrilled to receive notification of First Place for the second time this year, I am including an excerpt from the winning entry for my post today. The complete chapter won first place in contests for both the 2011 LDStorymakers and League of Utah Writers (LUW) conferences. I am honored to share this with you and hope you enjoy reading it.
Chapter One 
About 90 B.C.
  Princess Karlinah hid a secret that could kill her. It felt as if it were buried in the pit of her queasy stomach. She quickly lowered her head as she approached her father-in-law where he glowered upon his throne. His scowl mirrored her husband’s while she fought with him last night. Shaking off the image, she bent her knees to the tiled floor and bowed. She rose when invited, keeping her gaze just below the king’s eyes. “You sent for me, great one?”
  The Lamanite king of the land of Jerusalem dipped his feathered headdress in reply and sent back the servants waving palm fronds. He stood and motioned Karlinah forward.
  Karlinah trembled. Dread filled her as awareness of the private nature and seriousness of the conversation increased. He meant to accuse her, she just knew it. She struggled to push her feet forward, took two slow breaths, and looked at him.
  “There is no easy way to say this.” His matter-of-fact voice belied the gravity of his words. “My son is dead. Murdered.”
  “Murdered?” Karlinah echoed, eyebrows raised. What a strong word to describe what had happened to her new husband. But she would never get the chance to explain. Regretting that the word slipped, she covered her mouth with her hand. It might have sounded like a confession for how nervous she must look. A quivering gasp escaped her lungs as Karlinah locked eyes with his. Had she betrayed herself?

More about The Seventh City:
A secret. A death. A spirited, sixteen year-old widow. For the young, Mayan princess it was either kill or be killed. Then a Nephite missionary comes to preach about repentance. Can Karlinah gain acceptance and remarry without revealing her secret?
I am currently revising the rest of the manuscript in preparation for submitting. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Picking Books and a Review

I found Eyes Like Mine by Julie Wright (2009) a satisfying, heart-warming read that I would recommend. Liz King, a current teen with multiple struggles, doesn’t know what to do with Constance, a young pioneer woman with a family connection who appears to have traveled through time to help her. The more Constance tries to solve Liz’s problems so she can go back to find her husband and baby, the more she seems to do the wrong things. I enjoyed seeing their relationship develop, what would happen with the boy next door, a bit of pioneer history and genealogy thrown in the mix, and unexpected turns. No slumps. Just good, tight writing in an enjoyable feel-good story. Want to know what rating I gave this book? Was the review enough to entice? You can click on Renae’s Reads on the sidebar to take you to my Goodreads ratings and see what I’ve been reading. So, here’s my question on which to comment: How do you pick a book to read? Do you rely on word of mouth or reviews, reader ratings, best-seller lists, the book or author that everyone seems to be talking about or what is on the library shelves? I’ve used several of the above at various times. We may not always concur with the recommendations, but it’s a good place to start. Happy reading this month!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Getting Real with Dialogue

Foul language is, well, foul. I don’t need it and I don’t think my readers will miss it—even if my male main character is a typical high school senior. Someone out there just rolled their eyes. A valid point. A writer needs to get real. Real emotions, real problems, real solutions. What about real dialogue? My critique group just discussed this. Apparently some swear words are more acceptable than others and what you grew up with is an influencing factor. Is it possible to write real dialogue without swearing? (Keep in mind that I’m aiming to please myself since I’ll never please everyone.) The MC, Josh, is a good kid with values, but he’s starting to run into some rough characters with grand theft auto on their minds. Can a writer show enough details and emotion through things like description and tension that the reader gets it without vulgar word choice? This writer is attempting to find out. Reality Zone is dead ahead. I’d love to hear what you think.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Simple Fixes → Big Improvements

The right word choice can tighten up your writing and make it flow. A recent reminder of this struck me as I went through some rewrites. Using more words than needed is a common mistake—but also an easy fix. Here are some examples:

Food started to sound good to me. → Food sounded good to me.
I pretended to look at something else. → I looked elsewhere.
She was going to be next. → She would be next.
I didn’t want to risk being seen. → I couldn’t risk being seen.

Each of these examples has something in common besides being shortened. The little word “to” following the first verb weakens the next verb that I’d rather emphasize. I don’t want a character to merely “begin to" do something. I want her to do it. This improves the drama and pacing of the writing. Make use of your Find and Replace Box to catch these simple errors. Type a space before and after ( to ) so you don't get every word containing those two letters. Beleive me, there will be enough of them without finding things you don't want.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Counting Your Blessings

The word rejection mingled with blessings and heroes into a melting pot I’m calling “Counting your blessings”.

A few weeks ago I heard from my first choice publisher that after five months of consideration, my novel, The Seventh City, didn’t fit their current publishing needs. Official rejection! Maybe I had to tell myself to breathe again, but the world did not stop. I’m telling myself that they have more Book of Mormon fiction than they need rather than that my hard work wasn’t good enough. I still have a “get out of the slush pile free” perk to two more publishers for winning a first chapter contest. Perhaps that is why the world didn’t crash in on me. But, dang it, I know it means more work before resubmitting. *Sigh*.

Looking back, there have been a lot of good things on which to reflect instead of moping over rejection. My writing has improved by leaps and bounds, thanks to a wonderful critique group, fabulous conferences, and persistence. That last one especially is my advice to those who love writing and don’t mind a little hard work. One day we will be published!

Thinking on that fateful day for America ten years ago, where would we be if we didn’t recover from the tragedy that struck? What would be the result of not banding together in unity for renewed love of country and the importance of family? My personal rejection story may be unworthy in comparison, but it is mine. Periods of mourning vary in each instance, but eventually we have to move on. It is the same with writing or anything else we love to pursue. Seek creditable feedback, continue learning the craft, keep at it, and count your blessings!

I’m thankful for the heroes who put their lives on the line, for the dignity of suffering families who recovered, for those who saved others, who cleaned up the damage, who donated money, who prayed, who . . .

Monday, September 5, 2011

I'm Celebrating!

I'm celebrating several things this week. First, I'm announcing my two winners in the Awesome August Blog Hop.
Chris has chosen to receive Wrong Number by Rachelle Christensen and
Squiggles will receive Matched by Ally Condie.
Okay, maybe they are celebrating the win more than I am, but I'm happy for them. Congratulations!
Second, this week is the one year anniversary of my blog and I expect to get my 100th follower. Will it be you?
Third, I survived my first week as an empty nester. My baby is off to college. A few mixed feelings here, but overall it's a good thing. I hope he has some great experiences like I did. Those were the days, weren't they? Still, I wouldn't go back.
Fourth, the feedback about "something you like about other blogs" was terrific and I'm looking to implement some changes soon. Want to know what people liked and my response? I've combined them into categories. Keep in mind that my theme is Meaningful Mondays so not every alliteration title will work (but the idea might).
1. Reviews (8 comments). Book Reviews, a search index tab to find them, photos showing covers of my reading bookcase and what's in my mailbox, and lesser known or older book reviews. I've reviewed a few books here and wish authors would send me more. Sounds like I need to put my Goodreads reviews on my blog. Hope I can figure out how to do the search tab. I'll check into this.
2. Guests (4). Author interview, features, or guest posts. I've done a couple of these and see no reason not to continue. It adds a little variety.
3. Themes (4). Tuesday Teaser shares a few lined from your current read, Flash fiction Friday, Six sentence Saturday, Wordless Wednesday--post a photo, Wordful Wednesday explains the story behind the photo. I'll rename and use some of these.
4. Questions (3). Answering random questions or lists to get to know me, used as a contest entry, or to open a topic for discussion. Randomness is objective, but I like to pose questions and answer a few. See my post on seven random things about me.
3. Links (1). To reading the first chapter of a book. I'd love to do this with my own, once I'm published. Great way to see if it hooks you and to advertise.
5. Contests (1). Use Googleform or Rafflecopter widgets for contest entries. Good idea. Ya learn somethin' new every day.
7. Widgets (1). WIP counter. Check that one off.
So, did I get your favorite on the list? Leave a comment to add to my list and watch for yours in the future. OR tell me what you are celebrating.
Happy Labor Day!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Awesome August Blog Hop

The winner of Stephanie Humphries new book, Double Deceit, is:
Amydee Fawcett
Another round of fun giveaways starts today.

Welcome to the Awesome August Blog Hop, where bloggers from all over the Internet have come together to throw a summertime party!

Every blog on this hop is offering a fun prize, and entering is quick and easy. Simply follow the instructions on each blog, leave a comment, and bop right along to the next blog. You can win multiple times, so be sure to check out all the participating blogs!

On my blog, two entrants can win one of four like-new books. The first winner will receive first choice of books, and second will choose next. I have read and enjoyed each of these and hope you will too.

They are, alphabetically: (Sorry, the images are not working.)
Matched by Ally Condie
Secret Sisters by Tristi Pinkston
The Fourth Nephite by Jeffery Savage
Wrong Number by Rachelle Christensen

To enter:
1. Become a follower of my blog.

2. Leave me a comment explaining one favorite idea you enjoy from other blogs. (I will later consider incorporating those that work for me.) If your e-mail isn't available through your profile, I'll need you to leave that, too - I can't tell you if you've won if I can't contact you! If you have trouble leaving a comment, leave it at renaemackley AT

This blog hop runs through Wednesday night at midnight, so be sure to enter before then! The winner will be notified by e-mail.

Now that you've entered my contest, come meet all my other blog friends and see what fun things they are offering!

Awesome August Blog Hop Participants
1. Tristi Pinkston, LDS Author
2. Karen Hoover
3. Michael Young
4. Kristy Tate
5. cindy Hogan
6. Julie Bellon
7. Margot Hovley
8. Laurie Lewis
9. Mandi Slack
10. Melanie Jacobson
11. Joyce DiPastena
12. Renae Mackley
13. Debbi Weitzell
14. Donna Hatch
15. Carolyn Frank
16. Marsha Ward
17. Stacy Coles
18. Bonnie Harris
19. Danyelle Ferguson aka Queen of the Clan
20. Diony George
21. Lisa Asanuma
22. Susan Dayley
23. Christine Bryant @ Day Dreamer
24. Stephanie Humphreys
25. Ranee` Clark
26. Tamera Westhoff
27. I Am A Reader, Not A Writer
28. Heather Justesen
29. Rebecca Talley
30. Jennifer Hurst
31. Aimee Brown
32. Cheryl Christensen
33. Rachelle Christensen
34. Imaginary Reads
35. Andrea Pearson

Learn more about Awesome August Blog Hop here.

Get The Code

Powered by... Mister Linky's Magical Widgets.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Double Deceit Blog Tour

  If you enjoy clean Romantic Suspense, get your hands on a copy of Stephanie Humphrey's Double Deceit. My review is below, and you can Win my gently used copy through a random drawing from all appropriate comments this week who are followers. It's that easy! Leave a comment and make sure you're a follower between now and midnight Saturday. I'll post the winner Monday August 29. Stephanie Humphreys is also having an easy contest (see below). Her book kept me intrigued and guessing throughout the plot turns.
Back Cover Blurb:
  Someone is watching . . .
  As a young widow, all Elaina Bryant wants is a fresh start. Determined to put ten painful years behind her, she returns to her hometown and moves in with her sister, Natalie. Elaina soon accepts a job working at a small bookstore owned by the handsome Ryan Hill and his mother. Despite her reluctance to become romantically involved with anyone, she is drawn to Ryan and finds herself falling in love.
  But someone isn’t happy with Elaina’s new life and is watching her every move. Her tormenter seems determined to destroy her sanity and her future, but Elaina can’t convince anyone the threat is real. Natalie is preoccupied with her own blossoming romance, and their friend Peter, a police officer, seems to believe the threat has been manufactured in Elaina’s own mind as a result of her guilt and grief.
  Now Elaina’s plans for a new start are crashing down around her. She knows she will have to find the answers before she can overcome the past and enjoy love and happiness again. But how can she protect those she loves when she doesn’t know whom to trust?

My Review:
  Looking at the book, I first thought it had a great title and intriguing cover and back blurb. I was wary of the too perfect main character with excessive makeup but quickly warmed to her as I started reading.
  Elaina, the MC, comes with her own set of insecurities and flaws, including a failed marriage. There were interesting supporting characters with their own stories. I liked how Humphreys simultaneously showed Elania's character growth while trying to fight becoming crazy. Contrasting this was a likeable sister, Natalie, who became insensitive and self-absorbed due to a new boyfriend's attention. I knew not to like Chad though Elaina struggled to lend sisterly support. That was good tension. Friend Peter made me angry when he showed his spineless side, but there were reasons for it. Nearly-perfect love interest, Ryan, played it right most of the time. Ryan's mother possessed a quirkiness that was refreshing. These characters elicited reader emotions that pulled me into the story.
  The plot developed nicely. There were places of tension and rest from it, all building to a suspenseful climax. Non-LDS readers should have no trouble understanding content or enjoying this book. Humphreys' managed to hold my interest and keep me guessing.
  Visit Humphreys at and enter the great contest she has going on.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Having Fun on the Road to Publication

View hannahhol...jpg in slide show  View Hannah Ho...jpg in slide show

Say Hello to Hannah Holt, children's book author and illustrator with a "lightbulb" vision. If there's a child in your life, head over to her free-reading section and activities for kids (starting in September). Let's get to know Hannah.
Renae: Lightbulb Books. What a great title. Did it just 'pop into your head'?
Hannah: Ha, ha! Yes. You might say I had a lightbulb moment. I wanted a name that reflected my goal of igniting imagination and discovery. "Lightbulb Books" seemed to capture that spirit.

Renae: I read the three books in your free reading library and they are great. Do you produce them as e-books or self publish as printed books? If not,why?
Hannah: No, I don't produce them as either e-books or printed books. As an experiment, I produced a limited printing of one of my books. I earned a few hundred dollars; however, I could see that it would take a significant amount of time and capital to make a career in self-publishing. It's not for me. I'd rather spend my time writing.

Renae: Wouldn't we all! Those of you with success in this area, please share your secrets and strategies. Contact me at renaemackley at gmail dot com for a blog interview. Hannah, tell us about your writing journey. Have you submitted to traditional publishers?
Hannah: Two Christmases ago I created a comic book for a family member as a gift. I loved the process and so began my writing addiction. Since that time, I've submitted my work to a few “big five” editors, and I've had requests for additional material. However, only nibbles so far.

Renae: Good luck on that! I know you are accomplished in many areas from an Engineering degree to a full-time mother. How does writing fit into your life?
Hannah: Ha! Very carefully. Even so, I don't always stay in balance. I try to follow this priority chain for my writing. 1) Journaling: If nothing else, I write in my journal. 2) Critique Group Deadline: My goal is to bring new pages for my current work in progress to each meeting (once or twice a month). 3) Blogging: As time permits.

Renae: Priorities are important. What are your  future plans or goals?
Hannah: I'm excited about a new series coming to my blog this September called "The Creation Station." Every Tuesday, I feature a hands-on activity for children ages 2-6. The first post shows children how to turn vegetables into Martians. It's going to be fantastic fun.
In the longer term, I plan to continue writing picture books and the occasional chapter book. With four children in my home ages five and under, my time is definitely not my own right now. So, I'm anticipating a slow journey to publication, and that's OK.
Renae: I'm sure those twin babies keep you hopping. Tell me about your illustrating.
Hannah: Most of the illustrating I do these days is digital. I prefer illustrating the old fashion way (with paint and pencil); however, digital illustrating fits my schedule better. Paint dries when it will, not when it's convenient. It's easier to press pause in the middle of digital illustrating. Some day when my life is less hectic (it will be less hectic someday, right?), I hope to return to more organic illustrating.
Renae: Great attitude. Anything else you'd like to share about yourself?
Hannah: Yes! I love being a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). They have lots of helpful resources and networking opportunities for children's writers. Check them out at
Renae: Thanks, Hannah. She's also worth checking out at

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sometimes Life Gets in the Way

  We've all been there. Life choices get in the way of our writing. That's how this week has been for me. The reasons don't matter. The frustrating part is that ideas are flowing, the motivation is there. I recently returned from the site of where my WIP is set and I've been antsy to get writing ever since. All I've been able to do is write most of one scene. Not what I had in mind. So how do we handle minor setbacks? Here's a few thoughts. If you could share yours, I'd appreciate it.
  1. Keep it all in perspective. Other things are important too. What time lacks in one week will pick up extra in another. Unless your on publishers deadline, there's always tomorrow.
  2. Keep a little notebook handy to jot down a few notes that you don't want to lose before you can get to the computer. You won't have to spend time trying to remember later.
  3. Use those times standing in line or whatever to mentally go over spots that need thinking through. Use your dead time as brain time.
  4. Take care of yourself. Get the rest, exercise, good foods that you need to keep you going for those long days when you might not get to write until late or to start early the next morning. Be aware of your body's bio-rhythms and your best times of productivity, what kind of breaks help or hurt you.
  5. Learn to prioritize, condense, dovetail or multi-task better. Cut out things that waste time.
  6. Remember that getting started is often the hardest part. Reread a few lines or paragraphs to get back into the mode and mood you are striving for and take it from there.
  7. Here's a tricky one for me: Sometimes you have to choose to spend time writing over using social media excessively. Don't be a hermit, but you don't have to touch base with every writer friend every day.
  Good luck with your writing goals this week! I'm cheering for you!


Monday, August 1, 2011

Being There In Person

  There's nothing like being there yourself for a writer to get the flavor of a story's setting. I just returned from a vacation in San Diego County, where my current work in progress is set, and it opened my eyes to new facts and useful details. I've swapped one city for another that fits better for where the MC lives. Look out, keyboard, my fingers want to fly!
  I still might need something later on that I didn't capture by camera, notebook, or memory, and it's unlikely I'll get back there again soon. Even if you've never traveled to the location you're writing about, there are several research tools to help. Find an Internet or magazine photo that is a good representation of what you want to describe and tape it near your monitor. Check out Google Earth for both overhead shots and street views of real locations. Talk with someone who lives there. Then again, you might find places in your writing where the imagination is adequate enough to get it right.
  I read Rachelle Christensen's Wrong Number last year after having been to the ice caves that she describes in that book. When my perception of the place matched her descriptions, my mind's eye candy became even more delicious, more stimulating. That's what we're striving for.
  How do you make a setting or description come alive?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cool Stuff Happenin'

And some day it will be my turn! Meanwhile, I'm pleased to let someone who has been a help to me and is a great person, announce upcoming events and information on my blog. If you've never read one of Tristi's books, you should definately give them a look. She has quite a variety.
Author Tristi Pinkston is excited to announce the release of the third novel in her Secret Sisters Mysteries series.

Titled Hang ‘em High, this novel takes place on a dude ranch in Montana. When Ida Mae’s son invites her to come for a visit, of course she brings Arlette and Tansy along with her. They are expecting to spend the week looking at horses, avoiding the cows, and making amends in Ida Mae’s relationship with her son. What they don’t expect is to be stuck on the ranch in the middle of a blizzard and to be thrust headlong into the middle of a mystery.
Help Tristi celebrate her new novel in two ways. First, come participate in the two-week-long blog contest, where you can win a book nearly every single day! All the details are up on Tristi’s blog.

Second, come to the book launch!
You are invited to an
August Authorama!
Saturday, August 13th
Pioneer Book, 858 S. State, Orem
12 – 4 pm
Games, prizes, balloons, face painting,
and Dutch oven cobbler
prepared by world champion cook
will all be there to sign books.
This is one book launch event
you will not want to miss!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Homework takes a Vacation

  Write what you know. It’s good advice, but sometimes the muse takes you elsewhere. We ride the journey with research replacing experience. Hopefully it’s enough.
  I completed a historical novel set in ancient Mesoamerica. There was no way for me to literally go back in time to grab the details. Research was imperative, but I could also get creative. For example, I invented a fruit that was eaten.
  Directly contrasting this is my current work in progress, set in modern San Diego County. Again, research is imperative. If I don’t get a localism right, someone will call me on it. That’s partly why I picked this setting. I get to visit there this very week! I’m off to sunny California and excited to absorb the sites and sounds, culture and language. A camera and notebook are must haves. Plus, when I’m through writing, I have YA nieces and nephews who can comb through those details. Tip: Have you checked out Google Earth in the street view? Awesomesauce.
  Sometimes we pick a setting for the exotic/rugged/secluded/whatever qualities it has. I picked this area for familiarity. When it doesn’t really matter which city you pick, make life easier. Write what you know.
  Settings let you visualize and get the flavor of an area but they also need to fit your story. Both of these photos were taken in San Diego County. The setting you pick makes a big difference. Where is your story set?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer Reading

  Readers seem to find summer a great time to fit in that book they've wanted to read. Maybe school is out and a teen can finally choose something not required. Vacation travel accomodates the urge for something to do in the car, waiting at the airport or laying on that sunny beach. Perhaps it's too hot out to do much more than lounge on the couch with a good book. Whatever the reason, we'll take it!
  There have been several tempting choices for me, but right now the funds are limited and I'm resorting to library and friend lending, so some of my top picks will have to wait. I've enjoyed audio books as well as actual reading, but I've yet to experience the e-book format. I'm currently focusing on Utah authors.
  Here's what I've been reading and what I think about them:
Imprints by Rachele Ann Nunes - Loved the atypical MC and overall story, kept my interest enough to ride through a slight middle sag. I'd recommend it.
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull - Thought I'd see what all the fuss was about even though I'm not big into MG fantasy. I loved it. Not too over-the-top or juvenile. A good story for all ages.
On Second Thought  by Robison Wells - An enjoyable read with some suspense at the end.
Cold As Ice and Methods of Madness  by Stephanie Black - Good suspense stories for my current WIP. I actually liked the latter book a bit more than the former.
Shelter from the Storm #4 by Anita Stansfield - I tried this author years ago and couldn't get into that much romance but thought I'd check this popular author out again. I find myself enjoying it so far, at about half-way through, even without realizing I'd jumped into a series. The musician MC appeals to me. Tastes change, authors switch styles or genres. You just never know.
Double Deceit by Stephanie Humphries - Coming out next month. I am reviewing it and will give my blog review on August 22.
  Tip: Take home several picks from the library at once so you can discard one for another as needed.
  What summer reads are you enjoying?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Perception - Writing Journey #1

  Are we having fun yet? Definately.
  Today I thought I’d give an update on my WIP (work in progress). I recently started a novel totally different from anything I’ve written before. Perception is different in that it’s YA instead of Adult, the MC is a boy, it's modern instead of historical, and suspense rather than scriptural-based. The change felt freeing and exhilarating, conducive to a great start with ideas flowing. After about 10,000 words, some of that faded a bit. Some days it takes an extra turn of the spigot to get the next scene to flow at the previous rate. Not that I’m worried, mind you. I just have to work a little harder. Nothing wrong with that.
  The idea for Perception came from a news story I just happened to catch and thought I could twist into a great plot. I instantly fell in love with the possibilities and thought I knew where the story would head. Between parts of it that want to write themselves and suggestions from my critique group, I’m uncertain which of two or three main directions to go. Hopefully, discovery is part of the fun. I’ll let you know in another 10-20,000 words if I'm still saying 'definately'.
  My previous project, The Seventh City, a Book of Mormon Historical Fiction which took first place in the historical category of 2011 LDStorymakers first chapter contest, is in its fourth month of review with my first-choice publisher. They said it would take 4-6 months so here’s hoping for a positive response soon. Cross your fingers for me. Its untitled sequel has run into some problems that I presently don’t wish to spend time fixing until I know its sister has a home with a publisher.
  There you have it. So, how is your WIP going?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Writing While Picking Peas

  Happy Birthday, America! Everybody have fun and be safe while celebrating.
  When the peas are ready for picking, I'm out there--hopefully early in the morning or evening when the heat is tolerable. Next, the beans will start calling my name. I love the freshness but gardens demand a lot time. And the family thinks they need to eat and have clean clothes to wear. The list goes on.
  Sometimes we have to squeeze in that reading or writing in other ways. Planning out the next scene or the details of a new character is a great thing to do during menial tasks like picking peas. Yes, my mind wanders off-track here and there, but if I can get just one good idea to use, it's progress.

  Another thing I like to do, especially while working in the kitchen, is to listen to audio books from the library. If nobody is around talking to me, I can double my reading time with the push of a button. A plus to audio books is that I find books I wouldn't be exposed to otherwise.
  Summer is a fun and busy time. Make sure to take a book with you in the car for those long trips and look for other ways to sneak reading or writing time in there. I've included the recipe for a great summer salad using peas. Serve with garlic french bread for an easy meal. Peas are great in a sauce on pasta. Slip them into other recipes where you think it's appropriate.
  What do you do to make time to write? Or how do you celebrate summer reading?
Sarah's Salad from Lion House Recipes
1 head iceberg lettuce (or favorite)
3 strips bacon
1/2 10-ounce package frozen peas (or 1 cup garden fresh)
1/4 tsp. sugar          1/2 tsp. salt          1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese or 2 1/2 ounces cut in strips
2/3 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup mayonnaise          1/4 salad dressing
Wash and drain lettuce. Dry thorougly. Dice bacon and saute until crisp; drain on paper towel. Run hot water over frozen peas and drain. (Skip this step for fresh peas.) Tear lettuce into bite-size pieces into salad bowl. Sprinkle with sugar, salt, and pepper. Add peas, cheese, onion, mayonnaise, and salad dressing. (These ingredients may be layered, if desired, with the mayonnaise spread on last. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.) Chill. Toss when ready to serve and garnish with bacon. Makes 8 servings.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Feel-Good Moments are the Best

Like most things, a writer's world is full of ups and downs. When a friend comes along to sweeten the pot by giving me an award just to say she cares and wishes me all the best, those are the moments that keep us going. Brenda Sills just awarded me the Sweet Blog Award. Yipee! Brenda has a great blog already and she just started. Check it out at

Now I get to tell you 7 random things about myself: (Gulp! Feeling exposed.)

1. Get ready to ooh and aah. Soooo cute. I just had grandbabies number 12 and 13 within 24 hours of each other. Grandmothering is the best. The oldest is only six. We had four boys born in the same year! And my youngest of six children just graduated from HS so we're not through yet! (Sorry--I couldn't get the picture to turn.)

2. Best weight-loss tip: long hours of physical labor. I learned to use power tools that I never imagined using while building our house. Wish the weight would have stayed off once life returned to normal. Here's the mosaic tile mural I created on a wet bar backsplash. I cut all the pieces with a tile saw.

3. My passion for writing exploded once we were settled in our new home. Finding a great critique group made all the difference in the world. Before that, music composition was how I spent my free time. I took a music composition class for non-majors at BYU (very intimidating). From then on it was learn by trail and error. Several of my works have been performed in our church choir, among other places. Music (many kinds) brings me joy.

4. I had a double wedding (technically back-to-back) with my sister who is one year and one day older than I. We never forget one another's anniversary or birthday.

5. I graduated from BYU with a BS in Clothing and Textiles. They don't even have that major listed today. Yes, I can sew but I don't do it much anymore. Moving on to other things.

6. I don't watch much TV but we do get Netflix movies. One TV show I like is Chopped. I've entered a few cooking contests and won a laptop computer when they were brand new. It was a tiny thing that printed on a roll of tape. The model was outdated by the time it arrived in the mail. The recipe was a cookie using Triscuit crackers. I was this close *pressing fingers together* to winning the grand prize of $10,000. Oh well! 

7. I've traveled to 15 countries. 11 of them were in a single trip with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir when my husband sang with them. We spent our thirtieth anniversary in Italy with my sister and brother-in-law (mentioned above). I'd love to write a story set in Florence or Venice sometime.

Thanks for stopping by and getting to know me better. Thanks again to Brenda Sills. She got me a couple new followers. Now it's time to pass this award along to five blogging buddies who's blogs you'll want to check out and follow:
Rebecca Clayson -
Tamara Passey -
Carolyn Frank -
Congratulations, Friends!
To claim your award:
1. Copy and paste the award to your blog. 
2. Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
3. Share seven random facts about yourself.
4. Pass the award along to 5 deserving blogging buddies.
5. Contact those buddies to congratulate them.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Love-Hate Thing

Computers drive me crazy sometimes. And yet I don’t think I’d be a writer without them. I realize there are benefits to writing long-hand, but revisions would become a nightmare. I would get writer’s cramp for sure! Yes, I’m thankful for the dang things. I just hate learning how to fix things the hard way.
Current problem: I can’t comment on my own blog and some other (but not all) blogs. It’s been reported that some haven’t been able to comment on mine but a few comments have appeared. I am anonymous! What’s the deal? Anybody have ideas for me? We tried clearing the history cache without seeing a change. Help!

Monday, June 13, 2011

True Emotion

  This promises to be a momentous week for me and my family. Grandbabies number twelve and thirteen are scheduled to arrive. Separate sets of parents—not twins. Talk about excitement! I can almost smell sweet baby scents and practically feel buttery, soft skin under my fingers by just thinking about it. These events will encompass a gamut of emotions from the wonder of holding a sweet bundle in my arms to the sorrow of letting one of them return to his Heavenly Father. That’s right. One of these grandsons has a serious heart condition that would require multiple surgeries to prolong his chance for more time on this earth. Emotions I’ve never experienced will likely course through my body within the next few weeks.
  Two choices were presented to the couple once the diagnosis was made and after much pondering and prayer, they have elected not to go through with the first surgery. Human judgments have and will be passed on them for this course of action. It’s part of what people do because emotion drives them. In the end, the only factors of importance deal with coming to the same peaceful conclusion between husband, wife, and God. All other emotions that might be hurled at them are legitimate feelings even while the choice is not for others to make. When faced with the same situation a different time, there could be an equally right, opposite conclusion.
  Just as there are no blanket judgments right for any given situation, there are no emotions that can be easily dismissed without a catalyst or cause. This is as true in real life as it is for our fictional characters. Characters should feel real emotions—good and bad, proper or not—according to their personalities and experiences. Writers strive for readers to feel an emotional connection with their characters. Readers will pass judgment as to whether this was accomplished based on their own frame of reference and experience. This may be why I connect to a character that you do not and vice versa. We don’t all love the same books or characters, but the overall popular ones are those characters who show emotion that rings true with each reaction.
  I can’t help but think that each of our emotional experiences not only helps us feel deeper empathy for real life people but can help us connect with fictional characters we read about or bring to life through our written words.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Milestones--Are You Graduating?

  My baby graduated from High School and LDS Seminary this past week. Another milestone in the journey. Hoorah! A proud moment indeed for all concerned. I'm sure you can relate.
  Soon he will be off to college and I will graduate into the realm of old people--empty nesters. Whoa. I'm not quite ready to call myself old, even if I'm a grandma, my body has it's own complaints, and grey hairs are springing up. But it got me thinking: What am I really graduating from? Can I say that I have passed a milestone of my own? Have I continued learning and refining my writing craft, followed through with some goals?
  I doubt any of us can say we are hundred percenters. It's a process. It takes continual (but not constant) effort. We don't want to burn out, we want to shine. Take it one milestone at a time. My next writing goal is to get something ready to send off to the LUW contest. What milestones are you reaching?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Conflict and the Mechanism of Story, Part 2

Clint Johnson—Conflict and the Mechanism of Story Part 2
  Conflict is the high-grade fuel of a story, the drama, the reaction of resistance, not just tension.
Dramatic Conflict needs: 1) Need. Character needs something, a motivation. This need breaks the character from routines of life and creates action. Tip: We don’t want real life, we want an assimilation of real life. 2) Opposition. Opposition to the above need must be equal to or greater than the need itself. 3) Action. What the character does, says, thinks, to overcome the opposition. This includes internal and external action.
  How your character responds to your plot=the real story. What do they want for themselves and others?
  Central needs for youths: Individuality with community or trying to become someone he/she is please with that others can accept while there is opposition.
  Nonfiction: The perception of a need, not creating one. Use the point of view in which you can be honest; this is your point of view for someone else’s story. Show why they might have done something. Use Need, Opposition, Action in non-fiction too.
  Like a person with chronic pain, we adjust or adapt. In order for it to feel like things are getting worse (rather than adapting to the crisis or pain), conflict has to increase at a significant rate/pace. There are little breathing places of relief along the way before the next stomach punch.
  The main character has a need that motivates them into action. If the need isn’t achieved, what will happen? What is at stake?
1) External/Public Stakes: Social, often large scale, plot driven, world ending.
2) Internal/Private Stakes: Poignant, individual, self-worth.
  Weave both external and internal together. A stake affecting multiple people will intensify it. (Having to diffuse the bomb before the building explodes.) A stake affecting a significant person will broaden, complicate it. (Having to diffuse the bomb in the building where your wife works.) How far you push depends on the story/genre you want to tell. Take your characters into places the reader didn’t want to go. Comedy takes pain. Love characters for their flaws. Happiness has to be earned or it is resented. Endings can be win, lose, or draw.
Clint had us think of a story idea we wanted to write. Then he asked us to 1. think of an internal stake for the MC and, 2. how can you intensify it? Conflict it of major importance to a story and something I've struggled with. I hope these tips help you as well as me.