Monday, February 28, 2011

Writing Journal #5 - Revisions

Below are two versions of the start to my story, The Seventh City.  
Setting: Ancient Meso-America. Which do you like better and why?
A)  The grieving king sat rigid on his throne while servants fanned him with palm fronds. Noting the scowl on his dark-skinned face from the back of the throne room, Karlinah quickly lowered her head as she was ushered forward. She bowed to the ground and rose when invited to, keeping her gaze just below his eyes. “You sent for me, great one?” 
   The Lamanite king of the land of Jerusalem dipped his feathered headdress in reply and waved the servants back. He stood and motioned Karlinah forward.
   Sensing this was to be a private conversation, Karlinah trembled. It was easy to guess why she was summoned, but how much did the king know? What did he think she knew? She took two slow breaths and looked up at him.
   “I am afraid there is no easy way to say this.” His matter-of-fact voice belied the gravity of his words. “My son has been murdered.”
B)   Noting the scowl on his face as her father-in-law reclined on his throne, Princess Karlinah quickly lowered her head as she approached. She bowed, forehead to the tiled floor with arms outstretched, and rose when invited. She kept 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 was ready to accuse her, she just knew it. She struggled to push her feet forward, took two slow breaths, and looked up 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.”
Who is the main character? Did it grab you? Any suggestions? Please vote.
Next Monday I will reveal results and where these were submitted.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Writing Journal #4: Noticable Progress

  In picking a scripture story for the basis of my writing, I thought that all I needed to do was to connect retold sections given in the scriptures by adding interesting fill, linking it all together into story form. I wanted to stay true to the scriptural text. What I ended up with was flat. My critique group let me know that I needed more conflict (among other things). They may as well just turn to The Good Book itself for all the excitement I was giving them. I learned about character arcs and how my MC needed to grow, progress, and overcome a problem. I remember saying out loud, “This is harder than it looks.”
  Ignorance was no longer bliss and mediocrity was not an option. Writing a book took too much time and devotion not to up my level of skill. Anything less would be a waste of time. I paid attention to the group’s comments to each other and learned from their writing as well as mine. There were secrets to success ready to be gleaned from the pages of self-help books and evidence found in published novels. The trick was implementing what I learned.
  As the feedback became increasingly positive, I was a kid in a candy store. I loved taking my redlined pages home and shaping them into something better. I could do this. I always believed in myself but I was beginning to believe a publisher might feel the same.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lobster With a Twist

I’ve been hearing a resurgence of how important it is to have family dinner together. We do pretty well at this but I usually do the cooking and sitting down is not always at a relaxed pace. So, it was time for a special couple’s dinner together.
My husband and I decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a romantic dinner—lobster, candlelight, music—but with a twist. “Let’s stay home and cook together,” we decided. Our youngest was out on a date and we had the kitchen (and house) to ourselves. Two affordable lobster dinners coming up. It turned out to be fun. We ate lobster with clarified butter, rice-a-roni, asparagus with mushrooms and almonds, breadsticks, and heart-shaped fudge. We reminisced about our first date and enjoyed working together. A movie topped off the quiet evening last Saturday night.
What did you do for Valentine’s Day?  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Book Review: The Peasant Queen

I was impressed with the concise writing in Cheri Chesley's YA Adventure/Romance, The Peasant Queen. The description on the back cover that it "delights readers of all ages" was true for me. Meant for teens, tweens can understand and enjoy the book. Happily, the writing was not "dumbed down" for adult readers, but the plot left me with a question or two: Though a magnificent main character, how is it that a peasant farm girl of a faraway land was chosen as the object of spying through a sphere in the first place?

The fact that Krystal is beautiful is the first thing that draws men to her, poor girl. Even so, she is a likable character worthy of emulation. She is a hard-working go-getter who knows what she wants, skilled with a sword, gentle with animals, charming, humble, and determined. Her only character flaw seems to be her weak stomach. I loved getting inside Krystal's head and Chesley had me liking her from page one.

View Cheri1200...jpg in slide showI liked that there was a map. I liked my uncertainty about the villain at first and his volatile actions throughout. It had everything from swordfights to kissing without drowning in unbelievable fantasy. It was a good mix and a fun read. I personally would have liked a stronger historical element with enough details to pin down the era to a certain century, but that would make it more adult. I would recommend this book to readers of adventure and romance. 

Visit Cheri at


Monday, February 7, 2011

Interview with Author Rachelle J. Christensen

I really enjoyed reading Wrong Number, a Whitney finalist, and thought I'd have a chat with Rachelle Christensen, award-winning author of "Wrong Number" and "Lost Children: Coping with Miscarriage". I like to ask authors three critical fundamentals in writing. Let's start with . . .
Plot—Your plot kicks off strongly from page one. Did you struggle to keep the momentum going? How much of the story was plotted out or outlined before you started writing?
Rachelle: My character, Aubree Stewart, sometimes had a mind of her own and that led to more tension. But I also went back through each chapter during revisions and looked for plot development, tension, etc. to make sure the pacing of the story would keep the reader turning pages.
Character—I liked how you showed character growth from a wife dependent on her husband to a woman who takes charge of her situation. Was this something you strengthened during revisions or did you plan her character arc from the beginning?
Rachelle: Thank you! It was fun to see Aubree’s character development. A lot of that happened naturally with the paths she took in the novel, but I also tried to refine that during revisions. Something I tried to keep in mind was that the character needs to have faults and flaws so they are progressing with the plot as well.
Renae: It was fun to discover who Aubree could or couldn’t trust. Any tips on keeping a secondary character mysterious while showing their development?
Rachelle: Red herrings are a wonderful tool to make anyone seem mysterious. I’ll admit I find it tricky to keep the bad guy a secret because obviously I know who he is while I’m writing :) so I’m always double-checking my writing and asking myself, “Are they going to figure out the bad guy?” and then adding in subtle movements, red herrings, and foreshadowing to keep the reader guessing.
Conflict—There were lots of conflicts along the way culminating to the biggest one where there was no escape. Where do your ideas come from?
Rachelle: My ideas usually come from something that sparks my interest like a news story and then I start asking, “What if?” For example, we all get wrong numbers and I’ve had plenty where people just start talking (this especially happens on my voicemail) and I’ve had to correct them and tell them “I’m sorry you must have the wrong number.” So what if someone called the wrong number by accident and gave out information about a murder?
Renae: It always exciting to win awards. How different was the final product from what you submitted to contests?
Rachelle: Wrong Number won second place in the LDStorymakers contest in 2007 and I had another novel (one of my many work-in-progress) win first place in 2009. The first chapter didn’t change much, other than being tightened up a bit and some extra scrubbing and polishing. But the first draft of my novel was right around 50,000 words. By the time I finished re-writing and revising for several months, the final word count was nearly 72,000 words and that doesn’t account for all the words I cut during revising.
Renae: Did your marketing or publishing strategy change by going from a non-fiction book to suspense?
Rachelle: Definitely. I found it much easier to market my fiction book because it was for anyone. Whereas my nonfiction book was written for a specific niche of readers.
Renae: What else would you like to share about yourself?
Rachelle: I’m a stay-at-home mommy of four beautiful kids. I love to play the piano and sing. I enjoy anything creative, especially making cards, creating photobooks, sewing, and gardening. And right now I’m counting down the days until sunny weather when I can go running any time of day while listening to my iPod and thinking of ideas for my next novel.
Renae: What are you working on now?
Rachelle: I’m currently revising the spin-off from Wrong Number. The working title is Caller ID and I’m excited about the plot in this story. I came up with the idea by combining the elements of two different stories I saw on the news a few years ago. I think my readers will be excited to see who the main character is in Caller ID. I’ll give a hint, it’s not Aubree.
Renae: Do you have any advice for other authors?
Rachelle: If you’re serious about writing, attend writers conferences and classes, join a great critique group, read novels in your genre of interest, and write, write, write! Also, learn how to take criticism and know when to apply it to your writing and when to chuck it out the window.
Renae: Where can we find your books? (BTW, I can personally recommend Wrong Number!)
Rachelle: Anywhere books are sold. If you don’t see it, ask for it and they can order it in. Available wherever books are sold, including Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Amazon
If you’d like to get a sneak peek at Wrong Number, check out the book trailer—it’s awesome! Stop by my blog,  to see what I’m up to. Thank you so much for this interview! Happy reading and writing.

Renae: Thanks, Rachelle. I invite readers to stop by tomorrow for my book review of The Peasant Queen by Cheri Chesley as part of her blog tour. I'll tell ya what I think!