Monday, December 31, 2012

Gratitude

This isn't a year in review post or even an optimistic list of all I want to accomplish next year. This is just me sitting at my computer waiting for my kids to finally fall asleep so I can bring out the chocolate mousse I made and cook the lobsters, in that order. Not that I didn't have a great year last year,I did, but not in the way some people define greatness. I grew alot closer to my family and to God. I started (finally) taking care of my body and rediscovered some amazing new/old friends. I've stepped out in faith alot and God has been right there blowing me away with his faithfulness and surprises. I've struggled over and over with giving up control of things and I've learned that God doesn't do things for us because we're good or worthy but because He is.
In the past I was paranoid enough that when I had a really good year I'd sit there on New Year's Eve dreading each second that passed, because I knew it couldn't possibly be that good twice. Surely God would see I was too happy and pull the rug out. But not anymore. I learned that too. God's goodness has no limit. So tonight at midnight you'll find me more than likely sleeping in my bed knowing that God has some pretty amazing things in store for me next year wither I deserve them or not.

To all of you I hope you have a marvelous and blessed New Year.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Have you heard the one about the blonde?


I haven’t actually. I’ve noticed that a lot of the books I’ve read recently have anything but blonde MCs. I’m not criticizing; my own books don’t have any blonde characters in them.
 I wonder why.
I myself am a blonde, my sisters are all blonde, dido with the kiddos- Which means with the exception of my husband and my dad, all the most important people in my life are blondes. So you’d think somewhere blondes would find a place in my books.  I don’t know what the reason is for everyone else, but I’ve lived through the stereotypes, I know what a blonde is supposed to be and it’s nothing pretty, let me tell you. Clueless, ditzy, and just plain dumb are the last things I want my MCs to be.
How about you? Have you heard or written any good blonde stories lately?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

How much is you?


How much of yourself do you put in your books?
For me, it’s quite a bit, but it’s hidden. People who know me best might not even realize it’s there. It might be part of a memory, or a funny situation I’ve found myself in, or maybe nothing at all, just me. The odd thing is I’m nothing like any of my characters, but they’re all a part of who I am. Strange isn’t it? But I’ve discovered, for me anyway, it’s the only way for it to be real.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Transparency


Yesterday I was attempting to write my Author Bio for my book and really had a hard time with it. To start with I hate talking about myself; even these blog posts are a bit stretching for me. I almost never post on Facebook. Really half the time I wonder -who really cares that I took the kids to Aldi today?
Anyhow…
I was writing my Author Bio page and when I had a rough draft done, I showed it to my oldest daughter (14) who is one of my most brutally honest critics. She took one look at it and laughed, “Whose life are you writing about? It sounds like a fantasy to me.”
I looked at it again. Okay maybe it was a bit of a stretch to say I spend most of my time reading to my children under the reading tree… but there was that one time- Remember?
So I ditched that one and went for draft number two. That one was only slightly better.  So my question for today is- How transparent are you? Do you let others see who you really are- flaws and all?
The answer for me, as evidenced by the paper littered around my floor, is an unfortunate no.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What Genre is your book?


I tell you, I’ve had a hard time with this, and not just the nitty-gritty part where you try to decide if it qualifies as magical realism or paranormal. I’m talking big things like if it’s YA, or Adult.
I’ve been told I should gauge it on the age of my characters and since my MC is sixteen at the beginning of the book it should be a YA, but I’m still not sure. If that was always the case then Carrie by Steven King would be YA, along with Gone with the Wind and countless others. My books deal with some very adult subjects, so shouldn’t that figure into it as well? Just throwing it out there, wondering what you think.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Which writers have influenced you?


If you’d asked me that question a week ago I would’ve had a different answer than I do today. I would have spouted off something very intellectual sounding like Austen and Dickens and maybe slid a few contemporaries in there to beef up my list like Rynd and Orwell and then just when I had you convinced I was oh so smart I’d mention Meyer and Stiefvaterto show you I was trendy, too.
But that was a week ago. Sunday as I was making an Anne of Green Gables doll for my daughter to go along with the book I want us to read together and was wrapping the Laura Ingalls nine book set I’m going to give to my seven year old nieces because that’s how old I was when I read them, I realized something about myself. I’ve always been a reader, long before I decided that in order to be a good writer I needed to beef up my own have read list. I love to read, always have and sometimes the books that influenced me the most are the simplest. Amelia Bedelia anyone?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Weeding out Christmas traditions


Monday I was visiting someone’s blog and they were asking about family traditions in regards to Christmas. I answered quickly and then moved on, but as days have gone by I’ve given that question more thought, not just what we do for Christmas, but why we do it. Is it done because it’s good or just something we’ve always done; a miser of a chore that no one likes but does anyway.
Some of you might not know this, but we are a homeschooling family, so as you can imagine there are plenty of those things to weed away, but also plenty to give more time to. Like gift making; in the past that was something only I did and only if I got around to it. This year I’ve cut out the Christmas cards (sorry Aunt Jen, I promise you’ll love the homemade jam instead)  that take so much time to make and decided spend more time with the kids making presents  so they’ll understand Christmas isn’t just about their own wants.  And strangely the Christmas tradition I’m cutting out most is shopping. I used to spend hours and hours searching in stores and in the end I’d give up in frustration and grab from the rubble left on the shelves. Not that we’re giving up giving gifts, I’ve just discovered the amazing power of the internet.  In ten minutes I was done and had just what I wanted, for just who I wanted it for.
One thing we’ll never change is what Christmas really is and in the end this weeding out gives us more time for that; the preparing for the coming of a King.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Balance


Today I want to talk about balance.
When I first started writing, it was like an obsession for me, it was all I thought about, talked about and of course all I did. Whenever I had a spare second I was writing, on my computer, notepad, anything.  While that passion is good, it wasn’t so good for my family and my other (important) commitments. Now, about two and a half years into this venture, I can say I’ve learned a thing or two. Writing is important, it is part of who I am, but only a part. I am also a wife, so my husband deserves to have me be wholly there when we’re together. The same goes for my kids.
But balance isn’t just about people; there were whole aspects of my life I was squandering in my pursuit of being a writer. Like gardening. I love gardening and this last summer I got into it again and a thousand other things I don’t have time to mention. Balance.
And my writing? I think it’s better than ever because I haven’t neglected everything else in my life in pursuit of it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Watch what you say and how you say it


The last point I want to make concerning crafting a character is not talking down to your reader. It’s hard to give an example off the cuff, but you’ll know it when you read it. Your stomach will convulse and you’ll pull away from the story and want to just stop reading right then and there and most times you do. Why do you think writers like Meyers and Collins are so universally popular? Let’s look even further back at Ingalls and Dahl and Blume. Honestly, I enjoy their books now as an adult just as much as I did when I was a kid. And why is that? None of them, not one, talks down to their readers. And neither should we.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The List


First off, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I hope ya’ll are enjoying turkey and some time with your families.  For the first year ever (but hopefully not the last) my husband, eldest daughter and I ran the Turkey Trot in Buffalo, NY. It is an 8k road run and was a bit of a stretch for me. But I did it and had a blast.
Now on to my scheduled post:
On Tuesday I hinted at what I’ve found to be a game changer for me as a writer and that it The List. This was something I learned along the way, but now apply all the time. When I sat down to write my first novel, which is in the 1st person, with 2 MCs, I found that they both sounded the same. They talked the same, they reacted the same, even though in actuality they were totally different people. So I took a break from writing for some much needed research time, only this time I was researching a person, or two people.
I’ve already told you I’m a visual person, so I had pictures of my 2 MCs already. What the list entails is the next step. What do they look on the inside?
The List varies from character to character and I don’t do it for all of them, only the most important ones.  Basically I study them; I decide things about them to the most insignificant detail. I make a list. From what they eat for breakfast to what they want to do with their lives, even down to the cologne/perfume they would wear. In essence, I got to know them. Think back when you first fell in love and you wanted to know every single thing there was to know about that person. The same is true with our characters; if they’re not real to us, how will they be real to the reader? If we don’t love them, then how will they?
This made writing them so much easier, because the flow was there. I didn’t have to stop and think if I was making Rachel sound too much like Joel because of course only she would react that way.
This method also brings with it some surprises. The characters start to do things you’d never expect, but in the end you can’t take it back, because the situations are just as real as them.
For those of you who are wondering: Joel eats Cheerios for breakfast, while Rachel picks up some Oreos off her bedroom floor.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Step Two


The next step before writing your characters is knowing your characters.
For me that starts with people watching.
Whenever I’m out I look at people, what they’re doing and how they’re doing it; mainly I’m observing all those nonverbals that make characters and people so memorable. That’s what I do all the time, but when I’m researching for a specific character I people watch in a specific way. Remember a couple of posts ago I said how I saw that tall guy and it helped me relate to Joel so much better? The same is true here. I people watch people who remind me of my characters. Now I know that won’t help much if you’re writing high fiction and your character is a fire breathing fairy (for example), but I still think it will. People are still people and that’s who you’re trying to relate to: people, aka your readers.  
Ask yourself what kind of person is your fire breathing fairy? Is he/she shy, or outrageous - kind or kind of wicked? Decide and then park yourself around those kind of people and have a field day, but make sure you have your notebook with you. You’re going to need it.
So what if you don’t know what kind of person your character is yet? Don’t fret, because on Thursday’s post I’ll bring out my single most valuable tool as a writer: The List.

 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

video
 
Here it is! My trailer for THE NEWSTEAD PROJECT! I hope you like it!
 (Sorry about not having my promised post about my presentation, but once I got this I just had to show it.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Presentation


I’m writing a presentation right now for a library tour I’m doing next summer to help promote my books and the topic is Crafting Compelling Characters.
The reason I picked that topic is because I feel it’s foundational to any good writing. I don’t care how good your story is, if I don’t care about the characters you’ve lost me.
So, I decided to try sections of my presentation out on all of you. (Nasty, aren’t I?) So please give your feedback and any additional ideas you may have.

Topic one: The Birth of a Character

Part one: The Physical

I’m a visual person, for me I have to have a picture of my characters close at hand to refer to regularly. For Joel, one of my MCs for NEWSTEAD, I went to the internet and typed in attractive male models. I was a little worried about what would show up, but surprisingly there wasn’t even enough to make me blush.  After I had one that fit the bill, I saved it under my favorites.

Now Rachel, the other MC, she came about a little differently. I already had a picture in mind when I created her. I was sitting in a local café and there was a huge poster on the wall of a beautiful girl who was being haggled by some obnoxious guys. I wrote down the name of the photograph and looked it up when I got home. It was An American Girl in Italy by Ruth Orkin, 1951. I studied that picture, what that girl must have felt like, her body language. Before I knew it, Rachel was born.

Thursday I’ll discuss more on the birth of a character, but I’ll get a little deeper than appearances.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Editing! Ugh!


I don’t know where all the rest of you are on your writing projects, or if you’re a writer at all, but here’s where I’m at. My first book is with the copy editor, but I’m going over it one last time (like the five revisions and twenty full edits weren’t enough) and surprisingly I’m still finding stupid things like a missing is in the middle of a sentence and your instead of you’re in a couple of spots.  I wonder how that’s possible. I’ve literally gone over it dozens of times, but they were there. Although this time I’m following someone’s advice and am reading it on my kindle. For some reason that made a difference.
And at the same time I’m doing some pretty major revisions of book #3.  Book #2 is currently pushed out of my mind as it waits for its turn with my editor.  I love revisions, they’re a lot more fun and a lot less frustrating than finding out you left out the verb in a sentence you’ve read a hundred times.  It’s funny, as I’m immersed in this process I find myself editing everything. I had to catch myself the other day from pointing out to someone that they’d used the same adjective twice in the same sentence. (hee, hee, did you notice I just did it too?)
Have any of you found any tricks that helped you with editing? Someone else told me to print it all out just like you would for your editor and do it that way.
If any of you are in the Lockport, NY area tonight, our SCBWI writing group is meeting at Panera at 7pm for some good coffee, sweeties, and encouragement for this often lonely road.
Take care,
Melanie

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reveal Day

Hello everyone! Here it is, election day (Yeh!), my birthday (double yeh!!), and the day I reveal my cover and Swag giveaway (triple yeh!!!)

Here it is! The lovely Swag available for free on my website melanieschulz.com- just go to the storefront tab and it will pop up. I also have bookmarks and will be giving ten of those with each cinch sac. I tried very hard to chose something meaningful to the story, so in the end I picked these, because it is in THE NEWSTEAD PROJECT that Joel begins going to school at Newstead.

Also for my cover reveal:
 
Isn't it lovely?
 
 
I know I also promised to show my trailer for the Newstead Project, but I'm waiting for permission to use the song I've chosen and I'm learning the hard way that things take way longer than I think they should. 
 
 
Now on to the post I'd planned to write today, election day. It's one of my favorite literary quotes on what it means to be an American:
 
The Declaration and the song came together in her mind and she thought: God is America's king. She thought: Americans won't obey any king on earth. Americans are free. That means they have to obey their own consciences. No king bosses Pa; he has to boss himself. Why (she thought), when I am a little older, Pa and Ma will stop telling me what to do and there isn't anyone else who has a right to give me orders. I will have to make myself be good.
 
Her whole mind seemed to be lighted up by that thought. This was what it means to be free. It means, you have to be good. "Our father's God, author of liberty-" The laws of nature and nature's God endow you with the right to life and liberty. Then you have to keep the laws of God, for God's law is the only thing that gives you the right to be free.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town on the Praire
 
Have a wonderful day everyone!




Friday, November 2, 2012

Hello again

Hello everyone, I'm back from Florida, and can't believe I missed Sandy going down and coming back up. We're from New York, so we did get some extra rain and wind out of it, but not what those poor people in the city and NJ got. With that in mind, I'm postponing my reveal until next Tuesday, not that I don't have things ready, it just feels wrong somehow to make all my giddy announcements when so many of my fellow New Yorkers are suffering. So election day it is (also my birthday wink, wink). I hope all of you have a blessed weekend, and for all of you in that tri-state area by the coast, you are in my thoughts and prayers

Friday, October 26, 2012

See you soon!


This is just a quick note to explain my lack of posting until November 2nd. I (excitedly clapping) am going to Disney World next week for their Food and Wine Festival. I cannot wait. I am a foodie to the core and am sooo looking forward to having yummies from all over the world.  As a special treat to myself I’m leaving my computer at home, which includes writing. I’m such a nitpicker for my schedule I don’t know if I’ll be able to take it or not, but I think all the luscious food will be a good distraction.
Until next Friday,
Melanie

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Signings

On Saturday I went to my nearest Barnes and Noble bookstore for a local author book signing event. There were five authors there, all lined up in a row. It was great, mainly because I wasn’t one of them. I can’t imagine how it would feel to be on display like that. True, it would have been worse to do it alone, or maybe not- imagine if every one of the other author got fans, but you. That would suck.
It just reminded me that being an author is really a test of bravery. It’s not enough that we’re baring our soul in the books we write, we have to stand (or sit) front and center and hope and pray someone will walk up and pick up our book and love it.
Courageous indeed.
So I raise my hat to all of you, all of us, who write our hearts out and let the world have at it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

SWAG


Swag is another thing that was a previous unknown to me, prior to this whole writing adventure. But according to my publicist, it’s what you do.
So I poured over online sites like Vistaprint and several others like it all the time wondering what I should get.  I love writing, love it. But does that mean that people are going to want stickers with my face on it? No.
So I decided to do something different. For each of my books, I’ll give away the typical bookmarks (I was told that was mandatory) but instead of some worthless thing people will lose or throw away I’ll invest in something better, something specifically meaningful for that particular book.
I can’t wait to show you what I picked for NEWSTEAD.
For the writers out there: Was it just me that was surprised by the whole swag thing?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Trailer


I’ve been working on the trailer for my book THE NEWSTEAD PROJECT and have hit several roadblocks along the way. For instance that great song I wanted to be playing in the background? Forget it. I don’t have the copyright for it.
Dido with a lot of the other ideas I had, too.
So I came to a point where a decision had to be made: Grandiose and possibly wreaking of cheesiness or simple, short, and to the point.
In the end the choice was easy.
I can’t wait to show it to all of you. Anyone else feel like sharing their trailer stories?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Never Gone by Laurel Garver


Today I’m doing a review of the book Never Gone by Laurel Garver.  Laurel is a follower of this site, and her blog laurelgarver.blogspot.com, is one of my favorites. It is full of practical advice for all those writing a novel and desiring to see it published.
Never Gone is a story about a girl who loses her father unexpectedly after an accident. But he doesn’t die right away. I love that Laurel included that; the grief followed by forbidden hope- maybe he would make it after all. But he doesn’t. And Deane (the protagonist) is left staring at the pieces that remain in her life, realizing that none of them fit. Her journey takes her across the world and into the very depths of her own soul as she searches for who she can possibly be without the person who was the anchor in her life.
But is the anchor still there? Deane doesn’t know. It’s either that or she’s going crazy, because she’s seeing her dad everywhere, and he’s leading her on  what seems like a pointless goose chase.
And then it isn’t.
 I loved the heart that wrote this story, a heart that has seen grief herself and wanted to use that experience to point the way to the Truth.  
I’ve included the links below to where the book is available for purchase. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Writer Review: Maggie Stiefvater


Today I’m doing a review of Maggie Stiefvater’s book Shiver. Actually, I’m reviewing Maggie, herself, as a writer. I loved the Shiver series. Loved it. I thought the characters were deep and relatable and unique. She is excellent at getting to the feelings in the situation and making you weep right along with the characters that are experiencing it. When I finished the first book I immediately went out and bought the second, and then the third. I loved them so much I bought The Raven Boys, even though I already knew it was about the occult. For those of you who don’t know me too well yet, I avoid the occult like the plague it is, at least anything that represents it as being a positive thing. But I read it and loved the writing and the concept. I never did get over my aversion to mediums being the good guys, but that’s not what I’m focusing on here. While I love Stiefvater’s writing, really, really love it, I do think she has one Achilles heel.
The ending.
I could have read about Sam forever, and I wanted to, but instead I was left with a synopsis style ending to wrap things up. I thought it was just a fluke, but the same thing happened with The Raven Boys.
It wouldn’t have stood out for me so much probably, it her writing hadn’t been so excellent prior to that point.
Any thoughts?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Shameless plug

Just a heads up to let you know on November 2nd, I will be doing a cover reveal for my novel The Newstead Project, as well as the book trailer, and swag give away. The book itself is due out May 1, 2013. If any of you would like to review it on your blogs, I would greatly appreciate it. A little closer to the release date, I’ll probably be contacting some of you. It’s been an exciting process. The publishing company I’m working with is very author friendly, which basically means I have a lot of say about the cover, trailer, swag, edits, etc. Good, but scary at the same time. I know that as the author, I have the vision about how I want things to look, be, presented, but still; scary.
Oh in case I didn’t mention it the swag is bookmarks (of course) and black cinch sacs with the Plan Well. Plan Wisely.  logo on it. All are free, except shipping, if interested go to my website melanieschulz.com after November 2nd.
Thanks for allowing my shameless plug. I’ll be back on Tuesday with a review of SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Training for a 5k


For those of you who’ve been following this blog, you know I’m doing the couch to 5k program. I’m on week five (okay, actually I’m on week ten, but after the first week I decided I needed the pre-couch to 5k program, you know the one for comatose people, so I started running from mailbox to mailbox in my neighborhood, but now I’m up to the actual week 5)
Tomorrow I’m supposed to run for 20 minutes. Straight. No walking between. That’s like two miles. As I saw that looming on my App, real fear flooded through me. Can I do it?
It reminded me about writing. When I started I knew nothing. In fact I’d be ashamed to list the grammatical errors I used to make. But now I’m doing better. Not twenty minutes in a row better, but better.
What I need to focus on is the goal. I want to run a 5k, and if I’m going to do that, eventually I’ll actually have to run. And if I’m going to write a book, eventually I’ll have to forget my fears and inhibitions and just do it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Elemental


Today I’m doing a review on Emily White’s book Elemental. Normally, I don’t read much Fantasy, although there are exceptions to this, and Elemental happens to be one of them; maybe because it’s more of a hybrid between Sci-fi and Fantasy.
The story begins with Ella on a prison ship somewhere in space. She’s starved, alone, and confused as to why she’s there. Through a set of coincidences that turn out to be much more than that, Ella escapes and begins a journey to discover who she is and why people would want her destroyed. And the exciting part is that you get to discover it right along with her.
That’s probably my favorite aspect, except for the lovie scenes, and you all know how much I love those. At no point is the ball dropped, at no point do you leave story and think that Ella must really know. She doesn’t find out until you do. Period.
And the best news? I’m not doing a review of a book that comes out in the distant future.  It is available right now on Amazon.com. The only bad side is that the second book (yes, it is a trilogy) doesn’t come out until December 2013. So we’ll just have to go to Emily’s blog (emilytwhite.blogspot.com) in the meantime and enjoy her wit and humor.
If you have a book or manuscript you’d like me to review, please email me at Melanie@melanieschulz.com  and I’ll be happy to schedule a date.
I’ve spoken with my editor at Black and White Publishing Co. and I’m allowed to pass on to him any manuscripts that I find particularly interesting.
Until Monday,
Melanie

Monday, September 24, 2012


Today I’m participating in a blog tour for Sophia Stone’s book The Mormon Diaries.
I read the book for myself a week or so ago and can say it is a must read for anyone interested in the inner workings of Mormonism. Also the writing was wonderful and the story moving. I just wanted to give Sophia a big hug when I was done. If you’re interested I’ve included the links to purchase her book below the interview questions
Join me on Wednesday when I do a review of the book, Elemental by Emily White. Until then, take care
The Book
Brought up in a religious home, Sophia believes the only way to have a forever family is by following church leaders and obediently choosing the right. She goes to the right school, marries the right man in the right place, and does the right thing by staying home to raise her children. But when she starts asking questions about grace, love, and the nature of God, she realizes her spiritual struggles could rip her family apart.
The Blurbs
“Sophia Stone has a fine eye and a searching heart. Her story of growing up in and reaching through her Mormonism for a deeper, more authentic spirituality reflects all the ways that religion can both keep us satisfied with easy answers and push us to more difficult and complicated realizations. We need a hundred more books like this one . . . “ –Joanna Brooks, author of The Book of Mormon Girl
 
“Sophia Stone captured my attention from the beginning. This collection of personal essays, about questioning the legitimacy of Mormonism after having faith in the religion for the first 30-something years of her life, is not just a controversial quake to a reader’s heart and soul. Stone’s voice is brave, bold and intriguing. And surprisingly relatable to someone who is not religious.”—Jessica Bell, author of String Bridge
The Trailer

Interview Questions

1.        What does the ornament on the cover stand for?

As a child I was taught that the only way I could experience true joy was by living the Gospel of Jesus Christ as found in Mormonism. The ornament is symbolic of that joy. Or, more particularly, what I feared I’d lose if I ever stopped believing in The Church.

2.        Why did you hide your faith struggles from those closest to you?

I was afraid my faithful Mormon family and friends would think me either prideful or influenced by Satan if I admitted to doubting The Church. There’s a common phrase faithful Latter-day Saints use to explain away uncomfortable issues: “The Church is true. The people are not.” Those who leave the church are often labeled as angry, easily offended, prideful, lazy, or deceived. There’s no good reason to doubt, no good reason to question, no good reason to stop believing. Faith yields loyalty and obedience.

3.        How is your family coping with this? Do they support you?

Well, it depends on what part of my family you’re talking about. My kids have been great, but they’re pretty young. I’m continually amazed by the open mindedness and trust of small children. I really think Jesus knew what he was talking about when he said that unless we become as little children we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

My husband, on the other hand, is having a really hard time. We’ve had to do some negotiating about the kid’s religious education. He wants them to believe in Mormonism and is very much attached to the outcome. The thought of his kids choosing to leave the LDS church is absolutely devastating to him.

There are certain things that (for him) are non-negotiable. The kids WILL get baptized at age eight whether I want that for them or not. The kids will continue to go to the Mormon church each Sunday until they turn twelve. (He’d said eighteen originally, but has since softened). 10% of his income will continue to go to The Church whether or not I agree with that particular donation. We’re a single income family so that’s a pretty big deal, but he’s frightened, truly frightened that if he stops paying a full tithe, he’ll lose his job.

Although, in fairness, he say it has nothing to do with fear. Rather, he has faith in the principle of tithing. God will bless him for his financial sacrifice.

As for the rest of the family, my mother is struggling, the brother just younger than me acts as if he doesn’t know, my older brother has been accepting, and my sister is unpredictable. I’m not even sure how to characterize that relationship at this point. So overall it’s been a mixed bag where tolerance is concerned. As for support—no, I do not have family support. Nor is it something I can reasonably expect.

4.     How do you get someone who thinks you’ve been influenced by Satan to

        consider your point of view?

Short answer: you don’t.

Long answer: It’s odd to be on the other end of the “hate the sin, love the sinner” rhetoric. I always considered myself a fairly good, honest person. And I have to admit that I don’t feel like a different person just because I don’t believe in Mormonism like I used to. Certain things just don’t change, you know? I still like chocolate milk shakes. I still like people. I feel, in many ways, closer to God than I did a year ago. So it’s been kind of shocking to have people who always trusted me assume the worst.

5. How do you build relationships with people who think you are broken?

Oh, man, I wish I knew. Honestly, it depends on how important their Mormonism is to their identity. Those who are capable of accepting my brokenness without trying to fix it are much easier to have relationships with than those who work extra hard to fix me.

6.    How has your change in beliefs affected your marriage and children?

I think it has benefited my children in a number of ways. First, by showing them that goodness isn’t based on legalistic rules, they are more accepting of themselves and others. Second, by helping them see that there isn’t one right way to be a decent human being, they are able to think the best of people. Third, by opening up to other ideas and spiritual philosophies, they are more open as well.

As for my marriage, my change in beliefs has brought to light problems I’d been ignoring for years. Things having to do with power dynamics, issues with inflexibility, and some fundamental disagreements in parenting styles between my husband and I. My marriage has suffered and I worry about it often. But I also know that without the insights I have now, the relationship would continue to grow more unbalanced and necessary change would never occur.

I’m crossing my fingers and holding out hope in the marriage department.

7.    How has writing about your struggles helped you?

There’s a saying that writing is cheaper than therapy, and I can attest to that. There’s no time limit on how long I can type away on my keyboard when I’m having a bad day. I don’t have to worry about the paper judging me. Plus, it’s helped me to put things in perspective. 

8.    What are the best ways to support someone going through a faith crisis?

The most important thing is to listen. Don’t distance yourself. Don’t shy away. Don’t give advice, and definitely don’t judge. Just be a friend. Period. Sometimes it really is that simple.


9.    How did your falling away from Mormonism affect your view of the religion?

 

Hmm, well, when I believed in Mormonism with my whole heart, I rationalized away any issues I had by saying members were human and made mistakes. I believed The Church was as close to being a perfect institution as anyone was likely to find. God had made it. He had ordered it. Who was I to question what He had formed?

Now I see all kinds of problems with the institution. Not with the hearts of members or leaders (who I believe are honest people acting on faith) but rather with group think. It shuts down a lot of voices that threaten the status quo. There’s not much tolerance for free speech where church policy and doctrine are concerned. Speaking against the leadership is taboo, and there are lots of unwritten rules about not exposing the flaws of the organization to the outside world. It’s a lot like a dysfunctional family that way. Loyalty to the church trumps personal spirituality.   

10. What kinds of reactions have you had from your Mormon author friends?

This has been similar to my family response—lots of condemnation, lots of avoidance, lots of judgment, and lots of gratitude. Yes, I know, it seems odd that I’d hear gratitude from LDS author friends who are faithful in the church. But apparently there are people who struggle in silence, unable to tell a soul how they feel without losing those most dear to them. That’s the reason the Disaffected Mormon Underground (DAMU) exists. It fills a palpable need.

11. Do you ever feel angry . . . if so, why?

On my bad days, I feel more disappointment than anger. Mostly because I believed with all my heart the promises found in Mormonism. I thought I was happier than other people, that I had greater access to spirituality, that I knew my most important and fulfilling role. I believed I had divine knowledge and purpose. Now I’ve found that many of these promises are smoke and mirrors.

And I’m further disheartened when I see religion hurt families. You’d think a family centered church would shout from the rooftops not to shun family members who’ve fallen away. You’d think they’d allow non-believing parents to see their believing kids get married in the temple. You’d think they’d support all different kinds of families, not just those that meet one definition. But all too often an ideal is promoted that benefits the church over families that are struggling. “Traditional gender roles” and “conservative family values” are taught as religious principles.


12. Who should read your book?

Anyone who wants to better understand how religions indoctrinate children, how they can unite and separate families, how they can bring peace and turmoil at the same time. Anyone who wants a more personal understanding of how it feels to grow up in a legalistic religion that values trust and obedience more highly than free thought, or anyone who wants to understand Mormonism.

Please don’t misread that to mean my book is factually perfect. It’s not. It is based on my experience, and everyone’s reality is different. But I stand by my claim that people who leave Mormonism are often in an isolating place. It’s hard for an orthodox believer to understand why anyone would leave. It’s hard for those who’ve never been in a fundamentalist religion to understand why leaving one is such a big deal. To both these groups, I’d say, “please read this!” Understanding is vital.

 

Friday, September 21, 2012

More on Inspiration


I’ve done it. I’ve picked what my next project will be. And as I did, I realized something else about how I begin the process.
For me it all starts with questions.
With the Newstead Trilogy it began years before I even thought about writing. I was working in a 28 day rehab program (for those of you that don’t know, I’m a psych nurse) when a patient asked me a question, one that haunted me for a long time.
He was in the dining room with a Bible in his hand when he walked up to me and pointed to a verse way back in the beginning. Now I’m fairly well versed in the Bible, not as much as some people, but I can usually hold my own when we play Bible Trivia for family game night.  Anyways, when he pointed to that verse I was completely stumped. I had no clue.
It was Genesis 6:4, the Nephilim verse.
I stammered and said I didn’t know and we both left the room and I thought we’d left that question behind, too.
But I don’t like unanswered questions. So I looked into it.
It turns out the Bible, as well as the book of Enoch has a whole bunch to say about that particular topic, so when the time finally came for me to write, I naturally gravitated towards that.
As I started thinking about my next project, I looked at the questions I was asking and the one that stood out the most was: Are ghosts for real?
Looks like it’s time for some more research.

Please join me on Monday as I do a review of the novel The Mormon Diaries.

Monday, September 17, 2012


Today I’m participating in Alex Cavanaugh’s Favorite Genre Blogfest (for all of my regular readers who are wondering what the heck I’m writing about).
Favorite Movie Genre
Actually, my favorite Movie Genre is really a continuation of my favorite Book Genre, so maybe I should have done that one first. I tend to watch movies that have been made of the books I’ve loved. I don’t know if that’s a Genre or not, but it should be: The Book Genre.
 
 
 

Favorite Music Genre
I hate to sound like a politician, but that depends. A lot of it depends on what I’m writing. I get really, really into my characters and tend to listen to what they would. Right now I’m writing Joel, so I’m listening to a lot of Switchfoot and Tenth Avenue North, but there’s some light piano thrown in there, too. Mainly Alternative stuff.
 
Favorite Book Genre
I read everything. And I’ve loved things in most of the genres out there. What really matters to me is if it’s well written. I can read the back of a box of cereal as long as it’s well written. A little romance doesn’t hurt, though.

Guilty Pleasure Genre
In case you didn’t notice it from above, I like romance. Not a ton, not specifically romance Genre, but it has to be there for me to keep turning the pages. Think Shiver, Twilight, and The Hunger Games.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Inspiration


Where does it come from? I’ve thought about that a lot in the past few days as I’ve tried to decide what my next project will be. My series has five books in it, and I’ve been told very kindly by my editor that I should come up with something different to do after.
Something different- but how? I’ve lived and breathed Nephilim and Nazarites and Prophetesses for the last two years. But he’s right. The last thing I want to do is get branded.
So on to different…
Honestly I’m having trouble with this one, but as I go over my journals I realize that Rachel and Joel and Nathan and Marcus didn’t just come to me, they were inspired by different things in my life.
I’m a visual person, so often times my inspiration comes from photographs. Like Rachel; she came to life after I saw Ruth Orkins’ 1954, An American Girl in Italy. I was so moved when I saw that photo. Here was a beautiful innocent girl obviously being scared out of her wits as she’s harassed by a street full of guys.
And Joel. He was born the day my husband was.
But it’s more than that. I think every writer will tell you that the entire story is made up of bits and pieces of you, of moments in the writer’s life.
So now I’m looking at my old photo box, looking for a new kind of inspiration.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Book Review: The Art of War, by Sun Tzu



This is a book I’ve read over and over for the past two years.  It has been one of the main inspirations for my own book, The Newstead Project. Actually it isn’t a book at all; it’s more of a field guide for military operations.
And it’s brilliant.
The first copy I bought was a paperback, a rather thick paperback, so I thought it would be a long read. But most of that space is taken up with other people’s expounding on the original text, which tells me two things: Sun Tzu writes sparse (which I love) and this book has been at the center of discussions for many years.
The book itself is aimed to train up and comers in the art of war, but its wisdom reaches far beyond that. It’s really just a book of practical sense. Don’t set up camp in a swamp, dummy and don’t start a fight you can’t finish.
Okay, so maybe it’s a little more complex than that, but if someone with almost*zero military experience can get something out of it, than anyone can.


*The almost comes from the fact that I’m married to a man who served in the Army Reserves and loves anything military, therefore I’ve sat through my fair share of The History Channel and more than a few blood and guts movies.

 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Life's Work


This labor day I am thinking about my life’s work; I’m probably not alone in this, but for me it’s especially on my mind because today also happens to be the two year anniversary from when I started writing. We’re also starting another year of homeschooling in a few short days, and I’m working tonight, even though I never work on Mondays.
My life’s work.
Am I happy with it? Do I just do it because it’s a habit and I’m a habitual person, or is there a real passion there?
That’s a tough one for me. As some of you may know I’m a nurse. I didn’t dream of being a nurse for years like some of us do, I just woke up one morning knowing that’s what I should do, and I did it. It’s the same thing with writing. On September 2, 2010 writing a novel was the last thing on my mind. On September third, I knew it was what I should do and I did it.
Homeschooling went differently. We struggled with that decision for years. But finally we just did that, too.
So am I happy in my life’s work? Some days, I shout out a resounding no, but on other days, like today, as I sit in the quiet house and think about life, a word whispers through my soul.
Yes!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

You shouldn’t have. Really.


My sister showed me a picture the other day of a famous painting that hung in a church for years. Over time it began to fade and one of the older parishioners decided to take it upon herself to fix it. I guess she thought her few art lessons made her an expert. 
 I’ve never been to that church, never seen the painting in real life, I’m not even an artist, but I can tell you I cringed in horror as I looked at the before and after.  She butchered it.
Now I have a confession to make.
I’m a HUGE Jane Austin fan. Pride and Prejudice, in my opinion, is the best book ever written. Now that’s not the confession, that’s just a fact.
Ok, here it goes.
I’ve had an inkling, a desire if you will, to rewrite it from Mr. Darcy’s perspective and call it Prejudice and Pride.  My mind has been working around the idea for years, but I am afraid that it will end up a lot like the woman who “fixed” the church painting. So if any of you out there have the skill and audacity to try and capture Mr. Darcy, feel free to take my idea. Just don’t be surprised if the world shakes their head at you as much as they are the woman mentioned above.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Details


When I finish a good book I often wonder what it was that I liked: Was it the plot, or the characters, or something else entirely?  Most times it’s the details.
I went to the wedding between my husband’s brother and his lovely bride over the weekend. It was incredible. Everything was there, from the handmade toothpicks for the appetizers to the area set up for Bocci and horseshoes (it was a picnic reception). Every detail was planned for, every need thought of.
I believe it’s the same with our writing. Is there enough suspense to keep the reader invested?  Are there tender moments where the reader is reminded why he/she loves your characters enough to stay up into the wee hours of the night to find out what happens to them? Are there details, precious details, for the reader to savor, to taste, and enjoy?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Writing Plans


This is planning season for me.
I look over my calendar and try to think what we’ll do for school (we’re a homeschooling family), where we’ll go for vacation during the next year , and what if any projects we’ll do around the house.
I don’t know why, but every end of August, beginning of September I do this, it’s almost like nesting; maybe it has something to do with the long winter months on the way (Did I mention I live near Buffalo?).
Either way, that’s what I’m doing today. I’m bringing out my calendar and planning. But for the last two years I’ve added something extra to the planning list: What am I planning to write in the next year?
For the first time ever there’s some structure to my writing. I need to have my edits in by such and such a date and then revise for the final draft. The creative side of me is screaming over this, but I’ve promised it long months of free write time in-between.
So the question I ask today, my friends, is what are your writing plans for the next year, and how do you deal with the anticreativeness of deadlines?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Humble Pie


Monday I ran a 6k.
I use the word run loosely; mainly I was moving my feet slightly faster and waving my arms a bit.
Now to understand the humor in this you have to know something about me. I don’t run.  But three weeks ago I decided to join my husband in his annual Turkey Trot. (It’s a five mile run on Thanksgiving held in Buffalo, NY) So I decided that might require me to, you know, get off the couch.
So three weeks ago I got up at 5:30 (am) and started moving. It wasn’t pretty. But I’ve kept with it, and when my husband called me on Monday and asked if we could take a slight detour on our weekly date on Monday for him to run a 3.4 mile race, I said sure, as long as I could do it to.
What he didn’t tell me was that it was an off roads trail. Uphill.
When I started, I was determined to do three things: Finish. Finish in under an hour. Not finish last.
At least I got two of the three.
Yes, it is a very humbling thing to be that last one to go across the line, with your husband who came back to find you, to everyone cheering and you know they’re only cheering because now they get to go home.
I tried to convince myself that surely I wasn’t the last one, there was that girl I passed who was texting and the woman walking her dog, but people taking down the props is hard to argue with.

But, at least I wasn’t home, sitting on the couch.