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Friday, March 26, 2010

Set up for Success

I had a great day yesterday--I did a career presentation at a jr. high school, which is always fun, but in addition to the kids I had a mom and a couple of teachers come into the presentation. The mom, Wendy, will be attending the LDStorymakers conference and I had the chance to chat with her about her writing, which is always inspiring to me. I just love people with passion and hearing about theirs sparks my own.

After the career day I got to be part of the ribbon cutting for Deseret Book's "Flagship" store in Downtown Salt Lake. I arrived feeling a little awkward, not realizing until I rushed in, heaving due to the run in heels I'd just finished, that it was an open house. I wasn't late and didn't need to risk life and limb to get there. And I didn't recognize anyone. So I started wandering, feeling out of place and telling myself not to. The first person I recognized was Michael McLean. I didn't know him, but I knew who he was. He was talking to a cute blond. I continued browsing. I saw Sheri Dew, but I don't think she knows who I am--Emily Watts does, though, and I chatted with her for a minute. Leigh Dethman is an employee at Deseret Book Corporate who just always seems to be helping me out. I got to chat with her...and then wandered again, wondering if I shouldn't have come. I was feeling like the loser wanna-be kid and wished I'd bribed my husband to come with me. This went on for about fifteen minutes and then I turned a corner just as Micheal McLean (blond-less) adjusted his name tag. He looked at me and asked if it was straight.

"Um, yeah," I said, not knowing what else to say. He immediately put out his hand and introduced himself. I said I was pleased to meet him and asked how was he doing.

"For a middle aged clinically depressed type two diabetic, I'm doing great!"

How do you not laugh at that? He asked about me, had me show him my books, showed me his book/CD (Mission to be Happy--very cute) and essentially removed all my awkwardness, introducing me as his new BFF. I met Grant Neilson from KSL as well as a few Deseret Book (heretofore referred to as DB cause I'm tired of spelling it) employees. Not long after that the 'cute blonde' he'd been talking to approached me. Turned out she was Jaime Lawson with LDS living magazine. She talked to me about a fun project she'd like to do with my Sadie books, and then I completely monopolized her so that I didn't have to be alone again. We got our yummy lunch, I met the rest of the LDS living staff, learned more about Jaime and got to see the ribbon cutting. Michael and I swapped books, I said hi to a few more people and then headed home--glad to have gone, gladder to have had Micheal and Jaime to make it more comfortable for me.

After a blessed 30 minutes of peace and quiet, the kids came home and the afternoon games begin. I chauffeured and shuffled and wrote checks and dropped off recycling and assigned chores and cleaned the kitchen--typical stuff, then I got to go to the office and have my write nite while Lee held down the fort. My write nite partners, Nancy Campbell Allen and Jen Moore, came as well and I made some progress with my revisions, cleaned up some e-mail folders and toured blogs--I have been horrible on reading other blogs lately, shame on me.

And after I got home and snuggled into bed I thought about the day and something Micheal had said. He has a blog that he started January 1 2010 where he writes one thing for each day that made him happy. He said that even on tough days there is usually something beautiful or inspiring or kind that he's seen or done. I thought over my day--there were a lot of good things. But the thing that stood out was when I was teaching the career day and going over things writers needed in additon to being able to write. One of those things is confidence. Telling a fourteen year old kid to be confident is kind of like trying to explain the color red to a blind person. Even if they have it, they don't really know they do. And it's something I've struggled with and continue to struggle with all the time. Even if I'm confident in one area, I'm always feeling not-quite-right about several others, and yet I can see the growth within myself. As I looked at those kids and remembered 14 I was a little overwhelmed with all the great things I have in my life--and I realized how essential confidence is to all those things. That was the moment that stood out to me today--both a realization of my own relationship to the topic and the chance to advise these kids on how to find it.

So, how do we find 'confidence'--well, I have an easy answer. You might even call it simplistic, but it's what worked for me and it's what I look for every time I feel my confidence waning--the key to confidence is by succeeding at something. I'm not saying big things like climbing Everest or learning a foreign language--those things are actually an accumulation of thousands of little successes. I mean little things like walking a mile or learning how to say hello in Italian. Find something you CAN do, and do it. When you achieve it, celebrate it. One way to celebrate is to have a reward for yourself, another one is to find other people who will celebrate with you, a third one is to write it down. If nothing else, post it as your status on facebook--your friends will cheer you on and you'll gain confidence by making note of what you've done well. DON'T get caught up in the "It wasn't enough" or "I should have done THIS" just enjoy what you DID do. Sometimes it's setting a goal and accomplishing it, other times it's just realizing you did something well when the opportunity presented itself. If it is a goal, make sure the end result isn't dependant on someone else, like "I will take first place" or "I will convince my husband to rub my feet" you have limited control over those types of situations, and if you fail, then you can affect your confidence in the negative. Beat your own time, speak nicer to your husband, submit your book (don't set the goal to get it published in 30 days), put on make-up that day, lose five pounds--things in your power. And, again, celebrate!

Here are my successes from yesterday:
*I had the right time, day, and location for the career day! YEAH ME!
*I was on time and my power point worked! YEAH ME!
*Michael McLean now knows who I am! YEAH ME!
*I get to do a project with LDS Living! YEAH ME!
*I got the piles of recycling off my back porch! YEAH ME!
*I helped KB finish a stupid school project we put off until the last day! YEAH ME!
*I did a write nite without Coke Zero! YEAH ME!


So, this morning I went to Michael's blog to see what his happy moment was from yesterday. No, it wasn't meeting me--it was his grandson going poop in the potty for the first time :-)

Now, what's your "Yeah Me" and what are your ideas on how we can grow our confidence in ourselves?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Reflecting on the Year

A year can be a funny thing. It can seem like an eternity if someone you love is ill, and go by at lightening speed if you forget to sit back and enjoy it now and again. A child can change into a whole new person--go from gurgling to talking, toddling to a full on run. Their hair color can change, they can double in size and go from 6 diapers a day to training pants (well, unless your the world's worst potty trainer, than it takes a little longer than a year).

Today I came to work, opened the bills, started making phone calls, updated the accounts, requested an insurance certificate, printed some new file labels and created three new vendor files. That's when it hit me--a year ago, I didn't know how to do any of that. A year ago I was getting ready to take over the books for our company which, back then, I still referred to as Lee's company. I was not learning how to apply vendor credits because I wanted to, I was learning how to do it because we were scared to death about what the next few months held for us and our family. We couldn't afford an office manager, and I had the time...sort of.

So I took a Quickbooks class, and cried at least once a week on the way home. I didn't WANT to do this! It wasn't fair. My youngest was finally in school all day, I could be a real writer, I could keep up on the housework, I could read every day. On March 24th, I went to work and kept crying on the way home; drowning in my own self-pity.

I resented it for a long time. I didn't know what I was doing, and what I did do wasn't done well. I wouldn't say I'm a perfectionist, I just like to do everything right :-) and numbers have never been my friend. The situation also put me 'in the know' of where things really were. It wasn't good but I realized how much of the burden Lee'd been shouldering on his own, realizing that because I didn't understand how the buisness worked, I didn't have any way of really understanding the issues we were facing. We were involved in a lawsuit, we weren't making any money, we were in disputes with a landlord, and I wasn't very good at my job. It was a heavy load to help carry and I longed to not be so aware.

For awhile I whined about every little thing I had to do in order to make sure Lee realized this was a sacrifice. We kept waiting for things to turn around...and waited...and waited. In August we had a long discussion about whether the company was even viable to keep going, but we'd put so much into it and we still had the lawsuit to contend with--quitting wasn't an option, and I don't say that in a romantic "Aren't we heroic" kind of way, I mean we really didn't have an option. It was at least paying the legal fees.

In September a key employee in our Vegas office quit without notice. I cried some more. I thought there was no way we could do this without him. We interviewed and hired a woman we thought would be prefect--she quit after two days. I went to Vegas again. I missed my deadline with my latest book. We called our second choice and I did my best to train her, but held my breath. During training we'd realized that we had a huge number of jobs that hadn't been billed--and the companies had filed bankrupcy since then. We were out $30,000.00 and still had never recieved a paycheck. It was dark, ugly, and really discouraging. I was six weeks past my deadline before I turned in Devil's food cake and I wondered how on earth I was supposed make all this work? It had been 6 months and I was still trying to figure out what I was supposed to do.

And then, finally, the change began to take place. The new employee was AMAZING. She was diligent and detailed oriented and anything she didn't know, she figured out. As she got settled she took over billing, and found dozens of jobs that hadn't been billed but, unlike the ones I'd found, they still could be billed. We collected on these jobs and found ourselves in the black for the first time in months. The economy, though nothing like it had once been, stablized in Vegas a little bit and we realized that a lot of our competition hadn't made it through the year. We felt horrible for them, knowing what it felt like to lose your business, but it left more of the market share. Our salesman in Vegas never gave up, even when he wasn't pulling any commissions, and he hit the ground running now that there was work again. I didn't have to negotiate extentions on the bills anymore and in January Lee got his first paycheck from the company he'd owned for a year and a half.

Today he asked me a question about the attorney bill--something I take care of without discussing with him because it raises so many ugly feelings. I told him it wasn't too bad and not to worry about it. He looked at me and said "Gosh, you take really good care of me, don't you?"

He left to run some errands and I reflected on that statement and realized how much had happened in the last year. I went through my own process of accepting my role, and Lee went through his processes of pushing forward and making this work. But we did it together and it brought us together and while I was given a bird's eye view of the burden he's been lugging around, he got an up front seat to the sacrifices I was making too. I came to understand what he meant when he was venting about something, and he came to understand how necessary my writing time was and worked hard to give it to me because he could see how hard I was working to do my part. My kids have learned a new level of independance and they've learned that they are an essential part of our family. We need them to be responsible, and they've risen to the challenge.

It's been a hard year, one of the hardest we've faced in our marriage, but we made it! We'll celebrate our 17 year wedding anniversary in a few weeks. I have officially been married to Lee longer than I lived without knowing him. I can see this last year as a gift to us, a means of drawing us together in a common goal and remembering that we are people and partners and parents and really, truly, very best friends.

Would I wish for the hard things we've trudged through this year? No, and yet maybe I prayed it into life all those times I prayed for the Lord's help in keeping my family strong, in helping me support my husband, and in asking that He help me overcome my weaknesses. Either way, I can look back and be grateful for what I've learned, how I've stretched myself, and where we are now. That is something I'd have never imagined a year ago.

I was at a bookgroup a few weeks ago, talking about individual gifts we all discover about ourselves throughout our lives. One of the women said "And don't you think it's our trials that lead us to those discoveries?" I had never thought about it like that, but I've pondered on that theory a lot since then. I learned to cook because I was tired of Tuna Helper. I learned to write because I was on bedrest and falling victim to depression and self-pity. I learned patience because I had toddlers that didn't understand things the first time. I learned faith when I had nothing left within myself to push me forward and needed to believe in Him.

Yes, a year can be an amazing journey, and each time one ends, another is just beginning. I wonder what the next year will hold...

Monday, March 08, 2010

Book Review-The Sapphire Flute

First, I must start out with five reasons I think Karen Hoover is awesome--these are listed in no particular order:

1--She's a certified massage therapist and OFFERS to give me neck massage when we're together. I honestly think she can 'read' my tension and if she weren't so nice she would force me to sit, but she is nice so she doesn't force me, just talks me into it. It's a really hard sell :-)
2--Her sons are biological brothers who Karen fostered and then adopted SPECIFICALLY because she and her husband wanted to a) have children b) be part of keeping siblings together. Not only did she build her own family, but she preserved theirs. I can hardly think about it without getting teary.
3--Karen looks AWESOME in hats. I have definite hattitude envy when I'm around her.
4--If I could summarize Karen in three words it would be "Dancin' in the Rain." Since I've known Karen she's had a lot of thunderstorms come her way, some complete with tornado sirens and flash flood warnings. She has managed to build herself a very sturdy canoe and will be the first to tell you that thunderstorms suck, but they happen and must be forded. She's an excellent forder and just keeps singin' when the storms wash through.
5--Karen is a fabulous writer. I was lucky enough to read one of the first drafts of The Sapphire flute a few years ago. I'm a critical reviewer, but Karen weighed out every word of advice I gave her and pushed forward. She is not only talented, but she is passionate, not only about her writing, but about other people's writing too.  She is classy, optimistic, and after years of writing, she is now a Novelist!

In lieu of a book review, I conducted an interview with one of Karen Hoover's new fans, my fifteen year old daughter we refer to on this blog as Jeanie. By virtue of being my daughter, Jeanie is not your average 15 year old reader. We discuss plot holes, character development and the use of foreshadowing as normal conversation when discussing books. She doesn't like everything she reads and is pretty darn articulate--especially compared to her mother twenty years ago. So, her opinion is one you can trust:

1) Can you summarize for us the story told in The Sapphire Flute?

    Kayla's life if flying high as she is finally being recognized for who she is and her talents. Striving to be important, Kayla excels in her flutist abilities while hiding her genealogy as everybody comes to adore her. The king has recognized her skill and her values, so he has assigned her a special role. Guardian of the Sapphire Flute.
    Meanwhile, Ember is lost in her feelings. Her stepfather's health has declined so far that he is racked with coughs. Ember's relationship with her mom isn't so great either and whenever Ember asks her mom about her real father she clams up. Odd dreams, lonely nights, and a confusing future dampen her life too. That's when her fate starts to look up.
    Both girls are destined to fight the evil forces of C'Tan with the help of magic but have no idea who each other are. In this upbeat book their lives take huge turns together and are always in sync, despite the miles in between.


2) Which character did you like, or relate to, the most? Why?

     I could relate to Kayla the best because I share the same love of music and I love how she expresses it.


3) You've read a lot of fantasy books, how did The Sapphire Flute compare?

  Pretty good, it was always moving so at times it seemed breathless but it sure did keep you turning the pages.

4) Who would you recommend this book to?

   Anyone who is a sucker for magic this book uses it at its best, giving magic its different colors and characters.

5) Anything else you would like to say about The Sapphire Flute?

   The characters were fun to follow as they grew in the good times and bad. When I first saw the cover I thought it was a book for younger kids. I also thought the cover was kind of busy, but after I read it it made more sense why it was the way it was. It was a really great book and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

So, there you have it--a first hand account of The Sapphire Flute. Happy Reading!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Finding GOOD LDS Fiction...Enter, LDSpublisher

If you don't know who LDSpublisher is, well, join the club--most of us don't know who she is. But if you have any interest in LDS fiction--as a reader or a writer--you ought to know what she does, even if you don't know who she is.

I do know people who know who she really is, but they ain't talkin' and although the curiosity has been intense at times, I've come to realize over the years she's been doin' her thing, that she couldn't do it at all if she were outted. So, I gave up the hunt mostly because if she lost the secrecy of her identity, she probably couldn't do what she does. And what she does is a definitely benefit to the LDS Market.

Here's what I do know:

She's female
She either works for or has worked for a publisher who publishes LDS books
She tells the truth
She is passionate about good books
She watches the national market pretty closely
She's captain of the LDS market cheerleading team
She knows when to say nothing at all
She's a major supporter of The Whitney Awards
She really, truly, and without apology wants to make LDS fiction better.

That makes us BFFs, even if I don't know who she is because she and I have a lot in common.

Over the years since she's been blogging, she's done reviews, contest, lists, groups and, recently, reinvented "Recommended Reads" where she will display the covers or two books she read and liked and recommends. She accepts books to consider, but makes no promises--she'll only recommend books she truly wants to recommend and will not be bullied.  I say that  because I DID NOT bully her into putting Devil's Food Cake up as a recommended read for March. I didn't. I would have, if I'd thought she would give in, but the woman simply doesn't cry uncle and then there would be criminal charges, awkward newspaper articles, and a general black mark on my oh-so-easy-to-get-along-with reputation.

And the fact that I didn't have to resort to brass knuckles means that she REALLY did like my book! All in all, things are great and I'm honored to hang out on her sidebar for the next month. I'm not the only title there, and, in addition to Recommended Reads, she also has free book contests each month, writing contests a few times a year and all kinds of other reader and writer resources. You should totally check her out. Well worth your time.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Thanks for the Reviews!

I had 34 reviews posted at various places last week! Thank you, thank you; it really does make a difference for online sales when people can read other people's thoughts. You guys are awesome...sniff, sniff.

So, without further ado, here are the winners:

1--Smilinmera
2-Taffy

And I know I said I was doing two winners, but Cheri Chesney posted 13! When she didn't toggle as a winner I was shocked, first off, but since she posted almost half of the reviews, I decided to make her Miss Perfect, now I'm going to sing

The Little Miss Perfect Pageant, 
where all your dreams come true. 
The Little Miss Perfect Pageant
where the special one is you.

And Cheri didn't even have to put in fake teeth and get a spray tan for that! But she doesn't get a crown either, so I guess it all evens out in the wash.


So, for those of you who won, please e-mail me you address to kilpack@gmail.com and let me know which of my book titles you would like and who you want it signed to. Thank you EVERYONE for the great support. I swear I'll do a blog post about something NOT writing related in the next week or so.