Thursday, December 24, 2009

The fourth A--Cheri Chesley

Cheri chimed in with another question--number 4;  

What's your absolute, all time favorite dessert? 

Oh man! If not for wanting to fit into my jeans, I would eat a version dessert with every meal. Here's a sample menu of a perfect day:


Pumpkin Pancakes with homemade cinnamon syrup.

Crepes filled with peaches, strawberries and mixed berries, topped with whipping cream.

Brownie sundae
Sausage patties

Cookies and milk.

So, asking my favorite dessert is a rough question for me to answer. Never mind that I'm also writing a book series with dessert titles, which means I've been fairly obsessing about desserts for, oh, a year. Add to that the fact that I've been low-carbing for about 8 months (and back in my jeans because of it, thank you very much) and therefore horribly deprived in the dessert department (except for the last week which I refuse to count against myself because there would be no peace on earth if I were denying myself for the holidays) and you've walked into a veritable landmine question by asking my favorite. But, here is my answer, now that I've set the stage.

My all time favorite dessert is Chocolate pumpkin cheesecake. Here's what it is:

Crust layer--graham if you have to, but if you can make an almond cookie crust, all the better. 
Chocolate layer--a 1/2 inch layer of chocolate; not chocolate chips which will harden as they cool, but something that will have enough ingrity to hold the cream cheese mixture above it, but remains gooey when you eat it. Hot fudge works great best, but freeze or refrigerate it before topping with the cream cheese to make sure it doesn't get all mixed in.

Pumpkin cheesecake layer--at least three inches thick with the perfect amount of cloves and ginger, just a hint of cinnamon (I think cinnamon easily overwhelms too many recipes, blocking the ginger which is the real zing to anything pumpkin, IMHO)

Bake and then chill at least four hours, until the cake is well set. Drizzle with hot fudge before serving. The beauty of this recipe is that it can be made low carb too.

So there you have it, my favorite dessert of all time--although I have yet to meet a dessert I don't like.

These questions have been fun, if anyone else has something they'd like me to answer, send it my way.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Third A--from Me Again

I don't mean, ME as in Josi, but Me Again as in that's her blogger name.  Here's her question:

 How do you feel about LDS fiction stories that not only stray from the probable, but take a summer vacation into the not even possible? 

I think that, regardless of the market (LDS, national, etc) believability is an essential characteristic of plot. That's the whole point of fiction--creating a world that feels 'real' enough that the reader can put aside their own life long enough to immerse themselves in this fictional realm. And yet, there is also a necessary element of the reader suspending their own beliefs enough to follow along. So there are two parties at play, the author and the reader.

Author: It's a tricky line; balancing the necessary elements of plot (characters, conflict and climax) against it 'feeling' real. In real life, people do things with very complex motives, they act out of character, they don't always make sense. In fiction, that doesn't work. Everything must have a reason; characters must have motives, the actions must be 'in' character, they must make sense on some level, and everything they do must lead somewhere. It's at times hard to do, and often takes another person to point out when something needs clarification. Too often, an author is seeing where they want to go and lose sight of the steps that are taking them there, often resulting in contrived or unbelievable scenes. They do the job of getting the character where they need to be, but their 'method of transportation' works against the integrity of the story. This is a shame since there was likely a better way to get from point A to point B; a mode the author would have discovered on their own if they would have questioned themselves about it. One of the best questions an author can ask themselves, and one I put into many manuscripts I edit is "Would he really?" meaning, would the character really do or say this; or are you the author taking advantage of your role as fiction-God and taking too many liberties?

Also, on the author side, it is sometimes impossible to be objective enough about your own work to see the breakdown of believability in our own stories which is why I am such a big proponent of having other 'writers' or editors read your book; someone who will tell you the truth so that your story makes sense. 

I'm a big believer that a writer can write about anything; new worlds, weird people, incredible circumstances--but it has to be written right and it has to feel real.

Reader: Different types of readers have different levels of ability when it comes to suspending belief. For instance, I have a difficult time with Science Fiction and Fantasy because I find so many elements of the genres hard to picture in my mind. My ability to suspend belief is rather low when it comes to new worlds. Whether that's because I lack imagination, or simply practice, I don't know, but it results in the fact that because it's difficult for me to 'believe' those types of stories, I don't enjoy them very much. Now, there are some I absolutely love, but overall I dislike more than I enjoy. Same with a lot of mystery novels, which is ironic since I write them, but many of them just annoy me because I can't clearly see the process of discovery--the detective too often just 'knows' something that leads to the conclusion (I'm guilty of this as well--as a few readers have pointed out but I'm really, really working on it). Some people have a difficult time with LDS fiction because there is a lot of inspiration, feeling the spirit, and intuition that often makes the plot work. Some people are very open to that--likely people that acknowledge those same workings in their lives, but others of us (myself included) struggle with the way this is portrayed at times and that makes it seem contrived in order to make the plot work or to make their character appear spiritual. A reader that struggles with certain genres ought to be very selective in the books they read within that genre which is why The Whitney Awards are so very cool--look for past winners to get a feel for the best out there; these are books that have literally been read by hundreds of people that cast votes that put these books in the positions they are in. A valuable tool, especially for those of us that are selective within genres.

On the reader's side there is also the factor of becoming a more discerning reader. I've gone back and read books I loved fifteen years ago, only to find myself rolling my eyes now. As I've matured and become more well read, I've learned what I like and what I don't like. I've developed a much more critical eye and my taste in reading has become more sophisticated. If a reader finds themselves displeased with several books within a shared reading level or genre, it might be that they have reached a 'reading' level beyond their comfort zone and need to move on to something with a bit more 'meat' to it.

It's always frustrating to me when a book makes it into print without having the unbelievable factors ironed out. I'm not sure why it happens. Are there other parts of the story that were so strong to the editors of the book that they didn't notice? Am I hyper sensitive? Regardless, it's a frustration. I find that in regard to believability and other elements of writing, I give books a 100 page rule (it used to be 50 but I've taken a gracious turn) if by page 100 I'm not dying to finish the book, I don't. There are excellent books out there which means I don't have to waste my time on ones that were almost excellent.

So, dear readers, where do you fall on the believability scale? Are there genres you find harder than others?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The next A--Kimberly

Kimberly asked:  Has blogging affected your writerly life at all, for good or bad?

I would have to say that it has affected my writerly life in both ways, good and bad.

Good: I have made wonderful connections through my blog and through reading other blogs; met people I might not have met other wise and realized I liked people that, again, I might not have liked otherwise. It's also served as a kind of journal for me and I love having my thoughts 'contained' somewhere. I recently had the first three years of my blog put into a book and it's been fun to read over it. In that sense of enjoyment, blogging has also been good because I really like it. I like the unisolation I get from being part of blogworld, and through the other blogs I've found I've received great advice and inspiration as well. 

Bad: I still have not figured out how to implement the 28 hour day. Time, like money, does not grow on trees no matter how much I wish for it. Time spent blogging takes away from other things--often from my actual novel writing. It's not unusual for me to sit down to blog and an hour later realize I'm out of writing time for the day and I never  opened my current work in progress. That can be insanly frustrating. Blogging also makes it very easy to avoid writing if I'm not in the mood. Beyond that there are times I don't want to blog, don't feel I have anything to say, and yet because my blog is partly here for promotion purposes I feel as though it's something I need to do. That sucks the fun out of it entirely.

What about you guys, how has blogging affected you?

Monday, December 21, 2009

The A of Q & A

Most of you that commented on my 'ask a question' post did not, in fact, ask a question which can only mean that I talk so much, specifically about myself, that I've answered anything you might have questioned otherwise.  That is something I must ponder on, no longer being a woman of mystery. Sigh.

But, a few of you did ask a question--so some mystery must remain? right?

The first question was posed by Don:  If you were a tree, what kind would you be, and why?

Its rather remarkable he asked this question since I've been waiting years to be asked something such as this. And yet, I find it nearly impossible to answer for a variety of reasons. Here is my thought process:

One of my favorite trees, aesthetically, is a Russian olive tree. I love the shape, the color of the leaves, the sound of wind through it's leaves. But it is excessively messy, shedding leaves constantly as well as the little 'olives' it produces. Would I want to be such a burden? Not really. Next, I love Juniper trees, but they aren't really a tree, rather they are a shrubbery, so that doesn't count. Next on the list would be a birch, the ones with the white bark, but that's only because I find them beautiful. If I only wanted to be a birch for beauty, does that make me vain? Putting appearance above all other measures of self? Which then brings me to the list of trees I would NOT want to be: Blue spruce=pretty and strong, but prickly, Locust=large and good for climbing but the female tree creates those horrid pods that are such a nusense, and the male tree produces thorns that fall from the tree as leaves to and therefore makes jumping into a pile of leaves a painful prospect. Chinese Elms are also pretty, with dainty little leaves, but they attract box elder bugs almost as well as Box Elder trees do. Willows, in nearly any variety, are a favorite, but their root systems are shallow and therefore they are not very strong.

And then all this rumination brings me to one simple truth--a tree does not get to choose what kind of tree it will be. It's 'breed' so to speak is determined by it's seed, and then it simply has to make due with it's strengths and weaknesses just as we as humans must do the same. So, in reply to Don's question I suppose I would be whatever kind of tree the Lord chose for me, and then, because I'm contrary, I'd probably whine about it forever. Except trees don't speak, or think, or blog. Hmmmmm.

What about the rest of you? What are you ruminations regarding trees you would like to be?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Just . . . Stuff

So, the other night I pulled a 'best mom in the world' card and abandoned my children. Lee was out of town, but my friend, Sam (short for Samantha, thank you) and I wanted/needed to watch Tess of the D'urbervilles because we hadn't read the book and bookgroup was the next night (yes, I abandoned the kids that night as well.) I'd tried to read the book in high-school, gave up on page, oh, 7 or so, and then I read the Cleff notes. Passed the test.

The movie was quite good; ya know, for being based on a classic tragidy. Still, we enjoyed it. I got home around 11:30 and as I headed for my room there was half a bowl of salad on the floor in front of my door and a note next to it, written in purple sharpie.


Please wake me up at 5:30 or earlier.

Love you so so so so so so sooooooooo much.

Little Man

PS You can have the salad.

Is that not the cutest dang thing? Boy I love that kid. And I love those little notes the kids leave. I've realized lately that the days of such notes are coming to a close, so I'm saving them all. I giggled for five straight minutes after that one. Such a cutie.

Additional to my cute kid notes, I am brain dead. Melanie J just posted about having commenters leave questions in order to give her foder for future posts. She's freaking brilliant; I say that because I only copy brilliant people. Which is why I'm copying her.

So, if you have some deep burning question you'd like to ask, let me know. I'll blog about the answers and give you credit for having asked them.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Am I a Good Person?

I've now seen The Blindside twice. One of the best movies I have ever seen--so much that I've wondered if it's THAT bad to take a camcorder to the movie theater. I'm not going to sell it, just watch it over and over again.

There's a line in there that got me the first time, it struck me, but it made me cry the second time. In a scene where her motives are being questioned she asks "Am I a good person?" You've just watched a film that shows the amazing things she's done for someone else, and yet in her mind she's boiled it down to the question of motive. Why did she do those things? Were her reasons pure? If she did them for the wrong reasons are the things she did also wrong?

I ask myself this question a lot, and after so many years I still don't have the answers.

Am I a good person for having raised someone elses child, or was I simply looking to be a hero?

Now that the whole hero thing has backfired, would I have done it again knowing what I know now?

Is that only because it didn't go the way I hoped?

Do I only do good things because I want a good result?

Am I still a good parent when I resent the messes, the hours of cleaning, the unappreciation of my efforts?

Am I good person even though I find it so hard to forgive?

Is it fair that I divide my time between my family and the fictional characters in my head?

Yesterday was supposed to be my youngest daughter's baptism. She turned 8 in October, and I was planning to have her baptism in November, a couple of days before my book tour. Turned out that this year the stake baptisms are on the second Saturday of the month, not the first.  Right in the middle of my tour.  We had to put it off until December. I felt horrible and even though I realize it was simply a mistake, this is a BAPTISM, and it got bumped because I had a book tour--two weeks away from my family. It has not sat well with me, but I simply focused on the 12th of December and moved forward. Yesterday it snowed all day. Most of the family members canceled; and for good reason. I don't want them to take unnecessary risks, and the roads were really horrible. But as the day ticked on and the snow got deeper I realized that the chances were good that no one would make it; even those who lived just an hour a way. I saw two options: 1) Have the baptism anyway, but with only us. 2) Reschedule for January and hope more family members could make it.  My husband thought we should do it anyway, but you know what? As we thought and talked about it I kept going back to the part where if we'd done it in November, all those people would have been there. It was my fault it hadn't worked that way. Therefore, I felt responsible for the fact that after building up this event, KB's memories would be of only having her siblings and parents at her 'big' day. Lee and I finally decided to let KB decide.

I sat her down and explained the situation. Did I present it honestly? Without trying to prod her into making one choice over another? I don't know. I tried to focus on the important aspect being the ordinance, not all the extra stuff. Did I make it clear enough? I don't know that either.

She went into her room to think about it, and when she came out her eyes were red and her face was swollen. She's the only girl in her class who hasn't been baptized. She didn't like that she wouldn't be baptized until she's in a whole new primary class--9-10 year olds. She's been eight for two months already. She wanted to wear her new dress to church.

Did I appreciate those things enough? If I'd have just said "This is your day, Kylee, let's do this and forever have very special memories of the people closest to you being there?" would she have chosen another direction?

She chose to wait. I admit that I was relieved. Is that wrong too? Then I started calling people to tell them. Everyone was very nice, but I could hear an undercurrent "You're canceling an eternal ordinance because some people can't come?" I braved through all that using the "I'm doing what KB wants." but did she understand it enough to really know? Was it fair to leave the choice to her?

I don't know. I do know that I was unsettled about it all day, that I'm worried about what people think, and the message I've sent to KB and my other children. Today she should be welcomed to our ward as the newest member. But she won't be. Am I a good person even though ...

When I really think it through I do believe I'm a good person, for the most part. I try to do good things, and try to be fair minded and encouraging to others. And yet even making that declaration makes those things I've been wrong about glaringly apparent as they rise up as arguments against me.

And so I'm curious if we all do that to ourselves. I'd like comments to be left in the format of "Am I a good person even though...."

I'm not asking in hopes to make myself feel better--or am I? I don't know.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Cover for Devil's Food Cake!

Wohoo--see that pic on the side, yeah, well in case you didn't figure it out, that's the new cover. Not what I expected--I thought it would be a light brown, but it's catchy, eh? Release date: March 3, 2010.

The first two chapters are available on my website as well as info on how to pre-order autographed copies.

Register 4 the 2010 LDStorymakers Writers' Conference

In case you haven't heard, registration is OPEN for the 2010 conference. We're having more breakouts then ever, more agents and editors than ever, and more space than ever. It's at the Provo Marriot again and sure to be (that's not a real website) To register go to and follow the links. And, just a little fyi, the agents and editors go fast and they are good ones. Don't delay, sign up today!