Friday, September 28, 2012

An Interview with Joan Sowards...

Today I am interviewing Joan Sowards--one of my favorite LDS authors!  Joan has written:

My favorite was The Star Prophecy which is an historical fiction story taken from The Book of Mormon which is so cool!!! Joan is a fellow American Night Writer's Association member (ANWA) and that is how we met.


Valerie: Thank you for giving us your time today, Joan.  We would love to know more about you and how you feel about writing and being an author.

Why should we read The Star Prophecy?

Joan: The Star Prophecy-a Book of Mormon Adventure
is a fun twist on the “search for the Christ Child.” Enoch, a young Nephite, has a life-long dream to sail to Jerusalem, the land of his forefathers. When he hears Samuel the Lamanite preach of the birth of Christ,Enoch knows it is time for his voyage. He invites a few friends and they set sail. They witness the day the sun sets but is light all night, and see the Star and follow it to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Valerie: I love that story!! I'm hoping for a part 2. Now when did you first start writing and why?

Joan: After a feeble fourth grade attempt at writing a Nancy Drew wannabe, I wrote lyrics, short stories, and poetry throughout my life. When I became interested in family history, I wrote fictional account of an ancestor. From that I learned that I loved writing the longer tales.

Valerie: I think many authors discover they love to write as they grow from teen years into adults.  Okay--How do you find the determination to continue to write?

Joan: Since I love it more than chocolate (and I do love chocolate!) it isn’t hard. There is a lot of joy in crafting a story. I’d rather be writing than watching TV (which can take up a lot of creative time.)

Valerie: Most definitely.  I don't watch much TV myself because it sucks so much time out of writing. Now, how do you come up with ideas for your books?

Joan: I attended an ANWA conference class taught by Jennie Grossman. She handed out newspaper articles to prompt writing ideas. I received an article on haunted inns of southern Arizona, thus inspired Haunts Haven. My daughter brought home from Institute class the idea for The Star Prophecy, and I always wanted to write an LDS Jane Eyre—resulting in Chocolate Roses.

Valerie: Wow--I love hearing about the origins of book ideas. It's amazing where authors get their ideas.  Did you have a mentor?

Joan:  Kerry Blair. She has helped so many authors on the road to publication, but I have the claim that she mentored me before she wrote her first novel.

Valerie: Wow--that is interesting.  I didn't know that.  What do you love about writing?

Joan: Everything! I love crafting a story and seeing it blossom, working the subplots and developing the characters. Being part of the writing community (such as ANWA and LDStorymakers) is inspiring.

Valerie: Fiction is tougher for me so I can appreciate what you are saying.  What do you dislike about writing?

Joan: For sure, it’s promoting my own novels. Though I have a publisher, times have changed and authors have to do their own promoting. Tooting my own horn is a bit out of my comfort zone.

Valerie: Yes--that is very challenging especially when you are not used to marketing. What are your writing habits?

Joan: My sister and I walk early in the morning and then I write until family life takes over. I’ve found, due to health issues, writing in a recliner is best —no fancy office or desk.

Valerie: That sounds comfortable. What do you do when you don't write?

Joan: Genealogy, compose music, and joust with the grandchildren. I am also amazed at how much time social media takes out of our day. I’m also proud to be a cub scout leader. 

Valerie: Hey--I'm a den leader too. Well thank you so much, Joan  for sharing your life as a writer.  Hopefully we will see another one of your books in the works soon.

Find Joan Sowards books on Amazon: 

Here is her blog:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Day 31: The Climax

Here we are guys.  THE big shebang of the entire novel; the toughest obstacles your character will ever have to face stand looming before her, beckoning her to come and conquer.
Golden peak - Please view on black (press "L")
Photo Credit:  Katarina 2353
Is she ready for it?  Are you ready for it?

Recall our Day 3 assignment of filling out the At-A-Glance Outline?  Find the part where you described your intended climax and reread it.  Will it still apply now that you've written over three-fourths of the book?  

If you find your climax needs to change or was just somehow flat, here are a few tips to help ensure the scene holds both interest (excitement) and meaning (character transformation):
  • Be sure your heroine does the heroics.  It is vital that your main character face off against her fear or foe - that is, after all, the whole purpose of the climax - but she must fight them alone.  Others can be around her, even cheer her on, but the climax is about showing how our recently transformed character will behave in the face of her main antagonist.  Will she revert back to her old ways?  Will staying true to her new self mean sacrificing her ability to conquer her foe?  (Martha Alderson's How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, or Screenplay, Step 26).
    • In a Writer's Digest article titled  4 Ways to Improve Plot/Climax in Your Writing, Jeff Gerke discusses the dramatic potential available to us as writers when the character's inner transformation and outer journey dissect at the climax.
        "At this moment in Act 3, probably more than anywhere else in your novel, the inner journey and the outer journey are interconnected. The 'plot' that is the story of your character’s internal transformation here intersects the outer plot that has made that transformation possible. The moment of truth decides it and the climax illustrates what she decides. So it should be in your novel. Your hero’s moment of truth determines her behavior in the climax. 
        "So think now about your hero’s moment of truth and how it might impact the climax of the novel. You’ve probably decided whether he’ll choose the new way or the old way, so think about how that would look given the big walls-falling-down climax you’re designing. While you’re at it, why not consider what it would look like if he were to choose the other way? If you’ve decided he’ll choose the new way, go ahead and think about how it would go if he were to choose the old way."
      I considered this advice for a while: to envision how your story would go if the character reverted to his old self.  Why, when we know our story isn't going that direction, would he advise us to image it does?  I've decided that this method can add a deeper, more realistic layer to your climax, much the same way that knowing all the little details of your character's life (half of which never make it into the book) can give you a richer hero.  Whether we know it or not, these unpublished details have a way of coloring our writing and allowing the readers to feel an authentic connection with our characters, much the same as we do.

    • Consider a change of scenery.  The moment your heroine decides it's time to face her fears and battle her demons is the moment Act III begins.  If you're looking for a way to add an extra layer of drama, set the showdown in a place where the elements themselves can play an antagonistic (or at least significant) role.  For some excellent examples think of the treacherous Cracks of Doom sequence in The Lord of the Rings, or the island mountaintop sequence in Raiders of the Lost Ark.   In his article , Jeff Gerke points to these two dramatic backdrops as not only indicating the start of Act III, but also providing significant interest/drama in and of themselves.  He goes on to ask,
      "What is the ultimate setting for the final conflict in your book? If you’re writing a thriller about a killer who preys on children, could the final standoff occur on a playground? If you’re writing a romance about flirtatious ornithologists, could the final will-he/won’t-he moment take place in the world’s largest aviary? If it’s a pirate story, the climactic scene had better be on the high seas." 
    • Ramp up the conflict, tension, and suspense.  The climax is never so perspiration-inducing as when there's a clock ticking, reminding us that our hero has only seconds to complete his task.  You have a host of outer obstacles and motivators that can keep your climax shooting upward with rocket speed.  Those of you with less action-packed stories, don't despair, but internal motivators can have just as much tension even without the threat of imminent death.  For example, is your character facing a moral dilemma?  Maybe she's forced to choose between two really great guys, or maybe the man she wants to be with is hated by her father.  What will she do?  Who will she choose?  These are the kinds of dilemmas that keep readers' eyes glued to the page. 
    • Don't forget the fallout.  Just because the foe has been defeated, doesn't mean your climax is inevitably over.  
      "Many new authors want to end the climactic scene as soon as the villain gets tipped into the bottomless pit, but that’s a mistake. For the reader to get closure on the moment, you need to complete what you’ve started. You need to get the hero out of that dangerous place. Show him grabbing the heroine’s hand and sprinting out of the cavern just as it collapses. Show the hero clambering aboard a fishing vessel to be taken to safety. Show the hero stepping behind a concrete wall just as the house finally explodes. Or, in those softer stories, show the boy finally hitting the home run. Show the woman nailing the high note. Show the man recovering the puppy at long last. Play out the logical end of the scene that contained the climax," (Gerke, 4 Ways to Improve Plot/Climax).
    What improvements did you decide to make to your climax after reviewing this, and Jeff Gerke's article?

    For more tips on the Climax, Resolution, or Ending, check out these articles:

    Saturday, September 22, 2012

    An Extra Post: Review, I BROKE MY TRUNK by Mo Willems

    Okay, you may have noticed things are not flying as according to usual plan here at Mommy Authors. It's been one of those months. I missed TWO of my scheduled blog posts. My fellows Mommy Author Bloggers assure me that I've been forgiven and they understand, but I need your forgiveness too, followers. :D

    So I want to treat you to a review of a book by an author who is fast becoming a favorite in our house.

    I BROKE MY TRUNK by Mo Willems 
    Genre: Picture Book
    Age: 4+

    We have DON'T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS, and it's one of those books my boys bring to me over and over and over. And we giggle every time we read it. The best part for me is going all-out-dramatic with the voices. We just ... yeah, love it. So when my six-year-old brought I BROKE MY TRUNK home from school from the library, me and my four-year-old immediately sat down, and voices and all, commenced to LOVE IT as much as DON'T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS. This author is a genius. I'm probably late to the show on this one. You've probably all loved Mo Willems from the beginning. Anyway, this book involves a "long, crazy story" about how Elephant broke his trunk, all told in that signature Mo Willems style of dialogue and simple pictures. I adore the way my youngest can tell the story using the pictures. And when he does the voices, it's priceless.

    So I need more Mo Willems books. What are your favorites?

    Tuesday, September 11, 2012

    Networking For Writers

    Valerie J. Steimle

    I am home from my travels around the country.  I was blessed to be able to drive to Kaysville, Utah (near Salt Lake City) visit my brother, sister-in-law and father and my niece.  We went to Temple Square to see all the visitor centers and Tabernacle which was beautiful.  Then I drove to Rexburg, Idaho to drop off my daughter at BYU-Idaho and spend the day helping her get settled in and visit my Alma Marta from 1979 on my birthday.  Boy --has it changed a lot.

    All that took four days. Then  I drove south to Provo, Utah to visit with my sister-in-law and then drove on to Phoenix, Arizona to spend the weekend with my oldest--Sarah and her husband and three children.  What a great trip it was.  I met a lot of people and listened to President Clark from BYU-I speak about parenting a college student.  I went horse back riding, milked a goat and then made goats milk cheese.  I even had the opportunity to catch up with some old, old friends from my youth back in New Jersey.  I drove home from Phoenix and now I am recovering from all the sleep deprivation and driving.

    One thing I did realize on this marvelous trip was how much we network with each other.  Whether it's through our daily work careers or church or family--we network together and that is one area writers need to work on.

    "Oh, the pains writers go through. It's not enough to write until blood spills all over the page. No, then the precious writer must write query letters, market, and, now, this humiliation of "networking."
    So, what's the poor, introverted writer to do? After all, most writers are trained to spy on networks, not to participate in them. For writers, "networking" can be a tricky, peculiar problem.
    A writer would network for several distinct reasons. One would be if she were shopping a manuscript around. Or if she wanted to increase exposure of a book she had just published. And, naturally, a writer wants to get known to editors and have a chance at writing assignments. It's all very difficult to do without networking.
    A writer's network can be made up of editors, agents, fellow writers, experts in areas the writer writes about, people who have interesting tales to tell, people who are inside sources, and so on."

    Author L. Michelle Tullier identifies six categories where networking takes place: 
    1. One-to-one meetings--Other Writers, Editors, Publishers and Agents
    2. Professional groups-- Other Writers, Editors, Publishers and Agents along with professional people in your topic in a group setting. Your Genre topic can also be networked among others who write in the same genre.
    3. The Net- Social Networks, Newspaper and book websites, and blogs
    4. Education and training- Writer Conferences, Writer's classes
    5. Social/ recreational/community Settings 
    6. and, lastly, what she refers to as Serendipity: Whatever blessings we receive from others in the right place at right time.

    So networking is a necessary venture for all authors and can be used in small bits or very large ones. Either way it is a great way to spread your writing. You decide.