Thursday, October 22, 2015

Getting Excited for NaNo & What I'm Writing for It

It's that time of year, when writer's across America get revved up for National Novel Writing Month in November. We call it NaNo for short. Otherwise the month is over before we can even tell you what that means. 

It means, those of us crazy enough to participate attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days or less! 

For me it's always less, due to weekends and holidays. I don't write during those days.Which begs the question, why do they pick a month with a major holiday in it? *scratches head* Not to mention Black Friday and the count down kick off to Christmas when we all start putting up the decorations, etc. Why not pick January and give us the extra day? 

Anyhow, this will be my third year to participate. I've pulled it off twice now successfully (and have 2 completed novels to show for it) I've marked on the calendar how many thousands of words I have to write each day, taking into account the aforementioned, plus kids appointments, husband's days off, etc. It's a little daunting, but on most days I only have to pound out 2-3K so it is doable. And I've started the outline. 

I'm actually excited about writing. It's been nearly a year since I did. Editing and formatting don't count. Necessary to producing a book, but not at all the same as writing!

But what to write about with so many ideas swirling about in my head?

I put fingers to keyboard (instead of pen to paper) and typed out a few cover blurbs to choose from for this year's project. 

I settled on Silver Star. Can't steal my title, it's already copyrighted. ;)

Here's the rough version of the blurb I'll submit to NaNo:

Country superstar Sara Silver has it all: fame, fortune, and a mantel full of Grammys. She also has a string of chart topping heartbreak songs to go with them -- all based on her bad luck with romance, which makes for great songs, but a miserable love life.

With her parents example of a working happy marriage as a guiding star, Sara should have no problem finding Mr. Right. Except, there seems to be a gap between finding a guy and finding the right guy to call hers forever. Somehow, that bit of wisdom wasn’t imparted to her before her mother’s death. And now Sara wonders if maybe she’ll never find love. Maybe she is destined to walk this life alone.

There’s also the problem of her recording label considering moving onto the “next big thing” if she doesn’t come up with another hit album and soon, like yesterday. After all, she’s been at this for ten years. Maybe she’s all washed up.

Exiled to a ranch in Wyoming to work out her music, or else, Sara determines not to let anything distract her...and then she meets Cal. Could he be the one to inspire her music and fill the empty hole in her heart or is he just another broken heart ballad waiting to happen?
Sound like something you'd want to read?

Comment below with a yes or no. Or better yet, share your own NaNo project. Good luck on your 50K!

Be sure and check out my NaNo tips on my blog:

Monday, October 19, 2015

Growing a Thick Skin ...

When I was a little girl, I was somewhat fascinated by a bump my mother had on the side of her middle finger. She explained to me that it was a callus that formed from holding a pen and writing letters. For some reason, I thought that was the coolest thing, and I wanted one too. As I got older, I was excited to see that I was developing one. It was like a badge of honor, the mark of one who writes.

Then I started typing more than writing, and eventually, I was using a computer for 99% of all my writing-related tasks. Pens were more for taking notes and writing to-do lists, and my callus began to shrink. Now, it's barely noticable at all.

We develop calluses to protect us from friction. The pen presses against the finger, and the skin of the finger hardens to create a protection. Sometimes we do the same thing emotionally - put up a wall to protect us from the harshness of the world. This can be a good thing, or it can be negative.

Think about the word "callous." It's related to "callus," but it's not a noun. It describes a state of being - "She was callous about her treatment of the sick dog." It means that someone has walled themselves off so much that they don't feel proper emotions. This can lead to damaged relationships and the inability to hear the Spirit when it speaks.

When I look down at this bump on my finger that has all but disappeared now, I remember this analogy. I want to be strong enough to withstand negative things that come my way, but I never want to wall myself off so much that I can't feel those subtle things like happiness and inspiration.

Just a thought for the day.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Writing Sex

by H. Linn Murphy

Recently I read a question on the ANWA Facebook page about sex selling. It's a topic I've been thinking about for a long time.

I read extensively. I read a variety of genres and time periods. That's also how I write. I put pen to the page and write what hits me. I am a storyteller. I write truths.

I thought back over several of my favorite books and series. It's anything from Lord of the Rings to Pride and Prejudice to Martian Chronicles to Elizabeth Hayden's books, Book of Mormon to How to Stay Alive in the Woods and A Light in the Forest. From Runemaster to Dangerous Favor to First Year Latin. Through out all of those books a single thread runs: No sex, no bad language. There is some violence (in the Book of Mormon of all places and among others) but it's not graphic.

I'll say it again. No sex. No bad language. It's trash. We don't need it to tell the story. If it's a story that cannot stand without sex, it isn't worth telling. What needs to come out is the truth of that story--the truth of the character. And that can happen without letting fly with the exact swear word put to paper. It can fly without telling us about falling zippers.

I thought about what I'd do if a publisher insisted. Then I made a decision. No. I won't do it. I don't write that kind of trash. I'm not saying my books don't contain some tense situations. They do. But I'm trying very hard to write books I'd want my kids to read.

I say this: Don't buy into the false ideology that if it isn't 59 Shades of Murk it won't sell. That's what those who are working for the Destroyer want you to think and to help them peddle. This is the deal. If your publisher insists that you have to add sex scenes for it to be real, hit the highway. Because he's lying to you. Otherwise Jane Austen wouldn't be selling a single book. Every one of her books has sold millions of copies, been made into movies, audiobooks etc. Even Mansfield Park, my least favorite. And not a single one had an ounce of sex in it. We were hard pressed to read about a single kiss.

In actuality, the Church has recently come out with information labeling romances with heavy sex in them pornography. That's right. There are now addiction classes for sex-filled romance.

I personally know of at least one instance where the wife got addicted to reading steamy romances. She bought them by the ton and read them non-stop--even on the way to church and the temple! She is now, because of those books, looking at the back end of a four year separation and a vitriolic divorce. Those books actually changed the chemistry of her brain. They change how a person looks, feels, and acts about the real act and about love. It renders a person incapable of recognizing real love. I've seen that first hand.

Bad language clogs our brains so that the Spirit cannot enter. It sits in our minds like silt, waiting to bog down any good thoughts and fill us with darkness.

Be the shining light. Be that huge beacon on the hill. Blaze forth with REAL love, REAL sacrifice. A REAL story for the ages.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Positive Portrayals of Women in Writing

I attended Salt Lake Comic Con this last weekend and I had the opportunity to be a part of four different panels. I enjoyed each of them, but I think the one that stuck with me the most was the last one I attended. It was called Positive Portrayals of Women in Pop Culture.

I was the only writer on the panel, while the other women came from different podcasts. They were more into pop culture and the latest and greatest television shows, while I was involved because of the characters in my books. I worried that I wouldn’t fit in or have a clue what to say among them, but I found that we had a lot more common ground than I’d first expected.

One thing that stuck out to me the most was that we made sure to point out over and over again that a positive portrayal is not simply making the female the super tough heroine who needs no one because she can win the battle herself. It was more about bringing depth to those characters and making them real.

As the different women spoke of their favorite shows and why they liked those female characters, I had time to reflect on the books I write. I thought of each of the main characters and why they were “strong” to me. I realized that it was their flaws and their need to get through their obstacles that made them who they were. Am I perfect at getting those characters down? Probably not, but I want to do my best to build someone who girls can relate to and want to be like.

Each of us have our own voice, our own likes and dislikes, our own backgrounds. We as writers need to make sure that we provide those same attributes for the characters in our stories.

So what does this have to do with portraying strong women? Or the girls in younger books? Everything. It’s not about making them tough enough to win a battle. It’s about making them strong enough to be the daughter or the best friend, or yes, the hero by showing who they really are. Give them a backstory, fears, and a reason to go on. Let’s make them strong by allowing them learn and be a better person than when the story began.

Think of your favorite villains who share their backstories. Maleficent’s movie showed her love turning on her and stealing her wings, causing her to lose everything. The stepmother in the new Cinderella movie only wanted love and comfort and watched the stepdaughter she’d tried to squash, get exactly what she wanted.

Think of your heroes. Hermione used her book smarts, her wit, and the strength of her friends to fight, but also to help Harry and Ron survive. Katniss was tough, yes, but she also stepped in to protect her family so her sister wouldn’t have to be part of the games. Aurora won Maleficent over by her love, her smile, and her kindness. Black Widow is a tough fighter who knew nothing else as she grew up, but when it comes down to it, kindness is what makes her the person I admire. The way she handles Hulk to calm him down, touches my heart every single time.

If you need tough females to make your story work, do it. But give her both the flaws and the strengths to make her the best person she can be.