Monday, September 23, 2013

How I Find Time to Write

My writing desk

People are always asking me how I find time to write. To tell the truth, I haven't always been the ideal example of writing time management. Part of the reason is that I have six kids. It took me five years to write my first published novel. My second took two years. I'm getting faster, though, thanks to a few tricks I've learned. Here they are in a nutshell:

Avoid the Internet 
I write on a really old laptop. It has no internet access. Before I switched to the laptop, it seemed that every time I got stuck in a scene, I'd go check Facebook or my e-mail or my blog or something else.

I have an appointment every weekday with my laptop. I write in the morning before my kids get up. I also write at the library twice a week for a few hours.

Before I write, I try to figure out what's going to happen in the next scene. It's best if I brainstorm the next scene the day before I write it. This gives my mind a chance to work while I'm doing other things.

Stay Positive
It's a common problem among writers, even published writers, that a bad review or critique experience can kill the desire to write. Reviews are important, but I avoid reading each and every review. I have to focus first on how much I love to write. My objective is to write a book I'd want to read.

Write Horrible Drafts
I'm a perfectionist. I love editing and making my writing as perfect as possible. But if I try to write my first draft as perfectly as possible, it takes me forever. Instead, I force myself to write a lot, and some of my writing actually ends up being good. Later, I can delete what's terrible and keep what works. (In case you're wondering, my last two novels had at least twenty drafts.)

Write Down All Ideas Immediately
I keep a pad of paper and pen handy to write down ideas. Below is a picture of the pen I keep beside my bed at night. It lights up so I can write in the dark. I always carry paper in my purse, and if I know I'll have to wait somewhere for a long time, I bring my laptop.

Reading great books helps me to be a better writer, but it's hard to find the time to read as much as I'd like. Also, once I start a book, I have a hard time putting it down. My solution is to listen to audiobooks as I drive and work around the house. That way, I get in my reading time, and I look forward to doing the dishes.

How do you find time for the things you love to do?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Meet Some Authors

Photo by Heather Zahn Gardner
I'm so excited for this Saturday! From 6-8:00 pm, Josi Kilpack, Sarah Eden, Camron Wright, Mandi Slack, and I will be signing books together at Barnes & Noble at 330 E University Parkway in Orem, UT. Come on over if you can. And, as if you need any other motivation, I'll have some of Emma's favorite treats--Dove dark chocolates--to share.

I'll also be signing on Sept 28 from 9-11 am at the Taylorsville Family Center Seagull Bookstore, 5720 S. Redwood RD, Taylorsville, UT.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Book Review for "Fight for You"

Misty Moncur's first book, Daughter of Helaman, was a Whitney Award finalist in the historical fiction category. Fight for You is its sequel. The books are LDS fiction, based on the Stripling Warriors in the Book of Mormon. They tell the story of Keturah, who joins the army of Helaman. She is the only woman in the army, which presents her with many challenges, not the least of which is her tangled love life. Here's the summary.

In Fight for You, Keturah is in Judea building fortifications. The work is hard, and the other soldiers don’t think she can pull her weight. Her brothers are becoming strangers, and Zeke’s jealousy is getting worse—because Keturah is falling in love with the wrong warrior.

But she’s not about to let cruel pranks and hurt feelings keep her from doing what she knows to be right. Keturah will do whatever it takes to protect her religion, her freedom, her peace, and her family. But in a camp of two thousand boys, the most important thing she has to protect is her heart.

I really liked Keturah. She's spunky and independent. She fights to get into the all-male army, but once she's there, she doesn't leave behind her feminine side. I like that she plays the role of healer, that she likes to cook for the men, and that she practices the traditionally female arts. I also like that she's learned methods to fight men stronger than she is.

Her best friend growing up, Zeke, is also the man her family intends for her to marry. She feels a bond to him, but she has also learned to love another man, Gideon, who taught her to fight. Gideon has his own issues, though. He plans on being a career soldier, which won't leave much room for a wife. I loved these two strong characters and the tension between them. The romance is not resolved in this book--another sequel is in the works--but the ending definitely gives the reader an idea of where things are headed.

Though many of the details are fictional, the book gave me a chance to think more deeply about events in the Book of Mormon. I liked imagining the details of some of the battles, the layout of the cities, and how the soldiers might have interacted with each other. The author's knowledge of Native American culture and tradition also made the book more interesting to me.

Author Bio:

Misty Moncur wanted to be Indiana Jones when she grew up. Instead, she became an author and has her adventures at home. In her jammies. With her imagination. And pens that she keeps running dry.

Misty lives in a marsh near a very salty lake in Utah with her husband and children, where they cuddle up in the evenings and read their Kindles. Well, she does anyway.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Day I Became A Bad Mom

It really wasn’t my fault. It was Danny Kaye’s. How, you’re wondering, could some dead actor get me accused of child abuse? It all started with the movie, Court Jester. My husband had had enough of the kids watching the usual drivel on PBS. He wanted us to watch something with substance, something that would acquaint our children with a classic from the history of film. So we watched Court Jester.

My kids learned from the movie all right. They learned that if they wanted to be royalty, they had to have a special birthmark--a purple pimpernel—on their backsides. My daughter, who was three at the time, used a purple marker on her brother’s bum to make sure everyone would know he was a prince. I didn’t think much of it. So my son had purple scribbles on his behind? At least he was culturally enlightened. Over the course of a few baths, the marks disappeared.

The policeman showed up a few days later. Being almost six feet tall myself, I’m not easily intimidated. But this policeman was so large, peering through our front window, that I called my husband to answer the door while I retreated to the bathroom to change another diaper. My son, who was two at the time, had undiagnosed gluten intolerance. As parents, we were constantly trying to figure out what was causing the abnormal number of messy diapers. No sooner had I gotten to the bathroom than my husband told me the policeman wanted to talk to me.

Back at the front door, the officer explained that someone had reported me for child abuse because of the bruises on my son’s back. “Oh,” I said. “You mean the marker.” I told him the purple pimpernel story, and he said he’d need to look at my son to verify my account. The problem was that my husband was taking much longer to change the diaper than usual. I’m sure the officer must have wondered if we were stalling as I ran back and forth between him and the bathroom, checking to see if my son was ready to be put on display. Finally, my husband declared that my son needed a bath, and I, in exasperation, told the officer he could come look at our little boy standing naked and unbruised in the tub. “He’s definitely not abused,” the officer said—perhaps the most beautiful words I’ve ever heard in our bathroom.

I was relieved for only a few minutes. Then the questions came. Who reported me? Did I look like a child abuser? Did my son’s health problems make him look abused? What if it had been a real bruise? What if I were accused again? Would this be on my permanent record? Child abuse was a heinous crime. How could someone think I was a criminal?

Adding to my confusion was an experience I’d had the week earlier in a public restroom. As I’d stood at the sink, trying to cajole my potty-training daughter into washing her hands, an older woman remarked that if that were her daughter, she would give her a spanking for being so stubborn. On one side, someone thought I was too lenient. On the other, someone thought I was too harsh. It didn’t matter that I subscribed to Parents magazine, read bedtime stories, and cooked vegetables. I’d failed in my efforts to be a good mother. Why should I even try anymore?

For months afterward, I thought of myself as a bad mother. Now, looking back, I don’t see myself that way. I was a good mother caught in the trap of letting others dictate my self-image to me. In truth, the only people who knew what I did as a mother were my children and me. Everyone else had a false image. It was like they were trying to judge a book by a page, or, in the case of the restroom lady, by a sentence.

Eventually, I learned to see myself apart from the opinions of others. Some of the things that helped were:

  • Seeing pictures of myself interacting with my children. It gave me a different perspective to see the love in my eyes as I held my little ones.
  • Accepting the fact that different was okay. I didn't have to be like the soccer mom down the road or the cookie-baking mom or the academic achievement mom. My kids needed me, not the mom down the street.
  • Cultivating gratitude. Instead of noticing what was wrong with my children, I learned to notice what was right. 
  • Listing my achievements. Every year, I listed all the little things I'd accomplished in the last year. This simple exercise, which takes only a few minutes spread over the course of a few days, has helped me remember that I'm accomplishing more than I think.

Now that I've been a mom for seventeen years, I wish I could take all the younger moms out there and give them a little piece of my not caring. I have the experience now to know that the atrocious teacher conference shouldn’t have worried me so much, my daughter eventually got in the habit of washing her hands, and my son’s bad habit of kissing girls in first grade is now a treasured family memory. I’ve also come to realize that my daughter was onto something when she decided to mark herself and my son as royalty.