Saturday, June 17, 2017

Connecting the Dots

It's been a while since I've written a writing-related post ... or posted much at all, really ... so bear with me as I become particularly long-winded.

It seems that certain stories make their way around the Church, and everyone has to share them in their talks or lessons. In the eighties, the story of choice went something as follows:

A man went to a job fair to look for a young man to hire to work on his farm. He went down the line of applicants and asked each of them for their qualifications. One boy said, "I can sleep when the wind blows." This perplexed the man, and he passed the boy over.

Well, the worker he chose didn't fit, so he came back the following week to see who else was available. The same unusual young man was there, and responded, "I can sleep when the wind blows." That didn't make any sense to the farmer, so again, he hired someone else, and that someone else also didn't do well at the job.

The third time (ever notice how these stories always go in threes?), upon hearing the strange answer, the man decided to go ahead and give the boy a try. He took him back to the farm, showed him his tasks, and showed him his bedroom in the loft.

That night (what a coincidence!) a horrible storm came up. The farmer leaped out of bed and ran around the barn to check all the doors and windows and latches, and found that they were secure. His worker was still asleep in his bed, and the farmer finally understood what he meant and was glad that he'd hired him.

So, that's how I heard the story told all through my childhood, and it never made sense. Why was the farmer so impressed that the boy was still asleep? It sounded downright lazy to me. It wasn't until I was in my late teens that I finally heard the story told in a way that made sense, and you know what? It only took one clarifying sentence, which went as follows:

Because the young man had made sure that the barn was secure before he went to bed, when the storm arose, he didn't need to run around in a panic because the work had already been done, and he could sleep peacefully.

Whoa! Did you see that? One little sentence clarified that whole story for me. Now I understood why everyone nodded and agreed with how wise it was when they heard it. Now I could apply it to my own life and really get the lesson I was being taught.

One of the biggest questions I ask my clients when I edit their books is, "Why?" Why did the character pull that face? Why did she react that way? Why did she sigh? Why did she start digging through her purse? Why, why, why?

It might be totally obvious to the author why the character is doing that thing or saying that thing, but if it's not obvious to the reader, the entire point will be lost. I have come up with a saying to help us all remember this principle, and you may quote me, but it's so awesome that if you do quote me, be sure to use my name:

If you don't understand how she feels, you'll never understand what she does. - Tristi Pinkston

See? Cool, huh? If you don't understand that your character is angry, you won't understand why he's suddenly speaking through his teeth. A quick flash of thought will go a long way there. 

It's all about connecting the dots. You give the reader this plot point and this character and this setting, and then you connect them together to make a complete image. You throw in those clarifying sentences (like, the kid had already locked everything, so he was at peace) and you show why that other character from the other example is angry (her words reminded him of what she'd said the night she left, and all those hurt feelings came rushing back, blinding him). That's how you create a whole picture, a whole experience for the reader so they can be immersed in your world and want to come back again and again - which is the whole goal. Take a reader and make them a repeat reader, do that over and over again, and you will have a career.

Monday, March 06, 2017

The Dating Experiment by Elodia Strain

I was so excited when I heard that Elodia Strain was releasing a new book. She's one of those authors who captured my imagination from the first with her unique storytelling voice, and there should be lots more Elodia books in the universe, in my opinion.

Book Description: After losing her job, her house, and her long-term boyfriend, Gabby’s roommate signs her up to be in a dating experiment. Little does she know, however, that her ex is in the experiment too! In an attempt to escape the chaos of her life, Gabby visits home and accidentally reunites with her childhood friend (and secret crush), Ian O’Connell. As she participates in the study and its hilariously awkward dates, Gabby finds her heart torn between the man she’s comfortable with and the man who’s had her heart from the beginning.

About the Author:  Elodia Strain was born in Alaska and grew up in the middle of California. She spent her childhood exploring Yosemite National Park, skiing—badly—at Lake Tahoe, and enjoying the beaches along California’s famed central coast. Elodia graduated cum laude from Brigham Young University with a degree in marketing communications. She is the author of three previous books from Cedar Fort. Her debut novel, The Icing on the Cake, was well received by readers of all ages, and earned Elodia the Best New Fiction Author award from CFI. Her second book, Previously Engaged, was a Whitney Award finalist. Elodia also wrote My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, the novelization of the widely successful eponymous major motion picture, starring Alyssa Milano. In addition to her creative writing pursuits, Elodia has spoken at writers’ conferences, had the privilege of signing books at national events such as her alma mater’s Women’s Conference and Education Week, and is also one of the founders of Ink Ladies Plus (formerly the Ink Ladies blog), a group of CFI and independent authors who work together to strengthen and promote each other’s work. When not writing or marketing, Elodia spends her time bargain shopping, enjoying staycations with her husband, and spoiling her nieces and nephews.

Purchase the book by clicking here.

Learn more about Elodia here.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Book Review: Dear Jane by Rachel Ward

I've been busy enough as of late that I haven't done a lot of book reviews, but I've known Rachel Ward for years through the blogging community, and when she asked if I'd review Dear Jane, of course I said yes. Always a pleasure to share a friend's good news with the world. Or with a portion of the world. Okay, I have readers in a couple of countries that aren't the US. That counts, right?

Dear Jane is an LDS romance that follows Quinn Matthews on her mission and then home again, and all that happens afterwards. She and her best friend's brother fell in love right before she left to serve in Florida, but rather than staying home, she decided to fulfill her lifelong dream of being a missionary and went anyway, trusting him when he said he'd wait for her. Well, we all know how dangerous that is ... and the book's title will give it away that he did not, in fact, wait for her. She's devastated when she receives his "Dear Jane" letter, but she finishes out her mission with renewed focus, determined that she won't let it ruin her service.

I think it was this initial decision that propelled her through the rest of the book. She has a lot of stuff hit her when she gets home, but she digs in and focuses on the most important things, and that's part of what makes her a likeable character. She goes through her valleys, just as we all do, but then she gets back up again and keeps trudging forward.

I'm not going to give away too much of the plot because obviously, the goal here is for you to read the book for yourself, but I'll give a few hints.  Love sometimes comes from the most unexpected places. When those closest to us betray us, we have to look inside - and up - to keep moving forward. And what I appreciated best of all? Being righteous is not a "get out of trials free" card like some people say it is. Righteous people will have problems, but keeping the commandments helps us know where to look for comfort when those problems hit.

There are several editing issues throughout, but I'm nitpicky and those things stick out to me, so I won't do more than give a brief mention of that. I found this book really enjoyable, and I hope you get the chance to check it out for yourself. 

Purchase link: Amazon
Author's blog: Trapped Between a Scream and a Hug
Author's Facebook: Rachel Ward

Rachel Turner Ward graduated from Hillcrest High School after spending two years writing for the yearbook and the creative writing magazine. She then studied English at Brigham Young University­—Idaho, graduating with an emphasis in Literary Studies. She has contributed to several online publications, including Mormon Mommy Blogs and SheSteals. She has written a personal blog since 2009, Trapped Between a Scream and a Hug.  Rachel lives in Salt Lake with her six children and husband of 15 years.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Start Seeing Ridey Carts!

Several years ago, we saw the birth of the "Start Seeing Motorcycles!" campaign. I'm thinking of launching one of my own - "Start Seeing Ridey Carts!"

Nearly every grocery store has them - motorized shopping carts with dreadfully uncomfortable seats. They allow impaired customers to get their shopping done, and they really are a blessing. My kids and I have always called them "ridey carts" - it's a little more fun to say, I guess. At any rate, they're very common where we live, and I imagine they are where you live too.

As common as they are, though, a rather astonishing thing happens when you sit down in one. You suddenly disappear. It's like you're not even there anymore. A spotlight shines on you just long enough for people to wonder why you're using it, and then they can't see you anymore.

The things I'm listing in this post are true of everywhere I've lived and of every store where I've shopped. I'm not pointing fingers at any one town or demographic - I'm saying there are some universal issues to be explored. 

Allow me to share my story just to illustrate the points I'm going to make. We all enjoy a good story, right?

I have sacroiliac syndrome. In layman's terms, this means that at any given moment, the nerves in my hip will go numb and the muscles will stop working, and I have to drag that leg if I want to keep walking. This happens a lot when I've been sitting too long, standing too long, lying down too long . . . basically, it just happens whenever. I've learned to cope with it. I just limp a lot.  :) It's one of those invisible ailments that doesn't have any outward manifestations except that oh, I'm limping again.

That's one of the first things I want to discuss - the stigma of the ridey cart. I've heard it plenty - other shoppers speculating as to why someone is riding instead of walking. Usually their comments have to do with the other person's weight. "Well, if she wasn't so fat, she wouldn't need that cart." There's judgement attached to it, an indication that the person in the cart is somehow less valuable.

A couple of years ago, I had a cast, and when I'd go out shopping, I finally felt legal, like I had a genuine reason for being in the cart. That's just silly - outward evidence of an injury shouldn't be the determining factor in whether or not you need one, but psychologically, it did made me feel validated.

Thing is, I don't have to prove to anyone that I have a disability, just like someone with lupus or depression shouldn't have to prove that they are struggling. We don't have the right to require that of people. We don't have the right to judge them or say that they're fine just because we can't see what's wrong. I'd have to say that the vast majority of ailments are invisible, and if we base our opinions solely on what we can see, we're being ridiculous.

And yes, very often, the people who use ridey carts are overweight. That's because their disability makes it very hard for them to exercise, and then it becomes a cycle, with the lack of exercise and the disability playing off each other. But we can't point fingers and say, "Well, if that person wasn't so fat, they wouldn't need the cart." We have no way of knowing those kinds of details about someone else's life, and frankly, it's none of our business anyway. Going back to the previous paragraph, they shouldn't have to explain why they're overweight. There are a million different reasons why, and none of them are anyone else's concern. In my case, it's a combination of the disability, thyroid and adrenal problems, some underlying emotional issues, and the fact that chocolate is a thing. I told you that because I wanted to, not because I needed to. Big difference.

So, that's part one of the Stigma of the Ridey Cart - the judgment and the speculation. All very delightful, as I'm sure you can imagine. Now let's discuss part two - being invisible. Yes, you can be judged and be invisible at the same time.

Again, using myself as an example because I'm only qualified to share my own experiences, when I sit down in the cart, I immediately go on my guard because I know that no one can see me now. I have entered my own invisible plane, just like Wonder Woman. As I come around a corner, I'm the only one paying attention, so I must be the one to dart out of the way. People will park their carts smack dab in the middle of the aisle, making it impossible for me to get around. They frequently think they can outrun me, so they'll cross the aisle right in front of me, believing they can make it to the other side no problem.

But there is a problem, which is that ridey carts don't have breaks. The only thing I can do is let go of the handle, and then I coast to a stop. If you dart out in front of me and I hit you, I'm sorry, but there wasn't one thing I could do. Even if I had Fred Flintstone feet and could step on the ground and come to a stop, you'd still get hit, and let's face it - if I had Fred Flintstone feet, I wouldn't need the ridey cart.

In so many instances, I've had to back up and go around because of ladies who have stopped their carts to chat with each other and don't scoot out of the way when they see me coming. On the occasions when they do hear me excuse myself, I get one of those "looks." When I'm walking and pushing a regular cart, I'm able to go down the aisle because people move for me. I'm a real human then.

As I look back over this long post, I realize that I sound very bitter. I'm not, really. These are just experiences I've had that I don't think I would have thought about unless I were personally going through them. It's my hope in sharing this that others can become more aware. If I were to sum it all up, I'd say:

1. When you see someone in a ridey cart, please don't rush to conclusions. They are struggling with things you can't see, and they shouldn't have to prove their right to be in the cart.

2. When you pass them on an aisle, smile and be friendly. Let them know you're aware of them. Don't ignore them or duck around them like they're not even there.

3. Move your cart to the side if they're trying to get past. You'd do it for a regular cart - this is no different.

4. Please, please don't play chicken by trying to cross the aisle right in front of them. Remember that they can't stop quickly, and they would feel terrible if they hit you.

Please start seeing ridey carts. Understand that the people using them wouldn't be using them if they weren't experiencing some kind of difficulty - they're hardly the cool thing to do. Know that everyone has sorrow that the eye can't see, as the hymn says. And maybe share this link so others can start becoming more aware and we can all peacefully shop together because American consumerism is awesome, yo.
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