Monday, October 20, 2014

Notes from the Vegas Valley Book Festival

Here are some of the things I heard/learned at the Vegas Valley Book Festival.  Because I mostly wandered from booth to booth to tent to room, this is a regurgitation of my notes. I apologize for not being able to give credit to who said what.
What does humor mean? It’s a broader view of life with sensibilities and honesty. How does humor happen? You can always have a humorous sidekick, like Chandler from Friends or the animal characters in a Disney movie. You can also have a Ron Weasley  character—the average Joe whose job is point out all of the craziness going on around him. There is the traditional slapstick of low brow confronting the snobs. But the funniest situations are told with honesty, bravery and without social filters. Dark situations often are the funniest, because it’s then that we need humor the most.
All fiction is obligated to be interesting. It’s not enough to be instructive, amusing or to have beautiful sentences.
(This is me, trapped in the ghetto of Women's Fiction. I'm not sure what that means, but I think it applies to me.)

I liked this phrase, “trapped in the ghetto of Women’s Fiction.”I decided I need to transcend the genre. (That sounds pretentious, doesn’t it? And I don’t have a clue how to do it. Except for keep on writing the best, most interesting stories I can think of.)

Here’s some thoughts from Aimee Bender’s keynote address. Just like my spillage of BJ Novak’s presentation (you can read that here) this is, of course, colored by my interpretation.

Question of Intent
Happiness comes from having creative choices.
Writing valid pages. What is good belongs to no one, but to the language. All things long to persist in their being. Writers are not in command of their material. What is in our heads won’t look the same on the page. It will be a curious, different thing. What we think doesn’t match what we make. Ideas large and brilliant become small on the page. But what’s amazing is that we make something else surprising.
“There is no book in your head.” No one else can see the book in your mind. It must be written to be of value. Even if it’s squalid and ugly, to be of worth, it must be told. And the act of sharing is living.
Are our desires getting in the way of living? Are we limited by our goals? We need to wake up to the here and now of our lives and celebrate. We need to let things happen, be open to opportunities, and let go of expectations that aren’t grounded in reality. If we refuse to do so, we can never be happy.
Can you plan a life? When does intention interfere? Invention is born in boredom. We must court boredom, because there is something beautiful and surprising on the other side.
No one has one story bursting to be set free. Waiting for the one perfect story limits our creativity. We need time to find the stories tucked away in our minds and then we must coax them forward without prejudgment.
Let the page teach you about yourself. Flannery O’Conner said, “Your beliefs are the light by which you see, but they are not what you see.” We can’t escape the bedrock of who we are, even if we really, really want to be someone different on the page, we can’t. We might not intend to weave ourselves into our stories, but there we are. Our beliefs light our work.

Let the work and the world happen.

(I want to put in a disclaimer here. The festival and the workshops were all free and open to the public. I do not feel even a tiny bit of guilt for sharing my notes, because I hope that if anyone should happen to take notes during one of my talks  and that should they feel compelled to share them, I hope that they will in the most open and public manner possible. Remember, as Aimee Bender said, sharing is living. There are no notes inside our heads. To be of value, they have to be shared. I once asked someone to share their notes from a workshop they attended, and they refused to do so because I hadn't attended the workshop. To share, in their opinion, was to somehow steal from the presentation. I really disagree. Of course, the notes of one attendee can't be the same as actually attending the workshop, because each attendee will come home with their own impression and spin. It's like saying I can't tell you about that movie, because you didn't pay your $12. to watch it. Sharing is living.)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

My Night with BJ Novak


Thursday night, I met BJ Novak in the Clark County Library.  He probably won't remember me, although I took a front and center seat, but I kept careful notes, and by writing and sharing his thoughts, I hope I'll remember some of what he said to me (and about 300 others.)
The following are paraphrases of his thoughts, but of course, they're spun with my own take of the conversation. I guess it's fair to say, here is BJ Novak according to Kristy.
Speaking of Las Vegas, "This is a great place to just focus on literature. Not much else going on."
"The more intelligent your writing, the mainstream and popular it will be."
"Write for the kid sitting next you. Everything else is just homework."
The importance of truth in comedy. "Everything has to come from truth first and be funny second. Everything has to feel like a real  moment that could really happen to a real person."
"Reading should be your way to rebellion--your way to go where ever you want and do anything you want."
Some of his favorite lines. (Not all are his.)
"Magnets are interesting enough--they don't need to be tarted up."
Michael Scott when asked if it was more important to be loved or feared. "Easy, both. I want people to fear how  much they love me."
"Battered women--sounds delicious, but that doesn't make it right." (That was his.)
On the writing craft:
He always carries a notebook to jot down impressions and thoughts.
The blue sky period--where there are no bad ideas, no contradictions and everything and anything can fly.
The Goldilocks outline-- a barebones story idea.
He tested every story in his collection of short stories,One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by reading them out loud at a theater in LA. If the audience responded, the story made the book.
My favorite moment of the night--he invited all of the children in the audience up to the stage and read from his bestselling book, The Book with No Pictures. When asked the legacy he wanted to leave for his grandchildren, he said he hopes to be remembered for his children's  book--where he showed it was possible to love just words. All we need are words and our own imaginations.
He said that when he gets to Heaven and meets God,  he hopes that God will say to him, "Everyone is here." (That's my hope, too.)

(I'm also hoping Mr. Novak will read this and know that I'm really grateful for the night we shared. And I hope he won't feel like I butchered his presentation.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

FREE! The Paranormal Thirteen


THE PARANORMAL THIRTEEN



13 14 full length paranormal and urban fantasy novels featuring witches, vampires, werewolves, mermaids, psychics, Loki, time travel and more! 

Dark Angel by Christine Pope 
Twin Souls by K.A. Poe 
The Girl by Lola St Vil 
Rest for the Wicked by Cate Dean 
Drowning Mermaids by Nadia Scrieva 
Wolves by C. Gockel 
The Witch Hunter by Nicole R Taylor 
Beyond the Fortuneteller’s Tent by Kristy Tate 
Nolander by Becca Mills 
The Medium by C.J. Archer 
Dream Student by J.J. DiBendetto 
Deception by Stacy Claflin 
The Black Parade by Kyoko M 
The Thought Readers by Dima Zales 


Featuring my novel, Beyond the Fortuneteller's Tent, a 2014 I Heart Indies Finalist





Thursday, October 16, 2014

ANCESTORS--A LOVE LETTER



I'm so excited. In a few days, the Authors of Main Street will re-release our boxed set, Christmas on Main Street, and to sweeten an already sweet deal (13 books by 13 authors for .99) we're going to also offer a companion decorating book. This is the "craft" I'll be featuring.

Some will say it's not a craft, per se, but I made mine and I love it. Even it's merely a fill in the blank sort of project. No sewing, paints, or glue required.
This is in my hallway. Here's the chart close up.

I actually drew this chart and with a ruler and compass, it's pretty easy. It goes back 8 generations. I used a the computer to print out the words (not the names, you'll have to do that by hand) and then took it to Staples to have it copied on a nice sheet of paper. (I don't have a copy machine this size.)

But, if you don't want to draw your own fan, you can find one already made at https://familysearch.org/blog/en/printing-fan-chart/. There are also a number of charts you can find online. Just google genealogy fan chart. This is the same site where you can research your ancestors. But I have to warn you, once you start you may get addicted and up with something like this:

This is hard to see, but it's my husband's family. Their line has been followed all the way back to Adam and Eve. (I'm sure mistakes have been made.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Three Weekends in October

I spent the first weekend of October with my family in Park City, Utah. I love the fall season with it's bright colors and cold, crisp air. I love General Conference when Mormons from all over the world gather to hear from our church leaders, and I love sharing this time with my husband and children.


I spent the next weekend at my dad's house in Arlington, Washington. My Uncle died--you can read about that here: anyone-lived-in-pretty-how-town  I went to his funeral, and heard wonderful messages about a life beyond this one. My favorite talk was about having a hope when all hope is gone and living and leaning on the promises of our hopes being fulfilled in a life beyond the grave. I also spent time with my dad, picked apples and made apple cider.
Next weekend, I'm going to Las Vegas. Mostly, I'm going to spend time with my daughter and her family (and I love them very, very much) but I'm also going because it's the Las Vegas Book Festival. My book Beyond the Fortuneteller's Tent is a finalist in the I Heart Indies Contest, and the winner will be announced at the festival. I'm also looking forward to hearing from amazingly talented writers.

Three weekends. Each filled with their own unique blessings, reminding me that I don't have to win a contest to feel incredibly loved and blessed.



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Clothes We Wear

Are we recognized for who we are by the clothes we wear? Just like a priest is recognizable by his collar, or a policeman by his uniform, or a scientist by his lab jacket, we also, sometimes without much thought, put on a daily uniform that tells the world who we are.

And sometimes this can go horribly awry. A few examples:
Once when my children were little, I walked into church with the back of my skirt stuck up so that I flashed my whole pantyhose and panties clad bottom to the congregation. Some kind woman took my arm and hurried me into the bathroom. Turns out, I must have sat on a half-eaten tootsie-pop.
Fast forward about ten years and I’m hurrying to the high school for back to school night. There’s one teacher that I really needed to speak with. I didn’t have time for dinner so I grabbed an Almond Joy candy bar from someone’s Halloween bag and I eat it on the way. Turns out, I only ate half. The other half had fallen into my lap and melted between thighs, staining my white pants. Because the high school was about twenty minutes from our house, I couldn’t go home to change. But I also wasn’t about to walk around the school with a brown stain on the crotch of my pants, so I hurried into the nearby mall, prayed I wouldn’t see anyone I knew, and bought the first thing I could find.
Last example, once when my husband had a business boondoggle in San Francisco, we decided to drive. Half way through the eight hour trip, we stopped for lunch and ate it at a park. I took off my shoes…(Do I really need to finish this story?) It ends with me having to walk into a very expensive hotel barefoot.

One of the few lectures I attended and enjoyed with my husband when he was in graduate school was given by a professor of organizational behavior on “dress for success--” a popular buzz-phrase in the 1980s. (Remember power ties?) He said that the reason the business world wears dark boring suits is so that nothing in their appearance would detract from their ideas. What you wear should never call attention from what you have to say. Your shoes should never receive more admiration than your thoughts.

When Larry worked in Midtown New York, we lived in the commuter town, Darien, Ct. A hefty portion of the town’s population daily commuted to the city. We lived about two blocks from the train station and Larry walked to and from the station, but sometimes he would run. Not because he was late, but because he was cold and running was much faster than walking. After a while, he learned to stop and walk if he saw a car approaching because, inevitably, the driver of the car would assume he was late for his train and stop and offer him a ride. Since he is unsocial by nature, this embarrassed him. Darien is a beautiful community—we had wonderful neighbors there, but I wondered if Larry had replaced his suit, tie and brief case for jeans, a corduroy jacket and a backpack—would the cars of Darien have stopped and offered him a ride? No, probably not. Right or wrong, assumptions are made by the clothes we wear.
New York City investment bankers follow a strict uniform code. The earlier the commute, the stricter the code. In the fall—raincoats--and then one late autumn day wool overcoats replace the raincoats…their attire is far more predictable than the stock markets. For a good reason, remember the advice of the organizational behavior professor--never let your appearance detract from what you have to say. Don’t try to hide behind your clothes.

In New York City, I saw women wearing tea length fur coats to the Macy Day Thanksgiving parade. I have never seen women wearing fur to the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. Again, for a variety of good reasons, but the overriding reason, the one I want to talk about, is that a fur coat in California would be as out of place as a pair of flip-flops on the stock exchange floor.

If you’re a den mother, wear the lemon yellow shirt with pride. If you’re a yogi, wear your leotard. It’s worth the cost—whatever that is--to let the world know who you are, what your purpose is, and that you need to be taken seriously, because your daily work is seriously important.



Fortunately, for me, I write novels. This means that I get to spend the day in fuzzy pajamas. On the days I wear clothes, I can slouch in pants with holes in the knees and sweaters that grow fuzz balls, but, every once in awhile, I need to look like a respectable, contributing member of society. Sometimes, although usually not, I want to be taken seriously and when I do—I dust off my best clothes and put them on. And although the suit doesn’t change who I am inside and underneath, I can move and act with confidence, knowing that the skirt won’t slip and show my white belly, or that the blouse won’t shift and expose my bra strap. Well cut clothes can do that for you and when you need them, it’s nice to know you have them at the ready. I’ve heard it said that fashion is all about what doesn’t itch, but sometimes, every once in a while, it’s also about looking your best so that you can share your most brilliant ideas without worrying about your outward appearance—which should never outshine who you are on the inside.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Second Excerpt from The Witching Well

For those of you interested, here's the second
excerpt from The Witching Well.

You can read the beginning of the story here:Witching Well



Celia lifted her head off the table, dazed. She must have fallen asleep. How embarrassing. She checked the tablecloth to make sure she hadn’t been drooling. It felt dry. What if she had snored? She cast a nervous glance around.
The party continued as if she had never left/slept. She wasn’t sure, but it seemed as if the band was even playing the same song. That wasn’t possible. The dream seemed longer than a few seconds, more than a few minutes even. But no one was looking or staring at her.
Becca was chatting up some guy over by the bar. Lacey had her arms wrapped around someone wearing a purple bow-tie and they moved to the music. Celia twisted around and caught the gaze of Jason West.
Flushing, she looked away. Touching her cheeks, she tried to quell the heat flaming her face. So grateful no one, and by no one she meant Jason West, could read her thoughts, Celia slipped off her pinchy shoes and fled.
Later, she would have to try and explain her sudden departure to her mom and sister. But there were some things she would never be able to explain. Or understand.
 Like the garter pressing something sharp into her upper thigh.





CHAPTER THREE
Jason followed Celia outside, but he hated himself for it. He didn’t know what he would say if she would just turn around and talk to him…or look at him with anything other than loathing. Standing in the soft moonlight, he watched her move away from him. He wasn’t used to rejection, and her contempt stung.
The sign hanging from the street lamp read, The Hunt Club. The Club, once a gentleman’s hunting and fishing playground, had been converted to a country club sometime within the last century. Fox and deer roamed much more freely now that the humans had replaced their rifles with golf carts and tennis racquets. Watching Celia pass through the dark gardens to the parking lot, Jason wished he had something, anything, that could make her stay.
She walked with a strange gait, and he blamed her lack of grace on her shoes. Knowing Mia, she had probably picked out bridesmaids shoes that matched the dresses in hideousness.
When Celia climbed in her Toyota Corolla, Jason headed for his Porsche. He sat behind the wheel for a moment before starting the engine.
The car sputtered and died.
He popped the hood and went to inspect. Everything reeked of fuel as if someone had spilled a jug of lighter fluid. He had a mental image of his car exploding into flames.
“Problems?” A vaguely familiar looking man in a dark suit approached.
Jason scratched his head. “I don’t know what’s wrong with it.” Suspicious, he got back behind the wheel to check the gas gage. “It says it’s out of gas, but that’s ridiculous. I filled it up on my way here.”
The stranger smiled and pointed the water bottle in his hand to the dark spot beneath the Porsche. “Careful, don’t light a match.”
Climbing back out of his car, Jason studied the pool oozing down the lot and softly swore.
“Here,” the man said, handing him the water. “You might need this.”
Jason looked at the bottle and then at all the cars in the lot. “If someone drops a light—this isn’t going to help.”
The man nodded and laughed. “You’d be surprised. Do you need me to call someone?”
“No, I got it.” Jason pushed buttons for roadside assistance on his phone.
The man looked like he wanted to say more, but after a long moment, he waved goodbye and headed for the shadowy corner of the lot.
While Jason waited for the tow, he had an itchy feeling on the back of his neck of being watched. He tried to ignore it, but his thoughts grew wary and suspicious. His gaze flicked around the parking lot before landing on the dark woods just beyond the pale street lights. The trees reached for the star studded sky and blackberry bushes, ferns and brambles clustered beneath their canopy. It would be an easy place to hide. Did his car mysteriously spring a fuel leak, or had the line been cut? And who would do such a thing? Celia Quinn?
Celia was the only person he knew that hated him, but she wouldn’t do this. Would she? He spent a few entertaining moments imagining her crawling beneath his car, her long legs poking out, the pink shoes pointing to the sky. Would she know how to find the fuel line?
No. There was no way.
She would have been dirty and smelling of gas, but instead she’d been sparkling and smelling of perfume. Jason dismissed all his dark thoughts, unscrewed the lid of the water bottle and took a long drink.
Just before he passed out, he thought he heard twigs breaking in the nearby woods.
#
 Resisting the urge to lift her skirts and inspect her leg, Celia limped toward the parking lot. She felt the gaze of Jason the elder and Jason the rat-fink on her back as she passed through the crowd.
A touch on her arm. “Are you okay?” her brother, Joel asked. “You’re walking funny.”
She pulled away from him and shook her head, refusing to give him an answer. Doing her best to ignore the pain in her thigh, she held her head up, braced her shoulders and tried to sail out the door.
Her tension eased when she hit the lot. The dark night steadied her. Sanity returned. The pain in her leg had to be phantom pain—the sort that plagued amputees—the all-in-your-head sort.
She waited until she got into the Corolla to lift her skirts.
Emeralds sparkled in the moonlight.
No. No. No.
Nothing about that little episode could be true. And yet, here were the emeralds to argue differently. After easing the necklace out from under the garter, she studied it. She really didn’t know anything about precious gems, but the size of these stones told her that if they were real they needed to be kept somewhere safe. Not knowing what else to do, she shoved them in the glove compartment and locked it.
Gripping the wheel, she tried to make herself put the car in drive, but a swelling nausea kept her in park. She rolled down the window and took a deep breath of the clean night air. The smell of pine, autumn leaves, and a nearby river filled her lungs. She leaned back, closed her eyes and drifted back in time.
#
Jason stood in a shaft of moonlight shining through the trees. His head thundered as if he’d been whacked by a heavy board…or a woman wielding a tree limb.
What the hell?
“Celia!” he burst out and flung his arms to cover his head. “Come on, I know you’re mad but murder is illegal…”
She swung the tree branch at him again. Chuckling came from behind him. Three men stood in the shadows, obviously enjoying the show. He wrenched the branch from Celia’s hands and was about to turn it loose on the three spectators when one of them said, “Getting bruised by a dame, boss?”
Boss?
Jason stood up straight, his mind trying to fit together all the missing pieces of this puzzle. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Celia lunge for a revolver lying at his feet.
The thing looked deadly, despite its obvious antiquity. Jason’s instincts took over. His left arm shot out, knocking the revolver back to the dirt. He hit her with all his weight, and they tumbled to the ground. Everything felt soft about her, but not the hard, cold reality of the gun pressed against his back. He jumped to his feet, grabbed the pistol, and shoved it in his waistband.  She looked smashed and yet beautiful among the fallen autumn leaves.
She pushed her hair out of her eyes and glared up at him. He blinked back at her, confusion returning. Where had the horses and carriage come from? Who was screaming in the carriage? He pulled out his best court defense voice. “Celia, I don’t know what this is about.”
She scrambled up and brushed off her hideous dress. “You…” she paused as if searching for the right word, “…accosted me!”
I accosted you?”
Celia placed her hands on her hips. “Yeah, you were all,” she dropped her voice and did a fair imitation of him, “stand and deliver…”
Jason would have laughed on any other occasion.
“Stand and deliver? Seriously?” Jason tried to rake his fingers through his hair. He had forgotten he still held the gun. He studied it. It looked real. He let it dangle at his side, although he did wonder what he would do if she tried to whack him with another tree limb. “What did you do to my car?”
“Your car?” Celia rolled to her toes. “Look around you. No cars. Just this fancy carriage, complete with horses.”
Jason glanced around, his finger twitching on the trigger. He wanted to shoot something.
“No street lights…no throughway…probably no bathrooms…” Celia’s voice rose in panic. “Wait—when did you change?”
“Change?”
“Your clothes. Two seconds ago, you were wearing a cape and mask,” she waved her hand near her throat, “and a yellow cravat.”
“I would never wear a cravat.”
“But you were.” She looked serious and pointed over his shoulder. “Then you went into the woods. And now your back in your typical Jason attire.”
“My typical Jason attire? Are you mocking my suits?”
“No. I like your suits. But you know, that cape and mask—and especially the cravat—were over the top.”
This was an elaborate, cruel hoax. She must want to get back at him for getting her grandmother to sign over the lease, and she staged this…this… his mind skipped and stuttered over all things that didn’t make sense. Horses, carriage, three men in really dirty costumes…
But she was still Celia, the woman who hated him, and she still wore that putrid pink dress, so she had somehow drugged him…slipped something into his drink…carried him to the middle of the woods…
Really? Was she that crazy? Or that strong?
 “That’s it! I’m done. This was entertaining…until you hit me in the head with a tree, and tried to shoot me.” He stepped forward and grabbed her by the wrists.
She didn’t even try to wiggle away. “I never tried to shoot you.”
Jason nodded. “Attempted murder, a capital offense.”
“You pointed a gun at me! And you tried to rob me.”
“Rob you? Of what?”
Celia angled toward him, her eyes menacing and mean. “I don’t know. You’ve already taken everything I have of any value!”
“Really? Everything? What about your mom, your brother and sister, your grandmother?”
“And my health?” Sarcasm laced her voice.
“Yes! Your health…not everything has a monetary value.”
She snorted. “That’s very noble sounding, coming from a man who two minutes ago was willing to shoot an old woman for her ruby ring.”
“What are you talking about?” Then he decided he didn’t care. He plucked the handkerchief from his suit pocket. “Never mind. No more talking!” He shoved the handkerchief in her mouth.
Celia coughed and grunted while Jason pinned her wrists in his hand.
Now what am I going to do with her? He thought as he used his tie to bind her wrists together.
Jason took in the dark night, the carriage, the horses and his thoughts scrambled. The last thing he remembered, before Celia and the nightmare began, he had been in his car waiting for roadside assistance.
He must have fallen asleep.
“This isn’t real, is it?” he asked Celia.
She shrugged and made gagging noises.
“This is a dream, right? I’m dreaming.”
He took Celia’s bound wrists, drew her to him and pulled the handkerchief out of her mouth.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“If this is a dream…my dream…then I’m going to kiss you.” And he did.
#
Jason woke beside his car. His head still hurt, but instead of a 17th-century revolver jabbing in his back, he found a large rock. Slowly, he turned to his side, and pushed himself up to a sitting position.
Anyone leaving the wedding would think him drunk. Maybe he was. He tried to remember how much he had to drink, but couldn’t. It couldn’t have been that much, he told himself. Propping up his knees and folding his arms, he placed his head in his hands. Nothing like this had ever happened to him before. While his friends had boozed through college, he’d been too busy working, studying, and trying to up his score on the LSAT. In law school, he’d been on law review, moot court…passing out in a parking lot was not his thing.
But what was his thing?

Clearly, Celia Quinn was his thing.