Friday, April 27, 2012

Catfish and Marketing

Can I just say I love youtube? Today a donkey basketball game AND catfish! Who knows what I’ll come across tomorrow? Who needs to sell books when there’s a whole world of wonder just a few clicks away? 

I wrote this to a friend this morning and his response was so funny, I had to share:

Me: I had been comforting myself by saying that I have a lot of followers and blog readers—until yesterday when I realized that the bulk of my readers (like 75+ a day) are from Russia. Russia? Do they even read English? My sister suggested the mafia, but I think a greater evil is at work.

With two books published and two more nearly ready for editing, I plan to take the summer off from writing and focus on marketing—which I find to be about as interesting as catfish.

Don’s response:  Even catfish can be interesting if you take the right approach.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


A friend in my writer’s group, Debra Holland, check her out on Amazon, has had phenomenal success self publishing. I’m grateful for her success for a two reasons.
1. It’s motivating and encouraging.
 2. I can watch and learn from her.

In fact, currently she’s teaching an online class through RWA on self publishing and I’m taking it. I’m not a very vocal student—I’m more of a lurker—a stalker. I’ve made Debra my case study and here’s some Debra versus Kristy stats.

Debra has five books out, six if you include her nonfiction book on grieving. The first book in Debra’s Montana Sky series is only .99 cents. Debra’s book won the Golden Heart—I think that’s a huge selling point. Romance readers know darn well what a Golden Heart is and what to expect from a Golden Heart winner.

Debra has three books in the Montana Sky series and the covers are all very similar. I think the advantage here is if readers enjoyed the first book, they can correctly assume they’re in for another sweet western experience with the other two books in the series.

So, what can I do with this? I’m entering contests. I thought about changing my covers, but people seem to love my covers so I’m sticking with them.

In the next few months I’ll be participating in a couple of “book buffets” where I’ll offer my books for a discount.

But mostly, I’m writing. Debra has six books, I hope to have four published by the end of the year.

The interesting, or should I say boring, thing about all this writing is it gives me nothing to say in conversations. When friends ask me how I am or what I’ve been up to, I have very little to say. I admit I’ve been holed up in my room playing with fictional characters, but that can only take a conversation so far. And unlike writing fiction, I can’t just make stuff up. That would be lying.

I’ll finish Losing Penny by the end of the week. Tomorrow disaster will strike at a donkey basketball game. I love writing--the making up stuff part. Even if I don’t sell as well as Debra. Yet.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Big Enough Table

This morning while trolling through my blogger dashboard I came across a post of a woman with six young children who described her money is no object “dream.” Among other things, she wants a table big enough for her family of eight.

I remember when we bought our “big enough table.” Before the big enough table, we ate at a table that my husband made. I loved that table. The kids sat on a homemade bench while the grown-ups sat on folding, wooden chairs—I liked how the chairs looked, but I didn’t like how they pinched fingers and easily collapsed. The chairs had to go and eventually we bought a giant oak table and eight Windsor back chairs.

When we bought the “big enough table” I said, This is a forty year table. Since then, how many breakfasts, lunches and dinners? How many science, homework and sewing projects? How many Thanksgiving turkeys, bunny pancakes and Valentine cookies? Only four of the original chairs have survived. They’re so worn, I’ve covered them slip covers that match the fabric of the curtains and pads on the four new chairs. With both leaves locked in place, the table can easily seat twelve. The pale blond oak still shines when I oil it. It stands firm beneath me when I stand on it to clean the ceiling fan. Twenty years later, it’s hard to believe that my table has already survived half of its life expectancy. Maybe it’s a life time table.

Next year when the girls leave, maybe we’ll take out the leaves—but then where would we put the chairs? No, I think we’ll continue to eat at that big enough table, even when we are the lonely-onlys.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Finishing Losing Penny

I'm sharing my goals in this very public way so that I'll stay on track. Feel free to cheer me on. I want--no, cross that out--I will finish my first draft of Losing Penny this week. That's two scenes a day. Watch me go.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Changing the Mood

I read last night at my writer’s group and someone asked what does this scene accomplish? What’s the goal? What’s the motivation? It had a number of goals—a clue was discovered, a relationship was strengthened, an important conversation happened—but for me the most important thing that happened was the mood changed.

I’m rewriting a mystery I wrote years ago, back in the days when I loved Elizabeth George, PD James and I watched PBS’s MYSTERY every Sunday night. I stopped reading Ms. George after she killed Lynley’s wife and the last PD James I picked up I had a hard time slogging through. Even though in junior high I set and accomplished the goal of ready every single Agatha Christie novel somewhere, somehow since then I’ve lost my love for mysteries. I’m not loving this book, but I do think it has its moments and because I think it’s worth resurrecting I spend a few hours on it each week.

But not all of those hours can be murder and mayhem. Sometimes I have to throw in the Boy Scouts, maybe string one or two of them up from hooks in the slaughter house (just for fun) and push them around. And if somebody’s hair gets tangle in someone else’s zipper—that’s all good, because sometimes the purpose of the scene is to change the mood.


Please, don’t let the boys be at the river, Blair prayed as she instinctively walked toward it. She glanced back at the house—no sign of Alec. Maybe the boys were with him. Still, she followed a path through some long grass toward the river—the worst case scenario.
Muffled voices and scuffling came from behind an outbuilding. She rounded the corner. A low fence surrounded a slaughter house. A beam studded with hooks ran above the boy’s heads, and from one of these hooks they had hung the boy by his feet. He swung wildly from a rope and the boys took turns pushing him. His face turned toward Blair, his mouth hung open, and he crossed eyes.
His distorted face loomed toward her, and she rushed toward him. “Boys -” she began, as his head swung ominously close to the slaughter house wall. He hurtled at her, his head hitting Blair in the belly and lifting her off the ground. She screamed and fell to her knees. The swinging boy twirled around her head, her hair tangling in the teeth of his jacket zipper. He balanced on her head, his legs and arms kicking and flailing while the boys laughed. Blair’s shoulders sagged under his weight.
“My hair!” Blair called out while the boy twisted, trying to free himself. Every movement tugged on her hair. With one hand she tried to keep the boy from swinging, while the other clawed at her tangled hair. “Hold still! Ow!”
Someone gave an outraged gasp and another burst out laughing. She knew that she had to look ridiculous with a boy attached to her head like an elaborate hat.
“What happened here?” Blair recognized Alec’s voice. She tried to knee-hop so that she could see him.
“We weren’t doing nothing-” a boy said.
Blair still couldn’t see Alec, but she cried out to him, “Get this boy off my head!”
“I think her hair is stuck,” a boy offered.
“How-” Cheryl began, but her words were lost in laughter.
Blair tried to wrench her hair free and immediately her hair tightened in the zipper’s teeth. “Help me!”
Alec stepped forward to clasp the boy. It helped to have the him still, but Blair couldn’t think of a time when she had been in a more uncomfortable position. Cheryl began to tug Blair’s hair, but her hands shook as she laughed. Blair considered hitting her.
“Stop,” Blair told her. She struggled to keep her weight on her uninjured leg. “You’re hurting me.”
“I’m just trying to help,” Cheryl said, working at the jacket. “Jacob, can you get out of the jacket?”
“We need some scissors,” Alec said.
“You can’t cut my jacket,” Jacob said. “My mom would kill me.”
“We’ll have to cut her hair,” Cheryl said.
“I’ve a pocket knife,” a boy said.
“That’ll work,” Alec said.
“You’re going to cut my hair with a knife?” Blair’s voice rose to a squeak.
“It’s my knife,” the boy said. “So, I get to do it.”
“No,” all of the adults said at once.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Spring Break and the LDS Institute of Religion

I did not clean out my linen closet or dig out my laundry room, nor did I organize my art supplies. I did go to San Luis Obispo with my husband and daughters. I love San Luis Obispo! Victorian houses, historical sites, farmers’ market with oatmeal cookies—as well as fresh produce—of course, the beach, funky shops, small theaters…happy sigh.
On our way home, they dropped me off in Santa Barbara so that I could speak at the LDS Institute of Religion. That morning was filled with nerves (me) and thunder, lightning and torrential rain (the weather). We worried that no one would come. Five minutes before we were to begin there were about ten guys and one physics major girl. And although I was there to speak on discovering our lives missions, I also hoped that maybe some of the audience would rush home and order my books. Guys and physic major gals really aren’t my target audience. But in the end we had about twenty students--more guys than gals—but even guys can appreciate a good ghost story. Here’s an abbreviated version of my talk:
Joseph Smith told us that “Three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation. First, we must believe God the Father actually exists. Second, we must have an understanding of His divine character, perfections and attributes. Third, we need an actual knowledge that the course of life we are pursuing is according to God’s will.”
Today I want to talk about that third thing, perhaps the hardest thing--discovering and pursuing the course of life that the Lord wants us to live. But first, before we talk about ourselves as individuals, I think it’s important to discuss who we are and who we’ve always been.
Boyd K Packard told us,“God is our Father! All the love and generosity manifest in the ideal earthly father is magnified, beyond the capacity of mortal mind to comprehend, in Him who is our Father and our God. His judgments are just, his mercy without limit, his power to compensate beyond any earthly comparison. Remember that mortal life is a brief moment, for we will live eternally. There will be ample (I almost use the word time, but time does not apply here), there will be ample opportunity for all injustices, all inequities to be made right, all loneliness and deprivation compensated, and all worthiness rewarded when we keep the faith. Our life does not all end with mortal death; it just begins.”
So, accepting that God is our father, that He loves us and because He loves us he wants us to be happy—we need to ask ourselves if we’re living the lives that will bring us the most happiness. I was taught that in our pre-existence, before we came to this earth, we were given a mission to fulfill. And for each of us, that mission is unique and individualized. If you’re not fulfilling the mission you were sent to do—you won’t be happy. It doesn’t matter if your works are righteous, good and selfless—if it’s not in keeping with the promises you made before you coming to earth—you won’t be happy. If you’re not fulfilling you’re personal ministry, you’ll be frustrated and discontent.
Joseph Campbell called our ministries “Your Bliss.” Oprah Winfrey called them “Sweet Spots.” She said, “They’re the moments when we’re immersed in the things we were put on earth to do, the things that tap into our strongest strengths and deepest loves, the things that let us be the most us we can possibly be—the things we are called to do.”
Prayer, scripture study, the spirit, patriarchal blessings, priesthood blessings can help us find our bliss, our sweet spot, but even then—sometimes it’s hard.
So, please take this simple test with me.
Question 1. When you think about your work, what emotions does it bring? When you’re honoring your calling, there’s an undeniable sense of stimulation and exhilaration. It will just feel right.
2. Are you serving others? Anything that makes you feel strong, connected and aligned with your calling will bless others. Every good work you do will impact those around you.
3. Does it make you excited to start your day? There’s a song by Billy Joel with the line, “Hardly anyone can see just how good I am—Rosalinda says she knows. Crazy Latin dancing solo down in Herald Square, Oh Havana I've been searching for you everywhere. We need to search for our own Havanas. Even if hardly anyone can see just how good we are.
Still, sometimes it’s difficult. I have struggled with this.
I’d like to share an experience I had after finishing my novel Hailey’s Comments. I’d made a goal to query fifty agents and after a few weeks the rejection letters were flying in, each bringing a blow to my fragile ego. My friends own successful businesses, they teach in schools, run preschools, take in foster children- I write stories no one reads.

We were vacationing in the San Juan Islands with my husband’s family. I hadn’t written anything in weeks. When we visited Victoria, BC I knew I had to see Craigdarroch Castle.
My novel, Hailey’s Comments takes place on a fictional island in the Pacific Northwest. The Dunsmuir home is a stone Victorian mansion, complete with turret and a widow’s walk that overlooks the ocean. In my novel the family matriarch, Helen, is murdered by her grandson, James Dunsmuir.
In Victoria, high on a hill, stands Craigdarroch Castle, but it’s not a castle with ramparts and moat. It’s a stone Victorian mansion complete with turret and a widow’s walk overlooking the ocean. It looks exactly as I’d envisioned my fictional Dunsmuir home. I stood outside on the grounds marveling. When I went upstairs, I read that the home was built by Robert Dunsmuir and after his death became the property of his widow, Joan. Joan and her son James, who shares my villain’s name, had a stormy relationship and were estranged for many years.
Until that day, I’d never visited Victoria, to my recollection I hadn’t any prior knowledge of the city’s prominent families or of Craigdarroch Castle. I’d never heard of the Dunsmuir family. As I stood on the Castle’s widow’s walk and watched the ships moving along the water, I felt a hand resting on my shoulder, pressing me forward, urging me to continue to write my dreams.
(My apologies to the Dunsmuir family. In reality James was most likely a perfectly lovely person and if he had reasons for being estranged from his mother, I'm absolutely sure it's not because he murdered his grandmother. I have since changed the names in my novel, which, by the way, is currently beneath my bed).
George Albert Smith said, “We are living eternal lives. Eternity doesn’t begin after this life but mortality is a crucial part of eternity. I sometimes have said to my friends when they seemed to be at the crossroads, uncertain as to which way they wanted to go, ‘Today is the beginning of eternal happiness or eternal disappointment for you.’” Our comprehension of this life is that it is eternal life—that we are living in eternity today as much as we ever will live in eternity. the intelligence that God has placed within it, that which has power to reason and to think, that which has power to sing and to speak, knows no death; it simply passes from this sphere of eternal life, and awaits This life is not given to us as a pastime. There was a solemn purpose in our creation, in the life that God has given to us. Let us study what that purpose is, that we may progress and obtain eternal life.”
One last personal experience, a number of years ago I traveled to Scotland with my husband. We had a wonderful time poking through ruins of castles. We enjoyed going off the beaten path, following goat trails to 13th and 14th century ruins. The castles were generally built on hills for better visibility of the kingdom and its borders. As I stood on a castle’s ramparts—I could see for miles of beautiful countryside, my only company, aside from my husband who was exploring some other castle part, seemed to be sheep, I imagined what sort of queen I would be if I had a kingdom. I liked to think that I’d be generous, kind, giving—and it suddenly occurred to me—I did and I do have a kingdom. My life is my kingdom and I can make of it what I want.
President Spencer W. Kimball said,
“Each one of you has it within the realm of his possibility to develop a kingdom over which you will preside as its king and god. You will need to develop yourself and grow in ability and power and worthiness, to govern such a world with all of its people. You are sent to this earth not merely to have a good time or to satisfy urges or passions or desires. You are sent to this earth, not to ride merry-go-rounds, airplanes, automobiles, and have what the world calls “fun.” You are sent to school, for that matter, to begin as a human infant and grow to unbelievable proportions in wisdom, judgment, knowledge, and power. . . . That is why in our childhood and your youth and our young adulthood we must stretch and grow and remember and prepare for the later life when limitation will terminate so that we can go on and on and on.”
Does this mean that I will become a bestselling author or that you will become an American Idol superstar? Probably not, but I can write, and I can create novels in every spare second I can find and when someone  takes the time to tell me they loved my stories and characters—it’s more than enough of a reward. And you can do whatever you like, too, even make music—maybe you’ll be singing in a church, or a convalescent center, but if your music brings joy to you and especially to others, our loving Heavenly Father will give you and I all the opportunities and resources we need to fulfill the missions He has sent us here to do.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Writer's Block--When Your Imaginary Friends Don't Want to Play

I’m about 13 scenes away from the end of my novel Losing Penny…thirteen scenes…about 130 pages. It sounds far, but it’s not. If I had the time and attention I could hammer it out in a week. Plenty of time, no attention.

I spoke in church yesterday—Easter Sunday, the Atonement of Christ—not an easy-peasy speak off the top of my hat sort of thing. (If you’re interested, you can read the talk on my family blog

An interesting thing happened—I shared the pulpit with the bishop who served while I swas Relief Society president—so, about six years ago, we shared the pulpit on a number of occasions. That’s totally off topic and I’m not sure why I’m mentioning it, when I’m supposed to be writing about how I’m not writing…

So, what does the fact that I spoke in church yesterday have to do with the fact I’m not cranking out my thirteen missing scenes? I’m speaking at the University of Santa Barbara’s Institute of Religion on Friday. Last night I had a dream that I was lost in Santa Barbara and I needed to find the institute building AND write my talk in less than fifteen minutes. So, I took the hint and this morning I wrote the talk. It’s all done. If I get lost, at least I’ll know what to say.

Also, I’m thrilled to be included in a group of 12, 13 if you want to include me, talented writers who’ve created a group blog. Today was my first post on Authors of Main Street (here’s the link and I’m completely distracted by all the action happening on Main Street. We've had more than 500 hits since we opened shop last week.

Also, I went to the gym with my teenage daughter and took a ridiculously hard kick-boxing class. The dynamo leading all that kicking and boxing looked about twenty years younger than me and she kept complaining about her advanced age. An hour later, and even my fingers hurt.

Taking stock of the right here and right now—

Talk written, check.

Main Street blog posted, check.

Killer kick-boxing, check.

The scene where Penny decides to publish Drake’s Viking book…not happening and I’m not sure why not.

Usually when this happens it’s because something plot-wise is off track, but I’m not finding it today. Here’s where I left off—if anyone has suggestions or questions, let ‘em fly. I’m going to rest my weary kick-boxing fingers.

From Losing Penny

“Magdalena was a five foot ten, one hundred and thirty pound mistake,” Drake said firmly. “My mistake with Blair was…monumental stupidity.” He paused. “I’m not going to be smart with Penny.”

Andrea smiled.

“What?” Drake asked. “You don’t think I can be smart?”

Andrea’s smile broadened. “Oh no, I just think it’s funny that someone so incredibly brilliant can sometimes be so incredibly stupid.”

“Thanks,” Drake said. “You’re right. I’m stupid when it comes to her. I really don’t know what to do next.”

“Blair loved you.”

“Yeah and I blew that.”

“But before you blew it—you must have been doing something right.”

Drake thought back to the early days when he loved Blair and she loved him. Before he met Magdalena at that stupid sabbatical. The sabbatical of stupidity. Had he ever loved Magdalena? Or was she a convenient excuse to distance himself from Blair—avoid any real emotional detachment? As long as he had a dream of Magdalena then he couldn’t really love Blair, couldn’t commit, couldn’t start a marriage or take on the responsibility of a family. And Blair wanted a family. She wanted children. No wonder she didn’t want him back.

“What did you do to make Blair fall in love with you?” Andrea asked.

Drake frowned at Andrea. “We wrote poetry together.”

Andrea laughed. “I’m pretty sure Blair didn’t love you for your poetry.”

“What do you mean?”

Andrea looked away, fighting a smile. “I’m just pretty sure that Blair didn’t love your poetry.”

Drake’s mouth dropped open and Andrea must have realized how badly she’d hurt his feelings, because she rushed in with, “Okay, try it. Take Penny somewhere romantic—the beach at night, or the old stone church and ask her if she’d like to hear your poetry.”

“She doesn’t really like poetry. She reads Snivel Drivel.”

Andrea brightened. “I love Snivel Drivel!”

Drake nodded. “You’d probably love Penny. Everyone does.”

“Everyone loves Penny?”

“Everyone who knows her.” Including two million blog followers, who knows how many television viewers and one crazed stalker.

“I think you’re exaggerating. She has to be a little unlovable.”

He thought of the dirty socks in the middle of the living room and shrugged. “Yeah, I guess everyone has their flaws.”

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Grendal's Rash

Grendal has a rash. I’m not sure if she got it at her last trip to the groomers or if it just became noticeable after her haircut, but it really doesn’t matter. The end result is the same. I have to bath and shave her myself—which means she looks a little like she’s tangled with a lawn mower. I could go back to the groomers and:
A. Point out the nasty rash that came from their nastiness (or not, since I don’t know) and demand compensation for a trip to the vet and medicine
B. Feign ignorance and expose other dogs to nasty rashiness and perhaps be banned forever from Wendy’s Poodle Place. (Just reward, I think—I’d ban me, too.)

But I’ve chosen the clippers and medicated shampoo route. Grendal does mind the bath and her sentence with the clippers. She knows exactly what’s up when I run the bath and lock the door. She suffers through the whole ordeal with her head bowed, meek, submissive. But when it’s all over, she’s okay with the haircut. Dogs are great that way—they’re not even a little bit vain. Getting a bath and a haircut is just part of being a Schnauzer. Something all Schnauzers must endure.

My friend has a doggy groomer that comes to her house every two weeks. She doesn’t have to go Wendy’s Poodle Place. The doggy mobile comes, parks in front of her house and voila—a well groomed Cockapoo I tell myself I can’t afford the doggy mobile, but on days when I dream of my books selling much better than they currently are—I dream of a traveling doggy groomer, a cleaning lady, and a gardener. Someone who will happily do all the nitty-gritty bits of my life so I can focus on a story where all spills and messes are quickly cleaned up, all the plants live long and healthy lives and Schnauzers have perfectly trimmed beards.