Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Extra Pie= Pie in the Face

One of the great things about Thanksgiving is all the wonderful pie. This year we had so much, that days afterward we still had whole pies, untouched and unwanted. Sad I know...but what should we do with extra pie? Feed it to the dog or the chickens? I don't think so.

Sunday night after I came home late from meetings, my family was still chatting around the table after Sunday Dinner. We noticed that we still had an unspoiled Banana Cream Pie covered in the refrigerator so we naturally asked the question...Who wants it? No one responded.

My brother Andy commented about how fun it would be to throw pie at someone and my 11 year old son quickly volunteered to be the target.

Giddy with anticipation, Josh prepared for a pie in the face, but his joy was postponed as my wife kindly suggested that we move the pie smashing activities outdoors. Good idea honey.

My son ripped off his shirt and we all headed out to the front yard for some family fun. I tried to record the event for posterity, unfortunately it was pretty dark and the pictures are fuzzy. That's what I get for using a cheap camera on my phone.
In any case, a life long dream was fulfilled for my son and my brother. My son received a tasty pie in the face and Andy put it there. All in all, a fantastic way to put extra pie to good use.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Canticle: "Defensive Tactics" by Steve Westover - Author Interview

The Canticle: "Defensive Tactics" by Steve Westover - Author Interview

The Canticle Kingdom by Michael Young

"It seemed like ages since Kate's father went off to war, and she is eager to thank him for the beautiful German music box he sent for her birthday. Butwhen it starts playing a strange, new melody and Kate vanishes into thin air,Captain Edison is willing to do anything to rescue his little girl.

When the Canticle Kingdom is attacked and the queen falls deathly ill, Joann, a young blacksmith's apprentice, learns a terrible secret - the kingdom is containedentirely within a music box in another world.

With the help pf his friends, Johannraces to bring aid from that other world in an effort to stop the dark power thatthreatens to destroy them all.

Enter a beautiful world full of magic, danger, loyalty, and bravery in The Canticle Kingdom, and discover that even the most ordinary objectsand people might be hiding something truly wonderful inside."

What a fun story. I applaud Michael on his first published novel and I look forward to his next. The Canticle Kingdom is a complex book. Multiple characters are introduced rapidly in various locations and times, which can be confusing if you’re not paying attention, but I think Michael did a good job tying everything together.

It is a real challenge to accomplish everything that has to happen in a novel. As readers we are pretty demanding. We want immediate action to pull us in. We want cliffhangers at the end of every chapter to keep us turning the pages and we want interesting characters we can relate to. We want to understand their motivation and history. We want to understand the back-story but we want the pace to race along. We want to be emotionally involved and we want to delve ourselves directly into the scenes. We want to be surprised and intrigued but we want hints about what will happen so we can connect the dots to gain understanding about the direction the story his heading--but not too many hints. We want the author to give us all of this while providing a bit of humor emotion. It’s not a lot to ask is it? Actually yes, it is. When all of these things can be accomplished in a fun, clean read, you know you’ve got a winner.

The Canticle Kingdom begins with a fascinating premise of an entire kingdom locked inside a music box and ends with the two worlds colliding as characters in both worlds race to save the day. Wonderful!

Author Interview:

Michael, tell us something about yourself that most readers don’t know.
I grew up as a child of a military father and so have lived all over the world and the United States. Moving every two or three years was tough, but I did get the chance to experience many exciting places and meet many wonderful people.

What inspired you to write The Canticle Kingdom?
The idea came to me in a weird place: stocking shelves at Target. I’ve always loved the Fantasy genre, and grew up telling such stories to my siblings, so I figure my mind goes to that area quite often.

What do you hope readers will gain from reading your book?
I hope they will be inspired that all fantasy does not have to follow the mold that Tolkien gave us. It’s a standard and produced great works, but sometimes people think they have to use it to write successful fantasy.

Do you outline your book from start to finish, or do you figure it out as you go?
This one, I outlined very loosely and then went on the journey. I have since gone to outlining my works more extensively before plunging into the fray.

What is the most rewarding aspect of writing and getting your book published?
I love the aspect of the influence for good you can have as a writer. I have always had that desire, but now that I’m actually published, schools, bookstores, etc take me more seriously, which opens doors for helping people: inspiring them to write, instilling a love of reading in them, and helping them become better writers together.

What is the most frustrating?
Marketing. It’s not something I had any prior experience with. There are so many things to learn and so many ways to go that it is quite daunting.

What is the most common criticism you hear about your book?
Some people find it a bit confusing at parts. Other people breeze through it. It’s a good comment, which I will listen to and try to incorporate into my future books.

How can you learn from the negative critiques?
First, I take it with a grain of salt. Often it is a matter of taste. I know it’s hard for me to be positive about gushy romance books, and so I don’t fault people who say things because they don’t like fantasy. For example, I had one person complain because the book was not “realistic.” It’s a fantasy book. It’s not supposed to be.

Then, I have to remember that most people are not saying things to be spiteful. It is important to learning that you don’t take it personally. Wait a little while after seeing it and then go back to it with an objective eye to see what you can glean from it to help you improve.
Lastly, you are still the author. You don’t have to agree with everyone who naysays your book.

Do you have any other published works, or are you working on anything now?
“The Canticle Kingdom” is my first published novel, but I have also published a number of short stories and magazine articles. I’m currently looking for publishers for two completed works and I have another few manuscripts in the work. I’m committed to keep writing and trying improve until I drop.

If you had to choose 1 paramount lesson you’ve learned as a writer, what would it be?
Persistence pays. More than talent, I think it is the persistent who refuse to quit and who refuse to stop learning who will be successful writers.

As an actor in the theater and a singer in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and as a fiction writer, is there a difference in the relationship between talent and hard work, or do all of these areas require a similar balance?
I find that this relationship holds true over all of my artistic outlets. I've been turned down and rejected a lot in writing and in performance, but that is to be expected. I think the success I've had in my life has come from a combination of not getting discouraged and taking little steps every day to improve my craft.

Of your multiple artistic outlets, which is the most challenging?
Out of all my pursuits, I feel like writing is perhaps the most challenging. With music and theater, I feel like I was born with more innate talent than writing, and so writing has been something I've had to put a lot more effort into the "how to" phase of it. Also, it was a lot easier to do music and theater growing up in school, while creative writing was something I only used occasionally.

Most rewarding?
I can't say I find one more rewarding than the other. They all entail the aspect of creation, making something that never has been seen before, and that is uniquely yours."

Thank you Michael

The Canticle Kingdom is an excellent stocking stuffer for Christmas. Buy it now.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thou Shalt Not Facebook

A pastor in Florida is extending a challenge to the married leadership of his congregation: Cancel your personal Facebook account.

Why? That seems a little extreme doesn’t it? The Pastor cites an increase in marital problems related to Facebook use. It is easy to see how this could happen: old flames rekindled after years or long lost friendships that reconnect based on past experiences and nostalgia. One thing leads to another, friendships are re-forged and then, whammo…infidelity, if not physical, often emotional. Maybe a marriage partner is feeling disconnected from their spouse so they seek comfort and understanding from a friend. Or maybe, over time the friendship grows stronger than expected and a real emotional bond is formed that is difficult to break.

Obviously, not every FB friendship will threaten a marriage, just as every person we connect with via phone calls, email, or texting will not result in infidelity. But there does seem to be a risk, if not physical infidelity, at least the appearance of an improper relationship that can hurt feelings or destroy trust.

With that in mind, is the Pastor overreacting, or is there wisdom in cautioning his parishioners of the dangers of Facebook? He recommends that individuals cancel personal FB accounts and open Family accounts instead, where every family member has access to all friends and postings thus allowing for transparency in marital relationships. Couples could also share passwords with their spouse so they have access to FB accounts. My wife and I share passwords and can view each other FB accounts but I don’t know that we ever actually go in and look. Is password sharing a viable option or merely a way to feel the illusion of transparency and trust?

Facebook is an interesting thing. I enjoy it. I check friend updates regularly and post status updates myself from time to time. I use it to connect with family, old friends from college and high school. I use it to connect with members of my church family and I even use it to promote my new book. Are those things bad? I don’t think so. But there are inherent dangers, not just for our young sons and daughters, but also for us if we are not cautious.

Because the social networking sites like FB are “virtual” interactions, that is, we are not speaking to someone face to face or voice to voice, there is risk in feeling disconnected from our actions. We may think, “Sure I’m flirting a little, but it’s only on the inter-net. What could possible happen?” Or we may “de-friend” someone knowing we’ll see them at church each Sunday anyway, and not realize, or at least not appreciate that feelings can be hurt and true friendships damaged because of our “virtual” friendship online.

Maybe we think there is distance between our keyboard and the feelings of our “friends”, but there really isn’t. We wouldn’t stand up in church and make a snarky remark about something important to a friend, or meet at the local town gathering to publicly repudiate someone. Would you de-friend an associate at work and expect that nothing would change in the working relationship? There may be good reason for breaking off a friendship, but we must realize there are always consequences. When we go to work the next day, things will be different.

If we are not careful we could encourage relationships that are inappropriate, or just as easily damage meaningful relationships with family, friends, church family and colleagues. We need to be aware that our actions have consequences, and that all interactions with friends and acquaintances either work towards building or destroying our relationships. That means “virtual” interactions have real consequences, just as our face-to-face friendships do.

In my opinion there is nothing inherently evil about Facebook that would merit a “Thou Shalt Not” kind of commandment. It is merely another way for us to interact and just as email, letters, phone, skype, clubs, or thousands of other ways that we choose to interact, are tools for us to use, Facebook is a tool, that when used properly, can help to build and strengthen relationships. Like the other mediums, if misused or abused, there can be negative consequences with the misuse or abuse of Facebook. It all comes down to each of us as individuals. I can’t blame Facebook if I misuse it, I can only blame myself.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Thorn: The Chronicles of Gan- Interview with Author Daron Fraley

First Electronic / Ebook Edition – Golden Wings (available now)
Price: $2.99Genre: Speculative FictionBinding: nonePages: 300Language: EnglishSmashwords Ebook Version ISBN-13: 9780979434037 (Available in many formats)Kindle Ebook Version ISBN-13: 9780979434044 ASIN: B00466HJ8UNook Ebook Version ISBN-13: 294001110089

Author Interview with Daron Fraley- Author of The Thorn: Book One- The Chronicles of Gan

Tell us something about yourself that most readers don’t know.
I died once. It was easy. I could do it again. True story . . . I had heart surgery right before my 5th birthday and had to be revived. I don’t remember anything about it, so I must not have been completely dead, just mostly dead. That reminds me of a fun quote: “It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.” –Miracle Max, The Princess Bride

What inspired you to write The Thorn: The Chronicles of Gan?
"How many planets are there in the universe with people on them? We don’t know, but we are not alone in the universe! God is not the God of only one planet!” –Neal A. Maxwell

What do you hope readers will gain from reading your book?
I simply hope they come away from it feeling like it was a great story. Some readers might pick up on some of the symbolism threaded through the book. Although the book is not preachy, it does have a few religious themes in it: prayers which are answered, people who are protected, and miracles which occur. I think the characters show that faith, love, and loyalty are important virtues to cultivate. Perhaps the reader will feel the same way.

Do you outline your book from start to finish, or do you figure it out as you go?
For this novel I did have an ending in mind, but wrote it as I figured it out. For the other things I have written, I have used a mixture of outlining and pantsing (a funny term I recently learned).

What is the most rewarding aspect of writing and getting your book published?
The very best part is having readers enjoy the stories I write. Comments like: “Incredible.”, “I was touched.”, “I loved it!”, “It gave me chills.” . . . make it all worth it.

What is the most frustrating?
Getting published has been hard, and at times, very frustrating. There is a lot to learn, and sometimes you learn after the fact that you could have done things better had you taken a different path. Would I have held back my book and not published had I known what was going to be required of me in time and effort? NEVER!

What is the most common criticism you hear about your book?
I honestly have to say the most common criticism about the book has been in relation to the cover. I have had a lot of people say the cover for the first print edition of THE THORN with Jonathan in the field, sword in hand, is too “cartoony”. I personally like the cover, but I have heard at least twenty times from other people who do not.

However, I would venture a guess that you meant for me to talk about the writing. So . . . the second most common criticism I have heard about the book is that the main characters, who are ages 23 to 30, are too much like young men, that in some scenes they are not acting old enough. I really have no complaint about that criticism. Those readers might be right. All three of the main characters are bachelors. J

Do you have any other published works, or are you working on anything now?
I am working on the second book in the series, Heaven’s Garden. The main characters continue their quest to restore justice to the universe (not really, but it sounded good).

I also have a short story anthology out there (available on Smashwords, B&N, and Amazon) called WATER. That one is free on Smashwords and B&N. Amazon doesn’t allow free yet, so it is 99 cents there.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as a writer?
Patience. It is very rare for a writer to hit it big on their first attempt. I think I’ll be learning that virtue for a good long time. I just wish I could learn it a bit faster.

What advice would you give to aspiring fiction writers?
Read every single AGENT and PUBLISHER and AUTHOR blog you can get your hands on. Trust me, if you want to be published, this is almost a requirement.

Steve, thank you very much for having me over!


I absolutely love the concept of Daron's book. I have never seen another fictional work address the subject of other worlds populated with sons and daughters of God, and their similar struggles of faith and redemption. It is fun to speculate and wonder about how people on other planets may struggle and grow into the men and women God wants them to become, just as we do.

The story is fun with some very creative elements, yet feels familiar. Aside from glowing crystals and multiple moons, I read the book with images of the Book of Mormon in my mind. The characters strengths and weaknesses are similiar to things we see every day because in reality children of God are children of God, regardless of what continent, country, or planet they live on. We are more the same than we are different. Though it is not a "religious" book per se, there are lessons to be learned.

Since Daron mentioned the criticism some made about his first cover, I included a copy of both for you to look at and make your own decision. In many ways it is sad that we do judge a book by its cover, but the truth is, we do. Personally, I like his new, brown cover better.

Daron's writing is rich in detail and symbolism weaves in and out of the story. It is fun reading about and visualizing the differences of Gan from Earth. Though this is a fun, interesting read, there are moments where description slows the narative of the story. I found his characters believable, and while they did act young on occassion, I think we probably all have those moments where we don't quite act our age. At least I hope so.

Daron, bring on book 2 and good luck with your continued sales on book 1.

Check out Daron's website at- http://www.daronfraley.com/

Order now: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1935546112?camp=0&adid=0B2Q34TNF0WZ73ERRBZM

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Guilty Take the Truth to Be Hard

When Samuel the Lamanite was commanded to preach to the Nephites he was not particularly thrilled but he obeyed even though he knew it was a challenging assignment. He preached for a while; prophesied and called the people to repent of their wicked ways but the Nephites became angry and cast Samuel out of their city. As Samuel left the city he was prompted to return and continue to prophesy and preach repentance. Again, he was obedient. He returned. He prophesied of signs and wonders that would be seen in the heavens prior to the birth of Jesus. He taught the people that they needed to repent and exercise faith in Jesus, but the people were angry and sought to destroy him.

Samuel climbed upon a high wall and prophesied. The wicked people, offended by his calls to repentance, attempted to take hold of him. They shot arrows and flung rocks but they were unable to harm the servant of the Lord. After he completed his teaching, he climbed down from the wall and fled. He was never heard from among the Nephites again.

I have always been drawn to this story and I love the picture. As a kid the picture of Samuel on the wall captured my imagination and brought to life the heroism of Samuel. But what’s the point? There has to be more than just a good story and a cool picture. Is the message, “don’t stone the prophets?” Maybe, but aren’t most people who read the Book of Mormon already disinclined to stone a prophet? I always assumed so. This is probably obvious to everyone, but it occurs to me that while we wouldn’t physically shoot arrows or sling stones at the prophet attempting to cause him physical harm, we do sometimes shoot verbal arrows and try to damage the reputation or stature of the prophets, or other called priesthood leaders who may call us to repentance?

I think of the arrows of criticism that Pres. Packer faced after his October 2010 General Conference address. Much of this criticism came from members within the church. Pres. Packer simply called for moral cleanliness and repentance, yet many took great offence to his talk. They attempted to damage his reputation and discredit his truthful words. The guilty took the truth to be hard. They cast arrows and stones at Pres. Packer. To this example, we may say, “I would never do that,” and I hope we wouldn’t, but do we sometimes participate in similar behavior?

Often times we will listen to the prophets, a Stake President or a Bishop give counsel and we think to ourselves, “What a great idea. Gee, I really hope (insert name here) is listening.” We deflect the call to repentance as merely a good idea, or as being for someone else. But when the call comes directly to us through a bold talk or a personal interview, we are offended. We become defensive and cold. We seek to justify ourselves and discredit the priesthood leader. We may say to ourselves “He has no right to ask that question,” or “he is handling this all wrong.” “He doesn’t understand,” or “he is only a Bishop or Stake President,” just as the Nephites probably referred to Samuel as “only a Lamanite.” We may justify ourselves because of the weaknesses of our leaders, but do we realize that when we do this, we are the same as the Nephites casting stones and arrows at Samuel?

No matter how many arrows we shoot or stones we sling, we will not damage the truth that is spoken by those called of God. If we take the truth to be hard, the real question we should be asking ourselves is “Why?” The only one we hurt, by failing to heed the truth spoken by prophets and priesthood leaders, is ourselves.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Happy Gilmore and the Three P's of Writing

Happy Gilmore? Who’s that? Shame on you! It is only the greatest comedy movie of all times. Rent it immediately and ENJOY (I recommend the edited version). And what are the three P’s of writing, you ask? Since I just made them up, let me tell you…Practice, Persistence and Patience. (Persistence and Patience may seem like the same thing, but its not…because I said so)

Happy Gilmore Summary:

As a (fictional) freak of nature, Happy Gilmore was blessed with the talent to hit a golf ball REALLY far, and he exploited that talent all the way to earning a spot on the PGA tour, winning hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy his grandmother a house, and even to doing television commercials for Subway. Whacking the golf ball really hard was a natural gift. Happy simply stepped up to the tee, whacked the ball, and amazing things happened.

Despite the strength of Happy’s long drives, his putting game was abysmal. This failure held him back from finding the success he dreamed of. Even though he had a tremendous gift, it was not enough. He was required to turn his putting weakness into a strength. At first his putting was so bad that it took him 7 putts to get his ball into the hole even though he was able to get on the green in one drive. On the next hole, he teed up and hit a hole-in-one on a par 4. His comment after hitting the hole-in-one… “Wow, that was so much easier than putting. I should just try to do that every time.”

Writing requires Practice-

Wouldn’t it be nice if every time we sat down to write, the words flowed through our fingertips into the keyboard inspiring the awe of our posterity, like Happy’s hole-in-one. Like Happy and golf, we may have some natural talents for writing. Maybe our talent is so huge in areas of character development and plotting that it compensates for serious weaknesses in areas of writing dialogue, pacing, or weak vocabulary. Unfortunately, for most of us this kind of tremendous talent that allows us to do things better than everyone else, simply by virtue of our existence, is a farcical dream. Writing requires effort and practice.

Just as Happy learned that he must practice putting to win, so must we look past our strengths to practice on our weaknesses to make us a well-rounded player…I mean author.

Writing requires Persistence-

When Happy joined the PGA tour, he set a personal goal to win enough money to buy back his grandmother’s house at auction. For the first few tournaments, he cashed in the paltry checks he earned with his last place tournament finishes, but he quickly realized he would not be able to earn the money he needed for his grandmother’s house. Happy was determined to accomplish his goal so he adjusted his approach.

Sometimes as writers we set grand goals we are not able to achieve. Would we all like to sell thousands of books and become a New York Times Best Sellers? Of course. Is it going to happen with our first manuscript? It’s possible, but not likely. Sometimes we set goals and don’t realize that they are unrealistic. As first time authors do we really have any idea what to expect from the publishing, marketing and sales processes? Not really. Just like Happy, we may need to reevaluate our goals. We should set reasonable, attainable goals and then persist until we accomplish them. Then we set new, higher, grander goals and persist until we achieve those.

Writing requires Patience-

The process of writing, editing, editing, editing, editing, shopping a manuscript around to publishers and agents, waiting for a response, waiting a little longer, re-editing and finally production, seems to take FOREVER. Seriously, can the process be any slower? I doubt it. Having been through this process one and a half times so far (yes, I’m still a greeny), I have learned that the writing and publishing process requires extreme patience. (My wife tells me that this is my way of practicing to turn my weakness into a strength- We’ll see) Everything about the writing process requires patience. From the 20th rewrite of a chapter to letting the manuscript sit for a couple of months so we can look at it again with fresh eyes, to waiting for responses from the publisher, to getting rejected and starting the process over. Patience friends…patience.

Poor Happy Gilmore is a bit like me. He lacks patience. When his putt won’t go in the hole, he loses his cool and chucks his golf club into the lake. When he is heckled because of his horrible putting, he approaches the hecklers and beats the snot out of them. At one point, he even loses his patience with Bob Barker—“Who won that fight anyway?” The point is Happy was required to exercise patience and self-control to avoid being thrown off the PGA tour so that he could accomplish his goal. Likewise, I must practice patience and self-control to avoid contacting my publisher while I wait for a response to my query.

Come on! Hurry Up! Where’s the contract! Give it to me now! That approach didn’t work well for Happy, and it won’t work well for writers either. We simply have to accept that some things are out of our control and may take a while…a while…a while…a while. Sorry, I was in a dazed stupor and didn’t recognize that the record was skipping.

Since we must be patient, we may as well practice while we wait so that we can persevere to meet our ultimate writing goals. For most of us, it will take time to earn the success we dream of, if we ever succeed in such a grand manner at all. The great thing is, whether we become the next Stephanie Myers or Brandon Mull, or not, if we practice, persevere and are patient in our efforts, we will become winners—men and women of strong moral character.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Trampoline Emergency

The kids love jumping on the trampoline at our house. We've only had it for a few months but it gets a lot of use. A couple of weeks ago my wife and I decided to make it a little safer by putting up the protective mesh net. We figured this would help our children play more safely. What we didn't realize, is that those nets act like a sail.
My wife texted me the other morning to tell me that our trampoline had been blown from its normal spot to the middle of our field 25 yards away. The wind caught the net and scooted it across the ground. I grunted in disapproval as I read the text but then went back to work figuring I'd deal with it later.
In the early afternoon of that same day, my wife called me, frantic and scared. Our trampoline had blown another 75 yards and was sitting at the edge of the pond. She was holding the trampoline down as the wind continued to blow. The wind was blowing so hard, it continued to move the trampoline closer to the pond, even with her standing on the legs with her arms wrapped around the pole. She did not want the trampoline to be destroyed in the pond.
I jumped into action to rescue my wife (I'm so brave). I told my boss I had a family emergency (didn't mention it was my wife holding on the the trampoline) and then raced to the store to buy an anchor for the trampoline. We had been told to anchor the trampoline but had never gotten around to doing it. Now it was an emergency so I rushed into the store, bought the anchors and raced home to find my wife still clinging to the trampoline.
I pulled out the first anchor, which looks like an auger, and scewed it into the ground. I then repeated the process three more times until all four anchors were secured deep in the ground. We let go of the trampoline and it stayed in place. Even with the fierce winds still blowing, the trampoline was secure. YAY!!
This experience reminded me of this passage from the Book of Mormon.
Helaman 5:12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
If we are not anchored to the Rock of our Salvation, or if our anchor is shallow, we risk being tossed about by the mighty winds that the devil will send forth to destroy us.
If I had taken the time and made the effort to anchor the trampoline, prior to the "mighty winds" I would not have had a problem. If I had heeded my wifes first warning of trouble when the trampoline was only 25 yards away in the field, I could have avoided a great deal of pain and effort. But I only responded when the situation was critical and was fortunate to stop the trampoline from blowing into the pond and being destroyed. I sank my anchors deep...better late than never, but it would have been even better if I had done it early, instead of late.
Hopefully I will learn this lesson, that it is better to make small corrections as they arise, instead of waiting for the devastation and emergency that occurs when I, or a child, teeters on the edge of destruction.